Dave on Wheels: The quadriplegic blogger who turned out to be a hoax
Last week, the story of a young, optimistic quadriplegic blogger named David Rose hit the internet, triggering an outpouring of support and admiration. Shortly after the story went viral, Rose died, and his fans were left grieving. "Could the universe truly be this cruel to a deaf, quadriplegic man who just wanted to make the world smile and asked nothing in return?" asks Neetzan Zimmerman at Gawker. "No." It turns out all that grief was for naught: Rose didn't die because he wasn't even real to begin with. Here, a look at a completely fabricated story that caused a collective cry from cyberspace:
How did this all unfold?
The now-deleted blog "Dave on Wheels" was created in August 2012 as a platform for David Rose, allegedly a 24-year-old deaf quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, to write about his life. Rose claimed he was able to type with the help of an eye-tracking device called Tobii. He maintained active Twitter and Facebook accounts, complete with photos of himself in his wheelchair. Rose used the blog to answer reader questions about his condition, and in his Tweets, often tried to find humor in his dire situation.
And he had a large following?
Yes. Rose's Twitter account went from having eight followers to more than 7,500 after the popular website The Chive posted a story about the young man on Oct. 8, calling him an inspiration to all. He's "articulate, hilarious, philosophical, and grateful for every second he has," the post said.
When did things start to unravel?
A few days after Rose became an internet sensation, he wrote that he was suffering from pneumonia and had checked into a hospital. On Oct. 11, his alleged sister, Nichole, announced that Rose had been "whisked away by angels," but pointed readers to a blog post David had supposedly written before he died. "i have to go now," the statement said. "i love you all. i really do. you are amazing. i will never forget you!" While admirers were grief-stricken over Rose's death, some bloggers became suspicious. One pointed out that Rose's tweets were sent from an app called TweetDeck, which someone working from a Tobii device would not use. A death record search turned up empty, and further investigation revealed the photos on Rose's site actually belonged to a West Virginia man named Hunter Dunn, who does actually have cerebral palsy, but isn't the Twitter star David Rose.
So who's behind the hoax?
The "Dave on Wheels" character has been online since 2007 and has gone through numerous iterations, says Gawker's Zimmerman. "For instance, he was once able to walk." In a long, angry blog post, a woman named Kristi-Anne claims to have proof that a 53-year-old San Francisco man is behind the whole thing. She accuses him of using the story to get close to young women, who he had often invited to come visit him. (See her full investigation here.) A comment from someone using the handle "Nichole Rose" left the following admission of guilt on Kristi-Anne's page: "David was just a character, a part of my psyche... In hindsight it probably would have been better just to shut it all down." The purported faker also apologized to Hunter Dunn for using his photographs in the scam.