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Urban legends stir up real fears

Update: May, 26/2009 - 00:00

Talk Around Town

(27-05-2009)

Urban legends stir up real fears

by Thu Giang

Have you heard this story? A young girl went to Big C Hai Phong at lunch time to buy some goods, including a refrigerator. She asked the supermarket delivery man to take them to her home.

The delivery man took the goods to the address, but the house owner, an old lady, refused to accept them, saying no one in her family had bought goods from the store. He was forced to show the receipt and read the buyer’s name, age and address. As she listened, the lady burst out crying and said: "She is my daughter, but she died in a traffic accident several months ago."

The delivery man panicked after listening to the story. He immediately went back to the supermarket and reported the incident to his boss. Feeling there was something dubious going on, his boss spoke to the counter person who had served the young girl and found more than VND3 million in "ghost money" in her pocket.

Meanwhile, to compound the issue, the refrigerator caught fire without any apparent reason. The story, of course, turned out to be a rumour. No one knows where it started and what, if any, was the reason for spreading it. However, the story became more and more sensational every day.

The matter was only clarified when the executive director of Big C Hai Phong , Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, went to many local newspapers saying there was no ghost at the supermarket. "That’s an entirely made-up story that has dark intentions for our business," he said.

The rumour ended, but it took a lot of effort and time. However, it is one of many rumours circulating in society. Some have adversely affected people’s lives.

Two weeks ago, a rumour went around that a common grave for seven children without organs had been found at Dang Xa and Phu Thi communes in Ha Noi’s outlying district of Gia Lam. The story raced from mouth to mouth that there were people kidnapping children to get their organs.

The story came to the ears of Nguyen Thanh Hang, a resident in Thanh Xuan District. Se became worried about her two children who always went out alone to have breakfast at street restaurants.

"I decided to accompany my children for breakfast, even though they are only 150 metres from my home. I want to make sure that my children are safe," Hang said. Hang reported what she heard to friends, neighbours and relatives. She even required her young brother, who lives in Kim Lien collective quarter, to keep his eyes on his children on their way to primary school about 50 metres from his home.

"I doubt it all. The kidnappers may be scrap-iron dealers or just a man in a car," said Hang’s brother, Nguyen Van Cuong.

Deputy chairman of Dang Xa Commune People’s Committee, Nguyen Ba Hoang, said local authorities had investigated the rumours and found them untrue. "No one is able to tell us that they have seen the children’s grave. They only heard about it from others," he said.

Stopping rumours

Investigations by local authorities can help stop the spread of rumours, but they are not the best way to stop them.

Sociologist Trinh Hoa Binh said it was necessary to make a clear distinction between public opinion and rumour.

"If it is public opinion, we need to accept it, but if it is rumour, we need to take steps to stop its spread," he said.

Binh said rumours often originated from people who were discontented with their lives. He said they embellished a story to make a big impression on society.

Binh said many traditional festivals acknowledged the spirit world, however it could lead some people to blur the lines with reality.— VNS

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