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The Stuff of Urban Legends

As Josh was getting in the shower, I commented on how bloodshot his eyes were.  He responded, “then it’s a good thing that I have that container of Visine.”  And I responded: “then it’s a good thing that I didn’t dump that bottle of Visine down the toilet.” (Why would I do this?  I don’t know.  It just felt like the right thing to say in that moment.)  To which he responded: “then it’s a good thing that you didn’t put a few drops in my coffee.”

Putting Visine in your coffee, he confided, will instantly force a person to have explosive diarrhea.  He delivered this bit of knowledge with the confidence of a ten-year-old boy who has just learned how to induce explosive diarrhea from his older camp counselor.  He sounded smug, and he snapped the shower curtain behind him for good measure.

“Is that really true?”

“Why don’t you ask the Google machine and find out?”

So I asked the Google machine and Snopes returned the answer: Visine does not cause instant, explosive diarrhea.  While I was online, I also looked up another fact from childhood we had been wondering if was true the night before: do clove cigarettes, or kretek, cause tiny puncture holes in the lungs from the cloves bits?  Alas, they do not.

Which caused us to lament all the good times we had as children believing that pop rocks and Coke would make our stomachs explode like Mikey, that Alfonso Ribeiro died while breakdancing in a Michael Jackson video, and a girl went down to the Amazon and didn’t know that a spider had laid eggs under her skin until the lump popped and THOUSANDS OF SPIDERS STARTED CRAWLING OUT.

The problem is that with the Google machine, it is too easy to stamp out urban legends before they’ve really gotten a chance to perform.  Instead of lying awake in your camp cabin at night, wondering if it’s true that a woman was driving down the road on a dark night and the car behind her kept flashing his brights at her until she pulled over and he got out to tell her that THERE WAS AN AXE MURDERER IN HER BACK SEAT!  Now the children know within minutes that this did not happen to a friend of a friend’s mother.

And that made me sad.

Video didn’t truly kill the radio star, but the Internet really did kill the urban legend machine.

What urban legends have you now proven or disproven with the help of the Internet?  Which ones are you still wondering about?

Photo Credit: Jamiesrabbits.


1 Brandy { 12.05.11 at 10:12 am }

I’ve found that urban myths still abound because so many people forward emails without thinking to check if they’re true or not. It was on the INTERNET! It must be true!!

2 Pork Chop { 12.05.11 at 11:26 am }

All the safety related ones that my parents send me or anyone of that generation! I instantly run all mass emails from aunts, parents, etc through Snopes and most are disproved. Of course, they still don’t check Snopes…

3 peesticksandstones { 12.05.11 at 12:03 pm }

I must be totally back in infertile-obsession land, because the second I saw this headline I was assuming you were going to reveal that you were surprise-pregnant. But, mmm… Poprocks sound kinda tasty right now!

4 Rachel { 12.05.11 at 12:30 pm }

I, too, thought this was going to be pregnancy-related. I think I like this better :/

5 flmgodog { 12.05.11 at 12:38 pm }

You got me too. I thought you were going to announce a pregnancy. Though rationally wanted to believe that it was just gonna be a post about something like this.

6 Eggs In A Row { 12.05.11 at 12:39 pm }

Did you know that if you feed a pigeon Alka-Seltzer it will explode?
The thing is, I’m too nice so I won’t try. LOL.

I love these urban myths! I spent many summers at camp making Bloody Mary try to show up on the mirror, but she never did. But when I see ads for Horror Movies where girls are in front of a mirror, I INSTANTLY cover my eyes. In case she shows up, obviously.

7 Lollipopgoldstein { 12.05.11 at 12:41 pm }

If I were ever lucky enough to have a pregnancy to announce, I would email as many people as humanly possible to tell them beforehand. And then the title would be a very direct: “Don’t Read Unless You’re in a Good Space” and then it would be a simple paragraph. I promise, nothing coy.

8 Erica { 12.05.11 at 1:28 pm }

I think the internet also creates quite a few Urban Legends, or perpetuates them, anyway (I’m still waiting for Microsoft to send me my case of champagne).

