May 21, 2001
9:43 AM   Subscribe

The plot sickens. The last thread on the Kaycee Nicole hoax appears to be throttling MetaFilter, so I'm publishing this link for those who are still playing along at home.
posted by rcade (227 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
To bring up a different subject, the idea of making friend or creating idols that are personable and interact with real people is not a new thing. The fact that we were not told that Kaycee was a semi-fictional character just happen to make this a little different from say Japan's Idol, "Kyoko Date". (Do a search anywhere, you'll get tons of info on her.)

Having fictional characters that interact with us, without first questioning their authenticity is not that far off from the future. We can all understand the outpour of emotions that we are seeing in these two threads, but were this to have happened in another country that has accepted that it is okay to be infatuated with a fictional character (I mean, we never object to teenagers worshipping and writing and sending flowers and spending money on gifts for their popular idols), say...I don't know, a country that started the tamagochi fever and highly believable and lovable Digital Characters in video games...this may not have been such a big deal.

Given, that suddenly, you are aware that anyone that you don't interact with in reallife, can potentially be an "artificial intelligence" or variations of. (I use AI VERY loosely.) This is something that could very well happen in the next decade. In fact, hasn't it already started?
posted by margaretlam at 9:45 AM on May 21, 2001

there is a difference between interacting with a construct and finding yourself sometimes forgetting that they are not real, and intereacting with a construct and never being *told* that they are not real.

posted by rebeccablood at 9:49 AM on May 21, 2001

Amen, rebeccablood, and pass the effing peaches!
posted by JettSuperior at 9:52 AM on May 21, 2001

Freethinker1 has updated her weblog about this.
posted by rcade at 9:56 AM on May 21, 2001

thanks, rcade. we needed a new thread about 100 posts ago! i found some more pictures of "kaycee" here and some broken images here . i'm still amazed at the lengths this woman/person went to. her poor children.

to the person who asked if anyone had called debbie swenson, what exactly would we say? so, debbie. when exactly did you lose touch with reality and decided to screw with thousands of minds?
posted by phooey at 9:57 AM on May 21, 2001

More Kaycee here (Google cache link). Search down for "aaron" to see a disquieting connection. ;)
posted by rodii at 9:58 AM on May 21, 2001

You see had I known that "Kaycee" was fabricated I would have taken the story in an entirely different light, as I've said before...If this woman wanted to tell the story of three of her loved ones, she could have done it in a better way, and without causing all of this.
posted by caren at 9:58 AM on May 21, 2001

I have been talking with Peter in e-mail -- he knows Kaycee the same way John and others do, through phone calls and e-mail.

This is interesting. That Tazwhoozits page sure made it seem like they were dating. Another Debbie fraud page?
posted by aaron at 10:04 AM on May 21, 2001

I'm just pointing out, that this isn't going to be a "special case" forever, and not to bring up the whole thing about people's faith and trust in others on-line.

I'm merely pointing out that there may be a point in the future where we expect to encounter these kind of things frequently on-line.

I'm not trying to justify and say that everything is okay.
posted by margaretlam at 10:05 AM on May 21, 2001

I'm not aware of, nor do I care about, the particulars of this case, but I hope that people will learn something from it; namely, that it pays to have a healthy skepticism about anything you see on the web.

The very nature of the Internet encourages this type of deception because accountability is severely limited where it exists at all. And because the medium is anonymous and impersonal. People put on faces every day. They show you the part of themselves that they want you to see. If you're dealing with the person face to face, you may still be taken in, but you have a lot more information to use to determine the person's veracity. And you have immediate feedback. On the net, people can show you a very limited piece of themselves, and they have plenty of time to refine what they say to make it credible. The net is supposed to bring people together, but that works only at a superficial level. I think it actually discourages a lot of people from forming more meaningful relationships.

I talk with people on the Internet all the time, but I try to take the interaction for what it is: words on the screen. If it's a person who's local and who I think would make a good friend, then I try to meet him, because to me, he's not a real person until I do meet him. Or at least not a complete person. When you mix the real and the unreal, you get trouble. Reading someone's page and having compassion is fine, but then crossing the line and sending real stuff to an assumed real person is asking for trouble.

I sympathize with what everyone is saying, but some of it strikes me as disingenuous. Saying things like "I'm 100% certain" that so-and-so was/wasn't involved is misguided. You can't even be 100% certain that you're going to wake up tomorrow. "It doesn't make sense that..." is not much better. People on the web do things that don't make sense all the time. I'm not saying that you're wrong, only that your certainty is illusory.

I'm sorry, but saying that it doesn't matter whether it was real or not is ludicrous. All that compassion you felt was felt for something unreal. Until you knew that this person wasn't real, you'd have said that the compassion was largely for her benefit. Now that she's not real, suddenly it was for your benefit? Compassion is not a physical entity. If you put more of it out in the atmosphere, it's not suddenly available for people who need it to take. The likely result of this incident is that people will feel less compassion for people who genuinely need it, and that's not good.

Skepticism is not the same thing as cynicism. I am not a cynical person. And I think I'm a fairly compassionate person. But it makes more sense for the actions based on that compassion to benefit people I know. Or if it's people I don't know, it makes more sense to do it through a legitimate charity.

The other thing is that the web is a public medium, similar to the legitimate press but without the controls. Anything you put out here is subject to public scrutiny. It doesn't matter whether people have a right to know: they have the ability and the opportunity to investigate, and no one else has a right to stop them.
posted by anapestic at 10:06 AM on May 21, 2001 [1 favorite]

Hey phooey, on that second link you posted with the photos of Kaycee, none of them work..but looking at the source it says that one is called "kelli4.jpg" and one is called "brypitch.jpg" isn't that the names of the children on the Swenson Family home page?
posted by caren at 10:07 AM on May 21, 2001

New theory: Unable and unwilling to prove the existence of her daughter, Debbie gave in and said everything was a hoax to get people to shut up and go away. 2+2=5 here but it crossed my mind, so I thought I would share.
posted by thirteen at 10:10 AM on May 21, 2001

I'm still confused.

Was there actually a Kaycee, who had and died of leukaemia at some point in the past? Was she one of the three people Debbie mentioned? (if that was true, and who knows?)

Couple of thoughts on the whole internet/fake identities thing in my last post.
posted by emc at 10:15 AM on May 21, 2001

Debbie gave in and said everything was a hoax to get people to shut up and go away.

And see how well it worked? See how everyone is going away? Like a dog with a bone, some people won't give up until they can eat the very marrow.
posted by crunchland at 10:16 AM on May 21, 2001 [1 favorite]

How did "Kaycee" become so popular? How did everybody start being addicted to her weblog? Were there hundreds of readers? Thousands?

Is this one of those things that bloggers obsesess over and no-one else? Google groups shows NO REFERENCES to "Kaycee Nicole" in Usenet.
posted by Erendadus at 10:17 AM on May 21, 2001

wow, i've become a mefi addict. that didn't take very long.

my thoughts on all of this. i know john styn -- he's shared my room before, he's stayed at my house -- and i think he's got his head around the issues surrounding this very well. john understands persona and projection. he lives up to his persona and projections online and off -- he's real, and what you get online of him is also real. but what about other people's projections?

i'm drawn into all of this for what it means for online communities -- like this one, or, or citizenx, or all of the people who met "kaycee" through whatever methods. i'm sorry for the people who feel duped and tricked, but i find it strangely heartening that people do believe this much, that people are brought together in these ways.

those of you who sigh heavily and say you'll never trust again, i hope you're wrong. you've had your heart broken before and you've gone onto love again. you've found wonderful reasons to get together and carry on and be real.
posted by maximolly at 10:18 AM on May 21, 2001

If you think this is weird, you should see what happens on stock boards. Conspiracy, fraud, rumor, deceit, and impersonation are all in day's work.
posted by Erendadus at 10:19 AM on May 21, 2001

The old thread loads pretty quick in Opera, for those of you who want to play catch up (unless you want to save mathowie some bandwidth).
posted by lia at 10:23 AM on May 21, 2001

to the person who asked if anyone had called debbie swenson, what exactly would we say?

That's a good question. I don't know what I'd say. I was just curious if anyone had called her directly, because it seems like everyone else in Peabody has had their phone ring this week. Seems to me like if you were investigating this, you'd start with her first, then get in touch with others to verify whatever she says, then go back to her to cross check any inconsistencies. Lather, rinse, repeat.

At some point, someone's going to have to get in touch with her, because until then, we aren't going to know the full picture of what really went on, no matter how much background investigation is done. Of course, I wouldn't ever expect to get the full picture from someone who spent two years creating a fiction more difficult to untie than the Gordian knot.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:32 AM on May 21, 2001

I really hope nobody calls Debbie. If she is emotionally unstable, calling her could be detrimental to her and to the caller. Also, I doubt she would tell anybody anything.

I understand (and am enjoying reading about) the desire to find out what really happened, and while I have no personal stock in the situation, I am interested to know how it turns out. But I don't think harassing a potentially disturbed woman is the way to get those details.
posted by jennyb at 10:33 AM on May 21, 2001

but i find it strangely heartening that people do believe this much
I'm totally with you. well, I think that the reason is simple: maybe we all have a healthy tendency to be skeptical about regular stuff we find on the Net. But when it comes to the diary of a young person with a terminal illness we -- as decent people -- probably trust more.
Because, probably, some of us still hold some things as sacred. I.e., you can lie about your age and looks and college degree and stuff like that, no big deal, people do that all the time on Net. Unfortunately, it's easy to pretend. It's not ethical, but it's easy.
But for God's sake, you don't lie about having terminal cancer, you don't impersonate a dying girl either for financial gain or because of your mental illness.
That's all, I just think many smart people who read Metafilter just turned off their bullshit detectors, just for once, in this case. Because it's pretty sick to pull a stunt like Debbie's, or whatever her name is, and maybe we thought you don't cold-bloodedly plan a hoax about leukemia.
Anyway, what goes around comes around.
posted by matteo at 10:48 AM on May 21, 2001

I don't think one delicately worded phone call would constitute harrassment, but I can certainly understand where one might not want to bother this person, nor do I intend to whip people into a frenzy about confronting her. Sorry if I came off that way...
posted by MegoSteve at 10:48 AM on May 21, 2001

>>New theory: Unable and unwilling to prove the existence of her daughter...said everything was a hoax to get people to shut up <<

That one crossed my mind too, as I've resolved on many occasions to let people "think what they want...I don't care anymore".

I was afraid to even mention it since I was in the "Kaycee is real" camp.

I think I have it all figured out (everything you need is in the other two threads), but it's not worth opening that can of worms.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 10:48 AM on May 21, 2001

And of course, does anyone have hard and fast proof that Debbie Swenson herself was physically involved? Other than the circumstantial envidence?

