Something very similar happened to me around that same time, though with a very different outcome. It's amazing the mayhem that can ensue when you have a totally anonymous world to work with.
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
I met Audrey back in the nascent days of the Internet, when we were both on AOL, regular contributors to a message board devoted to screenwriting. I was just starting out as a writer, and might have optioned one or two things for a few hundred bucks (if that), and Audrey was someone who enjoyed the witty banter of writers. Her posts were funny, acerbic, unsentimental and smart, and one of the many things we bonded over was our enormous admiration for author Harlan Ellison.
Eventually, Audrey (one of two people and a dog whose names I’m changing here) and I met in person, and found that the friendship we’d had on the Net translated well to the real world. She and her boyfriend Simon (the other name I’ve changed) became good and regular friends. Simon’s a nice guy — British, and a little distant and shy, but I always liked him. They were good friends to each other, but they made no pretense that it was about love. When they got married, it was more for convenience and legal gain. Simon always seemed like someone to whom love was a sticky joke, something to be avoided. And Audrey always claimed she liked it that way. She’d been through a lot of shit in her life, been married once a long time ago, and was happy with the arrangement. “He doesn’t bore me,” she’d say. “That’s better than love.”
As well as I knew them, I was dead certain about one thing all along — no matter what she said, or how much she stressed what a great arrangement she and Simon had, she was not happy. She loved him, or, at the very least, wanted love from him. She wanted what we all want — someone who doesn’t just understand us and laugh at our shitty jokes, but someone who’ll be there to hold us in the cold, dark nights and help us cope with the indescribable loneliness of finite existence.
Years go by, and my career takes off. Harlan Ellison becomes a fan of a film I wrote, A History of Violence, and invites me to write with him, adapting his short story “The Discarded” for the ABC series Masters of Science Fiction. In the process, we become spectacular friends.
Harlan is one of America’s great short-story writers. He’s won more awards in more categories than you can count, for stories like “ ‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman”; “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”; “A Boy and His Dog”; “Jefty Is Five”; and “The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World.” He edited the wildly successful and influential science-fiction anthology Dangerous Visions. He’s also famous for his seminal work in TV criticism, The Glass Teat, not to mention his work in television itself, having written some of the most memorable episodes of The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, and one episode of Star Trek that is acknowledged as the single greatest episode of that show, “The City on the Edge of Forever.” He has been a tireless crusader for civil rights, the Equal Rights Amendment and a host of other worthy causes. He also cooks a mean chili.
So now it’s about two years ago. AOL is ancient history. Audrey is getting her Internet fix on the HBO Deadwood message boards. And that’s where she makes a friend named Janna St. James, who lives in Chicago. Janna’s a former reporter who worked out of the Associated Press office in Aspen, Colorado. Her claim to fame was that she conducted a major interview with serial killer Ted Bundy. Audrey and Janna exchange e-mails, stories are told; I suspect some secrets are revealed, or at least hinted at.
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.
Something very similar happened to me around that same time, though with a very different outcome. It's amazing the mayhem that can ensue when you have a totally anonymous world to work with.
Happy to hear there are people in the world that can band together to thoroughly kick ass like that. I hope that in the end, karma does bite that disturbed creature in the ass somehow. However, she may well do more damage before this happens and as stated, her next victim might not have the loving kind of friends that might pull her out of the emotional devastation that a person like this causes, which could end very badly for the victim.
Wow! Surprising and unsurprising at the same time. The world we live in gets stranger all the time. The internets appear to have taken ahold of this story and begun to drag this multi-legged beast out into the scathing 15-minute light of fame. I feel very sorry for what Audrey went through, but this is really a wake-up call for all of us.
I ran into a person like this too, who tried to dupe myself and friends. I didn't fall for it, a few of my friends did. I was pissed when this person started turning my friends against me, as though I was the bad guy because I didn't believe a word "he" was saying.
But no matter how pissed you are, resorting to the amount of isms in this article is disgusting. Never mind the writer lording over everyone, as though he is somehow better than everyone in this article. Also, he seemed jealous of someone finding love, even if it was false. What was the point of the addition of his 'brief relationship that broke his heart'? It had nothing to do with the story. It's terribly written, long-winded and offensive.
When I found conclusive proof that the person my friends were associating with wasn't real, I didn't mock them for it. Hell, I didn't even judge the person who wanted friendship so badly she pretended to be someone she wasn't. They could probably use some support, but I didn't call them insane. They weren't insane. Lonely? Probably. Troubled? Yes. Crazy? Hardly.
