August 23, 2007 in Voices

Urban legends hit Spokane Valley

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Heard this one?

A Spokane Valley couple, Bruce and Bonnie, on their way home from the lake Saturday night, pass a car traveling with its headlights off. The couple flash their car’s high beams as a heads-up warning to the other driver that he’s driving in the dark. Terror ensues. The couple’s lives are threatened.

Lately, the story of Bruce and Bonnie has been spreading like wildfire on the Internet as Spokane locals receive – and then disseminate – the account via e-mail. The story suggests the chase was part of a gang member initiation, with the death of Bruce and Bonnie being the objective.

And people are taking it seriously; the Spokane Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, was sending the e-mail to its members this week as a warning.

But Spokane Valley police say the gang allegations in the e-mail are bogus, apparently originating from an old Internet hoax about gang pledges baiting and killing unsuspecting motorists as part of a bloody initiation. They say they suspect an angry driver was responsible – not gang members.

“It’s probably more likely a case of road rage, and that’s a real problem. Road rage is scary,” said Sgt. Dave Reagan, Spokane Valley police spokesman. “But people have heard it was gang-related, and that’s an urban legend.”

Reagan said he learned about the incident via e-mail, as a growing number of concerned Spokane Valley residents have.

The e-mail account says the couple called 911 while they were being chased through Spokane Valley, but there’s no record of the call, according to police.

In the story, the couple does the right thing, Reagan said; they just keep driving to a well-lit place where they can get help.

The story of prospective gang members killing drivers who flash their headlights at pledges is an urban legend dating back to the early 1980s, according to Snopes.com, an Internet service that debunks online hoaxes.

The story has been applied to would-be gang members from Los Angeles to London.

The story also was key to the plot of the 1998 movie “Urban Legend.” The movie’s tag line was: “It happened to someone who knows someone you know. … Never talk to strangers, never answer the phone, never flash your lights, never leave the car and always believe what you’re told.”


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