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It has come to our attention that a community member going by the name of Anna Johns is in fact a girl named Abbie who fabricated her story. Anna Johns has now been removed from the site.
She has posted a message to a Facebook group accusing her of being a fake to confirm this:
I am so sorry to those of you who have spent time talking to, supporting and crying for Anna and her family.
Personally I was taken in by this story too. But I would always rather be tricked because I am too trusting, than fail to support someone who genuinely needs it because I am not trusting enough.
***I would like to take this opportunity to remind you all NEVER to share personal details, send money or swap Facebook account details. I would suggest that you never even tell people your real name.***
The person who has done this deserves our sympathy. Munchausen's by internet is a recognised condition and I hope that Abbie gets the help she needs. You may find this article in the Guardian helpful to explain a little about the thinking behind something like this.
We take your security very seriously on this site, but there is very little that we could put in place to prevent someone who is determined enough to create an entire false life from joining the site. You can protect yourselves by not sharing your contact details, however sure you are that someone is real and needs your help.
You can offer plenty of support via the Community site, and also remain totally safe and secure.
Once again, I understand how much sadness, disappointment and anger there will be around this, but please do not let it distract you from the main purpose of the site which is supporting each other. You all do such a fantastic job and it would be so sad if something like this managed to ruin that.
Sorry I had not seen your further reply.
I am sorry, I am completely taken aback by the whole thing!!! I can't believe someone who was, at the time of joining, 15 could be so academic and savvy with EVERYTHING!!! She could "hold court" on ANY subject in chat.......it just seems soooooo bizarre!!! I believe it but i really dont want to believe someone is that ill??? Rebecca, does this have anything to do with Rainbow Butterfly (is this another "persona" of Abbie's??)
There is no connection to Rainbow Butterfly as far as I'm aware.
I have removed Anna's blog. To balance the loss of the awareness raising aspects of the blog, I will draw attention to childhood cancer awareness month which is December on the news blog. I hope that's ok?
Have a good weekend everyone, and please try to help each other through this difficult time.
You have a good weekend too. Your referrenced article brought me up to speed. "Muchausen by internet" and photo maniputlation....whatever next. !!!
I am learning fast. As it appears to be pathological there is not much we can do to prevent it.
Have a good weekend everyone!
Rebecca, you are a very forgiving person and I would not want to change that for a moment.
But real harm has been done here and although it is nice to talk about good coming out of bad, we first of all have to repair the damage done.
Many of the fraudsters on this site are out to make money and would not want to stay for two years, and they are quickly spotted and dealt with. Anna Johns was different and what she stole from us was our emotional security and our faith in our judgement. Some people will be so hurt by this that they will leave this site because they will not have confidence in how genuine is the support being given others because they fear that they may be helping someone who is just playing with us.
That is a terrible loss to the integrity of this site, where there are so many fantastic people giving of their time to help others in genuine need of support.
I found myself today wondering about how many of the people I have met on this site are genuine and have taken comfort from the fact that I know the vast majority are.
Those remaining will carry on giving help and support and hoping that the person they are helping is genuine. But we will wonder for some time to come.
We often say to newcomers that this is the best place on the internet to find help and support because of the vast experience of the members and the first class security.
Let's keep it so.
It's just unbelievable that this could go on for so long, the girl is obviously in need of psychiatric help - and although she has hurt many good members of this Community, we mustn't be put off from supporting anyone that needs it. I agree with Colin in that we should try and repair the damage and carry on with the good work of Macmillan.
I have to say, I thought from the first that Anna was fake, but kept it to myself, as my reasons for doing so were tenuous to say the least, and not to apportion any blame, the administrators of the site wouldn't have acted on my gut feelings, so instead I stepped away from the site. I still loitered to contribute to the forums and contact people with my own cancer, but I left chat, cos I thought I'd lost my touch with reality and my ability to spot fake from real. I did however have Anna as a "friend" on facebook despite my suspicions and often caught up on her "Caringbridge" blog, nothing I saw convinced me that she was genuine, but still the reasons for me suspecting she was fake were not strong enough for me to report her.
I felt awful for doubting that this woman and her daughter were real. I felt even worse when "Charly" died that I could feel no compassion, because of my doubts. I hated myself for thinking that a poor innocent child could be dead, and that I thought it was fake. But I will not waste a minute more of my precious time (after this) giving any thought to Anna, Charly or Abbie... they are not worthy of it. The earlier episodes with Squiff, Ali-Doodle and Rainbow-Butterfly (all one person), Danielle, Carly, and so many more have taught me to move on, otherwise I will be consumed by hatred and a need for vengeance for all the hurt they cause.
