[Editor’s Note: This article was written by the CTL’s Laurie Hansen.]
Isn’t it thoughtful when friends think of you and send good tidings via email? A quick e-angel, an e-prayer? I am torn, however, by the chain or viral e-mails which include stories such as the one where the daughter of a friend met a guy… a shocking story! I appreciate the warning, check my common sense and then, in the blink of an eye, doubt settles in. For Barbara Mikkelson (“Mrs. Snopes”), that particular shocking story is what piqued her interest in urban e-legends. Barbara and her husband David are the driving force behind Snopes.com.
When in receipt of such emails, I often check Snopes to verify. But then, I think, “How do I know if Snopes is accurate?” Good news! A recent NPR podcast states that, “Every rumor or legend [they] debunk or confirm is backed by carefully foot-noted research…” And they also often link to original resources. Backed by research? Certainly integrity is crucial.
Distinguished by a 2007 Webby Awards, the Snopes.com “office” is a two bedroom pre-fab house near Los Angeles that Mr. and Mrs. Mikkelson share with their cats and, err, rats. The couple met online in an old-fashioned, text-based discussion forum dedicated to urban legends and that is where their own legend began.
Interestingly, e-legends that are discredited on Snopes.com are usually reinvented versions of very old stories, hence the urban legend. Snopes.com includes a community message board to discuss these and they even keep a tally of the 25 hottest urban legends. And, sorry to break it to you, folks, but after forwarding this article, Bill Gates will not send you a small fortune.