The Truth About the Urban Legend of Carmen Winstead

Open manhole with open cover in a concrete field, ominous shadow
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The urban legend of Carmen Winstead emerged in 2006 when chain letters began circulating online. Some letters are written like dramatic news accounts, others are in the voice of Winstead's ghost. All of them relate the same sad tale of a teenage girl who was pushed down a well to her death. Now, her ghost wanders the earth, killing people who receive this chain letter but don't forward it. But is any of this true?

Carmen's Story

This spooky tale first showed up on social media sites like MySpace and email. Over time, versions have appeared elsewhere online, like this version that was posted on Google+ on Oct. 4, 2014:

"Hi my name is Carmen Winstead. I'm 17 years old. I am very similar to you...Did I mention to you that I'm dead. A few years ago a group of girls pushed me down a sewer hole to try and embarrass me. When I didn't come back up the police came. The girls said that I had fell and everyone believed them. The police found my body in the sewer. I had a broken neck and my face was torn off. Send this message to 15 people after you read the whole message if you value your life! A boy called David received this message. He just laughed and deleted it. When he was in the shower he heard laughing...MY LAUGHTER! He got really scared, rushed to his phone to repost this message...But he was too late. The next morning his mum entered his bedroom and all she found was a message written in his blood saying, "You will never have him back!" No one has found his body yet...because he is with me!...Send this to 15 people in the next 5 minutes if you don't want your fate to be the same as David's. Your time starts...NOW! The story is true you can research It on google"

Analysis

First of all, don't panic if you've received one of these chain letters. There are no public records of a teenage girl named Carmen Winstead who perished after being pushed down a sewer drain by bullying schoolmates. That doesn't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that no such thing ever happened, but it's reason enough to classify the tale as folklore, a cautionary tale, or an urban legend.

It's also a classic example of a chain letter, albeit one circulating online instead of by mail, which is how chain letters used to be distributed. Like every chain letter, its primary goal is self-replication by sending and resending. This particular chain letter relies on a supernatural threat—the promise of a painful death at the hands of Carmen Winstead's ghost—to goad recipients into passing it along.

Other Supernatural Threats

Are you scared yet? If so, you probably shouldn't read any of these other specimens of the ghost-story-chain-letter genre, because they're likely to frighten you even more. 

A little girl named ClarissaThis gruesome tale will make your skin crawl. It's about a mentally ill girl who was committed to an institution after murdering her parents. She managed to escape her confinement, killing everyone in the mental hospital and then disappearing. She stalks people who don't forward her chain letter, waiting until Monday at midnight to kill you by cutting off your limbs one by one. 

The clown statueClowns can be pretty creepy (think of Stephen King's "It"), and this urban legend is no different. In this story, a young babysitter and the children she is watching are menaced by a creepy statue of a clown.

In some versions, she calls the police and the clown, who is an escaped inmate, is arrested. In other versions, the clown kills the babysitter and children. Ignore the chain letter, recipients are told, and the clown will appear at your bedside at 3 a.m. to kill you!

Humans can lick, tooIn this story, an elderly woman learns that a killer is on the loose, so she locks all of her doors and windows but one. She snuggles her dog for comfort and falls asleep. That night, she is awakened by a strange noise and hears the sound of dripping coming from the other room. She reaches for her dog, who licks her hand, and falls back asleep. The next morning, she finds her dog dead in the bathroom, its blood dripping down the drain. She also finds a note that says, "Humans can lick, too." Those who disregard the chain letter will meet a similar fate.