I was originally going to sit on this for a while longer, until the CONSTANT! DEVELOPMENTS! slowed, but frankly now I am just sick of this whole thing and want to put it behind me, so.
Public for a reason! Feel free to tell your friends. Think of it as a PSA.
All links are to screencaps unless otherwise stated. She's already made a clumsy attempt to cover her tracks, and even though she doesn't have the ability to delete or edit most of the strongest evidence, caps are still more permanent. I'll gladly provide genuine FF links to anyone who cares enough to want proof that I'm not doctoring caps, but I turned up 99% of this with nothing more than Google, and so can you. [At one point, my search string became so complicated that I tripped some kind of bot-prevention system I wasn't even aware existed, and Google refused to deliver my search results until I proved my humanity via CAPTCHA. Did you know that was a thing?]
As of this month, I've been in fandom ten years. Way back in 2001, my middle school self signed up at fanforum.com so that she could post in a thread wishing the eighth lead in her favorite TV show a happy birthday, and that was that. I stuck around FF, and the following April I discovered its Harry Potter board. I found the thread dedicated to Ron/Hermione, went in, and introduced myself to the posters, who called themselves the Sidekicks. I was welcomed to the group, and, over the following months and years, I made a lot of wonderful friends, several of whom I'm still in touch with today.
One Sidekick, Jessie, was especially talented with Photoshop, and so was our go-to person for new banners, manips, and avatars. Jessie was fantastic. She was three years older than me [I was fourteen at the time] and pretty much beloved by everyone. The first time I ever used the written word to rip a stranger on the internet to pieces, it was in her defense. Not only was she a prominent figure in our group, but she was pretty well-rounded IRL, too - she was a senior in high school and class president, she talked a lot about her boyfriend, Jeff, and her best friend, Lexie, and both of them actually had occasionally-used FF accounts and would sometimes [Lexie more often than Jeff] participate in AIM chats with the rest of us. I looked up to Jessie and was more than a little in awe of her - part of that was because my somewhat atypical high school has left me permanently fascinated by anyone who goes to a REAL high school with a football team and cheerleaders and bells that ring when class is over, but mostly, it was because of who Jessie was. Site-wide, I'd say she was probably one of the more well-known users at the time.
Jessie's dad died in her junior year of high school - he was working at the Pentagon and was killed on September 11. In September 2002, Jessie told us about how upsetting school had been that day - some kids were talking about how the people who died on 9/11 deserved it, saying that it was a punishment from God. When it came time to start a new thread [when a forum topic reached 250 posts, it was closed and a new one was opened] someone titled the new Sidekicks thread "Jessie, the Sept 11 events are hard on you, but we are here for you."
Jessie graduated from high school in 2003 and left her hometown in Maryland to go to school in Florida. Jeff joined the military, and I don't remember what Lexie did. Jessie wasn't around FF as much once she started college, which was understandable but sad. Unlike the rest of us, she never joined LJ, so unless she showed up on FF or signed onto AIM, we didn't hear from her. I spoke to her occasionally in her first year. Our last real conversation was an AIM chat in January 2004 - I told her I'd joined the ice hockey team at school, something I was excited to share with her because I knew she'd played as well. I had to step away from the computer to help my little sister with something, so the conversation was brief, something I regretted later.
Jeff was killed in Iraq in May 2004, and Jessie disappeared completely. Word was that she was paralyzed with grief, and that she went to Austria for the summer to stay with her brother because she couldn't handle being reminded of Jeff at home. I never spoke to her again.
In June 2005, C, one of the Sidekicks who'd been especially close to Jessie, spoke to Jessie's brother Brian. who told her that Jessie had been killed the previous July. C told D, and D told the rest of us. Lexie went to visit Jessie in Austria, and they were in a car accident. Lexie broke her leg and Jessie was killed.
I was devastated. A friend of mine had been dead for almost a year, and I'd thought we had just fallen out of touch. I was quiet and upset for days. I posted about it six times that week, and who knows how many times in the months and years after. It also made me worry about what would happen if I died - WHO WOULD TELL THE INTERNET? Naturally, I grabbed a sheet of looseleaf, wrote my LJ username and password at the top, and detailed everyone I wanted my parents to contact in the event of my untimely death. Then I hid it in my CD rack [clearly the first place my parents would be looking after the hypothetical untimely death of their teenage daughter], because if my mother found it before I was actually dead, then it would just lead to another conversation about how these people weren't really my friends because they were, in fact, ninety year old men who wanted to kill me. Ironically, it was my sadness over Jessie's death that first made my mother understand that yes, I was making real friends.
