Is it possible that Kaycee did not exist?
May 18, 2001 10:00 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible that Kaycee did not exist? This is a really delicate thing here. Please be really thoughtful about this. I promise I am not trying to stir the shit without cause. There are some people who are wondering whether Kaycee was a real 19-year-old leukemia patient, and whether things actually occurred the way they've been reported online. More inside, friends.
posted by acridrabbit (309 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
sure, it might not be real. does it really matter? if nothing else, the story of kaycee's death was a moving experience for some people. which is more than you can say for a lot of weblogs. (including mine.) if the story is not genuine, certainly the intentions of the wellwishers are as well.
posted by moz at 10:15 PM on May 18, 2001

posted by sylloge at 10:21 PM on May 18, 2001 [1 favorite]

There seem to have been enough people who met Kaycee in real life or on the web (chat @ collegeclub, etc.) for her to have been fake. Either that, or there's a huge number of people in on the conspiracy.
posted by SpecialK at 10:22 PM on May 18, 2001

ever heard of B1FF?
posted by moz at 10:26 PM on May 18, 2001

First there was this.

Then there was this.

And then, also, this.

Some things: (with permission, quoting from an email I got today)

"While I suppose it is quite within the realm of possibility that many people were using an outdated address to send things (I've done that myself) how would Debbie or BWG know that anything was arriving at an address that has not been in use for quite some time?

From the message boards relating to the death, I was given the impression that she died at home, very suddenly, and without pain. However, even if her death were attended [by a doctor], they both said in the blogs that they didn't know what had caused her sudden death. Then they came back with the information that it was a ruptured vein. Since that's an internal injury, and not outwardly visible, the body would have had to have been opened. If the death was attended by a doctor, and he/she was happy to sign off on it and send her to the mortician, that still only leaves 2 days to have her embalmed, cremated, to make all the arrangements for a memorial service, for everyone to attend a memorial service (and according to the blogs, her father lived out of state) to have everything on Thursday already wrapped and announced that it's been done. "

Inconsistencies in the archives of Kaycee's and Debbie's blogs:

The thing with leukemia- doctors don't say "no cancer detected".

"Leukemia recovery and remission is measured in abnormal cell count v normal cell count in the blood marrow. It's a terrible, terrible disease, and you can
have an extended symptom-free period and still be considered as a patient with active leukemia. What i know right now is {kaycee/debbie/somebody?] made serious mistakes in describing how a marrow transplant occurs, as well as making a lot of errors regarding [Kaycee's] periodic bouts of consciousness/unconsciousness.

"IF Debbie called their webhost the minute Kaycee died, and then he posted that very minute, then someone in HK could have the same date stamp as Debbie's announcements in Kaycee and Debbie's journals. I've also focused on the regular updates about Kaycee's health
when she was in the hospital before her demise, and somehow, a man in Hong Kong always knows on the same date and approximate time as Debbie when something bad happens, and just -happens- to post in the 2 hour window that would keep them on the same date."
posted by acridrabbit at 10:30 PM on May 18, 2001 [1 favorite]

Anyone seen this? (Note: I have no opinion about Kaycee.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:38 PM on May 18, 2001

SpecialK, no one claims to have met KayCee in real life. No one had ever talked to her on the phone. There are people who say they've chatted with her online, but that means nothing.

I really hope that I'm wrong about this. I hope with all my heart that Kaycee was a real person, and that all the folks who cared about her are grieving for a real person.
posted by acridrabbit at 10:41 PM on May 18, 2001 [1 favorite]

Frankly, it's amazing to be able to see the Salon headlines before they're written...

Like it or not, this is big news now. Blogging community, welcome to your first real scandal.
posted by tweebiscuit at 10:47 PM on May 18, 2001

Twee, you think this is true? That Kaycee was Halcyon's or somebody's construct?

I mean, I want it NOT to be true. I hate the thought that a bunch of people are grieving over somebody who did not existi!
posted by acridrabbit at 10:56 PM on May 18, 2001

Acridrabbit -- I only knew about Kaycee peripherally, from the MeFi and Blogger frontpage links. (My reaction: "Oh, someone I don't know died. That's sad...") The first two articles you linked to pretty much clinched it for me, though -- primarily the part about the conspicuous lack of obituaries. I haven't done any fact-checking myself, because I'm not involved, but I also agree that the girl in the photos looks like a model from a girls' clothing catalogue.

But rabbit, listen to yourself:

I mean, I want it NOT to be true.

You do? Either a girl died, or a lot people's feelings were hurt. I know which one I'd pick.

(Sorry for being off-handed, everyone -- but I'm more or less convinced. If evidence ever comes out to the contrary -- well, someone please punch me in the face.)
posted by tweebiscuit at 11:01 PM on May 18, 2001

I don't know much about the situation, but I can say with a bit of certainty that this isn't a hoax created by Halcyon.

Halcyon's got a geniune love for all things. Anyone who's met him could tell you that.

Of course the topic of this thread is basically: "We aren't what we seem on the web." so that could probably be a big act, but I'd put money on Halcyon's authenticity.
posted by christian at 11:02 PM on May 18, 2001

Is there anyone here with Nexis access? They could run a search to see if any obits showed up anywhere for anyone named "Kaycee Nicole."

And I agree, that photo on the front page doesn't exactly look like it came from the Sears Portrait Studio. It looks like it came out of a magazine. And the girl looks older than 19 too.

This is all circumstantial at best, of course.
posted by aaron at 11:15 PM on May 18, 2001

This kind of fakery is not outside the realm of possibility. I knew a woman on another online service who I'm fairly sure faked her own death of cancer, among the other lies that she spun (one was that she was an artist and regularly sold paintins for tens of thousands of dollars). There was, naturally, much wailing at her "passing." I actually talked to her on the phone several times and at one point, when she was supposedly in the hospital, I heard a dog barking fairly close by. She claimed she didn't hear it. About a year later, I believe she made a reappearance as one of her "friends" who had married the first woman's widower (hence the same last name on the account), and was conveniently deaf so she couldn't take voice calls -- a fact that somehow wasn't mentioned until I asked to talk to her. This woman was sick, all right -- mentally. But I don't believe she died even once.
posted by kindall at 11:18 PM on May 18, 2001

I don't know, some of the concerns could probably be explained by someone involved with it.

If it was a hoax, it's the most elaborate net-hoax I've ever seen. It would mean that her original page is fake and every email john shared with her was answered by someone else. I've gotten email from Debbie before, was that fake?

It seems much too elaborate to be faked, if it was, wouldn't someone slip up along the way? I mean how could someone keep a story going for almost a year, with hundreds of posts, as several personalities, and never screw up until the end? It doesn't seem possible. Maybe they lied about living in Kansas, big deal.
posted by mathowie at 11:19 PM on May 18, 2001 [2 favorites]

posted by aaron at 11:21 PM on May 18, 2001 [5 favorites]

Mathowie, two things:

1) No one had been looking for a screwup before, because there was no reason to doubt her. Are you constantly checking your net-friends' stories to see if they check out?

2) With that said, the opposite is also true: it's easy to see a hoax if one looks hard enough. (Note my above post about how her photo "looks" fake -- obviously, that's terrible evidence.)
posted by tweebiscuit at 11:27 PM on May 18, 2001 [1 favorite]

suppose debbie is kaycee.
posted by moz at 11:28 PM on May 18, 2001 [9 favorites]

and, while i'm thinking about it, kaycee makes perfect sense as a name for an outgoing and positive persona. kc and the sunshine band.
posted by moz at 11:29 PM on May 18, 2001


this is deplorable. it's making me sick to my stomach!

i have spoken to kaycee on the phone, as well as her mother, numerous times. i can assure you kaycee was quite real.

there are many holes in the theory in those heartless, sickening articles. someone clearly does not have all the facts, and the conclusions he has jumped to are ludicrous.

has it ever occurred to anyone that kaycee nicole was her first and middle name? that we left out her last name deliberately when we started this blog as a measure of protection for her and her family?

that she lives is kansas, but NOT newton, and that there was a reason for having a p.o. box there as opposed to her hometown?

kaycee was a wonderful human being. her mother is devastated by this loss.

it's not bad enough that i have lost someone so close and so dear to me, but now you are asking me to prove it?

as far as i am concerned, all the cynics can go to hell.
posted by bwg at 11:30 PM on May 18, 2001 [2 favorites]

oh, wait, that's mentioned in john's email. i knew it was too obvious.
posted by moz at 11:30 PM on May 18, 2001

that's ok bwg, i was probably going there anyway
posted by moz at 11:32 PM on May 18, 2001 [1 favorite]

i used to work for an ISP and once received a call from a group moderator. this moderator had a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and was involved with the group to assist people with a certain 'problem.' for the life of me, i cannot recall the specifics(this was 1997) of the group affliction, the best i can come up with is that they were 'delicate' people. the moderator wanted our assistance because an individual was assuming multiple identities to address the group and at one point, announced that he/she(whatever the identity happened to be) was dying and planned to commit suicide that night. then the individual ceased communicating and used the other identities to work the rest of the group into a lather. so why have i taken the time to type all of this?

in a nutshell, people are fucked up(case in point, Pat McGroin).

the internet provides the anonymity some people seek in order to call attention to themselves or prove a point. while i don't want to be callous if in fact someone has passed, this could very well be a hoax and rather than roundup the local lynch mob, i suggest waiting to see where the pieces fall after it shakes out a bit.
posted by donkeysuck at 11:38 PM on May 18, 2001 [1 favorite]

Just a few points I would like to make:

1. It IS possible that the memorial service could have taken place before the cremation/embalming/what have you. The difference b/t a funeral and a memorial service is that a body need not be present at a memorial service. Therefore, it is possible that the service may have taken place even as the body was being examined/prepared. Also, I was under the impression that most of her family lived nearby. Debbie mentioned going up the path where her uncle took her on piggyback. That suggests that she didn't live that far from the rest of her family.

2. Nowhere in the blogs did it say that they didn't know the cause. Bwg made it quite clear that it was a ruptured vein that caused her death.

3. Believe it or not, some people DO look like models. Even 19-year-olds. It is also possible that those pics were taken before her cancer diagnosis (like, a high school senior picture.)

Just my $.02.
Do I think Kaycee is real? YES. I have read her blogs many a time, and they are too emotional, too touching, and too compelling NOT to be real.

Hasta luego.
posted by Redgie at 11:58 PM on May 18, 2001

Thank you for sharing that BWG. I'm sure that reading those articles and seeing the comments here must have been most distressing . . .

Still, such sentiments are not inexcusable. The web is, by it's very nature, anonymous. That's why Kaycee didn't use her full name, and it's why each of us has a nickname here on MeFi.
posted by aladfar at 11:59 PM on May 18, 2001

"IF Debbie called their webhost the minute Kaycee died, and then he posted that very minute, then someone in HK could have the same date stamp as Debbie's announcements in Kaycee and Debbie's journals. I've also focused on the regular updates about Kaycee's health
when she was in the hospital before her demise, and somehow, a man in Hong Kong always knows on the same date and approximate time as Debbie when something bad happens, and just -happens- to post in the 2 hour window that would keep them on the same date."

Um, gang? The server's in CA. Which means the postings are reflecting the time of the server, not the location of the poster. It could be next Tuesday in Hong Kong, but if it's Saturday in CA, then it's date-stamped as Saturday.

In regard to the postings on the 16th that announce her death -- those are actually smaller versions of the splash screen that was posted on the 15th, the original splash screen that was responded to right here:

And if information of her death was posted all at the same time, in all locales, well, I'd certainly *hope* that if one of my nearest and dearest passed -- and so many others would want to know -- then the news would be posted in as many places as possible, as soon as possible, and someone would get me out of bed to do so if necessary.
posted by metrocake at 12:06 AM on May 19, 2001

My fiance and I had followed Kaycee's site for several months. When news of her death came we were saddened and talked about it over dinner.

Towards the end of our conversation we both started a sentence with the line, "you know, what if...?"

I don't think it makes anyone evil to question "anything" on the web. Although I still hope this story was not a hoax, I think it's important to remember that their are Kaycees all over the world, fighting, living, dieing, surviving one day at a time.

In the end, does it really matter?
posted by justgary at 12:20 AM on May 19, 2001

Let me add one more thing...

About the name. It is perfectly normal to not want to put your full name on your website. For the record: "Redgie" is not my name. My name is not even Redge. It was a nickname given to me a couple of years ago by a close friend. It sounded cuter than my real name, so I went with it. So is that wrong of me to put my nickname, instead of my real name, on my website?
The same principle can hold in Kaycee's case. I do think she used her real first name, but I don't know her last name, nor am I that curious about it. If they choose not to post that, it is their prerogative. It's not a matter of deception, it's a matter of protecting their privacy.


posted by Redgie at 1:05 AM on May 19, 2001

justgary: In the end, does it really matter?
I thought about this for quite a bit before posting. If the site is legit, I don't mean any disrespect, but one particular aspect makes me believe that this debate truly does matter.

Until a short time ago, I regarded this as a hoax that had, at worst, taken in hundreds of caring, loving people who didn't deserve to have their emotions ravaged over someone's sick joke--in and of itself a horrible thing, but one which can and will be recovered from. However, seeing the CafePress items for sale on the site gave me serious pause. If there's even a remote possibility that the site is a hoax, the implications are mortifying. Reaping financial gain by preying upon people's innate trust and compassion is unconscionable--anyone who bought a shirt or mug deserves to know the truth. Perhaps my perception is colored by what I perceive to be some pretty strong evidence that the site isn't legitimate, but this wording seems very cagey:
This Special Edition T is sold at *zero profit.* Please make a donation to the charity of your choice, or to your local Cancer Society. Thank you.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but all this states is that the purveyor claims to take no profit from the item. It doesn't say that proceeds from sales are going to a charity; rather, that the buyer should donate to one independently. The statement seems in questionable judgement, at the very least.

Also, a token bit of evidence which reaffirmed my belief that it's not legit: this photo from the old site. The "Warriors" bit looks pretty badly Photoshop'd on (to me), and where's the number? I've seen very few basketball jerseys without numbers on the front, especially at the high school level (or lower). There's also some (color) bleeding around her hand--could be the JPEG compression, but it could also be a poor attempt to paint over something. Circumstantial, yes, but that's my take.

When money is at stake, a dose of cynicism--no matter how heartless it may appear--is warranted, I think.
posted by disarray at 1:08 AM on May 19, 2001

i actually spent a couple of hours this evening (before seeing this post) looking for an online obituary for kaycee in just about every newspaper in kansas and oklahoma. i wanted to know her last name so i could possibly find debbie and send her a gift. i did suspect that perhaps her name wasn't kaycee, (no big deal to me), so i looked by age instead of name.

i didn't find anything but i'd like to make it known that most of the obituaries weren't timely and some were posted today (18th) of deaths that occurred more than ten days ago.

my father had leukemia, and believe me, i don't care what the doctors say and how they put it, if your cells are even close to normal you consider yourself in remission. it's called hope. having spent over a year with a leukemia patient, i didn't notice anything in the blogs that sent up any kind of red flag or warning bell.

also, i didn't get that kaycee died at home from those posts. it was mentioned "they couldn't do anything for her". that would lead me to believe she was taken to a hospital. i don't know what the standard cremation process is, but why would she need to be embalmed?

i agree with justgary "in the end, does it really matter?" but i think if there is even a shadow of a doubt, people should think twice before doing something that could be really devastating to the family. not only did they lose their daughter but now the memory of her is being tainted.

also, the small photo that appears looked to me like it was a graduation photo.
posted by centrs at 1:17 AM on May 19, 2001

First of all, let me commend acridrabbit on the courage to actually post this question.
Second, regarding making money on shirts&mugs, here is CafePress' current pricing: $$$
posted by modofo at 1:20 AM on May 19, 2001

disarray: that was a warmup jersey she was wearing, usually worn over the actual uniforms before the game and usually not bearing any names or numbers (to be interchangeable amongst players). No doubt the warrior was photoshopped on top, but that doesn't mean the photo is a fake.
posted by gyc at 1:37 AM on May 19, 2001

as for the jersey, it's clear that the mascot name was wiped out. that is because "warrior" was kaycee's personal emblem for herself and basketball was a source of strength for her. and the hand is blurry because the mascot name is wiped out in an attempt to keep the school she attended (and was probably attending at the time) from being identified or she was holding a ball in that photo, obscuring the jersey. that is clearly the same person as in the other photos though.

the more i think about this, the more i get sickened. for every claim anyone can make that kaycee was a hoax, someone can make a counter claim that she was real. she is real to me and her writing has totally inspired me.
posted by centrs at 1:40 AM on May 19, 2001

Too strange this controversy comes concurrent with the revelation of a faked death of a fake persona at Anandtech.
posted by brantstrand at 1:47 AM on May 19, 2001

Regarding quick funerals and memorial services: I don't know what religion Kaycee was, but in Orthodox and some other variants of Judaism, a body is buried, when possible, the same day as the death, without embalment. Whatever her religion, these processes can move *fast.*

Regarding Lexis-Nexis, I did a search across a wide spectrum of newspapers and came up with nothing under those names. That means nothing: Lexis-Nexis tends only to archive major newspapers, not all newspapers that participate send in all stories (or obituaries) and there may simply be no funeral notice.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:47 AM on May 19, 2001

I recall a hoax on an online forum that I read a long time ago, where someone became friends with a large number of people and then faked their own death by creating a new personality to deliver the news. But in that case, several of us saw through it from the beginning and basically ignored that person. When the fake death thing hit, a few of us made some comments about the absurdity of it all, there was a brief flame war that most of the doubters stayed out of, and then it all fell apart rather quickly. I also know of at least three instances of something similar occurring on Usenet newsgroups and AOL message boards, none of which I was involved in at all.

But these were brief in comparison and apparently much smaller in scale. If someone is lying to you, little things show up over time, whether you are looking at the other person under a microscope or not. I have never visited her site, nor do I know anything about the other people involved. I had not heard of her until I saw the other thread. So I have no idea what the scope of her net-presence really was, but it seems to me that someone simply having the patience to maintain a massive hoax over such a lengthy period of time is unlikely. And they are going to eventually slip up unless they are keeping detailed notes of what they have told everyone, etc. Not that I do not think there are people capable of it, I know that there are plenty of people mentally capable of that. But it just seems too vast to be at all likely. And there is no hard evidence to back up such a theory anyway.

Either way, I think this thread really underlines the paranoia and distrust of people on the Internet. Folks, you are grasping at straws at this point. The fact that people are examining pictures and trying to find problems with CafePress stores is really fascinating to me. Anyway, everyone needs to keep in mind that you can not take back things you have said after you have said them, but you can usually still say the same things later if you feel it is appropriate to do so.
posted by bargle at 1:52 AM on May 19, 2001

Thanks for setting me straight, modofo. I should've checked the pricing schedule myself. I guess I'm hypersensitive to potential hoaxes as of late. Within the past week, I've gotten five calls from individuals claiming to represent organizations with "Wish" in the title, all soliciting donations to help children with terminal illnesses. None of them were legitimate; in fact, I recall reading that none of the major "wish-granting" organizations do telephone solicitation. Still, it sickens me to think that the same people manage to con kind, vulnerable people time and time again.

bargle, I hope I don't come across as though I'm looking for conspiracy for conspiracy's sake. I'll be the first to admit that posting the CafePress thing without looking at the base prices first was a stupid thing to do, but I had no malicious intent. It really wasn't my intention to be insensitive, but I was, objectively speaking. If this means anything to you, I think part of my paranoia stems from past experience. My sisters were part of an online community for the disabled and terminally ill some time ago. On several occasions, individuals claiming to have cancer and other ailments scammed the participants with varying degrees of success. Most times, the perpetrators were obviously healthy kids seeking attention and validation and were called out immediately. But I worried that someone more intent on conning them could pull it off fairly readily, and I took every possible opportunity to make sure that they were safe.

I'm not trying to draw a parallel in any way; I simply mean to say that the whole experience made me step back and evaluate claims like those in a critical light. Am I paranoid? Probably so, and I hope those who cared for her will ignore me for the insensitive jerk I am. That said, the mere fact that some have to ask if things like this are hoaxes or not diminishes the outpouring of support the community offers, but I do believe it's just as dangerous to the memory of those who truly had to struggle to take every such incident on blind faith.
posted by disarray at 2:56 AM on May 19, 2001

Boy who cried wolf, I guess. When trolls and troublemakers lie online enough, some people get burned and then don't know the real thing when it walks up and bites them on the fanny.

Was she real to you? Did her story touch your heart? Isn't that what matters? If you want to play investigator and find the truth that's your path and you're welcome to it. If you don't want to know, that's your choice too. Reality is subjective anyway.

Just don't look back in anger.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:59 AM on May 19, 2001 [1 favorite]

Could it have been a hoax? I don't know, and I am not about to launch into a full-blown investigation into each entry and picture that ever got posted on her website, and whether these were fabricated or doctored.

I personally don't think it was faked. There was simply too much investment of heart and soul into that year-long blog for it all to have been an elaborate hoax. Someone trying to perpetuate a fiction of that sort would not have posted the kind of things that came up in her site. Or could they?
posted by brownpau at 6:17 AM on May 19, 2001

De Mortuis Nil Nisi Bonum.

There is no amount of physical tangible evidence which would ever satisfy the doubts of some cynics. They would be as blind to it as they are to the light from Kaycee's heart which streamed through each of her journal entries.

I could go on and on about this matter but I am cutting this short as I feel a more valuable use of my time is to spend it composing a letter of condolence and sympathy to Kaycee's family.
posted by coldmarble at 7:07 AM on May 19, 2001

there are some who may be blinded by the "light" from kaycee's heart, and who may consequently refuse to be satisfied by any amount of physical evidence.

hey, do what you want. but with the anonymity and ambiguity of the internet, don't take the high road. there isn't one.
posted by moz at 8:10 AM on May 19, 2001 [1 favorite]

I know nothing about this particular instance. I also have no opinion about whether it is genuine. I would like to speak to the question, in a generic sense only, of what difference it would make if it had been faked.

It is well known now that one of the things which contributes to the success in fighting cancer is the willpower and courage of the patient. Part of what helps that is support from other people.

