The pin prick attacks of the 1990s are exactly the sort of terrifying - albeit campy - story your older relatives would send via mass e-mail chain back in the day. The pin prick urban legend was one of the most prolific 1990s urban legends. It may sound like a mother's overly worried concern, “Did you hear about that girl infected by a syringe with the AIDS virus while out dancing with friends? Be careful!” The sort of outrageous claim would make a person roll their eyes, but then pause and wonder how these ideas get around. Well, in the '90s, it was a story that spread like wildfire.
The classic tale would usually start as a fake message from a supposed police department or the Center for Disease Control. This message would claim needles that tested positive for HIV were found in random areas. Or that unsuspecting members of the public were pricked by a bloody, infected needle, usually by a person greeting the other. These stories played off the pervading fear of the AIDS virus in the '90s and usually involved people just going about their business.
It Started Because Of Fears About HIV
In the 1980s, the HIV/AIDS epidemic gripped the country. Many people - including doctors - didn't know what the disease was or how it was transmitted. When they discovered it was a blood disease most notably transmitted through gay sex, a extreme social stigma was attached to the disease.
People considered it to be "dirty," and there were several myths about how it was transmitted. Because of this, rumors about nefarious people trying to spread the disease started to catch fire.
"AIDS Harry" And "AIDS Mary" Haunted The Dating Community
The AIDS epidemic of the '90s made for a terrifying climate. People had just begun studying the disease, and there was virtually no information regarding transmission. Additionally, persistent conflicting information left the public confused and scared.
One particularly scary myth made the rounds starred the sinister "AIDS Mary." In the AIDS Mary legend, an unsuspecting guy hooks up with someone he meets in a bar - or at a party - and has a one night stand. In the morning when he goes to use the bathroom he sees “WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF AIDS” scrawled on his mirror. Usually with the added flourish of being written in red or pink lipstick.
In the female version of the legend, AIDS Harry picks up a naïve young woman and leaves her similarly inflicted. A small token or envelope is given to her with instructions to not open its contents until she is on her way home. Instead of lipstick on a mirror, the young lady receives a miniature coffin or a coffee mug inscribed with the message “WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF AIDS.”
Even The Gas Pump Wasn't Safe
Another prevalent - and ultimately semi-true - urban legend served as a reminder to be vigilant when pumping gas. This particular warning highlighted the apparent technique "evil" AIDS-spreaders used by hiding HIV infected needles under a gas pump handles to stick unsuspecting customers.
This myth turned to reality in 2017 when Jose Medina was stabbed in the finger by a hypodermic needle while getting gas in San Bernardino, California. As of October 2017, Medina had not tested positive for HIV.
There Were Myths About The Movie Theater
Several myths speak of an unsuspecting movie-goer who sits down to see a film and is instantly poked the moment they sit down. The movie-goer looks down to see what might have pricked them, only to discern a note in the darkness saying, “Welcome to the real world, you’re HIV Positive”.
Every time this rumor surges in popularity, the media sends out photos of needles tucked into movie theater seats, spreading fear to the public.