Magonia 56, June 1996
For almost ten years a horrible story has haunted the world’s media: in Latin America children are robbed of their kidneys and corneas for the benefit of wealthy Americans. On closer examination these horror stories turn out to be based on rumours and legends. Organ-napping, the contemporary version of an age-old and universally known legend. The first images of the documentary show a man with a wispy beard rocking his head back and forth as if he is in a trance.
The camera zooms in on his face, showing us that his eyes lack irises and pupils. The next shot is an indoor scene. A younger relative asks in Spanish: “What did they remove?” The blind man answers: “My corneas”. The boy pulls the eyelids of the right eye apart. Superimposed on the cloudy white tissue the title floats into view: Organ Snatchers.
The name of the blind man is Pedro Reggi. He is 26 years old and lives in a small village 60 miles from Buenos Aires. His corneas, the voice-over says, were stolen during a period he spent in the Montes de Oca mental institution.
Organ Snatchers (Voleurs d’yeux) is directed by French journalist Marie-Monique Robin, one of the most influential disseminators of the shocking message that in Latin America the organs of the poor are stolen for the benefit of the rich. The recipients may be wealthy Americans, but stolen corneas are also procured by transplant surgeons in France. Robin’s message does not fall on deaf ears. Her documentary has been aired in a number of countries and shown three times at United Nations meetings. A re-run on French television in January 1995 drew more than three million viewers.
Robin also sold her story to foreign magazines. In Life (October 1993) she describes Reggi as having “the emaciated face of Jesus Christ”. In a Dutch weekly  Reggi features as “the angel-faced boy” who “once had a pair of beautiful brown eyes, where now only two gaping holes remain”.
This last statement is an exaggeration: Reggi’s eyes may look horrible, but anyone can see that they are not gaping holes. What’s more his corneas are still there too, as someone with expert knowledge of eye surgery might tell you. I watched Organ Snatchers with Dutch ophthalmologist Mrs H. Volker-Dieben, board member of the Dutch Cornea Foundation. “The corneas are clouded”, she told me. “This looks like scar tissue caused by old infections, as far as I can judge from the video images. To be completely sure, I would have to examine the eyes myself, using the right kind of lamp”.
So Reggi’s corneas have not been stolen? No, the alleged theft would indeed have left his eye-sockets empty. Normally, to remove the cornea from a deceased donor a transplant surgeon will extract the eyeball in its entirety, replace it with a plastic ball of the same size and eventually glue the eyelids together.
The Dutch ophthalmologist’s observation tallies with medical records that became public after Reggi’s appearance in a previous British-Canadian documentary about organ traffic, The Body Parts Business: Reggi was born with bilateral glaucoma. He lost his eyesight due to eye diseases. 
The story of Pedro Reggi is not the only controversial episode in Organ Snatchers. On closer inspection the documentary’s emotional climax, the story of 10-year-old Jeison Cruz Vargas, the photogenic little blind boy with the flute, turns out to be equally doubtful.
In the documentary Robin meets Jeison in the Institute for the Blind in Bogota, Colombia. His mother Luz recalls taking Jeison to a hospital in the slums when he needed treatment for diarrhoea; when she saw him again the next day, his eyes had been removed. Her son’s medical file had been destroyed, she says. “It is a hospital for the poor, that’s why things like this are happening here. It’s the worst hospital in the world.”
Ever since Robin went public with Jeison’s story, this version of events has been vehemently contested by both the hospital involved – Salazar de Villeta – and the Colombian government. According to a statement (February 4, 1994) by the Colombian ombudsman for Health and Social Security, Jeison never underwent an eye operation. Barely four months old, he was hospitalised, suffering from severe malnourishment, dehydration and a number of serious ailments, including infection of the eyeball with Pseudomonas and infection of the cornea. Probably because his parents were very poor, they stopped the treatment and took the infant to a herb doctor. The infection destroyed his eyesight.
The row over Jeison’s eyes reached a climax after Robin’s documentary was awarded the Prix Albert Londres in May 1995, the most prestigious distinction for French journalists. Conscious of the fact that statements by Colombian doctors and officials do not carry much weight in France, the Colombian embassy had Jeison (now a 12-year-old) flown to Paris in August 1995 in order to have his eyes examined by two renowned French specialists in ophthalmology and infectious diseases. A paediatrician assessed the boy’s medical records. 
