4Jenkem, A Drug Made of Poo
We Heard About It From:
A bunch of dumb local TV stations and a bunch of dumber local sheriffs.
Could American kids ever sink so low that they would actually suck on the fumes from raw sewage to get high? If you're an American kid, you're probably saying no. If you're a small town cop who hates teenagers or a lazy local television reporter, you'd say "hell, yes!"
It started with a message board post from a kid calling himself "Pickwick" (Shitbreath was already taken) where he claimed to have made and tried the poop fume drug "jenkem," a practice that supposedly originates from Africa.
"Okay, so when you said you wanted to do some bowls, you meant actual... okay."
Soon the boys in blue at the Collier County Sheriff's Office took action.
They released a law enforcement bulletin claiming that "jenkem is now a popular drug in American schools" using the pictures that Pickwick had posted.
The only problem, besides the idiotic assumption that because one kid in the country may have tried it, it was now "popular in American schools," was that Pickwick made it all up.
His "jenkem" was actually a mixture of flour, water, beer, and Nutella. Nevertheless, the story spread like a foul stench through local media outlets and sheriffs' offices, until parents were told they should smell their kid's breath for shit when they came home.
There is still no record of anyone in the U.S. doing this for real (that we can find). Here is where you'd be tempted to scold the rumor mongers for planting the idea and thus encouraging kids to try it. But we're guessing even with detailed instructions most of you wouldn't be tempted to start collecting fermented shit in your closet. Not for this, anyway.
3Dungeons & Dragons
We Heard About It From:
Anti-occult campaigner Patrica Pulling, author Rona Jaffe, Jack Chick and others.
The "Threat:"When most people think of Dungeons & Dragons, they picture a group of people--usually male--sitting around a table with some books, odd-shaped dice and, in particularly sad cases, costumes.
But it's just harmless, escapist fun, right? And they're doing it with friends! That alone puts it above most geek pastimes. So what's the problem?
Well, according to some, D&D is either an occult training manual used to lure youngsters into Satanism, or it's a dangerous fantasy world that traps teenagers and leads them to madness, suicide or murder.
Artist's depiction of an actual D&D "party."
The moral panic started like a lot of them do: with a death and an idiot. In 1982, Patricia Pulling's teenage son committed suicide. Looking for answers, she turned to his D&D hobby as explanation for his death. Pulling sued the makers of D&D, T.S.R. Inc., and for some bizarre reason, her son's school principal. Why him? Because the mother accused him of placing a "D&D curse" on her son shortly before he died.
Luckily for the defendants, they had a Dexterity score of 17 and Gilligar's Gloves of Legal Protection and easily made the saving throw. Both cases were thrown out of court.
It helps that this was their judge.
But Pulling couldn't let a good panic die. She formed one of the most politely named protest groups of all time, Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons (B.A.D.D.) and began touring the country lecturing on the nonexistent evils of the game. Luckily, her goofball propositions about the occult dangers of the game never met with any support outside the usual crazy demographic. That would have to wait for the publication of a sleazy mass market paperback and Tom Hank's first big break.
This is not Photoshop.
Once again we see that moral panics may hatch from people with too much time on their hands, but lazy journalism gives them their wings. In 1979, James Dallas Egbert disappeared in a series of steam tunnels under Michigan State University. Assuming he was a nerd after hearing his name, local newspapers reported that he had committed suicide (or was killed) during a real life session of D&D.
Their phones apparently broken, they failed to discover that he was in fact not dead, but was hiding at a friend's house after a failed suicide attempt. Reporters also failed to learn that he was addicted to drugs and clinically depressed.
The story might have died there, but a columnist for Cosmopolitan named Rona Jaffe saw an opportunity and wrote a thinly fictionalized version of the events in a book called Mazes and Monsters. It was later turned into the above terrible TV movie starring a young, then unknown Tom Hanks.
But alas, his burgeoning star power wasn't enough to keep the panic going. Geeky teenagers were left to enjoy their 12-sided die, Yoo-Hoo and adolescent power fantasies in peace while Tom Hanks went on to make the most beloved television series of all time, Bosom Buddies. We don't know what became of him after that.