I was asked in the previous thread to 'show some restraint'. I just don't see anyone else showing any restraint.

While you may feel justified, and believe me, I understand (it was morally wrong, etc, etc), this prying into other people's lives isn't right. People have felt justified to track down people I know who had websites and show up places they worked asking for dates and whatnot because they 'connected' with them online. Yes, Kaycee isn't real, but hopefully you get the idea.

Why not try and compile a list of everyone who interacted with Kaycee online and share notes.. maybe you'll get a hit of someone who met the people, or someone who was confided in that it was a hoax. Otherwise, I think anything else is spinning your gears, or crossing the line.

Just don't stay in hotels in New Orleans. They steal your organs and leave you in a bathtub.
posted by rich at 10:54 AM on May 21, 2001

What anapestic said. Bravo!
posted by rushmc at 11:00 AM on May 21, 2001

emc, we’re all confused.

As someone who didn’t follow the KayCee journal, when this was real vs. hoax it was interesting, but when it became a question of extent and responsibility this turned into something else entirely.

As Bonzo did in the last thread, review time.

The theory which I believe most of us are operating under is that Debbie Swenson is responsible for most (if not all) of the correspondence and the web presence. There may have been a female whom Debbie knew that died of leukemia, but her name wasn’t KayCee, and she surely didn’t die last week.

Debbie may have handled all the correspondence regarding “KayCee” and herself. This has not been established and is one of the unanswered questions since several people have used evidence of two voices when defending KayCee as real.

People who have sent gifts have been told, by Debbie, that they were recycled to other ailing cancer patients or their families. That certainly hasn’t been established, nor was it their intended purpose.

Rcade has established Debbie Swenson rented a PO Box in Peabody, Kansas which was closed sometime in March. (I suppose if anyone sent cards to that address after the death announcement they’d have bounced back by now return to sender or NATA.) Her IP is and leads to a dialup in Peabody.

The Swenson’s pastor was called yesterday (at least, we’re pretty sure), he said he’d make sure Debbie is alright.

Some new links:
(The male in the above page is Peter Voutov, read an email from him here. He will apparently be joining the discussion soon.)

As Kaya, John Halcyon Styn’s brother, noted in the first KayCee thread, “I still feel there are many holes in the story.”

Well, there are.

Who is the second voice Randall spoke with?

If there is a second person — as opposed to Debbie masking her voice — who helped her in this hoax?

If there was more than one person involved, where did “KayCee” end and Debbie start? Who is responsible for what correspondence?

Who is the person in the photos?

What happened to the gifts, care packages and money?


I’d like to echo Jennyb’s comment, that none of us should pick up the phone and start calling the Swenson family (their phone number and email have been found). Steven made a pretty good moral argument regarding responsibility of uncovering the rest of the information.

“Part of why people accepted Kaycee is because BWG said I know her. I've talked to her on the phone. I'm absolutely certain she's what she says she is, and if you disagree then you're evil, heartless, cynical...Because of his unwitting complicity in this, people who trusted him are owed answers by BWG. He is responsible not because he was a party to the hoax, but because he was its primary victim.”

Welcome to MetaFilter, home of kittens and “KayCee”.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 11:17 AM on May 21, 2001

It begs to be restated that we do not know for a fact that the person pictured in these photographs -- the person who, perhaps, created this sites -- is in any way connected to Kaycee Nicole and/or Debbie Swenson. The person behind this con may very well have hijacked this girl's identity (and Debbie Swenson's identity) to suit their means.
posted by Danelope at 11:20 AM on May 21, 2001

this whole thing is just so bizarre and disturbing. it's like watching a train wreck, you want to look away, but you just can't.

(btw, i'm amy, nice to meet you. i've been lurking on mefi for a long time)
posted by epoh at 11:21 AM on May 21, 2001

it's possible that debbie knows nothing about this (at least until that pastor called her). it's possible that it's a teenage prank.

posted by rebeccablood at 11:22 AM on May 21, 2001

i went out on a limb, and sent an e-mail to the addy listed on the swenson family website, we'll see if the husband "tom" responds.
posted by caren at 2:45 PM on May 21, 2001

welll...scratch that, just received this:

21 May 2001 22:28:07
FROM Mail Administrator
SUBJECT Mail System Error - Returned Mail

MESSAGE This Message was undeliverable due to the following reason:

The user(s) account is disabled.

Please reply to
if you feel this message to be in error.
posted by caren at 2:47 PM on May 21, 2001

I can't even load the Swenson family Page. Has it been taken down or is the problem only on my end?
posted by Paige at 2:51 PM on May 21, 2001

I figure anything is possible... I have written to Debbie. I will not put myself in a position over the phone. I may or may not get an answer... if I do it will be posted on my blog.
posted by freethinker1 at 2:56 PM on May 21, 2001

I loaded the homepage just fine.
posted by freethinker1 at 2:59 PM on May 21, 2001

I loaded the homepage just fine.

Well that's strange.. Sorry to bother you all with that useless post. ;) (And this one too)
posted by Paige at 3:01 PM on May 21, 2001

I was alerted to the KayCee fiasco by a subscription to, and through links he provided found my way here. At work, I read this thread and its significant antecedents.

The discussion has struck a personal chord.


For the last two years, I have impersonated a married woman with children who was unhappy, and who had emerging bisexual fantasies.

At first, I sought out "partners" to engage in cyber-sex with other women in the sex channels of various irc and other chat clients. Somehow, I received as much as I gave, and eventually exhausted that approach.

I eventually joined an online community, created a web log with infrequent posts, and began to accumulate "friends". From a previous acquaintance , I appropriated the personal photographs she shared with me.. enough that I could parcel them out over time as new. From another "source", this one out of the country, I lifted pictures of my children, again with enough in stock to show growth and maturing. With some online friends, I have engaged in intimate discussions on ICQ, and have gained sexual gratification as well.

My persona, and the details I have built around her fictitious life, are nowhere as detailed as was provided by KayCee, and were quite mundane. While I have developed a group of followers, I have not added heart-tugs or controversy to my sharing, for fear of exposure.

What has struck me in my reading today is that people do get hurt in their online relationships, and that I have both abused their trust and jeopardized their worldview. As I delved further and further into KayCee and the response over these last days, I increasingly felt guilty.

When I got home tonight, I deleted my log, the persona's email and ICQ accounts, and all references on my computer.

I apologize to those I have deceived.
posted by AmILost at 3:49 PM on May 21, 2001 [5 favorites]

AmILost- did you tell any of your online friends that you were going to disappear, or are they all wondering what happened to their divorced friend with two kids?
posted by dogwelder at 4:48 PM on May 21, 2001 [1 favorite]

I left for Ireland on Thursday morning, got back this afternoon, and one of the messages in my inbox referred to the "train wreck" surrounding Kaycee. There was a link to the relevant MeFi thread; MeFi was down. And as the server finally began to respond, I felt for the first time in ages the lurching sick-stomach feeling of "online reality syndrome": something I first felt in 1994 when a female character on LambdaMOO outed himself.

Robert Pirsig talks of rational understanding as the attempt to navigate a waterway with charts; you make allowances for conditions, give a little slack when measuring the marker buoys, and it's only after travelling a while, making those corrections, that reality throws itself back into place with the realisation that you're miles off course. And here we are.

I wonder if every form of community on the net goes through an experience like this?

dhartung's already mentioned the Bungle Incident on Lambda; I know (as in: have actually met) one of the protagonists; and I half-suspect that Julian Dibbell would enjoy writing this story as well. It happens. And we still get caught out, just as sometimes we enter friendships and relationships that leave us feeling flummoxed, lied to, even cheated.

But it's strange: the home page cradles and nourishes personal intimacy, and especially personal grief. Seminally: Carl, or Justin's account of his father; more recently, Zeldman on the death of his mother. And that doesn't change.
posted by holgate at 5:10 PM on May 21, 2001

In the interests of moving this discussion off the "front page" of Metafilter, and allowing for those who may come to it later, I've opened a Yahoo Group for the Kaycee Nicole situation. I hope this will reduce the load on Metafilter, and allow those who wish to move on to do so, and those who wish to continue discussions an appropriate forum out of the spotlight.

I don't really know what remains to be said, but I know it's hard for even a disinterested observer like me to keep from throwing my two cents in at each new turn, so here's perhaps a better place to do it.
posted by dhartung at 5:13 PM on May 21, 2001


No, I did not.

I do not want to invite additional scrutiny. I have been somewhat chastened by the the talents of the community web-detectives as is evident in the KayCee affair.
posted by AmILost at 5:32 PM on May 21, 2001

The silver lining in this whole thing is that after this all dies (pardon the pun) down, there will be so much paranoia about whether people are really gravely ill or not, that no one will send get well emails or e-cards, thus net congestion won't be so bad.
posted by niteowl at 5:37 PM on May 21, 2001

[This is a slightly modified repost of something I just posted to the earlier thread, without really realising that the conversation was moving here]

Hmm... I'm new here (if nothing else, all this has introduced me to MeFi - I'm impressed... unless you're all fake too ;-)

But there are still a lot of questions unanswered, some of them rather worrying...

(1.) Who wrote the poetry?

'Debbie Swenson' said "The real *Kaycee* is the true author to her poetry". But... allegedly... there's a poem by 'Debbie' that's in pretty much the same style...

(2.) Who is the girl in the photos here, here and here?

Is this 'Kaycee Brandon', who as has been pointed out, looks similar, comes from the same area, has a similar name, and plays the same sport on a similar team?

And whoever she is, does she know her photos have been used in these ways?

(3.) Has it struck anyone yet that as well as the famous blogger with cancer, there was the basketball warrior, the member, the other member, and the contributor to the NY Times?

Don't some of these predate the blog? Most people 'knew' this person through the blog, or through the detective work that exposed the blog as fake... but that wasn't the beginning of this, was it? At the very least, it certainly wasn't all there was to it while the fame and fortune were coming from that blog.

This worries me, because it seems to undermine the assertions 'Debbie' has made that, even if it wasn't what most people thought, this was still all about three people that died from cancer....

(4.) So do the Swensons even exist?

IIRC, the only thing like proof of this is centrs' conversation with the pastor. I'm going to leave this puzzle to the end of this post, because I feel I need to qualify the doubts I have about it very heavily...

(5.) But whether or not the 'Swennsons' existed... where did all the money go?

'Debbie Swenson' said "if donations were made they were not made to me or any other person" - but read that carefully: it sidesteps the fact that, apparently, money was sent... and as 'Debbie' says later, "If you sent something it was passed on to the appropriate family".