In their report the French doctors note that the eyeballs, although atrophied, are still there, as are parts of the cornea. The infection that irreparably damaged his eyesight is quite common for malnourished infants in the Third World. Again, Jeison’s eyes have not been stolen.
Moreover, the doctors argue, it is impossible to remove the corneas from a live donor without causing a severe hemorrhage, and no surgeon in his right mind would use Jeison’s infected corneas for transplantation as they would kill the recipient. It might be added that with its 28,000 violent deaths per year, Colombia has no shortage of donors anyway. According to Colombian law, everyone is a potential donor unless the family objects. 
Embarrassed by the outcome of the medical examination, the Albert Londres jury suspended Robin’s award and promised to take a second, more thorough look at her documentary.  Robin, meanwhile, does not budge. To maintain that Jeison’s eyes have been stolen she has resorted to increasingly unlikely conspiracy theories and ad hominem arguments. The files could be forged – after all why did it take the Colombian hospital two years to produce them?
“What is worth more” she asked, when confronted with the report, “a mother’s oral testimony, or the word of a group of experts who intervene twelve years after the fact and in whose interest it is to make people doubt the existence of organ traffic (for reasons of professional solidarity, a proven taste for secrecy, international friendships established during the course of their careers)?” 
Nor does she think the medical establishment is the only culprit. When I spoke to her in February 1995, Robin claimed that Jeison’s mother and other witnesses and authorities have all withdrawn their accusations under pressure from the United States Information Agency. 
In fact the USIA, a government institution that fights anti-American propaganda, does wage a campaign against Robin. Since 1988 it has published a number of reports systematically repudiating allegations of organ theft. This started out as a reaction to cold-war KGB propaganda, in which the United States were held responsible for the murder of South American children. The KGB has vanished but the atrocity stories are still with us and so is the USIA’s anti-rumour campaign. Robin blames the responsible USIA staff officer Todd Leventhal for much of her setbacks, and has even suggested that he was implicated in the theft of her car. She later received death threats by phone and on the Internet. As she repeatedly said to me: “It’s like a thriller.”
Hansel and Gretel
Marie-Monique Robin was not the first to call attention to the organ mafia. Stories about organ-napping first appeared in the world press in 1987.  On January 2 of that year a Honduran paper reported that disabled children were sold in the USA as a source of `spare parts’. Thirteen child victims had been discovered in four casas de engordes (`fattening houses’ – shades of Hansel and Gretel). The source of these reports was Leonardo Villeda Bermudez, secretary general of the Honduran committee for social welfare. On January 3, however, this official retracted his allegations, explaining that he had merely repeated the unconfirmed assumptions of social workers.
Later cases in Guatemala and Peru followed the same pattern: alarming but unsubstantiated reports which were withdrawn as soon as they were published. As bad news is more newsworthy than good news however, the initial disclosures were often reported by the press, whereas the subsequent denials were ignored. This is a professional vice of journalists, which may be even stronger in those who have an ideological axe to grind. Unsurprisingly, in the late eighties the horror-stories about organ theft were eagerly picked up and published by the Soviet media, which in the same period gave weight to the rumour that the HIV virus had been artificially created in an American biological warfare laboratory. 
The European Parliament too has twice spoken out against organ theft. In 1993 it passed a resolution condemning organ traffic. The resolution was based on a report by socialist Europarliamentarian Leon Schwartzenberg. In this report the former French minister of public health describes the medical, ethical and social consequences of the lack of donor organs and stresses the existence of a homicidal organ mafia.
The very idea that cynical traffickers literally sell the flesh of third world children evokes strong feelings of dismay and compassion. This does not make a detached, clinical took at the facts any easier. Schwartzenberg even disqualified sceptics by classing them with Holocaust deniers: “To deny such traffic is comparable to denying the existence of the gas chambers in the last war.”
