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Category: Urban Legends
Jacob Hadcock: the new Craig Shergold — The Craig Shergold rumor strikes again. Jacob is a real kid, and he really has leukemia, but he isn't dying. But somehow word got out on the internet that he was dying, and that his last wish was to get christmas cards from everyone. So now the cards are pouring in by the thousands. Link: Associated Press. Below is one of the youtube videos spreading the rumor.
Posted: Thu Dec 17, 2009.   Comments (3)

CNET lists top 8 brainless tech rumors — CNET UK has come up with a list of "the eight most brainless tech rumours ever." They are: Hoverboards are real The large hadron collider will kill us all X-ray is a hoax Home taping to kill music Apple will buy Nintendo Google to buy CNET Y2K Bug will kill us all Bill Gates is the antichrist An odd list. They've omitted classics such as killer cell phone calls, cell phones explode gas stations, sunlamps cook internal organs, the Nokia speed trap detector, and (of course)
Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2009.   Comments (3)

Does dust consist primarily of human skin? — It's a widely repeated factoid that dust consists primarily of human skin. For instance, one can find this piece of information in the first paragraph on the wikipedia page about dust. But Paloma Beamer, a dust expert at the University of Arizona, disputes this claim. From NPR.org: Beamer says there are really only two places dust can come from: outdoors and indoors. We are an important part of the process of getting the outdoor stuff indoors. We bring it with us when we enter a house…
Posted: Wed Nov 11, 2009.   Comments (19)

Does the internet promote extremism and crazy rumors? — Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker discusses whether the internet promotes the spread of bizarre rumors by encouraging "group polarization": People’s tendency to become more extreme after speaking with like-minded others has become known as “group polarization”... “Views that would ordinarily dissolve, simply because of an absence of social support, can be found in large numbers on the Internet, even if they are understood to be exotic, indefensible, or bizarre in most communities,”…
Posted: Mon Nov 09, 2009.   Comments (8)


The Lunar Effect — There's a full moon tonight (had a great view of it here in San Diego). This has inspired WSAW in Wisconsin to phone up a local Professor and quiz him about the "lunar effect": A common superstition says accidents, natural disasters, and bizarre crimes increase during a full moon. One Psychology professor says there is no scientific evidence to support a connection between the moon and our moods. The UW-Marathon County Professor has worked in the Psychology field for more than 20…
Posted: Tue Nov 03, 2009.   Comments (9)

Religious urban legends that refuse to die — Even though the famous atheist’s body [Madalyn Murray O’Hair] was discovered in 1998 and positively identified in Texas -- and even though she apparently has been dead since she disappeared in 1995 -- patently false rumors about her alleged anti-Christian campaigns continue to spread. Credulous Christians who once forwarded these kinds of rumors in mimeographed chain letters or spread them on talk radio now can broadcast them around the world with the mere click of a mouse. Link:
Posted: Wed Oct 21, 2009.   Comments (7)

The Montgomery Animal Shelter Isn’t Closing — From nj.com: If you want to bombard a township with calls from angry people, start a rumor that cats and dogs are going to die. That's exactly what happened Tuesday and today, when an Internet rumor claiming the local animal shelter in Montgomery was going to close and all cats and dogs remaining there would be euthanized. And it happened across the country, too, as a viral rumor with countless incarnations made similar claims about shelters in communities named Montgomery. Only one…
Posted: Wed Sep 23, 2009.   Comments (3)

The Phantom Dog Poisoner — Dog owners in the town of Basildon are concerned that someone may be trying to poison their pets. They've organized meetings to discuss the danger. Not that any dogs have been poisoned so far. No one has even seen any signs of poison around. But an email rumor has everyone spooked.
Posted: Tue Sep 08, 2009.   Comments (4)

40th Anniversary of Paul Is Dead Rumor (almost) — Magazines have begun to note the 40th anniversary of the Paul is Dead rumor (although they're two months early... the rumor began to circulate widely in September 1969). Contact Music managed to get a quotation from McCartney about the rumor. He claims to still be laughing it off. But interestingly, he also get the details wrong about how the rumor started: MCCartney's barefoot appearance in the photo [on the cover of Abbey Road] sparked wild rumours the rocker had died in a car…
Posted: Fri Jul 17, 2009.   Comments (10)

Urban Legend Awards Announced — It's not what you think it is. The Urban Legend Awards will honor "contributions made by volunteers, local leaders, businesses, churches, partners and community members to the urban AIDS response in Swaziland." Maybe the term "urban legend" doesn't mean the same thing in Swaziland that it means in the US and UK. [Swazi Observer]
Posted: Fri Jul 03, 2009.   Comments (2)