In the following days, Jessie tributes dominated my friends list, and her death even prompted many of us to briefly return to our old haunt on Fan Forum, where the Sidekicks, some of them familiar names but most of them strangers, welcomed us and our Jessie tributes. They titled their next thread in memory of her, as did the Aurors, Fan Forum's Harry/Hermione shippers. Several of our old friends came out of the woodwork to post about their surprise and sadness at the news. Orli's tribute helpfully gave newer Sidekicks all the background info about who Jessie was, what she meant to the group, and what had happened to her. He also posted eighteen photos of Jessie and Jeff, which are no longer viewable.
And then six years passed, and Jessie became an anecdote. It was still sad, but in a distant way, one that didn't hurt. If I brought her up or thought about her, it was usually because I was having the morbid "what if one of us died and nobody knew" conversation with someone on LJ, or talking about how my mother's unending distrust of all things fandom. It's been a long time since I actually mourned Jessie, but I have thought about her and her family every year on September 11.
Here's the thing:
Everything I just typed, though I considered it the absolute truth for over half a decade, is bullshit.
Jessie's father is alive.
Jeff, if he ever existed, is almost certainly alive.
My initial instinct is to explain how I could be taken in by this. We got the news in the summer of 2005 - limeybean wouldn't die until that November, and it would be a year before the msscribe hit the fan. Facebook was, at that point, only for college students - people's real lives didn't generally have a web presence. Google didn't turn up anything when I tried to find news about Jessie's accident, but it had happened a year earlier on another continent. That same year, Google was equally useless in providing me with information when a girl I'd gone to elementary school with died. I was seventeen.
I knew that you couldn't take everything people online told you at face value, but it was very much an either/or situation to me: EITHER this person is telling the truth, OR they are secretly a murderer. As long as they didn't have enough information to find, stalk, and kidnap me, there was nothing to worry about!
But I don't think an explanation is really necessary: My friend of several years was dead. I was upset, not skeptical. If the last week has taught me anything, it's that I'd much rather fall for something like this than deal with the weight of suspicion.
Last weekend, I was browsing through various 9/11 memorial coverage and found a list of victims. I don't really know what I was expecting - I know I looked for Jessie's dad on the same list of names years ago and couldn't find him, though at the time I just assumed that they had different last names.
dudski (4:23:25 PM): does suspecting i got limeybean'd in 2005 because my dead friend's dad is supposed to have died at the pentagon but nobody with her last name is on the victim list make me a terrible person?
dudski (4:23:46 PM): /IT DOES I KNOW
I really felt like an asshole. Maybe she lied, maybe she didn't - liars die, too. And even if she was still alive, it was almost certainly something that I wouldn't be able to prove, not after so much time had passed.
I kept looking, mostly hoping I'd find something that would back up some part of her story. I looked at list of war casualties - no 19 year old Navy SEALs from Maryland named Jeff died in Iraq in May 2004. I tried to be more generous with the search results. I tried Afghanistan. I was flexible about age, branch, and date. I considered that Jeff could be a middle name. I considered that Jessie lived near enough to DC that her school had been concerned about the 2002 sniper attacks, so I considered that Jeff could be from DC or Virginia. I came up with nothing.
[Although the sniper attacks fit with the general trend of ripped-from-the-headlines tragedies Jessie experienced, she did, in fact, live in a part of Maryland where the concern would have been justified.]
I started browsing through old files to see what I had saved from back then - chat logs, old Fan Forum threads, anything that would have information about Jessie. What caught my attention was an AIM log of a conversation between Jessie and Orli that took place in June or July of 2004. A friend sent it to me after we learned Jessie was dead - it was a heartbreaking illustration of how different she'd been after Jeff died. Looking at it again, it seemed incredibly melodramatic and over the top.