Suppose that a high profile case tugged the heart strings of a lot of people, and then was exposed as a fake. Then suppose that someone does genuinely become ill in exactly the same way, and then turn to the net for help and support. Wouldn't they be greeted with "Hmmph; another hoax. Can't fool me twice!" -- and not get the support they need to help save their lives?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:32 AM on May 19, 2001 [1 favorite]

This just keeps getting stranger:

"...someone went through her journal and removed all references to sending get well presents, her list, her PayPal donation page, and changed the text and prices of her merchandise on her Cafepress site to no profit..."
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:40 AM on May 19, 2001

From Kaycee's site on 3/1/1:
First off, I sure wasn't raised to ask perfect strangers to give me money. Secondly, if I did do that I don't think I'd feel too good about what I'd bought with money I asked strangers for. I'm not sure I'd even feel I deserved it since I hadn't worked for it myself. That's all way too easy. And it's not even close to being right.

But you say, "Hey KC you have t-shirts for sale on your site." Yup, I do. But they're at cost, I don't make anything from them. And if I asked for money for anything, I'd ask you to donate it yourself to any number of awesome charities.
posted by ericost at 9:04 AM on May 19, 2001

Eric, I don't know the answer to this: Is there any guarantee that an entry labelled "3/1/1" was actually written on that day and not changed later? What the statement I quoted contended was that someone went back and rewrote history. Any way to confirm or deny it?

Anyone want to see if the Google cache is stale and holds a different version of some of the pages?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:10 AM on May 19, 2001

I originally found this post in the google cache.
posted by ericost at 9:20 AM on May 19, 2001

reading through her entries, I don't know how they couldn't be genuine.
posted by register at 9:32 AM on May 19, 2001

There is also nothing in the Google cache that I could find to support the claim that she ever had an amazon wish list or a PayPal account. Of course, that doesn't really prove she never did, since for all we know Google crawled her site last night.

Does anybody recall an Amazon wish list? or PayPal donations account? It seems to me if we could prove or disprove these recent claims that such things were removed from the site this whole matter might be resolved.

I for one find it of vital importance that we establish the truth or falsity of Kaycee's site and these claims of fraudulence.
posted by ericost at 9:40 AM on May 19, 2001

I for one find it of vital importance that we just go on our happy ways. IF a real family and friends are truely morning, goodness ppl we should respect that. IF this whole thing is a hoax... great, we've uncovered it, and have discovered how gullible and caring people can be... and how people can take advantage of one another. Lets get on with life people and go attend to and hug those we know in RL
posted by tsidel at 9:49 AM on May 19, 2001

I'm always amazed--not just here, but everywhere--how many people feel the truth is what you believe it to be, or that it doesn't matter if it turns out to be a hoax. I have absolutely no idea if Kaycee was real or not, but considering how big an impression the site made on people, I think it's VERY important that the truth be known. I know that if I followed her story and was touched by it, I would damn sure want to know if I had been misled.
posted by jpoulos at 10:00 AM on May 19, 2001 [2 favorites]

I found that this was handled on MetaFilter itself last September, and that thread also said they didn't want contributions.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:05 AM on May 19, 2001

As someone who has only just been exposed to this story, I fail to see the importance of it. It is very sad that any young person should die, but it happens.

This, KayCee, was just one person. I can't see why her particular story got blown up out of all proportion. There are millions more young people dying right now.

There's nothing wrong with helping out, or paying respect to, particular people.. but it's a bit weird when one becomes almost 'famous' just because she's dying from cancer. There's a lot more people in the world than her, folks.
posted by wackybrit at 10:10 AM on May 19, 2001

I would have emailed you tsidel, but you didn't list an address in your profile...

Wholeheartedly agree that RL hugs are more important. But people are currently making claims that this is a hoax; I certainly don't wish to disrespect a grieving family while investigating those claims, but it IS important to wade through this mess and come to a conclusion. I have the feeling that some people are emotionally invested in Kaycee and are understandably frightened of looking into the possibility of a hoax. And some have no doubts about the reality of Kaycee and don't want to be bothered by noisome muckrakers who are making unsubstantiated claims. Perhaps those people should remove themselves from the conversation.

For me, one who has watched the whole incident from a distance, I think it is important to understand what is true and what is false. The answer to that question would tell us a lot about our susceptibility to hoaxes (there is a hoax one way or another, now that some are making such bold claims of fraud) and also a lot about the internet as medium for spreading hoaxes. I am sorry if I do not have enough information to be able to conclude immediately that Kaycee is not a hoax. It seems to be highly improbable that she is, but there are enough oddities in her tale to give some credence to the accusations of fraud, and no one has come forward to offer some bit of proof that would close the case.

I only want to have an answer; there is no intent to show disrespect to anyone involved.

wackybrit: if people choose to shower love and support on one person dying of cancer, why do choose to question it? Would you tell someone grieving over the death of their grandmother that there are a lot more people in the world? Kaycee "became famous" not just because she was dying, but because she wrote openly and honestly about her experiences and her thoughts resonated with a lot of people. Please read this thread about Kaycee if you want to see what kind of company you are putting yourself in by questioning people's right to grieve for a particular person.
posted by ericost at 10:23 AM on May 19, 2001

I find it strange that the title of her blog was "Living Colours", rather than "Living Colors" (minus the 'u'). That could be because this BWG fellow who designed her blog is Canadian and created the graphic, but it seems a little strange to me.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 10:24 AM on May 19, 2001

I have publically naysayed before, and what stuns me the most is the argument people pounded at me, stunning in its logic...."It is true because it is true!" Ah yes, thank you, that cleared it up.

Much of the site reads like someone got their information on disease and dying from watching television - too much doesn't make sense, describes television writing conventions for illness instead of how it actually happens in real life.

For you people who say, "What does it matter?" It matters that you should know when you are reading fiction, and when you are reading nonfiction. It matters that someone decided to use your kind heart to manipulate you for their own gain.

The oldest scam in the book is to set up a sick kid, one who nobely refuses all help, and just asks for love - always, one or two of her most loyal followers, people who just really care about her, will pop up and start the collection box rolling, "in her honour". That collection box rolled through my email several times- we want to fill her room with flowers, buy her a digital camera, a scanner, send her to disney world. And each time I would politely write back, thanks, I would love to help. Send me the name of the hospital she is in, and I will send her flowers.

Of course, no one ever knew what hospital that might be. And calls to hospitals in the area she was supposed to be in didn't yield a patient matching her discription.

Elaborate Theatre? Manipulating the online Audience? Psychological Games? The New Viral Advertising Model? I was a kid like "KayCee" when I was her age. I spent a long time in hospitals, and in pain, and not knowing what the outcome would be, and it angers me to see someone trivializing that sort of experience to make it 'The New Spot', an online soap opera.
posted by kristin at 10:29 AM on May 19, 2001 [14 favorites]

I want you guys to be able to have your conversation without me getting all in the middle of it, but I do want to clarify something. Obviously I did say what was posted in Wunderblog, but I really hadn't meant for that to be posted. I was a dummy and forgot that any mail that goes there gets posted, I would have chosen my words more carefully if I had thought about it.

I don't want to make any accusations of fraud, because I honestly don't know one way or the other. Someone else working on this said that references soliciting gifts and money had been removed, but I didn't do that research myself, and I don't know one way or the other if they were ever there, or if they were edited out.

I just want to be clear that though I was speculating away in e-mail, I genuinely do not know the truth of the matter about what money may or may not have been solicited or donated by anybody. Since there's been great emphasis on no gifts, no donations since the announcement of the death, an actual criminal fraud probably isn't likely, and is probably quite improbable in this case. Um, pretty much everything else I have to say, you guys have seen, so that's all from me.
posted by headspace at 10:53 AM on May 19, 2001

Long before Kaycee had a weblog, I talked to her on the phone several times. In one conversation, I heard a young, scared girl sobbing as she tried to understand why her life had to be cut short.

Over the next 2 years, my life was enriched by what she shared in private emails, in chat, and on her site.

Did I ever meet her in real life? No.

Does any of the above conversation dim the light she brought into my life? No.
posted by halcyon at 11:00 AM on May 19, 2001

I know nothing about this blog, never read it until I scanned a bit after this post, so I have no emotional involvement whatsoever. Much that is posted online is authentic, more is valid, and perhaps the majority is neither. I neither know nor much care which is the case with this site/scenario.

I would contend, however, that once someone chooses to involve any aspect of their life in a public forum, they open themselves to the consequences of that, anticipated or otherwise. If this was indeed a real girl, she chose to make her writings available to countless strangers, and as in the case a while back of the "found journal" posted online, at that point the words become not merely personal, protected reflection but public text. And one can never anticipate or control what the public will do with a given text once it gets its hands on it (e.g., the Bible). If she was not real but a fictitous creation, that adds even more "meta" levels to the text.

In either case, it is entirely appropriate for anyone to interpret, discuss, investigate, analyze or take from it what they will.
posted by rushmc at 11:04 AM on May 19, 2001

ericost: You really can't grieve for someone you don't know, not in an -- I usually mistrust the use of the word, but it applies here -- authentic way. The "person" is only an abstraction, a mental construct. You don't even have proof of the person in question's actually being a human being here, only the weblog and someone's saying he heard her voice over a phone. Even grieving for, say, Princess Di was not authentic grief, but you could say that Diana was an actual person. Maybe not the one you saw on TV, maybe not the one of myth, but an actual person.

Either way, in such cases one "grieves," if you can call it that, in a way similar to the way you grieve at the movies, or grieve when a famous actor or writer or singer dies -- for humanity, for all the pain in the world, because of what that the mythology built around a person or that person's artistic works meant to you. Or perhaps you're just being sentimental. Sometimes it's hard to tell.

I don't mind all of that, for such "grieving" can still be a real healing agent, for lack of a better phrase, even though the sorrow differs substantially from the grief you'd feel if someone actually close to you died.

Considerably more bothersome are promiscuous, public grieving for someone you don't know. First off, there is that whole mob psychology factor. Then there is a reason every major religion does not encourage overt, individual public displays of grief, charity or devotion. Such displayed cheapen the real thing, so to speak.
posted by raysmj at 11:17 AM on May 19, 2001 [3 favorites]

I've been reading about all of this for a couple of hours, and I've been thinking very hard before posting. This is obviously a very sensitive subject for a lot of people, and I think it's important to be mindful of that.

If Kaycee is a real person and has died, the debate over the hoax or non-hoax must be a particularly difficult burden on her family, who are already dealing with pain and loss. If it is true, my sympathy goes out to them.

First, I'll say that I have not followed the Kaycee story; it's arrival on MetaFilter was my intro. I have no opinion at all as to the veracity of the story, because I'm a proof addict and I see no absolute proof in either direction. But I don't think it really matters if it's true or not, and here's why.

Kaycee, either the real Kaycee or the Kaycee that has been invented, has positively impacted many lives. She has generated some awareness for cancer; she has educated many people (even if some of the information was false, as has been claimed); she has produced good will and positive feelings. I feel like picking apart related websites, scrutinizing post times and examining meta tags is somehow beside the point. If someone has manufactured this entire story for their own gain, shame on them. But looking past that to the good that has been generated would almost cancel out the harm. Reflecting on how this has made a huge "community" pull together and applying that energy to other causes, even on an individual basis, could make the "truth" beside the point.

Many have argued that the truth must be known, if only so people know their good will was well and truly spent. No good will is wasted. Rejoice in the fact that we were able to feel for someone few of us knew personally, and be proud of ourselves for giving and expecting nothing in return. And finally, as tsidel said, "hug those we know in RL". Amen to that.
posted by jennaratrix at 11:18 AM on May 19, 2001

i agree with you jenna. i think the point to focus on is the intentions of the wellwishers, regardless of the authenticity of the story or not. however, i am disturbed by the idea that people may have spent money buying presents or purchasing items via cafepress for what may turn out to be an actor. i think that would be fraud, and i won't blame those skeptics (referred to as "cynics" by some because they don't believe all that they read on faith) who continue to seek out the truth.
posted by moz at 11:36 AM on May 19, 2001 [1 favorite]

Sidestepping the specific case-at-hand, I feel more comfortable knowing that our online peers are assertive enough to debate this openly. It's a better alternative to blindly believing or anonymously spreading rumours behind others' backs.
posted by kv at 11:48 AM on May 19, 2001

i, for one, am just amazed at how media continues to influence and infiltrate all aspects of our existence.

(shutting down my computer for a big fat dose of RL today...)
posted by webchick at 12:28 PM on May 19, 2001

Steven--I saw that same entry that Eric was referring to. It was genuine. I saw it shortly after it was made.

RaysMG: I disagree with your point that it is not possible to greive for a person you didn't know. I never knew Kaycee in real life, but I still loved her. Like I wrote earlier ( in an earlier Metafilter entry) her entries have really encouraged me. If she is real (which I really believe she is), then the world has lost a wonderful young lady. So it is possible to mourn for someone you have never met.

Case in point: A few months ago, the Oklahoma State basketball team suffered a huge loss when one of their planes crashed, killing all on board. One of those killed was a locally well-known sportscaster. I witnessed personally many people (myself included) mourning for a man they never met in person. Is that loss worse than that of his family? No. They have lost far more than we did. However, we did lose someone we liked and respected, even though we have never met the guy, and we mourned. Those feelings are real, and you can't deny them. Believe me. I have felt them. And I feel them now with Kaycee. Any time someone makes a positive impact in your life, you feel loss when they are taken away. So, with all due respect, RaysMG, I must disagree with your viewpoint.

Hasta luego,
posted by Redgie at 12:38 PM on May 19, 2001

It is impossible to prove a negative, and therefore impossible to prove that Kaycee never existed. However, it should be simple enough for bwg or Kaycee's (supposed) mother to prove that she did... not that I expect either of them to do it, because they can't.

In fact, bwg's reaction to this discussion, his anger, says a great deal about this whole situation. Either he is no longer sure himself, or he was in on the hoax.

It seems that Kaycee was a beautiful fiction -- perhaps well-intentioned -- perhaps not, but a fiction nonetheless.
posted by johnnydark at 1:11 PM on May 19, 2001

I'd have to disagree with you, johnnydark. The anger is warranted, and bwg and/or Debbie don't have to prove anything. It's persumptious to believe that they do. Wouldn't you be angry (and rightfully so), if someone was doubting the existence of a person you love? To use bwg's anger as a checkmark in the hoax column holds little validity.
posted by Zosia Blue at 1:27 PM on May 19, 2001

This is a story I hate to even comment on. Everyone wants to believe a girl like this exists, there is no question of that. But I came across something that to me, questions all of this.
I went and did a whois domain search on (which goes straight to the living colours blog)
and it came back with this info:
Domain name:


audra lea (

jonesboro, ar 72404

Network Commerce Inc. Administrator (
FAX: 912.527.4596
5000 Business Center Drive
Savannah, GA 31405

Network Commerce Inc. Administrator (
FAX: 912.527.4596
5000 Business Center Drive
Savannah, GA 31405

Network Commerce Inc. Administrator (
FAX: 912.527.4596
5000 Business Center Drive
Savannah, GA 31405

The important thing was to me, that Audra Lea has her own website

Take a look.
posted by justagirl at 1:31 PM on May 19, 2001 [1 favorite]

bargle, I hope I don't come across as though I'm looking for conspiracy for conspiracy's sake. I'll be the first to admit that posting the CafePress thing without looking at the base prices first was a stupid thing to do, but I had no malicious intent.

I know. I did not mean to imply that you were being malicious, or that anyone else was.
posted by bargle at 1:36 PM on May 19, 2001

Forgetting for a moment the issue here, the fact that people are willing to blithely ignore "truth" because they were emotionally involved in the story is really sick. Have we so isolated ourselves in the electronic that the real world, where people live and die is irrelevant as long as we had an emotional investment? Maybe it's time to turn off this computer. Come on people, get real.
posted by zebra_monkey at 1:45 PM on May 19, 2001

the network solutions record doesn't prove anything. audra lee might have purchased the domain as a gift for kaycee nicole.
posted by heather at 1:48 PM on May 19, 2001

sorry, network solutions should read domain registration. my bad.
posted by heather at 1:49 PM on May 19, 2001

Compare these pictures of Audra Lee to this picture of Kaycee Nicole. I don't know, but the third one could well be a younger picture of the same person.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:03 PM on May 19, 2001

Let me first say that I'm 99.9% sure this is not a hoax at all (like I'm 99.9% sure that gravity pulls things down towards earth).

But what's sad about all this, whether this is fact or fiction, is that everyone is going to question this until they see an official obit of some sort, identifying her and matching up with all the stories.

It's sad because the extent to which the family went to ensure privacy for themselves and anonymity for everyone involved shows that they value their privacy, that they protected her identity, and that they did a great job at it (cynics would say this is why it must all be false). Could you imagine if the blog continued as-is, but said somewhere "I'm Jane Doe, and I'm at the First Foo Hospital, at 123 main street, anytown, USA."

No matter how many times she said "don't send me gifts or flowers or money, help a charity instead" her room would be filled with flowers, gifts, checks, etc. It might cheapen the whole thing and make her feel bad, and others might say it was a blatant attempt to tug heart strings for loot. To avoid any of that by remaining anonymous was brilliant.

The naysayer claims are very flimsy, there's a good explanation for all of it. The claims that she made references to her wishlist seem like hogwash to me. I've been reading her site off and on since it started, probably once every couple weeks, each time skimming old entries. I don't recall seeing anything about wishlists or paypal.

Anyway, I know many here won't be satisfied until they see proof, and in order for that to happen, all anonymity and privacy has to be revealed.

If that does happen, and it comes out this all really happened, I think we're all going to feel terrible. Terrible that we let some cynical side of us take over and we acted like sharks looking for drops of blood in the water. If it doesn't happen and this turns out to be some sort of hoax, we'll all loose a little faith in others.

It's looking like a lose-lose situation.
posted by mathowie at 2:07 PM on May 19, 2001 [1 favorite]

redgie: Not much you said contradicted me. I think I was pretty much saying it's a matter of degree. Do you get upset while watching a movie? Those emotions can be valid and if you think I meant that, you're way too into the concept of authenticity, which is rampant these days, for gosh knows what reason.

Nevertheless, the thing about the mourners for the Oklahoma State team? Who's to say that some of the folks just had a deep emotional connection more with the school? Fans of the team? Maybe, at worst, they were just following the crowd? You don't have any earthly idea, do you? No, which can be the bad part. The Di thing I pointed to, because it's been fairly well documented that if some folks in Britain weren't into the grieving thing enough, they were harassed. But they didn't know her, so who cares?

In any case, grieving for someone who was very close to you, or a family member, is generally about 20 times more complicated than "grieving" for someone you've never met, much less ever seen. It's a whole range of emotions, which for some of us get so intense they force us to power down, to just shut it all off.

Ultimately, of course, you can't know with 100 percent certainty if people are faking grief for a relative, spouse or close friend either. You can generally take it on faith, though. Count me in with Bette Davis. I abhor cheap sentiment, even coming from myself. (And I have a strong tendency to get that way.)
posted by raysmj at 2:11 PM on May 19, 2001

What this entire episode illuminates in bold, garish colors is the current addiction to public grieving. Reading over the first Kaycee thread, I was repulsed by the outright viciousness of the Kaycee supporters toward the Kaycee non-supporters - arguments which read, in short, if you don't feel and grieve for her the same way we do, you are heartless and cruel. What a loathesome thing to say, and completely contradictory to their point, I might add (for sensitive people, it was the pinnacle of cruelty).

There exists some sort of 'more grieved than thou' movement in America, certainly - shrines filled with flowers and stuffed animals and letters and signs sprout up within hours at scenes of violence and tragedy. Private contemplative grieving has been, it would seem, demoted in favor of public tears and confessions of love for the deceased - none of which, it must be noted, has anything at all to do with the deceased, but rather exists to heighten the awareness that the so called agrieved is a very caring and sensitive person - the sort who would not go out and kick puppies.

I, too, had never heard of Kaycee until the earlier 'she's dead' post was made. A tour through her site and that of Debbie made it abundantly clear that these were not real people. I have no idea why anyone would take the time and resources to set up a site like this, but there is more than enough evidence in the history of the Internet and Web of fake identities and sites and deaths to support the strong possibility that Kaycee is another in a long line of hoaxes.

Clearly, no one looks forward to learning they were duped, but to claim that you are, all things considered, better off for having been duped by so cheerful a non-existent person seems to me to be the height of naivete.

I also must shout a hearty 'Amen!' toward Kristin and her points.
posted by gsh at 2:21 PM on May 19, 2001 [3 favorites]

This speculation is distasteful, but it matters if Kaycee is a hoax, because that kind of thing makes people less likely to open their hearts and wallets when a real person is in dire need of help.
posted by rcade at 2:27 PM on May 19, 2001

(I have no opinion on the veracity of the web log in question.)

We should not be condoning anyone’s motives for wanting to know whether the KayCee web log was real. The burden of proof on the family (if they do exist) is slight, they can do so without adversly effecting their privacy.

Matt, I agree with you totally in your post except for this: “If ... this turns out to be some sort of hoax, we'll all loose a little faith in others.”

If it is a hoax, I’ll keep the faith lies are eventually unmasked and value authenticity that much more.

Rcade: that kind of thing makes people less likely to open their hearts and wallets when a real person is in dire need of help.

No way, real people don’t have the same privacy issues as fake ones.

Zosia Blue: Wouldn't you be angry ... if someone was doubting the existence of a person you love?

I’m fairly certain I can proove my existence beyond a shadow of a doubt, let alone a loved one’s death.

In other words, I’m with zebra_monkey (and gsh and kristin). “the fact that people are willing to blithely ignore "truth" because they were emotionally involved in the story is really sick.” Truth matters. Otherwise, I know a dragon named Puff that can console you.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:45 PM on May 19, 2001

I treat everything on the net as possible fiction, and I don't allow myself to get emotionally involved in anything I know soley by the net.

So as I said before, it does NOT matter to me. I wasn't speaking for everyone.

