The Kaycee Nicole Thing

Anthony Temple

This morning I ventured into Tesserae's journal, which I seldom do anymore, and discovered a commentary referring to a scandal involving a woman named Kaycee Nicole and another woman named Debbie, who were apparently one and the same. I knew nothing of this, and I adore scandals, so I used the link Tess provided (since taken down), which contained a summary of the entire affair.

We were living in a cave during the last year and knew none of this. It intrigues me, however, as a case of online personae taking on lives of their own. The simple act of using a handle, or disguising your true age or gender, so as to ensure privacy (women often use male names on line so that they won't be propositioned in chatrooms, for instance), can lead to the creation of an entire new personality, one who may develop his own characteristics quite distinct from those of his "host".

Metaphysical theses have been written on the nature of this creative process, which is made possible by the nature of the Internet, with its combination of privacy and almost limitless ability to choose for oneself.

While the "Quietlady" escapade described in Sandy Stone's Violation and Virtuality was instigated by a male psychiatrist posing as a woman in order to learn more about how to communicate with women in his professional capacity, Kaycee Nicole was originally a young girl's imaginary friend, with her own online presence. For some reason her mother took over the name and herself began posing as Kaycee, styling her as a wealthy, white, dazzlingly beautiful, terminally ill college girl. Millions of readers were charmed with Kaycee's online diary describing her heroic struggle against illness, and her final tragic demise. Only now have we learned the truth. People have reacted with shock and dismay, and a feeling that they've been had. They're right. But by whom? And what remains to be learned from it? Perhaps it's not as simple as you think.

I understand the feelings of Kaycee's readers, especially those who became close to her and who now count themselves as victims of Debbie Swensen's assorted fictions. However, getting close to anyone, for whatever reason, involves a certain amount of risk and the chance that you will be hurt. It's your responsibility to attend to yourself.

It's an old, old story, much older than the net. Some people still believe Ernest Malley was a real person, too.

I believe in personal rights and their attendant responsibilities. I appreciate the freedom of the Internet that allows me to present as my true self, unencumbered by the body which I (occasionally) wear. It is very freeing not only to me as a member of a multiple system, but to my imagination. Unlike Tesserae, I do not dream of an internet where we are all required to provide our legal names and tell only the earth world truth about ourselves. I think this would be dull as beans, among other things. It would also be detrimental to multiples like myself who want and need our own online identities.

Matter of fact, I see the Kaycee affair as a type of Trickster phenomenon, like the "Enigma/Light Scandal" some years ago on the old WWIVnet (pre-Internet). Take it as a sort of artifact from the universe, a speed bump on the information superhighway (ewww! sorry) designed to jar you awake. It has a message, a lesson: Choice. You must decide what you want from reality in its many dimensions (TV, radio, internet, &c.). Will you use it, or be used by it?

On the internet, as with radio and television, the boundaries of earth reality and metaphysical or creative space are chronically blurred. Even the evening news is partly a matter of misdirection and manipulation. "Who are you really?" becomes a moot question. For all you know, my partner's cat is typing this all while I sit out on the porch smoking cloves with his teenage son. Or not.

This is a paranoiac's nightmare. It is also a blessing for multiples.

This, not any widespread epidemic of Satanism, or of psychiatric misdiagnosis, or fantasy-ridden teenagers, is why there are so many self-acknowledged multiples online. Creation of online personae for MU* environments, email lists and roleplaying games, is an excellent way to explore your identities. In this way, you can discover for yourself, taking your time about it, not pushed by anyone, whether or not you are multiple. And if you know damned well that you are, you can give your others free rein to explore the net for themselves under their own names and in their own voices. This is empowerment; making your own choices.

We hear so often that multiplicity cannot be self-determined, that the choice has to be made for you by a qualified therapist. This loss of control, this giving over control to an authority figure, was the cause of all the epidemics, scandals, and witchhunts. People have been told they were multiple, when they were not. Convinced that they'd experienced horrors in childhood and forgotten all of it, when nothing of the kind had happened. And the backlash has turned the clock back a hundred years, affecting multiples and abuse survivors alike. Now you are likely to be told that you are not multiple, especially if you know that you are.. and if you remember being abused as a child, especially if it was very brutal, you are likely to be told that you are fantasizing.

The Internet gives you the power to explore, decide, and decide again. Quite possibly, it is the tool that will allow multiples at last to become acknowledged in the mainstream, and their many selves as persons in their own right.

Think for yourself.

Other Essays by Anthony Temple

Multiplicity and the Media How television and the movies contribute to the social perception of multiples as evil freaks.
On Integration Why it is neither necessary nor desirable... and may be impossible.
Multiplicity Is Natural We have been sold a bill of goods about a "mental disorder".
No More.. A tirade on multiplicity as sickness.
Removing Diagnostic Labels Multiple personality does not belong in the DSM.
Our Truth For those who would help us recover from denial.

Validation and Language in Multiple Personality An answer to the often-asked question "Does this happen to anyone else?"
Why Activism? Because if we don't, others will attempt to "help" us, in ways we neither need nor want...

More Kaycee Nicole, and a few other similar cases

Kaycee Nicole on Wikipedia Who was she and how did this get started?
Kaycee Nicole on Snopes with details about other similar events
End of the Whole Mess PDF ahoy! But worth it. Summary of the bizarre events on the Blogger weblogs and, May 2000-May 2001.
Comments about the Kaycee thing on metafilter: May 18, 2001.
A Beautiful Life, An Early Death, A Fraud Exposed New York Times article.
Click here for the Kaycee Nicole FAQ
Deconstructing Kaycee This article explains the "violation and virtuality" aspects of the Kaycee Nicole story.
Life and Death of a False Warrior From

Here's a very similar case in which some of us were peripherally involved, from 1993.

Life & Death of Jesse James Another very similar story. Again, these people aren't multiple. This is about people who have an obsessive need to lie, not about groups of actual persons sharing a body. It has much more in common with the Megan Meier case than anything else.

If you think this phenomenon is only as old as the internet, click here.

NO COPYRIGHT! All writings by members of House Astraea are COPYRIGHT FREE. Permission to link to, manipulate, publish and/or mention in print (paper, electronic, etc.) any material written by members of House Astraea is granted. Any re-broadcast, reproduction or retransmission of the pictures, descriptions, and accounts of this game without express written consent of Major League Baseball is hereby granted.

Astraea's Bookstore... a full line of books on multiplicity &

Visit Anthony | Email | Guestbook | FAQ | Astraea home | Multiplicity | Religion | Politics | Anti-Psych | Anti-FMSF | Silly

Back to where you were