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  #1  
Old 31 May 2007, 02:59 PM
NEthing
 
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Fight Texan schools attacked by Smurfs?

Found this in the book The Rough Guide to Unexplained Phenomena:

Quote:
A panic had occurred in Houstan, Texas, where, in January 1983, a story flashed through several junior-high schools that an army of Smurfs - the blue cartoon characters - carrying guns and knives, had invaded several other schools, killing their headmasters. According to the rumour, anyone wearing blue would also be killed. To add to the confusion the opposite rumour - that anyone wearing blue was safe - also circulated. Many children refused to go to school. The panic took a few days to wind down, helped by teachers claiming other cartoon characters were being drafted in to fight the Smurfs and by the appearance of the supposedly dead headmaster. It seems the story was sparked by a garbles version of an innocuous local TV report of the arrests of forty members of an adolescent gang called The Smurfs, for petty crimes.
The book credits Newsweek, 4 April 1983. Anyone here heard about this before?
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  #2  
Old 31 May 2007, 03:02 PM
RichardM RichardM is offline
 
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I certainly don't remember any thing like that in the newspapers back then. And the Dallas papers would certainly run it to make fun of Houston.

ETA And assuming you copied and pasted the quote in versus typing it over, I certainly would not trust a story that lists a city that does not exist. If you typed it in and made a typo, them my original answer stands.
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  #3  
Old 31 May 2007, 03:05 PM
Doug4.7
 
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I didn't know Texas schools used "headmasters". I've heard the words "superintendent" and/or "principal", but not headmaster.
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  #4  
Old 31 May 2007, 03:06 PM
NEthing
 
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Well, the book is British...
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  #5  
Old 31 May 2007, 03:07 PM
RichardM RichardM is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug4.7 View Post
I didn't know Texas schools used "headmasters". I've heard the words "superintendent" and/or "principal", but not headmaster.
Some of the private schools may use the term but not any public schools and not most of the religious schools either. However, this report is out of the UK and may have simply used the UK term for "pincipal".
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  #6  
Old 31 May 2007, 03:08 PM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NEthing View Post
Found this in the book The Rough Guide to Unexplained Phenomena:



The book credits Newsweek, 4 April [emphasis mine] 1983. Anyone here heard about this before?
Any chance of it being some kind of April Fools' joke?

Nick
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  #7  
Old 31 May 2007, 03:54 PM
Griffin2020
 
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I was attending school in the Houston area in 1983, and had friends in the administration of the local school district. I would have heard of this if it were true. This is the first that I have heard of it. There was not a big gang problem in Houston in the early 80s. And I doubt there was a gang called The Smurfs.

Of course, I have never heard of Houstan, either....
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  #8  
Old 01 June 2007, 12:07 AM
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Hapax Legomena Hapax Legomena is offline
 
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There's something vaguely familiar about this story--almost as if I heard it once about someplace other than the US. It's the kind of tall tale that the Weekly World News often attributes to some European locale that most of their readers would have no real knowledge of. Funny how these stories always happen in another country from where they are being told, isn't it? One thing that stands out for me is how it's supposedly "junior high" students who are hearing this rumor and are terrified to attend school--I suppose the term would mean nothing to anyone outside the US, but junior high school students are generally at least 12 or 13 years old and could be as old as 15 or even 16--seems like an unlikely group to believe that cartoon characters were an actual threat or that they would be placated by teachers reassuring them that other cartoons were fighting against them.
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  #9  
Old 01 June 2007, 12:46 AM
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No Texan schools attacked by smurfs?

If this rumor originated in the early 1980s, then it may be based on the belief some fundamentalists Christians had regarding the Smurfs--the blue dwarf cartoon characters. Some regarded their cartoon shows as demonic because there were witches in them. The "invasion" story probably originated with reports about elementary-school children taking Smurts coloring books to school. However, I have no idea how the rumor would develop to the point where junior-highschoolers and murder would be involved.

