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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Urban Legends

Attack of the Back(seat)-Stabbing Driver!

by Ken Newquist / May 27, 2008

It's like a scene out of a horror movie: an unsuspecting woman pumps gas into her car, only to be summoned inside by a gas attendant who informs her that -- horrors! -- a knife wielding lunatic is lurking in the backseat.

In truth, it is a scene from a horror movie -- the horror movie Urban Legend in fact -- and it far from being a horrifying new trend, this old tale's been with us for decades.

Here's the urban legend:

Date Collected: 5/27/2008

Hoax Alleges Gang Members Promise Death to High Beam Flashers

by Ken Newquist / July 13, 2006

Somewhere in America, someone is flashing their high beams at a car with their lights off ... invoking sudden death as gangbangers unleash a hail of bullets into their car, or so a hoax email would have us believe. In truth, there is no such crime being committed, not today, and not in 1993 when the hoax started spreading via fax machines.


Free Perfume Samples Kill Women Victims

by Ken Newquist / October 26, 2003

Drawing on remembered fear of the anthrax scare, an e-mail hoax is alleging that seven women have died after inhaling few perfume samples they received in the mail.

I wrote the original debunking on 12/16, but updated it on 10/24 with new information from the CDC (which further debunks the hoax).

Here's the original e-mail:

Date Captured: 4/6/2002

Seven women have died after inhaling a free perfume sample that was mailed to them. The product was poisonous. If you receive free samples in the mail such as lotions, perfumes, diapers etc. throw them away .
The government is afraid that this might be another terrorist act. They will not announce it on the news because they do not want to create panic or give the terrorists new ideas. Send this to all your friends and family members."

When confronted about forwarding e-mails to people, one of the things I hear most often is "well, you never know". Well folks, in this case, we damn well do know. Even without having searched on line, I knew this e-mail was a hoax. In the post-9/11 world in which we all live, it is impossible for seven women to have been killed by perfume samples without being bombarded by the news every hour of every day, from every imaginable news source.

Customers Pricked by HIV Needles at Gas Pump

by Ken Newquist / February 1, 2003

What's the one thing that can get motorists' minds off the sting of high gas prices? That's right -- the Attack of the Killer HIV Needle!

An email that I first saw in the Summer of 2000 alleges that some whacko with HIV positive blood is sticking him/herself with needles, and then "affixing" these needles to the underside of gas pump handles. Unsuspecting motorists grab the handle, and suddenly the $2.50 for super isn't the only thing they're wincing about.

Ankle-Slashing Gang Initiates Lurk Beneath Cars

by Ken Newquist / January 30, 2003

Those lunatic gang initiates are at it again. They started out putting strychnine and LSD on phone booth buttons, but now they've moved on to slashing the ankles of unsuspecting women. They lay in wait underneath women's cars at gas stations, and as they get out, they attack!

Fortunately, just like the LSD scare, this is a hoax.

Heroin Needle Hoax Continues to Haunt McDonald's Ball Pits

by Ken Newquist / September 30, 2002

"Mommy ... it hurts!" Those words struck fear into the heart of Kevin Archer's mother ... but that fear was nothing compared to the horror she felt the next day when she found her son dead of a heroin overdose. The child had been playing in a McDonald's ball pit when a heroin-filled syringe had pierced his bottom, sending the deadly drug coursing through his veins.

It's a horrifying tale ... but it isn't real.

Attack of the Mercenary Kidney Thieves

by Ken Newquist / March 1, 2002

They're out there. Lurking in the shadows. Waiting to strike at a moments notice. They're renegade medical students, and they're hell bent on stealing your kidneys and selling them on the blackmarket! Or not. The infamous kidney thieves are a classic urban legend, transported on to the net and given new life in the 21st century.

Flesh-eating Bananas Will Have YOU For Lunch

by Ken Newquist / February 20, 2002

Forget the killer tomatos, the bananas are the ones you need to look out for. See they've already wiped out the monkey population in Costa Rica, and have landed advance troops in major North American cities. Run for your lives!

Or not.

You see, the "necrotizing fasciitis" infected bananas don't exist. And now, two years after I first wrote about this, I'm happy to say that they still don't exist.