Updated: Thursday, Jun. 27, 1996 at 20:32 CDT
FORT WORTH -- The recent warning about LSD-laced tattoos started as a well-intentioned memo to federal government employees.
Then, it showed up on a counter in the downtown YMCA women's locker room and also at the poolside grill at Colonial Country Club.
Thus the myth of the "Blue Star" tattoos reared its discredited head again.
The apparently fictitious tale of toxic tattoos enticing schoolchildren has become one of the most pervasive and entrenched urban legends of the past 15 years, spawning chapters in books on American folklore.
Some law enforcement officials chuckle when asked about it.
And in San Luis Obispo, Calif., a software engineer even developed a guidebook about the legend, its history and its various manifestations, then got it posted on the World Wide Web as "The `Blue Star' LSD Tattoo Urban Legend Page."
"The legend is stronger than ever," contends Web page author Dave Gross, who describes the myth as a kind of fast-acting information virus.
"In just a few hours, monitoring my computer at work, I saw one strain jump from hundreds of military computers to machines at InterGraph and then to Microsoft," he says on his page.
The warnings, which over the years have circulated across the nation, describe a tattoo called "Blue Star" that is supposedly being sold to schoolchildren: "It is a small piece of paper containing a blue star. They are the size of a pencil eraser, and each star is soaked with LSD. The drug is absorbed through the skin simply by handling the paper."
The warnings also tell of "brightly colored paper tattoos resembling postage stamps" that have pictures of Superman, Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters, clowns, Bart Simpson, butterflies, etc.
The fliers contend that some of the tattoos are laced with strychnine, which is poisonous, and that "young lives have already been taken" by what is supposedly becoming a playground scourge.
Fort Worth police haven't heard about the latest round of warnings, which last circulated here four or five years ago, said Capt. Don Gerland, who supervises the narcotics division.
"We didn't find any [tattoos] then," he said.
Johnny F. Phelps, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration regional office in Dallas, said the tale about LSD tattoos being sold to children "has been around for years."
But, he said, "Never, never, never . . . have we ever determined that there's any truth in any of it."
Dealers in LSD do sell blotter paper with certain stamps that serve as brand-name logos, including such designs as airplanes, circles, strawberries, hearts and blue stars. However, the drug is designed to be taken orally.
"Never have we found that a tattoo has been sold to schoolchildren," Phelps said.
And, he said, drug dealers who handle LSD "represent it to be exactly what it is," a hallucinogen, rather than a harmless doodad for youngsters.
In a 1989 book on urban legends, University of Utah professor Jan Harold Brunvand wrote that the LSD tattoo stories were common in 1981 and 1982 and had a resurgence in 1986 and 1987.
There is some thought that the legend may be traced to a 1980 bulletin published by New Jersey State Police Narcotic Bureau, warning that children could be susceptible to certain kinds of LSD sold on blotter paper, "believing it a tattoo transfer."
One flier version currently circulating in Fort Worth lists a J. O'Donell at the Danbury Hospital Outpatient Chemical Dependency Treatment Service in Connecticut as a contact for more information.
But the service says no such person works there.
"It's a hoax," said Dave Walenczyk, a clinical therapist at the service.
He said the service gets about 10 calls a day on the subject, apparently because of an Internet posting.
Gross, the Web page author, says the yarn isn't a "hoax" as such because people who pass on the information are motivated by good intentions rather than a desire to spread lies.
Supervisors at the Federal Protective Service office in Fort Worth thought they were doing folks a favor when they received the warning from the Marine Corps and passed along an E-mail this month to employees of the General Services Administration.
"We just put it out as a service to GSA employees," said Gil Russo, deputy director of the Federal Protective Service's Greater Southwest Regional Office. "It looked like something that would be of interest to parents."
And it was.
Rita Eatherly, administrative assistant in the general manager's office at Colonial Country Club, said she picked up a copy of the flier at her children's day-care center, where it had been brought by another parent who works at the federal building.
"It's just very feasible that it could happen," Eatherly said.
Russo said his office has been investigating the veracity of the warning and plans to send out corrected information to GSA workers.
© 1996 Fort Worth Star-Telegram