Talk to me about Kaycee : LUSENET : Xeney : One Thread

In several weblogs and journals this weekend, I've read references to a girl named Kaycee who kept a blog and recently died of leukemia. Except maybe she didn't; maybe she was completely made up.

See here and here.

What are your thoughts? Did you follow this story before the hoax was revealed? Was it really a hoax? Have you ever fallen for an online hoax, and were you hurt by it?

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001


I haven't read the blogs before, but I've been sort of keeping track of it since her "death". This morning, spurred on by someone linking to this journal entry, I read that and went to mefi, where people were talking about it extensively. By the time I left to go out this afternoon, there was still just speculation. I go out, buy a few books, come back home, and everything kinda went haywire.

I feel bad for the folks who really believed in Kaycee and mourned her "death". I feel even worse for people who will have a difficult time trusting others as a result of this incident. I haven't fallen for an online hoax, but I wouldn't put it past myself.

Sad thing is, I'm going to take a sharper look at some of my journals and weblogs that I read, and I'm really going to start wondering. Pity.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

Have you ever suspected that a journal or whatever was a hoax? I'm not asking you to name names, but have you been suspicious?

I'm suspicious of a couple of journalers. One of those is a suspicion that's pretty widely shared; the other one might be just me. I'm sure there are plenty of others who are totally or partially fiction.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

I browsed KayceeNicole on Blogger once or twice, and I didn't realize she was supposed to be only 19. I would have been suspicious, I think, because of the endless fluidity of platitudes she was coming up with, though it's easy to say that after the fact. The diaries have been taken down, but you can read some of her e-mail on John Halcyon Styn's site ( to get a feel for the style.

From the last reports it still seems that somewhere behind the publicity machine there was someone who died, and I'm sorry for that. But I think deceptions like this and Ryan/Ophelia are going to be a regular feature of life online, and it behooves us all to remember, before we share things we consider very personal, that most of us don't really know each other and any of us could be an FBI decoy, a bot, or a figment of The Gus's imagination. (Except me. I'm real.)

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

It was a hoax.

A woman called "Debbie" (who claimed, at first to be Kaycee's mother) now says that she made up the journal and persona based on 3 people she knew who died of cancer. This entry is very jumbled and leaves many things unexplained.

So far, it seems that this went on for nearly two years, including fake identities at, and many gifts sent to "Kaycee" via a P.O. Box in Kansas.

The most recent bits of information are being posted continually at Metafilter.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

Well, it was a hoax, but nobody knows if Debbie exists or not. What we do know is a guy posted 2 weblogs on his site that he claimed were a mother and daughter, and the daughter had cancer.

There is no 'Debbie' - there are just a couple of guys that got busted, and will soon be facing charges for mail fraud.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

A couple of guys? The BWG guy and who else?

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

She probably means Halcyon ... if there was no "Debbie," then you have to wonder who the woman was who supposedly left John all those voice mail messages, talked to him on the phone, etc. If there's no Debbie, then obviously you have to look to the people who claimed to have spoken to a woman.

Not that I'm saying there was no Debbie. I don't know anything about any of this. All I know is that when I hear "College Club" and "hoax," I immediately start looking for Gus, except this seems very unlike him.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

That the sites were authored by a woman seems rather clear to me - their sacchrine tone is too authentic to be faked by a man. So, I do believe that Halcyon and Randy (on whose site these weblogs were hosted - although I don't how or why that transpired) probably did speak to a woman, a woman who was probably very distraught and confused and had no ability to deal with her feelings in a constructive manner, so that creating a fake site and a fake person seemed, to her, to be a good idea. I've met women like this, which is why I think Debbie's apology is near enough the truth.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

See, I thought the web host's explanation sounded ridiculous. I never read the original blog so I can't comment on whether it sounded authentically "female," but his explanation sounded made up to me. For whatever that's worth.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

I think it's sick and sad. Especially since there was never any reason to pretend to have Kaycee be a real individual human being. A site that was --upfront-- a story of an amalgam of real life stories woven through a construct named Kaycee would have been just as true.

I dunno. I wasn't involved in the whole Kaycee story in any way--had never heard of her until I saw a link from another story.

But I feel involved in the sense that the conversations--from my end at least--with many people over the internet are real. Hell, I'm living with a man now whom I first started conversing with that way.

People can become emotionally invested in fiction when they know its fiction, but they guard their hearts differently.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

I hadn't been aware of this until now. Having read through the links found above, I've gotta say that if I had been involved in this, I'd currently be demanding the perpetrator's head on a platter. Were I one of the people who sent gifts, I'd have been in touch with the cops by this point.

But that's just me.