Nobody denies that in some countries (for instance Brazil, India and Egypt) poor people offer their organs for sale. In this respect organ traffic is a reality. Transplantation experts however are not prepared to assume the existence of a large scale mafia-controlled organ trade. Individual cases, like Pedro Reggi’s and Jeison’s do not stand up to scrutiny. In general, organ theft is implausible because clandestine transplantations require numbers of highly skilled medical personnel and sophisticated equipment that are not to be found in the countries where the organ thieves are said to operate. As Eurotransplant’s medical director Guido G. Persijn told me:
Of course it is possible to kidnap people, anaesthetise them and steal one of their kidneys, but to do that you also need a recipient, the recipient needs to have a matching blood group and tissue group. You need an HLA-typing… And how can you be sure that this Mr. X you’ve snatched off the street makes a suitable kidney donor in the first place? Isn’t he suffering from a renal disease, nephritis, HIV? You would need an immense organisation. It’s just not worth it.
Even the strongest evidence for organ theft, such as the reports of kidney-napping in India that emerged in February 1995 , is ambiguous at best. Poor inhabitants of a Bangalore village applied for jobs in the city and were robbed of their kidneys under the guise of a routine medical check-up. A specialist, a GP and two middlemen have been arrested. The German magazine Der Stern broke the news with an article headlined ‘Organ theft in India proven for the first time’.
Actually, Der Stern’s pictures of Indian men and women sporting huge scars merely prove that India has a markedly higher proportion of inhabitants with only one kidney than richer countries. By March 1995 more than eighty alleged victims had registered with the Bangalore police. Yet according to the town’s police commissioner only a small fraction of those have really been robbed; the others supposedly sold one of their kidneys and are hoping to receive a higher remuneration by lodging a complaint. 
But why wait for conclusive evidence to be found? When I called him in February 1995, Stan Meuwesse, Director of the Dutch branch of the Defence for Children International (an organisation that fights child labour, child slavery, child prostitution and other forms of child abuse) asserted that organ theft is a reality. “The accepted facts and figures about child abuse are so overwhelming, that this has to be true too”, he argued, repeating an argument voiced by other representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations in the human rights field. Who would believe, Meuwesse asked, that 6-year-old Pakistani boys are forced to work as camel-jockeys in the Arab Emirates? Still, this is an undisputed fact.
Meuwesse emphasised that he had never seen a “consistent, reliable, clear” report about stolen corneas and kidneys. All there was to go on are the stories that are being repeated over and over again: stories Meuwesse said, that convince everyone in the children’s rights community.
In Organ Snatchers one of those recurring stories is told by Mexican parliamentarian Hector Ramirez, a member of the parliamentary commission charged with the investigation of illegal organ traffic. Ramirez recounts the case of a little boy who was kidnapped on the market in the Extapalapa quarter and turned up two months later on the same spot, a scar on his back marking the place where one of his kidneys had been extracted.
Ramirez: “His mother had him examined by a doctor. This confirmed her suspicions. When the little boy returned to her family, he brought $2,000 with him. I contacted his mother, but she wouldn’t tell anything at all. She was very scared. With the money she could take care of him.
For lack of names, pictures or documents, it is impossible to check this story. The official report by Ramirez does not mention it. Robin’s team could not locate a single victim or witness in Mexico. The story sounds improbable: why didn’t these supposedly ruthless criminals simply kill the eye-witness instead of delivering him to the scene of the crime with $2,000 – for pocket money? Random acts of kindness like this one have never been reported from other branches of crime.
The appeal lies not in its realism but in the moral point it makes: Americans think that they can use the inhabitants of Latin America any way they like in return for
a little pocket-money
If this story is convincing at all, the appeal lies not in its realism but in the moral point it makes. The story graphically expresses a message that speaks to the hearts of both poor Mexicans and human rights activists worldwide: Americans think that they can use the inhabitants of Latin America any way they like in return for a little pocket-money. Everything points to Ramirez’s story being a contemporary legend: a tale that surfaces time and again in different forms, but always appears to have happened recently just round the corner from where the story-teller lives. Unreal stories like this one can have real consequences though. In Colombia, Argentina, France, Switzerland, The Netherlands and other parts of the world, organ donations have dropped off as a result of these rumours, claim transplant organisations.
And “it has had a devastating, effect” on international adoptions, says Susan Cox, president of Holt Adoption Services in Oregon, one of the agencies that annually help place about 8,000 children with US parents. In Turkey, officials outlawed foreign adoptions after the organ-thieves myth took hold.  As sociologists are wont to observe: Whenever people experience a situation as real it will become real in its consequences. The truth of this dictum is brought out even more dramatically by the Guatemala organ theft scare of 1994.
