IN 1989, a 9-year-old British boy named Craig Shergold was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. To cheer him up, people close to Craig came up with a brilliant idea: a campaign soliciting get well cards from the public in hopes of landing his name in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The campaign went exceedingly well. A chain letter started by Craig's friends and relatives netted well over a million cards in under a year, and he won the world record handily.
But the cards kept coming. And coming. And coming. Somewhere around the 30 million mark this would be early 1991 the Shergold phenomenon caught the attention of a wealthy American philanthropist, John Kluge, who arranged for Craig Shergold to receive brain surgery.
That, too, went exceedingly well. Most of the malignant tumor was removed, and Craig's cancer went into remission.
But the cards kept coming. And they're still coming to this day — a total of over 350 million at last estimate. Craig Shergold, now [in 2001] a healthy, happy 22-year-old, has expressed a new wish on behalf of himself and his family: for the cards to stop coming.
It's unlikely his new wish will come true, unfortunately. The Craig Shergold (or Craig Sheppard, Sherold, Sherwood, Shirgold, Shefford or Sherford, depending on which of the many variants is at hand) chain letter has proven unstoppable — especially once it found its way onto the Internet.
Nor does it seem to matter how often Craig and his family appear in the press and beg for the torrent of misplaced sympathy to stop, as they have repeatedly done for the past 15 years; Craig Shergold the legend has superceded Craig Shergold the real person, and may well outlive him — even if the real person lives to be a hundred.
Children's Wish Foundation Statement
Children's Wish Foundation got involved in the Craig Shergold card campaign early on and ultimately found its resources overwhelmed by the volume of cards it received on his behalf. Apart from its original efforts, Children's Wish disavows any connection with chain letter campaigns.
Make-A-Wish Foundation Statement
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of America was never connected with Craig Shergold or his get-well card appeal, but for reasons unknown the organization's name began appearing in Shergold chain letters during the late 1990s.
"The Miracle of the Cards," a TV movie about the life of Craig Shergold, debuted on the PAX Channel November 10, 2001.
More About the Craig Shergold Phenomenon
- Gene Spafford: Do Not Send Cards to Craig Shergold!
An early Internet plea enshrined in the AFU & Urban Legends Archive
- Barbara Mikkelson: Craig Shergold
From the Urban Legends Reference Pages
- Keith K. Higa: The Story of the Get-Well Cards
From Breaking the Chain: The Truth About Chain Letters
- Flood of Postcards Continuing After Craig Shergold Cured of Brain Cancer
Associated Press, 6 July 1998
Last updated 12/14/12