Stolen Child Hoax Coupled With Real-World Anti-Kidnapping Program

An urban legend about a kidnapped child has been combined with a true story about Wal-Mart’s “Code Adam” program to create a horrifying half-truth-filled e-mail.

The first part of the e-mail is a decades old urban legend: a child is separated from her mother in a large department store. Terrified, she alerts story employees, who in turn quickly lock down the store and search it. They find the child, sitting in her underwear, with her head half-shaved, in one of the store’s bathrooms.

The second part of the e-mail talks about “Code Adam”, a real-world anti-kidnapping program initiated by Wal-Mart and adopted by other chains around the company. The first part, while it sounds horrible, is not true. The second, about “Code Adam” is, well, it’s mostly true.

Here’s the original e-mail:

Date Collected: Dec. 1, 2000

ATTENTION ALL PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS AND CONCERNED CITIZENS !!!!!

Even if you do not have little kids, pass this one on to everyone you can
think of. You never know who you might save by sending this e-mail!

Please take the time and forward this to any friend who has children & grandchildren! Thanks! I wanted to share something that happened today while shopping at Sam’s Club. A mother was leaning over looking for meat and turned around to find her 4 yr. old daughter was missing.

I was standing there right beside her, and she was calling her daughter with no luck. I
asked a man who worked at Sam’s to announce it over the loud speaker for Katie. He did, and let me say he immediately walked right past me when I asked and went to a pole where there was a phone. He made an announcement for all the doors and gates To be locked, a code something. So they locked all the doors at once. This took all of 3 minutes after I asked the guy to do this.

They found the little girl 5 minutes later in a bathroom stall. Her head was half shaved, and she was dressed in her underwear with a bag of clothes, a razor, and wig sitting on the floor beside her to make her look different. Whoever this person was, took the little girl, brought her into the bathroom, shaved half her head, and undressed her in a matter of less than 10 minutes.

This makes me shake to no end. Please keep a close eye on your kids when in big places where it’s easy for you to get separated. It only took a few minutes to do all of ———-another 5 minutes and she would have been out the door.

I am still in shock that some sick person could do this, let alone in a matter of minutes.. The days are over when our little ones could run rampant all over the place and nothing worse would happen then them annoying people.

The little girl is fine. Thank God for fast workers who didn’t take any chances.

BE SURE TO FORWARD THIS TO EVERYONE, SO THEY KNOW JUST HOW SICK PEOPLE ARE OUT THERE!!!

(This happened at the Sam’s Wholesale Club in Omaha, Nebraska.) This message has been added to the story above: I recived this e-mail from one of my friends today.

Let me first tell you that I work at the Sam’s club in Lincoln, NE. The code that was spoken of is called a “Code Adam” It is named after John Walsh’s (of Americas most wanted) son Adam who was kidnaped and murdered many years ago. It is used in all Sam’s Clubs, Wal-marts, and Wal-mart super centers to locate lost children. This is how it works.

If by some means you have been seperated with your child tell the nearest employee! The employee will page a “Code Adam” (missing child in the store) over the intercom system followed by a desription of the child (height, weight, hair color, age, name, etc). When that page goes out all the exits are immediatly gaurded, and/or locked in some cases, also every employee will stop whatever they are doing no matter what it is and help look for the missing child. This will continue until the child is found. If the
child is not found within a reasonable time then the police are notified and the store will conduct a isle by isle search. So if ever you are separated from your child now you know what to do.

Missing childern pictures hang by the exits of all Wal-mart and Sam’s club stores, please take a few minutes to look these over as you leave, you just might have seen one of the children on them and you might be the one to give there parents hope and give the police a new lead in finding them. Thank you.

Sincerly,

Rudy Magee
Sam’s Club #6413
Lincoln, NE

There’s no doubt that kidnappings are horrific, and kids have been snatched from shopping centers and other public places. But this particular story–and its assorted variations–has been circulating (and documented) for decades. (Check out Snope.com’s site for a complete history)

How can we tell it’s a hoax? It’s a tough one. It gives an actual a location for the store, and the message seems to be from a Wal-Mart official. There are a few warning signs:

  • Where’s the date?: The hoax tells us where it happened, but not when.
  • Where’s the confirmation?: The hoax sounds official thanks to the “Rudy Magee — Sam’s Club” signature, but it doesn’t link to any Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart sources, not even the official Web site for the program. Then again, this could just be an oversight.

The problem is, this hoax is very good — it sounds official and heck, you never know — the hoax could have been forwarded by a real Sam’s Club employee, who decided to slap the Code Adam program on the end of it. Truth be known, you need to do some digging to learn the real deal.

First, here are the sources on the hoax:

The good news is that Code Adam really does exist. John Walsh’s son Adam really was abducted and killed. I couldn’t determine whether Wal-Mart’s program really was named for Adam, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable.

You can find more information about Code Adam by visiting:

  • The Code Adam Web Site: The site’s buried deep within MissingKids.com, but it’s there. Learn about the program, as well as which stores have implimented its protocals.
  • Snopes.com’s write-up on Code Adam: A good write-up on the program.
  • John Walsh’s book Tears of Rage: Visit Amazon.com and check out Walsh’s book, Tears of Rage, which chronicles how his life changed after Adam’s abduction, and about how he became a crusader for victim’s rights.

So, this e-mail’s a mixed bag. If you feel compelled to forward anything, I’d recommend ditching all of it and sending your friends the url of the Code Adam page (http://www.missingkids.com/CodeAdam), which is legit, rather a decades-old urban legend, which at best is only helpful for reminding people to watch their kids.