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Urban Legends Reference Pages (
Snopes logo
Type of site
Reference pages
  • David P. Mikkelson[1]
  • Proper Media[2]
Created by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson[1]
Editor Brooke Binkowski, managing editor[2]
Alexa rank 1,911 (January 2017)[3]
Commercial Yes
Registration Required only on forums
Launched 1995
Current status Active /ˈsnps/, also known as the Urban Legends Reference Pages, is a website covering urban legends, Internet rumors, e-mail forwards, and other stories of unknown or questionable origin.[4] It is a well-known resource for validating and debunking such stories in American popular culture,[5] receiving 300,000 visits a day as of 2010.[6] was created by Barbara and David Mikkelson, a California couple who met in the alt.folklore.urban newsgroup.[7] The site is organized by topic and includes a message board where stories and pictures of questionable veracity may be posted.


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] The Mikkelsons created the Snopes site in 1995[11] and later worked on it full-time.[7][9][11] By mid-2014, Barbara Mikkelson had not written for the site "in several years,"[1] and David Mikkelson hired employees to assist him from's message board. The Mikkelsons divorced around the same time, and Barbara no longer has an ownership stake in[1]

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[edit]

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' 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]

Lost Legends[edit]

In an attempt to demonstrate the perils of over-reliance on the internet as authority, the Mikkelsons assembled a series of fabricated urban folklore tales that they term "The Repository of Lost Legends".[19] 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 alleged 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 a Ring o' Roses" to the bubonic plague. Although the creators were sure that no one could believe a tale so ridiculous—and had added a link at the bottom of the page to another page explaining the hoax,[20] 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.[21]


Jan Harold Brunvand, a folklorist who has written a number of books on urban legends and modern folklore, considered the site so comprehensive in 2004 that he decided to not launch one of his own.[11]

David Mikkelson, the creator of the site, has said that the site receives more complaints of liberal bias than conservative bias, but insists that the same debunking standards are applied to all political urban legends.[22] In 2012, 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.[22][23] In 2012, The Florida Times-Union reported that's urban legends researcher found a "consistent effort to provide even-handed analyses" and that Snopes' cited sources and numerous reputable analyses of its content confirm its accuracy.[24]

Critics of the site have falsely asserted that it is funded by George Soros, or linked sites, but all of Snopes’s revenue is from advertising on the site.[2] The New York Times has stated:

All of Snopes’s revenue — Mr. Mikkelson says he doesn’t know what it is — come from ads. Facebook is not paying for its services. Nor is the billionaire George Soros funding the site, although that is sometimes asserted in anti-Snopes stories.

Traffic and users[edit]

As of April 2017,'s Alexa rating was 1,794. Approximately 80% of its visitors originate from within the United States.[3] In 2010, the site attracted 7 to 8 million unique visitors in one month.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "How the Truth Set Snopes Free". 
  2. ^ a b c Streitfeld, David (December 25, 2016). "For Fact Checking Website Snopes, a Bigger Role Brings More Attacks". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 December 2016. 
  3. ^ a b " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  4. ^ " Debunking Myths in Cyberspace]". NPR. August 27, 2005. Retrieved August 27, 2005. 
  5. ^ Henry, Neil (2007). American Carnival: Journalism Under Siege in an Age of New Media. University of California Press. p. 285. 
  6. ^ Pogue, David (July 15, 2010). "At, Rumors Are Held Up to the Light". The New York Times. Retrieved July 16, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Brian Stelter (April 4, 2010). "Debunkers of Fictions Sift the Net". The New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved June 9, 2006. What are 'snopes'? 
  9. ^ a b c Bond, Paul (September 7, 2002). "Web site separates fact from urban legend". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 17, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Porter, David (2013). "Usenet Communities and the Cultural Politics of Information". Internet Culture. Routledge. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-135-20904-9. Retrieved September 13, 2016. The 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 Seipp, Cathy (July 21, 2004). "Where Urban Legends Fall". National Review. Archived from the original on July 23, 2004. Retrieved February 7, 2014. 
  12. ^ Nissen, Beth (October 3, 2001). "Hear the rumor? Nostradamus and other tall tales". CNN. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Teens Abusing Energy-Boosting Drinks, Doctors Fear". Fox News Channel. October 31, 2006. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Urban Legends Banned-April Fools'!". MSNBC. April 1, 2007. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Who Is Barack Obama?". Snopes. August 24, 2008. Retrieved January 22, 2008. 
  16. ^ Hochman, David (March 2009). "Rumor Detectives: True Story or Online Hoax?". Reader's Digest. Archived from the original on March 18, 2009. Retrieved March 29, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Frequently Asked Questions". Snopes. Retrieved June 9, 2006. How do I know the information you've presented is accurate? 
  18. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Round Rock Gangs". Snopes. July 21, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Lost Legends". Snopes. Retrieved June 9, 2006. 
  20. ^ Mikkelson, David (May 16, 2008). "Urban Legends Reference Pages: False Authority". Retrieved July 20, 2016. 
  21. ^ Mikkelson, David. "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Mostly True Stories". Retrieved July 20, 2016. 
  22. ^ a b "Ask FactCheck:". April 10, 2009. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Fact-checking the fact-checkers: gets an 'A'". Network World. April 13, 2009. 
  24. ^ Fader, Carole (September 28, 2012). "Fact Check: So who's checking the fact-finders? We are". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved July 20, 2016. 
  25. ^ Stelter, Brian (April 4, 2010). "Debunkers of Fictions Sift the Net". The New York Times. Retrieved March 19, 2013. 

External links[edit]