Thursday, May 5, 2011

a little bit about me

I'm a storyteller. Not as in a writer, although when I was little, I always assumed I'd be a writer when I grew up. I admired them, I always did. Still do. I also assumed I'd marry Jack Lemmon someday, and we can see how well that turned out.


But I've always told stories. Not lies to others, but stories in my head, to myself. I'd see a worm in the rain, and he'd have a name (Fred, after the father I never met who wasn't my father) and a backstory (he was braving the elements to bring back provisions for the wife and little worms but he really wanted to work at a big company like CC Baxter) within a minute.  I make up stories for everything - animal, vegetable and mineral. Is it any wonder that Hans Christian Andersen was my read of choice as a child? Still is, did you know I visited his house in Odense? No, you didn't, because you don't know anything about me.


I become immersed in good art the same way. I can see what the artist had in mind, I'm inside that hot, dusty room, hearing the dull sound of the tools in Caillebotte's The Floor Scrapers. I can smell the tang of the suddenly exposed wood. And the sweat.


Good movies and television can also wreck my head, because I embellish - I finish the filmmaker's sentences. I see where they're going, or maybe it's just where I'm going. I started weeping during the first five minutes of Amelie because the way Jeunet writes the beginning, telling people's life stories in less than a minute, that's the way I think most of the time.


In my face-to-face dealings, say a job interview or even just meeting someone new, I still go through dozens of different scenarios in my head, working out the different ways a conversation might go, to prepare myself for any eventuality. I analyze everything, and most of the time I believe in Occam's Razor: the simpler answer is often correct.


This works evidently in my disfavor also, in the case of "Jesse Jubilee James." The TV show Deadwood sucked me in, the density of the story, and how beautifully it was shot and acted. I wanted to talk about it with others. And then I met "Jesse." Who had a story, quite a strange one, but I've known real people with stranger stories. And stranger names. (No llamas, though.)

Why am I a storyteller? What made me like this? Who knows? I'm an only child - lots of only children have to spend a lot of time entertaining themselves. I had bad shit happen to me as a child, lots of upheaval, maybe that's one of the ways I dealt with it, and now it's just a part of who I am. My therapist says I have excellent coping tools, perhaps because they never stay in the shed long enough to rust.

Don't get me wrong, I have a great life, an awesome life. I'm not a sad sack who generally sits around moping about what Janna did to me. I deal with the aftershocks of Janna the way I dealt with the aftershocks of the rest of my life. The difference with Janna is that most of the other bad shit was accidental or exceedingly brief. They were short sharp shocks.

What Janna did to me was intentional and orchestrated to hurt me, over a long period of time when she was aware I was fragile. Who invents a purported love of someone's life and then has them DIE? Janna could have closed up shop anytime she wanted. All I had for "Jesse" was a cellphone number and PO Box address. She could have disappeared at any time, or said "hey, y'know, I found a nice local girl to date." I would have chalked it up to disinterest and forgotten about it. But she milked this, she fed off my grief with the personas of more than a dozen people. She watched me get sick and, impersonating "Jesse's" doctor friend, diagnosed me. (don't worry, it was a weekend when I couldn't see my regular doctor, and I did see him right away that Monday, I'm not that stupid). She could have not given me an address, or accepted any of the gifts I sent, or at the very least, not encouraged me.

It's the malice aforethought I have problems with. I was on that message board for a year before Janna showed up. She watched me, she learned things about me, and then she struck.

And yes, perhaps Janna and I are two sides of the same coin, perhaps that's how I fell for her scam - by being the kind of person who fills in the blanks, and for trusting that since every other individual I'd actually met in person from this message board had proved to be real, that "Jesse" would be too. And because, who does that? The other women that Janna scammed, I think they're all storytellers too. I think she chooses us for that reason. It makes her job easier.

Janna's a storyteller, too, but she uses her talent to take things from others under false pretenses. Doesn't that deserve punishment?

I've tried to be patient here, I really have. I've answered many questions over the past several weeks. Because it doesn't seem to be letting up and I'd like to continue to remain a non-sad sack, I'm going to step away from this for a bit. Rest assured, I'll be back at some point, and I'll try to answer your questions in a civil manner.

If something interesting happens with the case, I'll update, of course.

23 comments:

Kristy said...

