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Heroin Needles and Snakes in Ball Pits - HIV Needles on Gas-Pump Handles

Summary:
Email warning claims that a child died after being injected with a heroin-filled hypodermic needle left in a McDonald's ball pit and that another child died in a Burger King ball pit after being bitten by venomous snakes. It also claims that HIV infected needles are being deliberately left under gas-pump handles (Full commentary below.)



Status:
False

Example:(Submitted, June 2007)
DONT IGNORE THIS BECAUSE ITS A LONG ARTICLE PLEASE!! PLEASE

READ!!

McDonalds, Chuck E Cheese, Discovery Zone... All places with ball pits in the children's play area. One of my sons lost his watch, and was very upset. We dug and dug in those balls, trying to find his watch. Instead, we found vomit, food, feces, and other stuff I do not want to discuss. I went to the manager and raised hell. Come to find out, the ball pit is only cleaned out once a month. I have doubts that it is even done that often. My kids will never play in another ball pit. Some of you might not be parents, but you may have nieces, nephews, grandchildren, or friends with children. This will pertain to you too. As I read the following, my heart sank. I urge each and every one of you to pass this on to as many people as you can. I cannot stress how important this is!

Hi. My name is Lauren Archer, my son is Kevin.

On October 2nd, 1999 I took my only son to McDonald's for his 3rd birthday. After he finished lunch, I allowed him to play in the ball pit. When he started whining later on, I asked him what was wrong, he pointed to the back of his pull-up and simply said "Mommy, it hurts." I couldn't find anything wrong with him at that time. I bathed him when we got home, and it was at that point when I found a welt on his left buttock. Upon investigating, it seemed as if there was something like a splinter under the welt. I made an appointment to see the doctor the next day, but soon he started vomiting and shaking, then his eyes rolled back into his head. From there, we went to the emergency room. He died later that night. It turned out that the welt on his buttock was the tip of a hypodermic needle that had broken off inside. The autopsy revealed that Kevin had died from a heroine overdose. The next week, the police removed the balls from the ball pit. There was rotten food, several hypodermic needles: some full, some used; knives, half-eaten candy, diapers, feces, and the stench of urine.

(You can find the article on Kevin Archer in the October 10,1999 issue of the Houston Chronicle.)

Don't think it's just McDonald's either. A little boy had been playing in a ball pit @ a Burger King & started complaining of his legs hurting. He later died too. He was found to have snake bites all over his legs & buttocks. When they cleaned the ball pit they found that there was a copperhead's nest in the ball pit. He had suffered numerous bites from a very poisonous snake. Repost this if it scares the crap out of you!! Repost this if you care about kids!! Please forward this to all loving mothers, fathers and anyone who loves and cares for children!! What has this world come to?? If a child is not safe in a child's play area then where??

AND FYI:

In Florida and other places on the East Coast a group of people are putting HIV/AIDS infected and filled needles underneath gas pump handles, so when someone reaches to pick it up and put gas in their car, they get stabbed with it. 16 people have been a victim of this crime so far and 10 tested HIV positive. Instead of posting that stupid crap about how your love life will suck for years to come of you don't re-post, post this. It's important to inform people, even if you don't drive, a family member might, and what if they were next?




Commentary:
This email forward combines three widely circulated messages into one. Firstly, it claims that a child died of a heroin overdose after being pricked by a heroin filled hypodermic needle in a McDonald's ball pit. Secondly, it claims that another child died in a Burger King ball pit after being bitten by venomous snakes. Thirdly, it claims that HIV infected needles are being deliberately left under gas pump handles. All three of these claims are entirely untrue.

These claims are discussed in turn below:
Claim:
A child named Kevin Archer died as a result of being pricked by a heroin filled hypodermic needle in a McDonald's ball pit.


Analysis:
This claim is untrue. The version shown above states that the story was featured in the Houston Chronicle. However, David Galloway, a former writer for the Houston Chronicle, has denied that any such article was published in the newspaper. Other versions of the hoax claim the article was published in the "Midland Chronicle". But, since it appears that no such publication even exists, this claim is also unfounded.

In fact, there are no credible reports in any news publications that relate to the death of a child from a heroin overdose in a McDonald's ball pit. The absence of any news on the story is, in itself, a very strong indication that the claims in the warning message are false. It is hugely improbable that such a story would only be published in one local news outlet. News publications all around the world would have certainly featured the story. There would also have been official police and health authority reports concerning the incident and, almost inevitably, legal action against the fast-food giant. Instead, the only information about the supposed death is perpetrated in various versions of this poorly constructed and factually flawed "warning" message.

