Chain Letters Home Page
Copyright: Charles Bennett, Ming Li, Bin Ma, Nov. 1999
These chain letters were collected by Charles Bennett during
the period of 1980--1995. We have used these letters in our study
"Linking chain letters" by Charles Bennett, Ming Li
and Bin Ma. A popularized version of this paper has
appeared in the June 2003 issue of Scientific American.
For more serious readers,
here is a more mathematical version.
The following are the very texts of the letters that were used
as inputs to our programs and in our study. Following
each text file, we have also
included the original version of the letter for comparison
and verification purposes.
Some Other Letters (Not used in our study)
The following letters were also collected by Charles Bennett during
the period of 1980--1995. We have not used these letters in our study
"Linking chain letters" due to obvious reasons. Some are non-English
letters, although apparently originated from the same roots.
New Letters and Messages From the Readers
A St. Jude letter, with Yenezuela typo. This
chain letter has been taped to Sonia John's wall for ten years or more.
Sonia wrote: "I've received variations of this chain letter
perhaps three times in my life--first in the mid 60's, I believe, once
in the 70's, and then the most recent one. After I received it, I
showed it to a friend. He read part way through it and exclaimed,
"this says 'Gene Wall in the Phillipines'--it is supposed to be
'General Walsh!' This letter is a fake!" At that point we both got
a laugh out of the idea that such a letter could be a "fake!"
"Like most people, I suppose, my first reaction to receiving a letter
like that would be, "just wait until I get my hands on the person who
sent this." Then, I would start thinking about it as if I had
received an overdue bill from an unexpected source: "all right, all
right, how much do I owe?" In this case, around $20, counting the
stamps, envelopes, xeroxing, etc. Obviously I have grossly exceeded
the allotted 96 hours to fulfill my duties to St. Jude, and I confess
that I have experienced some bad luck during the past ten years, ...
I think that I kept it taped to my wall all of these
years because it was a reminder that there was still some (hopefully
small) part of my brain that was responsive to and fascinated by
notions of divine bounty and punishment."
Readers with new chain letters are encouraged to submit them to Van Arsdale's
chain letter archive, according to his established procedures,
so that the new letters can be collected in
a standard manner that is both rigorous from
a folkloric point of view (date, place, and the
other types of documentation VanArsdale asks for)
while being suitable for automatic phylogentic analysis.
New submitters are urged to send the original or at least a
scan or a good photocopy of the letter, preferably with the envelope
and postmark, in order to avoid email
junk that mutates too easily and has never been in an envelope.