The Panic Over Mammoth, Arizona

Earlier this month, the 911 operator in the small town of Mammoth, Arizona, was inundated with calls wanting to know what’s going on. An internet cry for help had been posted on reddit that told of mysterious deaths that were spreading through the community. People were reported dead of illness, others were beaten to death, and strangers were answering phones at her friends’ homes and businesses. She said state and federal officials were in town, including representatives from the CDC.

Commenters chimed in with their own stories of being unable to contact relatives in Mammoth. The post got enough upvotes to promote it to the front page. Local officials and citizens of Mammoth, the one place where no one was worried, took calls from across the country. Police Chief Steve Nash said,

"We received calls from Texas, Florida, Maine, Wisconsin...It's really gone wide-spread."

Chief Nash says the calls tied up the town's 911 dispatcher and made it more difficult to answer actual emergencies.

If people weren't calling police, they were calling the locals.

"Me and my son were here in the store, and we got a call from somebody back in New York," Michael Salazar, owner of the convenience store Corkers told us.

"My dad handed me the phone," his son Adolfo said. "It had to be one of the craziest phone calls i've ever had in my life. {The person on the other line asked} have you seen anybody with bruises all over their faces, or bleeding for their ears or eyes?"

It wasn’t a deliberate hoax, but it had the same effect. What many readers didn’t catch was that the story was posted on the subreddit NoSleep, which is a forum for fictional scary stories. The subreddit rules state that authors must stay in character, commenters must play along with the stories, and in fact comments debunking them are deleted. Local TV station KGUN talked with the author, C.K. Walker, about how her work of fiction blew up and escaped the internet. -via Uproxx

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