(6.) Is it just me who has the awful feeling that maybe what 'Debbie' said contains a lot of tricksy phrases? For instance, 'donations' were not 'made' to 'any... person', but things that were 'sent' were 'passed on' to the 'family'.... And what about "The last thing I would like to say is I'm sorry"? Should that be read 'is, I'm', or 'is that I'm'?

And what about Mark Twain...?


Now I hope that at least some of this is just unfounded paranoia, or the sort of semi-contradictory reportage that exists in real life... but even now, the only thing that seems clear about all this is that nothing's really actually clear even yet. And I get the growing sense that there's no truth to the whole 'Swenson' thing, that it's all a very elaborate, very well-planned hoax.

The danger is that until these things are answered, we have to be careful about not pointing the finger at anyone... and that's especially true of what I'm about to say, because I'm sure I've missed something obvious.

But I can't see it.

So... hoping I’m wrong, and hoping that, even so, everyone I’m about to offend can understand why I feel the need to ask this...

Does the pastor exist?

I can't see a contact number anywhere on any of the 'Swenson' sites or pages, and I've turned up zip on Google... so how did centrs get in touch with this man?


If I'm wrong, I'm wrong - but for my own peace of mind, if nothing else... please point me to whatever it is that I've missed here.
posted by n/a at 6:27 PM on May 21, 2001

For what it's worth:

I've just posted on my personal site a series of emails between me and Jim "Kaya" Styn.

Back story:
I'm a friend of the bwg and his brother, Ray. I've spoken to both "Debbie" and "Kaycee" using AIM. So I'm involved, somehow.

I'm convinced that "Debbie" using the pseudonym "Hannah" accessed the Forum on my website.

I backtracked the person "Hannah" to an account at Here's the account: tropicalmist.

It's registered to a 21 year old University of Kansas woman named Ashley Smith. I believe Ashley Smith is Deb and/or KC. She majors in Social Work .... perhaps she's had to do some hospital or hospice internships. Perhaps there she developed the Kaycee story/personae.

Or perhaps I'm wrong. You can go to the link to my website and read how I came to that conclusion.

I post the name here so that those with more time ... and with more of an inclination can dig deeper.

The whole damned thing is pretty sad.
posted by JimFo at 6:30 PM on May 21, 2001

"does anyone have hard and fast proof that Debbie Swenson herself was physically involved?"

Yes. She bought the P.O. box. It takes a photo ID to do that. She was given the key to the box. People were told to send things for Kaycee to that PO box. Therefor she was physically connected to the hoax.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:39 PM on May 21, 2001

I've long been suspicious of everything I've seen hosted on CollegeClub servers. That place has given me the creeps ever since its dramatic bankruptcy back last summer. Read about it here:

The members in the CC database were a breeding/spawning ground of false identities and ersatz personalities, many with pages (believe it or not) that could out-ugly Kaycee's any day.
posted by vodkatea at 6:41 PM on May 21, 2001

n/a, Check out the Swenson Family Website. I imagine centrs googled "First Baptist Church" and "Troy Manley".
posted by re.becca at 6:51 PM on May 21, 2001

am in the only one who thinks that "troy manley" looks photoshopped? or has this whole ordeal made me *that* paranoid?
posted by phooey at 6:53 PM on May 21, 2001


LOL. Matt has met me in person several times in two different cities and can assure you I'm real!

On Kelli's page, and even I can't ever remember, you have to just click around, there is a list of links, one to Gracemont Baptist Church. Click through and there is a church bulletin last updated in 1998. Debbie was the secretary there for 3 years.

The church phone number is 405-966-2276. He was a very nice, elderly man and extremely worried about Debbie so don't call him if you're not really serious. He told me everything he knew about her.
posted by centrs at 7:00 PM on May 21, 2001

phooey, that’s the first thing I thought when I saw that photo. As centrs just said, apparently it doesn’t matter.

n/a, read my post above, and you should be caught up, mostly.

The Mark Twain thing was just a lit reference with no bearing on the hoax.

This sucks.

Would BWG just please call Debbie — or who the hell ever — and get this straightened out? Ask her the questions that are listed above twice, now.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 7:08 PM on May 21, 2001

jimfo, you know, you may be on to something. "kaycee" went to miami to visit an "ashley". "ashley" lived in seattle. peter voutov mentions in his journal from last year that he hadn't heard from "kasey" in a while and hadn't received a phone number to seattle in his email.
posted by centrs at 7:12 PM on May 21, 2001

also, i mentioned in an earlier post that when i asked the pastor what he could tell me about debbie, the first thing he said was that she loved poetry and spent a lot of time writing it. it must have been a pretty strong characteristic for that to be the first thing he thought of after not seeing her for 2 years.
posted by centrs at 7:15 PM on May 21, 2001

The Mark Twain thing was just a lit reference with no bearing on the hoax.

Actually, it has some bearing.
posted by rory at 7:23 PM on May 21, 2001

cap'n: The Mark Twain thing was just a lit reference with no bearing on the hoax.

Except to tell you what state of mind the imposters had, or thought or wished they had, etc. It's not at all insignificant, in my book.
posted by raysmj at 7:23 PM on May 21, 2001

the link:
gracemont baptist church
posted by centrs at 7:33 PM on May 21, 2001

Oh, the chapter of Huck Finn referenced in the post Rory linked to can be found here. The girl story is about halfway down. Not that it's hugely significant alone (although it could be), it's a reminder that Mr. Clemens wasn't all steamboats and childhood exploits and fence-painting, if'n you got that idea through TV.
posted by raysmj at 7:33 PM on May 21, 2001

It seems every few hours a new page written by "Kaycee" is uncovered with more and more photos. (One shows her in her home colors basketball uniform with a clear floor logo and a player number, for those who still have energy left) I've had some time away from MeFi to think about all of this quite a bit. The longer I think about it, the more amazed I am at the lengths Debbi went to. A person in a previous thread mentioned that when they returned a call to Kaycee Swensen, Debbi's real daughter answered and the phone was handed off to "Kaycee". So either there was a cancer victim who Debbie was caring for or the whole family knows about the hoax. Well, the 'blog was so similar to Debbi's life that I doubt that it directly about anyone but her. This whole thing is really really sick. I do not see anything wrong with someone calling up Debbie in a nice and curteous way and asking her to explain herself. It's one thing if she was just getting her jollies pretending to be someone else, but all the care packages and stuff are what tips the scale for me. I saw a google cache today of one of Debbie's entries about how she came home and there was a new car in her driveway. It had a ribbon on it and she says her kids bought it for her and she infers that Kaycee bought it and she said she included the two younger kids to make it a family thing. Well, we know debbie doesn't have a daughter named Kaycee. What exactly does it mean that Kaycee bought her a car??? I have no real evidence of large scale monitary fraud, but I think we have enough that I do not feel in any way morally obligated to not call.
posted by bonzo at 7:52 PM on May 21, 2001

This is what I was refering to:

"Once the explanations were out of the way I broke down into tears and embraced them all. My children had bought me a car. I know who is responsible. I also know how Kaycee included her brother and sister in the process. They were all so proud of their actions. I feel extremely unworthy to have received such a spectacular gift."

You can look at the google cache for the whole story.

PLEASE tell me I'm missing something and this isn't what I think it is.
posted by bonzo at 7:56 PM on May 21, 2001

For those who want another avenue to look for clues, I found that there is a "Kaycee's Friendly Support" Club on CollegeClub with many interesting members - including kaycee11 who signed in today. Yes, tropicalmist is a member of the club.

Kaycee's Friendly Support Club
posted by ilanah at 8:02 PM on May 21, 2001

in "kaycee"'s blog, one think that has ALWAYS piqued my curiousity is her mysterious source of income that the rest of the family didn't seem to have.

first, she repeatedly mentions she doesn't need money. then, several times, debbie mentions her anger at her sister who had conned kaycee into providing a couple of substantial loans (to the sister) and then squandered the money. then, the car. plus, on the older journal entries on her college club page, kaycee mentions she's not going home from the hospital, but to the beach and she may just travel around for a while, which would require money.
posted by centrs at 8:03 PM on May 21, 2001

You're all making way too big a deal out of this. You're acting like this is the first time it's ever happened online. I was going to add a few personal examples I've experienced where I thought people were honest with me online, or with friends, and then the person turned out to be dishonest. I just deleted several paragraphs. I'm sure many of you have your own tales to tell. I'll try to keep this brief, but instead of telling you one of my stories, I'll sum it up by saying this: sometimes when a person feels they have to lie, not everything they're saying is a lie. The lines begin to blur though for the one lying, and they learn the hard way that one lie amidst a pile of truth can taint all of it.

This online dishonesty, as many are no doubt just learning and the rest of you have known for some time, happens more often than any of us wish to admit. Truth on the Internet is not guaranteed. Everything should be questioned, but one cannot build friendships online without trust, just the same as offline. You can't force others to be honest. All you can do is promise yourself you'll be as honest as you can, and simultaneously accept that not everyone out there is going to be honest with you. The difficulty in being honest is always brief. The difficulty in being dishonest is cumulative. It gets harder, the longer you have to keep it up.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:11 PM on May 21, 2001

While looking through the various pages, I found this:

Meet Alissa. One of the wisest 10 year olds I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. She was a bright, funny, happy young lady who lived her life with honor and pride.

Alissa died on Nov. 5, 1999 of leukemia while waiting for a Bone Marrow Transplant.

I did a search on the other threads and saw no mention of this. Have we found one of the three?
posted by solistrato at 8:12 PM on May 21, 2001

the new car talk was probably just a way to tug on the heartstrings.

"she's so ill and somehow she still finds time to buy me a new car!`"
posted by sugarfish at 8:15 PM on May 21, 2001

Zach -

For me, it's not the fact that someone lied. I think we're all grown up enough to know that people lie, thank you though.

What gets me is this utterly convouluted quagmire. CollegeClub accounts? Servers in Kansas and Hong Kong? A mother who may not be a mother? Three cancer patients rolled into one?

It's a matter of trying to figure not only the how, but the why. There's been a confession, but I'm of the opinion that the evidence available contradicts what the confession says. If this were a simple hoax, there would be much more anger. If this was about attention or something, then it would make sense. At present, it doesn't. Nothing about this makes any sense, and that's what's frustrating.

