Subject: Another Blue Star sighting (Long)
From: Richard Brandt
Today's El Paso Times (August 22) featured this article by one of my old newspaper buddies. Incidentally, one of my cow orkers is a volunteer deputy constable who, in contrast to the opening paragraph, swore by the voracity of the Blue Star fax he received. In fact, contrast the reactions of most of those quoted, and note the tracing of the vector.
EL PASO POLICE DOWNPLAY DRUG TATTOO BUZZ IN SCHOOLS
By David Crowder
El Paso Times
El Paso police say there is absolutely no truth behind a letter making the rounds at area schools warning of a paper tattoo called "Blue Star" that may contain LSD or deadly strychnine poison.
Bogus warnings about the drug-soaked Blue Star tattoos and stamps have been circulating like a chain letter around the world for years and last surfaced in El Paso in 1990.
"I remember the 1990 story," said Police Lt. Roberto Almonte, commander of the department's narcotics section. "We saw the fliers about Blue Star, but we never found any on the street.
"In fact, we've never encountered the drugs anywhere, and we never had anyone call us and say, 'We have some stamps here at the school, come and get them.'"
Some call the Blue Star tale an example of the kind of urban lore that turns up in communities and spreads quickly but usually has no basis in fact.
And some might call it terrorism on a small scale, like a bomb scare, Almonte said.
El Paso physician Irene Chiucchini said a faxed warning about the Blue Star tattoos created a great stir at Columbia East hospital in June when she first heard about it.
"Everybody went berserk over it," Chiuchhini said. "One of the nurses gave it to me. She was worried about her child. When she got the letter she brought it to work and gave it to all the girls in the office who have kids in school."
Chiuchhini faxed the warning letter to her own office, where it was read by Grace Gomez, who retyped the hard-to-read warning onto the doctor's stationery and posted it in the office.
Gomez said she also faxed it to her daughter's school, Alamo Elemntary, which may have given the Blue Star letter new life.
"We've been getting calls -- several calls," Gomez said. "The Border Patrol called us about it, and we sent them a copy. Then there was one from the post office, and they said they were going to give it out to their people. The San Elizario school district also called and said they were going to distribute it."
Because the warning is now on a doctor's stationery, Almonte said, "It's going to be even scarier to people when they see it."
Although LSD is commonly sold on heavy blotter paper, Almonte said he knows of no case in which it has been sold or given to an elementary or middle school student.
Almonte had not heard of the latest scare, but Police Department spokesman Al Velarde said he received a telephone call about two weeks ago from an alarmed parent who had seen a flier she thought came from the Socorro school district.
Socorro officials say they know nothing about the flier and issued no warning of their own.
However, copies of the letter on Chiucchini's stationery have been faxed to a number of elementary schools in the El Paso district, including Alamo, Collins and Roberts.
Roberts principal Robert Gonzales said he posted the copy of Chiucchini's letter on the teachers' bulletin board.
"This surfaces just about the beginning of every year and around the end, so it's nothing new," Gonzales said.
In his 16 years as a school administrator, he said he has seen such warning letters many times but has never come across the stamps or tattoos they described: "But you always keep your eye out. Nowadays you never know."
School district spokeswoman Kari Hutchison said she received a copy of the letter from the principal of Collins Elementary.
"I typically discourage principals from distributing it to students," Hutchison said. "In this case, it was validating it by having the doctor's name and address. It made it legitimate. That's what's throwing people off now."
[Quote from the letter (deleted due to overfamiliarity)]
The letter appears to have originated from a drug treatment center, is identified as an alert from the Marine Corps and was forwarded via electronic mail from a Trinidad Martinez, whose telephone number is included.
Martinez, it turns out, is real. He's an officer with the federal protective services in Fort Worth and said he received a copy of the warning via e-mail from a California office about five months.
"I just passed it along to our employees," Martinez said. "Since then ... the Marine Corps has denied putting it out. We haven't been able to confirm it and neither has anybody else.
"The position it puts us in is that we don't know it's a hoax, and we don't know it isn't. I've been in law enforcement 25 years, and nothing the public does would surprise me."
THE MAKING OF URBAN LORE
The recent spread of the story about the Blue Star tattoo is not the first such tale to be widely disseminated:
*Urban legends have been the subject of books and articles and even have their own site on the Internet's World Wide Web at http://www.urbanlegends.com.
*The Blue Star tattoo warning previously was reported in Los Angeles in 1992, Newfounland in 1990, Pennsylvania in 1989, Peru in 1988, and more than once in Germany.
* Other urban legends range from the letter that often makes its way into newspapers from the woman who spent $200 or so on a Neiman-Marcus cookie recipre to the charge that the Procter & Gamble Co., trademark represents the devil.
Richard "misses the old Sorcerer's Apprentice lsd" Brandt