The "Blue Star" Warning in the News:

If you find the warning in your area, or if you see an article about the legend in your local paper, please send me a copy so I can include it below. If you're in the media and are doing research for an article of your own, please send me a copy.

The news media take in the legend and get taken in


From the Norfolk Virginia-Pilot, February 1982: "Most kids love to save sticker and stamps to collect them. I can just see a kid licking one of them and killing himself."

From the Buffalo, New York Evening News, March 1982: "The same cartoon characters that send the children in Western New York off on flights of fantasy are being used by area drug dealers to send teen-agers into a different kind of orbit."

From the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion Ledger, April 1982: "I don't know how much apparent danger there is. We just felt like we could not ignore if it was occurring. It was enough of a sufficiently gray area that I felt like I didn't want to take a chance."

From Germany's Kronenzeitung, March 1989: "Ich will damit keine Panik und Hysterie auslösen, sondern auf das ernste Problem hinweisen!"

An English translation of the above Kronenzeitung article: "I don't want to start a panic wave, but I would like to point out a serious problem!"

From the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Patriot, April 1989: "We're not saying it is present in any particular community, location or school. We just want people to know that the possibility exists" -- "LSD is a bait-and-switch drug. Dealers may sell it or give it to children, then move them on to more dangerous drugs like crack cocaine."

KFWB in Southern California ran with the rumor: "We at the Arciadia Police Department did not issue this warning as the flyer states, but we do feel that parents should be on the lookout for this." (9 June 1994)

A French TV police drama worked the legend in: "It's called Blue Star and it comes from America." (29 July 1994)

From the St. Petersburg Times, June 1995: "It might sound like an urban legend, but..." -- "Experts agree that, by itself, LSD is generally not a killer, but it can be lethal if mixed with strychnine or the drug PCP.

Poisons News Index for September 1996 uncritically repeats the legend, adding some information about strychnine.

The Houston Chronicle did a related misreporting on a LSD bust, saying the blotter acid sheets "look like innocent trading cards." (27 Feb. 1997)

From the Yorktown, Texas News, March 1997 comes an almost verbatim transcript of the warning as it was circulating in Texas at the time (down to the "Art Simpson" misspelling).

From the Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 1997, this article is typical of the short pieces whose background research seems to be nothing but a brief interview with whoever is handing out the warning fliers.

From The Earth Times on-line, July 1998, comes a sober article on children and drugs that uses the example of a blue-star warning to show how bad the drug problem has become. "Drugs, it seem [sic.], are a routine problem of American school life."

From the Associated Press of West Virginia comes a familiar tale of panicky and misinformed people reacting in the usual fashion to an appearance of the legend. (1 July 1998)

From the Sunday Mail from Brisbane, Australia (28 March 1999): "LSD trip in kids tattoos" - on the one hand, they report that the 'blue star' story is a hoax, but that seems like an afterthought since they manage to pull a hysterical alarm story out of it anyway. I think it's likely that the majority of readers will come away from this story believing in the reality of 'LSD tattoos.'

But some folks tried to set the record straight


From the Akron, Ohio Beacon Journal, December 1986: "Surely it is a dreadful thought, but just as surely it is a folk fantasy."

From the Newark Star-Ledger (January 1992): "The notices come out every year."

From the Los Angeles Times (April 1992): "We don't know where these come from, but they're bogus. It's like UFO sightings. They show up everywhere."

From ClariNet (UPI), November 1993: "'It's like the Energizer bunny, you can't kill this thing,' said Bill Ruzzamenti, Chief of Public Affairs for the United States Drug Enforcement Agency in Washington, D.C. 'In some cases even law enforcement organizations are putting it out.'"

From the New York Times Magazine, November 1993: "Perhaps parents of a certain age are experiencing a collective paranoid flashback, afraid that their generation's hallucinogenic sins will come back to haunt their children."

From the San Jose (California) Mercury News (April 1994): "I feel like a dodo head. I have children of my own and thought I was doing the school district a favor."

