This story was first published on January 13, 2014
Circulating message claims that a child went missing at Legoland but was later found with a shaved head and new clothes, drugged in a stroller, and ready to be taken out of the theme park by his would-be abductors.
There are no credible reports about such an abduction attempt. In fact, the supposed warning is just one incarnation in a long-running urban legend. From time to time, new versions of the story surface with locations and other details altered. These stories have no factual basis.
This message, which is currently circulating rapidly via social media, warns parents about a child abduction attempt that it claims took place at Legoland.
According to the message, a 6-year-old boy disappeared while his family was queuing for food at the theme park. Staff closed all exits and conducted a search for the child. The child was finally found, claims the story, with his hair cut and clothes changed and drowsy after apparently being given a drug to tranquillize him. The boy was in a stroller ready to be pushed out of the park by his abductors. Or so the tale would have us believe.
However, the claims in the message are untrue. There are no credible news or media reports about such a kidnapping attempt. The message does not say which of the several Legoland theme parks it is referring to. Nor does it specify a date or time frame other than “last Sunday”, which is meaningless. This lack of concrete details is typical of such bogus messages.
In fact, the message is just one more variant in a long-running series of bogus warnings based on the same false scenario.
Note the strong similarity to the following version, which circulated far and wide back in 2011 and 2012:
Friend of Ana’s went to Wonderland (theme park) yesterday. She was with another friend too and together they had 4 children(each 2). Kids were 4-5-6 years old. While they were busy with 1 of the 4 kids one of the other kids disappeared … Literally. 5 year old girl.
After frantically searching for 2 minutes they alerted the Park’s security who then searched the Park for the next 5-6 mins. The Park then closed all exits and would not allow anyone to leave while they continued to search for the next 45 mins.
Still they couldn’t find her and the Park was forced to re-open the exits. The Police advised Ana’s friend to focus on childrens’ shoes and nothing else. So she watched the exits and mobs of people were leaving. She noticed 1 man carrying a sleeping child with a blanket over her. And the child’s hair was a different colour but she said to the police that she had noticed a child wearing the same shoes but……. it probably wasn’t her child.
The police stopped the man and it turns out that it was indeed the right child. The child had been tranquillized by injection to the neck and was sleeping. Her hair had been cut short and had been spray painted a different colour. And all her clothing had been changed except …. her shoes. They got the perp and, thank God the child is fine.
Another version claims that a kidnapping attempt using the same scenario took place at an ASDA store in the UK. That version was also false. Other versions have been set in many shopping malls, theme parks and department stores across the United States.
In fact, David Emery from About Urban Legends notes that versions of the story go back to at least the 1980’s.
Of course, parents and guardians do need to keep an especially close eye on their children when in crowded places like shopping malls and theme parks. Child abductions do occur, and sometimes predators seize an opportunity if they notice a young child alone.
Nevertheless, sending on these false warnings will serve only to cause fear and alarm in communities and sharing them will help nobody. Moreover, the continued circulation of such false messages makes it less likely that the Internet public will believe genuine abduction alerts that may come their way.
It is high time that this old hoax was laid to rest once and for all. If you receive this or another version of the hoax, please do not share it on your networks. And please let the sender know that the message is a hoax.