Putting aside cases of mail fraud... I don't particularly believe that one should have to disbelieve in every person found online. I do believe that the social penalties should be made high enough to discourage such lying. If people embrace the liars afterward, they have only themselves to blame when they continue to be deceived.

(This is why I considered breaking my boycott of the Diarist.Net awards to vote against Ryan for the Legacy Award. Presumably, everybody else with strong feelings on the subject had also sworn off the awards, as he won.)

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

Sorry - I wasn't being clear.

Randall (the fellow) is still, in my mind, not out of the doghouse yet. He has admitted to editing "Kaycee"'s weblog posts 'for grammar and spelling' - which is a big red warning light. I also don't know or understand how these two weblogs (Kaycee and Debbie) came to live on his site. Kaycee had a site at, where her journal was located. According to Randall, Debbie would forward her and Kaycee's weblog entries to him for posting. Again, this doesn't make sense to me at all. Why not just continue to update Kaycee's site?

I do think it terribly, terribly convenient that 24 hours after the metafilter "Is Kaycee real?" post and Randall's own "Stop it!" rant response in the thread, that he suddenly got a new weblog post from Debbie confessing the whole thing. Was the heat too much for him? Did he finally see that there was no way out except to reveal it as a hoax - though one he was suckered into? Lots of questions.

At the moment, however, it's Debbie's confessional post whose tone I find to be believable - but my current hypothesis is that she's a screwed up, lonely woman with a twisted sense of right and wrong, which is informed largely by Flavia than logic.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

Well, Gabby you could be right about the difficulty for a male to create a particular kind of feminine voice -- but I consider Ryan the all time champ for creating "Opheila Z".

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

So, only women can write believable women, and only men can write believable men, in fiction?

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

Yeah, Ryan-as-Kat was a pretty convincing woman...and I've known plenty of men with saccharine sensibilities, anyway.

All this talk about mail fraud and cops is kind of surprising to me. Is it really a crime to create a fictional internet persona? How is this different from, say, the "Blair Witch Project" website, which many people initially believed was real?

I'd never heard of this site until today, so I obviously don't have any emotional investment in the issue. I do understand that people had their feelings hurt and felt betrayed, but guess I just tend to see this (like I saw Ryan/Kat) as creative license rather than fraud.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

The mail fraud is that they were soliciting money to support Debbie while she sat at Kaycee's bedside. Although there was no link on the site itself, there were other fictional 'friends' circulating email trying to drum up donations.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

I was only vaguely aware of Kaycee's plight before all the current mess started. What surprises me is that so many people were surprised at the possibility that it could be a hoax. I guess I've been online too long because I've known of frauds and misrepresentations since 1991 when I first got online. I also met my husband through our websites, so I've seen both the good and bad that can come of it.

This kind of agony after the fact just makes me want to say "People, get smart and read critically." Not to say I could never be wrong. Husband and I were just chatting this afternoon about what if Xeney turned out to be a fraud. :) "Maybe those pictures of her dogs are all photoshopped." "Well, her gardening info seems to be useful, at least..." I actually got serious for a minute and noted I'd been reading Beth for years and her voice has been pretty damned consistent, so I'm reasonably convinced. ;-)

But the point is, short of meeting someone and then subsequently verifying somehow they're the same person writing what they claim to be, we can never really know. People need to learn to deal with a certain amount of uncertainty online. I suppose that makes me a cynic, and it certainly almost always forces me to maintain an emotional distance, but that's just the way it is, I think.

Speaking of creative perogative, I disclaim the truth on my own journal, not because I'm making stuff up, but because I want to have the flexibility to massage conversations and fuss with the details now and then in order to tell a better story. *shrug* So I don't know where I fit in the space between 'fictionalized persona' and 'absolutely factual documentary' but it's certainly somewhere in between. Whose isn't?

"what is truth, after all?"

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

Kristin, is it established that the people trying to raise money for her were fictional, or is that just a suspicion?

I certainly don't know the details of this situation, but the reason why I ask is because it's a fairly common thing for diary readers to want to send unsolicited gifts to the diarists they read. I suppose if you are not exactly the person you claim to be online, it's debatable whether you "deserve" them or not.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

The more accurate statement is that amateur writers - of which the author of Kaycee and Debbie certainly qualifies as (it was painfully bad writing, through and through) - most certainly cannot write an authentic character in the opposite gender. Ophelia never had a distinctive feminine voice - it was, rather, a gender-neutral voice which I think helps explain her widespread popularity.

If we suspect Randall as being the author of both sites, there is absolutely nothing in his body of writing which leads me to believe him the least bit capable of pulling off - for two solid years or more - the voice (online, at any rate) of a teenage girl and an adult woman.

