[MUD-Dev] Who Killed Miss Norway?

Koster Koster
Wed Apr 30 07:54:02 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

From: Richard A. Bartle
> On 28th April 2003, Matt Mihaly wrote:
>> did as many people take that hoax seriously as people say?

> It doesn't surprise me that people at LegendMUD reacted the way
> they did to the death of a friend. What does perhaps cause me to
> raise an eyebrow is the fact that no-one twigged Karyn might not
> be all she claimed to be at the time.

It might help to know more of the culture of LegendMUD. Several of
the classic signals that normally would tip someone off were
obscured by the circumstances.

  - It has always had a fairly global userbase, with heavy usage by
  Australians and Europeans (particularly Scandinavians)--as high as
  25% of the active userbase at times, I'd estimate. Someone being
  from Norway raised no eyebrows whatsoever.

  - Particularly back in the day, it had a highly eclectic userbase
  as well, not at all centered solely on students. Among the players
  (and these are things that have been verified through personal
  interactions) there were professional genetic engineers, working
  lawyers, single mothers with kids, military special ops, several
  hearing-impaired people, and one guy who was pretty convincing
  when he stated that he was one of the top three or four people in
  the world in the study of grasshoppers. These days, it's many more
  students, of course--but in those days, if someone was a student,
  there were fair odds they were doing graduate studies, not high
  school or freshman year in college. Someone who was a law student
  and ex-beauty pageant contestant also fit right in; in fact, such
  was the culture that claiming to be a a beauty queen was mostly
  greeted with "oh really? How neat," and moving on.

  - LegendMUD is also driven to a large degree by subtle parody and
  strange humor. For many years now, the chief piece of ongoing
  roleplay has been driven by the notion that there are a group of
  players who worship the Dark Lord, a Lovecraftian guppy from
  another dimension. The fact that Karyn put references to Miss
  Norway in her title, and organized beauty pageants within the
  game, were in many ways regarded as just manifestations of the
  same sort of parody. The whole Miss Norway thing was never taken
  very seriously by Karyn herself, as I recall.

All this is to say that at the time, Karyn was just "there." She
wasn't standing out in any way in terms of her character, and unlike
many hoaxsters, she was not aggressive about her presentation. She
was simply a valued member of the community who organized guilds,
attended events, and made a lot of friends.

Probably the biggest factor that led to belief was that when she
departed, it occurred after two months of disappearance. There was
no dramatic exit at the time--rather, it was two months of absence
that led people to go looking. This is of course similar to the case
on the Well, but most hoaxes I have seen since have involved a
tipoff so that the whole community would turn its attention to the
event--an email reporting "so and so has died," or the like.

Lastly, the documentary evidence provided at the time was fairly
convincing.  A photograph of a wrecked car, alongside a scanned
article from a newspaper, in the right language, with the right
dates when you backtracked two months... I doubt that at the time
any of us had experienced a hoax that elaborate--and in fact, I
haven't seen one since, either, and I have come across a half dozen
faked deaths since.


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