An internet dating horror story PLUS a video of the perp paramoralising

Are you ‘virtually’ sharing your heart with an aged, obese person the opposite sex to what you imagine, perhaps?

We’ve all heard stories about internet relationships that are wrong in one way or another. People say it won’t happen to them, but people say a lot of things.

Do beware!
Wishful thinking will try to turn him or her into what want, but you have no idea. Even if you’ve spoken on the phone. Even if it goes on for a year and a half. 

You’ve been talking into a mirror.
Which could be harmless (actually, not really) but there’s someone behind that mirror. This story by Josh Olsen orginally appeared in LA Weekly:

Anyway, Janna knows this guy named Jesse, and she thinks he and Audrey would get along. She “introduces”them online, and they hit it off. Jesse is an amazing dude, a volunteer fireman, a cowboy, a tortured poet, a man with a past. He has an ex-wife he speaks of fondly, and a son. He lives on a ranch with llamas. He’s got posttraumatic stress disorder from having been in New York on 9/11. He knew some of the firemen who died, or something. An exceptional man. He and Audrey just click, in that special way we all hope can happen someday.

Photos are exchanged. Sweet nothings fly back and forth. At some point, they start talking on the telephone.

And they fall in love. They’ve never met. Just e-mails, pictures, and long, meaningful conversations on the phone. But it’s real. I mean, really fucking real. It’s so real that Audrey changes. No longer a dark cynic, she’s now the world’s last true romantic. You’ve never had love this special. Your life is gray and empty and you can’t possibly understand because even if it came your way, your soul is too small to comprehend the love that Audrey and Jesse were experiencing. Their love lights the skies. Us gutter dwellers, we’ll never understand.

Audrey and some friends take a trip….Jesse plans on meeting them there, but in the end, he has to cancel so he can fight a forest fire. Audrey is okay with this, because her man is dedicated to the service of others, whose needs must come before his own personal desires.

This is just a fragment of the outrageous drama (outrageous to everyone but Audrey). Late in the piece Janna who ‘introduced’ the ‘couple’ is staying with Audrey in her house. You’ll have guessed by now that Jesse never existed. But wait, Janna visited Jesse in the hospital, etc. Oh oh. Audrey, it turns out, has a possible psychopath living under her own roof!

But here’s where this story is a bit different to others like it. When Audrey’s friends confront Janna and see to it that she leaves, they video record the encounter.

Swivelchair at neurological correlates does an analysis if how Janna lies, trips over her lies, etc. It’s like I’ve been saying recently, these folks are not good liars – they wing it. It’s their tone, misdirections, etc. together with the recipient’s gullibility that do the work of deception. (Thanks to Ian in Hamburg at ‘Letters home to you’ for linking to this site by one of Janna’s victims.)

In the cold light of day, the deception is pitiful. Here’s one instance from the video.

How not to debate 
Janna is challenged: “You put our friend through an emotional wringer for almost two years.” Of course she’s not going to admit to anything; she’s going to deny. But does she respond with ‘No, I didn’t’ or ‘It wasn’t an emotional wringer’? No, she says: “Two years! No” – implying: You’ve got you’re facts wrong. That’s outrageous. How dare you accuse me of two years! You’re bad for maligning me. You’re lying.

But her accuser fails to be put off: “How about a year and a half?” Because she’s still hung up on the two years Janna acknowledges, “Could be a year and a half.”

Realising that she has just admitted her guilt she immediately sets about muddying the water, “But I didn’t…” And so on.

Transparent nonsense, you say. Well, have a read of the comments at youtube and see see how much sympathy she wins. This is the thing: these people are convincing even a the moment of complete exposure.

How do you understand this?

A final note
Some viewers at youtube have suggested that the story about Audrey and Jesse and Janna – including the video – is the actual fake! Here’s all I can say:

1. Practically every youtube video clip of a surprising everyday event is called fake by someone. It’s a sign of how much bull there actually is out there and how eager people are to not coming across as fools.
2. I don’t think it’s fake. The author of the piece refers to Janna like this: “And there’s this woman, this Janna, this thing: a morbidly obese woman in her mid-50s, dull-eyed and empty-faced, sitting in our friend’s front yard.” If Olsen and Janna were accomplices and so known to each other, I can’t see him referring to her as “this thing”. But I could be wrong, I guess.
3.  Even if fake, though, the video captures the ways of the pathological liar well. The multiplicity of tactics, shifts, silences, the you’ll-never-understand tone, anything to get them off her back so she can get away and start again. 


18 thoughts on “An internet dating horror story PLUS a video of the perp paramoralising

  1. How can we know she’s a psychopath and not some other form of crazy? Watching the video I do feel sorry for her. But reading the Olsen piece turns me the other way. I feel a case of the OJs coming on.

  2. Time for me to reveal I am a six foot two cross between Sean Connery and Harrison Ford with the voice of Orson Welles. Ladies are welcome to apply for my email – all friendships welcomed. I only look like a five foot two overweight Australian!

    It really is extraordinary that people are convincing when they are shown to be liars. And they get sympathy.