Thank you for sharing this. I have been reading your blog since Sept of 2010 and I admit it's nice to know something about you..aside from the Janna stuff. Needless to say I find you to be a very likable person. I enjoy the way you write, and I find that's what keeps me coming back. Not the Janna drama, but you. The people in your life are lucky to have you. You seem like a very good person. I wish you much happiness.

Anonymous said...

"she uses her talent to take things from others under false pretenses. Doesn't that deserve punishment?"
Yes. Yes she does. I have always maintained that if someone is simply a "storyteller" on the internet, and label their "stories" as fiction, when the stories ARE fiction, they are not harming anyone.

I can imagine the comments you are getting here. I was scammed almost in a similar manner, and when I exposed my harasser, they suddenly went from "loner on the web with no friends" to someone who suddenly had dozens of bloggers on their side, posting hate to me, and strangers were leaving death threats in my inbox daily. Always from an anonymous, free email service. Always.

It was the reason I pulled the site after nearly a decade. I was simply sick and tired of the threats. Of people knowing my full name. Of people fucking with my mail, my real world, all over someone who was clearly a pathological liar.

I hate to admit it, but I have fallen for these liars SIX TIMES in the eleven years that I have been prowling the web. Those are some bad stats. There probably will be more. There's always a Debbie, a Gina, a Janna, a Becca, a Roxanne, a Jenna who is going to go great lengths to fabricate their existence on the web and fuck over the ONE PERSON who sticks by them because they truly care about them.

Long story short: You are not an idiot for falling for what Janna did. You are not gullible. You are not pathetic. If anything, Janna and her kind are because they thrive on this. They thrive on being fake because their real selves are so sickening, they can't reveal them to normal people and make friends.

Maybe this will make you smile, or laugh. It kind of sums up people like Janna and the people who think their victims are "crazy" for exposing their bullshit.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWSP2c9J8CQ

Take care. And don't let the assholes get to you.

Anonymous said...

I wish you wouldn't allow "those people" whoever they are, to get into your head. Maybe they aren't, but they sure are dedicated.

The story is pretty simple. You are CLEARLY an honest, trusting, lovely, sensitive, person. There is no need to explain or apologize. What a fucking shame we have to guard ourselves against not just people like Janna, but also all the anonymous trolls who believe themselves to be smarter, or better or both. They are just empty.

Good luck, dear girl. I don't know if you're still approving comments, but this is just for you, so no need to approve!

LQ

Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad. People get taken advantage of all the time, yeah the story seems ridiculous in hindsight but hindsight is 20/20. Some people get taken for thousands and thousands of dollars from internet scam artists, so you aren't alone.

Greg said...

Hi, I read a news story about court proceedings and stumbled into this bizarre Janna mess. I am sorry about what happened to you.

I have two questions:

1. Why are you still communicating with this sad Janna lady after four years or so since she was exposed? It seems to me that she is a lonely, sad woman who feeds on the attention that she doesn't get in her real life.

2. Why'd you leave your husband for an internet chimera?

Sheila said...

Greg--

As somebody who has actually READ this blog from beginning to end, let me see if I can take a stab at answering your questions.

1. She is communicating with this sad Janna lady because she filed a lawsuit for fraud. This tends to require communication between parties, albeit communications filtered through lawyers.

2. Despite Josh Olsen's vast simplification of the situation, I get the impression that her marriage was already in the process of coming apart and would have died a natural death even if Janna hadn't invented "Jesse" in the first place.

Ephemerina can correct me on those points, but that was my impression based on actually, ya know, reading what she had to say instead of making stupid assumptions.

Anonymous said...

I have been following your nightmare with interest, and with empathy. What I don't understand, however, is how you got to communicating with all of "Jesse's" "friends and family"? It's one thing to correspond with someone online, to talk on the phone, and develop a relationship with that person, but it just seems odd to get to also get to know their friends and family members that way, too, and to even send them gifts. Was "Jesse" ever introduced to anyone in your life before Janna came to visit you? I've met people online but never once became introduced to their friends and family. Once I have met them in person I might have been introduced to other people in their life.

I'm also interested in knowing how Janna was able to alter her voice so much over the phone. Was she really able to use a voice altering device to make herself sound like a man?

Anonymous said...

@anon - As someone similarly duped by this piece of pond-scum, I have no idea if she used a voice altering device. When I first listened to the youtube video of her being evicted from Audrey's home the voice didn't sound at all familiar (partially because what I was looking at didn't look at all like who she pretended to be.) On second listen I caught the 'tells' in her voice. She's pretty good at accents; and perhaps that is the way she 'hides'.