We weren't angry. We thought it was strange, especially since she had tried to coerce several of my friends into relationships. When we confronted her, she broke all contact with us. She'll probably do it again, because she likely feels inadequate or unworthy, which is common in our society. So she makes up a story, that's fantastic and wonderful and makes her (or him, depending on the gender she pretends to be) sound great, so that's she never lonely. So that people are sympathetic and love her. It's wrong to trick people, but honestly? I feel sorry for the way everyone treated Janna. Even if she was mentally ill, being horrible to her will likely only exacerbate the problem. She'll do it again because she KNOWS people hate her.
I hope for Janna that she finds help, that she finds a good friend that will support her. As for Audrey? She has all the help she needs. I don't feel sorry for her. She'll be fine.
I hope you're just trolling. For someone to go through that much in a two year period and then to empathize with the attacker? I mean, she fell in love, went through the process of moving, then mourned him when he died. That's a lot of emotional rape, especially since none of it happened. Audrey didn't ask for it; no one knew this was going on.
Oh, and Janna obviously had some type of guy friend, so she isn't alone. And, honestly, she could find a friend online and still be herself rather than a make-believe hero. So yes, she definitely is certifiably insane.
PS. I like the writing style.
To quote TvTropes, the site that linked me here, and probably others: "This woman mind raped [Audrey] for two years." For two years, this woman was emotionally strung along, having her life played with like a puppet in this sick woman's hands.
And you pity the abuser (and that's what she is, make no mistake) instead of her victim? You dare say "Oh, well, I was in a situation kind of sort of like that and I managed to handle it just fine!", lording your "moral superiority" over Audrey and her friends?
Holly Q., you disgust me. At least Janna has the excuse of quite probably being mentally ill. What's your excuse?
Guys, this was atrociously edited. "Stuff muffin" (somewhere around page 4)? It ends with a COLON (instead of the traditional period), for God's sake. Someone hand me some smelling salts.
Holy shit. This woman, Janna, is obviously about as psychotic as a person can get without actually taking the last leap toward serial killing.
It couldn't get any more perfect that she's posting here with multiple names trying to be "anonymous defenders for Janna," either. Kind of brings the whole thing full circle, doesn't it? Apparently she's demented enough that she doesn't understand no one but her would possibly stick up for her.
I hope your friend "Audrey" overcomes the crazy inflicted upon her. Best wishes.
DGPWell-spoken!The woman was mentaly-ill and what she did was wrong. But this guy loved every moment exploiting this unfortunate event, and doesn't miss and opportunitie to say that he is friends with Harlan Ellison and that "You don't argue when it's Harlan Ellison" and Harlan Ellison this and that. Josh Olsen is just the proverbial prick who feels superior to the "little people" and who still wants so bad to have sex with "Audrey", trying to lure her with this "Best Friend always here for you" card. I bet that this "Audrey" (another attention seeking whore) is laughing at the expenses of every "friend" she has. The only thing tragic and human here is the sad story of a lonely, mentaly-ill human. As far as Josh Olsen and Harlan whats-his-name and Audrey go, they are the typical new rich thirty-something people who step over anyone to get what they want.Oh, and by the way: " A History of Violence" was six years ago, asshole. Stop feeling superior just because of that film. And don't even pull the "At least I made a movie" on me. I didn't make one, 99% of people didn't make one, and we don't care. Films are fun. We go to theatre, have a great time. Then, when we go home, life and its problems resume and we go on. Don't think to highly of yourself, asshole. And get over "Audrey". She won't be beautiful and rich forever.
While this woman is obviously a scam artist and probably mentally ill, there is something very ugly about the tone of this article. Olson feels the need to mention St. James' weight and appearance several times. For those who would defend this, I ask: why not describe the other people involved in detail? I suppose he could argue that he was avoiding this to "protect the innocent," as he did by changing their names (although that doesn't stop him from gratuitous mentions of his good friend Harlan Ellison). There's a general tone of contempt for the "little people" which is ironically just what feeds this kind of attention-seeking madness.
Having found Janna's blog, my guess is the man that "Audrey" spoke to was her former husband. Her blog has some pretty demented rants against the players in this odd drama.
Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy so many people are interested in a partner who is tall??
women want a tall man and men want a tall woman.
