[MUD-Dev] Who Killed Miss Norway?

rkoster at soe.sony.com rkoster at soe.sony.com
Thu Apr 24 10:50:04 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

Note: This message was written via the list web archives.  There is
no guarantee that the claimed author is actually the author.
Original message: http://www.kanga.nu/archives/MUD-Dev-L/2003Q2/msg00147.php

On Thu, 24 Apr 2003 00:44:23 -0700
"Richard A. Bartle" <richard at mud.co.uk> wrote:
> On 15th April, 2002, Kristen Koster wrote:
>> And it seems most of the anger and bitterness from our playerbase
>> is directed at the individual, not at Tracy Spaight for the
>> article and the awful news.

> I'd have much preferred for the LegendMUD community to have seen
> an advance copy of the article, so it wouldn't have come as such a
> shock.

We were able to give them a summary of the article via the Legendary
Times, the newsletter for the mud, a day in advance of the article
being posted.

The Legendary Times article, written by Kristen mostly, reads:

start quote--->
___                                                                   ___
\  |-----------------------------------------------------------------|  /
/__|                      The Editor's Note                          |__\

This is probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to write. Just
knowing the pain and anger that it's going to cause many members of our
community has kept me wishing that it couldn't be true -- that one of our
own would never do something so heart-wrenchingly painful to their peers.
I'm not even sure if the length of time that has passed will dull or
sharpen the pain for many of you.

Let me just say that I don't for one second believe that this news
invalidates anyone's personal feelings (then or now) nor should it
prevent anyone from allowing themselves to touch and be touched by the
other lives of those around us in the community that we've built here at
LegendMUD over the past nine years.

Now that I have everyone good and scared... which really wasn't my

Sometime in the next week, an article is going to be published in Salon
(www.salon.com) revealing that the death of Karyn of the Norse Traders
was a hoax.

The article is written by Tracy Spaight, a documentary filmmaker who has
been working on a documentary called "Real People, Virtual Worlds" for
about a year and a half now. He heard about Karyn's death while he was
interviewing Ptah for his film and hearing about "A Story about a Tree".
After sharing her story with Richard Bartle, for whom it set off warning
signals, he decided to investigate and found the following:

* the woman in the Miss Norway photo is named Trine Solberg Lepperod, and
  she's alive and well and had never heard of LegendMUD when contacted
* there's no record of a University of Oslo law student (as Karyn claimed
  to be) dying in a car wreck in that year
* there was indeed a car crash in Norway on the given date, but there was
  only one victim, she was a lot older than 24, the car wasn't a Porsche,
  and her name was not Karyn
* GeoCities states categorically that they would not have allowed a third
  party to update Karyn's webpage under any circumstances

The article speculates that Karyn was actually a male engaging in
cross-gender roleplay. Many of the classic signs are there: refuses to
give out or makes up real life info, presents self as really gorgeous,
makes self into a community leader, gives the same real world name as
their alter ego, etc. The death hoax is a way of disentangling from the

No, I don't know what date the article will be published, only soon. Yes,
I've read the whole article, but I can't share it with you all before it
is published. We are likely to get more newcomer traffic because of it,
we may even get obnoxious people claiming to be "her"... please try to
not let this upset you.

Tracy Spaight has done his best "to be fair to all parties and point out
that the point isn't to make fun of a community for being hoodwinked by a
hurtful deception. Rather, the point is to reflect on what is really real
in a virtual world -- especially given the growing popularity of virtual

We regret the pain and anger and hurt this will cause those of you who
felt close to Karyn. Ptah's original point behind "A Story About a Tree"
still stands -- that the emotions caused by online interactions are real.
If anything, this episode, which is sure to cause renewed grief and
anger, merely proves that all over again. We've seen many friendships and
even some marriages emerge from the LegendMUD community, and we can't let
this revelation make us approach the world cynically.

After all, either way, the person we knew as Karyn is gone, and it's OK
to grieve over that.

<---end quote
I also wrote a brief update for my website on the issue, which

start quote--->
If you are here today, odds are it is because of reading this.

  Revisiting the Garden of Remembrance

  A few years back, I wrote that some of the events from the Ultima
  Online days were going to get seized up by the playerbase and
  turned into some of the formative myths of cyberspace. I never
  expected that one of the things that people would seize on most
  fervently was A Story About a Tree. In the end, sadly, it has
  turned out that like most myths, it has a kernel of truth circled
  by layers of fiction and wishes.

  A few weeks ago, I started trading emails with Tracy Spaight, a
  documentary filmmaker who was researching Karyn's story. He came
  to the conclusion that it was a hoax, and you can read about his
  investigations in his article for Salon.com.

  How do I feel about this? To be honest, very much like I felt at
  the time that the events in A Story About a Tree took
  place. Stages of disbelief, anger, and sorrow, the
  all-too-familiar pop-psych litany.

  Right now, as I write this, members of the LegendMUD community are
  going through the same stages, a few weeks behind me, as they
  learn for the first time of this deception.

  Here's the thing, though: we come back to myths not because they
  are true, but because they are True. So I am going to state this
  as bluntly as I can: I am not ashamed about having been taken
  in. Frankly, it's not the first time, and I am sure it won't be
  the last. But I would much rather be willing to approach other
  people online without endless layers of hardened cynicism, than to
  have to live a life online always skeptical of others' intentions.

  To me, the heart of the story still stands: that the bonds we form
  with others online are real. Realer, it seems, than the people
  themselves, sometimes.  The crux of the matter is that real or
  not, Karyn is lost to us. And to me, that fact will always be
  deserving of a Garden of Remembrance.
<---end quote


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