Breaking The Chain

It was between two file folders in the filing cabinet. It was postmarked “Petawawa, November 2, 1988. That’s a long time ago, or at least it seems that way. Except I remember receiving the envelope in the mail, and how upset I was because someone sent me a chain letter.IMG_20170829_0001

I was so annoyed that whomever sent ‎it didn’t have the courage to sign it or put a return address. I wanted to blast them for their superstition and for wasting my time.

Chain letters used to be a big thing. To put it in today’s language, they were snail mail spam. The idea was to appeal to fear, guilt or greed to get you to make 20 copies of the letter and mail them to your friends and relatives. If you didn’t something bad would happen. If you did, it would be the reverse.

I always thought the chains were sponsored by postal employees, ones who wanted a high volume of mail to keep their jobs. I usually just ignored them.

I was tempted once though, by a chain that promised financial blessings. The idea was to send a dollar to the person whose name was at the top of the list, and add your name to the bottom. In theory, once your name hit the top of the list you would be in for quite a windfall. If my math is correct it would be millions if no-one broke the chain and everyone sent me the dollar. Problem is, I didn’t want anyone to know I was the sort of person who passed on spam, so I didn’t follow through. At least I saved the postage for the 20 letters.

In this particular letter that has languished in my filing cabinet for 29 years. Nothing bad appears to have happened to me for breaking the chain.

I have always assumed the people whose stories are told in such letters are fictional. But then I wonder…

I wonder if Gene Walsh, whose wife died six days after he decided to break the chain, thought it was a good deal that her $50,000 lottery win was transferred to him four days after he changed his mind and sent the letter out after all. Would he have broken the chain if he knew that doing so would make him single again? (I won’t even get into the logic that the examples in the chain letter can’t possibly be true if it is the same chain that they are supposed to be part of.)

I did a search for Gene Walsh, just to see, but he doesn’t appear anywhere online – except in an academic presentation on chain letters.

Nowadays chain letters have no appeal. With postage at almost a dollar a letter, nobody wants to spend that money to send twenty copies of their superstition. I suppose you could send them by email, but that is a lot tougher to do anonymously.

To the unknown person who sent me this chain letter in 1988, I didn’t think highly of your actions then, but at least today you gave me something to write about.

For that, you are forgiven.



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