And if people stop opening their hearts and wallets for real people in need of help because of this (regardless if it's true or not) then they were living in a make-believe world anyway.
posted by justgary at 2:48 PM on May 19, 2001

Maybe it's a Southern thing, but I've frequently seen glass jars placed in stores to collect money for sick kids, families that lost their home in a fire, and the like. My point about sick-kid hoaxes is that they make you much less likely to pitch in when you're asked to help someone you don't know, just as the "policeman's fund" telemarketing scams make it harder for legitimate charities.
posted by rcade at 2:54 PM on May 19, 2001

We live in a world where most of us aren't connected to real people anymore, just something distant and a little empty called "community". When people are so desperate to feel a part of something that confers meaning, they can easily be taken advantage of (both emotionally and politically, although that's another conversation).
posted by zebra_monkey at 3:10 PM on May 19, 2001

Not intended to be funny:

Life is like a movie:

"You must find out by yourself... "
"If you take the blue pill, you wake up and remember nothing. "
"If you take the red pill, we follow Alice into Wonderland - and I show you how deep the rabbithole goes."

Kaffee: "I want the truth!"
Jessep: "You can't handle the truth!"
posted by nonharmful at 3:11 PM on May 19, 2001

Ray: Yes, I do have an earthly idea. I can't speak for the other "mourners", however, I can speak for myself. Yes, my friend, I really did grieve. And no, I wasn't following the crowd, and no, I didn't have any involvement with OSU (I'm actually more of an OU fan.) But I did grieve. That plane crash was a huge blow to all of us. Now, I am not questioning the possibility that some could have been "following the crowd," but I think the vast majority really felt these things.

OK, enough soapboxing on my part.

Hasta luego,
posted by Redgie at 3:17 PM on May 19, 2001

What really bothers me about this is BWG's reaction -- I'm not saying it's unwarrented, but it lends this whole affair a hostile spirit I don't think anyone intended. I was fairly convinced that KayCee was a hoax -- now I'm not so much, and I'm not interested in investigating. However, I'd be the first one to offer my apologies if I found out to the contrary, and I never meant anything against the KayCee's spirit by it.

Uninvolved people like me are calling it like they see it, and that's the feeling I get from the article that acrid linked to up at the top of the comments. They obviously have nothing against KayCee, Debbie, or BWG, or against anyone -- they're just pointing out what appears to them to be a hoax. They're not any more despicable, uncaring, or cruel than people who delete "Send this chain letter and Bill Gates will give a penny to Johnny Polio" out of hand. The character trait that is making people suspicious is caution, not mean-spiritedness.

What I'm saying is: if we were somehow convinced that KayCee truly existed (it would certainly be easy to do), I can't think of a person involved who wouldn't offer a heartfelt apology to Debbie and BWG and a word of prayer to KayCee's spirit.
posted by tweebiscuit at 3:28 PM on May 19, 2001

Let me just add one more thing.

I hope from the bottom of my heart that people don't lose faith in others because of hoaxes. It is true that there are people out there that make stuff like that up all the time. However, I honestly feel that Kaycee is genuine, and that those websites are real. Even if it turns out that this was fake, (which I SERIOUSLY doubt it was), I will never regret showing my sympathy, my feelings, etc. toward the matter. If I am PROVEN (beyond a doubt) wrong, I will be the first to admit it. However, I will NEVER regret having human feelings of empathy and faith.

Hasta luego,
posted by Redgie at 3:29 PM on May 19, 2001

A move that will just add to the conspiracy theories: The questionable photo mentioned by disarray in this post has been removed, as has the HTML link to the photo itself on her old home page.
posted by aaron at 3:29 PM on May 19, 2001

Amazing, nonharmful. I was just going to say something along the same lines, from the same movie.

"No. I don't believe it. It's not possible."
"I didn't say it would be easy, Neo. I just said it would be the truth."

While I've never heard of KayCee's weblog before now, had I a vested interest, I'd rather know the truth than carry on with life in a cloud of naivete.

Of course, this means I'm now condemned to Hell by Mr. Vanderwoning, the last bastion of love on Metafilter.
posted by Danelope at 3:35 PM on May 19, 2001

Danelope -- please, even I don't think that was called for. Name-calling is exactly what is not needed right now.
posted by tweebiscuit at 3:53 PM on May 19, 2001

I post with some hesitancy here. I've had a passing acquaintene with Kaycee's site over some time, but never really much more.

What's odd to me is:
1. If points to her site, why was that URL never used to identify it? (I didn't know there was a domain name associated with that site until reading through all this.
2. Why is there no apparent mention of Kaycee on AudraLea's site and vice-versa? In fact, there is very little in common content wise or geography wise connecting the two sites in any way (save for some common links to the same places).
3. The whois information for both domains is extremely odd IMO.

Until 2 hours ago the concept of a hoax would never have occured to me. Now I'm just baffled.
posted by faith at 3:57 PM on May 19, 2001

Well, I do have an opinion regarding the veracity of the statements, but it has more to do with writer's intuition than any actual facts, so it's not altogether valid.

However, I do want to address the notion that it doesn't matter whether Kaycee Nicole was real or not.

The World Wide Web demands a certain degree of honesty from its users. Being that there is no way to authenticate the actual identity of anyone here - you have no way of knowing anything about me until I reveal it to you - every act of community, every web page put up, every comment in a guestbook implies good faith. This realm depends on trust.

Now, if someone has perpetrated a hoax - and it is possible that someone has maintained this site for so long without making any major mistakes (once you have your talking points, you don't have to divert from the script all that much) - they have played off the emotional and psychic energy of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people who implicitly believed that what was being written was authentic and who were engaged in her "struggle" on some level. They have, in other words, abused the trust and faith that people had.

Such a thing would be beyond despicable. 99% of the reason people go online in the first place is to escape the mundane backstabbing and bullshit the real world provides. If we can't trust that people aren't being up front here, then what's the point of any endeavor online? If we can't have faith that the stories purported to be true are true, why bother telling any stories at all?

So if this is a hoax, the perpetrator should die alone and unloved.

Now to completely flip: it's entirely possible that Kaycee's blog was 100% real, that she did in fact battle leukemia and die of an aneurysm, and that what we are seeing now is a counterreaction to avoid dealing with the collective grief that her death evoked. In other words, to avoid dealing with the truth, deny it ever happened. Maybe. I dunno.

Two other notes:

- I've never met Halcyon at all, but from his numerous online presences, I can discern no possible motive why he would perpetrate something like this. If it is a hoax, I'm pretty sure that Halcyon got taken in like everyone else.

- For the hoax-seekers: a neat bit of circumstantial evidence. Audra Lea's links page has banners for both Cocky Bastard and Prehensile Tales.
posted by solistrato at 4:05 PM on May 19, 2001 [2 favorites]

Now I'm totally roped in.

This strikes me as odd:

out of respect for the family, i will not be going into detail about the circumstances of kaycee's passing. i can tell you it was not the cancer. she had beaten it, as we knew she would. and while her liver was slowly giving out, that was not the cause.

there was a ruptured vein, and nothing could be done to stop it. kaycee did not suffer. it was her wish to go quickly when the time came. debbie was with her throughout, as she always has been.

So he's not going into detail about the death, and then he goes into detail? Hmm. And how is someone there "throughout" an aneurysm?

Okay, now I'm just looking for things. I'll stop.
posted by solistrato at 4:14 PM on May 19, 2001

I went to the site.It had intersesting links.It also stated that this person has 902855 screennames.The properties was copyrighted.Do I find any of this suspenseful.Sure I do. I also "believe what I feel"when someone or something is uplifting to me.I do not think that this was a hoax.Call me gullible if you will but, I would say that some people have the mentallity to pull this off.The ones in question here ...NO...I don't believe that they would have to stoop to those things.If I am wrong so be it (it wouldn't be the 1st,2nd,or 3rd time).I am not that investigative by nature.This is a big deal (the whole topic of fact and fiction) and trustworth on the web.Let us just say that it is something that we will have to be aware of forever.Is this the right person to call out...No...I don't belive so ,because in actuality there is people hurting over Kaycees death.Just because these people put their stories and lives out here on the line is no excuse to pick them apart.For those who do make up stories and present themselves as something they are not it is still revealing an insight of themselves whether they realize it or not.I say give credit where credit is do and as the sun shined on me today I felt the goodness that came from this beautiful person.The profit scamming thing is silly to because it also has the same effect.If I give something or buy something because I am moved to do so then that makes me feel better and proves nothing more then I was doing it from my heart.And anyone who has worried about that has probaly not spent more than a t-shirt cost.You will be repaid for that many times more if your heart was there.
posted by Skye at 4:19 PM on May 19, 2001

Such a thing would be beyond despicable. 99% of the reason people go online in the first place is to escape the mundane backstabbing and bullshit the real world provides.

Really? I guess I'm in the minority then. I go into the real world to escape the mundane bullshit found on the internet.

I guess it's all a matter of perspective...
posted by justgary at 4:20 PM on May 19, 2001 [3 favorites]

99% of the reason people go online in the first place is to escape the mundane backstabbing and bullshit the real world provides.

Actually, my problem with most online communities are the people who enjoy backstabbing and bullshit. Luckily, Metafilter has one of the best signal-to-noise ratios I've yet seen -- this thread stands as an incredible testament to that. Maybe I don't need to join the WELL after all...
posted by tweebiscuit at 4:25 PM on May 19, 2001

I exchanged IMs with Kaycee a few times on a long while back. Up until now I had no reason to suspect she was anything but a real person, or would I have thought anything out of the ordinary.

But I sign onto the supposed day
of her death, and it says KuteBabe (her nick) was logged on. And everyday since her death. C'mon, even given the benefit of the doubt, I find it very difficult to believe that her family's first order of business is to go get her email each day after such a horrible tragedy in their life.

And if Audra Lea's gift to Kaycee was her own domain, then why was it never mentioned in either of their sites, or for that matter why was it never even used?

Something is up and regardless if people want to staunchly defend or point fingers.
posted by SethSD129 at 4:31 PM on May 19, 2001

this is deplorable. it's making me sick to my stomach
Amen BWG.

My God... this thread is a convention of ghouls.

From where I'm sitting, I can't prove any of you exist. None of you can prove I exist.

And it's all based on this?
On 5/16/01 at 2.25 BWG announced Kaycee's death in his blog.
On 5/16/01 at 4.01, Debbie announced Kaycee's death in Kaycee's blog
On 5/16/01 at 4.36, Debbie announced Kaycee's death in her own blog

Well, duh! BWG did all that. He designed their sites, and maintained them. After losing Kaycee... I'm sure maintaining a stupid website was the furthest thing from Debbie's mind.

He's done his damndest to make sure the world knew of this young girl and her mom and the living hell they went through.

BWG says she existed. Halcyon says she existed.
That's good enough for me.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 4:31 PM on May 19, 2001 [1 favorite]

BWG says she existed. Halcyon says she existed.
That's good enough for me.

At this point, I think we should all take solace in the words of the great philosopher George Michael:

I gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith
I gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith-uh.

posted by aaron at 4:37 PM on May 19, 2001

I considered Kaycee a friend. I chatted online with her a few times. I sent her care packages.

I can't prove that I was actually chatting with Kaycee, but I did save a few transcripts and she was adamant about not wanting gifts or money, both on her site and in chat.

She sent me and my daughter a wonderful care package.

Could this have been an elaborate hoax (one that actually cost the perpetrators money)? Yes, it could have. Can I prove or disprove it? No. Was it? I don't care.

Does god exist? I don't know. I can't prove or disprove his existence. And frankly I don't care about that either. Do I exist? Am I telling the truth? After all, I use a hotmail account for my profile...

What would you people accept as proof?

I am not mourning Kaycee's passing. I am too busy being grateful for the gift her presence was.

ps: I asked BWG last year about buying a domain for Kaycee- he told me someone already had.
posted by amber_eden at 4:48 PM on May 19, 2001

If points to her site, why was that URL never used to identify it?

The index page points to in frames (read the source code).

No major mystery there. If Audra Lee had anything to do with Living Colours, she would have the authority to have the DNS point straight to the site instead.

(Can somebody show me the quickest way out of this ridiculous thread???)
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 4:50 PM on May 19, 2001

Halycon has links on many other webpages.Is it possible that he created all of these people too.(c'mon people)The best form of advertisement is word of mouth and here on the web it is links.I have never spoken with him but know enough to believe that he is open and aspiring enough to not need to lie.His open policy is more of a standing of faith on this worldwideweb than most are willing to divuldge.Was he taking in thoughts he talked with Kaycee then I believe that.If his girlfriend says the same then I find it a solid fact.Debbie please do not be discouraged by any of this.You have shown humanity in its most highs and lows gracefully.If something comes out of this that wasn't your intention I hope you can find the positive in that also.
posted by Skye at 4:56 PM on May 19, 2001

Amen, Aaron.

Hasta luego,
posted by Redgie at 4:56 PM on May 19, 2001

Her ghost still haunts, apparently.
posted by gsh at 4:57 PM on May 19, 2001

I personally am far more fascinated by the detective work and the strange emotion vs. intellect debate going on in this thread than about whether she existed or not; I never paid any attention to the whole Kaycee thing at all except when it was brought up here, so I have no emotional investment in her actual existence or the lack thereof. But I will say this: When non-MeFites start coming over here and creating accounts for the sole purpose of posting pro-Kaycee messages in this thread, it looks mighty suspicious.
posted by aaron at 4:58 PM on May 19, 2001

(Can somebody show me the quickest way out of this ridiculous thread???) posted by EricBrooksDotCom

Yeah Brooks, stick your head back up your ass where it usually is.
posted by faith at 5:02 PM on May 19, 2001 [2 favorites]

I don't think that was necessary.
posted by aaron at 5:04 PM on May 19, 2001

What's the matter Faith... feel stupid that you didn't know you were looking at a framed page?

posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 5:19 PM on May 19, 2001

Play nice, kids!
posted by tranquileye at 5:25 PM on May 19, 2001

Disclaimer: I am one of those folks who was emotionally involved in Kaycee's life. I believe (for my own professional and personal reasons) that she was a real person.

I have worked in ER and critical care for a long time, and have an ER/critical care nurse's highly suspicious nature and and an intensely sensitive BS detector. I don't think I can be fooled very easily over a long period of time. Early in my online relationship with her I was as skeptical as many of the doubters here. In a series of email and IM exchanges with her, I found her relating details that convinced me that she was exactly who she said she was- a young lady with leukemia, undergoing BMT.

I have had phone conversations with Debbie. I found them also to be convincing; her manner of speech and thought processes were those of a mother of a critically ill young adult.

I gave Kaycee my word that I would not speak of the details of her illness that she related to me. That is a promise I intend to keep. I guess you'll just have to take my word for it (and I know that won't satisfy anybody).

So believe or don't believe, investigate or accept at face value, question or lurk quietly- I really don't care what you do. The facts speak to me very clearly.

Kaycee was here. Now she is not. And I miss her very much.

BTW, the "experts" that have been speaking here are incorrect on a lot of points. Burial/cremation/embalming/autopsy details vary widely across the nation, in accordance with state and local law. What the law and custom is in your part of the country doesn't necessarily reflect what went on around Kaycee's death.
posted by Alwin at 5:29 PM on May 19, 2001 [1 favorite]


A wad of cyber-entities debating the existence of another cyber-entity. A gathering of ephemeral avatars, most of whom remain unattributable to an avatar-master, trying to decide whether a deceased avatar's master followed it into the netherworld.

We are all minor contributors to a vast cyber-fiction, every time we post. All of this is separate from physical reality - whatever that is.

I'm watching a bunch of made-up people trying to decide if another made-up person's maker-upper is dead. The levels of unreality are increasing exponentially.

Outer Limits material.

posted by Opus Dark at 5:39 PM on May 19, 2001 [4 favorites]

I know what I was looking at Brooks. You misunderstood my original point, and there's no sense trying to explain it to the equivalent of a wall.
posted by faith at 5:46 PM on May 19, 2001

alwin - thank you very much for chiming in here with a bit of professional input; I am aghast at the nature of this thread - and am very depressed at the amount of venom flying about. What would it take to convince you people?
posted by crankyrobot at 5:49 PM on May 19, 2001

Personally, I've come to the decision that KayCee probably existed -- primarily on the word of Halcyon and BWG. I still think, however, that those suspicious weren't wrong to be so. See above.

And now I've had enough with this thread. KayCee, I hope you're happy where you are -- we mean no disrespect.
posted by tweebiscuit at 5:52 PM on May 19, 2001


I don't know if I was one of the "experts" you were referring to. I was simply observing that it was possible to have a memorial service without having the body present. I was saying this because someone had observed the short amount of time it took to have "autopsy, embalming, cremation, and memorial service." BWG had said on his site that the memorial service had taken place, and that Kaycee would be cremated according to her wishes (not necessarily that it had already taken place.) He did not say anything about an autopsy (although I assume one took place or was in the process of taking place.)

I wasn't saying that this was what took place, I was just saying that it was POSSIBLE that this took place.

Sorry if I am making little sense.

Hasta luego,
posted by Redgie at 6:03 PM on May 19, 2001

What would it take to convince you people?

A newspaper death notice, obituary or any other evidence Kaycee existed outside of weblogs and the webloggers she corresponded with by phone, e-mail, and mail to her anonymous P.O. box.

At least that's what would convince me. So far, I've come up with bupkiss.
posted by rcade at 6:09 PM on May 19, 2001

On an extremely off-topic sidenote, I don't think I've ever seen "bupkiss" spelled out before. It's nice to know how to spell it now :).
posted by Zosia Blue at 6:14 PM on May 19, 2001

Well, this is certainly interesting. I like a good mystery as much as anyone. I guess it is a symptom of the times we live in that we are obsessed with the truth because so little can be proven, and we are lied to so often. Remember the poster in Fox Mulder's office on the X-Files?


I want to believe that there was a Kaycee. Not because I had some connection to her, but because if she is a fiction then someone is being very dishonest and emotionally manipulative at a level which is disturbing. As someone said, it would be "Munchausen-by-email-proxy."

Time for Ockham's Razor, then: "the mind should not multiply things without necessity." We should look at the facts and come up with the least complex theory. So, a few things:

- is registered by Audra Lea, a woman around the same age as Kaycee who looks something like her. Perhaps Audra purchased the domain as a gift for Kaycee, yet nowhere on either of their pages are there links or a mention of the purchase. Audra Lea's links page does have banners for both Cocky Bastard and Prehensile Tales, however.

- On her page, Audra says: "My last name isn't Lea, it is my middle." In his post, an upset BWG writes: "has it ever occurred to anyone that kaycee nicole was her first and middle name?"

- No one has come forward and said that they ever met Kaycee or her mother in person, though a few people say they have spoken to both of them on the telephone.

- There is no documentary evidence whatsoever that Kaycee existed, such as an obit, newspaper story, verified street address, or high school yearbook.

- There are few photos of Kaycee, and her "basketball" image was taken down from Kaycee's old site after it was mentioned here.

- A never-before-seen MeFi user named amber_eden appeared to comment on the thread and said she chatted with Kaycee a few times and received "a wonderful care package" from her.

- Kutebabe still logs into

Obviously, I don't know the truth of this matter; all I suggest is that you ask yourself, What is the least complex explanation for each of these things? What is the least complex explanation for all of these things, taken together?
posted by tranquileye at 6:34 PM on May 19, 2001 [4 favorites]

didn't halcyon create us all?
posted by judith at 6:41 PM on May 19, 2001

strange that this of all things is my first metafilter post. i'm new to metafilter. i count john styn as a dear (IRL) friend. i have problems believing that it would be possible for him to make something like this up. but that a random person with bipolar disorder could... or pursue it... maybe i could see that.

i don't know. i didn't know about kaycee at all, color me silly for being a blogger who doesn't read enough other blogs.

but i can't help but think about the implications of this in any case. and i had to ponder the following:

The World Wide Web demands a certain degree of honesty from its users. Being that there is no way to authenticate the actual identity of anyone here - you have no way of knowing anything about me until I reveal it to you - every act of community, every web page put up, every comment in a guestbook implies good faith. This realm depends on trust.

no, a community like the well, in which users have actual, real names that can be traced, that's what demands a certain degree of honesty. in a world where i get continuously spammed, in a world where everybody these days has a web page, i don't believe that there is a higher truth. and i would consider it possible (being a latecomer to all of this) for someone to create a new persona, a new personality, and a hoax.
posted by maximolly at 6:42 PM on May 19, 2001

Oh good grief. Look at this profile :
then at my current profile. The original one got hosed a long time ago. I am not a mystery- I just don't have anything to say in this space very often. Didn't bother to look at the weblog either, or this wouldn't need to be clarified. Still have doubts? Send me an email and we'll talk.
posted by amber_eden at 6:44 PM on May 19, 2001

The basketball picture, for future reference.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 6:51 PM on May 19, 2001

I've spoken with Kaycee (and her younger sister) on the phone several times and I've exchanged countless e-mail messages. I've received packages with hand written notes and sent packages to thank her for being an amazing person. She sent many of us in the CollegeClub office little framed pictures of her and thoughtful gifts, over one year ago. What does that mean? Not sure... all I know is that she helped me see some wonderful aspects of my life. And that makes me glad to have interacted with her.

For the record, her Mom logs into her CollegeClub account (and sent a message to several of us on CollegeClub) to answer questions, etc. I've met Audra Lea in person and she's a wonderful woman - who, by the way, looks nothing like the pictures of Kaycee.

I don't know the answer and I don't plan on changing anyone's mind - I just felt the need to say that my interactions remain a positive experience.
posted by kaya at 6:55 PM on May 19, 2001

(I’ll be taking that photo down in a few days when this thing blows over. I still have no opinion either way, but I know I don’t that photo.)
posted by capt.crackpipe at 7:06 PM on May 19, 2001

Some people have used my experiences with Kaycee as evidence in the ”proof she’s real” column.

But before anyone bases their conclusions on what I’ve written, I feel it is important to reveal that I, too, have doubts. I just wrote about my feelings on the subject. I'm embarassed, ashamed, and confused.

I am in a bad place right now. In one case, a dear friend is dead. In the other, I have been swimming in deceit.

I would hope that, above it all, we remember to respect one another and to continue to open our hearts. Even to people who don’t deserve it. Even to people that may be less than honest with us. Yes, we will be burned occasionally. But the cost of keeping our hearts closed is FAR greater.

Note: Kaya (above) is my brother.
posted by halcyon at 7:06 PM on May 19, 2001 [2 favorites]

(but, I know I don’t own that photo.)