There has been a recent bit of news over on Metafilter which further adds weight to the theory that a troubled woman is behind this.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

Jen, lots of people got a solicitation for money from a woman who quoted an email from 'Debbie' - Debbie is describing how they don't have the money to stay at Kaycee's bedside, but how can she just leave her poor daughter in the hospital, alone? the email purportes to be written by Debbie's best friend, and suggests that if you forgo your lattes for a week, you could send the money you saved. I got one last August, and again last October, one of them forwarded by a friend who had sent money to the post office box listed.

Plus, message support boards were set up for Kaycee, and there was absolutely a little competition among the 'devout' to see who could support Kaycee more, through emails, and through gifts. Someone offered to pay her way to SXSW.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

I never suspected that Ophelia wasn't Ophelia, even though I remember at the time when I read that she had consummated her relationship with Derek that it sounded like a bad teen romance (which, I confess, I've read more than my share of). Looking back, that was one of the few times Ryan lost control. When I found out--just about two years ago, from Diane Patterson; I was reading Ella Enchanted and about to see "The Phantom Menace"--I was shaken, though not hurt. There were folks who were pissed--one of the very few times Willa's sworn--but not so much hurt as they were in the fall of '96 when Jessa outed herself as Shelly. If Ryan hadn't stopped the Oz Diary, the number of people hurt would have been far greater.

As far as this goes, I didn't know about it; I stick mostly to OLJs and absolute news sources like CNN and the NYT. On one of the pages Claire or Beth linked, someone said that the genuine thing was the love, which is always the most important thing. (Rah rah.) But didn't this happen a while back, or is that my precognition again? I remember a false death from a MUD, maybe, or a popular listserve? (Probably not the latter, since it's not the sort of community such a hoax could be perpetrated and sustained in.)

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

Ditto with the fooled by Orphelia/Ryan thing. I hadn't the faintest idea that Orphelia wasn't Orphelia. (Oh, it DID cross my mind that she was entirely too good looking to spend her time writing a web journal, but the most I suspected was of the pictures being of a model of some sort. And that was an unworthy suspicion of mine--- Tangerine Girl and several other journallers who I think are real are quite as striking as Opherlia Z. was supposed to be. I never suspected that Orphelia wasn't a girl or Orphelia wasn't Orphelia.)

I'M real, just in case anyone is wondering. They can look up Jamie's obituary in the Nashville Tennessean, and I've met Tesserae, and Lucy of ARIES MOON, among others. In fact, I'm trying to test some web reporting of a phone system at work, so, not that it proves anything, but if anyone would like me to give them a call, for a voice to match with the name, email me privately with the phone number, and I'll give you a call during business hours. Honest---they WANT me to make long distance calls.


-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

I don't even know what to say about the whole damn thing. I'd been reading the blog(s) involved since last summer.

I would like to know just who the hell received the Christmas cards I sent (because they were freaking requested) and I would also like to know who the hell replied to the e-mails I sent to "Kaycee". There were only a couple e-mails that I sent. It wasn't a major time investment on my part...but I'd still like to know just who the hell was receiving and responding to those things. I do not for one second believe that "Debbie" passed along any gifts that were received to the "appropriate party". I do not believe for one second that a person that could make up something like this would pass along any gifts to anyone but their own damn self.

I would also like to know who the hell people were talking to when they talked to "kaycee" and/or "debbie" on the phone. I never talked to either on the phone but several people apparently did. WTF?

I've been sitting here trying to absorb the information that is out there (on mefi mostly). And I just cannot wrap my head around the enormous amount of effort that went into the whole freaking thing.

I don't know if I'm hurt by the hoax or not. Honestly, I just don't think it's worth my time to be upset at myself for actually wanting to believe in the good of people. I've spent enough time not letting people in and avoiding people in this life. However, I really am pissed off that somebody somewhere got Christmas cards from me and exchanged e-mail with me and I have no idea who that person IS or WAS or whatever the case may be.

This person may not have requested actual cash on the site...I feel certain that somebody somewhere out there sent it though. This person also got cards, letters, cds, and who knows what else.

I know that there are many frauds out there and online...and probably the saddest statement about this whole experience is that I wasn't really all that shocked or surprised by the things that have transpired.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

I am delighted to say I had a hand in helping Saundra pull together some of the information she used in her entries on this Kaycee mess. I first got suspicious because Kristin posted a comment to a thread on ThreeWay Action early this year. I went archive-surfing, and it was not pretty. I've just posted my own entry about it; I held out till I was sure so that two of my friends would not be further hurt by me speculating. Mine is here.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

Oops---messed up my own tag. The entry is here.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 2001

I followed Kaycee's blog. I discovered it about 8 or so months before she "died." I, being her age, didn't at any point become suspicious. I found myself becoming more and more sympathetic to her struggles. Perhaps I'd rather see the best in people before I start being cynical. Or perhaps I too, was duped. Whatever the case may be, the one thing I have yet to understand is why there is so much finger pointing. The truth of it all is this:

A kind, compassionate guy who thought he lost a dear friend is being ridiculed and accused of horrendous things because he was kind enough to host a blog for a "sick girl and her mother." He put up their blogs to get their message out. They could have kept it on any number or sites, but BWG is a popular read, not to mention a great guy with a huge heart, who only wanted to help. Of all the people who were deceived, I believe that he was the one who was burned the most.

