Urban Legends And The People Who Swear By Them
I have mentioned before (and been roundly ignored) that besides the sick baby scams on Facebook what I hate most are the hoaxes. If you use any kind of media, whether just a browser, email, Facebook or Google + you are going to see them - sometimes several times a week. I used to get really upset with the constant barrage of them (especially those who give false medical advice that if someone actually followed could make them really sick) and I'd post links to anti-scam sites like Snopes.
You know what I got for my trouble? Reactions ranged from 'thanks a lot' to 'well I'm glad YOU have time to look this stuff up', 'better safe than sorry', 'passing it on can't hurt', to an outright rage filled diatribe against ME for being... honest. That's why I keep all my 'friends' on a separate page I can't see unless I want to. Only a few true 'friends' are seen by me on a regular basis.
People want to believe. They like the fact that Jackie Chan, Morgan Freeman and Eddie Murphy (and, once, Bon Jovi) die on the average of once a month. They want to believe Bill Gates wants to give them $5,000. They think it's great that drinking a lot of water at certain times of the day with prevent/cure (insert malady here).
They want to believe they can get free passes to Disneyland, Southwest Airlines, or $100 gift cards from Wal Mart, Target, (enter your favorite store here). And, most of all, THEY DO NOT WANT YOU TO TELL THEM THAT IT IS A BUNCH OF CRAP AND MOST OF IT IS YEARS OLD.
- Posting false rumors can be personally damaging to innocent individuals.
- Posting false rumors take up bandwidth and space.
- Posting false rumors take time to read, share and act upon. Time is not refundable.
- Posting false rumors often steal photos belonging to other Facebook users, which can cause much upset.
- Posting false rumors can cause unnecessary panic and distress to Facebook users.
- Posting false rumors make you look foolish.
- Posting false rumors can stir up racial hatred which causes isolation to ethnic minorities.
- Posting false rumors can help scammers.
- Posting false rumors are often designed purely to attack personal figures or companies.
- Posting false rumors induces more false rumors.
- 9 out of 10 rumors that we see circulate Facebook are either totally false or inaccurate.
- Posting false rumors devalues the extent to which social networking acts as an effective method of spreading true information.
Urban legends can be fun. 'But you dummy!' I hear you say, 'These are scams, not legends.' Hey, some of them have been around so long they're becoming legends. Like one I got a couple of months ago, the Budweiser frog screensaver hoax? That one, my friends, had it's (false) beginning in 1999! THAT is a legend. To me anyway, I find some of them hilarious. And every country in the world has them. A particularly horrible movie told of one of them.
It was ATM (2012) about three people you don't give a damn about stuck in an ATM enclosure while a killer waits outside. Anyway, they brought up the urban legend that if you use your card but put your pin number in backwards, it sets off an alarm that will bring the police. I liked the response one gave, 'That's stupid. What if your pin was 4224? You'd be screwed.' But pressured, he DID IT ANYWAY and yup, his card was confiscated by the machine. Duh.
We are pretty familiar with a lot of the urban legends in the US, some of which actually travel to other countries (I've heard some being repeated in the UK and Australia). So what DO other countries hear that makes them swear to the heavens above that what they heard is the absolute truth (some actually claim they've seen it on the news)?
Let's start with Japan. The Asian culture is really big on curses and grudges. So while there are 'natural' urban legends there, it's the supernatural that are more fun:
Cursed Kleenex Commercial: In the 1980s, Kleenex released three Japanese commercials for their tissues, featuring a woman dressed in a white toga-like dress and a young child dressed as a Japanese ogre, sitting on straw. Each ad had the song "It's a Fine Day" by Jane & Barton playing in the background. Many viewers found the advertisement disturbing.
Some complaints claimed the music sounded like a German curse, although the lyrics are in English. Because of its unnerving ambiance, several rumors began to circulate about the cast, such as with the crew meeting untimely deaths through accidents and the lead actress Keiko Matsuzaka either dying, being institutionalized or becoming pregnant with a demon child (Sort of sounds like the 'Poltergeist' actors' curse as several of them have met with untimely or sudden deaths.).
Red Room Curse: The Red Room story is an internet legend about a pop up which appears on the victim's computer. The image simply shows a red door and a recorded voice asks "Do you like-". Even if the pop up is closed it will repeatedly reappear until the voice finally completes the question: "Do you like the red room?". Those who have seen the pop-up are found dead, their walls painted red in their own blood. The legend began with a flash animation of a young boy being cursed after encountering the pop-up, but gained notoriety when it was found that an 11 year old schoolgirl who had killed a 12 year old had this as a bookmark on her computer.
The Slit-mouthed Woman: Children walking alone at night may encounter a woman wearing a surgical mask, this is not an unusual sight in Japan as people wear them to protect others from their colds or sickness. The woman will stop the child and ask, 'Am I beautiful?'. If they say no, she kills them with a pair of scissors she always carries with her, but most children will answer yes, in which case the woman asks 'How about now?' and removes her mask to reveal her mouth has been slit from ear to ear.
Regardless of whether the child answers yes or no at this point, the woman will kill them, if they say no, they are cut in half, and if they say yes, she cuts their mouths to be exactly like hers. To escape you can answer her second question with "You're average" or "So-so", and you can escape while she is confused, or you can throw fruit or sweets at her which she will pick up, thus giving the victim a chance to run. One other way is to ask her if you are pretty, she will get confused and leave. (Wow that's complicated rules for a little kid to remember).
Toire no Hanako-san: This is a famous legend associated with Japanese elementary schools (think of it as their version of 'Bloody Mary'). The story tells of an omnipresent ghost who is thought to be the spirit of a student who committed suicide due to excessive bullying. However the entity is also known to just appear for no apparent reason. Hanako-san is a popular legend in elementary schools in Japan, and supposedly haunts the third stall of the girl’s bathroom. Characterized by a pair of stark gleaming eyes, the spirit scares any person who sets eyes on it. Not known to be malevolent or vicious in any way, Hanako-san is simply an eerie entity that only serves to severely scare its victims.
Well, that's just a small sample. Later we'll see what makes kids from other countries wet their beds.