Beware the Lethal Blue Package
Dear Urban Legends:
I just received an email saying that people in New Jersey are dying from contact with a blue package that is sent by U.S. Mail. The message "Just for You" is on the outside of the package. The package contains a poisoned sponge that can if touched can cause death.
It sounds like a hoax, but since a New Jersey resident was targeted by the Unabomber, it makes you worry.
To be sure, these are paranoid times, but as a practical matter we must choose carefully among all the possible things to be afraid of. This, for example, is a hoax - or at any rate a spurious rumor based on a hoax.
For those who haven't seen it, here's the text, contributed by a reader in January 2001:
Hi Everyone, this is very important and not a joke. The mother of a friend of ours works for a hospital in Passaic NJ....
We just got word that there have been 11 deaths and over 25 more people waiting to die! It seems someone is sending a BLUE PACKAGE marked "Just For You" to the homes of people in New Jersey. When you open the package there is a sponge which contains a LETHAL substance. Once you touch the sponge, it gets into your skin and YOU WILL DIE! PLEASE be careful when getting your mail for the next few weeks until they catch whoever is doing this! DO NOT let small children get your mail or open it. If you receive this blue package, I think you should notify your local police dept. THANKS for reading this. It made me sick when I heard of it this morning! Take Care!
Michele and John Tucker
P.S. Pass this on to your family and friends PLEASE!
With an alleged 11 deaths and 25 hospitalized as a result of this mysterious blue package, you'd think there'd be coverage of these crimes in northern New Jersey newspapers - indeed, in newspapers nationwide. But there's nothing to be found. This is just a bit of scarelore whipping up unnecessary fear.
Yes, miscreants do on occasion send bombs or other deadly materials through the mail to other people, but it's a rare and hardly random style of assault. Should we be suspicious and careful of strange, unsolicited packages arriving by mail? Sure, it's better to be safe than sorry. But unless you have mortal enemies or happen to be on the mailing list of a murderous madman, I wouldn't suggest spending too much time fretting over what might arrive in your mailbox. Life is too short as it is.
Update 10/31/01: The "lethal blue package" rumor returned in October 2001, revised to suggest that the deadly packages were being mailed to random recipients by terrorists. See Return of the 'Lethal Blue Package'.
Sources and further reading:
The Klingerman Virus
Urban Legends, May 2000
False Email Report About 'Klingerman Virus'
Centers for Disease Control press release, 17 May 2000
False 'Klingerman Virus' Email Rumor
U.S. Postal Service press release, 25 May 2000
Hoax Causes Neighborhood Evacuation
Associated Press, May 23, 2000
Auburn Resident Victim of Hoax
Lewiston Sun Journal, June 22, 2000
The Snail Mail That'll Kill You
Wired News takes note of the hoax's resurgence, 16 January 2001