All About the Cruel Kaycee Nicole Hoax

Kaycee Nicole started out as an online persona, created by a teenaged girl. It was probably an attempt to make herself look just a little better than life.

The really twisted part of this saga is that at some point, Kaycee's persona was taken over by the girl's mother, who eventually faked Kaycee's cancer and death.

It caused a lot of problems, because the people on the other end of the modem really believed Kaycee existed. They had emailed, read her journal and site, cried at learning of her 'illness' and grieved her death.

How utterly betrayed they were.

It's one thing to go online and not give your name, show your picture, not give your number out etc. It's okay to use a nickname or some other name you just like to have. Sometimes, under certain circumstances, it's okay to pretend you're something you're not, that's how kiddy porn sites get busted and shut down.

But headgaming people by pretending to be somebody dying of an illness, or some other really tragic thing that actually causes others to weep over your sad experience, when none of the such happened, 'slimy' doesn't go far enough in describing how low down that is.

Chain mail often does the same thing, only not quite to the extent as the Kaycee Nicole hoaxter did. It's just sick. Infuriating how social parasites can get away with so much.

Links from the Kaycee-Nicole Yahoogroup page:

Summary or description
Submitted by

Kaycee Nicole FAQ

Detailed accounting of the affair from start to finish. If you're writing a story on Kaycee, start here. The Kuro5hin story is more detailed and accurate, though, and this FAQ has come under fire for taking conjecture and assumption as fact. DanHartung

"Kaycee"/Swenson Family/Julie Photo Archive
If you have more photos to add, please send them to simplycaren

CollegeClub Photo Album
Photo Album belonging to Kaycee at simplycaren

CollegeClub Terms of Use
For reference.;_id=34441 DanHartung

Debbie's Final Post
BWG has left her final blog post as the only remnant of the two weblogs he hosted. DanHartung

Debbie's Return?
No proof yet, but it does sound like something she could have written. Maybe she'll try to explain herself more in the future. DanHartung

Deconstructing Kaycee
A psychologist's take acridrabbit

Gracemont High School Girl's Basketball Team
Photos of the Gracemont High School Girl's Basketball Team maintained by the Swensons. These photos helped track down the name of Julie Fullbright via the team roster. nightngle

Halcyon's Kaycee Flash
Last year, Halcyon created this little cartoon to introduce people to Kaycee. DanHartung

Host of Kaycee's Blog Apologizes
Direct link to Randall van der Woning's apology. Randall goes by the moniker "bwg". DanHartung

KCsCoolMom page at College Club
Debbie created this page in the persona of Kaycee's mother. DanHartung

Kaycee Geocities page
Part of a site apparently set up by Kelli's father. Not linked to from main site. DanHartung

Kaycee Nicole: Internet Hoax
A list of links to articles and other resources, put together by About's Chatting Online Guide, Julie Martin. journalistic...

Kaycee's College Club Page
Original Webpage at College Club since ca. 1998 DanHartung

Kaycee's Photo Double
From the evidence, it appears that the photos passed off as Kaycee were of Gracemont basketball star Julie Fullbright. DanHartung

Kaycee: Faking Life and Death Online?
An online community is devastated to find out that a friend they have followed for several months was not real, but a made up persona. Find out more about the story of Kaycee Nicole and how to keep yourself safe when pursuing online relationships. Kutebabe

(Kaycee) College Club Profile
Sketchy personal information here.;=10000000260545 DanHartung

Lies Online
About's Chatting Online Guide, Julie Martin (not Fullbright), covers the story of Debbie's confession. journalistic...

Lies Online II
About's Chatting Online Guide, Julie Martin, shares some new answers. journalistic...

MIRROR of many Kaycee sites
Christine is compiling a mirror of whatever she can, before they're taken down. DanHartung

MIRROR: Logboy's Archive
Includes mirrors of the MeFi threads, Debbie's final posting, as well as a chatroom. DanHartung

MIRROR: SimplyCaren's collection of Kaycee images
Some are mirrored from the various Kaycee websites, others come from third-party sources. The most complete collection of images of "Kaycee" or as we now suspect Julie Fullbright. DanHartung

More pictures from Kaycee
Some pictures of interiors and landscapes that are stored on Kaycee's MSN community page.;_Community=KCruisin&ID;_Topic=1y6y6y6 DanHartung

Munchausen By Internet article
Munchausen's syndrome (faking illness in self or others) in internet forums DanHartung

New York Times article on College Club
Quotes a Kaycee Swenson. Appeared to help establish her bona fides at the time. ("channel" free ride doesn't work.) DanHartung

Possibly a photo Debbie
From captcrackpipe

Swenson Family Page
Switchboard page for Debbie Swenson and family. Only shows two children, Kelli and Bryan, who do match information given in "Kaycee's" blog. DanHartung

Tazwoman page at College Club
Peter was an online friend of "Kaycee". Some high-quality pictures here. DanHartung

the e-mail of kaycee nicole
Collection of e-mail sent by kaycee during '98 through 2000, includes her collegeclub host application and many personal messages. poorbob

Blog Post-Mortems

Responses by various webloggers to the situation after it became clear Kaycee was a hoax.