Sorry for the double.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 7:11 PM on May 19, 2001


last october


It's not evidence one way or another, it's just spooky there were similar concerns before.
posted by mathowie at 7:28 PM on May 19, 2001

amber_eden, I saw that your account was brand new and, breaking my own rule, made an assumption. I'm sorry for doubting your existance. (That was a weird thing to type).
posted by tranquileye at 7:40 PM on May 19, 2001

don't any of you have anything better to do then this. Hoax or not people are greiving. Leave them be.
posted by freethinker1 at 7:40 PM on May 19, 2001

weird is right.

And so very sad,
one way
or the other.
posted by tranquileye at 7:46 PM on May 19, 2001

don't any of you have anything better to do then this. Hoax or not people are greiving. Leave them be.

A statement trying to put an end to this thread from someone named 'freethinker' is kind of strange:) I guess you can think it, just don't say it.

I fail to sympathize with people who say this thread is awful, or that we are awful for simply talking about the situation. This is an open forum talking about someone that put themselves in the public eye. It doesn't hurt anyone, and it shouldn't have any affect on anyone who is 'grieving'.

If you are sure Kaycee existed, and are offended by this thread, don't read it.

If you think she did exist, and are afraid the truth (if there is one) will be revealed, don't read it.

Don't like a song? Turn the station. Don't like a movie? Don't go see it.

This thread is neither good nor bad. It simply is...
posted by justgary at 7:56 PM on May 19, 2001 [1 favorite]

The answer is clearly Yes maybe this person did not exist.That makes me feel more awful then the fact that she could have.
posted by Skye at 7:59 PM on May 19, 2001

This is an open forum talking about someone that put themselves in the public eye.

I think this is fundamentally the truest thing someone has said about any of this. For good or for bad, this is what you get when you put yourself out there in a public space. Weblogs and the internet are all about democratic publishing, breaking down barriers between people. Well here it is and it's stinky and loud and gratuitous.
posted by zebra_monkey at 8:01 PM on May 19, 2001

I was going to keep my opinions out of this forum but this is getting way too ridiculous. I think some people are putting too much stock in the power of the internet. Most of rural America is not online. This I know for a fact because I live here - right in the heart of Podunk. Our newspaper isn't online. The nearest paper with an online presence is 70 miles away and get this... they don't publish our local obituaries. I could drop dead in the next five minutes and I guarantee you that you wouldn't be able to drag up concrete proof of my death anywhere on the internet. As for a mother being with her child throughout an aneurysm, one of my acquaintances was found in the floor just two days ago. Aneurysm. Her entire immediate family has been by her side since with the exception of the surgery time. I think it's fair to say they've been with her throughout as I'm sure Kaycee's mom was with her. Yes, I believe there was a Kaycee. I'm not going to offer up my proof to the masses because ya know what, it doesn't matter. She was real to me and I'm the only one whose curiosity I must satisfy.

If there is anything fascinating here at all it's the psychology behind what motivates some folks to split hairs even if it means causing additional pain to others. I have been trying all day to make sense of this and I can't. I don't understand what anyone has to gain from this. Even if someone here manages to prove Kaycee was a hoax, you've gained nothing positive so I say again.. the fascinating and disturbing thing is what causes some people to disregard anything positive and search only for negatives? Personally I think this world is negative enough. Not only will I continue to look for the positive, I will firmly embrace it when I find it. Hoax or no hoax.
posted by justlisa at 8:39 PM on May 19, 2001

Whether you believe Kaycee is real or not (and I do; I corresponded with her, and loved her), absolutely *no one* can deny that she brought a great amount of hope and inspiration to many, *many* people. As far as I'm concerned, the least I can give her in return for that is the benefit of any doubt.

But even if something comes out that proves beyond any doubt Kaycee was a hoax - I'll still be glad to have known her and to have crossed her path, whoever she is. It's only secondary to me whether the person behind the words was a young girl in Kansas or an old lawyer in Hackensack; the words conveyed true beauty, strength, and grace in them, things which the world is in a short enough supply of as it is. I'm grateful for those things wherever I can find them, and in her words and her spirit, I found them in abundance. I've known many people far better, who have given me far less.
posted by Noah at 8:39 PM on May 19, 2001

Halcyon -- don't beat yourself up. I mean that. The fact that this bothers you as much as it obviously does says volumes about what a caring person you are.
posted by tweebiscuit at 9:06 PM on May 19, 2001

Hi. Wow. I guess I kinda started this whole thing, 25 hours ago. I'm glad I posted on a Friday night, so that the MeFi effect would be diluted for the people I linked to.

I have just a few things to say.

Kaya, as a reader of The Gus, I don't trust anybody or anything anybody says about or pertaining to CollegeClub. That whole organization has been completely disemboweled.

And can I hear an "Amen, Brother!"

I'd like to thank modofo for the commendation. It wasn't courage, because I am careful at MeFi to have no email or webpage links in my profile. I can say whatever I want, here, and no one can turn my computer into a pile of rubbish using their secret offense technology. [except matt of course - and thanks, matt, for letting me pose the questions in the first place - luv you man)]

I'd like to reiterate again that I don't know whether Kaycee existed or not, but I'm glad a bunch of people were inspired or whatever.

As Kristin said, though:

The oldest scam in the book is to set up a sick kid, one who nobely refuses all help, and just asks for love - always, one or two of her most loyal followers, people who just really care about her, will pop up and start the collection box rolling, "in her honour". That collection box rolled through my email several times- we want to fill her room with flowers, buy her a digital camera, a scanner, send her to disney world.

If Audra Lea (who's a single mom) wanted some pure love, maybe she did this whole act. I dunno. Originally I suspected it was the Hong Kong friend, but now I doubt that....

When John Styn (halcyon/cockybastard) said he'd talked to Kaycee, I saud, "self, quit it. you're being too cynical."

But if John's not sure, then I am defintely not sure.
posted by acridrabbit at 9:14 PM on May 19, 2001

One other thing.

"We WANT to believe in this brave girl, we WANT to pull for her and greive for her, because we like to think that if we were in her situation, we'd be writing something besides "cancer sucks, I fucking hate God, why why why?"

I will never discount the hordes of people who loved her, who were inspired by her, etc.

posted by acridrabbit at 9:36 PM on May 19, 2001

why do we have so much trouble trusting?

what makes us believe one set of "reasons" for another?

maybe we should take the blinding light we have so strongly focused on being doubtful/judgmental/jealous/nitpicky about everyone else's lives and turn it a little more inward, look at what these thoughts say about ourselves.

i find it kind of funny that some are demanding "proof" but seem to ignore those posters who are providing some of that, and doubting them. expectation can certainly bite you in the ass, both ways.

does this medium make us this way (not trusting)? kaycee certainly held back details of her personal life. that's what a teenage girl is supposed to do when she's online, lest she get stalked and preyed on by some pedophile. it's that lack of trust that seems to lead to this one...

and yes, this is my first post on this site. i doubt it will be my last. and yes, i'm real. (and normally not so damn serious!)
posted by queenkelly at 9:40 PM on May 19, 2001

Several years ago Dr. Timothy Leary announced he had cancer and wanted to die on the Internet. For several months he made this claim with maximum mumbo-jumbo. Then he eventually died in private.

I only know this thing from seeing reference to it on other sites as well as here. The whole bit always seemed a litle exhibitionist to me, as compared to that of the 100% verifiable story of Aaron Barnhart. I don't see people crying so much over a TV critic with hairy cell leukemia -- but then he's a balding, thirtysomething man and not a blonde teenage girl.
posted by Erendadus at 9:43 PM on May 19, 2001

kaycee certainly held back details of her personal life. that's what a teenage girl is supposed to do when she's online, lest she get stalked and preyed on by some pedophile.

Um, while stalking is always a possibility, pedophilia and a 19 year old girl have nothing to do with each other.
posted by justgary at 9:45 PM on May 19, 2001


Does everyone need a course in remedial reality?

The only Kaycee Nicole any of you 'knew' was a personal, imaginary construct created and produced by your responses to and interpretations of a sanitized and packaged web-presence. Whether or not there existed a mortal doppelganger of the 'person' each of you created based on your experiences with that web-presence in no way enhances or diminishes the reality of that 'person'. Kaycee Nicole was always your own invention.

Since that is true, and since we can assume that someone is responsible for the creation and maintenance of that web-presence, then all of this resolves into a couple of simple questions:

1) Is the Kaycee Nicole web-presence a detailed replica of its creator?
2) Is the creator of that web-presence dead?

The answer to question #1 is, of course, "No" - regardless of whether or not the creator of the Kaycee Nicole web-presence was a 19-year-old female leukemia survivor or a skillful pretender.

Which leaves question #2. And one has to ask - "What difference does it make?". Since we never knew the creator of the Kaycee Nicole construct beyond our interaction with the construct itself, it seems enough to know only that the construct itself is decommissioned. Merely because we feel an atavistic need to imprint upon the creator the same fate and motivations of our imagined construct does not make the question relevant - it merely makes it interesting, in a trivial, if entertaining, way.

You see, you are looking for the impossible and the irrelevant. You are trying to discover if an engineered and abbreviated web-presence truly reflects its creator-soul, and you are wondering whether that creator-soul is earth-bound and active. The answers, in order, are "No", and since the first answer is "No", the second answer is reduced to an entertaining irrelevancy.

I hope none of this sounds too stainless steel. When I first read of Kaycee Nicole's death, which was here at MeFi, I visited her site, read a few very poignant entries, and was moved to genuine sobs - but they were not for this one particular web-abstraction - they were for all of those real-world tough girls who are, without question, living and suffering, valiantly and gracefully, each day, under the shadow of death.
posted by Opus Dark at 9:49 PM on May 19, 2001 [4 favorites]

So I guess the distinction between fiction and non-fiction is just a sort of irrelevent label Mr. Pomo? Not even to descend into lit crit hell, non-fiction claims to be an accurate reflection of the world we live in. Fiction does not. Fiction and non-fiction both can pull the heart strings of readers, but one describes real events and the other does not. That distinction is obviously still important, to the people who are posting in this thread. But thanks for the illuminating school lesson.
posted by zebra_monkey at 9:58 PM on May 19, 2001

Opus, you missed the real question: Was the presenter of this web personna genuinely trying to connect to people, no matter why, or cynically manipulating them?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:00 PM on May 19, 2001

I'm pretty certain that this is a fraud for many reasons - the inconsistencies abound. I'm not going to go into my reasons to doubt, since discussing them is only continued speculation.

The proof is very easy - "Kaycee" was supposed to be a High School Basketball star (mentioned many times in her blog how her coach praised her efforts) and a sophomore at (I believe Wichita State) majoring in Physical Therapy (per her "about" page) - these facts alone mean that the local paper, the college student paper, etc would run articles. She would also have write ups in her local paper's sports page from her high school years. I've looked through the Newton, KS online paper and have come up with nothing.

If they lived in another town, all a family member or whomever needs to do is post what town she went to High School in, and we can look up those articles.

If they don't want to do that because of some privacy issue, it's really too late for that don't you think? It's rather like Kathy Lee Gifford saying she was quiting because of concerns over the privacy of her kids - while she was the one to bring them into the public eye in the first place.

If the story is true, the folks who cared for her and are grieving will appreciate the links to the articles, and for those who wonder, it would end the controversy.
posted by ilanah at 10:15 PM on May 19, 2001

Having ruminated on this for a while, here's why I think so many people are having so much trouble with this (going on the assumption that Kaycee is/was legit): Kaycee and her mother created a website that made Kaycee's life incredibly public. Yet, at the same time, they went to the most extreme lengths to maintain total privacy. Sure, it's to be expected that a pretty teenage girl with a popular web site is not going to post her last name and phone number on her front page. But it's equally not to be expected that such a popular person would go to such lengths that literally none of her hundreds of friends have ever met her, that only a few have ever even spoken to her, that in all that time not one person has manged to acquire a single piece of noncircumstantial evidence of her actual existence, despite her extreme popularity. And then it turns out to still be impossible to come up with a shred of evidence even after she's dead, when she doesn't have to worry anymore about receiving unwanted calls or visits or gifts. Regardless of whether this means anything, it looks weird, really weird. Basically, Kaycee and her mother tried to have their cake and eat it too. And as we all know, you can't do that. The way they were running things, it was absolutely inevitable that this was going to come up eventually.

Now, speaking on the assumption that Kaycee is fictional: Many of you have been saying that the rest of us should just drop it, because the important thing is that emotions you all felt were real. Well, if you feel that way, that's fine. But I think you're looking at it the wrong way. If what's important to you is the emotions you felt, why should it matter to you if others want to investigate this? Either your emotional investment in her story was truly enough, or else learning it was a hoax would indeed have more of an effect on you that you want to admit.
posted by aaron at 10:43 PM on May 19, 2001

it was already stated that kaycee didn't necessarily live in newton. there's no guarantee that her name was kaycee either.

for anyone hell bent on proving her existence, there are some journal entries on her old site that matt provided a link to. in those entries, dated january and february of 2000, kaycee says that her family moved to kansas in june of 1999. she also says that she played basketball in the state tournament in spring 1999. on the living colors blog she said she lived in the "oklahoma city area" almost all her life. all anyone would have to do is look up the state tournament records for that year, eliminate the schools that weren't from the oklahoma city area and check the rosters for the schools that were left. (if her name was kaycee.)

the journal entries bother me because they are quite different from the living colors blog. some of the details don't jibe with the later blog either. i still think there was a "kaycee" who had leukemia though. beyond that i'm so confused i don't know what to think anymore.

i also chatted on icq with audra lea earlier who told me (for what it's worth) that she genuinely purchased the domain for kaycee while she was working at an isp, gave kaycee all of the information to transfer the domain and then she never had anything to do with it after that.

one other thing i've noticed. in the old journal entries and other writings i've seen, kaycee consistently spells "than" "then" as does someone who posted to this thread. that person's only other post to metafilter ever was to the other kaycee thread.

i'm just very disappointed and don't know what to think anymore. i'm moving on.
posted by centrs at 10:47 PM on May 19, 2001 [1 favorite]

Sure, it's to be expected that a pretty teenage girl with a popular web site is not going to post her last name and phone number on her front page.

Now if she had been an 'ugly' girl with a popular web site...

posted by justgary at 10:51 PM on May 19, 2001

On an extremely off-topic sidenote, I don't think I've ever seen "bupkiss" spelled out before. It's nice to know how to spell it now :).

Oh, we can argue over that too. :)
posted by aaron at 10:54 PM on May 19, 2001

part of me is disturbed by the length of this thread. the othe part is excited. i wonder what the record for longest thread on metafilter is...
posted by wantwit at 10:56 PM on May 19, 2001

zebra writes: Not even to descend into lit crit hell, non-fiction claims to be an accurate reflection of the world we live in. Fiction does not.

Oh, really. Thanks, I'll try to remember that next time I'm reading fiction and it seems to much like reality again. I can just toss the book out, since it's not doing what ficiton is supposed to do. And god forbid if a non-fiction work should be heavy on the symbolism, or presents event in a non-linear fashion. Etc., etc. I think you mean that non-fiction is a documentation of something that actually happened. But even, a person has to put the events in some sort of order that makes sense to a reader, brings his or her own biases to the work. Even police evidence lying around is not an accurate representation of reality in and of itself. Then there is autobiography. Call it pomo, if you must, but I think it was Mark Twain (?) who thought he could never write an accurate autobiography, because everybody lies and he did too. (No kiddin'.) Most of us wear a mask -- a mask is in fact necessary to get through life, correct? This isn't pomo. It goes all the way back to Plato's Republic. Refreshing fact to know, isn't it?
posted by raysmj at 10:59 PM on May 19, 2001

Let me say this much:

If I believe in Kaycee's existance and am proven wrong, who have I hurt? Only myself.

On the other hand, if I don't believe in Kaycee's existance (and make comments about it) and am proven wrong, who have I hurt? Many, many people who are mourning for a wonderful young lady.

I do believe in her existance. Believe me: *I* couldn't make that stuff up, and I consider myself pretty creative. (I could be wrong about that, too. ;-) ) I have also talked to several people who have corresponded with her, and their thoughts were pretty convincing to me.

I am aware that I am not going to convince anyone that Kaycee existed. I cannot provide any evidence one way or the other. However, I CAN share my opinion, and I have.

I will continue to keep Debbie, her family, and BWG in my prayers.

Hasta luego,
posted by Redgie at 11:13 PM on May 19, 2001 [1 favorite]

While taking a walk outside this evening, I asked myself why I'm still fascinated by this whole thing, why I couldn't wait to get back and see what new things had come to light, why a tiny part of me thinks it's possible, however unlikely that someone kept a charade up for almost 2 years.

Late last year, there were some posts to the living colours blog stating that KC was close to death. There were days and days of extreme fever and losses of blood, seizures, and I'm fairly certain I went through the grieving process back then, on two or three occasions.

Last week, the post was made here and I felt another wave of depression and grieving. I also felt relief that I no longer had to worry about KC, that I didn't have to dread going to her blog to hear the inevitable bad news. The nine months or so of worrying could finally come to an end.

When this thread started, I thought it was interesting, but fairly disturbing. The evidence against seemed flimsy and I imagined if I was a family member, I wouldn't care if a thousand or a hundred thousand nobodies were demanding to see a death certificate, none of them would have the right to demand anything of me, and I figured we'd never know.

But still, I wondered, 24hrs later, why I still care, and I think I figured out the reason, and it's slightly selfish and macabre at the same time.

A tiny part of me wishes it were a hoax. That tiny part wishes this were all a hoax so that the real-world result isn't that someone died. Part of me hopes this is a complete fake; not so I can feel manipulated or used, but so I can feel some relief that no one actually died. That there wasn't a 19 year old I was enjoying reading that suffered a shortened life, unfair pain, and is now dead.

So I'm still sitting here, reloading the page, waiting to hear one way or another. I don't think there will be any closure for me until absolute proof comes. I can't just look away or not care anymore, I want to know. I know I have no right to demand that anyone give me the proof I seek, but I want to know.
posted by mathowie at 11:20 PM on May 19, 2001 [7 favorites]

On the other hand, if I don't believe in Kaycee's existance (and make comments about it) and am proven wrong, who have I hurt? Many, many people who are mourning for a wonderful young lady.

How is anyone hurting them? PLEASE explain. I seriously would like to know.

If someone is offended by this thread, they shouldn't be here. I fail to see how this is hurting anyone who doesn't CHOOSE to be here.

If Kaycee existed, I'm sure her family is too busy grieving to worry about a thread on metafilter.
posted by justgary at 11:21 PM on May 19, 2001 [2 favorites]

no, a community like the well, in which users have actual, real names that can be traced, that's what demands a certain degree of honesty.

Heh. Do a "!topic fredm" there sometime.

she also says that she played basketball in the state tournament in spring 1999. on the living colors blog she said she lived in the "oklahoma city area" almost all her life. all anyone would have to do is look up the state tournament records for that year, eliminate the schools that weren't from the oklahoma city area and check the rosters for the schools that were left. (if her name was kaycee.)

Or at least see if any such schools were called the Lady Warriors. And this is being checked right now.

Also, I have to agree with what someone said earlier: The basketball photo of her looks like the word "warriors" was photoshopped on. It's also in a font that doesn't match the word "lady" above it, and isn't a font I ever recall seeing used on a sports uniform before.
posted by aaron at 11:22 PM on May 19, 2001

Wasn't it said that the Warriors most likely WAS photoshopped to further her anonymity?
posted by Zosia Blue at 11:29 PM on May 19, 2001

I'm sorry guys... there has been nothing posted here that would sway my opinion on Kaycee. Halcyon may have his doubts, but I don't.

Debbie just buried her daughter, and is expected to provide proof to a bunch of insensitive buffoons. Did anyone question Zeldman's "motives" for writing about his mom dying? Did anyone think he made up his mother's suffering to generate hits? No.

Next time I see "My [grandma/friend/livestock] just passed away..." on one of your sites, expect an email from me demanding you prove it. Then we'll see how *you* feel.

Rest in peace Kaycee.
I'm outta here....
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 11:35 PM on May 19, 2001 [1 favorite]


I can agree with you somewhat. I don't think that this thread is the first thing on Debbie's mind right now. In fact, I seriously doubt it is. However, her friend BWG has seen the thread and is very upset about it.

I know that if a loved one of mine died, and then people started to have doubts of their existance, I would be very hurt indeed. That was my main point.
posted by Redgie at 11:35 PM on May 19, 2001

aaron: I have photoshop, an early version, on my computer -- I zoomed it in bigtime and trust me, it's photoshopped out the wazoo. Extremely sloppy job too. It's like a big black triangle someone just managed to slip over the blue part. Consequently, you'd have to look to see if there were any teams in the Oklahoma City area with "lady" in the title and blue and white colors. This may still be a protective thing, though, so in and of itself it doesn't mean much, unless you're absolutely sure about the Oklahoma City bit.
posted by raysmj at 11:36 PM on May 19, 2001

Okay, I don't know if this means a thing, but just through typing in a few simple keywords into google, I found mention of a girl named Kaycee Brandon, who was a basketball player in Ponco City, Oklahoma at Newkirk High School. Her team was the Lady Tigers. The only date I caught on the articles was in 1997, which would make sense because she mentioned she didn't move to Kansas until 1999. Here's the google link to her name.
posted by Zosia Blue at 11:45 PM on May 19, 2001

The difference, EricBrooks, is that we'd be *related* to our grandmothers -- any of us here that is, whether we've questioned this or not, or something in between.
posted by raysmj at 11:47 PM on May 19, 2001


A few years ago my father died. I thought of putting up a memorial page about his life, simply because to me he was a hero in my eyes. If you saw the page and wrote me flat out telling me you didn't think he existed, or that he wasn't a hero, I swear to you I wouldn't care, not even enough to write you back. I know the truth, so who cares about what others think?

Really, if it offends you so, then don't read this thread.


I understand that bwg is upset. Although I don't understand that, and I think I would have a different reaction, it still saddens me. I don't wish sorrow on anyone. But it's too late to put the cat back in the bag. Hopefully he, and others in that little circle, quit reading this long ago.

Now if people are actually writing him demanding proof of Kaycess's existence, then I would agree that's awful. Hopefully no one is stooping that low.
posted by justgary at 11:48 PM on May 19, 2001

Did anyone question Zeldman's "motives" for writing about his mom dying?

No, because there are hundreds of people here who have met Zeldman in person.