There are many sites focusing on this kind of relationships such as
~~~~~ UK Ta ll DATE.com ~~~~~
For all of you that think Audrey is a fraud and Jesse is real let me tell you a story from 30 years ago when I knew Janna St James in Basalt Colorado, before and after she became mentally ill. She was my friend for 10 years. The first 4 were fine. She changed after that. She was from Chicago originally and alluded to the fact that she was involved with the guitar player from Styx. I accepted this because up in the Aspen area there were lots of people involved with lots of famous entertainers. She even had letters from the band, postmarked from foreign countries. She even had the piano player writing to me. She had me fully involved. She kept me away from her family so I could not talk to them about her past, her fake brother, her former husband, her dance career and so on. this went on for years, with the guitar player's mental illnesses, the piano player's thoughts of divorce and his letters to me. She was thorough. The band would be in Denver, but they just missed me, on and on and on. So many letters and cards from different areas. Janna finally moved away when the lies were being discovered and ended up in Chicago. 3 years ago or so I was contacted by someone in Pagosa Springs,Colorado about another fraud with Dan Fogelberg. Then I was just cruising google and low and behold. There is no Jesse, no Styx, and no Fogelberg connection to Janna St James Priggy
Holy cow, what a bizarre tale... I found a link to this article when one of my favorite bands (otep) shared it on twitter
Was it really necessary to point out she was "morbidly obese"? That's not good journalism, that's childish antics.
I have very recently had an encounter with an internet friend I met in Second Life, who suddenly died after months of tragedy and illness; name of Jessica Jillian James.Various "collective detective" investigations point to the death being a hoax, and some IP checks I did on emails and other records have proved there were sock puppets involved using the same chicago IP address that the recently deceased Jessi was using, the story is too long and still ongoing so, I won't post the details. The names and locations are alarming enough.
sad for all involved. this article solves a mystery for me in that many years ago i got an email from someone who identified themselves as Dan Fogelberg. i couldn't believe it was true, and, without explaining details ended up talking on the phone to Janna St. James (who was supposedly a friend/neighbor of Fogelberg's....and might have been. i don't care.) janna claimed to have information and claimed it WAS Dan or, if not, then it was a disgruntled Fogelberg employee, etc.
i did not pursue any of it any further. i talked to janna a few times, then lost touch. grateful for that.
as a person, and gestalt therapist, i understand Josh's anger here. i might take that stance myself if i were personally involved in the audrey/jesse saga. yet i'm not, so i choose to put a prayer out to the big U that janna receive the help/healing she needs and does NOT prey on anyone else. and that audrey be healed and take what light there is from this darkness. i'm imagining many 'lessons' were learned that can serve audrey on her journey forward. i, personally, trust the way my life unfolds and know even the most devastating times are great blessings and hold something i need to learn when i am open to that learning.
This was a fascinating story, I found Audrey's "Piece of Fakery" blog online and read most of that as well. I'm confused on one major point though. Audrey posted thoughts about Jesse and their epic love in her other blog, back when he was still "alive," did she post the photos Jesse sent her as well? Did she share them with any of her friends? Did anyone point out to her that a lot of those photos (especially the snaps of Jesse) all looked like they had been taken 20+ years ago? You can tell by the hairstyles, clothes, and furniture, as well as the deterioration of the photos due to time. I find it incredible that multiple people might have looked at those photos and nobody called BS on the photos of Jesse and his house.
She fell for an elaborate emotional scam, and I do not fault her for wanting to believe. I would have probably fallen for everything except for the photos. (I think Jesse on the phone was the evil one herself, disguising her voice and hiding behind an exaggerated accent. How Jesse spoke on the phone is explained more in the blog.)
This kind of thing happens alot - and Thank you for telling us about it. I hope this serves as a warning to others...I feel for your friend...I hope she still trusts her self and others...This janna is going to rot in hell....if she can fit her fat ass though the gates.
I was blown away by this story (which was very well and compellingly written, by the way) and believe it to be true because I myself have been similarly harassed for over two years now by a woman (who used to be a good friend) who creates "sock puppets" in order to attempt contact with me. This woman (lets call her "Pat") has joined most of the Internet Groups I belong to using different false IDs, some male, some female, in her efforts to maintain contact. Like "Jesse", "Pat" goes to the trouble of inventing entire lives for these fake people in order to seem real, but her creations are all similarly shallow and she has certain characteristic phrasings and personality quirks that leak into these zombie IDs. Through experience I can now pretty quickly spot when a new stranger is really "Pat." In any case, I agree with the writer that "emotional rape" is what is being committed, and that people who do that deserve the label "monster." Part of "Pat's" game is for her phony person to present him- or herself as extremely noble and heroic, then to have horrible tragedies happen to them in a play for sympathy from the other Group members who don't understand that this is all fantasy. Its very much like this "Jesse's" modus operandi. And strangely enough, "Pat" is also morbidly obese. (Yes, I think the person in the photo could be in the morbidly obese range.) Its so freaking creepy to choose to screw with people's minds and hearts that way. I have no way of stopping my harasser, though; at least I know who it is and she can't hurt me anymore, but I guess I just have to endure her obsessive posting until one of us eventually dies. I cheer for you and admire that you actually did something to stop your friend from further "rape" by that twisted sack of excrement.-Little Namo
Would your friend have been less damaged if Ms. St. James were thin and beautiful? Bringing up her size was a low blow, and pretty hateful.