But I think the shock of violated communal trust has worn off, and now people are saying, "What the fuck is going ON here???"
posted by solistrato at 8:18 PM on May 21, 2001

about alissa, i was more interested in the whole "champ camp" thing kaycee supposedly masterminded. i searched and there are hundreds and hundreds of champ camps that were established many years ago.
posted by centrs at 8:18 PM on May 21, 2001

"she's so ill and somehow she still finds time to buy me a new car!`"

No, I'm not missing your humor, but on a more serious note - Um, I'm a college student around "Kaycee"'s age and I'm poor. I doubt Kaycee was a .com millionare. How the hell does a 19 year old college student dying of cancer buy her mom a car? Oh yeah, Kaycee doesn't exist and you can interpret Kaycee buying her a car in various ways...

posted by bonzo at 8:20 PM on May 21, 2001

many with pages (believe it or not) that could out-ugly Kaycee's any day.

Worse than GeoCities? Is that physically possible?
posted by aaron at 8:22 PM on May 21, 2001

i wasn't trying really to be humorous, just trying to perhaps shed some kind of light on what the new car was supposed to represent. i'm a college student around that age, too, and i'm poor as all hell. i can barely afford lunch, not even talking about a car.
posted by sugarfish at 8:25 PM on May 21, 2001

wait, i just thought of something. on the packages that "kaycee" sent people, what did the postmark say?
posted by sugarfish at 8:29 PM on May 21, 2001

one last couple of thoughts and then i have to go for the night.

debbie sent real photos to halcyon and the college club crew. are those pictures the same girl that appears on the college club pages? can someone scan one of those and post it somewhere? how did she seemingly have unlimited access to photos of the same girl?

also, something about the earlier journal entries on the geocities page really bother me. they seem genuine to me. this girl is more down than kaycee ever was. i'm wondering if debbie met the original "kaycee" online? maybe they grew close and when she relapsed debbie offered to post for her. maybe she died and debbie kept posting as her and her mom because she was lonely or something.

or, maybe kaycee was one of debbie's sisters?

there seems to be a gap between march of 2000 and july of 2000 as far as kaycee posting and the journal entries end february 20th of that year.

i don't know.
posted by centrs at 8:36 PM on May 21, 2001

kaycee11 - posting on CollegeClub today!

(Sorry - the linky thing wouldn't work.)
posted by plainjane at 8:44 PM on May 21, 2001

Hey - could someone help me with another possible fake personality? Somehow these look suspect:

A fine little eight year old boy

The land of sweetness and wholesome christian players
posted by vodkatea at 8:50 PM on May 21, 2001

vodkatea: I wouldn't mess with Bobby. Bobby is totally p.o.'d.
posted by raysmj at 8:53 PM on May 21, 2001

centrs... oops... =)

And there I was all set to point out that you were using the same animated .gif as Kelli Swenson'...

The "First Baptist Church" link is internal to the N'sync fan-page, and I've only been able to find one other reference to this church online, here.

There are lots of "First Baptist Churches" and "Gracemont Churches" in Oklahoma, but seems to be the only place online with a reference to a "First Baptist Church" in Gracemont - vide here - and I have no idea how reliable is - ie whether anyone can add an invented church to their archive - because their front page crashes my browser...

Why do I think Mark Twain is significant? The most famous thing about his life was that reports of his death were greatly exaggerated, and two of the most famous passages in his writing are satires on the maudlin Mary-Sue 'inspirational, precocious, child dies attended by angels' literature of C19th America: one has already been referenced here; the other is Tom Sawyer's attendance of at his own funeral...

In other words, I'm still not convinced that any of this is real...
posted by n/a at 8:54 PM on May 21, 2001

The thing I can't quite understand about all this hubub about Kaycee is why anyone would even care if she died.
posted by vodkatea at 8:58 PM on May 21, 2001 [1 favorite]

ok. now i'm totally mortified that my one link from metafilter is to that page. i had the sillies at 4:00 am after working for days on a teen site and i made that as a joke. heh.
posted by centrs at 9:02 PM on May 21, 2001

Ohhhhhh crap......... You guys aren't gonna believe this one. Anyone send Debbie a gold cross necklace?
posted by Logboy at 9:05 PM on May 21, 2001

Then again, maybe we should prosecute (Debbie or whoever the "real" person is) for mail fraud.
posted by 120degrees at 9:11 PM on May 21, 2001

n/a: both your church links go to the same thing.

and kaycee11 only said "test". Why?
Oh yeah, hi. Didn't find this whole thing until today. But I'm not, y'know, a conspirator.
posted by davidgentle at 9:13 PM on May 21, 2001

"You guys aren't gonna believe this one."

Back then no one would have known where her doorstep was.

For someone who kept saying she didn't want gifts, Kaycee (and Debbie) sure do spend a lot of time talking about expensive gifts.
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:13 PM on May 21, 2001

You know what this reminds me of? Another sick tale from Kansas: In Cold Blood. Another motiveless crime.

Good lord, you heartland people are sick. ;)
posted by solistrato at 9:13 PM on May 21, 2001

Anyone send Debbie a gold cross necklace?

Would they feel like admitting it if they had?
posted by normy at 9:15 PM on May 21, 2001

ZachsMind: You're all making way too big a deal out of this... sometimes when a person feels they have to lie, not everything they're saying is a lie.

This certainly isn't the first case where someone has deceived a group of people via the Internet, but that doesn't mean that this particular case shouldn't meet with the same scrutiny as the others because it's happened before. What you said is precisely why I think further efforts are warranted; as rcade very astutely noted, Debbie said in a post that one of her daughters (not Kaycee) had been molested. As we all know, Debbie's not the most credible source at this point, but if this is a case where "not everything [she's] saying is a lie", another member of her family may need help or worse--be in real danger. If for no other reason, that's why finding a way to get through to them is critical.
posted by disarray at 9:16 PM on May 21, 2001

The necklace was in 'a small package on his doorstep ... wrapped in simple newspaper', so it's not mail fraud. You're right, I don't believe it. This and the car both look like wishful thinking.
posted by rory at 9:21 PM on May 21, 2001

As we all know, Debbie's not the most credible source at this point, but if this is a case where "not everything [she's] saying is a lie", another member of her family may need help

Well, yes let's all run out to the Hallmark store and get cards, money orders at the post office, teddy bears at the local gift shop and send them! "Debbie" will make sure they go to the appropriate people!

Can you point to *anything* that 'Debbie' said is true?

Call the local FBI office in Peabody, KS and warn them that one of 'Debbie's" kids, ie, if she has any at all is being molested.

This whole thing is some sick slashdot wanker's little joke...
posted by MelaninLow at 9:27 PM on May 21, 2001

GUS! (vodkatea) You've found MeFi! Hallelujah!

Note to all unsuspecting future readers: Gus is nutty and nothing he writes should ever be taken at face value. He will do his damnedest to push your buttons. That's just his adorable schtick.


On a different note: DaveNet and have stories about this. Saundra (headspace) has been interviewed by the Peabody, KS Gazette (where Debbie Swenson lives) and the Newton Kansan.

Matt, do you *want* more publicity? Should this even be something we try to communicate to the world outside of outside of MeFi?

(Oh, and I thought it was funny how described MeFi:
"The water cooler for the weblog community")


One other thing: chickies named Kaycee exist all over the US. Don't waste your time tracking them all down.
posted by acridrabbit at 9:31 PM on May 21, 2001

logboy, y6, normy,
Lots of people have said they’ve sent gifts. Some sent money. At this point, it is anyone’s guess where it all went. There is someone who knows, however, and there are people who have access to her.

I’d suggest anyone who sent any sort of gift ask for it back. That’s just me, though.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 9:41 PM on May 21, 2001

I agree, capt. I just suspect that some of the people who did send something might be feeling like they've been had and don't want to advertise it.
posted by normy at 9:44 PM on May 21, 2001

the real kaycee in all her glory
posted by phooey at 9:50 PM on May 21, 2001

Re: ''Kaycee''s money- she stated several times she had a trust fund, left to her by an aunt, if I recall correctly. This was the source of her income, and the reason that ''Debbie'' didn't have to work (but did anyway) in the protracted absence of her father.
posted by Alwin at 9:55 PM on May 21, 2001

Okay. I'm just going to throw this out here. I'm just gonna RUN with this, because spewing out loud is the Metafilterian way.

I read Kaycee's last letter to Halcyon. And goddamn if something didn't occur to me:

What if one of the motives here was the fact that Debbie had an online crush on Halcyon?

No, no, wait a sec, just go with me here.

If, indeed, Debbie is our culprit, let's take a look at the armchair detective psych profile we've built: churchgoing woman in Kansas, strain in a marraige after a death in the family, daughter who likes N*Sync and other mainstream stuff... a typical woman with a bit of tragedy in her life.

Now let's imagine this woman, in the course of her web surfing, happening upon or - more likely the latter, let's say, because she might have been looking at the Webbys and seen what was going on there. Or, more likely, her daughter found the site and she wanted to know what she was so excited about. And she comes across this dazzling persona - a sexy, attractive guy on the West Coast (California, even! LOS ANGELES!) who's naughty enough to admit he likes porn, but spiritual enough to believe in a higher power and love. To a restrained, emotionally strung woman in a small town in Kansas, Halcyon must have seemed like some sort of alien sex god.

Because what's bothered me about all the theories are the College Club pages, the Geocities stuff, etc. If the intent was to raise awareness for cancer, why start by faking a profile for a 19-year-old girl? If the intention is so pure, why create an avatar that's beautiful, athletic, determined, strong, and yet still a sexy young girl?

And, after all, Kaycee first got her fame with Collegeclub and CitizenX.

And Halcyon, being the open and warm soul that he is, opened up to her and accepted her. Why shouldn't he? Halcyon is a very trusting soul.

So suddenly Debbie is talking one on one with this man whom she's enamored with. Maybe the Debbie persona came out later to try and counterbalance the Kaycee character - you know, the "honest" persona where she could really talk to Halcyon without trying to be a 19-year-old girl.

Of course, Halcyon, being the superconnected Webber that he is, spreads the love and the word is out. Suddenly, a private affair has blossomed into something very public. Suddenly, lots of people are paying attention to this poor 19-year-old girl with leukemia (and her long-suffering mother, of course).

So she has to follow through with the lie, because if she doesn't, she loses Halcyon.

And then it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger...

this last email is the one that clinches it for me, especially this line:

*blows you a kiss*
I'll be watching over worries.

She will be watching over him. As if "Kaycee" already knew she was going to die. As if Debbie already knew that the lie she started has spiraled completely out of control and that she has to end it somehow.

So lo and behold, the beautiful angel child dies right after Mother's Day. World mourns. Maybe Debbie hopes that Halcyon will pay even more attention to her.

And thus. And thus.

The cancer motivation might have come later, once she realized she had this huge audience and could actually try and deal with trauma that way. But my theory is that the initial drive was not to gain attention in general, but to gain the attention of Halcyon.

