Beware the burning CD

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

You can forgive the average South African for being paranoid about crime, given that we live in a country that has extremely high crime statistics. Urban legends generally feed off paranoia and there are a number of gems that have been doing the rounds for years, which regularly get rehashed and circulated among the somewhat gullible public.

What are urban legends? According to Wikipedia, they are a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true, and often possess horror implications that are believable to their audience. They often circulate for years in one form or another and are commonly localised in order to have a greater impact.

A gassy theory

For example the “burning CD myth” started long before CDs were actually invented! In the bad old days, people who slept through a robbery came up with the theory that burglars pumped gas into the bedroom in order to render the victims unconscious. Yes it’s true, robbers of the day were carting huge cylinders of gas around the suburbs of South Africa in order to incapacitate their victims and give them free range to plunder at will. They must have been fairly wealthy robbers because the amount of gas needed to have this effect would cost more than the household contents were worth.

Then came the CD legend. There are hoards of people who genuinely believe that robbers have hatched a new cunning plan in order to relieve homeowners of their goods. The dastardly plan is simple and effective – they burn a CD outside a window and presto, everyone, including the dogs, falls into a toxic sleep. The stories vary but essentially entail a house getting cleaned out and the homeowners discovering a pile of ash outside one of the bedroom windows. All the victims claim to be light sleepers and most swear that all the doors and windows were locked before they went to bed.

The science aint sound

We did a little research – well quite a bit actually – and can't find anything scientific that suggests that the fumes from a burning CD has a similar effect to military nerve gas. We did, however, find an article that claims hyena tail hair has much the same effect. As with the gas theory, one has to ask, how much in the way of fumes could a couple of CDs or a few hyena tails make? Even if (and this is a big if) the smoke was narcotic to this extent how many CDs or hyenas would be needed to be burnt in order to render a house full of people unconscious?

For those who truly believe that the CD myth is true, there are apparently ways of keeping you and your family safe. We have it in very good authority that you can neutralise the fumes by keeping a CD in a bowl of water. Yes, according to some, this handy little antidote will soak up all the toxic fumes rendering the smoking CD issue useless.

Snore away!

Basically, what we are trying to say is, that while it may be hard to believe that you can sleep through a home invasion, it is actually quite a common occurrence and doesn't have anything to do with ingenious robbers carting hundreds of CDs around; deep sleep, according to those in the know, is a state from which it is difficult to awaken. It is represented by slower brain waves called delta activity on an EEG and is referred to stage three in studies.

On that note – sleep well tonight.

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