This may still be a protective thing, though...

Yeah, I'm aware of that. But it is yet another piece of circumstantial evidence, and again we're stuck with Occam's razor. The simplest thing for someone to do, if they wanted to provide Kaycee with privacy, would be to simply photoshop out the name entirely, and leave it blank. Instead, they went to the trouble to replace it with another name, which is a somewhat more complicated thing to do in Photoshop than simply blank something out. Thanks for the info, Ray.

As such, I'm going to stop trying to my high school names search. It's been enough hell just trying to find a page that lists the schools with their team names; I'm not going to spend all night trying to find matching color schemes as well, especially if we know it's a fake anyway.
posted by aaron at 11:49 PM on May 19, 2001

And there's also a picture here of the aforementioned Kaycee Brandon. A little blurry, but is slightly similar to the Kaycee Nicole pictures.

I feel so . . . I don't know, cut-and-dry. And it feels a little ishy, if you can relate to the word.

Anyway, I may just be searching for things that aren't there, but who knows?
posted by Zosia Blue at 11:50 PM on May 19, 2001

Hey all,

This all angers me. First off, I have known Kaycee and Audra of for sometime. I've known Kaycee for longer, years. Did I ever meet her in real life? No. Do I doubt her existance? No.

As for Audra, she was in fact my girlfriend, and I have been in close contact with her for the past year (That means really touching her, and being with her..I have photos to prove any of that). When news that Kaycee was in a battle with cancer, Audra and I (together at the time) wanted to get her, her own site. Thus that is why you find that registration info with the WhoIs.

I hate this, quit making up consipracies in your heads. There are no Black Helicopters flying around.

There was never a PayPal, there was never an Amazon Wishlist... I never once bought a CafePress shirt, but do I have one? Yes, I do. She sent me one, I paid nothing. She sent all her loved ones who work at CollegeClub shirts. She sent them last summer, KC hats (KC Royals hats). Did we ever contribute money to her? No. She didn't want that.

Throughout the years I've known KC, I've had many many many conversations and I could not doubt her love. I could not doubt how real she or her battles were.

This makes me sick to my stomach.

My love goes out to Kaycee's soul, her Mother, and all those who never doubt in the Sunshine that is Kaycee.
posted by Chazio at 11:50 PM on May 19, 2001 [1 favorite]

Debbie just buried her daughter, and is expected to provide proof to a bunch of insensitive buffoons.

I don't think anyone here expects anything from Debbie, and if anyone were to actually contact her and demand proof, I for one would consider that way over the line. Unless you know otherwise, I don't think anyone here has done anything of the sort.

Next time I see "My [grandma/friend/livestock] just passed away..." on one of your sites, expect an email from me demanding you prove it. Then we'll see how *you* feel.

On the other hand, if you're making a threat like this, I suppose maybe you do know otherwise. Tell us, who exactly has been e-mailing Debbie and demanding proof of her daughter's death? That person definitely deserves a MeFi pile-on.

Absent that, what we have here is basically a perfectly legitimate public discussion of a purposely public life, touching on issues of trust, privacy, and community. I find it fascinating, myself, to contemplate how many people would be able to prove I existed if I passed away tomorrow. And I have a fairly high profile -- I use my real name and I have participated in various public electronic forums since 1987, my snail-mail address is findable with a little digging, and my virtual and real components can be connected via real-world effluvia such as business cards and magazine articles. Still, what does any of that prove, really?
posted by kindall at 11:52 PM on May 19, 2001

The girl in the middle of this photo is Kaycee Brandon. You make the call.
posted by aaron at 11:54 PM on May 19, 2001

I just need to say this - I've been following along, reading the comments and keeping quiet. I was aware of Kaycee and of Living Colours - friends of mine felt very close to her. But I was never a regular reader nor do I have any personal emotional investment in this young lady one way or the other.

But I will tell you this - my son died on April 10, 2001. He was 26 years old. He died suddenly, unexpectedly. He was very real. His brothers and I are very real. I was not keeping a journal nor a blog at the time, although I have in the past and am again now. I've also had a notify list for a long time. I "know" many people online. And I know this - if there had been any question about my son's reality - or his life or his death - I would have provided enough information to the person(s) questioning to stop any speculation immediately. I realize everyone is different. But I cannot imagine doing less - for someone I loved so much. It would have been easy enough. I did in fact, send enough information to my notify list so that people were able to send cards or flowers if they chose. I just cannot imagine not being willing to do that much - I put my life - and some of his - online - to do less - would seem to me to be a great disservice to the people who care about us.

I hope that the truth of this matter will come to the surface. If in fact, Kaycee Nicole was a real person - there is a huge disservice being perpetuated against her and her family. It needs to stop. If in fact, Kaycee Nicole was fiction - there is a huge disservice being done to the people who cared for her and who care for her family and friends. It needs to stop. And if Kaycee is/was fiction - it seems to me that there is also a disservice being done to all of us who put our lives online everyday.

And I'll tell you something - the more I read about this - the madder I get. Because those of us who do put our lives online build a trust with those who read our words. Every single time one of these hoaxes (if that's what this is) comes to light, those of us who are honest and sincere are hurt. And if it isn't a hoax, and if Kaycee Nicole is as real as my own son is real - then please - I ask that bwg or somebody - provide just a few details so that this whole matter can be - laid to rest.
posted by Sandy at 11:56 PM on May 19, 2001 [2 favorites]

Zosia: Except the same Kaycee Brandon is shown in the second link -- or rather, the one directly below the one you pointed readers too -- from a 2000 edition. She's even in the top photo. Sheesh.
posted by raysmj at 11:59 PM on May 19, 2001

It's late and I didn't catch that, raysmj. I suppose I also had an ounce of hope. Thanks for catching it for me. (could've done without the "sheesh," but hey, I'm a sensitive usually-lurking MeFier).
posted by Zosia Blue at 12:02 AM on May 20, 2001

Kindall--I think he was making that comment just to drive his point home.
posted by Redgie at 12:09 AM on May 20, 2001

The girl from the Newkirk Register, Kaycee Bradley can not be "Kaycee Nicole" of living colours - highlighted here,

Ms Bradley is the 2001 class valedictorian of the Newkirk High School.
posted by ilanah at 12:11 AM on May 20, 2001

Well, I now know investigation of any sort is not my true calling :). Sorry folks.
posted by Zosia Blue at 12:16 AM on May 20, 2001

About the doctored photos, c'mon, it's not unkown for a person to "enhance" his or her photos a bit before displaying on a webpage. (I do it myself!) And if the Photoshop job is bad, well, that doesn't in any way prove the photo is false; it just means less-than-professional Photoshop proficiency.

Look, we have testimony from reliable witnesses who loved this girl, and talked to this girl and her mother. That's far more than enough evidence for me.
posted by brownpau at 12:18 AM on May 20, 2001 [1 favorite]

In a few minutes of searching last night, I came up with about 4 Kaycees who played basketball in the general region and of the right age. One even transferred to a Florida school recently (kaycee visited Florida, etc). But each person didn't quite fit for various reasons. Before you start listing names of real people who are probably not related to this in any way, you should be more sure than "here's a photo of a skinny white girl with a basketball named kaycee". I couldn't even tell the girls in the photo apart, let alone matching them to another photo. Come on, that's just irresponsible.
posted by bonzo at 12:18 AM on May 20, 2001

That's far more than enough evidence for me.

Far more? Wow.

Then you are dismissed from this discussion:)
posted by justgary at 12:22 AM on May 20, 2001

kaycee was real and was brutally murdered by an enraged web designer. as luck would have it.
posted by quonsar at 12:32 AM on May 20, 2001

Next time I see "My [grandma/friend/livestock] just passed away..." on one of your sites, expect an email from me demanding you prove it. Then we'll see how *you* feel.

You are comparing apples and oranges. Although I can understand your viewpoint, as well as the other side. Personally, I still see this as too great in size to have been a hoax.

As someone else mentioned, the family probably has a great deal more on their mind than reading MetaFilter threads anyway. And since it has already started, since the cloud is hovering around, the rain must fall. If nothing else, even if there is never any real conclusion to this, this thread has made people think about the precious gift of life, about death, about the Internet as a tool for building friendships and the pitfalls that come along with it. Not to mention the problems inherent with sharing your life, truly opening up online.
posted by bargle at 12:37 AM on May 20, 2001

quonsar, was that really needed?
posted by bargle at 12:38 AM on May 20, 2001

Very strange, more the nerve hit by the chance of betrayal than anything. My first phildickian realitypanic experience online.

Felt genuine grief which felt odd being so distant (only occasional checked in, stopped months ago), then a queasy whiff of betrayal/manipulation reading this thread. Now fascination with the fascination of others.

This stuff will eat your nerves eventually--and there are people on the net who enjoy knowing that.

The thread is a keeper though. And watching Naked Lunch on SciFi between check-ins here really cinched it. Something in the air.
posted by aflakete at 12:58 AM on May 20, 2001

"Debbie just buried her daughter, and is expected to provide proof to a bunch of insensitive buffoons. Did anyone question Zeldman's "motives" for writing about his mom dying? Did anyone think he made up his mother's suffering to generate hits? No."

Um. Except Zeldman is a real person -- no, let me rephrase for the digital age. Zeldman is more *provably real.* There have been Zeldman sightings everywhere, and I don't think a hologram writes books (well, except in "Star Trek: Voyager.")

And no one is accusing anyone of writing anything to "generate more hits." If I'm not mistaken, the majority of this dicsussion involves whether or not Kaycee existed, not the motives behind a potential hoax. People write about events in their lives; Zeldman was going through a bad time and chose to write about it publicly.

I want to believe that Kaycee is real, that Debbie is real, that this hasn't been one long, climactic hoax. And I, like Matt, keep returning to this thread to see if there's anything that's been said to decide me one way or the other. As much as I want to believe, there have been enough points to the contrary discussed here to make me unsettled. Not "doubtful," not exactly, but unsettled and uneasy.

One thing everyone might note: there might not *be* any death announcements in the papers. When my father died, we were told that we could either pay for a death announcement, (basically time and location of service) or write an obituary and see if it would be placed -- a hit or miss proposition. We didn't go for the death announcement because we, or other family members, had already contacted everyone who would want to come. And I was supposed to write the obituary, but, well, I was completely unable to. :( Point is, if anyone wanted to search online to see if my father died, you wouldn't find it in the papers. You probably wouldn't find it at all, except where I've discussed it myself. (And that's *not* a challenge, people, okay? Please?)

The bottom line is that unless BWG or Debbie comes forward and gives out further personal information -- a last name (a first name?), a town, a high school -- we're all whistling in the dark. Really. I mean, brass tacks version, all anyone really knows is that someone who may have been named Kaycee lived somewhere in the Midwest, liked sports, was a teenager, and had leukemia. Not much to go on...

:: sigh ::

In any case, I would like to thank the people who are calling all of this into question. I'm sure they've gotten no small amount of hate mail. As much as I don't want this to be happening -- and don't want this to be happening for Kaycee's family -- I do admire those who have questioned this, objectively, and who have raised the point that all is not as it may seem.
posted by metrocake at 1:04 AM on May 20, 2001

Like so many people, I was going to keep out of this. But here are a few random notes.

1. The issue of "hoax vs. reality" is important.

2. Real people are sometimes incoherent, especially when they may be "painting the truth" somewhat to hide certain things (names, dates, places, some things they don't want to say, etc.) I'm guilty of that many times.

3. One very sick but also very brilliant person keeping a hoax alive for 2 years seems a less "simple" explanation to me than that of a bunch of "slightly paranoid" people online (we all are a bit at times, aren't we?) - I also think there is a limit to the complexity of what one can fake.

4. I'm not without doubt though (I always leave a little space for judgement mistakes) - but until proved otherwise, I'll vote against the hoax. As somebody said, I may be gullible, but that's one of my qualities. I believe what people tell me, unless I have very strong reasons to do otherwise. (Don't worry too much for me, my intuition is pretty good. I'm also a hoax-sniffer.)

5. I sometimes wonder whether I really went to India at all. Maybe I wrote my logbook from my office in Goumeons-le-Jus - who knows?
posted by Tara at 1:07 AM on May 20, 2001

When I started webbing in 95, I was OBSESSIVE about keeping not just my last name, but my first name from public view. There were specific reasons for this (relating to a particularly violent ex-husband), and I was pretty damn serious about nobody "KNOWING" me. Know how long that lasted? 4 months, 5 months, that was about it. I started forming friendships with people, and I couldn't very well have them calling me You all the time. As time marched on, and I became more involved in various web communities, and my site became more visible, the last name was out in the open too. It was pretty inevitable really.

I don't think anyone who seriously participates in this medium and in communities like this one or like the blogging community can seriously and honestly go for 2 years without their "personal" information being known by someone. Does NO ONE know this girl's last name? Seems so. Seems so odd. The phone means nothing really, because you don't necessarily know who you're talking to on the phone anymore than you know who some snert in a chat room might turn out to be.

Should I die, there is a vast web of people out there who can tell you I was real. I've met them in person. They've been to my apartment. We've taken pictures together. I've even given forced Mr. Z to have lunch with me on occasion.

All this is my long winded way of saying, there seems reason to question here. Right or wrong, it is not inappropriate to question, that's what we run on, that's what we all live for and by. The point being, I don't know whether this girl was real or not, but I think it does matter whether or not she was real, because the truth always matters. When the truth stops mattering, we're all in trouble.
posted by faith at 1:22 AM on May 20, 2001

Aaron. The rest of you investigators. Although I mildly approve of what you're doing, all of this fact-swapping is getting pretty jarring and inappropriate. No sooner does someone grieve on the board then you try to match her face with girls you find on Google. If you want to start a KayCee hunters group, please take it somewhere else.
posted by tweebiscuit at 1:22 AM on May 20, 2001

Wanting to know the truth does not make you a 'kaycee hunter'. I have no interest in doing research, but if others are THAT curious, then I have no problem with it.

I fail to see what could be a more approriate forum to discuss this matter than right here. Everyone knows what this thread's topic is, and have the right not to enter.

This thread is NOT a grieving thread. From the topic this is obvious. No one is coming in here mistakenly.

You simply can't make yourself a public figure and then turn it off when it doesn't suit you.

If Matt thinks the thread is inappropriate, I'm sure he'll close it.
posted by justgary at 1:33 AM on May 20, 2001

Sorry, that was an exaggeration. However, you must admit that there's a pretty distinct contrast overall with fact-hunting. If nothing else, it's making some feel people uncomfortable to post here. Perhaps BWG would be more willing to discuss his feelings about the issue if there weren't people questioning the existence of someone very close to him right next to him? It's still inconsiderate and tactless.
posted by tweebiscuit at 1:38 AM on May 20, 2001

But look, I'm sorry -- I'm going to stop this little topic drift right now. Aaron, I'm sorry -- do what you like. Let's keep on topic.
posted by tweebiscuit at 1:40 AM on May 20, 2001

tweebiscuit: Danelope -- please, even I don't think that was called for. Name-calling is exactly what is not needed right now.

Either you don't know what the word 'bastion' means, or you're confusing me with the person who IS condemning people to Hell for harboring doubt in this situation.

You want a school mascot for KayCee's team? I'll give you one. Take the basketball photo and resize it to 30% width and 200% height. You get this. Take a look at the floor beneath KayCee's foot. Don't see it yet? Let's rotate, adjust brightness/contrast, and do a bit of smudge brush extrapolation from the existing pixels.

And you get this. Still don't see it? I'll take 'Lady Lions' for $800, Alex.
posted by Danelope at 1:42 AM on May 20, 2001 [1 favorite]

Why does the possibility that a cyber-wraith was somehow invalid cause more emotional commotion than the probability that 80 percent of what we think we know about anything is invalid?

So, if all of you who so fervently hope this is not a hoax (using your arbitrary definition of the word) do indeed manage to discover that there really was a sunny delight name of Kaycee who died the untimely, what, exactly, will be of comfort?

Only thing I can think of, and others have alluded to it, is that you won't feel manipulated. And, more darkly, those who are fond of the ability to manipulate won't feel some of that power being sucked away...

Well, at the risk of paraphrasing myself, 'hoax' or not, you and I and us have most assuredly been manipulated. We choose our realities and we takes our chances.

Every moment we discover new and exciting ways to lie to each other. How many more times does the New Journalism have to demonstrate its amazing tendency to morph from nonfiction to fiction, before we all realize that reality is a moving target. The very word 'hoax' is almost an anachronism - it sounds so small and useless - it is really a fairly accurate description of reality at any given point in time.

So what's my point? Only that all of this focused emotional commotion is a little spooky - it implies that a lot of people are not comfortable with a fluid and dynamic sense of reality. Standing around saying "Hey, quit pulling the rug out from under me" is not a helpful or enlightened way to live, or to think, or to cope.

Just my humble opinion, of course...

Oh, and zebra_monkey, IMO, the main difference between fiction and non-fiction involves their library classifications. Like I said, we choose our realities and we takes our chances. Care to debate with the world whether the Bible is fiction or non-fiction?

PoMo? Perhaps, but distilled and refined...
posted by Opus Dark at 1:49 AM on May 20, 2001

Has it occured to you that she could have been playing at an AWAY game (as in, SOMEWHERE OTHER THAN HER SCHOOL)?

Also, this could have taken place at an invitational (which takes place at a different school) or a tournament. Therefore, the lady lions mascot is inconclusive.
posted by Redgie at 1:51 AM on May 20, 2001

Yes, that did occur to me, but if her high school is anything like my old high school, the mats against the wall matches the color of their team uniforms. (Blue and dark blue, respectively, whereby the cheerleaders in the black are wearing black and red.)

Also, it's more solid a lead than 'Lady <insert name>'.
posted by Danelope at 1:55 AM on May 20, 2001

It's still inconsiderate and tactless

I guess we'll just agree to disagree.

(if this was done in the 'grieving' thread I would agree with you)
posted by justgary at 1:56 AM on May 20, 2001

True dat.
posted by Redgie at 1:58 AM on May 20, 2001

Here is a clearer picture of Kaycee Brandon, but as Danelope points out it is "Lions" not Tigers.

Can anyone find any more information about her from her blog which would tell us how we should google her?
posted by jay at 2:02 AM on May 20, 2001

Few things frighten me more than people who will fight truth to defend their feelings. Some of you have said outright that what matters to you is not the authenticity of this persona but your own emotional responses to it. And that may well be what is important to you SUBJECTIVELY, as are the reactions I may take from a novel or movie. But the larger issue, the one which seems to be primarily being discussed here, is about what is OBJECTIVELY important, and that involves matters such as authenticity, truth, proof, facts, and reality. If you are content to swim in a sea of illusion and delusion, so be it; do not demand that others swim with you.

Opus Dark has it right. There is no stronger representation of ANY of us online than a persona. NO persona is an exact replica or representation of who we really are. Some people have more than one online persona that they use in different venues, for different purposes. Some people use some of them for rather dark and illicit purposes. These are not PEOPLE, they are shades, and while one can interact with them beneficially, it is always a mistake to confuse them with people, rather than seeing them as projections.

Therefore all this talk of apologies to the family of this person, should she in fact have existed as represented, is bunk. All personas should be questioned online, and hers was presented in a manner which especially invited it. Therefore, real or not, no one should be surprised by--much less take offense to--people's healthy doubt response.

Anyone who apologizes for having doubt or curiosity in the face of unpersuasive evidence is a dupe, whatever the outcome of their investigations. Is that insensitive to the feelings of those who cared about her as a person, if indeed there were such (because those who cared about her as a persona have a far, far less valid claim)? Hardly. Really, people. Can you imagine, if a member of your immediate family had died, giving a barn owl's hoot what a bunch of typing heads on the internet thought or said about it in an insular community in which you didn't participate?

Back to life...back to reality...
posted by rushmc at 2:03 AM on May 20, 2001 [5 favorites]

If you saw the page and wrote me flat out telling me you didn't think he existed, or that he wasn't a hero, I swear to you I wouldn't care, not even enough to write you back. I know the truth, so who cares about what others think?

And yet so many people are expecting BWG or Debbie (or somebody) to come forward with proof? It ain't gonna happen, folks. Believe or don't. I choose to believe in Kaycee.

I'd rather be proven a fool later on, than potentially destroying everything that girl stood for.

Really, if it offends you so, then don't read this thread.

It doesn't offend me. Truth be told, I've never even exchanged emails with Kaycee. But her words, her feelings have changed my life... for the better.

Funny how my remark about asking people to "prove it" (even called a "threat" by Kindall) was so offensive, imagine how people close to Kaycee feel right now. And no they can't ignore this thread... they're watching a loved one who recently passed away a fraud and a fake with the flimsiest evidence.

So if my opinion (which I'm as entitled to as you all are) is so damn offensive to some of you... then please skip over it.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 2:11 AM on May 20, 2001

Although you quoted me, also notice I never posted that I thought bwg or debbie should come forward. I don't care if they do or don't.

(and I also wasn't offended by anything you said)
posted by justgary at 2:16 AM on May 20, 2001

...who recently passed away *CALLED* a fraud and a fake with the flimsiest evidence.

also notice I never posted that I thought bwg or debbie should come forward
I know... and please don't feel my answer was directed only at you, but you have to agree that some people here feel they should... like they owe it to us. Fact is they don't.
On the plus side, at least I know BWG isn't following this anymore....
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 2:22 AM on May 20, 2001

Rushmc and Opus:

I'm a person. I'm real. Even if my name is not Tara, and even if nobody here has seen my birth certificate.

I know we have access to the reality of the outside world only through our representations. Most philosophers will agree on that. But it doesn't make it less "real" - whether on the net or off it.

Please, let's not reduce all this to a super-relativist theory of the world (or the net, for that matter).
posted by Tara at 2:26 AM on May 20, 2001 [1 favorite]

Danelope: the blue shorts indicate it being an away uniform.
posted by gyc at 2:26 AM on May 20, 2001

How so?
posted by Danelope at 2:32 AM on May 20, 2001

Tara (who is real, because she/he/it recently announced it on MeFi) wrote:

Please, let's not reduce all this to a super-relativist theory of the world (or the net, for that matter).

As you wish. I have belaboured my point quite long enough. Carry on. I wouldn't want to do anything to "reduce all this".
posted by Opus Dark at 2:37 AM on May 20, 2001

Does it seem to anyone else that this is a thinly veiled argument between religion and atheism?

