The viral message, which most often arrived under the header "Travelers Beware," sparked an avalanche of phone calls to local authorities, prompting the New Orleans Police Department to publish an official statement on the Web to calm public fears. Investigators found no substantiating evidence whatsoever.
The story had a familiar ring. Before New Orleans, people said it happened in Houston; before Houston, Las Vegas — where an unsuspecting tourist was drugged in his hotel room by a prostitute and woke up the next morning, supposedly, in a bathtub full of ice, minus a kidney.
A chilling tale, and a dubious one
It's a scenario that has taken many forms. I first heard it myself many years ago from a friend who'd heard it from another friend, whose mother swore it had happened to a distant cousin.
Here is the Legend of the Kidney Thieves that started in New Orleans and spread a fair amount of hysteria:
Netlore Archive: 'I wish to warn you about a new crime ring that is targeting business travelers. This ring is well organized, well funded, has very skilled personnel, and is currently in most major cities and recently very active in New Orleans.'
Description: Urban legend / Forwarded email Circulating since: 1996 (this version) Status: False Analysis: See article
Email example contributed by a reader in 1997:
Subject: Fwd: Travelers BEWARE!!!!!!
I wish to warn you about a new crime ring that is targeting business travelers. This ring is well organized, well funded, has very skilled personnel, and is currently in most major cities and recently very active in New Orleans.
The crime begins when a business traveler goes to a lounge for a drink at the end of the work day.
A person in the bar walks up as they sit alone and offers to buy them a drink. The last thing the traveler remembers until they wake up in a hotel room bath tub, their body submerged to their neck in ice, is sipping that drink. There is a note taped to the wall instructing them not to move and to call 911. A phone is on a small table next to the bathtub for them to call.
The business traveler calls 911 who have become quite familiar with this crime.
The business traveler is instructed by the 911 operator to very slowly and carefully reach behind them and feel if there is a tube protruding from their lower back. The business traveler finds the tube and answers, "Yes." The 911 operator tells them to remain still, having already sent paramedics to help. The operator knows that both of the business traveler's kidneys have been harvested.
This is not a scam or out of a science fiction novel, it is real.
It is documented and confirmable. If you travel or someone close to you travels, please be careful.
Analysis and more variants:
The Kidney Snatchers - An Urban Legend
Organ harvesting legends reviewed and debunked The Kidney Thieves (Austin, Texas)
Another outbreak of kidney theft hysteria (1997)
Info from Article
By David Emery, About.com Guide