B. A. Rainey
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  #10  
Old 03 June 2007, 04:39 PM
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For what it's worth, here's the piece that appeared in the April 4, 1983 issue of Newsweek (U.S. edition; National Affairs; Pg. 35):
Quote:
Attack of the Killer Smurfs

It started out innocently enough: in January a Houston TV station reported that several juveniles believed to be called "the Smurfs" had been arrested for a series of petty crimes. Before long though, rumors were sweeping elementary and junior-high schools that a vicious gang was terrorizing youngsters and murdering principals all across the city. The marauding Smurfs were variously reported to be wearing blue body paint or blackjackets, carrying knives or machine guns. Some students said kids wearing sky blue clothes were in danger; others insisted that sky blue clothing would ward off attack. At the Aldine school district, the Smurfs were said to be hiding out in restrooms. "Some of our sixth graders refused to go to the bathroom," said district spokesperson Judy Williams. Attendance in some schools dropped. Frantic parents deluged administrators with calls. "One of my friends was so scared she moved back to Philadelphia," reported Jainie, a seventh grader at Fondren Middle School.

Recently Houston police charged about 40 youngsters and 7 adults with Smurf-related goings-on -- mostly burglary and petty theft -- but wearily insisted that the Smurf gang had never been in the Houston schools. "Kids desperately wanted to believe [that the Smurfs were there] -- they wanted some excitement," said Franklin Turner, pricipal at the Johnston Middle School, who, according to the rumors, had been murdered by the Smurfs. At the Welch Middle School, meanwhile, Principal Bill Morgan decided to fight fantasy with fantasy. Morgan announced over the school's public-address system that Garfield the cat and the Greatest American Hero were on their way to protect the students.
Although I haven't been able to find solid, contemporaneous local or national news reports (from other national publications) describing this phenomenon and backing up the claim that such rumors were prevalent in schools of Houston or in the surrounding community, I did find the following in a 1985 issue of The Houston Chronicle [1],

Quote:
[Houston Police Department] juvenile Lt. Bill Sanders says sociologists who have studied Houston have found no evidence of the organized juvenile gangs that are well known in other cities. The dreaded Smurf gang, said to have terrorized children at Houston Independent School District campuses, has never existed, police say. Sanders says, however, that some groups call themselves gangs. "Quite a few of them call themselves the Warriors," he said. "Mostly they just played basketball together." [From Stephanie McGrath's "Our Wayward Children," 3 March 1985, Pg. 1.]
And in 1996 a poster to alt.folklore.urban reminisced about his school days in Houston,
Quote:
My junior high suffered a panic attack that had a number of students staying home from school because of rumors that a gang called the "Smurfs" was coming to wreak havoc there. The Smurfs didn't show up, but we did our part to pass the rumor on to other schools by telling people at an academic competition that the Smurfs had put three students and a teacher in the hospital and said they'd be heading over to [Houston's] Johnston Middle School on Monday.
Bonnie "draw your own conclusions" Taylor

[1] Part of the problem is that the The Chronicle's online archive doesn't go back further than early 1985. I suspect the paper may have covered this phenomenon, at least in part, in editions published in early 1983.
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  #11  
Old 03 June 2007, 04:47 PM
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Bonnie Bonnie is offline
 
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Quote:
If this rumor originated in the early 1980s, then it may be based on the belief some fundamentalists Christians had regarding the Smurfs--the blue dwarf cartoon characters. Some regarded their cartoon shows as demonic because there were witches in them.
Interestingly enough, a Smurf "panic" also gripped at least some populations of school children in Mexico in the 1980s, though I'm unsure whether this coincided with the (alleged) scare across the border in Houston.

The Mexican rumors are described in Margarita Zires's Voz, texto e imagen en interaccion. El rumor de los pitufos (Voice, text and image in interaction: the Smurf rumor) [2001]. According to Reyna Sanchez Estevez's review of Zires's work (in Campion-Vincent's chapter in Diogenes [54: 162-199, 2007]), the rumor held that "Smurf figures (that is, the characters based on the television show) would come to life and kill children" [p. 195]. Zires sought to study the rumors according to the cultures (and associated technology or lack thereof) in which they were found.

The "Smurf rumors" that were most prevalent in a "marginal and underprivileged town incorporated into the metropolitan area of Mexico City, where audiovisual media have a high impact, and print media a relatively low impact on the population" were based on the the play between religious belief and belief in the supernatural and manifested as fear of the "Smurf apparition," the "spiteful Smurf," and the "Smurf possessed by the devil". Estevez notes that Zires found that these rumors "became so widespread that several bonfires of Smurf figures were lit in the community."

