The Ænigma Project
07/02 Urban Legends
The Ænigma Project is a discussion group focused on the realm of the supernatural, paranormal and mysterious events that sometimes take place in our lives. Through multiple view points and experiences, we seek to enlighten our listeners and elucidate that which has become hidden beneath the many layers of misunderstanding and fear. Join creator Paul Cagle with co-hosts Sushi and Springwolf for a weekly discussion, every Monday night at 9pm eastern on TenacityRadio.com.
This is not a transcript of the show; it’s merely a supporting article to share some of the information we may not have had time to cover, and links that you might find interesting.
On Monday night July 02, 2012, Paul Cagle, Sushi and Springwolf sat at their round table for The Ænigma Project and held a discussion about:
Did you hear about the group of scientists known as the “Second Coming Project” who are trying to clone Jesus from the DNA of holy relics? Or what about the ghosts of little children killed by on a train track haunt the area and push stalled cars off the tracks least the occupants experience their same fate. Legend says cars pushed by the ghost children have tiny hand prints on the back of the cars. Are they true? Or are they modern mythology?
An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not be true or based in fact. Some liken urban legends to modern mythology, moral tales told by clergy or parents to keep people and kids in line. Others call them entertaining stories that hearken back to the days before television and movies, when oral stories were the source of amusement.
They have always been used as vehicles for manipulation by corporate strategists, political elections and town gossip. As one of our listeners stated, there’s a fine line between an urban legend and malicious gossip or attack. And that’s certainly true. These modern myths can educate, teach moral code of conduct, entertain or harm society as a whole. It all depends on the story, the intent and the attention to detail. Often times, the intricate details make the difference between help or harm.
With the advent of the internet, urban legends have found a new avenue of expression to spread both their tales or their manipulations. But what we find interesting is how easily some of these stories can be told and spread before someone actually does a little web searching to discover if they’re true or not. So why don’t more people check out the tales they read before they hit that share button? Well that’s an easy one. It’s in our nature to be the first to tell a story no matter what it’s about. We want to be the first with the news. Even news outlets care more about being the first to break a story than they are about getting the story right.
Case in point. Last week the Supreme Court ruled on national health care; is the federal mandate constitutional or not? The court released its ruling in an opinion paper and the news media began scanning for the headline. Before you know it, they were reporting that the high Court struck down the mandate as an interference in commerce. They couldn’t wait to get the story out and most outlets rushed to the cameras and started talking before they finished reading the opinion. Sadly, they should have taken the time to keep reading. They would have discovered the Court upheld the mandate stating it falls within the authority of the Government to assess a tax. Within 5 to 10 minutes, all the news organizations who rushed with the headline “It’s killed” quickly rushed to change their news feed and crawls across the TV screen to “It’s Upheld”.
Is it no wonder than that we as individual people often fall into the same boat. It’s so much easier to hit that Share button and spread a false story than it is to take a little time and search for the facts first. But why should we care if a story is true or not? They’re simply entertaining. Well the problem is that often these stories can be used to skew perceptions of a people, culture or place.
The Harm Behind Urban Legends
A story can subtly create a perception of a people without you even realize that it’s being done. Two stories that we covered on the show come to mind that can be examples of this.
The first deals with religion:
A group of scientists known as the “Second Coming Project” are trying to clone Jesus from the DNA found in a holy relic. Their intention is to clone Jesus, utilizing techniques pioneered at the Roslin Institute in Scotland, by taking an in-corrupt cell from one of the many Holy Relics of Jesus’ blood and body that are preserved in churches throughout the world, extracting its DNA, and inserting into an unfertilized human egg), through the now-proven biological process called nuclear transfer.
At the peak of this story in 2001, a group advertised this story, set up a donation center and share information on their website clonejesus.com. The .com site no longer exists. Presumably because their fraud was discovered. But clonejesus.net sure exists today. It doesn’t say much, but the very fact that it’s there says something. The story has moved from website and word of mouth to email scams. You can still fall into the B.S. and send money if you feel encouraged to do so. Read the Second Coming email @ snopes.com
Now the story itself is false. No archeological artifact has ever been found that directly links, beyond a shadow of a doubt to Jesus Christ. The only object that might come close is The Shroud of Turin. The Catholic Church guards the shroud with the utmost security and while it has allowed some scientific testing, scientists have been limited by what they can do to prove it’s authenticity. Most researchers and scientists who have been on these previous examinations have concluded the shroud is a forgery and was created during the Renaissance. So the first task to making the story of cloning true, is to have actual proven Jesus DNA. And that simply doesn’t exist.
But the very idea touched the souls of many people around the world who honestly believe such attempts to bring back Jesus for the rapture of mankind is a good idea. Is it? Really? Do we want another “Heaven’s Gate” tragedy on a larger world wide scale to occur? I hope not. But the “True Believers” believe their way is the only hope for the world.
Dubai Mall Hoax
The Big Fish Tale:
The second story is much more benign but still sets up an underlying message of negative perception in the most subtle of ways. It begins with a picture. A picture is worth a thousand words is it not? It’s proof, evidence, how can anyone dispute the story when it comes with photographic evidence?
The picture comes with the story about the collapse of a shark tank at The Scientific Center in Dubai. Share this because it’s probably the only time in your life you will see something like this.
Various alternative stories claim the same fate for the shark tank, but place the location at the Scientific Center in Kuwait.
In 2010, a shark-filled aquarium at a large mall in Dubai did crack, causing a precautionary evacuation of the building and some leakage. However, the breach was quickly contained and none of the aquarium’s residents escaped to swim the mall and none were harmed.
