Hey, Remember The Mobile, Alabama Leprechaun Video That Inspired A Thousand Memes?
While Saint Patrick's Day is always a jolly good time, what with all those green rivers and four-leaf clovers, it was especially memorable in Mobile, Alabama in 2006. Eight years ago, Mobile residents reported sighting a leprechaun in the days before the holiday, and when a local news station picked up the story, it launched one of YouTube's very first viral videos.
The story was certainly newsworthy — after all, it isn't every day that a little green man is spotted frolicking about, particularly in Mobile. But as interesting as the leprechaun was itself, it was the supporting cast of the story that made it so intriguing. Everything from the "amateur sketch" to eyewitnesses' many conspiracy theories about the origins of the leprechaun quickly transformed this local news segment into a national sensation.
It began innocently enough. A few days before Saint Patrick's Day, Mobile's local NBC station decided to run a timely story about the supposed sightings of "Irish folklore." But media crews who were sent to investigate the large crowds in Crichton, Alabama seemed to create a frenzy of leprechaun-sighting hopefuls, complete with a leprechaun flute and a pot of gold. Now, eight years later, let's take a look back at one of the original viral stories and get to the bottom of this leprechaun business.
Show me the money! I mean, the video!
All right, all right — the mother of viral videos, the "Mobile Leprechaun" has been viewed nearly 24 million times since it was released on Saint Patrick's Day in 2006. Time ranked it among the top 50 videos in YouTube's history, and the video has spawned a series of paraphernalia, from mouse pads to T-shirts that feature the now infamous "amateur sketch" that, in all honesty, looked like a 3-year-old's blind-folded doodle.
While many other viral videos, think "Charlie Bit My Finger" or "David After Dentist," relied on the cute factor of their main character for their popularity, the Mobile Leprechaun is one of the few viral videos whose star never appears. Perhaps it is the mystery of the leprechaun that has kept audiences coming back for nearly a decade.
Did news crews know what they were getting into?
No, not at all. When the story began, WPMI-TV15 reporters had no idea they were about to cover a mythological creature sighting. In fact, as Scott Walker, one of the anchors who introduced and concluded the clip, later wrote, "We weren’t going out there to cover a Leprechaun sighting (that would have been a questionable decision)."
Rather, the news station was attempting to discover why large crowds were gathering night after night in the Crichton community, causing problems and even necessitating a police presence to keep the order. When they arrived on scene, locals began telling news crews that there was a leprechaun in the trees. Said Walker, "We started shooting video and that’s when the people of Crichton took over and turned this story into an Internet sensation."
Was it the leprechaun that made the video famous?
Well, considering the leprechaun never made an appearance (and probably never will, considering it's, you know, a leprechaun), it might not have been the fictional green creature that drew millions of YouTube views. Rather, it was the personalities of the locals who provided such perfect commentary that kept audiences coming back for more.
There's the jovial first interviewee who encourages fellow onlookers to validate the existence of the leprechaun, and shrugs happily to the crowd's cheers. Then there's the skeptic with the shadow theory. And then, of course, there's the woman who launched a thousand T-shirt designs, all by saying that the "leprechaun" could've been a "crackhead" who simply got into the "wrong stuff."
Of course, there were also the sincerest believers, like the man who donned a suit that warded off spells and came bearing a "special leprechaun flute" passed down for thousands of years.
What ever happened to that awful sketch?
That awful sketch will likely haunt your every step, considering you can buy a shirt with the so-called leprechaun design from online retailers like Amazon, CafePress, Zazzle, and the original, WheredaGoldat.com. And it's not just shirts — CafePress offers everything from onesies to aprons to teddy bears to iPhone cases to mugs, all embossed with the effectively faceless leprechaun.
But as for the sketch itself, Walker writes that the famous drawing was auctioned off by WPMI for $1,100. The proceeds went to the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, and the sketch, presumably, went to a leprechaun enthusiast.
While we may never know whether or not leprechauns are a truly denizens of our world, one thing's for certain — the residents of Crichton are more than prepared to deal with them when they arrive.