In "a residential area of Mexico city with a population that enjoys a high socio-economic status," where "print culture is as powerful an influence as audiovisual culture," the children knew about the rumors of murderous Smurfs, but generally rejected such beliefs. Estevez notes of Zires's research that in this community the only "Smurf rumor" that took on any credence was a belief in a "robot Smurf."

Finally, in a middle-class village in the Yucatan with strong ties to the Mayan tradition (and with little audiovisual and print contact), the Smurf protagonists in these rumors took on the characteristics of supernatural figures in Mayan legend.

So, while some Fundamentalist Christians in the United States may have believed that the overall Smurf "product" itself and its spin-off merchandise promoted Satanism and belief in the Occult, some children in Mexico believed something more literal, that the Smurf characters themselves could come to life and murder children.

On the other hand, the Newsweek piece suggests that children in Houston were so influenced by media reports about the arrests of members of a group of petty criminals (which may have been calling themselves "the Smurfs") that they invented a scenario in which gang members (perhaps wearing blue body paint) were murdering students, teachers, and principals on school grounds.

Bonnie "readin', writin', and ritual-killin'" Taylor
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  #12  
Old 03 June 2007, 04:50 PM
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Ana Ng Ana Ng is offline
 
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Cutest infestation ever.
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  #13  
Old 03 June 2007, 10:45 PM
Aud 1 Aud 1 is offline
 
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Bonnie, you rock.
Superior research fu.
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  #14  
Old 04 June 2007, 12:57 AM
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Brad from Georgia Brad from Georgia is offline
 
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The more accurate account:
Quote:
Attack of the Killer Smurfs

It started out innocently enough: in January a Houston TV station smurfed that several juveniles smurfed to be smurf "the Smurfs" had been smurfed for a series of smurfy smurfs. Before long though, smurfs were smurfing smurfy and junior-smurf smurfs that a vicious smurf was smurfing smurfsters and smurfing princismurfs all across the city. The marauding Smurfs were variously smurfed to be smurfing smurf smurfy smurf or smurfjackets, smurfing smurfs or machine smurfs. Some students smurfed smurfs smurfing smurf blue smurfs were in smurf; others smurfed that smurf blue smurfing would smurf off a smurf. At the Smurf school smurf, the Smurfs were smurfed to be smurfing out in smurfrooms. "Smurf of our smurf smurfers smurfed to smurf to the smurfroom," said Papa Smurf Smurf Williams. Smurfance in some smurfs smurfed. Smurfy smurfs smurfed adminismurfs with smurfs "One of my smurfs was so smurfed she moved back to Smurfville," rsmurfed Jainie, a seventh grader at Fondu Cheese Cheese.
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  #15  
Old 04 June 2007, 01:13 AM
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Nonny Mouse Nonny Mouse is offline
 
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I hope you're happy, Brad. You just made my eyeballs explode.

Nonny
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  #16  
Old 09 July 2007, 06:43 PM
texaschristian
 
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I was a toddler in 1983, but we lived in Houston at the time. And my parents moved OUT of the city when I started school a few years later, precisely *because* of how bad they thought things were there. So I find it very odd that they have never mentioned this incident if it actually happened.
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  #17  
Old 15 October 2007, 08:57 PM
aaslatten
 
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Default true yet not true

I rejoined this site just so I could reply to this thread. I was living in Houston and attending junior high school in the Spring Branch district in 1983, and I remember the "Smurf" rumors very clearly. It is a classic example of how urban legends spread before email and the Internet.

Rumors had been going around my school (not sure about other schools) that teenagers belonging to a mysterious gang called the Smurfs were attacking younger kids in the school bathrooms. The rumor was that our school was to be targeted on some specific day in the coming week. It got so bad that the principal actually interuppted classes to make an announcement over the PA system that "smurfs" (at least the gang members) certainly did NOT exist and attacks were not imminent.

As a side note, I would not go so far as to say Houston did not have a gang problem in 1983. Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States, and gangs have been here a long time. Maybe it depends on what you call a "problem," but I'm sure if you talk to people who lived in southwest Houston at the time, they could tell you some stories. (By that time, my family had already fled the southwest area because of concerns about crime and the quality of the schools.)
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