An entire community of web users were pulled into this as well, and we were all touched by the words of someone we believed in. Many of us took those words and applied them to our lives. Are we any worse off? Probably not. What we do with the truth is up to all of us as individuals. However, pointing fingers and accusing can not help in any way.

Why can't we just grieve for whatever it is that was taken for us, pick up and move on? Let the past stay in the past and be done with it. The hurt can't stop until you let go. I choose to do that. Whether she was a person, a thought or a good-intention, it no longer matters. It's over. The truth has set us free? Maybe. It all depends on how you deal with it.

In the end, I feel sorry for the people who mourned someone's death, who may or may not have existed. I feel sorry for BWG who is being beaten up over and over for simply being kind. I feel sorry for John Halcyon Styn who is being accused as well. I feel sorry for Debbie for being wrong and deceitful. I feel sorry for the cynics who would rather tear down than build up. But most of all I feel sorry for those who were never touched. Not just by the belief of Kaycee, but the belief in human kind. Through Kaycee's struggles, we lifted each other up and I'm sure that many loving words were spoken where they may not have otherwise been spoken.

For those who accuse to feel better - you should be ashamed of yourselves. It's not about who's right or wrong. It's not about proving or disproving someone's credibility. The sooner we all learn that, the sooner this will be over.

Thank you.

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

I have no personal investment in the Kaycee/Debbie debacle. I heard about Kaycee through a journal I read regularly, clicked through, and read a few entries. I am possibly jaded by my own experiences, but what I read didn't strike me as being particularly uplifting--- platitudes and a voiceover that you might hear at the end of a movie of the week.

I'm sorry that people have been hurt by this. I would he hopping mad if I'd been sucked in.

It's a mistake to feel that you really know someone online. We reveal what we want people to know. That being said, I would be very disappointed to find that the people I read regularly---Beth, Kymm, Willa, Nicole, Keli, and Renee---aren't "real." In each of them I have found something to relate to. What if that piece (or pieces) of them isn't real?

What I really don't understand is the why of this. What did Debbie (or whoever) get out of it? Money and gifts? Was that the only reason? Was it a misguided attempt to reach out to people or something more sinister? I have personal experience with someone who lied about her health (using the same disease that "Kaycee" had). She did it because she liked to create emotional situations and manipulate people through them. It gave her a sense of power. Did she/he/they just want to see if they could do it?

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

The only thing I know about this latest is what I've read here and at the various links being referenced - can't even check out the journal (s) since they seem to have been removed.

It seems like Ophelia/Ryan (and I never read Ophelia either) all over again, and I expect it will happen again - or more likely IS happening and it just hasn't come out yet.

I've read plenty of stuff written by saccharine guys and don't think there is anything inherently impossible about a male writing as a woman.

All that said, I thought about it - and at this point in time, just about everyone online that I care about is someone I've actually met. In terms of 'trusting' that people are who they say they are, my next level of trust goes to people who've been met by people I've met. That hasn't been a conscious thing, it just is.

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

I think it's inevitable that we leave out a few choice pieces of information about ourselves - that's the nature of life - we don't automatically share EVERYTHING with people. But what we do share is important - is what we're sharing real? Authentic?

Beth, as to your second question about whether we doubt online journaler's authenticity -- there are a couple I wonder about. They seem real, but something is just not quite slipping into place. But then again, I don't feel like I'm being drawn in, heartstring by heartstring, into a web of illness and leukemia and devastation and finally death. The ones I wonder about - it's more a matter of, "hmm."

Laura, I hear where you're coming from loud and clear. I don't remember everyone who was on your list, but I do know that Kymm is real. And when she says she has purple or whatever color hair, please believe her, as it is the absolute truth.

Lynda, I wasn't around for the Ryan/Ophelia thing, but the one thing that strikes me as different from that situation was that this time around, the hoax went on and on and in order to try to stop it, the author of the blog (whoever it is) killed the person off. Didn't Ophelia simply stop writing?

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

Yep, in fact Ophelia's identity came out long after Ophelia had already left the online world (and I assume communication with any of the people that had come to know her).

