Hey, have you heard the one about shopping malls?
© St. Petersburg Times,
How strange is it that, during the one year when they are probably the safest place to be during Halloween, shopping malls are the victims of a nasty and totally unsubstantiated urban myth?
If you haven't seen or heard it by now, you either live in a cave or don't have access to a computer and never have your hair done in a beauty shop.
It's one of those friend of a friend things where someone got a note from her Afghan boyfriend right before the Sept. 11 tragedy warning her not to fly on that day and not to go into a mall on Halloween. The boyfriend then, of course, disappeared.
The story doesn't hold up once you get past the second level of the 'friend of a friend" dodge well known to those who research urban legends.
Most copies of the e-mail spreading the myth are signed by a real woman who has admitted to researchers that she doesn't know the woman from whom the information originally came. Even the FBI has investigated and declared the warning a hoax.
And, for the record, there were no anti-American celebrations at outlets of a national doughnut chain; there is no spate of rental truck robberies; news networks did not use old footage of celebrating Palestinians saying it was happening more recently and Nostradamus did not prophecy Sept. 11 attacks.
Also, there are no earthworms in the meat of a famous hamburger chain and no spider eggs in a popular brand of bubble gum. The babysitter didn't get stuck to the freshly painted toilet seat and nobody got shot through the testicle because he used a .22 shell for an automobile electrical fuse and that non-existent bullet did not carry just enough sperm to impregnate the innocent woman struck in the abdomen by the errant round.
Bigfoot and a space alien did hold Hillary Clinton captive as a love slave, but the authorities are still trying to cover that one up.
Seriously folks, except for the last one, I'm not making this stuff up. I don't have to. The International Brotherhood of People With Too Much Time on Their Hands has enough members to keep cranking that stuff out by the ton. The process has been around for years. I began chasing my first legend in 1969 -- the Kid Mutilated in the Department Store Restroom story. That was when people had to rely on word-of-mouth and painstakingly typed Mimeograph stencils to spread inane ramblings.
The advent of the Internet only made the phenomenon more pervasive.
And it sometimes amazes me who buys into the stuff. One of my colleagues passed on a tip about the kid getting kidnapped at Disney World and just rescued in time from kidnappers who had cut and dyed her hair and changed her clothes, and another one actually printed the Blue Star Acid myth that is at least 25 years old (LSD in Blue Star and Disney Character stick-on-tattoos)
And the forwarded e-mails (never read anything that comes with a 14-foot header) sometimes come from people whose intelligence I used to admire.
But back to the original premise (Hey, I'm improving, it only took me 11 paragraphs) I have held for some time that the practice of trick-or-treating is ill-advised, and this year it would be doubly insane.
Gun permit applications in Florida are triple what they were last year, and that is only the people who are bothering to get permits. Add to the mix a very edgy populace that is deluging law enforcementment with calls about their mail, anything that sounds like an airplane and anything else that goes bump in the night, and it gets weirder.
Even more so than usual, I don't think this is a good year to be taking the kiddies around to have them solicit what you hope will turn out to be candy from total strangers who may or may not be mentally equipped to greet strangers.
In fact, I think, you should go to a mall or to one of several other supervised and sure-to-be-well publicized events in the area. Gulf View Square in West Pasco, for instance, will host trick-or-treaters from 6 to 8 p.m. and will have a special brief holiday play at 5 p.m. at Center Square.
Folks at Gulf View got mad at me once for making fun of their new decor. I take it back. It doesn't look nearly as scary as much of the outside world does now.
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