Supported by

The Atlantic Selects

An Urban Legend Is Born

Jan 31, 2018 | 831 videos
Video by Jay Cheel

In 1996 in Niagara, a tornado tore through a drive-in theater, ripping apart the movie screen—just as it played the scene in Twister in which a tornado demolishes a drive-in movie theater. “It seemed like the screen was coming alive,” remembers one witness. Another: “We’re watching Twister, and my god, we had a twister!”

It’s an incredible story, as its many "witnesses" will readily attest. But did it actually happen? Jay Cheel’s short documentary Twisted investigates this Canadian urban legend, revealing the fallibility of memory, the subjectivity of truth, and the enduring power of human storytelling.

“I think most people will continue to believe whatever stories support their beliefs and narratives, and question everything that challenges their ideals,” Cheel told The Atlantic. “And when truth depends upon memory, things seem to get very complicated.”

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to

Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.