Lynch Justice for Child Snatchers
Guatemala, March 8, 1994.  American tourist Melissa Larson (37) is sipping a glass of pineapple juice in the market of the village Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa. Suddenly she finds herself surrounded by angry villagers and accused of being a child snatcher. To protect her from the mob, Larson is arrested and smuggled out of the village by the authorities. When the inhabitants find out that she has gone, they turn on her protectors, burning down the police station and setting fire to ten cars. It takes five hundred riot police, army reinforcements and armoured cars to restore the peace. Larson, after 19 days in prison, has a lucky escape.
Less fortunate is 51-year-old June Weinstock, who came to San Cristobal to watch the Easter celebrations. On March 29 villagers spot her photographing children in the market and caressing a little boy. A woman who has lost sight of her 8-year-old son in the bustle looks at Weinstock with suspicion. “Maybe the gringa keeps the boy in her suitcase,” the ice-cream vendor jokes.
Weinstock becomes the centre of an increasing crowd: there is an American child stealer in town! She too needs police protection, as one thousand inhabitants lay siege to the police station. Five hours later she is dragged outside and brutally beaten. Weinstock lapses into a coma and has to be hospitalised. She suffered eight stab wounds, a fracture of the base of the skull and two broken arms. By then the lost boy has been back with his mother for some time.These incidents would never have happened without the rumours that preceded them. Long-haired foreigners were said to prey on children. A street urchin had been robbed of his corneas; his pocket was stuffed with US dollar bills. Eight babies were found with their hearts cut out. One had a hundred dollar bill stuck in the gaping wound with a note saying “Thanks for your co-operation”.
Graffiti warned Americans that they were not welcome: “Gringo child stealers go home”. Hysteria was fuelled in La Prensa Libre (March 13, 1994), Guatemala’s largest circulation daily, depicting the organ trade in the form of an advertising pamphlet. Ten usable organs are displayed like meat in a supermarket, with the prices they would fetch in the United States. The price-tag on the heart reads $100,000; a kidney is worth $65,000 and a cornea would fetch a mere $2,500 on the black market.
A Children’s Exodus
So, where do these stories come from? How did Jeison’s and Pedro Reggi’s families come to believe that their child’s blindness was caused by thieves? Apparently these stories have not been inspired by actual crimes. So, could they be leftist propaganda spread by deceitful journalists, as the US Information Agency has repeatedly suggested? In its most recent report on The Child Organ Trafficking Rumour (December 1994), the USIA does not come down as hard on ‘Soviet front groups’ as it used to; it provides much useful information but still does not explain the phenomenon.
Both parties – humanitarian believers and US Government sceptics, but most of all the believers – underestimate the power of the people themselves to develop and circulate unofficial explanations as a reaction to actual circumstances and tensions. In other words they underestimate their ability to create rumours. These stories originated in Latin American cities, not in a communist-era Russian ministry.
The most detailed study of these rumours has been made by folklorist Véronique Campion-Vincent of Paris. Campion-Vincent, who has been monitoring the organ theft rumour for years, maintains that it is much more than cynical propaganda. Rather, the rumour is the unreal synthesis of two real consequences of the poverty that afflicts Latin America: adoption and organ traffic. 
Children from Latin American countries are much in demand on the adoption market. At the times of the attacks on American tourists in Guatemala, on average twenty children per week were adopted from that country, half of them by Americans. Not all requests from American and European couples for the adoption of a Latin American child are met by legal means. Documents are forged, mothers sell their babies and even kidnappings occur. Clandestine foster homes do exist and are frequently discovered by the authorities. The people themselves regard this children’s exodus with mixed feelings: what will the future of the children be like? Do they not rather belong in our country?
As we have seen, the selling of bodyparts belongs to the reality of third world countries too. Rumours about organ theft, says Campion-Vincent, posit an imaginary connection between the two phenomena: according to the rumour, the adoptions serve the organ trade as well.