DaveNet: Faking a Death Online
Dave Winer's response to the brouhaha. A concise summary of events. Compares public reaction with 1938 Halloween War of the Worlds broadcast. DanHartung

Deconstructing Kaycee
John Grohol, net.personality in the psychology arena, analyzes the Kaycee creation ... and creator. DanHartung

Derek Powazek post
His perspective on online communities has been jolted by this situation. Several interesting additional posts by readers. DanHartung

Halcyon Radio Show 5/23
Halcyon hosts an internet radio show every Wednesday. This is the first post-hoax show. Several of the people who were duped and who helped uncover the hoax call in. One hour; Windows Media Player required. DanHartung

Halcyon: Hoax
John Styn was perhaps the most well-known of the online friends of "Kaycee". (He won a Webby.) His thoughts on the aftermath are here. Previous posts on Kaycee are also available in his archives. DanHartung

Kaya, Kaycee and Me
E-mail post-mortem between Jim "Kaya" Styn and Jimformation. DanHartung

Kristin Thomas: Tell me what hospital she's in
One doubter explains why -- and why it matters that we trust each other online DanHartung

More on Debbie Swenson
Personal thoughts on the Kaycee hoax. alicorna

Steven Den Beste: Trust Online
Thoughts compiled after the hoax became clear. DanHartung

Tranquileye: The Kaycee Effect
Reflections on the Kaycee hoax. jamesapatten

Doubts and Discussions

From September, 2000 there were scattered instances of skeptical posts. (Many times these were drowned out by people defending "Kaycee".) The final chorus of inquiry started with Kristin at Threewayaction, moved to Becky's blog, then when "Kaycee" died to Headspace, and acridrabbit posted the Headspace to Metafilter. The Metafilter discussion spawned a weekend-long investigation, which led to the exposure.

Becky Says entry on Kaycee.
Becky first raised doubts about the Kaycee construct in February (!), three months before her "death". DanHartung

Becky-Says Aftermath
The explanation of why and how this all got started anywherebeyond

Discussion on Beth/Xeney's forum
The discussion spills over from the blogger world to the on-line journallers world. acridrabbit

Halcyon Board (9/2000)
Cockybastard's discussion board introduced many people to Kaycee here. Doubts were posted (2nd page, end), and Kaycee was defended (3rd page, top: bwg). DanHartung

Headspace 5/17
Headspace raises questions in an elliptical, satirical format, suggesting BWG is the author of both weblogs. DanHartung

Headspace 5/18
Headspace admits previous post was about Kaycee and BWG, further detailing case. Sparked initial MeFi thread. DanHartung

Headspace 5/20
Final Headspace post on Kaycee, after brouhaha broke. DanHartung

Metafilter Thread #0
September, 2000 thread promoting Kaycee's blog. Skeptics and cynics abounded, even then: there was much acrimony. Perfectly illustrates the divisive effect of Munchausen by Internet (see that article) on a virtual community. DanHartung

Metafilter Thread #1
Does Kaycee Exist? Thread 285K DanHartung

Metafilter Thread #2
Kaycee Was a Hoax Thread, after BWG Posts Disclaimer 300K DanHartung

Metafilter Thread #3
BWG Removes Blog, Apologizes DanHartung

Threewayaction: November 2000 Skepticism
Kristin posted some pointed opinions in the Threewayaction forum in November, during a conversation about the EverQuest guide-suicide hoax. DanHartung

Wunderblog 5/18
Snarky journal-critiquer takes on the Kaycee situation. Helped focus attention on inconsistencies. Don't miss the comment threads. DanHartung

Wunderblog 5/18 2
Follow-up anonymous e-mail posted. DanHartung

Wunderblog 5/18 3
More snarky comments on people who were honestly mourning Kaycee. Links to other discussion boards. DanHartung

Media Coverage

Links to articles about the hoax

A painful affair of the Internet heart
MSNBC article about the hoax not 100% up to date, but good info on gift-giving aspects DanHartung

Australian IT: Tell Someone Who Cares
Article about blogging. Mentions several Aussie blogs, brief mention of Kaycee at end.,3811,2032359^501,00.html DanHartung

Corriere della Sera "Sono malata grande truffa su I"
Italian News Coverage; cred to MetaFilter anywherebeyond

Dan Gillmor: Did Kaycee Live, or Die?
First professional journalist to address the story, in his weblog. Very brief. DanHartung

Fox News Network: "Girl Alive and Well..."
Focuses mostly on Julie and Debbie, similar to the Eagle's story,2933,25662,00.html anywherebeyond

Fraude na Rede
Brazilian coverage of the story, w/ links to the MeFi Faq;=atual anywherebeyond

Girl's illness was web hoax
Regionally-circulating AP wire story. Also picked up by DanHartung

Inside: Webloggers Cope With Death, Denial
The first real press story. May 21 afternoon.⊂_process=cda.story&process;_right=com.inside.cda.insidedope.InsideDopeRight&article;_id=31316 DanHartung