From Newsday magazine, May 1995: "Running the Legends to Ground"

From the Sacramento Bee, July 1995: "It's increasing the speed of the spread... Things are just whipping around really fast. This stuff never really seems to go away."

"'Blue Star' urban myth raises panic among parents" by Anita Dubey, from the Addiction Research Foundation Journal.

False Drug Alert Alarms Parents. From Canada NewsWire, September 1995.

When the Royal Canadian Mounted Police got to the legend, it was hard to stop. The Gold River Record (Sept. 1995) tried to track down the facts: "Coquitlam RCMP said that no bust was made, no known sightings of the Blue Star has ever been made to their knowledge, and that this story just does not want to die for some reason."

From the Addiction Research Foundataion (Toronto, Canada) Journal (Jan/Feb 1996): "Like a chain letter, the written warnings usually ask the reader to spread the information to anyone who has children. And so, with the unwitting help of well-intentioned officials and concerned parents, Blue Star has become a classic urban myth."

From The Tennessean, March 1996: "If it is a hoax, it's still important to look out for the safety of our children. If anything, it could make parents more cautious of what their children have. If you err, err on the side of safety. I don't know that we've erred."

From the Willamette Week: "Young lives have already been taken." It tracks a scare from April 1996.

From the Santa Fe New Mexican, May 1996: "I really don't know much about these kind of things. I lead a semi-sheltered life. If my son comes home hallucinating with a blue star in his mouth, I'm going to blame you."

One Texas mother tried to uncover the truth when her child's school was hit by the warnings, but the powers that be liked the legend better.

From the Tacoma, Washington News Tribune, June 1996: "Any time we receive information that has a possible harmful effect on our children, we notify parents." Heh.

From the Fort Worth, Texas Star-Telegram, June 1996: "LSD-laced tattoos are myth, authorities say." Choice quote: "It's just very feasible that it could happen."

From the Massachusetts Standard Times, some time in 1996. "It appeared to be extremely legitimate, and a couple of years ago we had a warning like that as well. It's terrible when you can't believe anyone anymore."

From The Free-Lance Star of Fredericksburg, Virginia (July 1996). "It takes a savvy reader to sniff out these suspicious scams."

From Africa ONLINE, July 1996. "Someone brought me a copy of this circular and just to be safe I have sent a copy to our 100 parents. But it sounds weird and I suspect it is some form of nasty scare-mongering."

From the Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review, August 1996. "I wouldn't consider it a hoax, because it's certainly a probability or a possibility."

From the El Paso Times August 1996. "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."

This is an especially well-written debunking from The Indian Express out of Mumbai in September, 1996. "We felt that if we issued the circular, students may become curious to find out what this drug was about. On the other hand, if we did not, they may still pick the stuff up out of ignorance. Finally, we decided that issuing the circular was the better option."

"LSD Laced Blue Star Tattoos Being Sold to Children: Is This Fact or Urban Myth?" asks the U.S. Army Family Liaison Office in their "FLO Notes" - a mix of myth and mythbusting in this October 1996 article responding to "an Army post newspaper [that] devoted their entire front page to stories about LSD soaked 'Blue Star Tattoos'."

From Erftkreis online Magazin February, 1998. "LSD für Kinder? Entwarnung von Seiten der Fachleute."

"Aktuelle Information" in German, dated February 1998. "Transfer pictures are not injurious to health."

"Warning about handbills that warn of a drug danger" in German, dated September 1998, from "Senatsverwaltung für Schule, Jugend und Sport."

"LSD Tattoo Rumor an Illusion, Experts Say" from the St. Petersburg Times, October 1998. "You just don't quite know. When it has something to with drugs like that... you can't ever be too careful."

"Parents, relax: LSD alert likely bogus" from Schuylkill Online News (Pennsylvania), December 1998.

"Urban Myths Plague Austin-Area Officials" from the Austin American-Statesman, December 1998. Listen to this: "There's always the possibility that even though it's a myth, somebody might decide to actually do it, and if they do, people need to be warned."

"Rumor of LSD-Tainted Tattoos Called Hoax" from the New York Times, date unknown.