I love snopes.com. It’s helped me quash many a “don’t go out at night because of X” type of email from concerned family members.

9 Chickenpig { 12.05.11 at 1:30 pm }

My husband believes everything he reads on the internet, and half of what he is reading is total crap. Where does he find this stuff? He tells me stuff and now I just have to say “And what site did you find this on?

I wish I would get that email. That would be totally cool 🙂

10 HereWeGoAJen { 12.05.11 at 2:43 pm }

I always get those DANGER TO WOMEN emails from my mom and my aunt. Because you know, maybe once someone did lure a woman in a mall parking lot by offering her a free perfume sample and when she sniffed it, it was ether. I introduced them to Snopes and the emails dried up.

I remember the Mythbusters testing pop rocks and soda. 🙂 And my least favorite urban legend is the Halloween candy being tampered with one. NEVER, people, NEVER.

11 Her Royal Fabulousness { 12.05.11 at 6:41 pm }

My husband and I fight about the cracking your knuckles myth. For chrissakes, it does NOT cause arthritis! Ask Dr. Oz!

12 a { 12.05.11 at 7:31 pm }

I like to sit in my office, listening to my coworker expound on urban myths that her sister’s friend’s great aunt ACTUALLY EXPERIENCED! Then I like to look them up on Snopes and chuckle to myself. I think the last one was to know what kind of shoes your kid wears because the kidnappers always forget to change the shoes, even though they cut and dye the kid’s hair and clothes right away.

13 a { 12.05.11 at 10:35 pm }

I totaaaaallllly thought the same thing as peesticksandstones (ouch) and thought that you were going to announce a surprise pregnancy. I thought, “Damn, 2 surprise pregnancies by 2 of my favorite bloggers! Maybe I’ll be next!” 😉 Urban legends…hmmm, can’t think of any right now but I have tons of old wives tales.

14 Stephanie { 12.06.11 at 10:34 am }

I had nightmares for YEARS after watching the movie Candyman. Gah. And I still would never eat pop rocks and drink coke at the same time. Because…you know…it could happen.

The urban legend that gets on my nerves is the stupid name one. Everyone “knows someone” who met two kids names Oranjello and Lemonjello. Or a girl named after some part of the female anatomy. It’s such garbage, and these urban legend names have a streak of racist and/or classist meanness in them.

15 battynurse { 12.07.11 at 12:07 am }

Ooooh, one I heard about a lady who got a paper cut licking an envelope and then had her tongue keep swelling up until she went to the doctor and discovered she had roaches hatching in her tongue. Didn’t even bother looking it up as I’m pretty sure it’s fake.
What about the one of giving a sea gull alka seltzer? Do they blow up?

16 Brave IVF Girl { 12.08.11 at 11:42 pm }

One of my favorite websites is iusedtobelieve.com – all stories of things people believed when they were kids. Hee!

17 Michelle { 12.13.11 at 8:07 pm }

My favourite one is the one about the woman who had a doctors appointment for her annual pap smear. Rushing around the house getting ready, she went into her teenage daughter’s room to find something, noticed a can of anti-perspirant on the dresser, and thought, hmm, I should just make myself smell a bit better down there. So she gave herself a little spray, grabbed her bag and ran out of the house.

When she was all disrobed and lying on the examining table, the doctor took one look and said “my, haven’t we gone to a lot of trouble today?” then proceeded with the exam.

The woman was mortified. When she got home, she was horrified to find out that the can of anti-perspirant in her daughter’s room was actually spray-on glitter!!

True, or an urban myth? I used to believe it was true as it was told to me years ago by a much older, very intelligent woman, so I totally believed her. But who knows!

18 Bea { 12.18.11 at 7:16 am }

Yes, and also no. Yes, the internet has killed off urban legends for those who are research-and-internet-savvy enough to know how to look them up. But for the rest of the population IT HAS MADE THE MONSTER GO RADIOACTIVE. Which I hear can happen if you live somewhere with too much wifi.


(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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