Can I give you some tips? Most but not all of the fakes turn up in "chat" cos they need "real time" reaction to their situations. When you meet people, ask yourself "Would I..."?. Would you spend all your time writing blogs, chatting on MacChat or posting on facebook if your child was dying? I wouldn't. Would you ask on facebook for someone to come babysit, cos you had to take your poorly child to hospital? I wouldn't. If you were a young professional mum, would you have only a handful of (photoshopped) photos of your dying child of your blog/facebook page? I wouldn't! And if you were that same professional mum, would you have 1960s swirly carpet in your lounge? I wouldn't!
I am sorry I felt unable to share my concerns... oh and as for Rainbow-Butterfly being Anna... hmmm, well when she was Ali-Doodle, she was "being treated" at Addenbrokes, which is a lot nearer Anna's home town of Kings Lynn, than her own of Salisbury, and Salisbury's not all that far from Abbie's home town of Exeter, is it? Something to think about... except I refuse to!!
Stay real and stay supporting each other, you're all great at it!
Spot on marsha you are so right
ALL chat rooms are wide open to fakes and frauds and everyone needs to be soooo carefull.
and i dont blame you marsha for not saying anything because if you had even typed " i wonder if" you would have been jumped on...
as for her being a young girl......DONT believe it
this liar / fake could be male , could be female....could be any age....anyone can go on facebook and pretend to be someone else...
remember the other " girl" a few years ago who tricked so many on here for quite some time....
John Oconnor...it may not effect you that much but some people are totally shattered when they find out they have supported a liar...some end in tears and find it a struggle for weeks ..
so many have left over the years..
to those who run this site and i dont mean the admin team
SORT IT...THE BUCK STOPS WITH THE SITE OWNERS to find a way to keep fakes and frauds off tere site even if it means having the right to ask members questions IF need be...
stay well xxx
Too true, Graeme, I very much have my doubts about "Abbie", as you say anyone can be a troll and anyone can pretend to be what they're not... I simply cannot believe that I was talking to a 15 year old girl, but I won't give it any more thought...
Graeme, how do you suggest admin stop the fakes? Short of a face to face interview and inspection of the medical records of a patient involved it is impossible. Basic checks are in place and admin have a good record with chasing away fakes. Sometimes someone gets through and it is up to us to be vigilant. It is a good point that they work through chat where records are not kept and where they can use PM to target vulnerable individuals. I'm not sure whether Anna johns worked in that way, she was just seeking attention.
Marsha I understand why you didn't report your suspicions and I must admit that I would probably have done the same had I been so observant, but I was duped with everyone else. I'm sure admin would not have slated you if you had reported it and it would have been confidential.
Perhaps admin should set up a watch list which is confidential so that people like Marsha can report their suspicions without fear or favour. They can then follow the activities of the suspect until they are satisfied. The trouble is that watch list may be very long and unmanageable!
I am totally shocked. I rarely blog but log in most days to see how everyone is getting on. I felt so much pain for 'Anna' and the family - my nephew was diagnosed with cancer when he was ten and, thank God, is in remission now at 13, but has a shaky future. I have a healthy daugher of 21 (also called Charlie) and a wonderful husband and I consider myself lucky but the fear that entered all my family's lives in 2008 never goes away and I cried so much when I heard of the death of 'Charly' thinking would it be my nephew next. I applaud the fantastic forgiving comments from so many of you but I can't quite get there myself. I remember reading comments from so many people who took this fake family to their hearts and must now feel so confused. If this person is so sick then I do hope they get the treatment they need but my love and thoughts tonight are with all you amazing people who fight so many difficult battles and yet still have the time to give support to many others. My special thoughts go tonight to Celiswan (sp?) who gave so much support and has such a big heart and all you other wonderful people who care so much.
After hearing about this well orchestrated hoax I am deeply saddened that we have all been used so callously. I am however relieved that a child has not actually died. As has been said, we will all come across 'fakes' throughout our lives (whether it be in real life or our cyber lives). Sometimes we will recognise them and other times we will be taken in. At the time it is very upsetting and hurtful and leaves us questioning our own judgement. (I have experienced this in my working life). I hope that everyone can begin to recover from this and not withdraw from the support network which is so important here.
Sending love and angel hugs to all x x x Patricia x x x
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