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'Slow Dance' Chain Letter

Netlore Archive: Can saving a dying child's life really be as simple as forwarding a treacly chain letter to everyone you know?

Description: Email hoax / Chain letter
Circulating since: 1998
Status: False (see details below)

Example:
Email text contributed by a reader in 1998:

PLEASE READ ALL OF THIS MESSAGE........

Slow Dance

Have you ever watched kids
on a merry-go-round
Or listened to the rain
slapping on the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?
You better slow down
Don't dance so fast
Time is short
The music won't last

Do you run through each day
on the fly
When you ask "How are you?"
do you hear the reply?

When the day is done,
do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores
running through your head?

You'd better slow down
Don't dance so fast
Time is short
The music won't last

Ever told your child,
We'll do it tomorrow
And in your haste,
not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch,
Let a good friendship die
'Cause you never had time
to call and say "Hi"?

You'd better slow down
Don't dance so fast
Time is short
The music won't last

When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift....
Thrown away...

Life is not a race.
Do take it slower
Hear the music
Before the song is over.

PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO HELP THIS LITTLE GIRL

Dear All,
I just received this mail from a friend of mine in my college. Please respond to it. It will just mean employing a little bit of time and won't cost you a penny. All it needs is the heart for you to send this mail. PLEASE pass this mail on to everybody you know. It is the request of a little girl who will soon leave this world as she has been a victim of the terrible disease called CANCER.

Thank you for your effort, this isn't a chain letter, but a choice for all of us to save a little girl that's dying of a serious and fatal form of cancer. Please send this to everyone you know...or don't know. This little girl has 6 months left to live, and as her dying wish, she wanted to send a chain letter telling everyone to live their life to fullest, since she never will. She'll never make it to prom, graduate from highschool, or get married and have a family of her own. By you sending this to as many people as possible, you can give her and her family a little hope, because with every name that this is sent to, The American Cancer Society will donate 3 cents per name to her treatment and recovery plan. One guy sent this to 500 people!!!! So,I know that we can send it to at least 5 or 6. Come on you guys.... and if you're not too selfish to take 10-15 minutes scrolling this and forwarding it to EVERYONE, then you are one sick person. Just think it could be you one day.It's not even your money, just your time!!! PLEASE PASS ON


Analysis: First sighted in its present form in November 1998, this chain letter has a history going back to early 1997, when the Jessica Mydek hoax first appeared. Seven-year-old Jessica, we were then told, was suffering from a "very rare case of cerebral carcinoma" and had only six months to live, which probably explains why the fictional little girl's name was dropped from most versions of the letter after a year or so of circulation.

Something else had been added, however: the authoritative-sounding name and title of a professor of medicine at Yeshiva University in New York, Dr. Dennis Shields. It has been established that this poor man did not create the chain letter — he (or someone in his office) merely forwarded it — but his signature file, because it lent credibility to the message, became a permanent feature and can still be found on most copies.

The poem, "Slow Dance," was inserted into the message in November 1998, with a version appearing soon thereafter claiming the "dying girl" had authored the verses herself (in fact, the poem was written by David L. Weatherford and published under his name in 1991, long before the chain letter existed). Little else in the message has changed over time. It still contains the glaringly false claim that the American Cancer Society will donate 3 cents per forward (see the ACS statement disclaiming any involvement in chain letter schemes) and still lacks any apparent means of tracking its progress. One wonders what people are thinking when they send it off to all their friends — or if they've given it any thought at all.

Of course, the chain letter wouldn't be doing its job if it gave us a chance to reflect. The emotional hooks are there expressly to short-circuit our brains and manipulate us into reproducing the message. We're led to feel sympathetic, then obligated, then we're offered a quick and painless way to ease our conscience — click the "Forward" button, and our good deed for the day is done. As with every successful chain letter, the key to this one's longevity is that it offers us something for nothing.

How long do you suppose it would last if it begged us to write out a check?


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Related:

Charity Hoaxes Tug Cynically at Heart Strings
The Rachel Arlington letter, another variant of the same hoax

Sick, Dying & Missing Kids on the Internet
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Last updated 02/17/12


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