The Girl Who Hid: Campus COVID-19 Rumors and Legends


Elizabeth Tucker (Binghamton University)

As Andrea Kitta explains in The Kiss of Death: Contagion, Contamination, and Folklore (2019), people in the early stage of an epidemic want to identify “patient zero." During the spring of 2020, students at Binghamton University shared rumors and legends about female students who hid their health status because they were scared of being identified. In one legend, which belongs to the “Vanishing Hitchhiker” complex, an infected female student appears and disappears like a ghost. In another legend, an infected female student quietly distributes packages. These rumors and legends remind us of the uncertainty and fear that characterized the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part of 51-02 Orality and Literacy in Legend, Rumor, and Conspiracy Theory, Friday, October 22, 8:30 am–10:00 am