Moreover, soon after the original version began circulating, McDonald's responded with a statement debunking the hoax:
We have thoroughly investigated this rumor and it is absolutely not true. There have been no such incidents ever reported at any McDonald's. In addition, there has never been an article in any newspaper regarding this rumor. Unfortunately these types of rumors bring unnecessary concerns for our customers. It is important to know that safety is a top priority at McDonald's, especially as it relates to children. We take many precautions to ensure our Playlands are safe.

Claim:
Another child died after being bitten by venomous snaked while playing in a Burger King ball pit.


Analysis:
This claim is also untrue. This "warning" is even older then the Kevin Archer hoax. The original version claimed that the deadly snakes in the ball pit were rattlesnakes rather than copperheads. Again, there are no credible news reports whatsoever that confirm that a child died from snake bites sustained in a ball pit. As with the Kevin Archer version, the total absence of news reports strongly indicates that no such incident took place. Burger King released the following statement denying the rumour in 1998:
Burger King Corporation has learned of an e-mail being circulated on the internet that FALSELY alleges the injury and death of a child while playing in a playground ball pit resulting from a rattle snake bite.

To be positively clear, the incident outlined in the e-mail has no basis in fact relative to any Burger King restaurants.

Burger King Corporation takes the dissemination of this false rumor very seriously and will vigorously pursue any and all remedies available to us against the originator(s) to the fullest extent allowed by law.
Furthermore, a copperhead's diet generally consists of rodents, small birds, insects, lizards and frogs while a typical rattlesnake also lives on rodents and other small animals. It is difficult to see how a "nest" of snakes would find enough food to survive in a child's ball pit. Moreover, a noisy and constantly moving ball pit seems like a very unlikely place for snakes to congregate.

As UrbanLegendsAbout.com points out, this hoax is in fact a revamped version of a much older urban legend. Baseless stories of children being bitten by snakes or injured by hidden objects in amusement park rides have been passed around for many years.


Claim:
People are deliberately leaving HIV infected needles underneath gas pump handles to purposely infect others.


Analysis:
Again, this claim is unfounded. This is a long running hoax that has been set in several locations around the world. The US based Centres for Disease Control (CDC) notes:
CDC has received inquiries about a variety of reports or warnings about used needles left by HIV-infected injection drug users in coin return slots of pay phones, the underside of gas pump handles, and on movie theater seats. These reports and warnings have been circulated on the Internet and by e-mail and fax. Some reports have falsely indicated that CDC "confirmed" the presence of HIV in the needles. CDC has not tested such needles nor has CDC confirmed the presence or absence of HIV in any sample related to these rumors. The majority of these reports and warnings appear to have no foundation in fact.
The claims have also been dismissed by Jacksonville Police, who were the target of one of the earliest versions of the hoax.

Another widespread variant of this hoax falsely claims that HIV infected needles have been deliberately left on cinema seats.

Certainly, syringes are sometimes found in places where they could cause injury to unsuspecting members of the public, including a case where an insulin needle was left in a pay phone coin return. In 1999, a malicious copy-cat prankster in Virginia did hide some needles in coin-return slots and other places, apparently in an attempt to "prove" the urban legend. However, this was an isolated incident and there was no suggestion that the needles were infected with HIV.

According to the message, "16 people have been a victim of this crime so far and 10 tested HIV positive". If these incidents were true, they would have gained intense media and police attention. As with the other hoaxes discussed above, there are no believable news reports that confirm the claims in the message.

Although variants of these hoaxes have now been circulating for several years, there is no evidence to support claims that infected needles are being deliberately and regularly hidden under gas-pump handles or elsewhere.
Thus forwarding this bogus "warning" message will only spread misinformation and cause unnecessary alarm. It is always important to check the veracity of any warning messages before hitting the "Forward" button.

References:
Houston Chronicle: Kevin Archer Denial
Heroin Needle Hoax Continues to Haunt McDonald's Ball Pits
Burger King Corporation - False E-mail Statements
Copperhead Snake Fact Page
EASTERN DIAMONDBACK RATTLESNAKE
About.com: Snakes in the Ball Pit
Calls about e-mail hoax flood Sheriff's Office
Still on Pins and Needles

Last updated: 5th July 2007
First published: 5th July 2007

Write-up by Brett M.Christensen

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HIV Needle Hoax
McDonald's Ball Pit Death Hoax