Death by Chain Mail

Lisa is a sophomore at USC who is well versed in technology and the surrounding trends. A former internet fad – the chain email – is a good example of folklore due to the multiplicity and variation inherent to the phenomena, as well as the urban-legend-esque nature of the stories contained within them.



“A pretty popular thing in middle school was that everyone would send around those stupid freaking chain emails that were like ‘IF YOU DON’T FORWARD THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW BLAHBLAHBLAH EVIL SPIRIT SLASH SERIAL KILLER WILL COME SKIN YOU ALIVE AND KILL YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY.’ Put that in all caps. And then there was always some story about last person who didn’t forward it and died in some super gory way. And even if you didn’t believe it, every day you would get like twenty of them in your inbox since we were middle schoolers and didn’t have anything we actually needed to email about but yeah, even though I didn’t really believe in it I kinda started to ’cause everyone else really seemed to believe in it and I didn’t think all my friends could really be that stupid so I thought there must be something to it. After a while I started forwarding some… cause they would basically guilt you into it cause they would always be stories about like seven year old girls who went missing and died in some really gory way! Hold on let me think of one..

It would always start out like ‘don’t ignore this! This is really true!’ And go like… uhh… and it was always in really shitty English with bad grammar and abbreviations that didn’t make sense and numbers for words and all that… uhhh… okay I’m probably just making this up but here:

‘my name is katie and i am 6 yrs old and 1 ago my dad got really mad at me and slit my throat and threw me down the sewer and no one ever found out and my body is still down there. last week a girl named jenna got this email and erased it and went to bed and forgot all about me. at midnight I went into her room and slit her throat and the next morning her parents came into her room and her bed was covered in blood and jenna was gone and no one can find her still. if you don’t forward this message to 10 ppl in the next 3 hrs i will come & kill u 2!!!!!!!!’”



The phenomena of the horror-story chain email that was popularized by prepubescent girls in the early 2000s is an interesting example of folklore in the digital age. Though the content itself was less than captivating and carried little to no credibility, the internet’s efficacy at rapid dissemination of information allowed for the widespread popularity of these stories and the superstitions surrounding them. Lisa noted that although she didn’t originally buy into the superstitious emails, the fact that everyone around her did and the constant influx of them into her inbox led her to grow skeptical and eventually send the emails herself. In doing so, she became an active contributor to the continuation and increasing popularity of the phenomena.