Urban Legends Reference Pages (
Snopes logo
Commercial? Yes
Type of site Reference pages
Registration Required only on forums
Owner Barbara and David P. Mikkelson
Created by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson
Launched 1995
Alexa rank increase 2,504 (November 2011)[1]
Current status Active (play /ˈsnps/), officially the Urban Legends Reference Pages, is a web site discussing urban legends, Internet rumors, e-mail forwards, and other stories of uncertain or questionable origin.[2] It is a well known resource for validating and debunking such stories in American popular culture,[3] receiving 300,000 visits a day.[4]

Snopes is run by Barbara and David Mikkelson,[5] a California couple who met on the alt.folklore.urban newsgroup.[6] The site is organized by topic and includes a message board where stories and pictures of questionable veracity may be posted. The Mikkelsons founded the San Fernando Valley Folklore Society and were credited as the owners of the site until 2005.[7]



David Mikkelson used the username "snopes" (the name of a family of often unpleasant people in the works of William Faulkner)[8][9] in the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban.[10] Barbara Hamel was also a prolific poster. The Mikkelsons created the Snopes site in 1995,[11] and later worked on the site full time.[6][9][11] A television pilot based on the site, called Snopes: Urban Legends, was completed with American actor Jim Davidson as host, but major networks passed on the project.[9]

Main site

Snopes aims to debunk or confirm widely spread urban legends. The site has been referenced by news media and other sites, including CNN,[12] Fox News Channel,[13] MSNBC[14] and Australia's ABC on its Media Watch program. Snopes's popular standing is such that some chain e-mail hoaxes claim to have been "checked out on ''" in an attempt to discourage readers from seeking verification.[15] As of March 2009, the site had approximately 6.2 million visitors per month.[16]

The Mikkelsons have stressed the reference portion of the name Urban Legends Reference Pages, indicating that their intention is not merely to dismiss or confirm misconceptions and rumors but to provide evidence for such debunkings and confirmation as well.[17] Where appropriate, pages are generally marked "undetermined" or "unverifiable" if the Mikkelsons feel there is not enough evidence to either support or disprove a given claim.[18] The Mikkelsons say many of the urban legends are mistakenly attributed because of common problems associated with e-mail signatures.[19]

Lost Legends

In an attempt to demonstrate the perils of over-reliance on authority, the Mikkelsons assembled a series of fabricated urban folklore tales that they term "The Repository of Lost Legends."[20] (The name was chosen for its acronym, T.R.O.L.L., a reference to the early 1990s definition of the word troll, meaning an Internet prank, of which David Mikkelson was a prominent practitioner.[10])

One fictional legend averred that the children's nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence" was really a coded reference used by pirates to recruit members. This parodied a real false legend surrounding the supposed connection of "Ring Around the Rosie" to the bubonic plague. Although the creators were sure that no one could believe a tale so ridiculous — and had added a link[21] at the bottom of the page to another page explaining the hoax, and a message with the ratings reading "Note: Any relationship between these ratings and reality is purely coincidental" — eventually the legend was featured as true in an urban legends board game and television show.[22] The television show, Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed, was shown to have been using information from Snopes when one of Snopes' invented "lost legends" appeared on the program as true.[10]


Snopes has received praise from folklorist Dr. Jan Harold Brunvand, author of a number of books on urban legends and modern folklore, who considers the site so comprehensive as to obviate the necessity for launching one of his own.[11]

In 2007, the Snopes site featured pop-up ads for the controversial Zango adware product.[23][24] Snopes stopped serving the ads in January 2008, after criticism from tech sites, security experts and users.[25]

Snopes receives more complaints of liberal than conservative bias,[26] but insists that it applies the same debunking standards to all political urban legends. FactCheck reviewed a sample of Snopes' responses to political rumors regarding George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, and found them to be free from bias in all cases. FactCheck noted that Barbara Mikkelson was a Canadian citizen (and thus unable to vote in US elections) and David Mikkelson was an independent who was once registered as a Republican. "You’d be hard-pressed to find two more apolitical people," David Mikkelson told them.[26][27]

See also


  1. ^ " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  2. ^ Debunking Myths in Cyberspace National Public Radio August 27, 2005
  3. ^ Neil Henry, American Carnival: Journalism Under Siege in an Age of New Media (University of California Press 2007), p. 285.
  4. ^ David Pogue (July 15, 2010). "At, Rumors Are Held Up to the Light". The New York Times. Retrieved July 16, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Snopes". 
  6. ^ a b Brian Stelter (April 4, 2010). "Debunkers of Fictions Sift the Net". New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Messageboard post".;f=55;t=000490. 
  8. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Snopes. Retrieved 2006-06-09. "What are 'snopes'?" 
  9. ^ a b c Bond, Paul (2002-09-07). "Web site separates fact from urban legend". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  10. ^ a b c See Michele Tepper, "Usenet Communities and the Cultural Politics of Information" in David Porter, ed., Culture (1997) at 48 ("[T]he two most notorious trollers in AFU, Ted Frank and snopes, are also two of the most consistent posters of serious research.").
  11. ^ a b c Cathy Seipp (2004-07-21). "Where Urban Legends Fall". National Review Online. 
  12. ^ Beth Nissen (2001-10-03). " - Hear the rumor? Nostradamus and other tall tales". Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  13. ^ "Teens Abusing Energy-Boosting Drinks, Doctors Fear - Health News | Current Health News | Medical News". 2006-10-31.,2933,226223,00.html. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  14. ^ "Urban Legends Banned-April Fools'!". MSNBC. 2007-04-01. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  15. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Who Is Barack Obama?". Retrieved 22 January 2008.
  16. ^ Reader's Digest: "Rumor Detectives: True Story or Online Hoax?". Retrieved 10 March 2009.
  17. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Pages: (Frequently Asked Questions)". (Re "How do I know the information you've presented is accurate?".) Retrieved June 9, 2006.
  18. ^ "Round Rock Gangs". Snopes. Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  19. ^ Six tips from on e-mails., Nov. 30, 2009.
  20. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Page: Lost Legends". Retrieved 9 June 2006.
  21. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Page: Lost Legends (False Authority)". Retrieved 9 June 2006.
  22. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Humor (Mostly True Stories)". Retrieved 20 June 2006.
  23. ^ "Not an urban legend: Snopes pushes Zango" - Sunbelt Blog, January 28, 2008
  24. ^ "Snopes peddling malware?" - TechSpot, January 28, 2008
  25. ^ " stops serving adware". CIO. Retrieved 2009-03-03. 
  26. ^ a b "". FactCheck. 2009-04-10. Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  27. ^ "Fact-checking the fact-checkers: gets an 'A'". Network World. April 13, 2009. 

External links

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