Barbara Mikkelson, "(Costs a) Fortune Cookie," Snopes.com, November 3, 1999
On Sept. 1, the FBI's Chicago office sent a "safety alert" to the Chicago Police Department. The teletype, according to police Detective Ivory Hampton, warned that the Black Gangster Disciple Nation, the state's most powerful street gang, may have instituted a new and murderous initiation ritual.
"To date this initiation has not been substantiated," the teletype said, "but with the current environment in which the Black Gangster Disciple Nation operates, this information should be seriously considered and brought to the attention of all employees." By last Friday, this "unsubstantiated" information had been brought to the attention of a lot more than the employees of the Police Department. At least a couple of radio stations aired it as fact. Fliers popped up at colleges, churches and video stores.
And the story was flying over the city's fax lines, traveling to countless destinations at speeds that only technology allows, a rumor granted the peculiar tangible authority bestowed by type and paper.
"BEWARE!!" the faxes said. "This new initiation of murder is brought about by Gang Members driving around at night with their car lights off. When you flash you (sic) car lights to signal them that their lights are out, the Gang Members take it literally as 'LIGHTS OUT,' so they are to follow you to your destination and kill you!"
Mary Schmich, "This rumor relies on fax, not facts," Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1993
James Dempsey, "Sticks and stones may not break his bones, but...," Telegram & Gazette Worcester, MA, February 20, 1991