Friday, May 21, 2004

He went from pulling wings to pulling legs

Maggie Downs

Brandon Breeden, the founder and CEO of, wants everyone to know a few things about the periodical pests.

• Cicadas are vicious killers.

• Cicadas prey on innocent children and pets.

• And this year, cicadas will kill more people than snakes, spiders, scorpions and sharks combined.

"With all the hype of the cicadas, I figured I might as well throw out as much misinformation as possible," said Breeden, 25, who lives near Eden Park.

Breeden launched the humor site about a month ago. With all the recent buzz about these bugs, the site has already received more than 400,000 unique visitors and has been linked on about 100 other Web sites.

The site - which proclaims, "Cicadas kill. Save yourself." - started as a few jokes shared between Breeden and his friends.

"Some people find them to be pests. Some people find them as marvelous acts of God. I find them as great humor outlets," he said. "Now what started as a joke has 400,000 people reading."

Because of, Breeden has been tackling an e-mail inbox that's swarming with feedback. About a hundred of the messages have been from people who take the site seriously.

"They tell us to check our information," he said. "And I look at the Web site and think, 'You have got to be kidding me.' "

Perhaps they missed the disclaimer that says, "Please do not be stupid enough to believe anything you read on this site."

"Apparently, people only read what they want to read," Breeden said.

The headlines and information at are Onion-like in nature, with sweeping generalizations, outrageous exaggerations and outright lies.

There's the information on how to protect children: "It is important to shrink-wrap all children under the age of 12. Shrink wrapping is the only way to protect kids from the ferocious cicada."

There's the detailed chart showing the anatomy of a cicada: "Head" and "body." (Also the anatomy chart of cicada expert Dr. Gene Kritsky: "Head" and "body.")

Then there are the hilarious frequently asked questions, like: "Do cicadas make that loud buzzing sound to attract a mate?" The answer: "Our research indicates that sound is actually a battle cry that roughly translates as, 'Kill the humans.' "

The satirical barbs on Cicadaville do have a grain of truth in them: Greater Cincinnati is obsessed with these visitors that come every 17 years. We've endured endless media coverage, dissecting every angle of the region's 5 billion bugs. Merchants around the area are cashing in on the buzz with T-shirts, hats, umbrellas, CDs and more. Support groups and workshops help residents cope during this trying time.

Breeden especially hopes those folks are checking out the site.

"There's an epidemic of cicada phobia going around," he said. "I'd like to think I'm doing my part to contribute to that."

Breeden himself has quite a background with the red-eyed little monsters. During the last invasion, as an 8-year-old in Northern Kentucky, he forced cicadas to drive Matchbox cars. He made towns and used the creatures as makeshift people. And he watched the bugs try to fly after ripping their heads off.

"All sorts of gnarly boy stuff," he said.

Now, after months of research to lay the foundation of his jokes, Breeden has become an accidental cicada authority.

"I'm so educated about their habitat and how they mate and where they live," he said. "And I'm not going to share that with anybody."


UC's newest mainstay
Master plan aspires to boost UC's rank
Litterbugs face snap judgments
Attorneys fight lawsuit curbs
Regional clean air group formed
Fleeing SUV injures six

Chesley joins Amberley fight
Prosecutors say ex-officer paid for burglary that killed wife
Reunion gala includes Edgecliff graduates
Dater's widow offers to settle
Mental services renewal on ballot
Ballot issues set for Aug. 3
Tax issues fill up ballots
If levy fails, fees go in effect
Reading assistant coach accused of raping girl, 13
Foundation halts payments to reimburse schools
74-year-old begins 5-year prison term
Coach facing sex charges
Public Safety Briefs
News briefs
Neighbors briefs

Downs: He went from pulling wings to pulling legs
Good Things Happening

Thomas Hesketh, 75, shop owner, firefighter
Francis X. Shannon, helped upgrade Madeira/IH Fire Co.

Kentucky one of nine states with waiting lists for free AIDS drugs
Business fights a tangled web
Former lawmaker named revenue head
Fletcher hopes to get Japanese factory in Ky.
Fort Thomas might limit teacher raises
Back from Iraq, Reserve unit gets presidential honor
Dem's camp gets a shakeup