Meeting the friends and family - that's a theme in her online scams. They just pop up in the same forums, or are introduced electronically because, you know, you are so important to her fake character that the fake friends just have to meet you. I know, it all seems so weird; but the thing that makes this possible is that there is always so much drama and trauma in her characters - hard to notice the oddness, when the weirdness is so over the top. Her main characters are always getting injured, ill, suicidal, raped, abused, used - just screaming out for help and empathy. She manipulates peoples' compassion, which causes a strong bond (like stockholm syndrome, which similarly, doesn't make sense unless you have lived it). Once a person is bonded to another in this way, they can be easily manipulated. It's a much stronger bond than real love. A similar bond is formed in abusive relationships. Thing is, the people JSJ cons, have no idea, for a very long time, what and who she is.

Anonymous said...

I'm "anon" two posts up. I'm just trying to figure out her motivation in these scams. I wonder if in her warped mind this is some kind of "theater" for Janna St. James, where she's her own audience -- kind of an on-line Andy Kaufman, but with outright cruelty and no conscience.

Sheila said...

Her main characters are always getting injured, ill, suicidal, raped, abused, used - just screaming out for help and empathy. She manipulates peoples' compassion, which causes a strong bond (like stockholm syndrome, which similarly, doesn't make sense unless you have lived it). Once a person is bonded to another in this way, they can be easily manipulated. It's a much stronger bond than real love. A similar bond is formed in abusive relationships.

Sounds like a classic example of a sick system (which, interestingly, has a similar tendency to appear unbelievable to the outside observer.) I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if "Jesse's" biggest crises were conjured up by Janna the moment Eph showed signs of asserting herself.

Anonymous said...

Janna was/is very thorough with her characters. Back ten years ago, she had several blogspot.com blogs for her fictional characters, and while she could have maintained them all under the same account on blogger.com, she actually had unique logins and email addresses and image hosting accounts for each and every one of them. This is what made them more realistic to the general internet community. When she graduated to domain names, she got a little sloppy. Her domains were all registered with Godaddy.com and she used the same hosting account. I guess when we're talking putting money into her scams, it's easier to use webspace she already owns. She has also been known to have multiple dial up accounts (AOL and another company), to have different, legitimate IPs. Some times, she was able to carry on multiple conversations with different AOL screen names. Twice, she re-imed me as a friend when I had banned other names of her's.

No one goes through *that much* work for imaginary people. No one. I doubt even the FBI or police do when they're searching for criminals online.

She does this for the gifts. For the attention. Because she can't label her work as fiction and get positive attention off of this. More people visit when they think her characters are real people valiantly fighting for their lives, and more people interact with her. Janna does this because her life is boring, and she wants people to praise her for her strength and talents. Neither of which she has in the real world, but the casual stranger online doesn't know that.

~~~Ms.O

Anonymous said...

@Ms.O - Thanks for some more information on the technical and practical work it takes to be JSJ, con artist. In the scam she was running when I stumbled in, she was using multiple blogger.com pages, plus multiple forum profiles, and of course multiple email addresses. But she was sloppy. Used the same IP.

I have a different hypothesis as to why she does this - I think she gets her kicks hurting people. If she wanted to write these stories for publication she could. But as she is disordered, she would never 'get' the parts of the tritagonists 'right' as she lacks the emotional landscape.

I don't think she wants attention as much as she wants 'supply' - people whose emotions she can inflame and feed off of. She wants the drama and the trauma (just look at her stories). It's the stuff she feeds on. Yes she wants attention, but nailing the motivation behind that is key to understanding why she does what she does and why it is so dangerous. She does it without remorse, with no conscience. And what might that suggest?

I don't know how her own family survives her.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous above, you could be right, but is it her intention that her victims eventually discover that they've been scammed? I wonder how many of her victims never find out they've been set up for a hoax?

Savage T said...

I stumbled upon your blog after reading a article in the Washington post about this ridiculous Janna mess, is that her real name? Sad sad lady..

Anyway, I found it interesting that there is someone out there that does the same thing I do. I have stories for everything. I also think I have scenarios figured out before they happen, they usually don't happen the way I had them in my head. I always thought it was due to being a only child but have been told it is a survival mechanism.. Either way it makes for a interesting life. Although sometimes it makes for a sleepless night.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:40 ~
Janna was able to acquire multiple dial up internet accounts some 10 years ago, so she had different IPs for different characters. For example, the twin girls she imagined were AOL users. Their images were hosted on their AOL screen name AOL Hometown accounts. Her images were on her dial up account with another provider. All of these accounts were dial ups, and it was very easy for her to switch from one account to the other.

Recently, I was checking her old LiveJournal accounts, and guess what? She had different passwords for her imaginary friends, so even the abuse team assumed the fifteen or so accounts that she had there were different people.

Believe me, in the beginning, she really covered her tracks.

She usually communicated with me and some of my friends through AIM/AOL Instant Messenger, which doesn't show IPs. She had dozens of screen names going in different conversations at once. Some were signed on in AIM, some with AOL. It was really mind boggling when I was told by a detective that she was the owner of all the dial up accounts. Because, as Audrey has said, "WHO DOES THAT??" Needless to say, many, many, MANY people emailed me angry letters about the page I put up exposing Janna on the web. No one believed me. They called me crazy. They told me that no one would go to such lengths for just hours of AIM conversations, emails, cards, letters, gifts. But Janna did. From the looks of her other victims, still does.


