Hoaxes, Urban Legends and Myths
Definition of a hoax: A mischievous trick, especially a made-up story.
There have been hoaxes making the rounds for a very long time. There is evidence of hoaxes as early as 756 AD. More than likely they existed before this date. If you would like to learn more about hoaxes, visit the Museum of Hoaxes.
In the days before modern communication methods, it took a long time before a hoax could get much further than the original source and more than likely most died out before traveling very far. Some hoaxes, however, did manage to spread and were believed for many years before they were investigated and labeled hoaxes.
The Internet has made it possible to spread hoaxes like lightening. All it takes for a hoax to go around the world is for unsuspecting folks to receive an email containing a hoax that sounds serious (virus hoax), plays on sympathies or offers a monetary reward (someone gives you money for every time it is forwarded.) The hoax is forwarded and forwarded to thousands of new unsuspecting folks and the hoax lives on.
There are a lot more sites exposing hoaxes, but you get the idea. If you want more information, just type ‘hoaxes’ into your favorite search engine & see how many sites are offered. Besides deceiving the un-initiated, forwarding these messages take up bandwidth and in some instances have brought email servers to a virtual crawl. Don’t forward a hoax, check it out before you forward!
Urban Legends and Myths
Urban legends are slightly different than hoaxes in that where a hoax is intended to make people believe something is true, urban legends are about ‘things that happened to a friend of a friend’ and is definitely true. Not. On the Internet urban legends are circulating almost as much as hoaxes.
There may be a grain of truth to the story, but as it went from person to person the story became more embellished and more changed with each telling of the story.
These stories can be about most anything. Sometimes the story is about monsters and is accompanied by a photo (nearly always enhanced, added to or changed by a program like Photoshop) to make the story seem more believable. Giant alligators, snakes, bears and other beasts come to mind.
When there is an impending election there are many emails circulating about the candidates that pertain to their beliefs or supposed quotes the candidate has made regarding certain subjects. These emails sometimes do contain some truth, but more often than not are riddled with untruths.(A made up story.) These become urban legends after a certain length of time and like a certain bunny, they just keep going and going.
Some of the nasty emails about politics get recycled. Depending on the current party in power, a recycled message bashing the other party can be changed to fit the circumstances and sent out again. (This is also true about virus warnings.) No one knows who really sends out this junk, but I suspect it may be ultra right wing or ultra left wing in the case of the political messages.
The sad truth is too many gullible people really believe this stuff.
There are so many of these stories going around it is hard to give name to them all. About.com has a good site for learning about urban legends. If you receive an email telling a tall tale, check it out here.
Snopes Look here for Urban Legends and Hoaxes.
The Straight Dope Cool site!
The list goes on & on. You can find more information about urban legends by clicking on the links on the side panel.