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Mystery Fuels Huge Popularity of Web's Lonelygirl15

The videos are a hit on YouTube, but some wonder if the teen's posts are real or a marketing ploy.

September 08, 2006|Richard Rushfield and Claire Hoffman | Times Staff Writers

Independent film director and blogger Brian Flemming, who is known for creating edgy film events, became wrapped into the story when viewers became convinced that Flemming had constructed the whole thing in order to promote an upcoming film.

Flemming said he received more than 300 e-mails from people accusing him of involvement.

"People have been confronting me with coincidences, and I don't know how to explain it," Flemming said, choosing his words carefully for fear of furthering the theories. "It's been pretty crazy and actually not particularly desired. It's like a big gift being handed to me that I don't want."

In the last week, the videos have developed seemingly ominous themes. In "Bree the Cookie Monster," Bree and Daniel, on her bedroom floor, sample cookies they say they have made. Judging a contest is a purple monkey puppet, who holds up scores for each cookie recipe. The first cookie was given a "10." The second a "12," the third "06."

Viewers immediately asked: Why 06 and not just 6? Soon, a posting told the virtual crowd that Aleister Crowley was born on October 12, 1875." Could it be that the ritual lonelygirl15 had been preparing for would take place on Crowley's birthday?

But the most compelling mystery has become who is behind lonelygirl15, and fans soon became proactive in trying to solve that bigger puzzle. Driven by hours of conjecturing and late-night instant-messaging analysis, three amateur sleuths who met on the discussion boards on lonelygirl15.com hatched a plan in August to lure lonelygirl15 to MySpace profiles they had created for the purpose.

They were Shaina Wedmedyk, an 18-year-old Oberlin College freshman; Chris Patterson, a 36-year old software engineer from Tulsa, Okla.; and a 23-year old law student in Pennsylvania who declined to be identified by name.

On Aug. 29, they sent an e-mail from a profile they had created for "Seth," an imaginary 17-year-old from Ohio. He told lonelygirl15, "You seem really cool!! I added you and I hope you will add me back. We have the same interests! Your videos are cool, where do you host them? MySpace?"

Later that day, they received an answer. It read simply, "Hi seth :) I think I added you.... The videos are on youtube. What sort stuff are you into?"

Using the tracking software, the team was able to see that seconds before lonelygirl15 had sent the note, someone had looked at Seth's profile. This visit was the only one the profile had received in 17 hours, suggesting that whoever was at the controls of the lonelygirl15 account on MySpace looked at Seth's page before sending the message.

The user's IP address -- the number assigned to any Internet-connected computer -- was traced to the private server of CAA in Beverly Hills.

Tuesday night, lonelygirl15 posted a sexually tinged video titled "Poor Pluto," in which Bree bemoans the demotion of Pluto to sub-planetary status.

Sprawled on her bed, she stares into the camera and remembers her brief time at a regular high school, when she loved stars.

"They said I was doing something with my teacher, and that's when I stopped asking questions about stars."

Another riddle that will move the story forward?

Or, perhaps, there is a truly mind-blowing explanation for lonelygirl15, albeit one that keeps receding ever further into the realm of the unlikely: just a bored teenager with a camera.

richard.rushfield@latimes.com

claire.hoffman@latimes.com

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