Has “Myths over Miami” ever been corroborated (or debunked)?

The same David Moles post that pointed me to the Joe Abercrombie piece on fantasy writing also contained a passing reference to “Myths Over Miami,” a 1997 Miami New Times article about a bleak new mythology taking root among street kids:

To homeless children sleeping on the street, neon is as comforting as a night-light. Angels love colored light too. After nightfall in downtown Miami, they nibble on the NationsBank building—always drenched in a green, pink, or golden glow. “They eat light so they can fly,” eight-year-old Andre tells the children sitting on the patio of the Salvation Army’s emergency shelter on NW 38th Street. Andre explains that the angels hide in the building while they study battle maps. “There’s a lot of killing going on in Miami,” he says. “You want to fight, want to learn how to live, you got to learn the secret stories.” The small group listens intently to these tales told by homeless children in shelters. On Christmas night a year ago, God fled Heaven to escape an audacious demon attack—a celestial Tet Offensive. The demons smashed to dust his palace of beautiful blue-moon marble. TV news kept it secret, but homeless children in shelters across the country report being awakened from troubled sleep and alerted by dead relatives. No one knows why God has never reappeared, leaving his stunned angels to defend his earthly estate against assaults from Hell. “Demons found doors to our world,” adds eight-year-old Miguel, who sits before Andre with the other children at the Salvation Army shelter. The demons’ gateways from Hell include abandoned refrigerators, mirrors, Ghost Town (the nickname shelter children have for a cemetery somewhere in Dade County), and Jeep Cherokees with “black windows.” The demons are nourished by dark human emotions: jealousy, hate, fear.

The leader of the demons who chased God from heaven is said to be Bloody Mary, a well-known creature of urban legend who can be summoned by chanting her name in front of a mirror. According to the Times article, the street kids have given the legend a new twist: in the most secret of their secret stories, Bloody Mary is revealed to be the Virgin Mary, now turned inexplicably to the side of evil.

I’d heard about “Myths Over Miami” before—thanks to the Internet, the article has become something of a legend itself—but I’d never read it until just now. And maybe it’s just because Shattered Glass was on TV over the weekend, but my initial reaction is one of skepticism.

Take that line in the paragraph quoted above: “[H]omeless children in shelters across the country report being awakened from troubled sleep and alerted by dead relatives.” Who exactly did they report this to? As a journalist, what source do you go to to find out what homeless kids “across the country” are hearing from their dead relatives? Particularly when, as the article also claims, “The ‘secret stories’ are carefully guarded knowledge, never shared with older siblings or parents for fear of being ridiculed—or spanked for blasphemy.”

I did a Google search to see if I could find any critical reviews of the article but came up empty. Which is odd, because I’d expect professional folklorists to be fascinated by this. Anyone out there have any links I missed?

7 thoughts on “Has “Myths over Miami” ever been corroborated (or debunked)?”

    1. I guess I should expand on that:

      (1) La Llorona is not even remotely the same thing as Bloody Mary, as claimed in the article on the second page.

      (2) Big chunks of the article resemble book reports on folklore and homeless children.

      (3) No last names, so no way for anybody to check on the stories.

      (4) No graphics on those drawings the kids at the shelters are supposed to make all the time.

      (5) Even if the reporter did talk to a few real kids, they all seem to be talking about individual spooky beliefs that she’s sewn into a grand tapestry.

  1. I will say that for awhile after the story I followed all the pieces written by that reporter and while there was only one more folklorey sort of piece, the reporting never struck me as questionable in nature. The last time I checked, she was working for the AP somewhere else in the South.

    I do think that nearly _any_ news story is not going to fully and accurately reflect reality, even when the subject matter is less nebulous than this. And Clive Barker had optioned the article at one point, too, but who knows?

    There was a book that came out a couple of years ago that discussed the elaborate mythologies of streetkids in other areas, so it is at least a documented phenomenon that seems to repeat itself.

    1. Oh, and, I guess I’d also say that if it is fabricated, I wish more of the fakers who’ve been caught fabricated this kind of stuff.

    2. I’d heard about Clive Barker’s option of the story (and the Mercedes Lackey novel inspired by it). I take it the film was never produced?

      1. Nope, though when I was googling around for Lynda Edwards it still shows up on the list of “unproduced projects” on the CB website.

  2. scarab_dynasty

    Hi there. Got here via a search engine, what luck.

    I basically have an entire third year animation project going inspired by this story, but even I take it with a rather large pinch of salt. The kind of phenomenon described is well documented – children have been creating such myths for centuries, partly as habit and imagination, and partly as a coping strategy, and it’s logical to assume that the more serious a child’s situation, the more elaborate their tales to explain it will become .

    I think the “exaggeration” is mainly in the continuity of the stories. Everything connects to everything else; children all seem to share the same stories. I can believe the legends of bloody mary etc spreading because it obviously does, but there’s not enough “Chinese whispers”,, as they say, apparent to me in Myths Over Miami . I don’t doubt that children can come up with this kind of stuff because I’ve seen and heard them do it myself, and many of this articles “reports” are probably genuine, but the whole thing reads like a novelization with a set beginning, middle, and end. I think the writer took some creative license with it.

    The more I did on my animation project, the farther from the original inspirational story I became… I have a feeling anyone who saw my animation wouldn’t even see the connection without looking at the preproduction, so I guess I’ve thinned out the myth a lot.

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