And Halcyon, kind open soul that he is, got played.
posted by solistrato at 9:57 PM on May 21, 2001 [7 favorites]

Wow! She's good!
posted by norm at 9:59 PM on May 21, 2001

Yeah... I don't know if it was mentioned before, but she announced her death to a lot of people. I followed all the links on "Kaycee's" blog, and a lot of them had an email that she had supposedly sent them. It was the same email to at least three that I found:

"My life's been really good. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out...wish there was more but we don't get to direct that part of it.

I just wanted you to know... I love you and I hope life gives you everything you're hoping for. You've got a great start. I know you've walked with happiness but if you need a little nudge...just check the stars...I'll be winking at you.
Sending you love and sunshine
kaycee ;-)"

Nothing like easing the pain before you kill off your character.
posted by Logboy at 10:14 PM on May 21, 2001

Scott, that love idea may hold water.

I was always struck with how similar the tone of Kaycee's stuff was with Halcyon's stuff. Not that John wrote any of it, but that some of it seemed to be almost written to appeal to him.

I keep looking back for any intuition I was having that I ignored, and that was it. A lot of it was written in what seemed to be the same total-positivity themes that Halcyon wrote in.

Would someone that fell for him write in themes he'd like? Of course they would.
posted by mathowie at 10:18 PM on May 21, 2001

*throws hat at phooey's feet*
*offers to buy phooey a beer*'d you get the two and two to hook up??
posted by JettSuperior at 10:22 PM on May 21, 2001

And would someone who wanted to win Halcyon's heart be reading that Lovesong he wrote to whoever that was? (Can't find the link...)

posted by solistrato at 10:25 PM on May 21, 2001

oh, it wasn't me, it was a bunch of us pounding away in the kaycee-nicole yahoo group. someone remembered seeing gracemont high school mentioned on a geocities page (one of the n'sync pages, i believe), so we looked up gracemont, found a page devoted to the girl's basketball team (that page was also maintained by the swenson's), found some pictures of a basketball game, saw her number, checked it against the roster, found julie fullbright's name, did a search on that until a page came up with her picture. so that's that. :)
posted by phooey at 10:29 PM on May 21, 2001

Julie Fulbright's email address isn't hard to find. I've already sent her a link to this thread... just posting this so her inbox isn't flooded.
posted by normy at 10:30 PM on May 21, 2001

Please use discretion from here on out. The Real Kaycee is probably an innocent bystander.

Awesome job phooey.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:30 PM on May 21, 2001

Uhhhh, HEY, am I the only one who has not ignored JimFo's contribution here?? It has been said that this level of hoax would take more than one body to pull off....

Upon doing yer basic search, I came across this page. Notice the aforementioned Kaycee Brandon at the top. Notice the newly-mentioned Ashley Smith at the bottom...
posted by JettSuperior at 10:36 PM on May 21, 2001

wait. solistrato - you're saying that halcyon *isn't* an alien sex god? damn. all of my illusions shattered in one short week of metafilter threads...
posted by judith at 10:39 PM on May 21, 2001

Wow...Julie Fullbright?!? *flabergasted*
posted by Chazio at 10:39 PM on May 21, 2001

Nice one Phooey - how the heck did you find that?

Norm - she may have been good then, but check out some of her recent stats for the SNU team. Not terribly inspiring...

The photo (Phooey) and background info (Norm) looks pretty promising. Looks a lot like the girl from the doctored "warriors" photo, and the Tazwoman / KuteBabe college club pages. The basketball thing is obviously supporting evidence too.

More importantly, an search on the SNU website leads to an e-mail address for Ms. Fullbright. I'm not about to use it, but I'd like to invite comment on this:

What link, if any, does Julie Fullbright have to College Club / KuteBabe and the rest - or has her image just been used without her knowledge?

Is it still term-time at SNU? I have no idea of US University semesters. Anyone?
posted by aeolian at 10:39 PM on May 21, 2001

i'm a watcher of this whole thing.. got taken in by this kaycee crap..

thanks to phooey.. hope there is an end to it all..
posted by rivervision at 10:41 PM on May 21, 2001

I thought Halcyon used to work at CollegeClub, and that's where he met "Kaycee", who was doing things like moderating chat rooms.

I'm astounded that the local media are picking this up. Oy. I feel a shit-fanning coming on.
posted by dhartung at 10:43 PM on May 21, 2001

Chazio, something to add?
posted by solistrato at 10:45 PM on May 21, 2001

Oh, and interestingly enough...said Newkirk Herald reporters contacted a certain website starting with the letter "C" and ending in "ollegeClub" today. If in fact...they *were* reporters. *dun dun dun*
posted by Chazio at 10:45 PM on May 21, 2001

And oh yeah, the University of Kansas (Ashley's stated alma mater) Medical Center is in Kansas City...also known as KC....KayCee.....
posted by JettSuperior at 10:48 PM on May 21, 2001 [1 favorite]

Way to go phooey and team.

Way to go.
posted by JimFo at 10:50 PM on May 21, 2001

VERRRRY 'Usual Suspect"-ish now, yo. If this Ashley is the one, she was in fact looking at the wall and hemming it together as she went along....a university MEDICAL center, for chrissakes!! In KC, nonetheless! This is tooooo rich....I lauuugh and lauuuugh.
posted by JettSuperior at 10:53 PM on May 21, 2001

Does anyone know if Julie Fullbright is dead or ill?
posted by wallflower at 10:53 PM on May 21, 2001

OK, so I'm a new one to all of this Kaycee stuff. I just started following recently. I am working on a thesis about the role of disease in fiction and non-fiction. I am a real former cancer survivor, and I am disgusted by someone faking leukemia. In my experience people always want you to put it out of their mind, to make them forget. They want to pretend you are a normal person. I was very hopeful when I heard kaycee, I thought it meant that maybe people were becoming more accepting of disease and disabled individuals. And now it is a hoax. No one seemed to focus on this. There are those of us who have actually lived through the horror of cancer. kaycee has done mroe damage than she can imagine.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:57 PM on May 21, 2001 [1 favorite]

Thats it.... we're starting our own dot com. Metafilter PI.
posted by Logboy at 11:01 PM on May 21, 2001

I would assume that Julie is alive, being as which she is on the current basketball roster at that school.

Here's what lies within my brain. Maybe, Julie is involved, maybe she's not. I'm going to guess that she is not. That this *Debbie* person is a relative, or close friend...someone who has had access to Julie Fullbright photos since Julie was a younger girl. I can attest that Julie Fullbright is most definitely the girl in all the *kaycee* photos anyone has seen on the web, or sent through the mail on nice kodak film paper.

Julie is and has been playing basketball this past season, seems too much for her to do that, concentrate on school, and be involved in some fraud internet death. This *Debbie* person, is quite shall I say...f*cked in the brain?

Anyway, as an admin of CollegeClub, I've had much detective work of my own, but unfortunately, the info I cannot release publicly for legal reasons. I've tried to figure out a way to explain some of the aspects I have found out, without giving away private information, so that you may guess...but man that's just too hard. ;0)

*Debbie* has answered the least amount of trivia questions correctly this she is....the weakest link, goodbye!
posted by Chazio at 11:09 PM on May 21, 2001

For those not in the Yahoo Group chat right now:

Things have just gotten much more insane.

More as it develops.
posted by solistrato at 11:09 PM on May 21, 2001

Hold on everyone.. mathowie is on the phone with reporters... it is all coming together and its big... prosecution and national coverage... hang tight for a while
posted by bonzo at 11:10 PM on May 21, 2001

posted by fooljay at 11:25 PM on May 21, 2001

reload. reload.
posted by register at 11:28 PM on May 21, 2001

this is too screwed up...julie fullbright?! i have her picture with kaycee's name on it. sheesh...

as for the "in love with Halcyon" upmost respect!

but still, this is SO screwed up. anyone wanna tally how many people knew *Kaycee*? sheesh...for god's sake this was a /girl/ to whom i chatted regularly for over a year! im wondering how many people she was in collegeclub. im thinking she was some *guys* too...screwed up!
posted by Romi at 11:30 PM on May 21, 2001

Well, it seems my theory wasn't entirely correct.

The real much...much...more fucked up.

posted by solistrato at 11:31 PM on May 21, 2001

So how does one join the 'Yahoo Group chat'? I signed up for a membership, but the 'chat' link is inactive.

Are you referring to the message board??
posted by Dirjy at 11:32 PM on May 21, 2001

How the hell does one get into a chat on that damn service? I can't figure out what options it wants me to set first! Jesus christ.
posted by tweebiscuit at 11:32 PM on May 21, 2001

Kelli Swensen and the N'Sync girls created Kaycee (probably to meet boys online, etc). Julie's photos were used because she was the star player in a High School near the girls. She was a popular girl so they made her into a fake online entity.

Debbie (Kelli's mom) found out about the fake girl. She took over and introduced the cancer to try to touch the world. Debbie made Kaycee into her third child. It went on for too long. She decided to end it. Debbie doesn't think she did anything wrong. She claimed to never get any gifts or money. She refused to tell who spoke on the phone as Kaycee. Charges have been filed by different parties. Law enforcement is involved, including Postal Investigators and possibly other law enforcement agencies. Expect it to hit the mass media in a few days.
posted by bonzo at 11:32 PM on May 21, 2001 [1 favorite]

so when is that AI movie coming out anyway?
posted by titboy at 11:33 PM on May 21, 2001

Btw, Julie is almost certainly a completely innocent victim in all this.
posted by bonzo at 11:34 PM on May 21, 2001

And a FAQ is forthcoming about the whole sordid affair.
posted by solistrato at 11:37 PM on May 21, 2001

From Matt who just talked to a reporter:

It's all out. It's gonna blow up.

Debbie talked to the press. It was started by her daughter and a friend, then when she found out about it she took over and wrote all the living color posts. Major fraud charges coming down the pipe. National media are all over it.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:37 PM on May 21, 2001 [1 favorite]

May I be the first to say: Jesus fucking christ.
posted by tweebiscuit at 11:38 PM on May 21, 2001 [1 favorite]

MASS MEDIA?! OMFG! (sorry for the caps...ick!)
posted by Romi at 11:39 PM on May 21, 2001

Can I just insert a collective holy shit into this?
posted by Zosia Blue at 11:40 PM on May 21, 2001

Okay, sorry to add to the clutter, but, damn people, I thought this weekend's posts were exciting but it doesn't compare to this.. excellent detective work, y'all!
posted by jess at 11:41 PM on May 21, 2001

since we're all cursing: how fucking bizarre!
posted by register at 11:41 PM on May 21, 2001

holy crap.
posted by faith at 11:45 PM on May 21, 2001

w00t!!! The loser is going to jail! I wished forced intervention on her in my blog and LO AND BEHOLD....

Anyone else need something spoken into existence?? For a small fee, it can be arranged....