A third fact of life in Latin America that feeds the rumour is the high level of everyday violence, vividly described by anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes in a chilling chapter of her book Death Without Weeping.  Scheper-Hughes shared the life of the poor in a community in North-East Brazil, a region where ‘disappearing’ is a frightful and by no means imaginary way of departing this world. The anonymous bodies of the victims may turn up on the side of the road, their genitals cut off and their eyes plucked out. Violence is such a routine feature of the world these people live in, that they cannot even take ownership of their own body for granted. And so, starting in the mid-1980′s, the anxiety of the poor produced rumours of organ traffic.
It was said that the teaching hospitals of Recife and the large medical centres throughout Brazil were engaged in an active traffic in body parts, a traffic with international dimensions. Shantytown residents reported multiple sightings of large blue or yellow vans driven by foreign agents (usually North American or Japanese), who were said to patrol neighbourhoods looking for small stray children whom the drivers mistakenly believed no-one in the overpopulated slums and shantytowns would ever miss.” 
According to Scheper-Hughes, inhabitants of the first and third world hold incompatible views of organ donation:
While Western Europeans and North Americans persist in thinking of organ transplants as ‘gifts’ donated freely by loving and altruistic people, to the people of the Alto, whose bodies are so routinely preyed on by the wealthy and powerful (in economic and symbolic exchanges that have international dimensions), the organ transplant implied less a gift than a commodity [...] The Brazilian rumours express poor people’s perceptions, grounded in an economic and biotechnomedical reality, that their bodies and the bodies of their children may be worth more dead than alive to the rich and powerful. 
These feelings of powerlessness in the face of ruthless exploitation predate the introduction of transplant surgery. In fact, stories of white killers stalking poor South Americans for their body parts fit a native tradition which already existed long before adoption and transplantation became important issues. One of the white ogres that abound in these traditional legends is the ‘pishtaco’ of the Andean Indians, a night prowler who collects human fat.  He sells his booty to factories (as a lubricant) or to pharmaceutical companies (as a basis for medication). Indian fat was also said to be used to start up jet engines. The monsters have kept up with the times and are presently hunting for corneas and kidneys.
The EuroKidney Gang
The fear of cutthroat physicians that thrives under the corrugated iron roofs of South America exists as well in American and western European luxury apartments. Although emotions do not run as high as in the third world, the Dutch, for instance, have their own rumours about stolen bodyparts. In 1990 a contemporary legend circulated in The Netherlands that is the mirror image of the Latin American versions. A widely known and believed story told how a businessman or tourist visits Brazil (or Tunisia or Turkey), is anaesthetised by kidnappers and on recovery finds that one of his kidneys is missing. 
Since 1992 a new version is doing the rounds, this time starring a child rather than an adult victim. On a day trip to Disneyland Paris parents lose sight of one of their children. After a while the little boy  is found on a bench, pale and dazed, with a big scar marking the spot where his kidney has been extracted.
Such stories surfaced within two weeks of the Paris theme-park opening its gates in 1992. They do not only scare Dutch parents: German, Swiss, Austrian and Swedish parents too fear for their toddlers’ safety in EuroDisney. In spite of this, not one single victim – or his parents – has ever come forward. Disney denies that the incident ever took place (but they would, wouldn’t they?). The story is a textbook example of a contemporary legend. 
Typically legend-like too, is the way the story adapts itself to its surroundings. The EuroDisney kidnap scare does reflect a certain amount of xenophobia, but it is not the expression of a people that feels exploited. So, like their Mexican counterparts, the Parisian kidney thieves kindly return their victims to the scene of the crime, but in contrast to their Latin American colleagues, they never give them thousands of dollars for pocket money.
The Blood Carriage
Moral panics caused by tales about strangers who kidnap and kill children have been around at least since the Blood Libel legend accused Jews of mixing their Passover matzo dough with the blood of Christian children. Among those numerous historical rumour panics there is one that is the spitting image of today’s organ theft scare. 
Paris, May 1750. The city is in uproar, because under the eyes of the populace police are arresting children on the streets, taking them away in shuttered carriages, destination unknown. The people resist; riots ensue. Police officer Labbé is caught red-handed as he grabs an 11-year old boy. The boy is liberated by the mob and Labbé has to run for his life. He enters a house and tries to hide under a bed, but his pursuers drag him out into the street. Guards come running, prise him from the hands of his captors and take him to a police commissioner’s residence. The people lay siege to his refuge and demand those inside to surrender the kidnapper. In the end, they kick in the door. There is an exchange of gunfire, the furious crowd wrestles Labbé away from his guards and puts him to death with sticks and stones.
