A Brief History
On May 30, 1883, panicked public people pushed, prodded, poked, and pummeled each other in a mad dash to get away from the Brooklyn Bridge when an unfounded rumor circulated that collapse was imminent. This ridiculous rumor was not true, and the incident provided the impetus for our previous article about Stupid Rumors. Today we take a look at more of these persistent beliefs that people have that get passed around to the point that vast numbers of people actually believe them to be fact, which of course they are not.
- Covid vaccine has some sort of electronic tracker used to track citizens
This rumor is idiotic on many levels, starting with the fact that no such technology is anywhere near possible. The alleged electronic tracker would have to be incredibly tiny, microscopic in fact, and yet be capable of transmitting a radio signal to a satellite! Another completely idiotic belief is that our government, or anyone else, has a burning interest in where anyone dumb enough to believe this is and what they are doing. This particular rumor is paranoia of the tin foil hat variety. So many ridiculous rumors concerning the Covid vaccine are out there that this item alone has its own stupid rumor industry!
- The Oil Companies have a secret carburetor or other device that would get mega mpg but they keep it from the public to keep profits up.
I remember this one from back in the 1970’s, and it just will not go away, usually with a figure of 100 miles per gallon or more thrown around. Sometimes this fairy tale gets a new wrinkle, such as the oil industry or the government or the Illuminati is sitting on some sort of fuel cell technology that can use plain old water to run vehicles basically for free. Does it not occur to believers in this sort of rumor that the military would be using that technology if it existed?
- You have to wait an hour/30 minutes/15 minutes after eating before swimming
Various time limits on having to wait to go swimming after eating to “prevent cramps” are often pushed by paranoid parents on skeptical children forcing those sad kids to wait before starting or resuming their water fun time. Seriously, did these parents EVER hear of or witness a swimmer get crippling cramps causing that person to drown in pain, helpless to even stand up in shallow water after thumbing their nose at this bit of conventional wisdom? No, they did not, and neither did you or me! Even as a kid I knew how stupid this rumor was, but somehow I could not convince my parents.
- Windmills cause cancer
The big wind turbines that produce electricity from the wind have been a persistent target of Donald Trump, who repeats the mantra that he “hears” the noise from these machines somehow causes cancer. How and why The Donald ever came to this conclusion is unknown, though he certainly has perpetuated the baseless rumor among many of his followers. Everybody knows windmills actually cause Covid, not cancer…
- When you fall from a great height, you die before you hit the ground
This often repeated “fact” is one of those feel-good falsehoods that provide people with some sort of comfort that if they leap from a skyscraper or fall off a high bridge that they will somehow be spared the intense, though probably brief, pain of landing. On the other hand, if you fell from a sufficiently high altitude that you would freeze to death or suffocate before you reached a livable altitude, you could conceivably die before hitting the ground. How high would you have to be to die before landing? Perhaps around 100,000 feet or so, though maybe slightly less. Few of us will ever come close to such an altitude, and anyway, the rumor concerns more reasonable heights such as tall buildings, bridges, cliffs and normal airplane altitudes. The fact that people scream all the way down should be a clue to this rumor’s falsehood.
Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite stupid rumor? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Carbonel, Jose. Five stupid beliefs that claim to be science. Amazon, 2019.
Gregory, Leland. Stupid History: Tales of Stupidity, Strangeness, and Mythconceptions Throughout the Ages. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2007.
The featured image in this article, a poster of the Brooklyn Bridge, is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 80 years or fewer. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1927.