~~~~MsO

Anonymous said...

Anon @ June 14, 2011 6:50 AM '...but is it her intention that her victims eventually discover that they've been scammed? I wonder how many of her victims never find out they've been set up for a hoax?'

That's a really good question. Straw vote for all of those reading/ writing who have been scammed by JSJ?

Anonymous said...

@Ms.O
Well, I guess she got tired of the dial up speed.

Is your page still up?

Live Journal is to be applauded for their efforts to quarantine and expose con artists. If only other forums were half as conscientious.

It's hard for people to grasp the lengths JSJ goes to to mind fuck people. She's the original multi-tasker; so much easier to do without an emo connection to what one types: http://www.hare.org/links/saturday.html

Anonymous said...

Is Harlan Ellison as big of a jerk in person as he is on TV? He's an extremely talented writer, but a very unpleasant man, to say the least.

Anonymous said...

Hi Audrey,

This Onion article is tongue in cheek: http://www.theonion.com/articles/new-study-reveals-most-children-unrepentant-sociop,2870/

Sound like anyone you know?

Thought so.

Anonymous said...

Do you think she was abused as a child so she feels like she has to make up all these stories about herself (and other personas) to somehow either a. protect herself in some way or b. Make herself seem a lot cooler than she actually is?

I can't see anyone spending so much time and money on this without some *severe* underlying mental health problem. Or maybe I'm just being generous and she enjoys this sort of thing. Either way - wow.

Anonymous said...

@June 26, 2011 9:14 PM -
My page is no longer up. I had it on its own domain name via Dreamhost because they offered me a free domain with my hosting. I went ahead and used that free domain to host all the nonsense that was the scam Janna pulled me through for nearly two years (Again, it was a *year and a half* before I discovered what she was doing). I wanted to distance myself from her crap and my main domain. Plus, I had another site that was a fan site message board for a musician, and a couple of sites that were all on the same hosting account that I did not want to get mixed up with her.

Every day the page was up, she emailed Dreamhost with bogus tales of people calling her, her losing her job, getting rejected for hiring, all because of the website that I had which did not list her job, phone number, or even her last name on it. She wanted Dreamhost to delete my entire account as a retaliation for creating the pages on her. Even after Dreamhost asked her to stop emailing them, she continued. Sometimes under new email addresses. She refused to be ignored.

I still have the site and pages saved. The domain has expired and a domain scalper has registered it. Maybe some day I will put the pages up again, with the tech specs, how she was busted, and so on. Just for general info.

For what it's worth, she told me in 2002 that she emailed me as other people to see if I would talk shit about her. I never did, but she kept on emailing me under these fake names. I told her that at the time she was sending these false emails to me, I considered her a friend, and I don't talk shit about friends. She, on the other hand, hated obese women (like herself), and talked shit constantly about another woman in our little blog group who was obese. I felt so bad for that obese woman, she was really nice.

Anonymous said...

^^ That last comment was by me, Ms O. :)

ephemerina said...

I'm glad that youse guys have been chatting amongst yourselves. It's made for excellent reading. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.