There are SO many people out there doing this nowadays that it's sickening.
I just... don't understand it.
That is totally INSANE! Why would someone do that???? How long did she plan to keep it up? It's really scary.
Words kind of fail me. I'm not a stranger to this sort of situation, being part of a group that also was fooled by someone who spent years posing as another that we all cared for. One of the group was invited to come out and live nd work with the false personality we all thought existed. In the end though... NONE of our situation was as extreme as this one.
Powerful piece. Excellent writing. Thanks Josh.
Holy living hell. I actually know of a situation similar to this one, but not QUITE as sick and twisted...The fact that there was a guy involved in it really tips it over the edge for me...
There was a case similar to this in the Philadelphia area just recently. A girl about the age of 14 met a guy on the internet. He was her age, sweet and charming. She was thrilled at the attention. Then he suddenly turned on her. He said terrible things to her and about her. The young girl was devasted and took her life. The boy she gave up her life over never even existed. He was the invention of a woman who lived on the same street as the young girl and was the mother of one of her friends. Unlike Janna, this person was arrested and charged.
Really prefer not to comment, having put Janna (Hopper) St. James well in the past. No way to read comments without posting?
Laws may be about to change in the wake of 13-year old Megan Meier's suicide in the wake of being duped by an adult posing as a 16 year old boy. I hope so. Thank you for sharing this story.
Sounds like a guy I met on line who claimed to be in Law School. Creepy dude who made up stories about the girls he found online. Too mean to deal with his own emotional issues. Deal with people in the real world, don't fall for e-fantasies. You can sniff out most liars by the first date.
EVERYONE seems to think they KNEW Jesse. And none of "those" who still think that, are addressing ANY of the discrepancies that have come to light. Let's review. 1) The emails originating from the same Chicago-land source. Isn't it more convoluted to think that ALL "his" friends sent their emails to Janna first, than to accept it was all a scam? 2) AND HERE"S A BIG ONE. The shocking similarities between THIS case and the scam Janna pulled on the Fogelberg board, which is also "out there"! 3) The emails of encouragement Audrey got from Jesse and his 'friends." Encouragement you apparently didn't know about. THAT'S in evidence too. 4) Then the damning emails, Audrey received after his "death", from many of "Jesse" "friends" for not making more of an effort TO BE WITH HIM. Which flies in the face of your assertion that EVERYONE in Jesse' camp was against the relationship. YOU obviously didn't know as much as you thought you did. 5) The naive, stupid idea that one would or could enlist a cavalry of friends to lie their asses off in the first place for ANY reason. Not to mention the questionable sanity of people who would do it and willfully SUSTAIN it, long after they had even any *ostensible* reason for doing so. To wave ALL this away as friend's loyalty rather than the... 6).. sock puppets described in the MUNCHAUSEN BY INTERNET info is really a stretch. 7) How would Audrey have very personal items in her possession, *clearly* meant only for "Jesse," if "Jesse" didn't send them to her? 9) And if "he'd" back stab and lie to someone else, how can you feel secure he wouldn't back stab and lie to you? 10) It's become obvious, that LIKE THE FOGELBERG board, this all started with CELEBRITY WORSHIP. Only in THIS case the flirtatious, flattering celebrity was real. He just let a game go too far. And the obsessed, fan was unwilling or unable see the early sign that clearly read "Game Over." Apparently everyone on the board had their heads up their asses too, since no one called her out on it (proof that tight knit communities have dangers as well as benefits). Janna sure got an eye full. So even if Audrey is a malicious bully, a skank, spoke too enthusiastically about her "relationship" (given the celebrity situation, I don't doubt it), etc... -- it's irellevant. With "Jesse" she had every reason to believe, people who KNEW him were ENCOURAGING it. NOT THE LEAST WAS "JESSE" "HIMSELF". The board does reveal that Audrey doesn't grasp what a person with average awareness would. Which helps explain why she overlooked the early, paranoid, rambling emails about internet fraud and stalking, "Jesse" trashing other list members (females), etc... sorry bipolarity don't excuse everything. All this shows it that Janna is well educated on her victims before she moves in. And NONE of them seem able to read what's in front of their faces for shit. ALL OF THEM, including YOU -- unless you ARE Janna -- resort to sloppy sentiment and wishful thinking as justification ... where reason would only allow, that something was stinkin' like the Fulton Market.
