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Current Urban Myths and Legends - A to K

Internet hoaxes, email rumors and urban legends

Hoax = False, deliberately deceptive information
UL = Urban Legend a popularly believed narrative, typically false
Rumor = Anecdotal claims may be true, false, or in between
Junk = Flotsam and jetsam of the Net

809 Area Code Phone Scam Alert [Rumor]
More or less true! This email alert originated in a reputable newsletter and warns of a known telephone scam.

90# Phone Scam Alert [Rumor]
A half dozen or so variations of this alert have been in wide circulation since 1998. The scam is real, but it does not affect typical residential phone customers.

Aaron Russell Steinmetz: Missing Child [Junk]
Another defunct alert. Andrew Steinmetz was kidnapped by his father, then recovered safe and sound by authorities.

ABC Responds to Viewer Complaint About Gays
When Jim Neugent sent an email to ABC complaining about an episode of The Practice, he got more in response than he bargained for.

Abercrombie & Fitch Giveaway [Hoax]
A prank, basically a sequel to the "free clothes from The Gap" chain letter below.

Al Gore vs. Christianity [Rumor]
The U.S. Vice President allegedly calls Christians "a blight on the environment."

Alaska Airlines Flight 261 [UL]
Did a crashing airliner unaccountably remain aloft for nine minutes while a pastor's wife led fellow passengers in prayer?

America: The Good Neighbor
The text of this supposedly "recent" Canadian tribute to the U.S. is authentic, but was originally authored in 1973.

Anti-Abortion Petition [Junk]
In which we are told that a pregnant girl's boyfriend has agreed to let her to bear the child if 500 people sign this petition. Sheesh.

Afghan Women's Rights Petition [Junk]
Not a hoax, but a sincere effort gone astray.

Amy Bruce Chain Letter [Hoax]
Yet another opportunity to save a dying child who doesn't exist.

Antiperspirants Cause Breast Cancer [Hoax]
This false rumor has been thoroughly trounced by medical professionals.

AOL to Charge for Instant Messages [Hoax]
Age-old false rumor targeting America Online members.

AOL/Intel Merger Giveaway [Hoax]
Just forward this message, sit back, and wait for your check to arrive! And wait. And wait. And wait.

AOL/Microsoft Merger Giveaway [Hoax]
Another bogus "email tracking" offer.

AOL/Netscape Merger Giveaway [Hoax]
Sorry, folks. Microsoft will not be handing out cash to everyone who forwards this message.

Asbestos in Crayons [Rumor]
The email rumors are based on an actual news story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. (Coverage by About.com's Art for Kids Guide.)

Asha Degree: Missing Child
A valid email alert which unfortunately contains no contact information.

Aspartame (NutraSweet) Warning [Rumor]
"Rabidly inaccurate" email flyer dating from 1995, alleging that NutraSweet causes just about every malady known to humankind. Scientists balk.

Asteroid May Collide with Earth [Rumor]
Internet postings say a newly-discovered object may be on a devastating collision course with our planet.

ATM Envelope Poisonings [Hoax]
False rumor declares that a bank customer died after licking a cyanide-coated deposit envelope.

Attempted Child Abduction at Sam's Club [UL]
Three email versions are now circulating of this decades-old (and false) urban legend.

Backseat Killers & Ankle-Slashing Gangs [UL]
Two more well-known urban legends show up as an email warning.

Bananas Spread Flesh-Eating Disease [Hoax]
Necrotizing fasciitis, a rare and deadly disease, allegedly infects an entire crop of Costa Rican fruit.

Bath & Body Works Giveaway [Hoax]
And free stuff from J. Crew, as well! Two more "email tracking" pranks to add to the ever-growing list.

'Bile Bears' in China (Petition) [Junk]
This is a well-intended e-petition containing fairly accurate information, but "signing" it is a waste of time.

Bill 602P - a 5-Cent Tax on Email [Hoax]
They're at it again! The post office, we're told, wants to place a tax on every email delivered.

Bill Gates is the Antichrist! [Hoax]
It all adds up... to 666.

'Bill [Gates] Sux' Etched on Pentium Chip [Hoax]
Who would dare invite Satan's wrath in this way?

Biscuits for Brains [UL]
FLASH! Woman Shot in Head by Pillsbury Dough Boy!

The Bizarre Suicide of Ronald Opus [UL]
Circulating on the Internet since 1995 and still going strong.

Black Heritage Stamps to Be Discontinued [Rumor]
This rumor returns year after year, even though the U.S. Postal Service continues to issue new African American Heritage stamps annually.

Black Voting Rights to Expire in 2007 [Rumor]
This email alert, bouncing around the Internet since January 1997, has just about all of the facts wrong.

Blue Packages w/Sponges Containing 'Lethal Substance' [Hoax]
A variant of 2000's "Klingerman Virus" alert. Pay it no heed.