    Perhaps it’s a variant on the stage illusionist – at some level we want to believe/be fooled.

    I think I find it easier to understand the indifference to truth of the psychopath than the sympathy from others.

  3. evan – Orson Wells, hey? Funny, I would have thought Richard Burton.

    You mention, “the indifference to truth of the psychopath than the sympathy from others.” Both cases are characteristic failures of the imagination, I think.
    1. The psychopath is unable to imagine what it would be like to be lied to in this way – to make the connection: I woudn’t like it so I won’t do it to others.
    2. The sympathiser can’t imagine that someone might have such a different psychology to themselves, a non-compassionate one. Asks, Under what circumstances would I do such a thing? – and then feels sympathy.
    3. And the confidence trickery is primed to continue!

  4. evan – has this on gullibility:
    “Coke didn’t invent Santa. The astonishing thing is that for a moment we might even believe that they did. If you think about it, our conception of just about every distant historical or mythical figure is just an artifact of the stories that marketers have told us. Sometimes they’re marketing for profit, other times they’re just spinning a tale (Washington and his cherry tree).

    It all comes down to two simple things:

    Most people want to believe.
    And we’re most comfortable believing what everyone else believes.”

  5. Dr. Steve, thank you for these posts on “psychopaths” (and thanks much for linking to my blog).

    Yah- your remarks about the YouTube comments are so true. “Janna” is so a-moral for no apparent purpose that the whole thing is so preposterous it must be fake.

    The a-moral thinking runs like a red thread through “Janna’s” behavior even on video. I think that’s why this video is so important — sort of like catching the Loch Ness monster or a Yeti. It’s amazing, I’ve seen it. Don’t believe me? Look at the film.

    Well, anyway, best wishes in this holiday season, and here’s to more public discussion about this important topic in 2008!

  6. swivelchair – You say that the video of Janna is “sort of like catching the Loch Ness monster or a Yeti” – excellent!

    I’ve noticed in the comments I get on my site that regular folks are often so decent that they cannot/will not accept that another human being could be thoroughly un-decent.

    Only when they read a victim’s account do they wake up with a start. (Things like this: Just before walking out on his wife a psychopath tries to persuade her to name their unborn son, say, Simon. Simon turns out to be the name of the son of the woman he’s in the process of leaving his wife for!)

    Sometimes I feel bad at disabusing them because it seems a shame to taint this purity.

  7. I know the story of a woman who met a man online and fell in love with him, left the States to go live in Europe with him, only to find out when she got there that he is a quadraplegic. Guess what? She loves him anyway, and is still here. Blogging.

    Have you heard this story of internet love craziness?

    Moral of pretty well all stories of deception online or off is this: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  8. ian – Your first story does something to restore my faith.

    (Assuming she’s not very disturbed – and I don’t suppose you’d have mentioned the story if you thought she is) his original lie/omission must have covered over a far greater truth; something good.

    Which leads me to you second story. This is a cat of a different colour entirely! Here the original lie/omissions lay over far greater lies; something malignant (which itself covered a hidden nothingness).

  9. Dr. Steve,
    This jesse james story is pretty intriguing. Have you checked out the blog written by one of her victims?

    Assuming this is all above board and not, as one of the youtube commenters suggests, a set-up for some upcoming movie, you have to wonder how great the abyss of emptiness and despair in somone’s psyche must be to go to such lengths to scam someone in this way. Or are they so thoroughly twisted that they think this is normal behaviour?

    One time the disordered woman I was lucky enough to recognise early enough as such said to me: Ian, I don’t play games, I don’t know how to manipulate people. I don’t have the intellect or even the time for it.

    Yet because I was one of her convenient sources of narcissstic supply, manipulation was the bread-and-butter of our so-called friendship from beginning to end.

  10. ian – It’s revolting isn’t it? To say, “I don’t manipulate” in order to manipulate…the image of Russian dolls comes to mind.

    Like you, I’m very intrigued by this and other forms of deceit. So much so that I’m probably going to start a spin-off blog in the new year which will do little more than tell stories of mendacity (fiction and non-) – after a while, most supplied by readers I hope. (Otherwise I’m going to clog the works up here with one ghastly tale after another!)

  11. Dr. Steve, most people have the empathy/compassion chip — so they can’t understand the depth of the pathology.

    Maybe you already heard this party joke, on how to spot a psychopath. If they get the answer, they’re a psychopath:

    A woman’s mother dies. She attends the funeral with her sister. At the funeral, she meets a man, who is just perfect — in every way, he is the man for her! But he leaves, and she has no way of contacting him or knowing who he is.

    The next day, the woman kills her sister.


    Psychopath answer: to see the man again.

  12. swivelchair – Oh man, that’s so bad!

    1. A variant of the test might be:- if the person see it as a black joke – not a psychopath; if they see it as a logical exercise, on the other hand…

    2. I think you’re on to some thing here – the reason why the most heinous psychopaths get sympathy or refusal to believe their guilt. (I still can’t really believe that OJ is a bad guy, for example; I mean, he’s so likeable!) Answer, people’s compassion chips preclude this knowledge!

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