I just had to play the devil's advocate.
posted by ttrendel at 2:37 AM on May 20, 2001

I find this whole debate wild and crazy on one hand and completely addictive on the other.

It's the zeitgeist of the age (just wanted to use the word zeitgeist) but I still think it's insane to argue (as many have) that their emotional investment in this weblog and it's author is more important to them than whether it's true.
posted by zebra_monkey at 2:45 AM on May 20, 2001

Danelope: Because dark colors are generally worn by the away team.

Also, this NY Times article linked from Kaycee's weblog has a couple of quotes from a "Kaycee Swenson, a high school senior in Wichita, Kan."
posted by gyc at 2:48 AM on May 20, 2001

What's a zeitgeist??

Just wondering.....
posted by Redgie at 2:48 AM on May 20, 2001

Surreal, isn't it?

We have the beginnings of a cyber-religion here. Kaycee Nicole died, yet she lives. But was she who she said she was?

Faith or proof. Still works people up, doesn't it?

But I've been admonished that people don't want to phool with the philosophical - they just want to argue their narrow personal perceptions.
posted by Opus Dark at 2:52 AM on May 20, 2001

Opus, I'll pass on biblical debate tonight. But, last point here, however garbled my original definition of non-fiction and fiction, I still stand by the point I was trying to make. That is, to say we interpret the events "out there" is true, to say we create events out of our own subjective mind is schizophrenic.

zeitgeist: the spirit of the age (so when I said zeitgeist of the age, that was repetitive), or read it here.
posted by zebra_monkey at 3:01 AM on May 20, 2001

Yes, that Kaycee Swenson in the article is the same Kaycee of all this fame. That was an article in which they used CollegeClub members for interviews, and Logan and Kaycee were the ones selected. She was going to come to San Diego State, and she was even planning on being my roommate when she did...

posted by Chazio at 3:02 AM on May 20, 2001

Thanks zebra....

I gots to go now. 'Tis way past my bedtime.


posted by Redgie at 3:02 AM on May 20, 2001

I mean UCSD, not SDSU...I get those confused all the time. *smacks head*
posted by Chazio at 3:04 AM on May 20, 2001

Thanks Chaz!
posted by Redgie at 3:05 AM on May 20, 2001

This whole thread deeply sickens me...

I've heard numerous arguments here so far... none of which I can't explain away with what I know, if given the chance... I first met Kaycee online a little over a year ago... just a faceless name on website, yes, collegeclub. I had many amazing chats with her... then, she became ill again. I've been reading her journal and keeping her in my prayers ever since.

About her pictures... someone was very smart. Some of them are photoshopped. Most to keep her identity private and the rest for fun. Kaycee was a "warrior" that's what she was known as. It was clever to change a simple mascot to something personal... served a dual purpose...

I personally mailed Kaycee at her P.O. Box. At Christmas, with a card... Oddly enough, just a week later she noted in her journal that she got a card from Indiana. How would they know that things were still being sent to that address... well, simple, that's the only address a lot of people ever had for her... they recieved many emails asking where to send condolences, I'm sure many asked if that P.O. Box was correct.

Someone asked about the circumstances of her death... well, if you've read more than the last 2 entries, most of that would be better understood. Kaycee's dad wasn't out of state... not since she recently returned home... she was, in fact, the one not at home... she was in a hospital away from her home, then she returned after visiting Florida. That's the way it was presented in the journal and it makes perfect sense if you've paid attention. I'd also like to say that even though a ruptured vein, the cause given for her death, was an internal reason, doesn't mean shit about knowing. First of all, they DO medical exams after death... and secondly, she was alive... she could tell what hurt. They knew what her risks and weaknesses were... I'm sure any cause of death could be be determined.

BWG-the Hong Kong guy... yah, he runs the whole site... my guess is, since he was updating her site, he was updating at her time... you know, if you logged onto my site, it's set to log at my time.

Audra owns because it was bought in honor/for her. Simple. Sorry.

I know many friends are deeply hurt by this thread. Whether you think we should be here or not. Maybe we shouldn't care. But, many of us do. Some people weren't lucky enough to know Kaycee... some of us don't know her as well as we would have liked to. But, she is very real to us. I for one want someone who never had the opportunity to allow her to touch them... in a way that can only happen by falling in love with her as a person. The real person that she was. I'd hate to see someone miss out because no one stood up long enough to say. Yes, There is a Kaycee Nicole. The thread started by asking if it was possible... that means it's open to both sides... There's not a single action in your everyday life that someone couldn't provide evidence to say it's an unlikely occurrence

Kaycee... You're forever in my sunshine.
posted by IndianaSweetie at 3:09 AM on May 20, 2001 [2 favorites]

- Debbie just buried her daughter, and is expected to provide proof to a bunch of insensitive buffoons

- that Kaycee Swenson in the article is the same Kaycee of all this fame

- Yes, There is a Kaycee Nicole
posted by register at 3:13 AM on May 20, 2001

Everybody happy now?
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 3:23 AM on May 20, 2001

Yes Virginia, there really was a Kaycee.

I knew it all along. :-)
posted by Redgie at 3:24 AM on May 20, 2001

Everybody happy now?

The point of this entire thread was never about being happy. No one in their right mind would be happy that someone so young, who had touched people's lives, had died.

There is/was a reasonable doubt, fueled by the collective experience of how easily people can be deceived via the Internet, and this thread was created to explore the TRUTH. Not about whether it made you sick to hear others' doubts, or whether you were right or wrong.

If you're copping a smug attitude, now that you feel your belief that a young girl died has been validated, you're more disturbed than anyone else here.
posted by Danelope at 3:45 AM on May 20, 2001

(After this post, I give up caring, because I am, apparently, the only person who wasn’t deeply moved by her story. I mean, sorry for your loss, but I just didn’t enjoy reading the web log. Apparently, I need a ((((((hug))))))) or a /pounce.)

I am real. Powazek can vouch for my existence.

Just in case the previous posts aren’t enough for you (and I could understand why it wouldn’t be) Wunderblog udpated. Pretty good one, too, if you disregard the “Caye ‘Kaycee’ Clark” stuff.

It leads us to a Kaycee page on Geocities with by far, the clearest picture of Kaycee — if that is in fact her. Kelli (apparently Kelli Swenson) links to a Gracemont Junior High basketball schedule. Their mascot — incoincidently? — is a Lion.

The uniforms look similiar (notice the pattern along the seam of the shorts), while the subject’s hair color is different. Could be dye, but then, I already feel myself losing interest.

I don’t know how the Wunderblog folks found that page, because there don’t seem to be any links to it from the rest of the N’Sync fan site. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Google doesn’t seem to have a cache.

In closing: If you were real, a few thousand people would’ve have loved to have met you. Why didn’t you let them? If this is a hoax, wake me so I can join the lynch mob.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 3:52 AM on May 20, 2001 [1 favorite]

"If you're copping a smug attitude, now that you feel your belief that a young girl died has been validated, you're more disturbed than anyone else here."

Jesus Christ... the way some people handle their guilt amazes me...

No I'm not happy that Kaycee is gone.
I'm happy that the beautiful words of an inspiring young lady has been validated.

Everyone had a right to question, to doubt.
But the insensitivity here from some members has been unbelievable... and I hope they feel like crap for all the hurt they caused.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 3:58 AM on May 20, 2001

After the latest news I have two observations:

1. I think she was probably real, and not because some guy I don't know from adam tells us it's her, but with all these pages floating around a hoax just doesn't seem likely. You would have to have incredible foresight to create these pages before going on to her latest page. I don't see someone trying to create a hoax going to the trouble of leaving a trail of old pages behind.

2. A web designer she was not=) (kidding)
posted by justgary at 4:33 AM on May 20, 2001

Everybody happy now?

Well, I for one can clearly see the influence Kaycee has had on your attitude. You are obviously most holy and full of grace. Congratulations.

Could you link me to her endorsement of sanctimonious behavior?

Attitudes like yours are the fuel that feeds these fires. So, are you happy now?

[...]I hope they feel like crap for all the hurt they caused.

Whoever pretends hurt is doing so to immodestly sanctify his own righteousness. I think I got more from my brief brush with the Kaycee Nicole phenomenon then you have for all the time you profess to have invested. Try marvelling at the invigorating and tireless curiosity displayed by the questioning minds of some of your 'other' online acquaintances - you might discover miracles as wonderful as a moth on your windowsill...
posted by Opus Dark at 4:47 AM on May 20, 2001

Leaving aside the issue of whether I'm a terrible person for caring whether Kaycee is a hoax or not (short answer: yes I am) ...

The Kaycee Swenson site on Geocities includes a link to a page about the Swenson family with a poem by Debbie Swenson and a picture of a sibling who would now be in junior high school, two details that are consistent with Debbie's weblog.
posted by rcade at 5:09 AM on May 20, 2001

If Kaycee Brandon is still alive, then she clearly isn't Kaycee Nicole. However, she could unwittingly be the source of the pictures. After all, participants in this thread found them; a hoaxer could too.

I'm convinced that the basketball picture is indeed Kaycee Brandon. The similarity to the picture that Zosia found is striking. Also "Lady Warriors" with "lady" correct but "warriors" faked matches nicely with Kaycee Brandon's real team name of "Lady Tigers".

And indeed, if the newspaper report on Kaycee Brandon from February is genuine, and there's no reason to doubt it, then she can't be Kaycee Nicole, because no-one undergoing chemotherapy is going to be able to continue playing basketball.

Now there's an interesting point of view halfway between truth and hoax: there may indeed have been a young woman (possibly named "Kaycee") who really did suffer from leukemia, but who decided to create an online identity and borrowed the pictures of Kaycee Brandon to do so.

Which would mean that the paint job was fake but the body beneath (and the words written by it) were genuine.

(Anyone ever read a story called "Redfern's Labyrinth" by Robert Sheckley?)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:18 AM on May 20, 2001 [1 favorite]

Wow. Anger, denial, bargaining, despair and acceptance. All in one thread.
posted by crunchland at 6:02 AM on May 20, 2001 [4 favorites]

I came to a conclusion tonight. Just then actually. And it's one I've feared, but never actually been positive on.

People, for the most part, aren't good.

I came online tonight, to Chaz telling me to go and read something. THIS actually! And it made me realise this horrifying truth.

Some people are saying Kaycee was a hoax. Now this seems more impossible to me than walking outside right now, at 10.21pm and seeing the sun shining. Never once have I doubted Kaycee's authenticity. Why? Because nothing that beautiful can ever be bad. Somebody who writes like Kaycee does, has the heart and soul of an angel, and it's ludicrous to even think otherwise.

So to all those people who wrote the disgusting things I read on that thread, you didn't for one second make me doubt Kaycee, you did however make me doubt the human race.

I hope somewhere, Kaycee is looking down on this and smiling, nay laughing, at what seems to me, a bad taste joke.

RIP Kaycee!
posted by PunkVixen at 6:06 AM on May 20, 2001

People, for the most part, aren't good.

You got this from a discussion on the internet? If this is the worse you've seen you havn't been looking very hard.

So to all those people who wrote the disgusting things I read on that thread,

I'm still looking for anything written that would be 'disgusting', unless you consider searching for the truth disgusting.

you didn't for one second make me doubt Kaycee

I'm pretty sure that no one was trying to make you second guess Kaycee. No one made you come here. Chaz told you to come here. Talk to him.
posted by justgary at 6:16 AM on May 20, 2001

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Kaycee Nicole. Please tell me the truth, is there a Kaycee Nicole? -- Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Kaycee Nicole.

She exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Kaycee Nicole! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Kaycee Nicole! You might as well not believe in fairies. Nobody sees Kaycee Nicole, but that is no sign that there is no Kaycee Nicole. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Kaycee Nicole? Thank God she lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, she will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
posted by rcade at 6:22 AM on May 20, 2001 [3 favorites]

Just in case you weren't sure what rcade was going on about...
posted by FPN at 6:30 AM on May 20, 2001

I found Kaycee's site through the Greymatter links at Noah Grey's site a month or two ago, and read a couple-three entries at that time. I had also been reading for quite a while, so I was horrified to hear a friend say "hey, that internet girl died". I wasn't relieved so much as re-horrified to see that it was Kaycee instead. Then I read some more, and remembered why her site hadn't really touched me as deeply as it was trying so hard to do. She didn't sound right to me. She didn't sound like someone who was having to adjust to terminal illness. At the time, I just thought it was because she was so young. (Of course, an unsupported suspicion in hindsight is a rather worthless thing, so I went back and read the whole journal.)

A real person wrote the site. Real emotion was wrung from readers, although maybe not from careful ones. Maybe it wasn't a real 19 year old girl. Maybe it wasn't a person losing a fight with a disease it's taboo to question. Cancer and dying beautiful teenagers make a good place to stand if you don't want to be questioned, because the kneejerk reaction to the skeptic is shock and horror, oh yes. A hoaxer, ironically, has human decency on his side -- his work will be defended by the simple decency of the same people who will be hurt to hear their loved one might have been a ghost all along. It's bad enough to be made sad without being made to seem silly or stupid at the same time.

I love a good media hoax, but this is different. This doesn't take advantage of bad journalism, it takes advantage of people who put their hearts out where others can step on them.

I'm reading it all, now, and I don't feel any more convinced than I did before. Here's one thing that sticks out to me, other than the vaguely disquieting Reader's Digest flavour of it all:

- Kaycee, whose locale has been discussed already, has a super-consistent Canadian/British spelling convention throughout her journal. Big Fat Tycoon (way back in this thread) points out her site title, but graciously gives benefit of the doubt, as bwg is credited with site design. However, honour, colour, realise, apologise, over-analyse, and such other spellings are everywhere in the text. If it had been an affectation, she'd be sure to have explained it all carefully, just like she did the kcutesy and kcloying use of the letters k and c.

bwg follows his press like a serial killer. If these people are all his puppets, he's got his hand up a lot of asses.

I wouldn't be surprised to hear this was an elaborate fiction, but even if it's not, I stand by those who would rather find truth at the risk of hurting feelings than allow the wicked to shield themselves with artificial babies.
posted by Sallyfur at 6:44 AM on May 20, 2001 [3 favorites]

I'd just like to add that the link which capt. crackpipe pointed out on the wunderblog page was discovered by Ryan Ozawa, who perpetrated a close to 2-year hoax diary on the web called oZ diary (ophelia Z's diary). He managed to snow people to the extent that (I believe) two-way mail correspondence occurred.

Also, regarding talking to people on the telephone as substantial proof of existence, for a long time I followed what I initially thought was a joke diary, eventually getting to know the author to the point where I actually spoke to the woman on the phone. I was shown pictures, and a whole existence was built up replete with photos that seemed to support it, until the day I saw the same face in a major ad campaign and after some searching discovered that every single photo was of another individual. My two points here are: one, talking to someone on the phone is zero proof of anything, especially if they're trying to pull one over on you and two, lives can be built on found material.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 7:05 AM on May 20, 2001

I had also been reading for quite a while, so I was horrified to hear a friend say "hey, that internet girl died". I wasn't relieved so much as re-horrified to see that it was Kaycee instead.

Don't be too worried about Kysa Braswell, despite her four month-long coma.

Compare the pictures of Kysa on her bio page and self interview with two pictures from the Web site of the singer Chantal Kreviazuk (#1 and #2).
posted by rcade at 7:11 AM on May 20, 2001

I wouldn't be surprised to hear this was an elaborate fiction, but even if it's not, I stand by those who would rather find truth at the risk of hurting feelings than allow the wicked to shield themselves with artificial babies.


I'm amazed at the venom coming from those who never doubted Kaycee.

Following the thread, I never thought of it as having an outcome with winners or losers. I simply thought of it as a few curious posters searching for truth, not for others, or the convinced, but for themselves.

People are not evil for seeking the truth, regardless of what that truth is. People are not going to hell for questioning, no matter what the answer maybe.
posted by justgary at 7:12 AM on May 20, 2001

crunchland -- Wow. Anger, denial, bargaining, despair and acceptance. All in one thread.

Yes these are the stages of grief. People in this thread are not bad, just human. This is turning into a fantastic display of the human condition.

We all seem to have been touched by the KayceeNicole posts. We have been very fascinated by the possibility that what we believe is not as it seems. This thread is not odd or cruel in intent. It is a true community trying to come to terms with an event that touched many of us. The media that joins us together does not permit us to use our senses to assure ourselves when we are in doubt. The denial stage is a normal part of grief, which the crux of this thread is an outward form. The denial (of death or in this case life, as odd as it is) is exacerbated by this intangible world on which this community is based. We seem to be looking for some closure so we can move on, but carry the wonderful memories of KayceeNicole with the sweet spot the blog provided.

This thread shows that we on MeFi really do care, are human, and have a collective soul.
posted by vanderwal at 7:17 AM on May 20, 2001

So would somebody be smart enough to set up this giant hoax but overlook something as "stupid" as regional spelling?
posted by Tara at 7:25 AM on May 20, 2001

I set my thoughts down into words this morning after reading the entire thread. Here they are:

1) Kaycee had a page at College Club. (Proof: various sources. Mostly she links to files on it here and there.)
2) Kaycee had a weblog.
3) Kaycee linked - for, what had seemed to me in the past, no apparent reason (that is to say, I skimmed the article every time I read it - it didn't seem directly relevant and also kind of boring) - to an article from the New York Times about college life.
4) In this article the name Kaycee Swenson is mentioned. Kaycee Swenson is a Kansas senior who took college classes during high school the year before.
5) In various posts Kaycee writes about taking college classes during high school. I don't remember if she makes references to it in her main blog, but her College Club page has journal entries writing about some of her experiences as a high school student at college.
(note for the skeptical - this is not such a weird thing anymore. I did it, my boyfriend did it, I know a lot of people who've done it.)
6) Kaycee was a senior in a Kansas high school somewhere, though she spent most of her life in Oklahoma.
7) Given this, I would conclude that Kaycee of the blog is Kaycee Swenson. Same name given, same circumstances.
8) Kaycee had another website on Geocities. pretty clearly looks like her style - same graphics, consistent pictures.
9) Going back through the rest of the site, it's an Oklahoma-based N-Sync fan page. There are three girls working on it called Kelli, Shaina, and Kirbi. In the news page there's a picture of nine girls called Brittney, Shaina, Jamie, Kirbi, Kelli, Lindsey, Amanda, Pam and Donita. In the picture page, there are more pictures of Kelli, Shaina and Kirbi. On this page there's a link to the Swenson personal home page.
10) The Swenson personal home page has a poem on it with the name Debbi Swenson attached to it.
11) Searching Google for the first line of that poem
returns one page that has the full text of the poem on it.

My conclusion from this is that Kaycee's real name was Kelli Swenson and that she was a real person who did a couple of personal pages and eventually a weblog.

I can't tell you if she really was exactly who she said she was. I don't know. I can tell you that I read her entire weblog yesterday. If it's a hoax, then it's a completely stupeifying one. I've been online for six years and I am well aware of the bizarre fantasies people play for a reaction - I could tell some weird stories, same as anyone else - some approaching the level of complexity of this one. It differs from person to person, of course, but for me her words never rung hollow or seemed fake.

If you want solid, hard proof without any inconsistencies that there was a girl named Kaycee Nicole who lived in Oklahoma, played basketball, was blonde and beautiful, moved to Kansas, wrote a very personal journal in which every single word was 100% true and eventually passed away, this probably won't be enough for you. If you just wanted to know the crucial detail - was there ever a real face to these words? - this is my answer.
posted by shirobara at 7:38 AM on May 20, 2001

Minor correction/clarification, Sallyfur: analyse, apologise and realise are British/Australian/NZ spellings. Canadian spellings of those words would use a z.

Unrelated to that, while I would defend the right of people to investigate this story, there have been a lot of baseless allegations made in this thread (Look at these small, blurry pictures of two young, blond women: Audra Lea is in on it! BWG seems awfully defensive: he must have something to hide! Kaycee was real because I say so! She's a fake because I have a funny feeling about it all! You haven't been a longtime member of Metafilter: you must be in on the scam! etc).

You have a right to the truth, and if you have suspicions, I would say you have a duty to look for the truth. This does not give anyone the right to make unfounded allegations in a public forum without having anything substantial to back it up. Newspapers get sued for doing that, and the online world should be held to at least the same standards. "If you don't like it, you don't have to read it" is not a valid defense against libel.

By all means, be suspicious: there are obvious inconsistencies in the story. Show us the smoking gun if you find it. Accumulate a crushing mountain of consistent circumstantial evidence and let us all know about it. Rampant public speculation in the interim however, will not accomplish anything productive, and only serves to upset those innocent people who believe (rightly or wrongly) that someone they considered a friend died last week.
posted by cardboard at 7:56 AM on May 20, 2001

Re: regional spelling mistakes

Tara, yes, I think it's definitely possible someone could occasionally slip up; it's obviously not a big enough thing that it warranted notice or attention by most people. However, unlike Sallyfur, I can't locate the use of "colour" or "honour" in the text, but I have seen the suffix "-ise". Still, I'm Canadian, and I generally use the "-ize" variant.

The thing I find, reading the diary itself, is that there are numerous cases where my spidey sense just goes crazy, saying "this is the writing of someone who's imagining what a teenage girl writes like". There's a didactic, forced tone to the writing that, as someone who considers himself moderately insightful about writing, seems suspect. The occasional peppering of the text with french and translations seems weird, too (I mean, I believe french is taught as part of the curriculum in most American schools, but still, some of the phrases seem a little too colloquial. Again, perhaps she was taught by someone like this bwg fellow).

As far as it not mattering whether there was a "real" Kaycee Nicole or not, I think that's bullshit. The Santa Claus analogy implies we should all live in a state of child-like innocence regarding things, provided they teach us some "correct" or uplifting moral lesson about life. As I stated above, there have been people who have perpetrated diaries that have inspired people, who have taken a great hand in other people's lives, but that still doesn't negate the fact that people do not appreciate being lied to for their "own good". I think the fact that so many people feel doubt says something; why now, why this? Because there's something wrong, and people know it.

