The Evolution of the Chain Letter


    Most of us have received those annoying chain letters. These letters ask us to send copies to all of our friends and if we don’t either we will be cursed or better the love of our lives will call immediately.


    Chain letters were first copied by hand and then given out to various people. Next, they were sent out via fax machines and after that email accounts were used. Now the new “it” exchange for chain letters is text messages and the message boards of websites like myspace.com or thefacebook.com.


    ”I hate chain letters, what’s worse is now I have to pay for people to send them to me,” said Olivia Dielf, a marketing major at Florida A&M. “Because I don’t have a text messages on my cellular phone plan I have to pay ten cents for every message. I keep telling my friends not to send them but they do anyway.”


    According to Snopes.com the origin of chain letters remains a mystery but Daniel W. VanArsdale recorded the first full-fledged chain letter in 1888; if we go by the modern definition of chain letters. The evolution of chain letters probably began when writers would take down cures for aliments. The cures were copied and passed on to loved ones. Peddlers and fortunetellers also sold these letters.


    If you have had an email address for over a year, chances are you’ve received several chain letter. Most chain letters are fairly harmless but new high tech ones are using sad stories to get money out of unsuspecting people.


    ”I receive chain letters all the time. I get the ones with the missing children or if you email to so many people Microsoft is going to send you a check,” said Asif Mohammed, a computer information systems major at Florida A& M. “You’ll be surprised how many people fall for it. I always check online to see if it’s a myth [if it is] then I forward it to all the people who got sent it.”


    There are also religious chain letters. Usually they are more positive than typical chain letters and don’t imply impending doom if you don’t pass it along.


    ”The religious ones are the worse,” said Micki Wright, a senior exchange student at Stanford, “It’s like just because it says God in it-it’s not a chain letter. It’s still a chain letter. They guilt you into passing them on by using your religion against you.”


    ”It’s people like me who continue to pass them on,” said Wright. “I only halfway believe them. I just can’t chance it.”


    If you receive a chain letter and want to know if it’s legitimate or not, websites like, Hoazbusters.ciac.org and Snopes.com will demystify it for you.