USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Rumors’
Folk Beliefs
Legends

California breaking off

My mom, who grew up in Los Angeles, recalls a folk belief from her childhood that California would break off from the US and float away:

“So when I was growing up there would be these periodic panics or rumors that on a certain day, California was gonna break off and float out into the ocean. And I remember being- it would’ve been the year that um, the Elton John song ‘Crocodile Rock’ was out because I can remember listening to that song with [my cousin] Robert–maybe 1971 or something?–and being terrified, knowing that it probably wasn’t going to happen but just having a fear in the back of my mind that maybe there was some truth to this rumor…”

I asked if she remembered where she had heard the rumor first. She said, “well that’s a good question. It certainly wasn’t in the newspaper, it wasn’t like fake news and it wouldn’t have been- we didn’t have the internet, so how did that spread? And it seemed like it was mostly kids who knew it, i mean it wasn’t- adults weren’t, y’know, propagating this rumor. So where it came from, I have no idea. That’s always fascinating to me.”

This piece of folklore falls somewhere between the genres of folk belief and legend. It concerns something frightening that could happen, as many legends do, but it is not a narrative, and is believed to be occurring in the future, rather than the past. It could thus be classified as a “folk rumor” in the same category as conspiracy theories. This folk rumor likely stemmed from the reality of the San Andreas fault and the resulting frequency of earthquakes in Southern California. It spread, particularly among kids, because it seemed plausible and because it fed off of fears about natural disaster.

Game

Mrs. Birdy Webkinz Glitch

The informant is an 18-year-old student, of Italian and American origin, who spends a lot of his time playing computer games.


 

Who is Mrs. Birdy?

BW: Mrs. Birdy was a character in the old online pay-to-play game, Webkinz–like Neopets and Club Penguin. Those kinds of games were very popular at the time, and the way it worked was you go to a store in real life and buy a stuffed animal called a Webkin, then you register it online and it gives you an online pet that you play games with and domesticate and care for and stuff.

And the glitch?

BW: Yeah, well, it was just a rumor, I think, but it spread a lot to everyone that played Webkinz. This was in… I was ten… so like 2007. And there was a rumor that the Mrs. Birdy character would climb in through your house and murder your Webkinz with an axe. Since the game is for little kids, it caused a lot of feared kids. I had to tell my mom, and she Googled it. The official Webkinz site had a whole page dedicated to the fact that it was a rumor and that nothing scary would happen to the kids’ Webkinz. I was still terrified, ’cause I was in the little kid bubble.. and then there’s all this worry about murdering my pets.


 

There are many forum sites either proliferating or desperately trying to end the fears about the supposed Mrs. Birdy murder glitch. It’s somewhat morphed into an issue of parenting and protecting children against the dangers of the internet.

 

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