Just leave the money on my effing doorstep.
posted by JettSuperior at 11:45 PM on May 21, 2001

I see a book deal a-comin'....
posted by canoeguide at 11:45 PM on May 21, 2001

Hell damn fart!
posted by solistrato at 11:46 PM on May 21, 2001

posted by JettSuperior at 11:47 PM on May 21, 2001

Can't think of any better curses, so I'll just enjoy, between reloads, that "Louisiana legislation decides the feel good story of the day".

Sorry, the suspense has kept us up late out east....
posted by liam at 11:49 PM on May 21, 2001

cant stop the hotsteppers
posted by omega^man at 11:52 PM on May 21, 2001

Closure! I need closure on that anec...

Oh yeahhhhh. Now this is some closure.
posted by rory at 11:56 PM on May 21, 2001

Aw geez. Here goes another 300 post thread... Don't tell Neale...
posted by fooljay at 11:56 PM on May 21, 2001

am i the only who cant stop laughing? this feels like a movie thats so sickening and cynical that you cant stop yourself from commenting it 24/7 and telling everyone to go watch it.

please! someone post the headlines/stories as soon as they hit the web...PLEASE!
posted by Romi at 11:57 PM on May 21, 2001

I have been in that chat room for the last three hours. I am so tired and punch-drunk I am going to start speaking in tongues. This whole thing is so FUCKING SURREAL.
posted by solistrato at 11:58 PM on May 21, 2001

I second that motion Romi...
posted by canoeguide at 11:58 PM on May 21, 2001

romi: Holly Hunter has to star in it. No one else could play Debbie better, I don't think. The Oklahoma accent and all, the cutesy combined with the sick. Etc., etc.
posted by raysmj at 11:59 PM on May 21, 2001

... co-starring Kirstin Dunst as Julie Fullbright.
posted by Dirjy at 12:01 AM on May 22, 2001

paige, phooeygirl, tiffany, and myself were the sleuths for the julie fullbright stuff!
posted by caren at 12:01 AM on May 22, 2001

*pops the corn* so what do u think? blockbuster? or straight to video?

and if a book deal comes through, i sure hope *debbie* gets a helluva good spell checker.
(mean comment, but i couldnt help it! *smirk*)
posted by Romi at 12:03 AM on May 22, 2001

Yep - I'm so amazed how quickly it came together - if all those people had been in the chat room we would never have found it :) Thank goodness there weren't many people there!
posted by TiffanyRing at 12:03 AM on May 22, 2001

huge kudos to the "julie fullbright" team. thumbs up!
posted by Romi at 12:05 AM on May 22, 2001

Good work folks.

We beat the press to all the details here. And while surfing the Internet.

I *told* my mom web surfing 24x7 was healthy and productive.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:12 AM on May 22, 2001

I told my mom that too, she never believed me, maybe she will now!
posted by caren at 12:13 AM on May 22, 2001

This is just stunning. Kaycee the 'friggin Frankenstein', created by the daughter to catch boys, co-opted by the mother to spout tear-jerker tales about stars and angels: where's your message about goodness and love now, Debbie?

Someone archive that Google cache but good. This one has to end up on display in the Museum of the Internet. Huge props to all involved.
posted by rory at 12:13 AM on May 22, 2001

In-effing-credible. And here I thought it'd be a big deal if Salon covered it.
posted by dhartung at 12:15 AM on May 22, 2001

/me does a Keanu-esque "Woah."
posted by owillis at 12:15 AM on May 22, 2001

Ok, I'm trying to organize all this info and links in the best fashion possible. If there are any important links I'm missing, please send them to me. The links I've posted so far are are here.
posted by Logboy at 12:16 AM on May 22, 2001

(Huge props to all involved in the detective work, that is.)
posted by rory at 12:16 AM on May 22, 2001

I'm absolutely amazed. I thought we'd never really know the whole story and who all was involved. My admiration to those who uncovered the Fullbright truth, as well as so much of the other confirmed information.

I'm leaving the country tomorrow, and now I know I'm going to be going crazy wondering about all the details that will be forthcoming.
posted by phichens at 12:16 AM on May 22, 2001

Romi: HBO, followed by Blockbuster.
posted by raysmj at 12:18 AM on May 22, 2001

Jesus....this like a straight up made for tv movie and then some.....First off Debbie is a sad and sick woman to pretty much continue the charade that she did after she found out that her daughter and friend used and created the "KC/Kutebabe" name. Her daughter is wrong for having used the pictures of Julie--they can get them for that. She should have crushed it right away instead of keeping the ball rolling--for her to continue it just shows me now what kind of a mother she really is. Also to have preyed on others for two years makes me ill and to know that she *knowingly* did it too.... and set up a mailbox to receive gifts and possibly money while living a lie consents to fraud. *SHE* claimed to have had money and where she got it I don't know and don't care to know. Also I doubt if tropical mist is a real person--more that likely just a fragment of the imagination as well-also dr john perhaps???. What twisted ppl--I wondered where our gifts and items went......I think that they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and most of all get some serious help because they have taken violation to the extreme. We all opened our hearts and got thrown for a loop----They should not walk the streets.

What once lied in the darkness has come out in the light.

What goes around comes around.....

Nika <><
posted by truesolace00 at 12:19 AM on May 22, 2001 [1 favorite]

Hrm, what I mean is, I'm leaving the States for Korea, and I will not have internet access there. Sorry for defaulting to "everyone here is in the same place as me" mode.

I've had too little sleep the past few days, and it'll be a while longer before I get any, since I still have to pack for a week's worth of travel.

Kudos again to the MeFi PIs.
posted by phichens at 12:21 AM on May 22, 2001

Here's the chatroom. There's a small download. It's busy!
posted by dhartung at 12:22 AM on May 22, 2001

you are all amazing. what a fantastic team effort...i can't get over all the imagination and determination and hardcore gut feelings that went into this. some mighty fine gumshoeing at work here.

it's 3AM and i know i won't be going to sleep tonight, i'm too wound up now, and all i did was read and root for the good guys ;)


ps logboy - pertintent linkage in the bookmarks section of the yahoo site.
posted by the webmistress at 12:25 AM on May 22, 2001

Oh, I have most of the majority of Google's site cache of her archives.
posted by Logboy at 12:26 AM on May 22, 2001

so dhartung, us new "pending" members can't get in?
posted by rio at 12:26 AM on May 22, 2001

I think we all ought to pass on some bigass kudos to acridrabbit for having the courage to start up this process. I have a tremendous amount of respect of him just now.
posted by faith at 12:27 AM on May 22, 2001

the sad part is that i chatted/icqed with: Ashley(tropicalmist), the supposed Doctor John (who you might not know, was supposedly "engaged to "ashley" but "died" in an accident), *kaycee's* younger sister Kelli and Debbie. just so u know how long i was *knew* this *girl* i even lived through the "death" of a pet dog with her.
i should have known something was wrong when mother and daughter both spelled 'raisens' instead of 'raisins'...sheesh!

my tone is mocking, cuz all sympathy is gone. *poof!*
posted by Romi at 12:27 AM on May 22, 2001

Debbie: You are the weakest link.

posted by Redgie at 12:32 AM on May 22, 2001

logboy, didn't see any of Halcyon's stuff on yer links.

Also, maybe reference the Yahoo!Groups bookmarks. Might have something you need.

And hey, DanHartung, I thought I was the only person left who uses the word 'snarky'!
posted by JettSuperior at 12:32 AM on May 22, 2001

tears come to my eyes whenever I come in here... I'm still amazed how easily I fell for this sh*t.... however, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it now but try to get to ground zero as fa as the facts are concerned.

I like romi though I *knew this girl*... I like romi have absolutely no sympathy for her...

I am going to try to let the matter drop for now... I will be away from the computer for a few days... so if there is any info... PLEASE someone e-mail me!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by freethinker1 at 12:45 AM on May 22, 2001

I hate to be a finger-pointer, but was I the only one to notice that freethinker is on the friendlist for at least one of the Kaycee CollegeClub personas??

And at the risk of sounding paranoid, If you are gonna be away from your 'puter, how are you gonna score e-mail??
posted by JettSuperior at 12:51 AM on May 22, 2001

Hahah Redgie, good one.

posted by caren at 12:53 AM on May 22, 2001

Thanks Caren.

I posted it in the Chatroom, too.


posted by Redgie at 12:55 AM on May 22, 2001

JettSuperior, it wasn't freethinker1 in the drawing room with the keyboard. We've already had that conversation..Read the earlier threads.
posted by caren at 12:56 AM on May 22, 2001

hey freethinker1 i KNOW you! and for the record people, she isnt *kaycee*...

jettsuperior: im in pretty much every group *kaycee* made, thats due to the fact that i was a CC regular and i *knew* Kutebabe. freethinker1 was also a CC regular.

almost everyone i know from CC *knew* Kaycee....the woman was an everywhere, she *KNEW* everyone...egads!
posted by Romi at 12:58 AM on May 22, 2001

I did, but I have had a long, squirrelly day.....and there have been so many posts that some are bound to slip through the cracks.

Care to point the way?
posted by JettSuperior at 1:00 AM on May 22, 2001

rio: group membership is completely open. If you aren't properly authenticated with Yahoo Groups, that's something you'll have to fix. Did you confirm your sign-up e-mail?
posted by dhartung at 1:02 AM on May 22, 2001

think a show based on this could beat out The Sopranos?!

posted by Romi at 1:04 AM on May 22, 2001

Jett, check out the links at the yahoo group. I tried to add everything pertinent to that point, which was hours ago so now somewhat obsolete. If you wait till morning, maybe you can read MSNBCNN ...
posted by dhartung at 1:05 AM on May 22, 2001

Romi considering the 'drama' of this sh*t...Hell yeah probably would beat out the sopranos.....I have no sympathy for them either

Nika (Kanika5/truesolace00-CC)
posted by truesolace00 at 1:14 AM on May 22, 2001

hey freethinker1 i KNOW you! and for the record people, she isnt *kaycee*...

I'm not casting doubt on freethinker here -- she appears to be one of the first people to find Kaycee's online diary and become a well-wisher.

However, if the Kaycee hoax teaches us anything, it's this: You shouldn't say you know a person online without clarifying how you know them. E-mail? IM? Phone? Face-to-face? Biblically?
posted by rcade at 1:17 AM on May 22, 2001

*ahem* Thanks, thoughts exactly.
posted by JettSuperior at 1:20 AM on May 22, 2001

well guys, its been a blast. its been ages since i stayed up this late glued to my comp...but it was worth it. when the headlines appear, someone please post them!!!

i bet everyone is asking themselves who the people they IM/ICQ/other on a daily basis really a Debbie lurking behind a Sugar89 or a aspen13 or a OKcutie01? *shrugs* who knows...for some reason i feel like i took the red pill.

posted by Romi at 1:22 AM on May 22, 2001

hey! i got quoted! ...ha! ok im getting annoying, gracias gente, la botaron! :)
posted by Romi at 1:25 AM on May 22, 2001

Kilroy Was Here.
posted by kilroy at 1:34 AM on May 22, 2001

The stringer who is researching this story was in the chat room just now. And he had some updates on the story.

