Catfish-Like Internet Hoax Unravels After Blogger's Online Persona Goes Viral

David "Dave on Wheels" Rose was just your average, 24-year-old, deaf quadriplegic with cerebral palsy who used an eye-tracking device to write inspirational quotes on Twitter.

That is, until a Chive post earlier this month propelled Dave to the kind of super-viral stardom most Internet navel-gazers only dream of.

His motivational words touched millions around the world with the help of many mainstream outlets, including The Daily Mail, RadarOnline, and a retweet from the matriarch of Internet navel-gazing, Kim Kardashian.

Suddenly, as soon as he came into our lives, Dave was gone.

A rapidly worsening illness shuffled off Dave's mortal coil within a week of his rise to Internet fame. 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?

No.

After Dave's untimely demise, his sister, Nichole Rose, took over, posting Dave's last words to his fans and followers Two Chive models who had become chummy with Dave decided to meet up with Nichole and pay their final respects. However, at the last minute, Nichole sent them a direct message on Twitter with a "feeble excuse for why she couldn't meet with them."

This was shortly after their attention was directed to a blog maintained by reader Kristi-Anne, which was dedicated to exposing Dave on Wheels as a fraud. According to Kristi-Anne, Dave's claim that he was using a Tobii device to tweet was highly suspect as all his tweets were labeled "via Tweetdeck." And a photo widely believed to be of Dave was actually from a 2010 article about a West Virginia man named Hunter Dunn.

Chive subsequently learned through a "real-time death record locator" that no one named David Rose had passed away recently and hired a private investigator.

Things fell apart in a hurry after that.

Turns out David Rose doesn't exist. Neither does his sister, Nichole. The "Dave on Wheels" persona dates back to 2007, but had gone through several iterations (for instance, he was once able to walk).

Dave and Nichole built up quite a backstory for themselves over the years, often tweeting each other to shore up credibility. "If this story was indeed fake, it was one of the most sophisticated ruses we've ever seen," TheChive wrote in its lengthy exposé. "This took years to cultivate."

But why? BetaBeat, which sifted through Dave's elaborate Internet history, notes that the person behind the hoax "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.

Finally, with the lengthy deception thoroughly unraveled, a person claiming to be the blogger behind the Rose persona came forward on the site dedicate to exposing him, and left behind an appropriately lengthy apology, excerpted below:

No celebrity or fame was intended in this ruse; it all came quite fast and was a total surprise. Yes, David has been online since 2007, so I mean the fame part of it. Up until recently he only had a handful of online friends. The quick and furious fame is actually what brought about the end of it all.

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. [...]

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. [...]

I'm sure there will be a lot of talk about this in days, weeks and possibly even months to come, because hey, it's a good story! "Sharp Internet Sleuth Reveals Sham!" Only this story results in a LOT of anger, hurt and betrayal, whereas David's was also a good story that resulted in a bit of sorry but also lives that had been motivated and inspired.

I was sincerely hoping for the latter.

[image via TheChive]