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If you’re still in the Halloween spirit, there’s a chilling news story about the deadly hair weave, infested with ear-burrowing worms.

If you haven’t heard of the story, (and have the stomach for it), the reports go something like this:

Irene Myangoh, a personal assistant working at a law firm, went to a renowned hair salon along Kenyatta Avenue, in the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi, and spent more than N5,500 on a human hair weave. Two weeks later she started suffering from severe headache that would not go away. She even could not sleep at nights and was forced to call a private doctor. The doctor proscribed her drugs for the relief of mild to moderate pain of inflammatory origin with or without fever. This did not solve Myangoh’s problems: the effect from the medicine lasted for a few hours only, and then the headache would be back worse than even before. Desperate, the lady went to see another specialist who did blood tests and even a brain scan. All the tests were negative but the headache persisted, making her unable to concentrate at work and sleeping very poorly. Fortunately, her doctor who decided to examine her scalp carefully, and, under the beautiful weave, he found worms!The worms were burrowing into her skull and after sending the samples to the lab they found that the hair had eggs from which the worms had developed. Irene had to shave after this ordeal and took antibiotics for two weeks. The alleged reason of parasites appearance is that the hair has been taken from a dead body.In a parallel story, a 16-year-old girl from Buruburu, a Nairobi surburb, also suffered similar fate, but unfortunately for her, she died. The girl dropped dead after constant headaches. Cobweb eggs were found in her hair after corpse examination. The root of death was unnoticed spider eggs. The warmth produced after weaving provided a very conducive environment for the eggs to hatch. A spider grew in her scalp and bit her. The poison found its way to her blood. She had no chance to survive the attack…”

Somebody cue the Vincent Price laugh because we have a certifiable Thriller on our hands…

The sources of the tale has been narrowed down to three African gossip blogs: Trendy Sturvs, iReporters TV and Stella Dimoko Korkus however variations of the story have been showing up on various continental African and African-American websites and hair message boards including Naturally Moi, Information Nigeria, Nairaland, and Long Hair Care Forum. The horrifying narration of the deadly hair weave has also been making the rounds on social media, particularly Facebook, where it has been mainly posted as a cautionary warning for weave wearers about the potential dangers lurking behind that 18 inches of virgin Indian. But despite being a rallying cry for #TeamNatural – as well as some pretty funny fodder for some concern trolling – few have stopped to find out if the terrifying story of the deadly hair weave is even true.

According to the website Snopes: Heck no, silly rabbits. Hair tricks are for kids. Get it? “Hair” and “Hare?” Oh never mind…

From Snopes:

The tale of the contaminated hair weave is long on gruesomeness and variable details but short on checkable facts. While the victim’s first name is always provided (depending on the version one receives, she’s Krystal, Laimi, or Irene), her surname rarely is. Likewise, while the account always says she’s a personal assistant at a lawyer’s office, the name of the lawyer or firm that employs her is not given. The salon where the manky hair was installed is described only as an “upmarket hair salon” on a street that’s either Independence or Kenyatta, which is in a city that’s either in Namibia or Kenya, two countries the entire width of Africa apart.”

Even in the age where information tends to travels faster than all the facts, it is hard to believe that a legitimate news story would neglect to put a name the shop at the center of what is not only a scandalous incident but what very much sounds like a crime (i.e. grave digging, tampering with corpses, theft, etc…). If not for journalistic integrity than at least for liability sake (heavens forbid, we confuse one “upmarket hair salon” with another). Not to mention that a quick search on the good ole’ Google revealed that the same story has been trending on blogs and hair care forums since 2010 including on the message boards of Black Hair Media, where instead of the hair salon being located on Kenyatta Avenue in Kenya, it was on  Independence Avenue in the Republic of Namibia. According to Snopes, there are four variations of the deadly weave worm story and they all appears to be a composition of three faved wives tales including the fatal bouffant hairstyle, which (according to legend) after years of being unwashed, became the home of venomous spiders.

So why how do these stories make their way around the black blogosphere when there are so few verifiable facts?

Well,because they play on our ignorance and preconceived biases. In the case of the deadly weave worm, the story works well because it plays off our collective ignorance of what we think we know of Africa. It may not be malicious especially considering that we are constantly bombarded with imagines and stories throughout the media of the immoral, desperate and backwards dark continent. And if we recall that not too long ago, the internet was abuzz over sensationalized reports about a rash of hair crimes in South Africa, involving the theft of dreadlocks right from people’s heads. While there had been two reported cases of dreadlocks being stolen, as it turned out, the frequency of the occurrences might have been greatly overstated. Nevertheless the story – with its travel advisements about the alleged increase in random acts of hair stealing – had already imprinted in our minds. And it is that conditioning, which has made it easier to be-weave a fanciful tale about some crazy African walking around with remains of some deceased person on their heads.

Likewise, and probably more importantly, the weave worm story also latches ( “latches” get it?) onto the widespread hatred of hair weaves, particularly those worn by black women. Not only is the victim in this story suffering consequences for her vanity but she is also being punished for abiding by European beauty standards of long, straight hair. It’s the same sort of cautionary message I’d seen recently in a Nollywood film called Brazilian Hair War, which ironically is about a street vendor, who has the misfortune of having the silky straight of a dead ghost sewn onto her head.  It may not be as spooky as the hair worm story but it is just as equally laughable.

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