'Blue Star' LSD Tattoo [UL]
Email alert claims that colorful cartoon stickers laced with LSD pose a threat to children everywhere.

Bonsai Kitten Petition [Junk]
"What follows may be hard to believe. Please bare in mind that Dr. Mengele, the Nazi war criminal, once said: 'The more we do, the less you seem to believe it.'"

Braedon Hembree Prayer Request
This call for prayers for a young boy who was very ill has been outdated for quite some time.

Breast Cancer Awareness Stamp
This email rumor circulating since 1998 is true: the U.S. Postal Service is selling special stamps and donating part of the proceeds to breast cancer research.

Breast Cancer Donation Websites [Junk]
True, but outdated. The Yahoo Health and NFL for Her sites offered one-click donation pages in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast Ogling Makes Men Live Longer [Rumor]
Tabloid journalism and email rumormongering intersect once again.

Britney Spears: Dead at 19 [Hoax]
A radio prank aided and abetted by Internet hoaxers circumnavigates the globe.

Bush Leads a Teenager to Christ [Hoax]
For G.W. Bush, the new President of the U.S., there's always time to save souls even at public banquets attended by thousands.

Campbell's Soup / NFL Food Donations [Junk]
The "Click for Cans" donation drive co-sponsored by Chunky Soup and the NFL has surpassed its goal and is now over.

A Canadian's Tribute to Americans
Also circulating under the title "America: The Good Neighbor," this text is authentic but was originally authored in 1973, not "recently" as some versions suggest.

Candlelight Vigil to Be Photographed from Space [Hoax]
Several emails erroneously claim that an official nationwide vigil to commemorate victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will be held "tonight" and photographed by satellite.

Canola Oil Is Hazardous to Your Health! [Rumor]
Here we go again!  Internet rumormongers claim that canola, usually touted as one of the healthier food oils, is in fact very toxic to human beings.

Cell Phone Giveaway - Nokia and Ericsson [Hoax]
Hoax messages say Nokia and Ericsson are giving away mobile phones.

Cell Phones Cause Gas Station Explosions [Rumor]
Still unsubstantiated, but 'tis better to be safe than sorry.

Champagne Freebie Chain Letter [Hoax]
Forward this message and Veuve Clicquot will send you a free case of French champagne.

The Char-Broiled Scuba Diver [UL]
As featured in the recent film "Magnolia," as well as a currently circulating email.

The Chicken Cannon [UL]
Yankee engineers prove themselves superior once again.

Chinese Eat BBQ Fetuses [UL]
Photos circulated on the Internet seem to prove that human infants are eaten in China. Are they real? (Not for the faint of heart!)

Christopher John Mineo Jr.: Missing Child [Rumor]
An AOL chain letter that has no basis in fact, so far as we can tell.

Citizens Against Breast-Feeding [Hoax]
Sign this petition if you want to ban this "incestuous perversion" from the United States.

'Class Project' Chain Letters [Junk]
Don't bother responding to Mr. Blevins' 5th grade class their email address has been canceled.

Clintons Make Secret Service Pay Their Mortgage [Rumor]
The tale is that Bill and Hillary are charging their Secret Service guards in their new Chappaqua, NY house an amount of rent equal to their mortgage.

The Cloning of Jesus Christ [Hoax]
Our About colleague, Greg Hartman, investigates a Website devoted to "The Second Coming Project," the purported cloning of Jesus Christ.

Cockroach Eggs on Envelopes [UL/Hoax]
Postal Service worker's tongue gives birth to live cockroach!

Cockroach Egg Tacos at Taco Bell [UL]
A fast-food horror story, as told in six different locations around the U.S.

Cologne Sniffing Scam [Rumor]
You all know not to take candy from strangers. Well... it's not safe to sniff their perfume, either.

Columbine High School Shootings [Rumors]
Americans attempt to share their grief over the Littleton massacre through email chain letters.

Congressional Pensions vs. Social Security [Rumor]
Members of the U.S. Senate and Congress enjoy lavish pensions at taxpayer expense.

Corpses of Children Used to Traffic Drugs [UL]
An old urban legend (c. 1973) dressed up in new clothes for the Internet.

'Cough CPR' Can Save Your Life [Rumor]
According to the American Heart Association, the "live-saving" technique advocated in this email is not recommended in the absence of medical supervision.

Cracker Barrel Gift Certificate Chain Letter [Hoax]
Free gift certificates for forwarding a chain letter. Sound familiar?

Craig Shergold Chain Letter [UL]
Story of the little boy whose life was saved by a chain letter that won't die.

Crocodile Eats Golfer [Hoax]
Just stopped for a little snack between the fifth and sixth holes...

Credit Bureaus to Release Private Info [Rumor]
But that is nothing new. What's new is that consumers now have the ability to opt out of certain kinds of information sharing.

