Urban Legends: Are you spreading the menace?

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By Lindsay Edmunds

Many of you can relate to having your inbox full of emails, the greater part of which are usually junk. Others are chain emails that sometimes contain compelling facts and information. But how are we to know if these facts are true? Because all too often, they are not.

Take for instance the widely spread email that depicts the similarities between the lives and deaths of John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. This particular email is made up of numerous interesting "factual" coincidences, of which only a few are actually true.

Then, of course, there are the emails that tell the stories of missing children, many of whom aren't actually missing. Then there are other emails that promise money will be donated to help a sick child according to how many people to which you forward the email. Even better yet, some emails claim that you will be paid for forwarding the message. As great as it sounds, this isn't the slightest bit true.

YouTube is also a mine field full of fabricated urban legends. One video, which has accumulated 297,533 views so far, instructs the viewer on how to make a bottle of Mountain Dew glow in the dark. To do this, you are supposed to combine about a quarter of an inch of Mountain Dew with three bottle caps of Hydrogen Peroxide and a tiny bit of baking soda. Once shaken, the contents in the bottle are supposed to light up. However, once these instructions are put to the test in person, all you are left with is a dull, dark, and wasted bottle of Mountain Dew.

Another YouTube video with over 5 million views demonstrates how to pop uncooked popcorn kernels with just a few activated cell phones. This one I had to try myself! It just seemed much too intriguing (as well as dangerous for our cell phone crazed generation) to let it go unnoticed if it was in fact true. Luckily enough, after surrounding a group of kernels with four cell phones and calling each of them simultaneously, the group of kernels still remained, no popcorn in sight.

However, there is hope for finding truth among the fabrications of your internet musings. Snopes.com is an urban legend reference website that is very useful in sifting through truth and misinformations. A quick subject search on their website will bring up not only the questionable material, but facts with references to either validate the claim, or prove it is a hoax. So next time you receive a sketchy chain email, have a question about some video you saw on YouTube, or even want to find out if a widespread political rumor or an old wives' tale is true, you can visit Snopes to help determine between falsehoods and factuality.