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Uninformed Baylor students caught up in urban myth

Nov. 14, 1997

Editorial

Uninformed Baylor students caught up in urban myth

Rumors. They plague college campuses across the nation and Baylor University is no exception. The campus has been buzzing lately about a supposed murder of a number of Baylor girls in Cameron Park.

As the story has been passed along, its content has changed and developed. First, the girls were found on the Bear Trail. Then, they were found in Cameron Park. It was then added to the story that The Baylor Lariat wouldn't print anything about it to avoid scaring students and parents. The Baylor Lariat has investigated the story and come up with one fact: it isn't true. The Waco and Baylor Police departments were contacted and both claim that no such event ever occurred. None of the local television stations or newspapers have reported on the story, which they would have if it were true.

Another addition to the rumor was that Baylor University was involved in a cover-up of the story to avoid hurting the school's image. Hopefully, Baylor would never be a part of something like that. Baylor boasts a high Christian moral standard. If members of the Baylor faculty were involved in a cover-up, it would go against every Christian belief that the university is proud to have.

All it takes is for one person to tell another and a story can spread. Often, the facts are made up and distorted as the story is retold.

Another name for this phenonenon is the urban myth. A definition of 'urban myth' can be found on the urban legends homepage. It states: 'Urban myths appear mysteriously and spread spontaneously in varying forms. They contain elements of humor or horror and make for good storytelling.'

This type of rumor has been studied by newsmagazines such as Time and is a popular topic on Internet websites. On one website, author Linda Richards examines the urban myth and how it is spread:

'The world is shrinking. People keep spouting phrases like 'global economy' and 'shrinking planet.' You know that this is true when people in Helsinki, Hong Kong, New York and Vancouver are all carrying little pieces of a story. Stories with perhaps locations and names changed but the basic elements of the story -- all completely false -- are the same,' Richards said.

Famous urban myths have been spread throughout the years. One example would be when people began saying that Paul McCartney was dead because he was pictured with bare feet on the cover of a Beatles album. People also said when you played the record backwards it said 'Paul is dead' repeatedly. This piece of urban folklore, however, was false. Paul McCartney is alive and well to this day.

A college campus is a breeding ground for rumors and myths. Because of the social atmosphere on campus, it is easy for a story to circumnavigate the campus in a single day. For this reason, students have a responsibility to make sure things are true before spreading them any further. Call the police department or the local news station. They are usually on top of the news and will comment if they are able to. Instead of passing a story that may or may not be true on to the next person, wouldn't it be better to be informed about the facts?

The Baylor Lariat's purpose is to report news that concerns students. If the story about the murders could be proven, we as journalists would get as much information as possible and report it to the student body.

For more information on urban myths, check these sources:

Websites

www.tcp.ca/Aug94/urbanlegend.html

http://shopbarnesandnoble.com

www.urbanlegends.com

Books

Curses! Broiled Again! The Hottest Urban Legends Going by Jan Harold Brunvand

Crime-Victim Stories: New York City's Urban Folklore, by Eleanor F. Wachs

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