In a way the Parisians are not mistaken: policemen do randomly arrest boys and put them in jail without granting them a proper trial. This is part of an operation to clear the streets of vagabonds. As the police receive a reward for every arrested child, they are not particular about the ones they arrest; even those whose age, behaviour or social status does not fit the description run the risk of being apprehended.
Ambiguous situations like these are ideal breeding grounds for rumour, and indeed, in no time rumours do emerge. The children are cut open, it is said, and bled to death in a tub because an ailing prince – or a princess or even the King himself – has to bathe in children’s blood. This story did not originate in Paris in 1750. It was already told about the Emperor Constantine, who refused to be cured in this un-Christian way and saw his health restored by God as a reward for his righteousness.
In Paris, the then King, Louis XV [left] was one of the targets of the rumour. For his atrocities he was compared with Herod, the murderer of the innocent children. According to the French historians Arlette Farge and Jacques Revel, the fact that the people pointed to King Louis as the perpetrator reveals their hatred of a ruler who had turned from a benefactor into a Herod.
The rumour was known in 18th century Antwerp too.  Parents used to warn their children against staying out late by telling them about the ‘Blood Carriage’, a beautiful horse-drawn carriage. Inside is a rich lady who offers sweets to children playing in the street and asks them to accompany her to her castle and play with her daughter. If this approach does not succeed, she’ll just drag them inside. In her castle, their big toes are chopped off and they bleed to death in a tub for a king who suffers from a severe illness and can be cured only by the blood of children under seven.
Parisian children forced to donate their blood for an ailing member of the royal family find an exact counterpart in Third World children who are robbed of their organs for the benefit of rich Westerners – in fact, the rumour had not really changed in two and a half centuries. One version of the rumour, that stirred trouble in 1768 Lyon, even involved transplantations.  To provide a mutilated prince with a fresh arm, a new child was kidnapped each day. Day after day surgeons tried to graft a new arm, but each time the operation failed.
Earlier versions of this article appeared in the Dutch magazines Wetenschap, Cultuur & Samenleving (April 1995) and Skepter (September 1995), and in my collection of contemporary legends and rumours, Der Gebraden Baby (Amsterdam 1995). Véronique Campion-Vincent, Todd Leventhal and Eduardo Mackenzie were very generous in sharing their opinions and research materials.
- Panorama (no. 50, 1993)
- Report by Dr Patricia Rey, Buenos Aires, 6 Dec. 1993
- Renard, G., M. Gentilini, A. Fischer, Rapport d’examen de i’enfant Wenis Yeison Crus Vargas. Paris, 10 August 1995. For reactions of Robin and other parties involved see: Gillot, Nathalie, ‘Polémique sur l’enfant aveugle.’ France-Soir, 12 August 1995; Nau, Jean-Yves, ‘Un reportage sur les greffes de cornées en Colombie suscite un polemique.’ Le Monde, 17 Aug. 1996; Proenza, Anne, ‘Un document violemment critiqué a Bogota.’ Le Monde 17 Aug. 1995; Bantman, Beatrice, ‘Jeison, aveugle mais pas victime.’ Liberation, 18 Sept. 1995; Fritisch, Laurence,‘C’était une maladie,’ France-Soir, 19 Sept. 1995; Nau, Jean-Yves, ‘Un rapport medical contredit un reportage sur un traffic d’organes en Colombie.‘ Le Monde, 19 Sept. 1995.
- Proenza, op. cit.
- Mackenzie, Eduardo,’Suspendido premio a Marie Monique Robin.’ El Espectador, 26 Sept. 1995
- Bantman, op. cit.
- This is contradicted by her one-time collaborator, Colombian human rights activist Hector Torres, who agreed to keep an eye on Jeison’s mother. According to him she has not been threatened. (Proenza, op, cit.)