Darrell Scott's Columbine Testimony [Rumor]
TRUE: Darrell Scott, father of a victim of the Columbine shootings, delivered an impassioned speech before Congress which has since been widely distributed by email.

Dave Matthews Chain Letter [Hoax]
Rock star philanthropist offers up his email address to help sick & dying kids.

David Allen Prayer Request [Junk]
This document is almost four years old. Missionary David Allen is just fine and no longer needs your prayers for his survival.

David 'Darren' Bucklew Chain Letter [Hoax]
This one's a rewrite of the old "Timothy Flyte" chain letter (below) just as bogus, just as annoying.

David Lawitts Chain Letter [Hoax]
Supposedly dying of lung cancer due to secondhand smoke.

Dick Cheney to Be Dumped by Republicans [Rumor]
Is the Republican Party planning to substitute a vice-presidential ringer in the final hours of the campaign?

Dolphin Slaughter in Japan (Petition) [Junk]
However worthy you may feel this cause is, the email petition is useless. Just delete it.

Eddie Murphy/Michael Jordan Mistaken for Muggers [UL]
New email versions of this old urban legend have Eddie Murphy and Michael Jordan scaring the heck out of white people on elevators.

Election Day Switch [Hoax]
Email alleges that this year's U.S. presidential election will take place over two days instead of one.

Electricity Is a Funny Thing [UL]
In case you needed it, proof that urine and electricity don't mix.

EMI/Time Warner Merger Giveaway [Hoax]
Another "email tracking" hoax promising money and vouchers for free merchandise.

Eminem Died in a Car Crash [Hoax]
A phony "CNN" article claims that Eminem, drunk and on drugs, died recently in a horrible automobile accident.

The Exploding Toilet [UL]
Our hapless protagonist tosses a lit cigarette into the selfsame toilet where his wife recently dumped gasoline.

The Fatal Hairdo [UL]
The email variant of this very old horror story warns of what can happen when a mother doesn't wash her child's braids.

Fatima Hareez Chain Letter [Hoax]
Practically a carbon copy of the "Kalin Relek" hoax below.

Febreze Warning [Rumor]
An email warning in circulation since January warns that the fabric deodorizer Febreze is toxic to pets.

'Free Stock' Chain Letters [Junk]
Internet start-ups offer shares of nonexistent stocks for free.

Gap Giveaway [Hoax]
Yet another "email tracking" prank. Forward this message and get a free Hawaiian shirt from Gap. (Not!)

Gap Giveaway, Part II [Hoax]
A sequel to the original Gap chain letter purportedly authored by the company's founder.

'Gas Out' 2000 [Junk]
Forwarded email incites Americans to protest high gasoline prices by skipping 3 days at the pumps.

Gasoline Boycott 2001 [Junk]
Chain letter urges recipients to protest high gasoline prices by refusing to patronize Exxon/Mobil service stations. Shades of the "Great Gas Out!"

'Gay Jesus' Film [UL]
Email petition incites Christians to protest the making of a film depicting Jesus and the disciples as gay.

Gel Candles Pose Fire Hazard [Rumor]
OVERBLOWN: Consumers report that gel candles have caused fires and serious burns. Please note, however, that this is true of all candles.

GeoCities Is Closing Down! [Hoax]
Yahoo plans on deleting all GeoCities Websites without notice or so the email rumor goes.

Gerber Savings Bond Giveaway [Rumor]
Fax and email alerts falsely claim that Gerber Products Co. lost a class action suit and now must pay out restitution to millions of American children.

Gerbilling Mishap Injures Two [Hoax/UL]
Not counting the gerbil, that is.

The Gum Arabic/Bin Laden Connection [Rumor]
Various emails advocate a boycott of soft drinks and other products containing gum arabic because it allegedly puts money in the pockets of terrorists.

Good Luck, Mr. Gorsky [UL]
What Neil Armstrong really said when he first set foot on the moon.

'Good Samaritan' Killer at the Mall [UL]
A murderous, well-dressed "good samaritan" supposedly lurks in the parking lots of shopping malls just about everywhere.

Green Garden Snake Terrorizes Household [UL]
New, hilarious email version of a classic urban legend.

'Guinness Book of Records' Chain Letter [Hoax]
Just forward this message and get your name listed in Guinness along with a million or so other folks.

Gullibility Virus Warning [Hoax/Joke]
Send this to everyone you know! Hurry!

On G.W. Bush's IQ (or Lack Thereof) [Joke]
A new but hardly original specimen of Bush-bashing by email.

A G.W. Bush Quote [Rumor]
Did he really say "Im not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt"?

Gypsy Testicle-Snatching Ring [Hoax/Joke]
Funded by the Chinese Communist Party!

Handgun Tax - Senate Bill S. 2099 [Rumor]
The premise here is that a secret "backdoor bill" in Congress will require listing every gun you own on your federal income tax forms.