And then I went back to Fan Forum. A user's FF profile will list the last time they were signed in - provided, of course, that it wasn't an INSANELY long time ago, like before they died in a car wreck in Austria in 2004. Unfortunately, it is BEASTLY hard to track down a specific user's profile if you aren't already looking at one of their posts, and skimming the few Sidekick threads that remained from 2004 and earlier didn't turn up any posts under her username, BuffyAngelFan04. Google mostly turned up recent threads where her name was still on an ever-growing list of members, so I had to dig a little bit to find one where I was sure I'd see one of her old posts - an old thread on the Fan Art board dedicated to helping posters find fonts.
Well, no wonder I hadn't been able to spot her anywhere in our old conversation - because she'd renamed from BuffyAngelFan04 to 4N6 DNA. As you can see in this screenshot, renaming changed the name displayed on all your posts, but unlike LJ renames and the lj-user tag, renaming wouldn't do anything for the content of the post itself - any posts she edited as BuffyAngelFan04 still carry the old name, and any posts that quoted her or addressed her would also contain her old name, as many posts in that thread do. [Also note that NYCity Boy - our friend Orli - posted in the thread seven minutes after Jessie opened it. That's coming.]
And what did her profile say?
Last Activity: Today 12:56 PM
Here's the best part: At this point, I was still casting around for ways that it could all be a big misunderstanding. A glitch in the system, some incorrect assumption that I'd made somewhere along the line - anything, because of course she was dead, and I was a callous asshole for ever suspecting otherwise.
From here on out, you might as well just imagine the most sarcastic quotation marks possible around any mention of Jessie being dead.
4N6 DNA's FF profile links to a website where, using her full name - the same one I remember - Jessie has set up her professional portfolio. There are photos from the college I remember Jessie going to. There are photos from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, which opened six years after her death [and to think, I was sad that she'd never get to read the last two books in the series]. There's a link to her Facebook - rather, there was a link to her Facebook, the site has since been altered. Her Facebook has also since been locked down somewhat, but it did say she went to high school in Maryland, and it did list interests I remember Jessie having. If the Fan Forum profile didn't link old Jessie and new Jessie, I suppose she could convincingly argue that it was just an astonishing coincidence, but the website and the Facebook are just supplements: posts and profiles on Fan Forum alone are all that's necessary to prove without a doubt that this living, posting Jessie is the same girl my friends and I knew and loved and mourned.
The Facebook does prove one thing I couldn't have gotten anywhere else, though:
Hi, dead dad!
Oh, and by the way - the Jessie pictured on Facebook? Absolutely not the girl in the photos she used to show us. So who were we looking at? Who was the Jessie in the photo, who was the Jeff, who was the Lexie? Were Jeff and Lexie ever real? Who were we talking to?
So: It's that easy to fake your death and stay dead indefinitely, everyone. Just disappear for a year, plant the news that you've been dead the whole time - the year you've been dead makes it less suspicious when nobody can find an obit - and LAY LOW until everyone who knew you when has left the site where you met them. Then you can change your username and come back, and you don't even have to suffer the indignity of making a new account and pretending to be a newbie!
Here's a brief overview of Jessie's exciting post-death life on Fan Forum:
February 2008: Jessie becomes the moderator of the Fan Art board.
July 2008: Jessie reveals that the WBC picketed Jeff's funeral. [Jeff died in May '04, and I can't find any coverage of WBC protests before '05, but eh, who knows.] 9/11 comes up again - this time, Jessie just knew some people whose parents worked at the Pentagon.
August 2008: Jessie steps down from her Fan Art modship due to unspecified personal issues. Orli is more than willing to explain what those issues are, though. [I'm incredibly sorry for Jessie and her friends if this story is true, but given the history between us, I think I can be forgiven my skepticism.]
November 2008: Fan Forum celebrates its tenth anniversary - Jessie shares her memories of her time there. Like how her uncle died in the Pentagon, and Brendan Fehr PMed her with his condolences. [Note the non-mention of her time at the Harry Potter board!] "I think the thing I value most about Fan Forum are the friends I’ve made here." Jessie agrees.
December 2008: Jessie becomes the moderator of the Info Center board.
March 2009: Jessie joins the Moderator Support Team.
June 2009: Jessie becomes a Moderator Manager. This is about as high as any FF member could ever rise - Mod Managers are second only to FF's two administrators, Jerry D and the site's founder Goldenboy. Impressive! [These days, Jessie's just a regular member. I'm not sure when she stepped down.]
