Jozef Imrich, name worthy of Kafka, has his finger on the pulse of any irony of interest and shares his findings to keep you in-the-know with the savviest trend setters and infomaniacs.
''I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.''
On August 10, 2000, the New York Times ran an article (here) looking into a new item that college
kids were bringing to campus with them — computers. Computers, the Times noted,
were fast becoming the most important item on a would-be freshman’s
checklist — the machines were replacing stereos (this was the before iPods
and smart phones), answering machines, and to some degree, even
televisions. As part of the article, the Times interviewed, by phone, a
high school senior named Kaycee Swenson, who was active on an early
social network (under the name Kaycee Nicole, with Nicole being her
middle name) called CollegeClub.com:
Kaycee Swenson, a high school senior in Wichita, Kan., who
took several courses at her local college last year, said she talked to
people online every day, most of whom were not at her campus. But she
said she also hung out with friends in the physical world, listening to
music and playing basketball. “You have to balance it,” she said.
Kaycee was an easy choice for the Times to
include in its profile — she was ahead of the curve, living an active life
online. Beyond her activity on CollegeClub.com, Kaycee was an early
blogger. At around the same time the Times article hit, she told an
online friend, Randall van der Woning, that she was a leukemia survivor.
Soon after, the cancer came back, and van der Woning, even further ahead
of the curve, set her up with a blog (lost to time) so she could document
her battle with leukemia.
For months, Kaycee — with the help of her mother Debbie —
told her story via a series of typically daily blog posts. Over the course
of about two years, she amassed “millions” of visitors to her site, per the Guardian.
She received untold numbers of get well cards from well-wishers, and
spent time talking to online friends over the phone (including talking to
van der Woning a number of times). But on May 15, 2001, Kaycee’s battle
with leukemia officially ended. That day, Debbie Swenson, in tears,
called van der Woning to tell him that her daughter had died,
unexpectedly from a ruptured aneurysm, the day before. Kaycee Nicole, as
she was known online, would not make it to college after all.
But, as it turns out, she wouldn’t have anyway. Because
Kaycee Nicole never had cancer. Or even a computer. Kaycee Nicole never
existed — she was a figment of her mother’s imagination, carried out
A few days after Kaycee’s final blog post hit the Web, the
skepticism followed, as odd inconsistencies came to light. Followers of
Kaycee’s plight, many using the community weblog MetaFilter, wanted to
send condolence cards, flowers, etc., to her family, but Debbie informed
them that there was no valid address to send stuff to. This was
particularly strange because Kaycee was able to receive (and in fact,
responded to) mail sent to her before her death. The MetaFilter community
started piecing together more details in a discussion thread and other
online communities and publications joined in. Some protested, most
notably van der Woning, who emphatically asked the community to stop and
assured the community Kaycee was real. But momentum had taken over.
Collectively, they noted that Debbie told the world
that Kaycee was cremated and her memorial service came and went, both
within just two or three days after her apparent death. While many had
spoken to Kaycee over the phone, no one could find one of her followers
who had ever met her in person. And the above-quoted Times article
provided another clue — her last name. Except for that article, Kaycee
was only known by her online moniker of Kaycee Nicole, never “Kaycee
Emboldened, the Kaycee Nicole skeptics worked together in
hopes of finding something definitive. They succeeded. A now-defunct FAQ
(archived here) of the Kaycee Nicole hoax summed up
the critical piece of evidence:
[A] live chat room for discussing developments was set up.
Work was very collaborative and productive in this environment.
Additional Kaycee web pages were found. These pages had more photos. One
of these photos clearly showed the school mascot and that Kaycee was #10
on the basketball team. By putting together the mascot in the photo with
the city the Swensons were originally from, the school where the photos
originated was tracked down. A women’s basketball roster for the school
in 1999 listed #10 as Julie . Someone immediately typed the full name
into google, and the first link returned was quite eerie. It was Julie’s
player profile from the college she attends. And clear as day was a
picture of “Kaycee Nicole” staring back from the screen.
Soon after, Debbie Swenson came clean. On May 19th, she
called van der Woning and admitted that the entire story was a lie.
Kaycee had been created years earlier by her daughter, and when Debbie
found out, instead of shutting down the fake child’s account, she adopted
it as her own. Massive outrage ensued and van der Woning, who was perhaps
the greatest victim of the duping, deleted Kaycee’s blog. The FBI briefly investigated the matter, but
concluded that “it would be hard to prove that a crime had occurred.”
In the end, Debbie Swenson explained that she crafted
Kaycee out of three people she had met, each of whom died from cancer.
But she never explained why she
created this fake daughter many others grew to care for
Bonus fact: The history of the Internet is filled with hoaxes, but
the so-called “Microsoft Hoax” is widely regarded to be the first highly
successful one. In 1994, a fake Associated Press story travelled through
the tubes, asserting that Microsoft (which was a few years from being on the wrong end of
antitrust litigation) was acquiring a controlling stake in the
Catholic Church. The article, available here, argued that the combined “company”
would be able to “make religion easier and more fun for a broader range
of people,” according to a faux quote from Bill Gates. Due to calls from
confused consumers, Microsoft issued a formal statement denying the
merger on December 16, 1994.
when you type in “Kaycee Nicole” into Amazon’s search box, it gives you this. It fits perfectly if you think about
it — the print-on-demand book purports to be there, but doesn’t seem to