Legend of the White Lighter


Informant: You know those groups of musicians that die before the age of 24?

Interviewer: Sure

Informant: I think there’s like one person who died with like the story of using a white lighter so there’s always that curse… you know, don’t use that white lighter. It’s cursed. Something bad is going to happen, it’s bad luck. Literally, like, smoking with my friends, one of them, we were smoking at his house – he thought his parents weren’t going to be there for a while. We were like “oh man, only lighter we have is this white lighter, let’s use that” We use it and his parents come back wayy earlier than expected and were like “oh we left something here” and saw us in the middle of our smoke session outside.

Interviewer: Any others?

Informant: One of my friends was looking in his car for a lighter and the only one in his car was a white one in the glovebox or whatever. I guess this house or parking lot he was at called the cops and they came up and arrested him. Pretty sure he ended up with a possession charge.

Interviewer: Oh wow…

Informant: Yeah man stay away from those white lighters.

Context: My informant is a twenty one year old from a midwestern town bordering a legal marijuana state and an illegal marijuana state. This story was told while sitting around a table in a college dorm common room – my informant sat across from me and told me his story in person.

Background: My informant knows this story because it’s been passed between nearly everyone he knows who smokes – white lighters are never good luck. To him, it simply means to never use a white lighter – he admitted after our interview that he still makes a point of avoiding white lighters.

Analysis: The Story of the White Lighter is a classic example of an urban legend. Though my informant cannot necessarily verify its authenticity, his story nonetheless takes place in recent history. Interestingly, we can see here the actual evolution of the story. Not only does the interviewee sum up the general origin of the story and the gist of it, he also adds his own experience to it – one in which he himself was also cursed by the white lighter, thus adding further legitimacy to the story. Anyone who has a bad experience with a white lighter can add their own run-in with its curse to the story relatively easily, thus allowing the legend to more easily spread.