Using Snopes to Identify Urban Legends

Did you hear the rumor about military crosses...

Consulting Snopes urban legends can help you sort out which of those fantastic rumors and stories you hear are real and which are fake.

Sorting Fact from Fiction on Snopes

Have you heard the story about the girl who went to a party, passed out and woke up in a bathtub full of ice, minus one kidney? Maybe you've heard the story about the escaped mental hospital patient who killed a couple of teens who were necking in their car. Amazingly, the events in stories like these always take place somewhere near your location. Shocking coincidence or urban legend? More often than not, there's little if any truth to these stories that get circulated and recycled year after year. Still, they contain just enough plausibility for a trusting person to accept the information as fact and pass the story on to the next person, and so it goes.

This is exactly how an urban legend comes to life and manages to live on year after year. The details are modified to make the story seem more personal, and the events always happen to another person once or twice removed from the actual story teller. Of course, there are urban legends of another sort that are simply based on misinformation that gets passed on from one well-meaning person to the next. In the end, how can you sort out what's real from what's fiction?

That's where Snopes.com comes in. If you're looking for "urban legend central", Snopes has become the virtual clearinghouse for verifying or debunking these stories.

What You'll Find at Snopes

As you'd expect, you'll find a recounting of many popular urban legends, both present and past. Each one is examined, and the supposed facts are dissected and either declared to contain at least some truth or they are debunked as the case may be. In most cases, Snopes is able to label a legend true or false, but some legends simply remain unverifiable.

Nearly Every Conceivable Category

Along with the classic urban legends, Snopes also tackles Internet scams, popular myths, a variety of odd stories/reports/rumors and misinformation in general. In fact, you'll find about 43 categories of topics covering everything from cars to frauds to music and even Hurricane Katrina.

The Hot 25

This section of the website is dedicated to the current 25 hottest legends being circulated, so it's subject to change. The list at the time of this writing included:

  • A rumor about a patriotic cola can - This story relays two separate but quite similar emails declaring that either Pepsi or Coke is coming out with a patriotic themed can that includes the Pledge of Allegiance, but omits the words "under God". Snopes debunks the misinformation, but offers an explanation for the basis of the story.
  • A report of an upcoming close encounter with planet Mars - This story includes an ever-circulating email heralding the fact that Mars is about to make its closest pass ever to Earth. In fact, two separate emails declare the red planet will appear as large as the full moon to the naked eye. While there is some truth to the information according to Snopes, the last close pass occurred in 2005. Sadly, the moon only appeared that large if you happened to be viewing it through a telescope. This story is recirculated each August as a new band of stargazers gears up for a spectacular event.
  • A report that the ACLU wants to remove cemetery crosses - This story regards an email that claims the ACLU has filed a suit to ban crosses for servicemen at federal cemeteries. According to the information provided by Snopes, the ACLU refutes that claim.

Daily Snopes

If you just love to read some of the oddball news reports from around the world, the Daily Snopes page is the place for you. Whether it's a story about a woman who spent a week trapped next to her toilet or a story about snakes loose in an SUV, there's something here for anyone who has an appreciation for the bizarre.

Message Board

This is the place where urban legend fanatics can meet and discuss the latest stories, but like most forums, there are off-topic areas and other diversions you can use to fill your time.

See What Snopes Says

Snopes urban legends does its best to cover the genre from every angle. For the most part, the site seems to do this quite well and has earned a place in popular Internet culture. It's a great resource to use when you're wondering if a story is true or just another urban legend.

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Using Snopes to Identify Urban Legends