Sunday, January 11, 2009

LSD on Pay Phone Buttons

The Legend: Gang members apply a deadly mixture of LSD and strychnine to the buttons of pay phones.

Status: False

Email example: [Taken from the Internet]

Subject line:  FW: Please be careful using payphones!
Text:  "Hello, this is to warn everyone of a new thing happening in communities as a gang initiation and such.  If you care about anyone, please forward this to them immediately so they can learn of the possible harm. Even if you don't read this, at last forward it to people.

My name is Tina Strongman and I work at a police station as a phone operator for 911. Lately, we've received many phone calls pertaining to a new sort of problem that has arisen in the inner cities, and is now working its way to smaller towns. It seems that a new form of gang initiation is to go find as many pay phones as possible and put a mixture of LSD and Strychnine onto the buttons. This mixture is deadly to the human touch, and apparently this has killed some people on the east coast. Strychnine is a chemical used in rat poison and is easily separated from the rest of the chemicals. When mixed with LSD, it creates a substance that is easily absorbed into the human flesh, and highly fatal.

Please be careful if you are using a pay phone anywhere. You may want to wipe it off, or just not use one at all. Please be very careful. Let your friends and family know about this potential hazard."


OK, public telephones can be pretty disgusting, but chances are that you won't get an unexpected LSD trip from using one. The Centers for Disease Control has debunked this rumor. There is no proof that anything like this has ever happened. This is just another "death by LSD" scare story.

The rumors about strychnine being found on surfaces like buttons of pay phones and killing people through transdermal absorption also aren't true. Strychnine absorption does not occur easily through intact skin. Dermal absorption is possible and can make you sick but it takes a large amount, much more than what could be put onto pay phone buttons, (Greene & Meatherall, 2001).

This email has all the earmarks of a hoax. You are told to forward this to everyone you know, even if you don't read it yourself.  The information is being given to you by a pseudo-authority. We are told that this gang/drug problem has originated in the inner city, because you know that is the only place where there are drugs and gangs. [insert eye-roll here] Be afraid of touching things in the city. Cities are dirty. There is some inaccurate science about how these immoral gang members are getting the strychnine, and then you are reminded again to forward this to everyone, that is "if you care about anyone."

Some versions of this email are signed by a military official and contain a phone number to the Pentagon. The Pentagon denies any connection to this rumor. Some versions contain a hotmail address that is supposed to belong to Tina Strongman. No such hotmail account exists.