The prank email/story has a little truth to it. The picture (without the sharks) was taken of a subway flood in Toronto Canada after heavy rain flooded the area. This was a subway. The original photo was uploaded to CBC’s website by Jenny Porter. The picture was altered (with the sharks) as a result of commuter humor and posted on Facebook by Jamie King.
Now consider the chosen locations of the scam. Far enough away in the middle east to be potentially hard to verify. But the subtle message some have gleaned from this is the irresponsibility of middle eastern countries more concerned with flash and opulence than the care and security of aquatic life. Really? Ok, whatever.
There’s no doubt that spreading rumors over certain commercial products can be harmful to both companies and consumers. Several years ago pet owners went through a big scare over tainted dog food. That story was true and many brands issued warnings and recalls because of tainted ingredients used in the making of their products. Last year another similar story started up concerning a particular brand of ‘natural’ dog food. This story turned out to be false, but the impact to the company wasn’t fake. They suffered losses that forced the company to layoff workers and make harsh cutbacks hoping they could ride through the storm.
Politics has been another source of fake fodder and with the use of the internet and spam email it seems to have only gotten worse. Changing the spin on an opponents position isn’t new.But how those sound bites are being spread and proliferated to the general public is. The constant barrage of false information has caused many new agencies to create their own series of “Keeping Them Honest” or Fact Checking. Many point to FactCheck.org and Politifact.com as two of the best sources. But even they have their detractors. They at least give the individual citizen a place to start and something to think about before they go to the polling booth.
Scams, spinning the news, or propagating the unbelievable aren’t the only types of Urban Legends that get attention. Sometimes the ones we really like to hear about, are the ones that bring up a scare.
The Paranormal Legends
Some of the most entertaining urban myths revolve the paranormal. From ghosts and horror to the improbable and scientific; urban myths are spread far and wide. They begin in one area and within a few short months they are retold as happening some where else. Building the familiarity within the story helps to keep it going from person to person. Especially if the legend is intended to share a moral tale.
Take the young teenager who bet her friends that she could spend the night in a local cemetery. This one has been altered from time to time, denoting the name of a local cemetery to make the tale more personal for those hearing it. The next morning the girls friends find her dead, held in the arms of a stone angel.
Now tales like this one may have gotten started by a local graveyard caretaker to frighten teenagers away from his cemetery. Holding respect for the dead is still a big deal today. But it may have been more so back when the process of life and death were still being discovered. And no, that tale is not true either.
Nor is the legend of the children killed on a railroad crossing who spend eternity in ghostly form to push wayward stuck travelers off the same tracks when they become stuck. Leaving little hand prints in the dust of the car’s trunk.
The Read House – Chattanooga Tennessee
The Read House Hotel in Chattanooga Tennessee has a wonderful haunting story to tell. For those who stay in room 311, you may want to think twice. Annalisa Netherly was a living breathing guest at the hotel in the late 20’s when extended hotel stays were common. Legend says that her husband found her romantically entertaining another man and was so enraged he slit her throat almost decapitating her in the bathtub of room 311. That’s the room she is seen in most frequently. You can read more about the hotel and it’s stories on American Roads.
Are stories like this one common? Are there many places haunted by distraught souls who were murdered or committed suicide? Do a quick Google search for “Haunted Hotel Rooms”and you’ll find out that yes indeed it is a lot more common than you might think. One interesting note about many of these stories are the location of the haunted rooms are often on the top floor. In centuries past, construction often limited commercial or residential buildings to three floors. So a lot of stories happen in room 310, 311, 333 and so on. But as construction improved so did the floors of old hotels.
Many people enjoy these ghost legends and seek to stay in these rooms specifically for a fright of their life. From London to Honolulu you can find a ghost story within a haunted hotel, cottage or castle to peek your interest and scare up the goosebumps.
Checking The Tales
Whither it’s an old Urban Legend shared as oral tradition of history or a modern scam designed to part you from the truth or your money, do us all a favor and check out the truth before you hit the share button. There are many websites that debunk the false rumors from those that have some measure of truth and fact. But there’s nothing like a decent search to discover the real story to keep you from looking foolish.
If someone tells you they heard in the news that scientists have discovered the existence of 11 dimensions, it’s easy enough to search that term and focus on legitimate news articles or scientific trade magazine to discover the real story. In this case, this one is true. Sort of, because it’s a theory about space and time known as String Theory. Being a theory it hasn’t been scientifically proven. But it’s a working theory that many physicists believe explains our universe and the laws of physics.
The source of your research is just as important as the story itself. A grocery store tabloid that reprints an Urban Legend may not have the factual resources to back it up. Search for a local newspaper where the story supposedly originated from. If you can’t find it, you have your first clue that the story is an urban myth. But widen your search and look for any news item about the story. If you can’t find anything, it’s likely to be false.
You can also search on the variety of Urban Legend websites that seek to debunk the scams and myths. Two popular sites that do this are Snopes and The AFU And Urban Legends Archive.
Enjoy your stories and entertain your friends, with a few Urban Legends from your area. It’s an interesting way to learn about history, share moral codes of conduct or simply be the center of entertainment!
- Sushi’s Links – http://aenigmaproject.com/sushis-links
- Snopes Urban Legends – http://snopes.com
- The AFU And Urban Legends Archive – http://www.tafkac.org
- Urban Legends Online – http://urbanlegendsonline.com
- Fact Check.org – FactCheck.org
- Politifact.com – Politifact.com
- The Museum of Hoaxes – http://museumofhoaxes.com
If you miss the show, you can listen on the Tenacity Radio Archives for the The Ænigma Project (2012-07-02), or the The Ænigma Project blog and iTunes.
© 2012 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.