(Note: the title is a reference to the Kaycee Nicole hoax from 2001.)
About a year and a half ago, I started reading a weblog called Plain Layne (found it on this list of best blogs of 2002), ostensibly written by a young woman from Minnesota named Layne. PL was my soap opera. Some people watch Friends or American Idol, I read Plain Layne.
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.
Late last week, her site was taken down and replaced with a bit of Polish text. And that (plus the fantastical series of adventures that Layne was constantly and consistantly embarking on) set people wondering:
Is Layne real? And if so, how real is she?
The main investigation by the people that frequented PL is taking place on a site called “strip mining for whimsy”: plain layne and the mystery of the missing sidebar link. It’s a long, long thread, so I’ll summarize the high points for you:
1. No one seems to have met Layne in real life. Several people (including a close friend of mine) have reported either wanting to make plans with Layne and eventually being rebuffed or making plans with Layne only to be stood up.
2. There are a number of connections between Plain Layne and a noted Web journal from a few years ago written by a woman named Acanit, who won a diarist.net award in 2001 for her writing (archive of Acanit’s site). Similar writing styles, similar topics, similar themes, PL contains phrases borrowed from Acanit’s site. They both wrote that they lived in the Twin Cities in 2001. Some photos of Layne (or “Layne”) (presumably from an early incarnation of Plain Layne) were hosted on the same server (aptura.com) as a version of Acanit’s site.
3. The author of PL is highly familiar with Minnesota and the Twin Cities in general (I can attest to that) and is also familiar with what is going on there at any given time (weather, shows, etc.). The author, whether a woman named Layne or not, most likely lived or lives there.
4. There is ample photographic evidence that a young woman matching the description of Layne exists. Photos here and here (these are from old or cached versions of her site). No one knows if the woman pictured is Layne, a model, or an unsuspecting someone.
5. Attempts to track Layne (or anyone she wrote about on her site) down in the real world have failed so far. By her own admission, Layne attended the University of Minnesota, works at a prominant Minnesota-based multinational corporation she nicknamed Minicorp, lives in Woodbury, has a sister named Drew, an ex-fiancee named Lauren who is currently taking architecture classes at the U of M, her parents are from Koochiching county in northern MN, and probably a hundred other little details that could be used to track her down in real life. No luck so far.
There’s all kinds of speculation as to what Plain Layne is:
- a group fiction exercise
- Layne is real and so is most of the site; she just used Acanit for inspiration
- Layne and Acanit are the same person, one or both of their sites are fiction
But there’s no evidence to support any of those theories conclusively. What’s more, most of the people doing the research (former commenters on Layne’s site) know each other only online. If one of us (I’m including myself in the research group) says we’ve met Layne or know where she works or vouches for her in some way, how do we know that person is a) real, and b) telling the truth? What if a long-time commenter on PL is another of Layne/Acanit’s alter egos? What if several are? I can vouch for my existance (I think it’s pretty clear by now that I exist and am not part of Meg’s grand plan to get written up in the New Yorker) and I’ve met a couple of people IRL who have infrequently commented on PL, but that’s about it.
However this plays out, it’s fascinating. Many whom now think Layne is fake are pretty pissed about it; they feel betrayed. And I guess I’ll be a little disappointed if it all turns out to be a hoax, but all in all, the site was entertaining to read while it lasted. I’m going to open the comments on this one, just in case anyone has any information to offer. I know several folks from the Twin Cities still read my site, as do a few old school journalers that may have some info on Acanit’s journal.
This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.