What strikes me about these being similar is not that the *journals* were fabrications - I don't even have any problem with that. It's that the fictional identities stepped out from the pages of their journal, and interacted with other people - emails, chats... relationships were developed, so it is understandable that those who shared in those relationships would be angry and feel violated at the discovery of the deception (there are things you may be inclined to tell a young woman - who is encouraging such a thing - that you wouldn't be inclined to share with a young man, for example), while those who only 'knew' the person through the journal would be more inclined to be interested in how well they managed to portray themselves as someone else, and be either admiring or critical of their creativity in making it happen.

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

A lie is a lie. A LIE.

I can't abide a fucking liar.

I never read Kaycee's blog or her Mother's but I was sucked in by Ryan's dishonesty in portraying himself as Kat/Ophelia. Even though I read the fictious journal, I was not hurt because I didn't see a friendship there but I was mad.

I still get pissed when I think about it. Ryan's a nice guy and everything as I'm sure Shelly of the Shelly/Jessa/Groovegarden hoax is but I'll never be able to take what they say without checking into it. They upset and hurt a lot of people by making a conscious decision to lie.

Too many people out there question me already about how I'm supposed to believe what's being written. Why should I care when it could be a big fake coverup?

The only thing I have to go on is what you write and the persona you project to me.

It's also a big fat kick in the face to the journalers who have been dealing with emotional trauma that is REAL such as Dirt Road Ramblings Sandy losing her son. I'm local to her. I found the obituary. It's real.

It makes some people wonder if they are lying.

Afterall, if a personal journal is nothing but fiction, how the fuck are you supposed to believe anything written online?

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

Boy am I flashing back to the Jessa's Journal/Shelly thing. Wow. I'd almost forgotten about that. But it was a Very Big Deal in 1996 among those of us who kept and/or read online journals.

I had been suspicious of the Kaycee thing, but so many people reported on talking to her, etc. that I didn't worry about it much. I wasn't invested enough, only reading occasionally, to look further.

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

Snark ... have you seen the latest at Metafilter?

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

It looks like a good solution to the Kaycee bandwidth suckage problem.

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

I never read Metafilter. From the apology and the absence of everything the menu indicates once was there, it seems that the person behind metafilter was a series of AI machines culling newsgroups and affecting a personality?

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

[laugh] Oh, that's beautiful. Thanks, Beth!

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

Of course, over at metafilter, they'll talk about anything.

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

The hell? I just finishing browsing the two full threads of discussion of the "kaycee" thing 30 minutes ago on MeFi, and I go back and get this shit? This has been the weirdest day I've ever experienced on the web. I only got hooked on the KC thing this morning - thanks, Beth! - through this forum, and now I'm totally mind-boggled.


-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

I'm 99.9999% positive the Metafilter apology is a joke. The .0001% that isn't sure doesn't think any of you are real, either; you're all figments of Phil Greenspun's imagination.

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

The servers which host MeFi are currently overloaded because of Kaycee - Matt has only so much bandwidth.

I'd say give it a few hours and wait for the fervor to die down.

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

it all seems to be one big convoluted mess.

Having only been to the kaycee web page twice before I never read enough of it to make an opinion (other than it wasn't something I was interested in.) What has me raising eyebrows now is the discussion that Cocky Bastard is not only involved but perhaps helped with the entire scam as a way to get more attention to himself and his website. His name being in the meta tags to the original site seem very suspicious - to me anyway.

I don't know the guy, I'm just going by what I'm reading here and on people's journals - and everybody is pissed - except those people involved with the creation of this fictitious person who seem to be pointing the finger and saying "uh huh, not me, it was him" sorta bullshit.

" we never asked you to send money" and yet people here say they did, or at least received emails asking for donations. Well, on one hand you shouldn't be sending anyone any money without doing some serious research, but if people with big time website like Halcyon spoke of her authenticity then what more do you need really?

Of course, he's also connected to College Club and The Gus and would you send any money to anybody Gus recommended??

He's also deleted his message boards for today. Gee, I wonder why. Perhaps the Cocky Bastard has gotten a little too cocky for his own good - can't take the heat, eh?

- t

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

Oh yeah, the old site can be found at

I don't know who claims to have made this one but it's still up - for now.

- t

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

For those of you who have lives and haven't been following this, someone uncovered the girl whose photos were used for Kayc ee. I think someone looked for news articles about the high school Kaycee supposedly attended, matched a basketball jersey number from some of Kaycee's photos to a team roster, and then searched for that player's name. Behold, same girl. Only alive and well and probably completely unaware of what was being done with her photos.

Supposedly the whole scam was started not by Debbie (Kaycee's alleged mother), but by Debbie's teenaged daughters. But when Debbie found out about it, she took over the Kaycee persona, turned her into her third daughter, and invented the cancer angle.