- The most comprehensive overviews of the rumour’s history have been written by Campion-Vincent: ‘The Baby-parts story: a new Latin American legend’ Western Folklore 49, (Jan. 1990), pp.9-25 and Leventhal, Todd: The child organ trafficking rumour: a modern ‘urban legend’. USIA, Dec. 1994
- Soviet Active Measures in the Era of Glasnost, USIA, Washington, July 1989, pp.12-13. For a less patriotic perspective on the Aids rumours, see Turner, Patricia A., Heard it through the Grapevine; rumour in African-American culture, Berkely [etc.] 1993, pp. 151-164.
- Penberthy, Jefferson, ‘An abominable trade’, Time 20 Feb. 1995; Ulli Rauss & Jay Ullal, ‘Nieren-Klau in Indien’, Stern, 23 Feb. 1995.
- Leventhal, Todd, ‘The illegal transportation and sale of human organs: reality or myth?’ Paper read at the annual meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Ghent, 25 Apr. 1995.
- Frankel, Mark, John Barry & David Schrieberg, ‘Too good to be true.’ Newsweek, June 26 1995.
- Main sources for the Guatemala organ theft scare: ’Foreigners attacked in Guatemala.’ New York Times, 5 Apr. 1994; Carol Morello, ‘A nation in the grip of panic’. Philadelphia Inquirer, 10 Apr. 1994; Mark Frankel & Edward Orlebar, ‘Child stealers go home’ Newsweek, 18 Apr. 1994; Laura Lopez ‘Dangerous Rumors’, Time, 18 Apr. 1994; Gleck, Elizabeth, ‘Rumor and Rage’, People, 25 Apr. 1994; ‘Body parts panic in Guatemala’ FOAFtale News 33/34 (June 1994), pp.17-18; Shonder, John A., ‘Organ theft rumors in Guatemala, some personal observations’, FOAFtale News 35 (Oct. 1994), pp. 1-4.
- Campion-Vincent, op. cit.
- Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, Death Without Weeping: the violence of everyday life in Brazil, Berkeley [etc.] 1992, chapter 6: ‘Everyday violence. Bodies, death and silence.’ pp. 216-267. Pages 233-239 deal with rumours of organ traffic.
- Op, cit, p. 233
- Op. cit. p. 238-239
- Oliver-Smith, Anthony, ‘The Pishtaco, Institutionalised fear in highland Peru’, Journal of American Folklore 82 (1969), pp. 363-368; Caro, Frank de. ‘The body parts panic and the Peruvian pistaco tradition.’ FOAFtale News 36 (Jan. 1995), pp. 1-2.
- Burger, Peter, De Wraak van der Kangoeroe. Sagen uit het Moderne Leven. Amsterdam 1992, pp. 23-2620
- Whenever the tellers specify the child’s gender, it’s always a boy. Why?
- Numerous collectors of contemporary legends in all parts of the world have recorded versions of the kidney heist legend. See, for example, Brednich, Rolf Wilhelm, Sagenhafte Geschichten von Herute. Munchen 1994, pp 215-217, 310-311; Brunvand, Jan Harold, The Baby Train and other Lusty Urban Legends. New York 1989, pp. 149-154; Czubala, Dionizjusz, ‘The “Black Volga”: child abduction urban legends in Poland and Russia’, FOAFtale News 21 (March 1991), pp 1-2; Goldstuck, Arthur, The Leopard in the Luggage. Urban legends from Southern Africa, Johannesburg, 1993, pp. 99-101; Klintberg, Bengt af, Den Stoma Njuren, Sagner och Rykten i var Tid. Norstedts, 1994, pp. 15-22, 66-68; Seat, Graham. Great Australian Urban Myths, Sydney 1995, pp. 133-135; Toselli, Paolo, La famosa invasione delle vipere valanti e altre leggende metropolitane dell’Italia d’oggi. Milan 1994, pp. 149-164.
- Forge, Arlette & Jacques Revel. Logiques de la Foule. L’affair des Enlevements d’enfants Paris 1750, Paris 1988. (English translation The Vanishing Children of Paris, Cambridge, MA, 1991)
- Roodenburg, Herman. ‘The autobiography of Isabella de Moerloose: sex, childrearing and popular belief in seventeenth century Holland.’ Journal of Social History 18 (1984/5) pp. 522-524; ‘More on body parts abductions’, FOAFtale News 32 (Feb. 1994), p.10.
- Campion-Vincent, op. cit