ATM Envelope Poisonings
Netlore Archive: Bank customer perishes after licking an ATM envelope dosed with cyanide.
Description: Email rumor
Circulating since: June 1999
Email text contributed by Kathleen B., June 10, 1999:
Subject: FW: Sick city we live in
Whenever you go to an automatic teller machine to make deposits, make sure you don't lick the deposit envelopes. (spit on it) A customer died after licking an envelope at a teller machine at Yonge & Eglinton. According to the police, Dr. Elliot at the Women's college hospital found traces of cyanide in the lady's mouth and digestive system and police traced the fatal poison to the glue on the envelope she deposited that day. They then did an inspection of other envelopes from other teller machines in the area and found six more.
The glue is described as colourless and odourless. They suspect some sickco is targeting this particular bank and has been putting the envelopes beside machines at different locations. A spokesperson from the bank said their hands are tied unless they take away the deposit function from all machines. So watch out, and please forward this message to the people you care about......Thanks
Crime unit, Department for Public Health
False as it is, the email warning has traveled very far in a short space of time. So far as we know, it first appeared on June 10 in Toronto, where it must have sounded especially plausible to local residents (in fact, I learned that the warning was even circulated within the Department of Public Health before it was established as false). The intersection of Yonge and Eglinton is a bustling commercial area, at which there are indeed several ATMs available. There really is a Women's College Hospital, too (though there is apparently no "Dr. Elliot" practicing there). It was convincing enough to some Toronto residents to spur them into forwarding the warning to all their friends. By the next day, it was turning up in inboxes all over North America.
Analysis: This is a hoax. When I spoke to Bev Gibson of Toronto's Department of Public Health on June 11, she told me the department is unaware of any such incidents occurring. No one named "Kimberly Clarkson" works there. There is no "crime unit." The phone number in the message is not connected with Public Health; in fact, it's not connected at all.
The story does have universal appeal. It speaks to the low-level paranoia that seems to have become a chronic condition of urban life everywhere. Other, similar rumors abound - especially on the Internet, where spreading scare stories is as easy as clicking the "Forward" button.
According to various email alerts now circulating, people are hiding HIV-tainted needles in movie theater seats and pay phone coin slots; they're coating the keypads of public phones with deadly poisons; and they're lurking in shopping malls with briefcases full of weapons.
Each of these rumors is false in its particulars, but true as an expression of how many people feel: generally mistrustful; wary of their fellow human beings, particularly strangers. Note how in each instance our lives are at risk when we undertake the most ordinary of daily activities - using an ATM, going to a movie, making a phone call. The moral is plain: we're not safe anywhere anymore.
Fortunately, we only half-believe this, otherwise none of us would ever venture outside our doors. Come to think of it, perhaps the best way to respond to someone who forwards rumors like this to you is to tell them to shut off their computer and go see what's happening in the real world for a change.
If you're feeling particularly sardonic, tell them to stop by the ATM while they're at it.
Fear of Licking
Woman licks envelope, gets paper cut, gives birth to cockroach
Last updated: 03/11/08