He was amazed by what happened on this site in the last few days. He said the research was excellent. (Hey, it was.)

Julie Fullbright doesn’t have any idea about any of this.

Debbie is saying she never recieved any money. Gifts (bears, flowers, etc) but no money. She gave the gifts to sick people she knew. Debbie says she knows a person who was sick that KayCee is based on but won’t give details. She is saying her daughter(s?) (sorry it's late) didn’t have anything to do with the hoax, but that some neighbor kids who “hung around” did.

This story stands to be huge in the mainstream media. CNN, MSNBC, AP. However, because it’s so complex, it stands a real good chance of getting sensationalized. And hey, it is complex and confusing.

He advised that anyone who talks to the media try and be as clear as possible. Also, if enough people push the amatuer slueth angle that happened here over the last few days someone will eventually pick it up instead of the evil internet/fraud story which has been done a million times.

Wunderblog said yesterday that the story wasn’t over. I agree. I think we’ve reached Act II.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:04 AM on May 22, 2001

Oh man, I went to sleep and missed the whole thing -- time zones suck.
posted by lia at 2:05 AM on May 22, 2001

Accurately and nicely summarized, Cap. And I agree, the feeling I got after talking to Debbie was that the fat lady hadn't even begun to tune up. I'd almost offer that no one could possibly make up a story like this... but somebody (Debbie, et al) did. Reality is strange.
posted by aero at 2:13 AM on May 22, 2001

Have been following this thread for two days now and may I be the first Limey to say: 'Kin Hell! Nice work everybody. Now, can anyone help me find my car keys.
posted by Jofus at 2:46 AM on May 22, 2001

Kaycee Nicole, meet Evan Chan.
posted by holgate at 3:15 AM on May 22, 2001

Its 5:15 am central time and I'm finally going to bed....
posted by Logboy at 3:16 AM on May 22, 2001

Now placing the pieces of the puzzles together---I do believe the following.

1. Debbie and Kaycee had similar accents. I remember calling one day and 'mistakenly' idenitifing 'Debbie' for 'Kaycee'. This was when they were supposedly in OK preparing to move. They sounded alike and it now makes me belive that Debbie more than likely was the voice of Kaycee. Looking at one phone bills the calls are based in Peabody.

2. Re: CC 'Kaycee' supposedly did alot of work on the site and if there was a trust fund 'Debbie' obviously had alot of time on her hands to possibly do the work---then again her daughter may be homeschooled and could have been the indivudal. When I initally spoke the 'Kaycee' the first time she claimed that her sister first initiated the account and then she took it over which more than likely bring validality to the fact the Kelli created the persona but Debbie took it over and shortly after it was taken over 'Kutebabe/Debbie/KC' became a hostie and was extremely active on the site.

3. I am looking into matters to see if considering the situation at hand that debbie could be prosecuted having posted and rented a po box while knowlingly sharing 'fiction' from what i picked up they may have the power. Also I think Ms. Fullbright has no clue....I think she may be a friend of the family because I have seen pictures with the two of them together. If I find them I'll post them. She should take action.

I am revolted that Debbie has done this. What a twisted and poor example of a mother.
posted by truesolace00 at 7:05 AM on May 22, 2001

I have been glued to MeFi for the past few days, unable to say anything, only able to read, my mouth gaping open....

My condolences to those of you who were duped. It must be so difficult to go through personal loss -- and then go through it all over again, this time knowing that no one died, but also that no one existed.

Debbie, please get help. You've hurt a lot of people, and though that wasn't your intention, that was the inevitable result of your behavior. You can't go on like this; people want for you to get better. You can get better. Reach out, ask for help, and people will help you.
posted by jennak at 7:38 AM on May 22, 2001

Wait, I'm confused. How do we know that Kelli created the KC persona? I saw that claim pop up and everyone believes it, but I saw no evidence for it. Was this on the Yahoo! group?
posted by norm at 7:57 AM on May 22, 2001

norm, it's what debbie has claimed in an interview, so take it with a grain of salt.
posted by mathowie at 8:16 AM on May 22, 2001

Another long time lurker checking in ...

I have a site which used to contain a journal that was, at varying times, called Naked Eye, Graffiti, Ephemera, Flux Redux and now Living Art.

I'd seen "Kaycee's" site a few times, read a few entries but as it's not my personal cup of tea I could not be considered a regular reader - nor did it sound right to me as I read through a few of Kaycee's and then Debbie's entries. The _voice_ was the same. The whole psychic energy was off - or at least to my antennae.

See, I AM dying (forgetting the silly semantics of "living with" versus "dying from") of a rather icky disease (HIV) and I DID start my journal, to some degree, to deal with the various and sundry issues such a circumstance raises in someone's life. I do not mean to imply that everyone deals with everything in the same way, I know this is not the case - but my experience, and it is extensive, with people suffering with terminal illness places a sensitive filter in front of me. A lot of the Kaycee stuff didn't make it through the filter.

Because of the sensational nature, I suppose, I generated what is considered a large number of regular readers - including those who wanted to send me gifts, money and other such things. One day I opened my mailbox and found a THOUSAND DOLLARS in cash inside an envelope. I stopped my journal the next day (I did restart it in a short while - but that experience SHOOK me to my roots). One other time someone anonymously paid my server account for an entire year. I do not give out my address but anyone with half a brain does the WHOIS thing and we're off to the races. I use my real name and real city information in all of my internet dealings.

For the record - I have repeatedly stated on my site (in all of its incarnations) that I do not want anything and, in fact, that it presented a dilemma for me.

Yes, I am getting to the point.

About a month ago I noticed that I was getting a LOT of hits from the vanderwoning domain - so off I went and saw that "Kaycee" had linked to my site and called me a "beautiful soul" and so on - it was quite ... um ... enthusiastic. My site was added to her sidebar.

Okay - no harm, no foul so far.

Yesterday I got the first of several emails asking if I was for real.

Yesterday I got the first of several emails demanding that I "prove" something.

Yesterday I got the first of several emails wondering about "living art" and "living colors" and etc.

Harm. Foul.

Some people read my site because I am generally reasonably positive about my illness and my circumstances - or at least optimistic in a general sense. I tend not to write when I am in a pessimistic frame of mind. Some people find hope in my "struggle" because they have their own, or know of people who have their own - some people read me because I may represent ground zero to them - a sort of cautionary tale, if you will. Who knows.

This whole scam is NOT innocent - oh, hell - I'll get over it, surely - but it's not really ME that it hurt, is it? It's the people who need and want to believe in things. In small medical miracles and human optimism.

Yes, I know - grow up and get in the real world. This IS the real world and in the real world people invest their hearts in things and sometimes they get their hearts broken. The price we pay here is a new layer of skepticism being laid across the web, like a sheer curtain, in which some truly deserving people will get caught.

posted by LivingArt at 8:30 AM on May 22, 2001 [10 favorites]

:: shaking head in admiration and wonder ::

You guys are fucking amazing. Bravo!

:: mad applause for everyone! ::

"Everything would have been FINE if it weren't for those meddling kids!"
posted by metrocake at 8:30 AM on May 22, 2001

I just entered the Kaycee chat room. It's empty.
posted by aaron at 8:40 AM on May 22, 2001

Man, I was soo disappointed that I had to leave so soon after we discovered Julie last night. I'm just catching up now on all the latest stuff. This is insane.. While I admire some of the ideas people have come up with on how this all fits together, I still feel there are many, many holes though.. and pieces that we're missing.

Btw, I saw someone mentioning that Debbie had baby pictures of Julie-- I'm not certain those are pictures of the same person. The child pictures all have blue eyes, while the older pics, the pics of Julie have green eyes. Of course, the eyes are so green I suppose they could be colored contacts, but I'm not sure that's something a serious basketball player would bother with, since they could potentially cause problems while playing. Or not? I don't know, as I've never worn contacts.

Anyway.. Can't wait to see everything unfold!
posted by Paige at 8:44 AM on May 22, 2001

aaron, go rejoin, i'll meet you there :) I just joined looking for you and YOU were gone :)
posted by Paige at 8:46 AM on May 22, 2001


IMHO, what MeFi has done... is doing... here is far more meaningful, far more important, than anything the people behind this hoax ever did...



And again, humble apologies to centrs (I feel dumb over that now...)

To misquote a bearded Austrian, sometimes a cat is just a cat... =>

JettSuperior: paranoia is probably just paranoia.



But I'm still puzzled about some of the details (since I've had nightmares in the past with yahoogroups, I'm chary of subbing to this one) - I think there are unanswered questions that it's important to answer...

Some of them I asked back in this now-gratuitously-self-referenced post, but most of all...

What do we really know? There's someone with a phone number, dial-up internet connection and PO Box in Peabody, Kansas, who hid for several years behind the face of basketball star from Gracemont, Oklahoma, calling herself "Debbie Swenson"?

Any more than that?

How much of what they've put on-line is to be believed? The family page? The N'sync page? Has the reporter met them in person? "Debbie" has years of practice in fooling people they talk to over the phone, and has already told one pack of lies which convinced some people, and put others onto false trails for 48 hours...

What about the First Baptist Church? Apart from the page on the N'sync website and the photomanip the only on-line evidence for its existance seems to be this...

All we know is that people have talked on the phone to someone who claimed to be "Troy Manley"... I'm probably just being paranoid, but I feel I need better evidence for the existance of the "First Baptist Church, Gracemont, Oklahoma"...

Who was really behind this? The deeper and darker it gets, the further we go from anything anyone thought they knew about the players involved...

The darkness behind the pharasitical facade is an old Scots cliché, but I'm not sure the All-American Baptist 'Swensons' ever existed anywhere except cyberspace.

