Debunking 8 Popular Childhood Rumors

My roommate, Kristen, and I live below some seriously annoying neighbors. They’re loud, at all hours of the night, they let their kid constantly drop his toys on the ground over and over again, they move furniture, their kid cries, runs around the apartment for an hour straight, drops more items, and when Kristen or I knock on their door at 6am on a Saturday to let them know that we can hear all of this they tell us (literally) to “fuck off” because “we bought the place, so if you don’t like it you can move out”.

Welcome to New York, right?

So the other day Kristen and I went to CVS and bought some tennis balls so we could exact revenge. Once we heard the kid start slamming his truck against the floor, we ourselves starting chucking tennis balls up at the ceiling until they stopped. Not gonna lie, It felt so good.

Later on, I was absentmindedly playing with the tennis ball and bouncing it off my head.

“Am I losing brain cells?” I asked Kristen


“Remember how they used to say that? Like kids used to always say back in school that you could lose brain cells from hitting your head. Just like how they used to say that if you crossed your eyes together for too long, they would stay like that.”

I started thinking for a bit about all of the childhood rumors we used to spread. It was so weird, but before the age of the internet or social media, somehow the same childhood rumors were heard by kids in elementary and middle school all across the country. Maybe people relayed the information during summer camps, and that’s how it spread, but regardless we all knew of some widely regulated rumors as a kid.

I thought I would determine the answers to these as I got older, but as it turns out, school and work and life in general prevented me from ever finding out the truth. So let’s get into debunking these popular childhood rumors, shall we?

1. Ciara has a penis

Poor Ciara. I have literally no idea how or why this rumor started but nevertheless, all throughout middle school my friends and I wholeheartedly believed the rumor that Ciara was a man. This was ages before we even knew what the word “transgender” meant, and honestly ages before we would even see a penis ourselves.

Fact checker (shocker): It’s false, and Ciara is aware of the rumor.

Apparently she addressed it in the New York Daily News, saying

R&B sensation Ciara just wants everyone to know: She’s all woman. “You know what’s funny? The rumor that I used to be a man,” she told us at the launch party for Vibe Vixen magazine at Frederick’s.

“They said Oprah said that on her show,” she laughed. “I’ve never been on Oprah in my life — we all know I have years before I go on Oprah, so come on!”

There we have it. Tony Fatima, 5th grade, on the monkey bars was dead wrong! 

2. If you swallow gum, it stays in your body for 7 years

I used to hear this one all the fucking time. You wouldn’t have a place to throw out your gum, you would want to swallow it, and a chorus of annoying kids at the lunch table would be like noooo Shannon oh my god you can’t do that it’s going to stay in your stomach for 7 years!

It kind of made sense at the time. Who the fuck even knows what ingredients are in gum, anyway? Also if it’s enough of a bitch to get out of your hair, getting it out of your body must be an even bigger process!

Fact checker: Not true - but parts of it are

You’ll have this come out like any other piece of food, but your body won’t ‘digest’ it - only because there are no nutrients to ‘digest’. So it comes in and comes out without giving anything of nutritional value to your body. I guess that’s where the rumor originated from?

3. You lose brain cells when you hit your head

This was another one that made its rounds throughout school - especially on the playground. Maybe I grew up in a weird school, but it would sometimes be cool to bang your head against a wall and hahaha even writing this out, I’m like, what the fuck?

Kids do weird stuff, I can’t explain it.

Anyway, we would always laugh and freak out when a kid did that and be like oooo you’re losing brain cells, Brad!

So let’s find out…was Brad truly losing brain cells? (Also what the fuck does it mean to lose a brain cell?)

Fact checker: No - but it depends how hard you hit it.

The brain is encased in protective fluid that keeps it safe during the daily bumps and scrapes we experience throughout life. So if you accidentally run into a door or an open cabinet - you won’t have anything to worry about. However, high impact sports like football injuries can definitely injure your brain and cause some serious damage.

So I can keep randomly throwing tennis balls at my head in my apartment and I’ll be all right.

4. Mountain Dew lowers your sperm count


This must have been the result of a killer marketing campaign by Root Beer or something because for no factual reason we all spread the rumor that Mountain Dew is bad for your balls. I don’t know how it got started. I didn’t even know what sperm was when I spread this. But at any rate - it was spread.

Apparently this rumor caught on in a big way, because in 2008, Florida legislators called for a change to their sex ed program after a survey showed that teens thought that taking a shot of Mountain Dew would work as a contraceptive.

I literally only found this out when researching for this blog post and I’m wheezing! I had no idea it got so big.

Fact checker: False

This rumor spread because Mountain Dew uses YellowNo5 in their products, but this is also used in Doritos, gummy bears, Gatorade, Jell-O, and more! So your balls are safe (though honestly your spunk might taste weird if you’re eating a bunch of products with YellowNo5 in it every day).

5. You eat a variety of spiders in your sleep throughout your life


I fucking hated this rumor because it creeped me the fuck out! People used to insist that as you sleep, your mouth is slightly open, and throughout your life spiders will crawl on your face, and into your mouth, and you’ll eat them in your sleep. This led to me training myself to be a nose-breather and also developing your typical spider phobia.

Fact checker: False - thank god.

It turns out only three or four spider species can be found in most North American homes (sorry to my international readers - especially those in Australia), and they have no incentive to crawl into your bed at night - there’s no prey there. Apparently “spiders basically regard us as a giant rock” and for that I am eternally thankful.

6. If you cross your eyes for too long they will stay crossed forever

Okay I believed this one for real. And I was at CCD one day (yes, I grew up catholic) and a girl sat in the hallway and crossed her eyes for like 5 minutes straight and it was the first time in my young life that I nearly experienced a full blown panic attack. We were all freaking out like “Jackie seriously I swear to god you have to stop right now the rest of your life will be changed forever!”

Fact checker: False - luckily for Jackie

Unless you suffer from the condition esotropia, your eyes and the muscles in them won’t be able to “freeze” at any point, so you’re good to go (although crossing your eyes for too long might give you a headache).

7. If you put a book under your pillow as you sleep, you’ll ‘soak up’ the information somehow

Unlike the spider rumor, this was a childhood myth that delighted me. It basically said that you could learn through osmosis, and if you studied your papers, or textbook, and then stuck that under your pillow as you slept, the information would cement itself in your brain.

I’m positive that this is a rumor because it just doesn’t make sense but I remember even teachers telling me this as a kid. Now that I’m 25, I realize those teachers very well could have been full on lying to me - but I don’t know…I’m not fully convinced they were.

Face checker: False

Apparently this is a damn metaphor for immersing yourself in the knowledge? Your brain has the ability to cement facts you’ve learned as you sleep, but only reading chapters 1-4 during the day, and hoping to learn chapter 5 at night as you sleep on it isn’t true. So I guess I kinked my neck multiple times as a kid for nothing. Mr. Barth you lied to me.

8. If your hand is bigger than your face you have cancer

Remember this rumor? Someone would say this to you, you would put your hand up to your face and then they would smush your hand into your face and say why are you hitting yourself, Shannon?

Fucking kids.

Fact checker: I was gullible. 

Okay, honestly maybe this was just a blog post on how kids are assholes and I’m gullible? In either sense, it’s good to now know the truth. I can sleep with my mouth open, no books under my pillow, Mountain Dew on my night stand, and have a great dream about going down on Ciara and seeing her vagina. I finally feel at peace with the world since I have this knowledge.

Sleuthily yours,