From: (Michael Stern)
Subject: Tatto Flashback (New York Times Magazine 11/21/93)
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 1993 17:32:07 GMT


It's back, the old LSD tattoo hoax. An ominous flier being faxed across state lines warns parents of temporary tattoos laced with LSD that children absorb unwittingly through the skin. The tattoos are of a blue star or appealing cartoon characters, like Superman and Bart Simpson (well, not that appealing). Someone, supposedly, wants to harm children, or get them as customers.

The official-sounding source: "J. O'Donnell, Danbury Hospital, Outpatient Chemical Dependency Treatment Service." Except that there is no J. O'Donnell. Or, if there is, Danbury Hospital has never heard of him or her, or seen a blue star tattoo or any of the others described. The hospital has, however, been fielding calls from as far away as Germany asking about the warning. "It's turned into a chain letter, almost," says a spokesman.

The same rumor, of LSD-laced tattoos for children, has been debunked before, in 1984 by Jan Harold Brunvand, a chronicler of urban legends, in his book "The Choking Doberman" and again in 1988 in The New York Times. But it lives on. Certainly, it is grounded in the fears of parents. But why LSD? Not to say that it isn't a dangerous drug, but crack, heroin and alcohol wreak more havoc than LSD ever did. Could the fears have to do with memory, with regret, even shame? 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.

The article ends with a sketch of a tatto which contains the words "Dumb Ideas Never Die."


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