If there’s anything we’ve learned from the Violentacrez scandal, it’s that anonymity on the Internet can be easily unmasked–for better or for worse. In the case of quadriplegic Internet sensation Dave on Wheels, it was for the worse. This is the story of how an anonymous blogger tricked the Internet into believing that he was a deaf, wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy sufferer using a special computer to communicate with his thousands of online fans.
David Rose was a 24-year-old Orange County resident who kept a blog, Facebook and Twitter account where he posted inspiring and wry missives about his life and battle with illness. (All of these accounts have since been deleted.) He had communicated with hundreds of online strangers as far back as 2007, when he first registered his Facebook profile.
Last week, Mr. Rose became an Internet sensation when The Chive published a series of his inspiring tweets. Two Chive models, Erin Willett and Sarah Hill, developed tight bonds with Mr. Rose, even creating YouTube videos especially for him. News outlets quickly caught onto the story of the paralyzed young man with a rosy outlook. He seemed a beacon of positivity in a place–in a world–where negativity flourishes. His earnestness made the Internet’s snark seem mean-spirited and pointless.
Then–as suddenly as his fame had come–Mr. Rose passed away from pneumonia. His doting sister Nichole Rose, who helped him maintain his blog, published an inspiring letter he wrote just before his death. Kim Kardashian even tweeted a quote from the letter.
Mr. Rose had gained fame in his death. Next would come infamy.
Confined to a wheelchair, he claimed to tweet and blog from a machine called a Tobii, which tracks users’ eye movements, allowing them to communicate. His sister, Ms. Rose, also maintained an active Twitter account and helped him update his blog.
But a reader named Kristi-Anne was skeptical about Mr. Rose. He claimed to use the Tobii, but Twitter showed that all of his tweets came from Tweetdeck. Upon further investigation, she discovered that the supposed photos of Mr. Rose were actually of someone named Hunter Dunn, a West Virginia man who actually has cerebral palsy and who actually uses Tobii to communicate.
It was then that Kristi-Anne, who started a blog called “Dave on Wheels Exposed,” knew that this was all a hoax.
Kristi-Anne discovered that not only was Mr. Rose fake, but so was his sister, Ms. Rose. The duo were characters created by an anonymous blogger who–as soon as the story of Mr. Rose began gaining fame–knew he had to shut down the hoax before it escaped his control. This resulted in the sudden death of Mr. Rose, landing a final blow to his hoards of devoted fans.
In conclusion, Kristi-Anne wrote on her blog:
So all we can really be sure about is that “David Rose” is not David Rose, or a deceased young man born with cerebral palsy. We can also be sure that this story is much more complex than any of us really understand. We don’t know for sure who, or why, but we can all assume. What we can be sure of is that there is someone out there, much more intelligent and inspirational than “David” ever was and his name is Hunter Dunn. And who knows, maybe this was fate’s way of trying to give Hunter the credit he so clearly deserves.
An anonymous commenter using the handle “Nichole Rose” surfaced almost immediately after the blog went up, copping to the hoax and ironing out some details. In the comment, the anonymous blogger wrote that “no celebrity or fame was intended in this ruse….the quick and furious fame is actually what brought about the end of it all.”
The commenter continued:
David was just a character, a part of my psyche, and fame would soon reveal what it has revealed today. So, the character passed. In hindsight it probably would have been better just to shut it all down and have everyone wonder what the hell happened, but the final post was meant to have the effect it did. To inspire people to love and live a better life, and the public knowledge that it came under this false pretense takes it all away. I hope that people who were moved by it still live by it, but it seems unlikely. It’s possible that more damage has been done in your reveal than in the original deception.
The anonymous commenter went on to explain that not only does David Rose not exist, neither does his “sister” Nichole Rose. The picture he used of her was actually a headshot of a girl who was once in Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” video.
“To all of those people affected, from those I’d never exchanged a word with to the ones I’d had lengthy and heartfelt conversations with over the years, I apologize. I am very, VERY sorry for the hurt this has caused you,” continued the commenter.
It seems the hoaxter has been working on this complex ruse for quite some time. The David Rose Facebook page was started back in 2007, and after some online sleuthing, Betabeat has learned that Mr. Rose also had profiles on Stickam and PalTalk. Comments made by him on Stickam, however, reveal that his name was originally Davis Will Rose, and he was communicating with people through a gmail address: daviswillrose@gmail. Betabeat emailed this address, as well as the Gmail listed for Nichole Rose, but both emails failed permanently and bounced back to us.
It appears that Davis Will Rose also commented on a cliff notes summary blog post that he had recently moved to San Francisco. His PalTalk profile states that he lives in San Francisco with his sister and her husband.
Had this persona always been confined to a wheelchair? In the comment he notes that he often “walks around” his new neighborhood:
Thank you Annie I love this post! I am new in area and have been reading San Francisco blogs to get a feel for the city. I have also been walking around Mission neighborhood a lot and I like Valencia, there are lot of nice bars and beautiful girls lol.
The thing is I have cerebral palsy and often get varied reactions so I almost never initiate conversation with a woman like this man did. Usually I either get women who won’t look at me at all or will smile and engage me right off which is less than ten percent. The other day a woman ask me if I had tips for her about her 2 year old daughter has cp. Odd question but I know she was just seeing it as chance to learn something so we had a nice talk until her bus came.
I like this post because I see that I should be open more to initiate conversation. Thank you and thanks to the brave man who did not care if you would think he was a creepy weirdo!
In addition, Mr. Rose’s best friend Kate Vickery, whom the anonymous commenter claims was never in on it and was also a victim of the hoax, created her Twitter profile the day after Mr. Rose’s blog went live on August 31, 2012. Her Facebook account has been around since January 2009. Ms. Vickery has extensive profiles across the web, including on Photobucket and YouTube. A tweet sent by Dave on Wheels to Ms. Vickery–who identifies as a lesbian–reveals that she had met Ms. Rose:
@shine7602 omg lol. that awesome pic. you meet nichole now you like her? i never meet guy who not like her lol. will tell you stories later.
But if Ms. Rose is fake, how is this possible? Is Kate Vickery behind this ruse, or was her name and likeness co-opted by the anonymous blogger?
Ms. Vickery’s Twitter still exists. “I know u still check on me. How could u leave me? Our friendship was not a hoax, U lied, but you made me a better person.#betrayednotangry,” she tweeted today.
Whoever is behind the David Rose hoax, it’s clear that he used the persona of a sick, struggling young person in order to get closer to women online. The many David Rose profiles amassed across a plethora of social networks have collected hundreds of young female friends with whom Mr. Rose communicated publicly, at the very least.
The story of David Rose is yet another chapter in the the annals of Internet hoaxes. Dave on Wheels could have maintained his lie had the story not hit the mainstream media. But that meteoric rise brought skepticism, and the elaborate web woven by an anonymous blogger was eventually revealed for what it was all along: one big, fat lie.