Italia Online "Impossibile visualizzare la persona"
More Italian coverage http://scanali:sc2k! anywherebeyond

Kaycee's Story (Local TV Coverage)
KWCH-TV interviews Debbie, Julie, and devastated online friend (no video here, sorry) DanHartung

Kaycee's tear-jerking 'blog' was all online bilge
Australian I.T. magazine anywherebeyond

Kur05hin: The Life and Death of a False Warrior
Very detailed and accurate in its timeline. Marred by some guffaws from the peanut gallery in the chat section.;=2001/5/22/11120/1650 DanHartung

MSNBC Front Page exposure
Screenshot of the MSNBC front page with Kaycee Hoax coverage fooljay

Medica Guardian - UK
A well written piece about the hoax, and the problem of online identity verification,7558,497418,00.html nightngle

Minneapolis Star - Tribune Article
Their take on the situation; (Link messed up, no other link found to work.)

Netslaves: Kaycee Nicole Rests in Pieces
Netslaves offers its wry take on the proceedings. DanHartung

New York Times Coverage
We've hit the bigtime, boys. tweebiscuit

Oklahoman: Victim puts face on hoax
Story from Julie Fullbright's perspective (as the woman in the photos used to portray "Kaycee"). See other link for photo.;=getarticle DanHartung

Peabody Gazette
Follow-up article about FBI investigation. Includes picture of Debbie with her son and Julie. nightngle

Peabody, KS Newspaper article
Hometown newspaper of the Swenson's. Includes quote from Debbie. jennak1202

RWC Activist "Life and death...";=77891 anywherebeyond

Seattle Post Intelligencer
Same story as the NY Times anywherebeyond

Suck.Com "Hit and Run"
Umm, pretty much what you'd expect from Suck anywherebeyond

The sad yet Untrue Story of Kaycee
Jon Carroll defends Debbie and her creation anywherebeyond

Web community fooled by cancer victim hoax
Hong Kong paper writes about hoax; interviews BWG (van der Woning). Also, states BWG was going to fly to US from Hong Kong only days after Kaycee "died." USERID: metafilter PASS: filter jennak1202

Wichita Eagle: "Girl's Leukemia A Fraud..."
Mostly about Julie and Debbie; comments on whether charges will be filed anywherebeyond

Wired News - "They Think They Feel Your Pain"
a very good article exploring the Munchausen angle, mentions the "Kaycee" hoax and includes other similar cases.,1286,44245,00.html nightngle

Members Websites


Related, ancillary material.

Brill's Parody Cover
A parody of the Brill's content cover with Matt Haughey. Pokes fun at the investigative zeal of the Metafilter community. DanHartung

College Club Meltdown Live
As the original business burned, some ex-employees fiddled. DanHartung

See Summer Swing Dance
An online tribute to Summer Brannin, a 21 year old cancer victim who went skyward in 1998. There's a charity record called Songs For Summer you can check out and be sure that a worthy cause (Free Arts For Abused Children) will benefit. If that's not relevant enough to be a link on this page, in a strange coincidence, she knew John Halcyon. songsforsummer

Other Hoaxes

Stories about other instances of hoaxing or identity shifting.

A Rape in Cyberspace
Seminal 1993 Julian Dibble piece in Village Voice about Mr. Bungle's virtual misbehavior on LambaMOO (an online game/community) DanHartung

Anandtech Hoax
A poster on Anandtech created a female persona out of curiosity, then "married" her, then "killed" her in a car accident. Questions were raised, and he could not sustain the charade. DanHartung

Arbeit Mach Fraud: the Wilkomski Affair
New Republic book review concerning the story of a man who wrote an acclaimed Holocaust-survivor account (Fragments) that was later proven to be completely fraudulent. It is still considered moving writing, but due in no small part to the efforts of Holocaust deniers, truthfulness is very important in this topic. DanHartung

Ben Brown Played
Ben writes of an instant-messaging friend who repeatedly set up, then blew off, meetings with him. DanHartung

Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community
Academic paper from the MIT Media Lab. DanHartung

Jessa Journal Faked
An early online-journal predecessor: Jessa admits in 1996 that she faked her journal and persona. DanHartung

Kysa Braswell - Uncovered
An expose on a hoax concerning a beautiful deaf girl w/ brain cancer.;=1100&page;_id=5 friendlyfascist
(Note from owner of wiki page: Er, uhm...I've heard some strange handles, but this one takes the whole picnic!)

Life, Death & EverQuest
A guide gets fired, commits suicide, is mourned, and then turns out never to have existed DanHartung

This American Life: Hoaxing Yourself
Episode focusing on situations where people were so far into fake situations they believed it themselves. DanHartung

oZ diary hoax
Another online-journal predecessor: close to 2 year diary purportedly written by a woman under the pseudonym "Ophelia Z", but in reality imagined by Ryan Ozawa, founder of Open Pages webring/ bigfattycoon

From the Kaycee Nicole Yahoogroup
KCArchive1 KCArchive2 KCArchive3 KCArchive4

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