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Urban Legends (part 7)

"Computer: a million morons working at the speed of light." (David Ferrier)

The Usenet equivalent of postal chain is the urban legend that simply refuse to die. There is no better example than the following:

Once upon a time, there was a seven-year-old boy, named Craig Shergold, who was diagnosed with a seemingly incurable brain tumor. As he lay dying, he wished only to have friends send him postcards. The local newspapers soon got hold of the tear-jerking story but then, the boy's wish changed: he now wanted to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest postcard collection. Word spread around the world. People by the millions sent him postcards.

Miraculously, the boy lived. An American billionaire even flew him to the U.S. for surgery to remove what remained of the tumor. And his wish succeeded beyond his wildest dreams - he made the Guinness Book of World Records.

But, with Craig now well into his teens, his dream has turned into a nightmare for the post office in the small town where he lived. Like Craig himself, his request for cards just refused to die, inundating the post office with millions of cards every year. Just when it seemed like the flow was slowing, along came somebody else who started up a whole new set of requests for people to send Craig postcards. Or greeting cards or business cards. “Craig letters” truly took on a life of their own and begun to mutate.

One variation on the Craig story that has been seen floating around Usenet is that you should send your cards to the Make A Wish Foundation Chapter in Atlanta, Georgia.


Make A Wish - a foundation that grants the dying wish of terminally ill children - never asked for any cards, doesn't want any cards and has enough things to worry about without being snowed under with unwanted cards..

Other chain letters and that have made their way around Usenet include warnings that emails with the subject line "GOOD TIMES" contain viruses that will wreak havoc to your computer.

A pure hoax!

Most of the "virus warnings" that are circulated are also hoaxes. Passing this "information" on not only prolongs the hoax but scares many people unnecessarily.

So, what should you do if you see or receive something that you think is a hoax or a chain letter?

Potential virus hoaxes can be checked out at one of the sites listed below:

  • Hoaxbusters (
  • (
  • Symantec (

With regard to chain letters, you could try checking the newsgroup alt.folklore.urban or use Google to see if your particular “letter” has been documented elsewhere.

Last, but not least, do not accept everything you receive at face value.

Apply common sense and reality checks first.

Mel Pedley is a professional web developer at Black Widow Web Design ( specialises in the production, and management, of standards based, accessible, web sites.

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Urban legends