Here's a small example from my life. My grandmother passed away several years ago, while I was studying for exams in university. My parents knowingly withheld the knowledge of her death from me until after I finished an exam, the funeral and the memorial and everything took place while I was blissfully (or not) crunching numbers and cramming. I see why they did it, but I still feel betrayed and saddened that they felt I was not capable of handling that by my own power. So, on this even larger scale, to lie to people, even for their supposed benefit, would seem equally as suspect, because it implies people can't have positive, constructive views on life without having to conned into it.

Er, sorry if this broke down there, it's something I feel strongly about.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 8:00 AM on May 20, 2001 [1 favorite]

Kaycee's writing never struck me as sounding "suspect" (though of course that doesn't prove anything). I was surprised to know her age. But I've seen young people write astonishing things.

Strong faith and NDEs can transform people in ways we might not be able to imagine. I don't think that we can judge from Kaycee's writings that they were not written by a 19-year-old girl. We can't say they were either, but we definitely can't say they weren't.

I don't think intuitions are doing anybody good here.

[Oh, and probably like many other people who feel concerned about this issue, I've had my share of betrayal too. Past betrayal makes one suspicious - often overly, I know it all too well.]
posted by Tara at 8:42 AM on May 20, 2001

"Kaycee Nicole" can't be Kelli Swenson.
1) Links are to a Junior High School - Kaycee played in a high school tournament, and must have been a senior in '99
2) Debbie Swenson doesn't mention Kaycee's sister - only the daughter Kelli and younger son
3) Family picture includes daughter Kelli with dark hair and who looks nothing like Kaycee

At this point, even though I'm very skeptical, I keep coming back, hoping the link will be here that will clear this up. It would be much more satisfying to discover this is true, than to always wonder, since it will be next to impossible to prove it wrong.
posted by ilanah at 9:26 AM on May 20, 2001

"I asked myself why I'm still fascinated by this whole thing"

Same here. Here's my answer:

Kaycee's story had a very profound impact on me. I cried off and on for two days when she died. I think I took away some very important things from her web log and her effect on people. If it turned out to be a hoax, those emotions and lessons will still be real.


I once had a similar emotional experience in another context. I had watched a movie that had a very deep impact on me. I was crying so uncontrollably at the end of the movie that I had to be half carried out. I feel I learned some important lessons and integrated some new things into the way I look at the world. Even though the movie was "fake" it had a deep and lasting impact.

The difference between the two is that Kaycee's soul is a much different and more powerful thing than a writer's script. I'm an ashiest, but I still like the concept of a soul. And the idea that Kaycee's soul was something I could pray for and draw strength from was very important to me.

If Kaycee was a hoax, and there was no soul, she will still be part of my life. But it will be a very, very different part. And to me that difference is so important that I need to know the truth.
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:26 AM on May 20, 2001

Ilanah: there is probably no link that can clear this up. Not all the answers can be found on the web, so all the "detective work" online might very well be useless, I'm afraid.
posted by Tara at 9:37 AM on May 20, 2001

Why do people get so emotionally involved in soap operas? Why do they choose to let themselves get so swept up in the details of people's lives that they don't know (or, in the case of soap operas, know to be over-the-top fiction) that they feel genuine sadness and even cry over events?

Sure, I have been deeply affected emotionally by books, movies--once in a blue moon even tv can transcend itself and reach me. But some people go much further. They watch their particular soap opera religiously (a most appropriate adverb, that), wouldn't think of missing it, and reflect obsessively upon its characters and plotlines during the day when they are NOT watching. It's like an addiction to the stimulation of their emotions, and in my book, that makes them highly suspect of being rather emotionally stunted. Why doesn't life, and interaction with REAL human beings of their acquaintance, satisfy their human need for emotion, positive and negative?

There's a term for this sort of unearned emotional response in literature: sentimentality. It's a cheap way of shortcutting your way to people's emotions by pushing their buttons in ways known to be effective, like having a likable young character suffer from sickness or die. It's a bad thing.

And I concur with the people who have said here how outraged they are that some of you would prefer to see this turn out to be true, that a girl has died, rather than have to question your own beliefs, naivete, emotional neediness, whatever. Talk about selfish, sick, and irrational. I don't care how upsetting a story this may be to any of you, if it should prove to be a fiction--deal with it. It is morally heinous to wish someone dead in order to evade feelings of betrayal and having been used and misled.
posted by rushmc at 10:04 AM on May 20, 2001 [2 favorites]

Interesting...this post seems to have disappeared. Here it is again:

"If you don't like it, you don't have to read it" is not a valid defense against libel.

So now it is libel to question a person's existence? That is certainly an interesting legal precedent...
posted by rushmc at 10:07 AM on May 20, 2001

Ilanah wrote:
"Kaycee Nicole" can't be Kelli Swenson.
1) Links are to a Junior High School - Kaycee played in a high school tournament, and must
have been a senior in '99
2) Debbie Swenson doesn't mention Kaycee's sister - only the daughter Kelli and younger
3) Family picture includes daughter Kelli with dark hair and who looks nothing like Kaycee

not to mention:

4) Kelli Swenson is an obsessive N'Sync fan. Kaycee seems to only reference music from the 70s. Now you could claim that Kelli is Kaycee's sister, but then where is Kaycee?

5) The Swenson family page shows the father. Wasn't Kaycee's father not communicating with the family?

And for those searching: If Kaycee Nicole is a pen name, why does she make lengthy entries about how the name was given to her by her parents?

So what is the morale of this story? There still isn't any real evidence of Kaycee existing outside of her blog. If she does exist, why can't someone close to the family post some sort of comfirmation for the benefit of those who put their trust in Kaycee? I'm not saying that the mother has to say anything. In the blog, Kaycee mentions numerous real-life people sending her presents, taking her out, etc (of course these people never seem to communicate with the net crowd). From the number of presents, donations, etc she mentions getting from real life non-net people, there must be plenty of people who have really met her. Anyone care to speak up?
posted by bonzo at 10:36 AM on May 20, 2001 [1 favorite]

"...Ryan Ozawa, who perpetrated a close to 2-year hoax diary on the web called oZ diary (ophelia Z's diary). He managed to snow people to the extent that (I believe) two-way mail correspondence occurred."

The great shame of online diaries is that Ophelia Z was the woman who started the Open Pages webring, a huge webring. She started, a clearinghouse of sorts for people who keep personal sites, and she forged deep friendships with other online diary keepers via email. Oh, yes....and she was a man, and her online diary was a complete work of fiction, although nobody knew that except the author, for a very, very long time. The author's picture? Taken from a magazine.

Don't be angry at me, because I do not believe the KayCee story - be angry at all the tricksters, liars, emotional manipulators, and drama queens who came before her, preying on the gullable and the tenderhearted for attention, popularity, and money. Be angry at the people who taught me so very well how important it is that I not completely trust any of you.
posted by kristin at 11:06 AM on May 20, 2001 [1 favorite]


What is at stake here is not the death of a young girl. What is at stake is a certain number of fundamental beliefs we have about the world we live in. The main of which being that we can usually trust our fellow man.

We all have that belief. We believe that people say the truth most of the time. People who do not have this belief suffer from paranoia, and are unable to function properly in a community.

Some people have known Kaycee for over a year. Their interactions with her (whether one-way or two) made sense, fitted in their general picture of the world, and most probably, gave meaning to certain things. For people who have known her, the belief in Kaycee's reality is strong and deeply networked with their other beliefs about the world; we do not easily let go of such beliefs.

My example is bad, but still. Imagine. Imagine somebody comes out of the blue and claims to be your father. Let's admit there is no way of proving or disproving that claim (the people who could have answered are dead, adn tests do not exist, whatever). Would you not resist giving up that belief? Our belief in the identity of our biological father is usually very firmly held, even though we often do not have proof for it. I hope everybody gets my point.

It is not being heartless to hope that Kaycee existed and that her story is true. It simply has to do with preserving the sanity of our conception of the world. Which relies on the belief (amongst others) that people do not go around creating elaborate hoaxes every day just for the heck of it. And on the belief that we have the ability to judge of the truthfulness of what we hear, see, or read.

In this light, the "cosmic" or "religious" proportion this debate is taking can easily be understood.

[In The Web of Belief, J. Ullian and W.V.O Quine explain these points much better than I can.]
posted by Tara at 11:10 AM on May 20, 2001

BWG has taken Kaycee's Blog down. He has spoken to Debbie, and some light has been shed on what was actually going on. It looks to me like Kaycee never wrote any of her entries. Debbie did. BWG writes: while debbie has admitted to writing the blogs as an amalgam of three people whom she loved who all suffered from various forms cancer, she told me that the stories told in the blogs are real. they happened to these people.

I don't think we'll ever know the whole truth.

posted by prolific at 11:49 AM on May 20, 2001 [12 favorites]

Please, let's not reduce all this to a super-relativist theory of the world (or the net, for that matter).

I feel like we're raising it to a super-relativist theory of the world.

The difference between the two is that Kaycee's soul is a much different and more powerful thing than a writer's script.

Isn't there some kind of Godwin's Law that refers to the discussion of the existence of a "soul"?

Yes, Virginia, there is a Kaycee Nicole.

What people seem to be avoiding here is that Santa Claus is a hoax! Sure, Santa would be a great thing, but he's a fabrication, a construct that we tell little children so that they can enjoy their youth--before they find out that the real world isn't all that great. I'm glad I got to believe in Santa as a child, but I'm equally glad I found out the truth.
posted by jpoulos at 11:49 AM on May 20, 2001

archives link.

i don't think i'll ever be able to look at the web quite the same way again.
posted by Sapphireblue at 11:50 AM on May 20, 2001

Sorry, this is the direct link.
posted by prolific at 11:53 AM on May 20, 2001

(After this post, I give up caring, because I am, apparently, the only person who wasn’t deeply moved by her story. I mean, sorry for your loss, but I just didn’t enjoy reading the web log. Apparently, I need a ((((((hug))))))) or a /pounce.)

No, you're not the only one. I thought it was sweet when I was first alerted to it on that way-long-ago MeFi thread, but I found it completely boring and stopping reading it almost immediately. (The only thing I found special about it was that a girl could keep up such a chirpy attitude despite going through chemo and expecting to die. The chirpy attitude itself, expressed through tons of quotes of bad pop song lyrics, can be found at thousands of other blogs run by adolescent girls, none of which get any attention or hits whatsoever for obvious reasons.

Sorry if I'm sounding a little pissy, but the self-righteousness of those who were "touched" by this blog, and their attempts to silence the debate here though constant guilt-tripping posts, has gotten to the point where it's overwhelming the positive aspects of this person's writing. If you don't like it, if you can't handle the fact that for most people, it's not enough to have simply been "touched by a fiction," then leave the thread. Goodbye.

I said it earlier and I'll say it again: Assuming Kaycee is/was real, she and her mother brought this upon themselves by trying to have the best of both worlds: Huge amounts of publicity combined with the most intense attempts at total and complete anonymity ever seen by a popular blogger. If there are any of you out there so truly sickened by this thread who know Kaycee so so personally, well, there are any number of pieces of information you can provide that would end this instantaneously, once and for all.
posted by aaron at 12:00 PM on May 20, 2001

Libel actually is a whole 'nother issue, involving intentional desire to slander or hurt someone's reputation. This isn't libel, this is public discussion of a public person. It's called democracy.

Further more, the degree of "hurting" here is just so ridiculous. Who's getting hurt? This reminds me of reality television, or a "very special" Jerry Springer. It's like, sorry everyone isn't following the set-out program of decent mourning and sanctimonious hero-worship.

I don't understand how certain people are so sheltered from reality that the ongoing thread can deeply sicken them. Or that this thread can teach them that people aren't "nice." Nothing here is personally attacking anyone, in fact I'm amazed that this hasn't devolved into a flame war.

But then again, I guess I'm part of the problem. I question group-think and I ask questions. Obviously I should be eliminated, I'm getting in the way of the band wagon.
posted by zebra_monkey at 12:00 PM on May 20, 2001

chaz is telling you that kaycee is kaycee swenson from the NYT article. surely the NYT would have the foresight to not interview a fictional person. (and a funny side note, i know the other person who was interviewed for that story from college club, logan, the guy in the picture. who, incidentally, doesn't look much like the pic. but he's real. i've met him in person. :) )

how much more proof positive do you need? the NYT is good enough for me...

i have a lot of experience dealing with death, and a lot of this post reflects the first step of dealing with loss: denial. it's ok...its easier to believe in a hoax than the truth. this is precisely why it's healthy to view the body of a loved one at a funereal. the senses cannot deny what the mind is desperately trying to find any other plausible explanation for.
posted by queenkelly at 12:01 PM on May 20, 2001

i think i'm more confused now than i was at the beginning of this thread.
posted by phooey at 12:02 PM on May 20, 2001

Online journals as a genre have seen more than a fair number of fake journals and personas (Ryan wasn't the first and he's not the last - although, to his credit, Ophelia simply quit her journal instead of coming down with hemorragic fever and dying) come and go over the years. It has come to be expected, quite frankly. These revelations were usually difficult and met with the same kinds of anger and disbelief displayed here, but everyone recovered. At worst, people emerged with a deeper cynicism.

I had corresponded with the Ophelia persona a number of times and liked her journal very much. By the time she was revealed to be Ryan, I honestly didn't care. I didn't feel betrayed, because I hadn't become in any way emotionally invested in the reality of Ophelia - I liked the writing, to be sure, and its quality remained undiminished even in light of the unreality of subject matter.

I had a hard time understanding people who are still, after all this time, pissed off at Ryan. This Kaycee thing has provided enlightenment on that, however. It's not Ophelia as an actual person that diarists were attached to, but their own mental constructs of Ophelia - what she came to represent, individually, to them. None of those constructs and values were any more rooted in reality than Ophelia herself - so there was, in fact, a double layer of duping happening: one was forced (done by Ryan) and the other was willing (done by the individual).

If you find yourself categorically unwilling to consider that Kaycee is even partially fictional, it might be interesting to ask why - what have you got invested in this person that you are so loathe to relinquish?
posted by gsh at 12:02 PM on May 20, 2001

while debbie has admitted to writing the blogs as an amalgam of three people whom she loved who all suffered from various forms cancer...

Okay then. The blog was a fraud. Thank you.
posted by aaron at 12:05 PM on May 20, 2001 [3 favorites]

Debbie's last journal entry is her confession and apology.
posted by prolific at 12:06 PM on May 20, 2001 [1 favorite]

Getting something in the NYT alone does not mean a great deal. The NYT is not a good enough source.

I have conducted a interview for the NYT over email. I could have claimed to be anyone I wanted and said anything I wanted, and as long as I said "yeah, uh huh, yep, that's right, yes, yes" to the fact checker that called me afterwards, it would still go to print, fact or fiction.

I also know at least a couple people that have gotten interviewed and mentioned in the NYT prominently that were using pen names.

So the NYT doesn't really mean too much.
posted by mathowie at 12:07 PM on May 20, 2001 [1 favorite]

Ouch. So it was this Debbie person that was on college club this whole time?

Ouch. The person I feel worst about is Halcyon. He's pure love, and he was duped, as most of us were.

Halcyon, if you read this, don't stop believing that deep-down, people are good.
posted by mathowie at 12:09 PM on May 20, 2001

Because there still seems to be some confusion...

Kaycee Nicole did not really exist. Read about it on debbie's blog.

Sorry for the large font, but this thread is getting ridiculous to scan through, and I wanted people skimming for information to know this.

Personally -- I'm not bearing Debbie any grudge, but then I wasn't involved. I have said a prayer for Debbie and the three people she loved -- I hope you would do the same -- though there was no Kaycee, she was the amalgamation of four people in extreme pain and suffering. (Debbie included.) Here's one of my favorites, that I learned from Jack Kornfield:

May they be filled with loving-kindness
May they be well
May they be peaceful, and at ease
May they be happy.

posted by tweebiscuit at 12:11 PM on May 20, 2001 [3 favorites]


Fine. (Actually, it's *not* fine, it's far from fine, but..)

Let me ask this: Who, then, is * Debbie?! * Where did she come from? How did she become involved in all of this -- how did the transition from Kaycee (speaking with BWG directly) to Debbie occur? Did it occur with the families' agreement? Did the families of the three people even know what was going on, that information or stories or whatever was being posted?

Did the families know that potentially confidential information about their conditions was being posted?

Let me continue:
"no, kaycee's last name is not swenson. she used debbie's surname as a measure of protection, as there had been previous online and real life problems she wanted not to re-occur."

So......did all of this occur with Kaycee's agreement, or not?

Just who are all of these people, and isn't it convenient that the three people who were sick are dead and thus can't press charges? Fine, Debbie claims that "I am to blame for wanting to tell their stories. I am to blame for weaving the lives of all three together. I chose to share their voices as one rather than three separately. I wrote their thoughts, their humorous sides, their struggles, their fears." But nowhere does she say that the families knew about this.

There needs to be a fuller accounting. Let Debbie thus come forth and say who she is, and how she got this information, and assure us that this was done with full compliance of the families involved.

This is simply not over yet.
posted by metrocake at 12:13 PM on May 20, 2001

i can't keep up with this thread! btwn the time of writing and posting.....yea yea yea....*babbling*

the internet is crazy crazy...
posted by queenkelly at 12:14 PM on May 20, 2001

surely the NYT would have the foresight to not interview a fictional person.

It's entirely possible they did. If someone at the other end of the phone claims to be so-and-so, and were referred to the reporter by a respectable company such as, the NYT isn't going to require the person to fax in a copy of her driver's license before they run the story.

Anyway, either they did indeed get hoaxed themselves, or else Kaycee Swenson was an integral part of this hoax, either of her own volition or without her knowledge.
posted by aaron at 12:15 PM on May 20, 2001

Okay then. The blog was a fraud. Thank you.

the very worst thing about all of this is that people who are cynical by nature are going to take all this as validation of their suspicious natures---and people who are inclined to trust and to love are going to think twice before extending those kindnesses to strangers again.

i'm glad we know the truth: can't fault the people who smelled a rat and, no malice involved, simply wanted the matter looked into, but the immediate future is going to bring a whole *lot* of ugliness from people who think that trust and love are things to be scorned, and who think that those of us who genuinely grieved for "Kaycee" are saps and fools for having done so.

that wunderblog person (and I use the term loosely) and his "Aw, look at all the sad, sad people" will be just the start of it. it's a shame there are people manipulative enough to do something like this, and a bigger shame that there are people small enough to get that kind of cruel and petty glee out of watching the fallout happen.
posted by Sapphireblue at 12:18 PM on May 20, 2001

oh my god. i've been reading this over the last couple of days, but have refrained from saying anything. but now we know.

i feel like such a fool.

i think i read kaycee's (debbie's?) blog rather infrequently because i had a friend who died a year ago of leukemia. it hit too close to home. when i heard she'd died, i thought it was sad, but i wasn't too emotionally involved in the situation.

maybe this sounds awful, but debbie sounds, well, rather insane. why keep up such a charade?
posted by sugarfish at 12:19 PM on May 20, 2001

the faithful side is having its doubts
posted by omega^man at 12:23 PM on May 20, 2001

Go away for a day, and get 176 new messages in one thread. Okay, and I've read the blog posts, I've read these posts, and I'm not angry - just befuddled.

If you want to tell the stories of these people, and chances are these stories should be told, why create a persona to "channel" them through? As Matt points out, why go out to College Club and make a page for this person? Why keep it up for so long? I just don't understand the thought process behind why it was done this way.

The issue of how real someone is on the web is probably not going to go away anytime soon. If you think about it, we all have the chance to manufacture our personas in life - but on the web, it also includes a huge dose of trust and assumption. How real are any of us, then?

In any event, cancer is certainly something I don't take lightly, having lost my father to it. The blog of this person was one I had read at times, and every entry I saw did evoke a response - I felt a smile come over my face, for many of them had the feeling of a true survivor - it hit me extremely close to home.

But geez, it wasn't real. I echo the sentiments of sugarfish and sapphireblue - I feel duped, and duped well. I've often ruminated about just how real any of this web schtuff is - but when you're really, really playing with peoples' emotions, lots of people are going to walk away scorned.
posted by hijinx at 12:24 PM on May 20, 2001

Kaycee had a little brother *and* a little sister...
(Whom I believe is the "Kelli Swenson" you people are all stuck on in this latest "conspiracy theory).

Hope that helps.... yes. It's that simple.
(This will be my last contribution to this thread, as apparently no one realizes that they're talking about a real human being {not a celebrity}, and don't realize why this discussion is hurting her loved ones so much)
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 12:24 PM on May 20, 2001

Sapphireblue: I'm sure you're right that things'll get ugly, but the reality is that there are plenty of inspirational, positive sites, things, whatever out there besides the "Kaycee" story, that won't get torn apart the way this did. The reason this blew up is because people knew that there was something fishy -- things didn't hang together the way something in which the truth as people know it existed. Tara, say what you want about "intuition", but hunches have always been useful to me.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 12:25 PM on May 20, 2001

I think when you photoshop photos to fit into the delusion you've perpetrated for almost 2 years, you fall into the decidedly not sane category.
posted by zebra_monkey at 12:25 PM on May 20, 2001

i'm confused.

who the hell did bwg speak with on the phone when he thought it was kaycee? debbie? certainly not since he spoke to debbie on the phone as well, and seemingly would have been able to tell if they were the same person.

so was there a person who died of cancer? but she didn't write the blog. was she the one chatting on college club or citizen x or aim or was that debbie? when did she die? wtf?

the lines are blurry blurry.
posted by queenkelly at 12:27 PM on May 20, 2001

dude. omega^man, john was tricked like the rest of us. there's no need to mock. halcyon's probably very upset right now about this whole situation. he believed in her like a lot of other people did. (myself included.)
posted by sugarfish at 12:30 PM on May 20, 2001

The truth is all anyone wanted. I hate that people feel duped, but I have to admire those who searched for the truth when everyone else called them evil and buffoons.
posted by justgary at 12:32 PM on May 20, 2001

Folks, in the interest of keeping the thread managable, why don't we move this to the "Kaycee doesn't exist" post rather than the "Kaycee might not exist" post?
posted by tweebiscuit at 12:35 PM on May 20, 2001

:: still quite upset ::





or is she yet another construct?

how do we know?
who do we believe?
posted by metrocake at 12:37 PM on May 20, 2001

Continue the conversation here.
posted by ericost at 12:39 PM on May 20, 2001

Questions that still need to be answered:

Why did Debbie feel the need to lie about the truth of the situation? It certainly sounds like the real story of the real life "Kaycee" would be compelling enough as is.

