The Death of David Gregory

The Truth Behind the Internet Legend

Image of a sewer on the street

David Crespo / Getty Images 

Not to be confused with the TV journalist of the same name, the David Gregory of internet fame is a fictional character who allegedly died at the hands of a vengeful ghost named Carmen Winstead.

Winstead herself supposedly died after a gang of bullies from her school pushed her down a sewer drain, causing her to break her neck. According to an online chain letter that began circulating in 2006, Winstead returned from the dead to take revenge on her tormentors, killing them one by one before turning her murderous attention to those who failed to share the story of how she died. The hapless David Gregory was one of them.


The 16-year-old "read this post and didn't repost it," an addendum to the chain letter claimed. The punishment for his failure was a violent one:

"He said good night to his mom and went to sleep, but five hours later, his mom woke up in the middle of the night from a loud noise and David was gone. A few hours later, the police found him in the sewer, with a broken neck and the skin on his face peeled off."

Why exactly his skin was peeled off is never explained.

The tale of Carmen Winstead is a classic urban legend (of which there are many other examples, including Bloody Mary and The Hook Man). It's also an example of creepypasta, an internet phenomenon that includes brief horror stories, videos, and disturbing images that are shared via social media. Creepypasta is a subcategory of copypasta (as in "copy and paste"). In the case of the David Gregory story, a fragment snipped from a larger text (the Winstead chain letter) has taken on a life of its own thanks to social media.

Digital Folklore

There is no reason to believe, of course, that the story of Carmen Winstead is true, in whole or in part. No reports have been found of anyone by this name dying in a sewer, as the story claims. Nor is there any reason to believe that a teenager named David Gregory (or any other person in the world, for that matter) has had his neck broken and skin peeled off as punishment for failing to repost a chain letter. It's just a ghost story, the only real point of which is to scare you enough to get you to pass it along to someone else:

"If you don’t repost this saying
'She was pushed'
or 'They Pushed her down a sewer'
Then Carmen will get you, either from a sewer, the toilet, the shower, or when you go to sleep you’ll wake up in the sewer, in the dark, then Carmen will come and kill you."

Stories like this one are examples of a kind of digital folklore designed not only to frighten readers but also to impart some kind of lesson. Experts believe that "most scare chains contain a latent or patent moral lesson, such as 'be aware of surroundings' or other actionable advice." The story of David Gregory might be read as a warning to those who ignore the victims of bullying, a warning that those who turn a blind eye will later become victims themselves.