ASSOCIATES (vol. 10, no. 1, July 2003) -

*Did You Hear the One About?*


Michael D. Brooks
St. Joseph's University
Francis A. Drexel Library
Philadelphia, PA

With a keystroke, a rumor can be instantaneously sent around the world.

Virtually overnight it can be emailed to thousands of people, accepted as fact, and eventually graduate to the status of full-blown Urban Legend.

Urban Legends have been around as long as humanity. They probably originated when the first "tall tale" was told to a group of early humans probably sitting around a campfire listening to a few embellished stories of the day.

With the advent of the Information Age, technology allows the modern equivalent of these stories to proliferate and manifest themselves within the collective consciousness of millions of people.

Discovering what is fact and what is fiction becomes the challenge for the discriminating Information Ager concerned with separating the fact from the fiction. Every time I get an email that seems too good to be true or is suspect, I check it out at an Urban Legend site to determine is validity.

Urban Legend sites serve as verification and validation warehouses for rumors, hearsay, and unbelievable stories, events, images, and the like. One such site is Truth or Fiction ( The site is easy to navigate, well organized, and contains its own search engine.

The best thing about this site is its simplicity. Everything is neatly laid out. Virtually any subject is accessible though the Search page or through the subject menu bar. It is arranged neatly along the left side of the home page from A to W. For example, if you have heard or received stories about animals, you can just click on the "Animal" link. Heard some unbelievable stories about the Iraq War, just click the "War in Iraq" link?

The About Us page has useful information about the site. Like why it exists and who is the owner/author. The Truth or Fiction site is maintained by Rich Buhler. He is a media professional who has pursued rumors, hoaxes, and all forms of Urban Legends. He is also the publisher of an email update available to subscribers only.

Another feature, which can be found on the About Us page, is an explanation of their classification system that informs readers whether the selected story is in fact true, false, or somewhere in between.

The articles are not just straightforward reports on various urban legends. Whenever applicable, related links appear within the report. So you can actually go to sources outside of the Truth or Fiction site for more information.

The Anatomy of a Rumor page contains three links to insightful information concerning e-Rumors and eHoaxes. The first link is to the Where From page where it takes a brief look at how eRumors and eHoaxes are born. Want to know how can you tell if that intriguing email you recently received is authentic? The "Is There a Way of Knowing Whether a Story is False?" link to the Signs page has tips, suggestions, and examples of just what to look for. The Signs page illustrates the various types of tactics and techniques used to propagate Urban Legends by citing a few of these legends as examples. The "What Do We Learn From Studying eRumors, eHoaxes, and Urban Legends?" link is click away from the Lessons page. This page is a series of observations and comments from the site owner about what we can learn from rumors and hoaxes.

Truth or Fiction is a good starting point to begin tracking down those pesky Urban Legends because rumors are very easy to get started. Like the one about….

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