Though urban legends and hoaxes have been around for as long as humans have told tales, I always date them back to the first one I remember: the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe (which was preceded by a similar tale of a cake recipe from the Waldorf). Long before the days of email, this bad boy traveled by fax.
started adapted by some unknown person and passed on so many times that the copy my mother received was marred with splotches from random fax scanning beds and the text was fuzzy around the edges because it was a copy of a copy of a copy. Being a Dallas girl, the birthplace of NM, it didn’t ring true from its first read for a few reasons:
1. At the time, Neiman’s didn’t sell cookies
2. They didn’t (and I believe still don’t) take VISA. Hard to charge a $250 recipe charge to a card they didn’t accept.
Even though the cookie recipe is pretty darned good (I’m talking the original, not the one NM created later after getting tired of fighting the fight, I haven’t tried that one yet) it started my lifelong skepticism of things that are passed around.
I have heard about some pretty amazing hoaxes from history: the Cottingly Fairy photos (I love those girls), the Cardiff Giant, and Orson Welles frightening the masses with the Halloween broadcast of The War of the Worlds and in a way I can understand believing those more than the things that go around today. Technology was not as advanced, education levels were lower, there was no Internet so people could quickly google something. But today. . .?
This week, my Facebook newsfeed was blowing up with legal sounding jargon about copyright notices, privacy issues, million dollar lottery giveaways and “everyone who likes this post will get a $100 gift card” posts. None of which are even remotely true. I have received emails about the dangers of eating Pop Rocks while drinking soda, the ongoing false warnings that poinsettias are poisonous to humans (they’re not), and that power companies are fining people for leaving their lights up too long (again, they’re not.)
Perhaps I am a true skeptic. Or maybe I learned long ago from my dad, a true hoaxster, to not take everything at face value (I still double check almost every answer he gives me, he is the King of Balderdash.)
So I get bent out of shape when these hoaxes and urban legends take off. It drives me batty. Though it may make me obnoxious, I tend to send a “not true” note in a one-woman crusade to stop the madness.
Thus far my success in the cause is barely noticeable.
Of course, this skepticism has not made me immune to falling for them from time to time – especially those tales I have heard my whole life. I always feel a little silly when I discover that something I have held true for many, many years is another urban legend.
So what about you, fellow goddesses?
Have you been fooled by an urban legend? Do you have a favorite hoax or urban legend you’ve heard? Are you like me and double check most everything that sounds “too good or too crazy to be true”?