Many people know the truth from the spin because we were there witnessing the Audrey & Jesse spectacle unfold. Many knew Jesse and couddn't fathom the bizarre public boasting of Audrey who tried to portray their friendship as a love affair. Common opinion is that Audrey in her desperation to find and contact Jesse has created this public article to pressure Jesse's family in the aim of smoking him out into the public. Ironically, while she claims to be a victim Audrey has cyberstalked and cyberbullied numbers of innocent people simply because they knew him and refused to enlighten her as to his whereabouts. Audrey is only the victim of her own foolish boasting and desire to possess and control the lifw of a very sick man. I imagine this will be deleted as it refutes 'the story.'
This is sad and tragic. .many people post photos of themselves on the net but not of themselves . they are not predators they are shockingly lonely too and needing 'friends'. Someone usually falls fo the photo and the face and many phone calls turn this meeting into a love story .. the false photo one has to end the relationship eventually.. the good thing is that these love affairs usually are short and intense and could last between 5 weeks and 1 week. . intense feelings are not unusual for a one week 'relationship ' and knowing someone by voice for one week is not the real deal although the one being hurt thinks its the end of the world.Dont fall in love in one week on the www.. its all infatuation and the person of our desires moves on to someone else to love for a another week .. its lonliness.. when somone takes an interest and the phone calls are about love everlasting in the space of a week. . even if you think you have met your soul mate. . its not real. Its not real and millions use fake photos and fake names. not to hurt anyone but to get attention.
Lonliness can do that.
Move on, meet someone face to face and put it down to internet experience. It happens all the time.
Its a strange world in cyber land and its not always deranged people out there . just very lonely people looking for love.
Not many find real love any more. Thats life.
I think it's total crap that LA WEEKLY is deleting some posts here. How convenient. The truth is out there.
You guys know something?...I feel really bad for Audrey/Paula. She is like one of the many victims on AOL and other areas of Internet land. So sorry it happened to her. Now let's all look at the bigger picture, Jesse ( who may or may not have been real) Blue Jay, whom we all assume was a figment of someone's ( Janna's) stupidity and all the other characters can't really be damaged by the fraud, BUT Dan Fogelberg was lied about, impersonated as a totally horrible person, people were told so many lies about him being bipolar, the numerous diseases he had, so many phobias, his meanness, his womanizing, the breakdowns, the trips to rehab, suicide talk, bad things about his wives, people were led to believe he was the one stirring up all the trouble and hate on the boards, all things now known to be TOTAL LIES! At the time though people believed most of it and many fans started to dislike his actions, there is so much more I can't remember, but it seemed to many of us that someone (turned out to be Janna) was trying to destroy his name, his good reputation, because he was so private, people didn't know much about his private life, except for what he revealed in songs. So another story that should be coming out here is the scam pulled on Dan Fogelberg and his fans because he is a real live person who was scandalized and his whole person has been torn to pieces by an insane idiot.I believe his reputation and his career were tarnished ! He is also a victim here!!
I am not sorry for Janna either. While some of us just had fun with the craziness of it all, and struggled to figure it all out, and still haven't, others were very serious in their belief they were having a romantic adventure with an at the time, unmarried singing legend. Some of those people changed their lives to keep it going. I still can't fathom what the crazy game was all about, is she a closet lesbian and all that shit got her off? Is she really married, I don't think she lived with a husband while she resided in Pagosa Springs Co. Was she in love with Dan F.? With Jesse? Was there a "Blue Jay"? Does she have any "real" friends? Did she invent those friends just to get attention from lonely gullible women, to go on vacations and visits to their homes, have them so beholding to her, they would have to be her friend, send her expensive gifts? We watched it all unfold on AOL and other message boards and chat rooms all over the Internet and she hurt people, they were pulled in for a wild ride, for months of sweet talk. Then openly chastised in chat rooms, e-mails and Instant messages. Was it all a power trip or total insecurity, paranoia, maybe she is the bipolar person. I just have so many questions? She needs to fess up tell people why she did it, it's not one scam, there are many, many people scammed by the same person. Did she crave attention that bad? Poor Audrey, poor numerous victims all over Internet land.Poor future victims of all scams, it needs to stop right here!
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