Plain Layne (and other fake bloggers)

image The big news in the blogosphere last week was the revelation that a blogger named 'Plain Layne' wasn't who she said she was. Of course if you, like me, had never heard of Plain Layne before, then the news didn't mean a whole lot. But the people who thought they knew her seemed genuinely shocked.

Plain Layne wrote about her life, and her life happened to be far more exciting and racy than the lives of most people, which is why she had a fairly large following. Jason Kottke has provided a great summary of some of her experiences:

In the past two years, Layne has discovered she's bisexual; fell in love with a Spanish go-go dancer; made room in her home for her cousin's pregnant girlfriend and now her newborn infant; met up with one of her birth parents for the first time; recounted a fling she had with a former boss (who had a girlfriend at the time); hinted at a rape she endured in Mexico (which turned her into a lesbian); charmed a straight woman co-worker into sleeping with her, becoming her girlfriend and then fiancee (!); broken off the engagement with said co-worker; frequently hooked up with one of the ex-fiancee's friends (another straight girl, if you can believe it); most recently slept with three women in the same week; and somehow, as all this was going on, held down a job at a large corporation working 80 hours a week managing a very successful IT group.

About a week ago Plain Layne's weblog disappeared and was replaced by some random text written in Polish. Faced with this vanishing act, her readers quickly realized that no one had ever laid eyes on her, and internet sleuths soon uncovered clues suggesting her non-existence. There's speculation that her weblog was actually some kind of group writing project... i.e. Plain Layne and all her adventures may have been the creation of many people.

At this stage in the life of the internet, I'm surprised that people feel so shocked and betrayed by this revelation. After all, what were they expecting? The phenomenon of bloggers assuming fake identities is hardly a new one. Here's a brief list of previous fake bloggers (or suspected fake bloggers) that I'm familiar with:
  • Kaycee Nicole Swenson: a middle-aged woman who claimed to be a 19-year-old girl dying of cancer
  • Belle de Jour: Claims to be a London call girl. Probably a writer who has never been a prostitute.
  • Rance: Claims to be an a-list Hollywood celebrity. Probably not. Possibly an obscure cartoonist named Keith Thomson.
  • Hot Abercrombie Chick: Claims to be an attractive young college co-ed. Probably a guy named Daniel Zeigenbein
  • Flashman: LiveJournal weblog that ended abruptly accompanied by a (false) claim that the blogger had died rushing into the World Trade Center to save people on 9/11.
  • She's a Flight Risk: Journal of a twenty-something woman who claims to have run away from her wealthy family and become an international fugitive. Widely suspected to be a hoax.

I'm sure there are thousands of other fake bloggers operating out there. But these are the most famous ones that I'm aware of.
Update: The real author of Plain Layne comes clean. She's a man.


Posted on Tue Jun 22, 2004


I am honored to be in the museum of hoaxes, (sort of) but I notice you didn't bother to cite the Esquire article. 😊

Posted by isabella v.  on  Tue Jun 22, 2004  at  11:49 AM
But who cares anyway? Who knows whether yourself are for real? Or, this universe?
Maybe it is already replaced by some universe even more bizarre than this one? (DNA)
As long as the bloggers are entertaining, I couldn;t care less, whether they are fake or real.
Posted by Chipo  on  Tue Jun 22, 2004  at  02:00 PM
According to the new Entertainment Weekly they have an article on are old friend Rance and they show some of the people who could be Rance which has George Clooney,Jim Carrey,Ben Affleck and Owen Wilson.

The article concludes that Owen Wilson with this statement

"Nope,it must actually be Wilson. Clearly,the man was possessed- it's the only way to explain teaming up with Eddie Murphy for I Spy".
Posted by Hollow Man  on  Tue Jun 22, 2004  at  02:47 PM
A comment on the Rance blog: I don't know if it's relevant or not, but Rance was the name of an incompetant constable in the first Sherlock Holmes story, "A Study in Scarlet".
Posted by Michaela  on  Tue Jun 22, 2004  at  02:54 PM
isa isn't a hoax.
Posted by someone who knows  on  Tue Jun 22, 2004  at  07:20 PM
i belive ya hon, family can be your worst enemy. but like all costume jewels and ford trucks, 80%hype..still a better writer than moore. and easy on the eyes...*winks*
Posted by bhunter/p.i.  on  Thu Jun 24, 2004  at  09:56 AM
I do wonder why an international woman of mystery would describe a street in Austria as "the Michigan Avenue of Vienna." Unless she is from Chicago, she would not make such a comment. I'd expect something about Fifth or Madison Avenue instead, NY being a much more likely place to find the social set (and so much more understandable) for her thirsty readers who live outside the U.S. Midwest). I'd start looking at the Pritzkers (or, more likely, someone who's been running in their circles). It's easy to disappear if you want to. Why leave such a huge trail unless you want to get caught?
Posted by a healthy skeptic  on  Fri Jun 25, 2004  at  04:06 PM
I came across this blog name "Diary from Baghdad", does anyone have an idea if its a hoax or not, this is the url
Posted by xtasy  on  Wed Feb 02, 2005  at  03:41 AM
xtasy, try posting your message in the main forum

You'll probably get more of a response there.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Wed Feb 02, 2005  at  11:46 AM
There is a lady who has been making up false stories on paperbackswap and She tries to sabatoge people who disagree with her.
Posted by Shannan  on  Sun Jun 22, 2008  at  04:32 PM
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