Jessie's Response to these BASELESS AND TERRIBLE ACCUSATIONS
I sent Jessie a private message on Fan Forum a little over a week ago and received no response. This is unsurprising, given what I sent:
[The link in the message was to the 2005 "In memory of Jessie" thread.]
But another Sidekick, Din, contacted her, with a much more sincere and personal message, one that certainly deserved an honest response, if not an explanation, or at least the respect of a guilty silence.
This is what Din got:
And that is fucking bullshit.
There's a lot about this mess that I'm not sure of, and even more than I can't prove, but one thing is absolutely true, beyond a shadow of a doubt:
The Jessie posting on Fan Forum today as 4N6 DNA is the same Jessie we knew as BuffyAngelFan04 and who we lost and mourned six years ago.
Here's the screencap again:
And here's a direct link to Fan Forum, to a Sidekick thread from 2004 where 4N6 DNA can be seen talking with the people she now claims she doesn't know.
[Fandom history trivia: The thread's title, "we get the hug," is directly related to that time msscribe reported us to Fandom Wank. GOOD TIMES, FOND MEMORIES OF MY YOUTH.]
Anyway. On to the Orli thing.
Orli's currently displayed name on FF is NYCity Boy, and though his current FF signature says he used to be Orlandonewyc, we knew him as OrlandoNYC, and he signed up as ronhermione4ever. [Though everyone now has one FF username that cannot be changed, at one point FF used software that allowed everyone to switch between up to four names - your original login name was displayed below all of your posts for use as a constant identifier. My login was misssarah63, and my displayed names were the laziest little candy, the laziest little sidekick, and, I think, Curious George. I almost exclusively used the Sidekick name, and it's the only one FF recognizes today.]
I was never that close to Orli, although others were. He was a law student at NYU, and while he didn't post as much as the rest of the group, I think he was on AIM pretty often. He and Jessie were good friends, and he was the only one of us who met Jessie in person - her family had a winter house, and she let Orli and some of his friends stay there for a few days at one point.
When we learned that Jessie had died, a lot of people I hadn't seen in months or years came out of the woodwork - it was a very big deal to all of us. Orli resurfaced from "a long time of finding [himself]," and her death was certainly news to him:
What a moving tribute. "If there was a shy newbie post 8 pages ago that nobody had seen, she would still welcome them." Very true! And four days in the winter house, free of charge - how nice of her!
Angie, another old friend, re-registered to post in Jessie's memorial thread, and remembered something about when Orli first joined the group:
Din remembered the same thing.
In 2008, when Jessie was active on, and later moderating, the Fan Art board, she and Orli were buds again. When she had to step down from her mod position - due, you'll remember, to the car accident that killed several of her friends and left her spending all of her free time in the hospital caring for the friend that survived, and also something about the courts - Orli, wonderful, caring friend that he was to Jessie, turned the thread into "Why We Love Jessie."
The thread can be found here and, bullshit and lies aside, what strikes me most about it is the sheer number of FF regulars who come by to offer kind words. That's how we felt about her, back in the day. They see her exactly the way we saw her. Her personality alone was always enough to make her everyone's favorite, I don't know why she had to pull so much attention-seeking bullshit.
Anyway, for those who can't be bothered to read the thread, here are some highlights:
When nobody posted for three days, it was Orlando who bumped it up to ask if anyone knew how she was doing. Weird, since he generally had a better idea of how she was than anybody, including her real-life BFF Lexie, who reappeared on FF for the first time in YEARS to ask total strangers how her longtime real-world friend was doing.
Two weeks? A fully stocked fridge? Jessie certainly sounds even more generous in this anecdote than she did in 2004! I've never known such a hospitable high school girl!
She also sent him both seasons of Dark Angel five days after meeting him, OUT OF THE KINDNESS OF HER HEART.
Visual aids are introduced.
Lexie contributes the Starbucks gift card story from Orli's memorial post, then disappears from FF forever.
But the best part of this thread is the ever-shifting Jessie/Orli origin story.
When he was eulogizing her, he said she was the kind of person who'd notice a newbie everyone else missed - now he IS that newbie. But didn't Din and Angie say that he was asking us who she was when he first joined?
