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Category: Urban Legends
Plastic Caps for Cancer
Posted by The Curator on Mon Sep 05, 2011
The collecting-junk-for-charity hoax must be at least a century old by now. It resurfaced most recently in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where members of a church had been collecting plastic bottle caps, thinking the caps would somehow help pay for chemotherapy treatment for a sick child. One of the church members, when she learned the truth, had this to say about the hoax: "It's a form of terrorism because it disrupts your day-to-day life and prevents you from doing the things you want to accomplish." That may be stretching the definition of terrorism just a little bit. Though I can understand why she's upset. The article also noted some…
Categories: Urban Legends Comments (3)
Crop Circles and Ostension
Posted by The Curator on Wed Dec 23, 2009
An article on smithsonian.com discusses the history of crop circles and why people believe in them. Part of the reason is the paradox of ostension. Fake evidence, even if proven fake, nevertheless tends to reinforce belief: False evidence intended to corroborate an existing legend is known to folklorists as “ostension.” This process also inevitably extends the legend. For, even if the evidence is eventually exposed as false, it will have affected people’s perceptions of the phenomenon it was intended to represent. Faked photographs of UFOs, Loch Ness monsters and ghosts generally fall under the heading of ostension. Another example is the series of photographs of fairies taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths at Cottingley, Yorkshire, between 1917 and 1920. These show that the motive for producing such evidence…
Categories: Crop Circles, Urban Legends Comments (21)
Jacob Hadcock: the new Craig Shergold
Posted by The Curator on Thu Dec 17, 2009
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.
CNET lists top 8 brainless tech rumors
Posted by The Curator on Tue Nov 17, 2009
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) penis-melting zionist robot combs.
Categories: Technology, Urban Legends Comments (3)
Does dust consist primarily of human skin?
Posted by The Curator on Wed Nov 11, 2009
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 — through "soil particles that come in on your shoes," says…
Categories: Urban Legends Comments (19)
Does the internet promote extremism and crazy rumors?
Posted by The Curator on Mon Nov 09, 2009
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,” Sunstein observes. Racists used to have to leave home to meet up with other racists (or Democrats with other Democrats, or Republicans with…
Categories: Technology, Urban Legends Comments (8)
The Lunar Effect
Posted by The Curator on Tue Nov 03, 2009
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 years. He says for centuries, our culture has relied on the urban legend known as "The Lunar Effect" to explain the unexplainable. The Professor says the lack of scientific…
Categories: Urban Legends Comments (9)
Religious urban legends that refuse to die
Posted by The Curator on Wed Oct 21, 2009
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: apbnews.com (Thanks, Big Gary!)
Categories: Religion, Urban Legends Comments (7)
The Montgomery Animal Shelter Isn’t Closing
Posted by The Curator on Wed Sep 23, 2009
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 shelter, located in a Texas County by the same name, is closing and its operator was working to find homes for all the pets, according to a local newspaper there.(Thanks,…
Categories: Animals, Urban Legends Comments (3)
The Phantom Dog Poisoner
Posted by The Curator on Tue Sep 08, 2009
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.
Categories: Animals, Urban Legends Comments (4)
40th Anniversary of Paul Is Dead Rumor (almost)
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jul 17, 2009
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 crash - and the 67 year old admits he still has…
Categories: Death, Music, Urban Legends Comments (10)
Urban Legend Awards Announced
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jul 03, 2009
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]
Categories: Urban Legends Comments (2)
Cash Stops Bullet
Posted by The Curator on Wed Apr 15, 2009
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!]
Red Mercury in Sewing Machines
Posted by The Curator on Wed Apr 15, 2009
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 machines, whether by paying tens of thousands of dollars for one, or by stealing one. [BBC News]
Categories: Urban Legends Comments (4)
Goldfinger Urban Legends
Posted by The Curator on Tue Feb 03, 2009
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 to leave a small bare patch of skin for air. Again, total myth. The authors state that the only danger of being covered with gold paint is "pores being clogged…
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