“The Kid Who Died Playing Dungeons and Dragons” Urban Legend

While reading the Slashdot thread on the police busting some students for their Starcraft clan web site, one of the posters likened the police hysteria over that to the furor caused when some kid died at a midwestern college after playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Anyway, the student referred to in that urban legend is James Dallas Eggbert who disappeared from the University of Michigan in 1979 for reasons that had nothing to do with Dungeons and Dragons and everything to do with personal conflicts over his parents and his sexuality. Eggbert was found after only a month after his disappearance, but he eventually dropped out of the university and committed suicide in August 1980.

William Dear, the investigator hired by Eggbert’s family to locate him, wrote a book about the case, The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III, which makes it clear the game had nothing to do with his disappearance, though by that time the urban legend was firmly entrenched. Dear’s book is long since out of print, but Shaun Hately wrote an excellent two part summary of the case that is available on the web,

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