Cash Stops Bullet — Mythbusters did an episode on the urban legend of a bullet being stopped by a Bible (or a Zippo lighter). They found that a hardcover book of at least 400 pages might stop a bullet, but anything less (including a Zippo) didn't have a chance. Nevertheless, police in Sao Paulo, Brazil are saying that the wad of cash a woman had stuffed in her bra slowed down a bullet enough to save her life. I'm sure the woman is very lucky, but I suspect the cash had nothing to do with her good fortune.[Yahoo!]
Posted: Wed Apr 15, 2009.   Comments (13)

Red Mercury in Sewing Machines — Red Mercury, according to a decades-old rumor, is a key component in the manufacture of nuclear bombs and worth millions of dollars. But now a new variant of the rumor has surfaced in Saudi Arabia, claiming that Red Mercury can also be used to find treasure and ward off evil spirits (in addition to its nuclear-bomb-making abilities). Plus, old Singer sewing machines are said to contain the substance in trace amounts. As a result, many Saudis are in a frenzy to acquire these old sewing…
Posted: Wed Apr 15, 2009.   Comments (4)

Goldfinger Urban Legends — The authors of The Science of James Bond note that the movie Goldfinger has spawned two enduring urban legends: 1) That if you shoot out the window of a plane flying at 35,000 feet, the resulting depressurization will create enough force to suck a person through the hole. Not true! The authors say the airflow wouldn't even be enough to lift a person. 2) It is possible to suffocate by completely covering yourself in gold paint. Therefore, professional dancers who paint themselves know…
Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009.   Comments (8)

Scottish Urban Legends — Dani Garavelli, writing for Scotsman.com, examines the psychology of urban legends. The article doesn't offer any new insights into urban legends. There's the standard observation: urban legends "hold a mirror up to our culture, giving us an often unflattering reflection of our preoccupations and prejudices." But what I found interesting is that the article listed some urban legends specific to Scotland: For several days, [north-east Scotland] was gripped by a rumour that pop star and…
Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2008.   Comments (9)

The Turkey-Tryptophan Myth, and why do big meals make you drowsy? — Thanksgiving is approaching, which means the "turkey makes you tired because it has high levels of tryptophan" urban legend shall once again be heard at tables throughout America. Baylor College of Medicine dietitian Rebecca Reeves debunks this legend in an interview with the Houston Chronicle: Q: So the tryptophan in turkey doesn't make you sleepy, right? A: I am not sure how (that) gained wide acceptance. The urban legend is that the tryptophan in turkey is what makes you sleepy on…
Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2008.   Comments (12)

Caps for Charity — Another case of the Collecting Junk for Charity hoax. Aleta Brace of Parkersburg, West Virginia collected 20,000 bottle caps, believing that the caps could be redeemed for money which would aid cancer patients. And she wasn't alone. Churches, schools, businesses, and individuals throughout West Virginia have been collecting the bottle caps all summer. The caps would all have gone to waste, but now the Aveda skin care company has announced it'll take the caps and recycle them into new…
Posted: Wed Sep 03, 2008.   Comments (7)

Gays must leave the plane — Posted recently by Tobester in the Hoax Forum: I couldn't resist doing some research on this. Here's what I found. a) It's definitely an urban legend. b) I can't find any record of it ever appearing in the New York Times. c) The earliest mention of it I can find in print dates back to July 10, 2000, when it was discussed in the Sydney Morning Herald. Apparently, in a version circulating back then, they were identified as the source of the tale. They denied this, pointed out the…
Posted: Tue Jul 29, 2008.   Comments (6)

Bra Explodes on NPR — NPR's Storycorps gave the air this week to 94-year-old Betty Jenkins, who tells the tale of an inflatable bra her mother gave her when she was younger. She decided to wear the bra on a plane trip to South America. Unfortunately, as she sat in the unpressurized cabin, her bra started to get bigger and bigger: "As the thing got bigger, I tried to stand up," Jenkins said, "and I couldn't see my feet." The instructions said that the bra's pads could be inflated up to a size 48. "I thought,…
Posted: Tue Jul 01, 2008.   Comments (4)

Gloucester Pregnancy Pact — There's one final news item I've received a lot of emails about in the past week -- and so deserves a place on the front page (though it's already in the forum). The Gloucester Pregnancy Pact. Seventeen girls at Gloucester High School are pregnant. According to Time magazine, they all made a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. From Time: School officials started looking into the matter as early as October after an unusual number of girls began filing into the school…
Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008.   Comments (13)

Why do casinos have ugly carpets? — There are many rumors about casinos. One I posted about earlier is the belief that casinos pump in oxygen to encourage people to gamble more. (It's not true). Another rumor focuses on the carpets in casinos, which are often noticeably ugly. The theory is that there must be some diabolical reason why they're so ugly. David Schwartz, a historian of gambling, writes, "Casino carpet is known as an exercise in deliberate bad taste that somehow encourages people to gamble." He's collected an…
Posted: Fri May 23, 2008.   Comments (24)

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