Those of us who grew up in the latter half of the 20th century didn’t need the internet to spread false information. We did it just fine on our own. From Furby espionage to deadly candy combos to Disney penises, we believed pretty much anything our pals told us during recess.
Here are just a few of my favorite childhood myths. Are there any you still believe, even a little? Your secret is safe with us.
1. Blowing on Nintendo cartridges will “fix” them.
Not only were we not fixing anything — the actual problem was just a bad connection, and reinserting the cartridge usually did the trick — but we were probably damaging our beloved games with moisture.
2. Driving with your interior lights on is illegal.
Unless you’ve hooked up strobe lights inside your car, your dad was wrong about this one. It’s definitely not illegal, though it’s not advised since the reflection makes it harder to see outside.
3. Mikey the Life cereal spokeskid died from mixing Pop Rocks with Coca-Cola.
These rumors about John Gilchrist (the child actor who played Mikey) were so prevalent that even his own mom got phone calls from tearful strangers, offering their condolences. Gilchrist — now in his mid-50s, working in media sales and very much alive — says he ate plenty of Pop Rocks in his youth, with zero internal explosions. “I knew back then it couldn’t kill you.”
4. The FBI will raid your home if you copy a VHS tape.
We all ignored the FBI warning that “unauthorized reproduction” of a VHS could land us jail time, but it still made us nervous. Yes, duping movies was and is technically illegal, but no one’s ever been busted for doing it for their own personal use or to share with a friend.
5. Keith Richards traveled to Switzerland to have his heroin-laced blood replaced.
This myth was created by Keef himself. Cornered by an airport paparazzo who asked where he was off to and why, the Rolling Stones guitarist didn’t want to admit the truth — that he was headed to boring old regular rehab. So he made up something that sounded more vampiric. “That’s all it was, a joke,” he admitted years later. “I was f—king sick of answering that question.”
6. Everything in Faces of Death was real.
About 40 percent of the human and animal deaths in this 1978 graphic “documentary” were staged, according to its makeup and special effects artist. This included an electric-chair execution complete with foaming mouth achieved via toothpaste.
7. Staring at a Magic Eye 3D stereoscopic picture for too long can damage your eyes.
Not only will it not hurt your eyes, but today some optometrists even use the pictures for vision therapy.
8. A disgruntled Disney animator drew a penis on the Little Mermaid VHS box.
The spire in the center of the golden castle definitely looks phallic. But the artist who created the image didn’t work for Disney. He worked for an outside graphics house and continued to do so long after the scandal. In the rush to meet a last-minute deadline, he didn’t notice.
9. Furbys are spying on you.
Even the National Security Agency believed this one, banning employees from owning Furbys in 1999. But these robotic toys were idiots who couldn’t learn, or record, anything. However, your Amazon Echo is plotting to kill you in your sleep tonight.
10. Marilyn Manson played the nerdy kid in The Wonder Years.
Josh Saviano, the former child actor who played Paul Pfeiffer on the boomer nostalgia drama, was never Brian Warner (Marilyn Manson’s given name) or vice versa. Saviano, who went on to become an attorney, has called it “one of the very first internet rumors,” because it began circulating online in 1994. For the record, he’s also not Lady Gaga or the Black Keys’ drummer. “They’re beyond my skill set,” he admits.