In addition to chain letters that attempt to separate you from some cash, there are two other basic kinds.

One is the "religious" letter. It represents itself to be a prayer that has been around the world seven times or nine times. It is seemingly innocuous, but an undercurrent of threats runs through it.

Mr. Smith, who kept the letter going, won $7 million in a lottery, but Mr. Jones, who broke the chain, was struck by lightning and killed; and Mr. Brown, who also broke the chain, choked death on a fish bone. That sort of thing.

If the recipient of such a letter has even a slight spark of superstition in him (and who among us hasn't?), he's really afraid to break the chain.

The third type of chain letter is a spoof of the firt two, and attempts to be humorous. A sample of this type of letter was forwarded to me by retired U.S. Naval Reserve captain J. Bruce Scrymgeour. It is circulated among married women, and goes like this:

"This chain was started by a woman like yourself in the hope of bringing relief to tired, discontented women.

"Unlike most chain letters, this one does not anything.

"Just send a copy of this letter to five of your friends who are equally discontended. Then bundle up your husband and send him to the woman whose name is at the top of the list. Add your name to the bottom of the list.

"Wehn your name comes to the top of the list, you will received 16,478 men, and some of them will be dandies. Have faith and don't break the chain. One woman broke it and got her own blankety-blank husband back. A woman in Baltimore received 183 men. They buried her yesterday. It took the undertakers 36 hours to get the smile off her face."

There is also a version for discontented males. It has a different ending.