'Hanoi Jane' Fonda [Rumor]
Allegations about Fonda's activities as an anti-war activist are partly fact and partly fiction.

Harry Potter Turns Kids to Satanism [Rumor]
Chain letter contains alleged quotes from 10-year-olds who say they hate Jesus and love Satan.

Headlight Flashing 'Gang Initiation Rite' [UL]
Urban legend from the early '90s re-emerges as a frightening email alert.

Heroin Needle Kills Child in McDonald's Ball Pit [UL/Hoax]
The "Kevin Archer" story, curiously similar to 1998's tall tale about snakes in a Burger King ball pit.

Hillary Clinton and the Black Panthers [Rumor]
This email alleges that Hillary Clinton was a "defender" of murderers in the Black Panther Party 30 years ago.

HIV Needles on Gas Pumps [UL]
More needle-stick incidents, this time centered in Jacksonville, Florida.

HIV Needles in Movie Theater Seats [UL]
"Welcome to the world of AIDS." The latest round of needle-stick incidents.

HIV Needles in Pay Phone Coin Slots [UL]
Are drug addicts everywhere trying to kill us all with their dirty syringes?

HIV Needles in Vending Machines - Canada [UL]
Is a bizarre cult in western Canada booby-trapping the coin slots of Coke machines with HIV-tainted needles?

Honda Car Giveaway [Hoax]
Find out right here how to get a brand spanking new Honda Civic just for forwarding a chain letter.

Hotmail Overload [Hoax]
Hotmail users who do not forward this chain letter are in danger of losing their accounts.

How to Avoid Speeding Ticket Penalties [Rumor]
Email touts a too-good-to-be-true scheme for preventing points from being assessed against your driving record.

How to Detect a Two-Way Mirror [Rumor]
Is there a simple way to tell whether or not that mirror in the public restroom is real?

Hydrogen Beer Explosion [Hoax/Joke]
Japanese man suffers serious burns while belching blue fire in karaoke bar!

I Am a Bad American [Hoax]
Email rant on behalf of political incorrectness is falsely attributed to comedian George Carlin and other celebrities.

IBM Computer Giveaway [Hoax]
Latest entry in the "email tracking" hall of fame.

Internet Cleaning Day [Hoax]
It's time for the annual Internet shutdown for cleaning and maintenance!

iWon.com Chain Letter [Hoax]
Forward this message and make big bucks!!!

Jada Cohen Chain Letter [Hoax]
Here's the logical question: Why would a billionaire use a chain letter to help save a dying child?

Janet Reno Defines 'Cultist' [Hoax]
This utterly bogus quote attributed to Janet Reno several years ago is still circulating.

'Jedi Religion' Census Campaign [Hoax]
An email now circulating in Australia and England claims that if enough people enter "Jedi" as their religion on census forms, it will become an officially recognized faith.

Jermaine Beerman Chain Letter [Hoax]
Yet another "dying child" hoax, debunked by About.com's Charleston, SC Guide.

Jessica Koopmans: Missing Child [Outdated]
This email alert was valid, but the child's body was discovered on May 11, 2001. Police say she was murdered.

The Jessica Mydek Chain Letter [Hoax]
Jessica Mydek, a 7-year-old girl supposedly dying of cancer, does not exist, nor will the American Cancer Society contribute money for every time this chain letter is forwarded.

John Hancock Lesbian-Friendly Olympics Commercial [Rumor]
Yes, the TV ad described in this email will run during the Olympics but its controversial content has already been toned down in re-editing.

Just the Pants! [UL]
It was their first date... and, inevitably, their last.

Kalin Relek Chain Letter [Hoax]
Katie Relek says her son is dying. Problem is, as far as we can tell she doesn't exist and neither does he.

Kelsey Brooke Jones: Missing Child [Junk]
The latest word is that this apparent hoax may have been a valid alert after all. Briefly.

KFC Uses Mutant Chickens [UL/Hoax]
Ever wonder why it's not called Kentucky Fried Chicken anymore?

Kidney Thieves in New Orleans [UL]
The venerable organ snatching legend erupts again in 1996.

Kidney Thieves in Las Vegas & New Orleans [UL]
A 1997 variant. This hysterical warning is a hodgepodge of various mutations of the legend cut-and-pasted together.

Kidney Thieves in Austin [UL]
This 1997 variant is a hodgepodge of various mutations of the legend cut-and-pasted together and attributed to The Daily Texan.

The Klingerman Virus [Hoax]
Not your ordinary bogus virus alert. This one's about a (supposedly) real, live bug that is fatal to human beings!

Krystava Patients Schmidt: Missing Child [Junk]
A message still circulating more than a year after the fact pleads for help finding a missing child, but the youngster has been safe and sound all this time.

L to Z


All images and text Copyright J Slemmer 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009
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