Afraid of Needles


This urban legend came up at a dinner for the Marathon Team, about three weeks before the L.A. marathon.  Jordan Hoese, 18, is a freshman at the University of Southern California and considers herself “white.”  Jordan heard this legend from her hall mate. Jackie Wu, 22, is a senior at USC and is a self-identified Asian-American.  Ellie Mustion, 18, is also a freshman at USC and considers herself “Caucasian.”


Jordan Hoese: Yeah, so I don’t know if this is true or not, but I heard that at this rave there were these people with AIDS and they would go around and stick people with a needle and be like, “You have AIDS now.”

Jackie Wu: I’ve totally heard that before!

Ellie Mustion: That’s scary.

Jackie Wu: Yeah, and then they don’t know if they actually have AIDS, so they got to go get tested and all that.  That would be so scary.


This story is relatively common, though unproven.  Notably, it was shared amongst a group of individuals who are all health conscious and preparing for a major physical challenge.  It reflects both a fear of an unknown entity jeopardizing their health, and thus making the months of hard work preparing for the marathon a vain effort, and a reaffirmation of group behavior.  Since attending raves is not constructive to running, this legend reinforces the taboo against hard-core partying in the Marathon Team.  The location, namely raves, of this crime is one of many common variations on the tale (Rayner 1998).  Some others include movie theaters (Associate Press 2005), doors (Bradshaw 2009), vending machines (Ellis 1990), buses (de Vos 1996), etc.  However, raves were the venues that seemed most compelling in the context of this group.


Bradshaw, Nick.  “Hidden Syringe Needles Taped to Doorknobs and Phone Injure Three.” KGW News Channel 8 [Portland, Oregon].  20 February 2009.

de Vos, Gail.  Tales, Rumors and Gossip.  Englewood: Libraries Unlimited, 1996.  58-59.

Rowe, Peter.  “Finding Truth in Needle Tale is Hit or Myth.”  The San Diego Union-Tribune.  26 March 1998.

The [India] Statesman. “AIDS Rumours Don’t Stand the Test of Skepticism.”  30 July 1998.

Milliken, Robert.  “Sydney Warders Strike Over HIV Needle Attacks.”  The [London] Independent.  17 September 1990.

Ellis, Bill.  “Mystery Assailants.”  FOAFTale News.  October 1990.

Rayner, Ben.  “Clubs Suffer AS Needle Rumour Persists.” The Toronto Star.  17 August 1998.

Associate Press.  “Woman Pricked By Needle at Athens Theater.”  5 October 2005.