And the word on Metafilter (no sources, though) is that major fraud charges are on the horizon.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2001

Forgive me for posting here, but this is the message board that is easiest to read (font/colour/text wise, as well as message numbers), but Beth, can you explain to those of us who are ignorant of such things...

How will the mail fraud charges be handled? Is it a personal issue? Does the state handle it? I've been pretty confused whenever anyone brings that up because I just don't get the logistics of it. Do all the people who sent something file separately? Together? Again, does the state just handle it? How will people be compensated? What's to stop hundreds of people from coming forward and saying they were wronged and they gave x amount of money?

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2001

Jolene, mail fraud is a federal offense; it would be prosecuted by the federal authorities like any other crime.

I have a hunch that the folks at Metafilter are blowing this a little out of proportion, though. I think the amount of money and gifts she got might make it not worthwhile to prosecute.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2001

Also, wouldn't you have to show that this woman perpetuated this whole thing with the specific intent of defrauding people? It sounds like that would be a hard case to make.

Actually, this whole thing sounds like a plot out of "Ally McBeal"...can't you just picture someone walking into Ally's office and saying "I want to sue her...for not dying!" The episode could have some sort of moralizing lesson about fantasy and reality and at the end someone could make some dramatic speech before the judge about how "Kaycee Nicole was our hearts!"

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2001

Oh, I think all you'd have to do is show that Debbie asked for gifts for Kaycee, even once. In fact, I'm not sure that actual profit is a necessary element of fraud -- she had a Cafe Press account, and although she sold the items at cost and made no money from that, she did induce people to spend money by fraudulent means. I really don't know.

Still, the only reason I could really see the feds being interested in this is as part of a more general crackdown on fake charitable causes. If that's some agencies pet issue, then Debbie might indeed be looking at criminal charges.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2001

The suspicion is spreading madly, though. I wrote about going to an MRI yesterday, without thinking about it, and got 3 emails this morning telling me I'm a crock-pot or that I'm setting myself up to die soon. Eek!

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2001

I find the furor by the metafilter crowd almost as frightening as the scam itself.

They're demanding information from people when they have no concrete proof those individuals were involved. I mean, calling folks up. It's such a free for all, I think that if my surname were Swensen and I lived in Oklahoma or Kansas, I'd take my phone off the hook.

I mean they'll accept that Kaycee is fake, but are commited to the idea that Debbie (and her name) are real?

They say that the folks who talked on the phone with Kaycee and Debbie owe them information. WHY? If I'd invested enough emotionally to talk to either on the phone, I probably would want to go and mourn the betrayal of trust on my own. Not have it sucked on by a bunch of rabid internet strangers.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2001

The PO Box #566 that Kaycee was using to get mail was registered to Debbie Swenson, of Peabody, Arkansas. She closed it in March. She has been interviewed by the Peabody Gazette. She's a real person. Whether anything she says is the truth or not is something else entirely.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2001

Peabody, Kansas. Sorry. I'm tired.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2001

Heh. The thing that bugged me most about the Ryan/Ophelia thing is I LIKED the journal! I just missed the writing when she/he quit!

I thought her photos were pretty, but it never occurred to me to suspect her as fiction just because she was pretty.

Jen Wade is a cutie and she writes...oh wait! She's on haitus!



-- Anonymous, May 22, 2001

one last post on this matter, I promise :)

"I am Kaycee Nicole"

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2001

There's a Yahoo Group devoted to the Kaycee affair.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2001

I strongly suspected the Ophelia Z pics were not of the person writing the journal. I mean, weren't they all obviously model-type pics? That definitely makes me suspicious.

I was rather surprised to find out it was a guy behind it, though. Then again, isn't the internet supposed to be full of men who get sexual thrills from pretending to be women and interacting with men?

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2001

I figure those who are interested are now following Metafilter and/or the YahooGroup (from which the following link comes), so this'll be my last link on the subject... but the media coverage has begun.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2001

About the MSNBC article - I was one of the people interviewed for that article, and I have got to say that it doesn't read much like we (the people interviewed) were told it would. There is another reporter who says now that Debbie is going to be charged with stalking, and the whole thing is crazier than fiction.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2001

The message boards I deleted were about a conflict my girlfriend was having with another poster. I've offered to email people the deleted boards. I simply wanted to rid my home of the negativity.

Not sure why I felt the need to defend myself here.

My tolerance for unkind words is less this week, I guess.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2001

The Kaycee affair reveals largely the huge amount of love that existing within two communities on the web which BWG and Halcyon were involved in. It's impossible for me to consider even the suggestion of Halcyon's involvement, and I think that anyone who was certainly does not know him at all. "Kaycee" who we now know by that stage was probably already Debbie, was a regular community member at and later at She was around and involved when Halcyon first put up cams at home and work and got to know the Teacosy Gang ( There were very tight communities, and she was heavily involved in them - for over two years.