But also she's the one who convinced him to join FF in the first place? Or something? How DID they meet?
Well, good news! Though I've been living and breathing this bullshit for a lot of the last week, I somehow didn't realize until about an hour ago that the small collection of old Sidekick threads I have saved - our 46th through 63rd threads, plus our 100th, which I've dragged out every few years when the group gets to reminiscing [most notably on the day we heard she was dead], just so happens to include Orli's October 2002 arrival to Fan Forum, on the very day that he registered!
It turns out that EVERYONE is wrong. She didn't welcome him after seven pages, she didn't persuade him to sign up, and no, he didn't see all of us talking about her and ask who she was.
First of all, he was welcomed in slightly less than seven pages, we're not assholes.
Nine minutes after his first post, he's asking who made our banners, despite the fact that the intro post clearly states whose work they are. He needs to ask her a question about them, that's all! And after he asks it, he answers a question Shirley asked him - and he uses Jessie's trademark brackets to do it.
In all the time I've spent recently looking into Jessie and Orli, I've noticed the following about Orli's FF activity:
-He was a regular poster on the Harry Potter board when Jessie was, but not after she died.
-He was a regular poster on the Fan Art board around the time she became a mod there, despite the fact that he never seemed to contribute anything of his own.
-Other than that, he doesn't seem to be a regular poster anywhere - almost every post of his that I've found is a one-off post somewhere, a technical question, a response to another user's technical question, a response to a thread Jessie made, or him talking about Jessie when she's not around.
Google returns 216 results for site:fanforum.com "nycity boy"
It returns 78 for site:fanforum.com "nycity boy" -jessie -"4n6 dna" -jess -buffyangelfan04, and only 50 if you take "harry potter" and "fan art" out of the equation.
The other night, one of the Sidekicks dug up an old AIM conversation she'd had with Orli, after Jeff died but before Jessie did. Orli was the only one still in touch with Jessie by then, and he said she was pretty much a shell of herself. To show what he meant, he used AIM's file transfer feature to send the Sidekick an AIM conversation. Here's how AIM displayed that, though it went unnoticed at the time:
OrlandoNewYC wants to send file C:\Documents and Settings\Jessica H*****\Desktop\jess.htm
Orli's Windows username is Jessie's real name? THAT'S A LITTLE WEIRD, ISN'T IT?
And here's the file he sent - the very same conversation that broke my heart when I saw it in 2005, but that seemed too far-fetched to believe when I looked at it again last week.
A nice factual inaccuracy: Though Jessie says that Fahrenheit 9/11 was playing in select theatres in Austria by then, it would not actually be released there until after her untimely death. And I encourage anyone who can actually make sense of HTML to View Source, because the rapid-fire hidden timestamps certainly don't seem to correspond with the heavy, difficult nature of the conversation, about which Orli "himself" said:
OrlandoNewYC: it was like I didnt know what to say to her. some things she said I had NO IDEA how to reply
And the real kicker comes towards the end, when Jessie briefly BRBs:
She's gone for forty minutes, give or take...
...But the timestamps seem to disagree slightly.
Factor in that Orli was the only one of us ever to meet Jessie [and never thought to mention that she looked nothing like her photos?], and that the summer she died he apparently journeyed to Maryland to ask her mom how Jessie was doing, and nobody in the family ever thought to contact him when she died a few weeks later?
Orli is Jessie is Orli is Jessie is Keyser Soze is Pepe Silvia. [Yes, after her boyfriend fake died she sat down to AIM to have a serious conversation with herself about it, and then she sent it to her friends.] I don't have IPs, but I'd say I have enough. I'm willing to bet that any contact I had with Lexie and Jeff was actually Jessie as well.
I'm glad that the Jessie I knew and loved didn't actually go through all the pain and suffering that I thought she did, but I'm also sad that the Jessie I knew never really existed.
Of course, no online fake death/sockpuppet story would be complete without the ....THEN WHO WAS PHONE??? twist at the end: Last night, C linked us to the Facebook of Brian, the brother who broke the news to her all those years ago. This dude's photo albums are FULL of pictures of the people Jessie sent us way back when - and their names really are Jessie, Lexie, and Jeff. They really are from Jessie's town. This raises APPROXIMATELY a billion more questions, none of which I have the energy to pursue.
