|SOME eRUMORS MAY HAVE
A LINK WITH SOMETHING TRUE
Many false stories are simply corrupted versions of true stories.
For example, one of the most enduring rumors of the last 20 years is
that the famous American atheist, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, is trying to
get religious programming banned from radio and television. Each
version of the rumor includes what is said to be the number of the
petition that she has brought to the Federal Communications Commission,
RM-2493. The story is untrue and Madalyn Murray O'Hair has never
made such a request to the FCC. Case number RM-2493 does exist,
however, and involved a complaint filed by two gentlemen who felt that a
church should not have been granted a radio license reserved for
educational use. The FCC turned down their challenge and ruled in
favor of the church, but somewhere along the way, Madalyn Murray
O'Hair's name got attached and the FCC has received tens of millions of
letters and phone calls.
SOME eRUMORS ARE OUTRIGHT HOAXES
Many false stories have been intentionally written and distributed by
what I call "truth terrorists." They enjoy fabricating
something, then sending it as far and wide as possible.
For some, the motive is to cause harm to a specific person or group by
For others, there is an emotional pay-off from creating something they
think may trigger some kind of reaction and mushroom into something big.
MANY eRUMORS ARE EITHER CREATED OR EMBELLISHED BY A PART OF US THAT
WISHES THEY WERE TRUE
Some false tales have been created by people who have a sincere desire
to emphasize something they think is true, but which they can't
document. So they make up a story they think sounds appropriate.
Or they change or add some details to a story that has been passed along
to them in order to give it a little more "sizzle. I personally think this is a factor in a large number of false tales.
One common urban legend, for example, is about a store clerk in Hawaii
who contracted a serious virus by coming into contact with soft-drink
cans with dried rat urine on them. The story is not true and the
virus could not be contracted that way, but somebody who has an
obsession with cleanliness or who feels creepy about rodents would find
it satisfactory to create or repeat the story as a way of saying,
"So there!" to people who don't seem to have the same
SOME ARE JUST
There are a few eRumors that are passed around that the writer never
intended be taken seriously as a real account. This is especially
true of some of the inspirational stories. Many fictional writings
are valuable because of the point they make, not because they are
true. Some folks, however, put them on the Internet and preface
them by saying, "This is a true story," or "I heard Paul
Harvey say this on the radio."
SOME HAVE JUST
BEEN AROUND FOR A LONG, LONG TIME
Urban legends are false stories that have either been circulating long
enough or have been spread widely enough to have become classics.
It's virtually impossible to know where they came from, but they have
all the right ingredients to remain stubbornly alive. They are the
kind of tales that frequently get told around a campfire when people are
trying to top one another with the funniest, scariest, or most bizarre