A lot of people were emotionally involved with this person, many people grieved her death, and now they are just plain confused. "kaycee" developed close relationships with a lot of people, people who sent gifts, made phone calls, and tried to help in any way they could when she was sick. Now, they just feel betrayed, ripped off and angry, and they should.

I never really had much to do with Kaycee, I never became her friend, and later, especially during the illness crises, I no longer believed. I never said anything. I wish I had.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2001

After reading the MSNBC story, I've got one major question - does the young woman whose pictures have been used KNOW what's going on yet? I have this image of her or people who know her tripping over her own picture online and not having a clue what all this is about.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2001

I've got one major question - does the young woman whose pictures have been used KNOW what's going on yet?

Her mother's been contacted. See the e-mail at the end of the Kaycee Nicole (Swenson) FAQ

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2001

Ahh...thanks! I hadn't looked at that since it was updated. What a mess.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2001

It's impossible for me to consider even the suggestion of Halcyon's involvement, and I think that anyone who was certainly does not know him at all.

Wait wait wait, where have I heard this before? I seem to remember a poor dead girl with a brave and spunky soul who was considered beyond reproach at one point.

I'm not saying Halcyon was involved; I doubt it, personally. But character references and good-hearted people's reputations don't carry a lot of weight in this discussion anymore. That's a pity...

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2001

It's on Paul Harvey's morning news, if you guys want to give it a listen: - RealPlayer required.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2001

Whoa, lots of links at the bottom of this page, including to her journal if you're interested in seeing it:


-- Anonymous, May 23, 2001

This is so weird - I remember seeing the original 3WA thread, and reading Kristin's post, and going to the link to Kaycee's journal. Maybe it was Kristin's setup, or maybe it was my suspicious nature (I was duped by Jessa too back then), but her journal didn't seem too real to me, either. I can usually find something in anyone's journal that I relate to, but in this case, I had to poke through so much annoying stuff just to read anything of substance that I couldn't relate to it at all.

I bet Debbie's regretting her decision to kill off Kaycee. I read somewhere (I think in the Yahoo groups list) that BWG was scheduled to visit her in a couple of weeks, and was going to fly there from Hong Kong. So maybe that, combined with the SXSW invitation, forced Debbie's hand.

With hindsight, if you look at the entries now, they seem incredibly fake! Like this:

"She laughed. 'No, silly. Snakes are for boys.' Her little face got serious and she put her hand on my face again. 'Are you gonna be an angel KC?' I didn't know a tear had started to slide out the corner of my eye until this kute little charmer sitting on my lap touched her finger to it. She told me not to cry because I'd make a really good angel.

'I think God picks his own angels Eyisha but if he chose me... I'd want to come and see you're beautiful smile.'

She smiled and so did I. 'I think angels smile just like you do KC.'

'Yeah, I think they smile a lot too.'"


-- Anonymous, May 23, 2001

Oh, all of her entries elicited a "gack" from me...they just seemed really fictitious and cheesy.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2001

This may not have a direct correlation, since you all are talking about a totally fictitious person, and also w/i the context of lying in a journal, but there is a condition where people lie about their own health to the extent of saying they have a terminal illness. There is another phenomena, where aparent will hurt their child to make it seem they are sick. Both are parts of Munchousen (sp?) syndrome.

I can't help but wonder if part of what was going on with Debbie isn't related to this syndrome? It takes an awful lot of energy to keep up that kind of hoax, and I can only think you have to have your head screwed on a bit wrong to do something like that.

I've been hit directly with this situation: someone a bunch of us met on a newsgroup, but then got to know in person. She was "dying of cancer." It went on for over 2 years, including several operations, loss of mobility and mental ability, no support from her family...The people who were closet to her were devistated when they found out -- they'd flown to visit her, put their own lives and families on hold on occasion to be there for her, and she's just making it all up. It's hard not to feel hurt and angry, to realize it's a disease.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2001

I'm not proud of it, but I never got into Kaycee's diary simply because the writing was so incredibly sugary. It read like a Reader's Digest article, and if there's one thing I can't stand - it's articles from Reader's Digest. ;)

The situation reminds me of something that happened on a newsgroup that I used to frequent. A young woman (or girl, I can't remember) was going to have back surgery to fix something. Her best friend started posting to the newsgroup on her behalf, giving us updates on her condition and passing messages along to her. People in the newsgroup sent tons of flowers and cards and stuffed animals, and there was talk about making her the beneficiary for the FAFF. (Far- Away Furry Fund, a donation-based gift that allowed one or two people a year go to a convention that they might not have been able to attend otherwise.)