Did Debbie really undertake this not thinking that people would be hurt by this considering that the only possible outcome was an untimely death by cancer; and not only one, but effectively four?

Was this done with the victims' knowledge? Did "Kaycee" take part in the deception?

Just what the hell gave Debbie the authority to "tell these others' stories", potentially without their knowledge, consent or approval of choice of words?!? Is somebody chasing after Pulitzers here?

This is awful. People have clearly been hurt and "I had the best of intentions" simply doesn't begin to explain why this was carried out in such a manner for so long.

I'm not looking forward to the "deranged attention-seeking female" spin that the news outlets will invariably put on this. Unless Debbie turns out to be male.
posted by galachef55 at 12:39 PM on May 20, 2001

OK, now that we know with certainty, via the link from prolific, that the blog wasn't true. Or, at least, the story has changed so much by now that it would seem impossible to believe any real Kaycee story. You'd need about three times the amount of O.J. trial evidence.

Meantime, can I please never again read posts like, "You're being so hard on yourself about this only shows that you care." This is nothing more than emotional promiscuity, along with a smidgen of in-group self-congratulation. But whoever questions such talk is chewed out or is left out of the in-group and made to feel like a bad person. I'm not saying that any public display of sorrow is inherently bad. Also, no one here is perfect. Just remember that caring, rightly understood, means that you care about the good of the whole. It requires empathy for all, which does mean you have to be a pushover. Likewise, it sometimes requires restraint.

Meantime, I can see where all this is heading. You have debbie saying it wasn't one story, it was a composite. Sorta like "Fargo," only with cloying teen talk and Carpenter's lyrics that led even some seemingly hardened types (lower torso tattoos from Memphis parlors, mooning on their weblog, etc.) to get all mushy. Neat. (And I love Bobby Womack's cover of "Close to You," so I know it's all in the way you play it. Still.)

Others here earlier brought the word "Zeitgeist" into the thread. Please note, as others did not, that said word is always capitalized. "Zeitgeist" most definitely applies here.
posted by raysmj at 12:40 PM on May 20, 2001

Zebra_monkey: I wasn't talking about the whole Kaycee-or-not-Kaycee debate when I mentioned libel. I was talking about the impromptu witch-hunt where a number of people (Audra Lea, BWG, miscellaneous blonde schoolgirls in Kansas, amber_eden, etc.) were accused of being conspirators in what was at the time an unproven hoax, based on extremely questionable evidence.
Most of them have since been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Where I come from (and we like to call it a democracy), that's libel; intent doesn't matter. American law is more lenient when it comes to public statements, so I won't dispute your legal definition, just so long as we both understand that I was referring to the process of the investigation and not the subject of the investigation.
posted by cardboard at 12:43 PM on May 20, 2001

Sapphireblue, I am actually more inclined to trust. I've been online for a long time and the vast majority of people I'm in contact with are trustworthy. However, I have had a few encounters with people that have been negative. All that has done is teach me what to look out for, and given me an intuitive sense of when something isn't right. This Kaycee business, once I looked at the facts, didn't seem quite right, and, in the end, it wasn't.

I'm glad people were touched by Kaycee's story. They should be. You can call it rank sentimentality if you like, but it shows that people have a capacity to sympathize and to care. That should be a vital part of our lives.
posted by tranquileye at 12:44 PM on May 20, 2001

Meantime, can I please never again read posts like, "You're being so hard on yourself about this only shows that you care." This is nothing more than emotional promiscuity, along with a smidgen of in-group self-congratulation.

Raysmj: I don't know how you read it, but I made that comment completely sincerely. Halcyon was beating himself up about his doubt. I didn't believe he should. I always do my best to comfort someone in pain. If there had been a comments page on his blog, or if I had felt comfortable e-mailing him directly, I would have. Fair enough?
posted by tweebiscuit at 12:48 PM on May 20, 2001

you're right, Tycoon, and to go a step further, if one were able to look at this whole thing as, like, avant-garde storytelling, rather than feeling used and cheated and taking it personally, there's still a valuable message in Kaycee's story.

you know, i could even see having created a *clearly-fictional* persona to tell that story---it's an interesting idea---but all the effort taken to make it look real, to make people *believe* as I and a lot of us did, makes it not experimental fiction but instead something messed-up, manipulative, and creepy.
posted by Sapphireblue at 12:49 PM on May 20, 2001

Never mind... I read the sites this morning, and will finish up my thoughts on my site.

  • If you feel you were duped. Then you were duped

  • If you feel you met a beautiful soul of a 19 year old girl who lived life to the fullest, fought to the end, and your life was changed by her unique viewpoint, were touched by her poetry and through her writing... then that's what happened.

  • If you feel that well-intentioned mistakes to protect identities take away from the story, and the message of hope... then so be it.

  • But I believe the topic was "Did Kaycee really exist"?
    Despite it all... my answer is still yes.
    posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 12:51 PM on May 20, 2001

    Zeitgeist isn't always cap'd, but that's neither here nor there.

    On another point, since this all happened in the U.S., American law applies. British libel is a totally different animal. It's very easy to challenge people in British court for libel, you don't have to prove intent at all.

    Btw, it's totally possible that Debbie isn't real either. Her weblog is hosted by bwg. Unless I'm forgetting a detail here (there are quite a few!)

    This is the only info I trust, from whois:

    Randall van der Woning
    1/F, 11A Haven Street, Lai Ha Court
    Causeway Bay
    Hong Kong, n/a n/a

    Registrar: Dotster (
    Created on: 24-AUG-99
    Expires on: 24-AUG-02
    Last Updated on: 29-APR-01

    Administrative Contact:
    van der Woning, Randall
    1/F, 11A Haven Street, Lai Ha Court
    Causeway Bay
    Hong Kong, n/a n/a

    Technical Contact:
    van der Woning, Randall
    1/F, 11A Haven Street, Lai Ha Court
    Causeway Bay
    Hong Kong, n/a n/a

    Domain servers in listed order:
    posted by zebra_monkey at 12:52 PM on May 20, 2001 [1 favorite]

    tweebiscuit: Do it by private e-mail next time. An "it's OK" would have sufficed anyhow.
    posted by raysmj at 12:56 PM on May 20, 2001

    Ericbrooksdotcom: If you feel you met a beautiful soul of a 19 year old girl ... then that's what happened

    y'know, dude, you came in here and threw around a bunch of talk, and said some pretty shitty things about people who, in the end, were right. the least you could do is admit it (or, at very least, go away like you've been promising for the last several posts).

    believe whatever you want. believe in little green men for all i care. But MeFi is about real things. take your pink elephants to your shrink or something.
    posted by jpoulos at 1:00 PM on May 20, 2001 [9 favorites]

    (posted on other thread too...sorry)

    I don't know what to say.
    I'm relieved. I'm crushed. I'm confused.

    I feel like it’s the end of “The Sixth Sense” or “The Usual Suspects” and I am going through every scene, trying to re-visualize what *really* happened.

    Who did I talk to on the phone? Who sent the Halloween candy?
    Who emailed me for consolation when her beloved Dr. John died in an auto accident last year? Who sent me the Kansas City Royals Hat (KC...get it?) and signed it with Kaycee's name? Who did I speak to on the phone and who left me so many voice messages when I was at CollegeClub? Who opened the care package of cool hats I sent to cover Kaycee’s balding head?

    It seems like I should be spiritually destroyed, but oddly, I don’t feel that way.

    More than anything, I feel surrounded by love.

    Take Kaycee out of the equation: You have a community of people who loved together, hurt together, learned together and consoled each other.

    My inbox is filled with messages of love.

    Instead of hugging each other over the death of a 19 year old girl, we are consoling each other over the death of a belief. Instead of helping each other to keep Kaycee’s spirit alive within each other, we are helping each other keep our faith in humanity alive.

    To everyone who is extending their hearts to each other now, THANK YOU. Kaycee may not be real, but the love flowing through the net right now *is*.

    Side Note: This Wednesday at 5:00 pm (Pacific) I’ll be doing a net radio show about Kaycee/Debbie/Love/Mistrust. People are welcome to call in and share their feelings about this whole ordeal. Then at 6:00 will be the weekly Virtual Group Hug. This week, more than any, I think we could all use one.
    Both the radio show and hug will be meeting in the “Feel the Love” Lounge

    Again, thank you.
    posted by halcyon at 1:18 PM on May 20, 2001 [4 favorites]

    I did jpoulous.

    And the "shitty" things I said were to the more crueler remarks.
    posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 1:23 PM on May 20, 2001

    I feel...saddened.

    I feel....stunned.


    posted by Redgie at 1:25 PM on May 20, 2001

    Yeah, but for me Eric, the problem is that the message Living Colours was sending (hope) was in direct violation of the entire method of delivery. Hope is often intertwined with letting go and trusting and believing and the like. Trust is something intertwined with the web (remember that Zannah of /usr/bin/girl is a "small robotic San Francisco-based marketing team").

    So at this moment in time, anything positive I personally gleaned from that blog is being zapped away by the whole deceptive nature of it. There were no clear cut lines here; we didn't go in knowing 100% it was fiction, but now many of us will go in to any blog questioning if it's 100% fact or not. How long will the cynical nature last? Oh, it varies. But some are stinging badly right now.

    What if the entire blog was part of an (arguably sick and ill-conceived) experiment to gauge the reactions of people to this Kaycee person? You make up a person, and you infuse her with reality-based stories and snippets, and you watch what happens.
    posted by hijinx at 1:28 PM on May 20, 2001

    Wait, what about /usr/bin/girl? Is she fake too! My world is just crumbling =)
    posted by zebra_monkey at 1:34 PM on May 20, 2001 [2 favorites]

    NY Times: Radio Listeners in Panic. "A wave of mass hysteria seized thousands of radio listeners between 8:15 and 9:30 o'clock last night when a broadcast of a dramatization of H. G. Wells's fantasy, 'The War of the Worlds,' led thousands to believe that an interplanetary conflict had started with invading Martians spreading wide death and destruction in New Jersey and New York."
    posted by davewiner at 1:34 PM on May 20, 2001

    zebra monkey, bwg is real, or at least it seems to check out.

    every post by bwg here is from a real honest to goodness IP address in Hong Kong (including posts from last fall). The email I got from Debbie last fall was from a dialup in Kansas, so I believe that bwg was duped, plain and simple and that he's not Debbie.
    posted by mathowie at 1:57 PM on May 20, 2001

    Sorry, guys....
    I'll write more later on this subject, but I have company right now.

    I can say that I am very, very distressed.
    posted by Redgie at 2:08 PM on May 20, 2001

    In the end though, real and unreal on the web is kind of like how many turtles are there holding up the world (answer: it's turtles all the way down) or believing in the Ptolemaic crystalline spheres that make up the universe or the fact that God created the world 6000 years ago and fossils placed in the soil dating back millions of years were put there at the time of Creation to test believers.

    It's a zero-sum game. I find this entire thread (I've said this already) fascinating, but part of me believes its just schadenfreude (a really good German word). So I think I'll stop refreshing the screen all day long and take that walk I keep talking about (maybe I'll go buy something and feel good about consumerism!).
    posted by zebra_monkey at 2:12 PM on May 20, 2001

    I just want to apologize for being wrong, although many of us were. this is remarkable.
    posted by register at 3:21 PM on May 20, 2001

    Don't worry, register. You weren't openly condemning anyone.
    posted by galachef55 at 3:41 PM on May 20, 2001

    zebra_monkey: Wait, what about /usr/bin/girl? Is she fake too!

    No, Zannah (and everything she writes about herself) is very real. She's been a friend of mine for three and a half years. We hang out together at least once a week. You can talk to Bry and Jish and anyone else who's met her.

    The whole 'SF design team' comment on her weblog stems from a rumor started in the weblog world that she was, in fact, the product of a San Fransisco design team. Said rumor annoyed a lot of people, but we had the luxury of knowing it wasn't true (and laughing at it), unlike the Kaycee Nicole story.
    posted by Danelope at 3:49 PM on May 20, 2001

    I admit although I have browsed metafilter, I have not been a participant of it..until now.

    I have however, seen posts in this thread from people who have sites I do frequent, people I admire and very much enjoy their wit and intellect. People who have very often inspired a lot of us.

    John has moved me the most with his words. I am deeply sorry for him, because I know how much Kaycee meant to him and to his brother. And my sympathies go out to other people like Jan, who corresponded, with Kaycee back in her CC days and and days. People who wanted nothing from her, but today feel a real sense of betrayal and loss, and all the other words that come with a situation such as this. People who took the time to care about her and spend their time to send and create gifts for her.

    These people were true friends to "her". As were all the others such as Michelle who I have seen posting here. I know that she and Don have been praying for her and posting the kindest things about her on their sites. As have Noah and many, many others.

    I believe what John said is true. We cannot let something like this close off our hearts. And now that I read this thread, I see so many people here who have been friends for so long, who have established friendships that are as meaningful as any others in their life have. Friendships they value. And I know they will not close off their own hearts.

    The Web reaches all corners of the world, but in a way, it is also a very small world. Because here on these posts I see evidence that the people who have sites I enjoy visiting, some of these people who I am lucky enough to count as my own friends, they were here cheering this girl on. And to me, this means they are fantastic caring people. So I am going to take that with me.

    And at times like this we have to be grateful for those whom we know are *true* friends, and that with a click we can enter their world they have so graciously offered to share with us.

    It does not diminish from the terrible injustice that has been committed by someone who took something from all of these people who supported her. It will take time for them to recover.
    posted by Jenifer at 5:29 PM on May 20, 2001

    Pretty much every person I know has been affected by cancer. Did Debbie really think that we *needed* to feel someone else's travails? I supported "Kaycee" because I was full of empathy, not LACKING of it. What is the motivation?
    posted by sammchop at 5:34 PM on May 20, 2001

    Cardboard, in the US libel requires malice. An honest mistake is never libelous.
    posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:46 PM on May 20, 2001

    We all have that belief. We believe that people say the truth most of the time. People who do not have this belief suffer from paranoia, and are unable to function properly in a community.

    I disagree. I think it is one of the responsibilities of being a thinking adult that you bring a certain amout of doubt and uncertainty to any interaction you have with a stranger. Many people are honest a lot of the time, yes, but many others are not, and FEW are honest all of the time (especially with strangers, to whom many people feel little obligation to be honest). Therefore, the odds are that you may be lied to at any given time, by any given person--and the less you know them, the more likely it is. It is irresponsibly naive to not take this into account in one's worldview and one's dealings with other people. Realism is a far cry from paranoia, which is an extreme, specific pathology.

    Your example is easy to respond to: If a man came to me and claimed to be my father (or Santa Claus, or an alien, or an angel) with no proof to back up such an outlandish claim, I would laugh at him and walk away.

    It is not being heartless to hope that Kaycee existed and that her story is true. It simply has to do with preserving the sanity of our conception of the world.

    And that is the very gist of my argument. No one should EVER seek to preserve the sanity of their conception of the world at the expense of what is true and what is real. That is not only self-indulgent in the extreme, it is insanity by definition.
    posted by rushmc at 6:04 PM on May 20, 2001

    bwg (if you're still out there): I think you should reconsider your decision to Living Colours entirely. Perhaps a re-framing of the content is in order, but I think there's still value in letting people see the site that caused so many people to react so strongly.
    posted by jjg at 7:32 PM on May 20, 2001

    And this comment exists solely to bring us up to a nice round 300. A new MetaFilter record?
    posted by jjg at 7:33 PM on May 20, 2001

    300 is not even close.
    posted by thirteen at 8:23 PM on May 20, 2001

    Sorry thirteen, 1142 doesn't count in my book.
    posted by jjg at 9:04 PM on May 20, 2001

    wow... I still feel there are many holes in the story. Who did I speak to on the phone? Why would a hoax spend hundreds of hours doing different tasks as a Host for CollegeClub and HighSchoolClub? I'd ask Kaycee to help me with menial tasks on HighSchoolClub... why would she spend hours scanning message boards for adult content and spam? What is the gain?

    When I returned her phone call months ago, I spoke to younger sister Kelli, who passed the phone onto Kaycee... this means it was Debbie I spoke to? Debbie cried into the phone about Kaycee's life and dreams? And all this went on for over 2 years? It's just so elaborate... it's much, much more than a daily blog. It would've taken an incredible amount of time. It's baffling.

    Impressed, dismayed, confused.
    posted by kaya at 10:32 PM on May 20, 2001

    The sad truth of the matter is that people are crazy. Sure, the internet is home to some great sites run by real people, but there are a whole lot of crazies out there. For whatever reason this woman said she did it for, she must have problems. If you are writing fiction in the form of a weblog (god forbid) for whatever reasons and based on whomever you know who had a similar thing happen to them, you should say. Either that, or be found out and have people on Metafiler talk about you for days.
    posted by animoller at 1:21 AM on May 21, 2001

    If we start posting meta-comments to bring the thread up to a certain number of comments, how is that any different than 1142?
    posted by daveadams at 11:10 AM on May 21, 2001

    Hey, when everbody stops blubbering about a fake ho that died a fake death, I have a little boy dying of cancer in someplace like Scotland or Ireland and he would like to collect as many business cards as possible before he dies or get cured...

    Scan them into your email and send to:


    You people make me puke!
    posted by MelaninLow at 4:12 PM on May 21, 2001

    What wonderful people this thread has attracted to Metafilter. {/sarcasm}

    Note that continued use of this thread means 300K downloads (triple that for posting). Please move to a newer thread, or to the Yahoo Group for discussing the Kaycee Nicole situation.
    posted by dhartung at 6:39 PM on May 21, 2001

    I really hope that "Debbie" is reading this.

    I'm so, so sad for the bwg and kaya and Halcyon I can't stand it.

    Debbie, what kind of person are you? What kind of woman does this? What kind of woman outright lies to people about their nonexistent child having a disease like AML?

    My best friend's own MOTHER was diagnosed with AML in January and didn't make it through February. When he told me about it, my heart sank, but I had a tiny bit of hope because I had read about "Kaycee," and apparently she'd managed to get through it. I directed him to her page. To YOUR page, Debbie. I didn't know what else to do but be there for him, like friends are, and try to provide him with as much information as I could. I told him that I thought that her blog - and yours, too - was a portrait of a family struggling to survive through what he was going through. He was somewhat relieved by it.

    His mother died a terrible, painful death forty-one days later. I can't even begin to describe to you the horror and pain that I saw AML inflicted on them. Or on thousands of unsuspecting families all over the world every year. But you take the cake, Debbie. You basically just took the knife and twisted it for him and for everyone else here who found themselves in a deep, dark place and needed something to help them up. What good is that now? How do you expect the "good" it created to remain when it was all based on lies to begin with?

    Most people here don't give a flying fuck who you are, Debbie, but I do. I have a best friend with a mountain of grief he is still sorting through and I have to now tell him what happened here and put your bullshit into some sort of real-world context. And that is the most fucked-up thing I can think of at this moment. To try and give some sort of explanation. To tell my friend that the thing that gave him some modicum of what he thought was grace and understanding was basically the emotional equivalent of a Ponzi scheme meted out by some amoral, sick, deluded, schizotypal freak of nature without a thought in her head as to the thoughts and feelings of the real, actual people on the other side of this.

    You, "Debbie," if that's even your name, can sit there in the comfortable glow of your monitor and say softly, "I alone bear the shame for what I have done, but it was not done for any reason other than sharing the love for life they gave to those they loved" and you would be a LIAR. You go to the movies and you know it's not real. You read a work of fiction and you know it's not real. The emotions are real, certainly, but you go into it knowing that you are about to see something that has been made to create that emotion. It's called "suspension of disbelief."

    And the rest of this has a name too: it's called FULL DISCLOSURE. You are OBLIGATED to be TRUTHFUL to your readers about the circumstances under which you tell your stories. Or you fuck it up for all of us who do this and come by it HONESTLY. He does it. He does it. Hell, he does it, and even went beyond the call of duty to HELP you. Do you not see how sick this is, and how sick you are for taking advantage of him? Of all of us?

    "I am to blame for wanting to tell their stories."

    No, you're to blame for being a bald-faced LIAR and preying upon unsuspecting people's emotions and their willingness to believe, if not for someone they have no proof of the existence of.

    "My intentions were good,"

    The road to Hell is positively paved with them, isn't it?

    "...but that does not begin to excuse me for what I have done."

    No, it doesn't, but you sure didn't have a problem continuing sucking us all in with the farce, did you?

    "My only desire was to share their triumphs and tragedies in a way that showed their strength, the strength of their families. Those were not false. What they went through was real, I felt a great need to tell the stories of three courageous people who wanted nothing but to be well and live happily into their prime."

    Um, pardon me, but could you maybe suck up the worthless attempts at aphorism and admit that you lied? God, HOURS of all of our lives, I tell you, HOURS I could have better spent grieving the loss of my friend whose mother actually DID die.

    "What I did was wrong and I apologise for it. I regret any pain I caused but I do not regret putting their thoughts out to be read."

    No, I think you absolutely need to muster a little regret for this. You weren't putting out their thoughts to be read at all. Those people are DEAD. The dead cannot speak for themselves, and they do NOT speak through YOU.

    God, the hubris is infuriating. Who anointed you with this title of Psychic Medium and High Priestess?

    "There were more and deeper parts to their lives, I did them a grave disservice."

    Yes, you could have told the truth about them from the beginning. You never told us you were writing a novel here. You misrepresented yourself and the facts of your blog's purpose.

    "I carry the shame for my actions. The last thing I would like to say is I'm sorry."

    God, that is so hollow I can hear the echo all the way over here.

    "The real *Kaycee* is the true author to her poetry. It was her nickname and she was the last of the truly beautiful who those of you read grew to love."

    I don't even care anymore. I really don't. I doubt anyone else here does. All of this has been tainted by the facts of your lies.

    "I was not her birth mother but I loved her with all my heart."

    I was played for a fool by you once, Debbie. Not again. I believe none of this trite, melodramatic bullshit.

    To hell with you.
    posted by skintrade at 8:00 PM on May 21, 2001 [8 favorites]

    That was darn cathartic, skintrade. Seriously.

    Now, let's continue in the new thread.
    posted by brownpau at 8:38 PM on May 21, 2001

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