Does it change anything? She still faked her death. She still lied. She's still Orlando. She's still pretending she has no idea who we are. I don't really care what she looks like.
EDIT, 9/21/2011: I've been given enough background information about Brian and how his Facebook came into play to be fairly certain that this Facebook was set up by Jessie several years ago, possibly because she was worried C was close to figuring something out. Any scenario in which those people really are from Maryland and named Jessie, Lexie, and Jeff implies some serious real-world creepiness and stalking. Or bodyswaps! Maybe there were bodyswaps!
Brian's Facebook is locked down enough that I can't see his friends, but I can see his photo albums, which were posted over a period of three years. Four albums are collections of pictures from different places and times, though many of the faces repeat, a fifth contains photos from Brian's time with Doctors Without Borders, though none of the pictures include Brian, and a sixth is a single mobile upload.
In his 148 photos, only two people besides himself are ever tagged - a Katie and a Rodrigo. Only four of his friends ever comment - Tiffany, Orlando, Rodrigo, and Jane. Lexie, to whom one of the albums is dedicated, does not comment and is not tagged. Facebook's one result for Lexie's full name is a profile with no photo and no visible information. The same is true of the profiles for Katie, Rodrigo, Tiffany, Orlando, and Jane.
Ridiculous as it seems, the least insane explanation for all of this is that Jessie created and maintained a Facebook profile for her fictional brother, filled it with pictures from his fictional life, and maintained it for several years. I suppose it's also possible that Brian's a real person who's incredibly committed to helping her supplement her story. I can't think of a single plausible scenario in which Brian's Facebook is genuine. He's the one who told C how Jessie died, and was still in touch with her years later. If anyone can explain that away, I'd love to hear it.
EDIT, 9/23/2011: Jessie [in all her various forms] has been banned from Fan Forum.
EDIT, 9/25/2011: From the comments: i_nightblade went all Mavis Beacon on Jessie's ass.
Final verdict on the Facebook: I assumed it was created to confuse anyone who started digging, but that assumption was based on what it did for me. In fact, it turns out that Brian's Facebook was just another part of the lie. Caro has filled me in on the extent of her communication with people like Brian and Lexie - all told, Jessie was twelve people that we know of. Herself, Orlando, Lexie, Brian, Jeff, and seven other friends and family members. Caro lost touch with many of those people in one way or another [some simply disappeared, some Jessie gave dramatic exits], but Brian was around for a long time, and that's where the Facebook came in. I always assumed Jessie killed herself off because she was tired of the game, but apparently she just wanted to take a break, then drag it out for another few years.
I don't anticipate adding anything else to this - I've done all I can do, so unless something earth-shattering is brought to my attention or Jessie herself [or NOT herself] contacts me, this should be the end of it. To end it on a less horrible note than the paragraph above, I'm just going to dump out some of the better leftovers from my now-massive JessieSoze folder. Enjoy a bunch of screencaps of Jessie talking to herself!
Wow, thanks for the info!
I can't even begin to explain all the ways this is weird. [Sidekicks will remember that we used to have thread numbers, but they were confiscated after a friendly competition with the Aurors to reach 100 first kind of maybe sort of broke the board.]
Don't say I never do anything for you.
Jessie Mark 1 and Orli get to know each other. [Previously: Who is this Jessie? And is she taken?]
And here's the time some random girl made the connection years before anyone else did. She received no response, of course.
Six weeks after we learned Jessie had died, Orli was having a rough time of it.
Finally, since the old threads I have saved are largely lacking in nostalgia value thanks to the Jessie factor, they might as well become entertainment. Here's a compilation of some Me, Myself and I moments between her and Lexie. [First: If it seems like a word is missing somewhere, it's likely because the original post included a smilie. Second: I've removed almost all of the posts made by real people, partly to make it a quicker read, but MOSTLY because I was fourteen at the time, and every single post of mine makes me want to hurl myself out the nearest window just to make the cringing stop.]
HIGHLIGHT: On October 12, you can see Jessie accidentally use her own account while posting as Lexie, then cover with an extended performance in which Lexie's at Jessie's house [with a brief visit from Jeff] and they're both posting from Lexie's account.
And that should be the end of this whole mess! All things considered, Orli's got a good point.