Then the questions started. People started comparing the girl's writing to her best friends. They looked identical. (We couldn't use the posting hosts or IPs to track this person down, because she claimed that she was posting from the sick girl's computer - of COURSE the IP would be the same.) But they had the same written mannerisms, mispelled words the same, and even used punctuation the same way. (Lots... of... dots... with no spaces between.)

People got angry, flamewars started, and it was decided that the FAFF would be held that year and given to no one.

Two years later, this girl did attend a convention - in a wheelchair. Was she posting the operation story to get attention? Did it really happen? And if so, how come her and her friend write in exactly the same way?

I don't know. But I can't stand it when people try to pass off fiction as truth, even if there is a "reason" behind it. I spoke to this girl briefly at the convention, but I couldn't bring myself to ask about the controvery. "So, did that operation land you in that wheelchair, or were you born that way?" It makes me uncomfortable.

But ever since then, I've been really skeptical of people online who ask for gifts. I'm a hypocrite in that way too, because I'll put Amazon wishlists and PayPal donations in one "ok" category... And put "help me raise funds to visit my sick uncle in Ukraine" or "my daughter is really ill; please send her teddy bears" in another "not ok" category... Even when it's painfully obvious that it's genuine. To paraphrase Renee: How are we supposed to believe anything now?

And to anyone who reads me: I'm real! Honest! Swear to Pete!

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2001

Maybe there should be a mailing list specifically for people interested in this phenomenon (what someone on Metafilter called "Munchausen's by email proxy"), so that people who have been through the experience can compare notes, compile archives, and investigate other possible cases.

Of course, if the email list were open, perpetrators could join as well. I don't think this would be too much of a problem, since (a) members could meet periodically in person and exchange PGP keys to reassure one another of their identity; (b) if you're desperate enough for attention or cash to pull this kind of stunt, it would be hard for you to not do something to give yourself away; (c) perpetrators who described what they did, why they did it, and how they fooled so many people would be doing a public service -- like former safecrackers working as security consultants to banks; (d) anyone dying of cancer or otherwise needing emotional support would probably look for it anywhere but this list.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2001

I didn't know of Kaycee until this whole debacle erupted in the past couple of days. Normally I wouldn't really care since I'm a pretty skeptical person. On the internet, no one knows you're a dog and all that. Except for the fact that a dear friend of mine (Trey of - whom I have met, he's quite real) had leukemia and wrote about his experiences with it and the resulting bone marrow transplant in his online journal. It's been nearly two years now and he's doing amazingly, but what this woman has done trivializes what Trey went through and shared with the world... damn her for that.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2001

Trey! I knew Kaycee's blog was fiction because I had read Trey's site while he was in the hospital - complete with all the photos. Side by side, it is glaringly obvious who was telling a real story, and who wasn't.

Trey's site is great. He is an amazing guy.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2001

What's the url for Trey, please?

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2001

This is Trey's site.

The first hospital entry he wrote is here - and then continues on.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2001

You seem to be getting a kick out of being front and center about figuring out the hoax. Are you Debbie?

-- Anonymous, May 28, 2001

Who the hell are you addressing?

-- Anonymous, May 28, 2001

I saw a link to "kaycee's" journal a few weeks ago; I didn't know she'd been 'battling leukemia' for two years, but I did see her announcement of a liver problem that was going to be fatal. I didn't read enough to have much of an opinion; I thought she was being a bit understated, but now that I think about it 'so vague as to appear fake' seems more precise. I plugged "Kaycee nicole" into Google and came up with a cached version of her last blog page; the two conversations reported (one with a little girl, one with Kaycee's mom and a police officer) are *extremely* unrealistic, but I would have attributed it to 'fictionalizing' rather than outright hoaxing.

Now I wanna know whose online journal is the one widely considered to be 'probably' fake.. I never hear any of the good gossip. C'mon, someone, tell me, I want to go read it!

-- Anonymous, May 30, 2001

Well ... I fell for Ryan's 'hoax' as OpheliaZ/Kat. It's not the first time this has happened ... though this time it seems a bit more questionable ...

What it brings up to me though, is that you just can't know what is and isn't real online. I've been around online since '92, first in the online roleplaying community, then in the journalling community and while you can get a -sense- of a person, you just can't really tell, if they're for real unless you meet them face to face.

What's disturbing to me though, is that folks might think the same about me, or that other journals I read, might not be 'real' but exercises in writing fiction. Sure it's cool to make up a person, and fun to write stories from their perspective. But drawing people in and really pretending to be that person sort of ... skirts the edge of polite IMHO.

-- Anonymous, May 31, 2001

And a little update - the Kaycee story (reprinted from the Guardian in London) was in the sydney morning herald newspaper ( yesterday - as in June 11, 2001.

Things take a little while to filter down under, don't they?

-- Anonymous, June 11, 2001

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