From the Mark Twain reference through the diversionary double-talk, this looks to me like a ruthlessly-concieved and deviously-planned scam... and if it is, I don't know if I'd call the perpetrator 'sick' - just evil...
posted by n/a at 9:11 AM on May 22, 2001

This years OJ and Nicole, Tonya and Nancy, Jean-Benet... woo-hoo! Another American domestic scandal that goes on and on and on until everyone is completely sick of it ... and it broke here. Pfah.
posted by Graham at 9:18 AM on May 22, 2001

i surely hope all of you spend this much time, energy and detailed thought on real life as well.
posted by t r a c y at 10:16 AM on May 22, 2001

My favorite thing about this is the snarky comments from people who otherwise can't be bothered to contribute.
posted by rodii at 10:29 AM on May 22, 2001

Of course we do! Silly girl.
posted by lia at 10:29 AM on May 22, 2001

N/A, what we know now is that real investigators are on the ground looking into this, and they're not going to rest until they've uncovered it all. If we're just patient we'll get all our questions answered. I believe someone said that both CNN and MSNBC were looking into it, and the local newspaper there has already been doing a lot of investigation. What has already been exposed is enough to make this a good story, so there's no chance that they're going to give up.

Don't be surprised if this ends up in Time or Newsweek. (If it does, I hope to God they don't use Julie's picture before she finds out. Can you imagine walking into a grocery store and seeing your own face on the cover of Newsweek with a subtitle "HOAX!!!" plastered over it?)

But to try to answer some of your questions: At this point the only things I believe coming from the Swensons are things which have been independently confirmed.

However, we are definitely certain that there is a Debbie Swenson and that she's involved. The postmaster confirmed that the PO Box where people sent Kaycee gifts was rented by Debbie Swenson, and to get that you have to show ID.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:31 AM on May 22, 2001

Can you imagine walking into a grocery store and seeing your own face on the cover of Newsweek with a subtitle "HOAX!!!" plastered over it?

I think that would be damned cool. LOL
posted by rushmc at 10:46 AM on May 22, 2001

And Tracy has a tribute to Princess Di on her web site? Wasn't Di a sort-of international, once-monarchial, real-life British celebrity verison of the Kaycee prototype?
posted by raysmj at 10:52 AM on May 22, 2001

just to let ya'll know, i got julie's home phone number. i will post back if i receive an far i'm only getting the answering machine, which confirms. she lives there.
posted by caren at 11:20 AM on May 22, 2001

Random curiosity... anyone know what Kelli's middle name is? Might it start with a C?
Also, what exactly is the connection of the Julie Fullbright girl to the Swenson family -- anyone have anything on that?
Sorry if either of these questions have already been responded to... the flood of Kaycee posts is rather overwhelming, and while I *think* I've read them all... well, I don't know. Just trying to fit this all together in my head rather than doing my philosophy homework (in which I would be studying how humans perceive what is real and what isn't... hmm, interesting).
Yeah, I'm new, I've been lurking off and on for months... ever feel like you were being watched?
posted by amylynn at 11:24 AM on May 22, 2001

Thanks, Steven Den Beste...

Most of the questions I raised have now been answered to my satisfaction...

But perhaps someone should censor the personal information kicking about in these blogs, and the URLs connected to in them before too many people's lives are destroyed by their being hung up to dry in the media spotlight.

I'm starting to get very scared that this is all going to end very messily...
posted by n/a at 11:25 AM on May 22, 2001

In response to a post that came in while I was writing... Why on earth would you call Julie???
posted by amylynn at 11:25 AM on May 22, 2001

To find out the answers to your questions of course Amy. To find out the connection between Julie Fullbright and Debbie Swenson.

Some new photos have surfaced, they were sent to me in e-mail by an unidentified source this morning and I put them up here! One of them shows that she could have been family, it is a wedding photo.
posted by caren at 11:37 AM on May 22, 2001

I'm sure Julie will have more than enough media people on her phone, at her door, and in her mailbox over the next long while. As a college student, I just hope it isn't finals week at her school right now.
posted by amylynn at 11:48 AM on May 22, 2001

lia - i don't believe you. no i do, really. i know that *some* of us actually do disconnect once in a while.

rodii - it might be worth serious contribution if it set some sort of precedent, but it doesn't. this is far from the first time something like this has happened and it won't be the last. it doesn't compare to even the least heinous of hoaxes i've been witness to over the last 6 years. good grief, is everyone here a virginal internet newbie...?

raysmj - your comment is pointless since, besides having met princess di twice in real life, i was a regular reader of kaycee's blog... and quite happy to believe in her. i even included her in my prayers when she "died". my ego isn't so weak tho', that i have to go into full thrash mode now that i find i was tricked. as in real life, which the internet isn't btw, we will be deceived by other people once in a while - a small price to pay for a long life filled with intimate human contact. is no one able to roll with the punches these days...?

if this minor debacle garners any sort of attention from cnn etc... well, that will speak volumes about the state of the american media more than anything else.

arrgh. i shall never forgive you 3 for tempting me to waste extra energy on this...! 8-)
posted by t r a c y at 12:00 PM on May 22, 2001

tracy: You came on and told people they didn't have a life, basically, for worrying about this. And you had a tribute page dedicated to a celebrity you had no relationship with, even if you met her once or twice. You should've stayed out of the conversation. I didn't ever say a prayer for Kaycee, because I don't know her personally (she didn't even exist), and there are thousands of others -- all of humanity -- worthy of my prayers, although it's of course none of your business who I pray for or don't, or even whether I pray at all. It's none of your business who I care for. And who's to say that getting to the bottom of this wasn't caring on some people's behalf at all? Who's to to say that the "caring" shown for Kayecee was geniune caring in each individual case or not? One overblown story leads to another. One was supposedly totally about caring, one may end up being about exploitation, although people will be more careful about such Kaycee figures in the future. How are you to know for certain whether there's a difference between the two sides of the coin?
posted by raysmj at 12:14 PM on May 22, 2001 [1 favorite]

I would be surprised if the media does much with this, unless Debbie received a lot more gifts than people have been talking about so far. The only story that journalists want to tell about the Internet these days is about how all our companies are falling apart.
posted by rcade at 12:19 PM on May 22, 2001

The way I see it, there's a couple of hundred people who care just a little bit about this, and a handful who care a little more than that. When they're all in a room together it looks like a clusterf*ck. But really, as these things go, it's been remarkably mature and collegial.

Some of us do believe there were possible crimes here, yet I think most of us agree it's for the individuals scammed to complain to law enforcement.

As for having every detail of your life gone over, after you've spent two whole years convincing people those details were different, that's simply just desserts. Don't go out on the internet if you don't want to be scrutinized. This person didn't just walk unwittingly into this situation; she created it, nurtured it, and went to jaw-dropping lengths to protect it.
posted by dhartung at 12:25 PM on May 22, 2001

as in real life, which the internet isn't btw

I originally met my "real life" wife in an internet chat site. Thanks for correcting us, tracy. Apparently our marriage isn't real life.
posted by normy at 12:38 PM on May 22, 2001

I've a feeling that, at this stage of the game, it will be up to law enforcement to take care of loose ends. I don't think that this is the end of it, but at the same time, there's only so much information we can glean.

Don't doubt that I'm damned impressed with what everyone has uncovered so far, mind...

Unless Debbie comes forth and starts talking, we'll never really know what her motive is. And even were she to show up right now, and post right now, would any of us believe her? It's up to the authorities to figure out what the hell happened. Now that they've been alerted, that's their job.

I certainly hope, though, that these same authorities let us know if there is some way for us to contact them -- not to bug them, but to let them know if someone here did send a gift or money. I don't know where that would be legally speaking, but if there is a way to recover damages, that would be a good thing. Audra Lea, for example, might have a legal leg to stand on to at least get her cash back for the domain registration.
posted by metrocake at 12:46 PM on May 22, 2001

sorry raysmj, but my original post assumes that everyone here does have a real life. my hope is that everyone pays as much detailed attn to it as they do these "ones and zeros" which make up the kaycee blip.

as for the rest of your response i guess i've lost too much interest to grasp your point. but telling me i shouldn't come here because i don't say things that you like is silly. however if it will make you feel better you have my blessings to ask management to ban me. my 6 posts over nearly 12 months will give you a good indication as to how that will effect my overall internet experience 8-)

normy - i'm not gonna go there, that's a whole other can of weird wiggly worms.
posted by t r a c y at 1:04 PM on May 22, 2001

*suddenly feeling very nostalgic for the certainty of youth*
posted by normy at 1:14 PM on May 22, 2001

tracy: No one said you shouldn't come here. Yes, you implied people had real lives, but the implication in such a brief message was that no one here cared about those lives becaues they're . . . well, here at metafilter. That's a pretty weird assumption, especially coming from someone with a Princess Di page, even if she met her twice. You only care becaues she's, what, a famous media figure? There was another way, a better way, to state your case -- first, by treating your fellow posters here as equals. Then, of course, I was just saying that you have no more reason to believe that people are wanting to just tear down someone here than you had reason to believe that people geniunely cared before.
posted by raysmj at 2:16 PM on May 22, 2001

Has anyone forgotten the infamous Cut While Shaving guy, who solicited lottery tickets from readers, finally winning the Montana state lottery ($350,000 after taxes) and fleeing to Argentina?
posted by vodkatea at 2:29 PM on May 22, 2001

tracy: it's just that we've heard it all before, lots of times. Any schmuck can come out of nowhere and scoff at people and tell them to get a life. You just proved it. You made your point. It's not original, it's not insightful, it's not interesting, it's not useful, it's not polite, but it's a point. Done now? Then back to your Princess Di action figures with you.
posted by rodii at 2:48 PM on May 22, 2001 [1 favorite]

i have been reading about this on mefi at work off and on (and when mefi has been working) since the second thread about kaycee being fake.

i had read the kaycee and debbie blogs ages ago back when they were up originally. i remember following the link off halcyons page. i remember reading through them and getting quite teary.

the mefi threads have been so interesting, though there were plenty of times when i thought peoples theories were a bit out there. but still what you guys found out is pretty weird in itself. and well done. to keep digging like that. you're far more persistant than me thats for sure.

i feel sorry for all the innocent parties who have been involved, like the girl Julie and her family. and the people who 'knew' kaycee well. what a crazy week or so it must have been.

anyways, well done detectives. :)
posted by endorwitch at 11:35 AM on May 25, 2001

Wow. I hope everyone is archiving all these kaycee threads for future generations. Truly golden.

Anyway, we had a similar thing happen in an IRC channel I hung around in once except it was a girl using photos of a woman from "The Sundays" and she didn't claim to be dying. She managed to convince a guy into committing to marrying her without them even meeting. We all doubted her but never found out the picture was fake until afterwards. Regardless, the guy and girl were pretty much obsessed with each other, so much so that everyone else hated them now it seemed. He eventually went down to go marry her and it turned out she wasn't the most attractive, didn't have the prestigious job she led him to believe she had, already had a small pack of kids, and of course he stayed long enough to have sex with her and she gave him a VD. Too funny. Wish we archived their little "Marriage Webpage".
posted by yupislyr at 10:37 PM on May 25, 2001

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