Saturday, 06 October 2007

The Craig Shergold FAQ

When the gullible of our planet united to help a "dying boy" long after he had been healed, this FAQ became the official reference guide for participants in a Usenet newsgroup called alt.folklore.urban during the 1990s. The FAQ disappeared from the Web after my original site disappeared along with one of Internet Solutions' original web servers.

The CRAIG SHERGOLD FAQ Version 0.1beta

Frequently Asked Questions about the Internet's most prevalent thought virus: the Craig Shergold appeal for get-well cards and/or business cards

Craig Shergold is seven years old and suffering from terminal cancer. It is his ambition to be included in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest number of business cards ever collected by one person.

Craig would be grateful if you could send one of your business cards to the address below and also send the enclosed pages, including one of your own, to another ten companies.

Obviously, speed is of the essence....

How old is Craig Shergold really? He's been seven for an awfully long time.

28. He was born on June 24 1979. Call it a healthy afterlife, or call it urban legend. I know what I'm betting on.

Did Craig really appeal for get well cards to break the record?

This one's going to confuse the "Is-it-a-legend-yes-or-no" lobby all right. No; he didn't. He only found out about the appeal when the tally reached about 3000. THEN he agreed to the appeal. Even then, however, the official appeal was launched by the Royal Marsden Hospital.

When did the appeal first go out?

It first went out privately to big companies in the UK at the beginning of 1989. And he was almost 10, not 7, okay? Urban legends do that.

When was Craig first diagnosed with cancer?

February 13 1989. Before that he was in hospital with a brain tumour that had not yet been identified as cancer.

How did the appeal start?

During January 1989, when Craig's doctor, Richard Hayward, saw how many get-well cards from his extended family, friends and family acquaintances were strung up above his hospital bed, he suggested he go for the Guiness Book of Records spot. His mother Marion was present with a family friend, Alison Ingram. She was PA to a director of Gilbey's, and had extensive business contacts.

Alison persuaded Marion to go for the record, and orchestrated the initial campaign. The nurses at the Great Ormond Street Hospital spread the word locally, while Alison contacted corporations around Britain. At that stage, Craig had received only 200 cards. The appeal was still unofficial, and Craig didn't know about it. Well, okay, he started getting a sneaking suspicion, seeing as how he didn't really know 3,000 people.

When did the appeal go public?

On September 25 1989 the story broke in the Daily Mirror, under the headline "You're a card, Craig". (Hey, look, I just report the FAQs as I see them, I don't write the headlines). On September 27 the Sun launched its own card appeal for Craig, including a cut-out coupon with space for a message and the home address in Carshalton, Surrey (Oh didn't I mention? He never did live in Atlanta. That was Craig Shefford. Or Sheffield. And he lived in Kentucky. Apparently.) And by this time he was 10 years old.

What was the target?

Mario Molby of Leicester held the record at 1,000,265.

On October 11 Donald McFarlane of the Guinness Book of Records announced that the attempt would not be recognised. He claimed it was now policy not to accept records that depended on media appeals, and Craig had not actually done anything himself. An interviewer asked him: "So if Craig were to sit on top of a pole in the local pub car-park for 24 hours, you'd give him a place in the GBoR, would you?" McF said they would consider that kind of record. The interviewer asked Marion S what she thought of the response. She claims she told him where McF could stick his pole.

When did they break the record?

No one knows. it is estimated that 200 000 cards arrived every week in October 1989, but even with hundreds of people helping the counting at the Sutton United Football Club, they could only count about 60 000 a week. The count itself reached one million and then the record on Thursday 16 November 1989. Numerous TV cameras and press photographers were on hand at the SUFC ballroom to prove to the next generation that their latest appeal (Craig Gorsky is a 7 year old boy who was diagnosed with cancer on February 14, 2025) was an urban legend, but also that it had been tracked ot its source back in '89. But you tell that to the newbies in alt.folklore.urban.warfare.

Charlie King, the delivery office manager at Wallington Post Office, who helped orchestrate deliveries and counting, made the announcement at 8.55pm on Novemver 16 that the record had been broken by a quarter million cards. The total was 1,250,265. The next day, the cards stopped arriving. Not.

But the GBoR still wanted him to sit on a pole in a carpark?

No, that night, as Autumn's chill fingertips touched the village air and chased the warmth of friendship from the fields, the Ghost of Get-well-appeals Past visited Mr GBoR himself, Norris McWhirter.
And the next day he announced that the record would be recognised.
On the Sunday, someone who may have been McWhirter...
delivered the official GBoR certificate to the wrong address - the neighbours' from a few houses down.
If it's not an urban legend, it should be...

* T, F, BT, BF are all enshrined in the alt.folklore.urban FAQ as indicating True, False, Believed True and Believed False.

When did Craig meet Princess Diana?

Oops. Not meant to be in the FAQ. He never met her, although he was invited to a theatre première in the West End in mid-1989 with two other sick little girls on the understanding that they would meet Di and that other royal type with the ears who used to hang out with her. The royals were ushered straight into the theatre and the kids in their wheelchairs saw nothing but the popping of camera flashes. Not even a glimpse of the "nobility". But hey, the news gets better, so let's get back to the FAQ...

When did Craig's appeal become an urban legend?

I'm still working on that, but perhaps the question can be rephrased as:
When did the appeal end and the legend begin in earnest?
Two answers:
One: when he broke the record and his campaigners stopped formally campaigning. See above.
Two: When he was cured.
On 23 March 1991 Craig Shergold faced the media with his mom and millionaire John Kluge, who had paid for the op that cured him. She said, among other things, "It's a miracle - but please, no more cards."
Newbie alert: There might be a third answer, so don't go harassing your deluded teachers and bosses yet.

How many cards did arrive?

More than a hundred million. Not counting the business cards. Which were actually a scam to compile a business contacts directory. Maybe.

And then?

Give me a break, okay? I've got to earn a living too. Unless everyone who reads this sends me $1. When I collect enough, or when I find the time, I'll carry on updating the FAQ, prettify it and maybe even fix the speling mistakes.

And please, no cards, to: Arthur Goldstuck, or visit me at: Legends from a small country.

PS: If I do get a hundred million $1 notes, I promise I'll also tell the world it's enough.

Contents © Arthur Goldstuck

A more formal version of the Craig Shergold story appears in my second urban legends collection, "The Leopard in the Luggage" (Penguin, 1993).


carbonfeed said...

ill pay a buck for that, thanks :) i remembered the message from my first skirmishes with usenet in the early nineties but beyond that, nothing, thanks for the enlightenment!

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