Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Teens across the U.S.A. are amusing themselves by throwing lit gasoline-soaked rags into cars halted at stop lights.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2000]
Variations: Versions circulating in 2004 added a header indicating that the warning was an "Important Message from Allstate Insurance Company
Origins: Obviously we don't think our world frightening enough because someone out there keeps inventing a stream of wild tales about non-existent lurking dangers. This time around it's heartless gangs of fun-loving teenagers who are out to get us (which is a refreshing change from what's come to be scarelore's usual spectre of evil, street
Horribly spelled warnings about homicidal teens playing "spunkball" began turning up on the Internet in February 2000 (and, since no good hoax is allowed to go to waste when there are new netizens yet to be japed, the phony Spunkball warning was dusted off and recirculated in March 2002). There's nothing to the alert, however — no stories have appeared in the press to support the claim that even one such incident has occurred, let alone that there's a nationwide epidemic underway. Likewise, there are no reports of any spunkball-related deaths. Consider yourself safe from such a menace and feel free to leave your car windows down at red lights.
In February 2002, new life was breathed into the then two-year-old baseless scare when its text appeared over the signature line of "Bea Maggio, FCLS, Allstate Insurance Co." This small improvement added the layer of credibility needed to make this warning far more plausible in the eyes of many. Now it appeared the warning had been vetted by a powerful insurance agency, which was now disseminating the information in an effort to alert motorists who were at risk.
Bea Maggio hadn't been acting in an official capacity on behalf of Allstate — she's merely done what so many are prone to do, which was unthinkingly forward to others an
Okay, so spunkball is not real — does this mean bored teens in search of amusing pastimes are incapable of that level of mindless violence and lack of concern for human life? Not at all, as a news story out of Darmstadt, Germany, so vividly illustrates. Three American teenage boys were arrested for hurling large stones (some of them weighing
The teens (age 14, 17, and 18) will be tried in German courts on charges of murder and attempted murder. A fourth (15) was arrested but later released once it became clear he'd left the bridge before the rock hurling began. If convicted under Germany's juvenile justice laws, the teens could be sentenced to a maximum of
With real stories like that, who needs fake ones?
Barbara "rock group" Mikkelson
Last updated: 13 September 2006
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