YouTube and the Louise Paxton Mystery
I like YouTube and I find myself spending more and more time on there. My visits are usually spent watching clips of American television comedic stars of the 1950s, 60s and 70s such as Jackie Gleason, Dean Martin and Johnny Carson. You watch these guys and you realise what is missing on television today. Recently, I discovered a series of videos that are very different and much more modern. Louise Paxton’s channel page and her series of strange and frightening videos has caused some fierce debate in other YouTube videos and on the comment threads. Her videos use the medium of YouTube to create a mystery narrative video-by-video in a more updated form of serialisation. In the first few videos (which were all made and posted in 2007), the twenty-three-year-old Louise Paxton explains how she is starting a video blog to keep in touch with her friends, as she is moving from her home town of Norwich to an apartment in London. She is rather vague about her reasons for the move, and a number of motives are subtly suggested. She is trying to make a new start after a difficult end to a long-term relationship, and her grandmother has passed away leaving her inheritance money, which Louise uses to put down a deposit on an apartment. The first few videos are not menacing at all. They mostly show her enjoying her new home. But then a new narrative begins to emerge. Louise starts to believe she is the victim of a stalker. The videos show her up late at night too terrified to sleep: she can hear strange noises at her door, shadows flicker across the screen and things begin turning up in her flat for no apparent reason. Is it all in her mind? Is she really the the victim of a stalker or is it a case of the paranormal? The tension builds and the final video contains a truly shocking climax. It is of course all a hoax, although there appears to be plenty of internet users who think it is genuine. The videos are supposed to be casual blogging but they are in fact well acted and directed episodes in a serial internet drama. The videos seem to be partially inspired by Gothic drama and are vaguely reminisicent of Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, which fooled thousands of Americans into believing they were genuinely being invaded by aliens. To perform such an elaborate hoax is ethically dubious, but the videos are genuinely compelling and the perfect alternative to television in our internet age.
Below you can watch one of the first videos in which Louise believes the stalker is at her flat. Although it is well worth watching all 38 episodes in order.
Read my follow-up post, Zoe Richards and the Louise Paxton Hoax.