Written by Guinevere
When “Penn Mommy” first appeared in the Gosselin blogosphere, some of us were skeptical. Speaking for myself, even in my short time (beginning around the end of May) chatting (read: arguing) online about the Gosselin family, I’d already run into a few people who claimed to be insiders but whose stories were absurd and who ran away when questioned. So I certainly took the whole saga, “yoghurt” and all, with a grain of salt.
As time went on, though, I began to believe that PM might have some legitimacy. Even though I’m on record as not being Bitter Julie’s biggest fan, I took her seeming endorsement of PM into account (in a recent post, dated October 1, on her blog, Julie states, “For anyone who may be questioning her credibility, let me assure you that she is who she says she is” in reference to PM). Julie has always, it seems to me, tried to maintain a facade of dignified distance from the crazier corners of the Gosselin-haters world, and while I thought the facade slipped from time to time, I figured she would vet someone fairly carefully before vouching for her online.
So while I didn’t necessarily believe every word that PM wrote, I entertained the idea that she did live in the same area as the Gosselins and perhaps had some insider info.
Nina called my attention to some interesting stuff she was capturing on our sitemeter, however. She began to notice a visitor from Bakersfield, CA was showing up – Bakersfield is the same location that “etown mom” - who had previously posted a ridiculous story about living near the Gosselins and how Kate had “screamed” at her daughter when said daughter invited Mady and Cara over for ice cream - had been traced to. At the time, “etown mom” tried to claim that she was on vacation to explain the discrepancy in her location, but she did not post on this blog anymore, at least not under that name.
Over time, Nina began to suspect that the visitor from Bakersfield was Penn Mommy. One thing she noticed was that Bakersfield’s visits to our site often coincided with PM updating or posting to her own blog – on one occasion, Penn Mommy’s absence from her blog for several days corresponded exactly with “Bakersfield’s” absence from this blog. Within an hour of Penn Mommy posting an update on her blog, Bakersfield popped up again here.
I don’t recall if I thought much about it when PM first started blogging about her son’s illness. I do know that as the illness escalated, alarm bells went off in my head. First of all, some of the details – for instance, her claim that rail-crash victims were at the same hospital and the public being urged not to come into the emergency room unless absolutely necessary - struck me as a bit off. Also, call me suspicious, but I’ve heard too many stories of people making wild online claims about being deathly ill or having a deathly ill relative. It’s a way to get attention and sympathy, and in a case like PM’s it’s helpful in deflecting criticism. It occurred to me that she was aware that people might be able to trace her to California, and wanted an excuse to be there (that she had flown out to be with her sick son). Of course, Bakersfield isn’t terribly close to LA (90 minutes to two hours by car), but still, it’s a lot closer than Pennsylvania.
I got a lot of criticism for suggesting that it was strange that PM would continue to rush to her blog and post when her son’s health was supposedly deteriorating. While different people react to stress differently, I would still argue that her behavior was not ordinary – even if you have “down time”, why would you spend even a moment of it contacting people who you barely know and have just recently “met” online, on a blog that is devoted to the criticism of a family on a television show? I would have thought any downtime could be amply filled staying in contact with close friends and relatives, or doing something other than wallowing in the negativity that marks the anti-Gosselin blogs.
But that is just personal opinion, and not proof of anything, of course.
As “Jason’s” status continued to degrade, PM continued to post vociferously about the Gosselins, at one point comparing them (while claiming that she was not comparing them) to a man who kidnapped, raped and murdered a child. In response to the stir that statement caused, and to the squabbling she was engaging in with the poster who goes by “Fiona”, PM posted a statement on her blog on September 26, claiming that she had sent it to GDNNOP (she had not; at least, no moderator here ever saw it). It stated, in part:
“CPS has been notified (MULTIPLE TIMES by MULTIPLE PEOPLE). That doesn't entitle any of you to know why or when or how or the actions taken/not taken.”
…this lead to further drama, and PM then “clarified” on her own blog, on September 27, that she at some point in the past had called CPS on the Gosselins herself. This in spite of the fact that she had previously claimed not to have seen anything actionable in the Gosselin home.
Rather understandably, this only added fuel to the fire. Sometime in the late evening hours of September 27, PM took down her blog. The following day, she made a statement that appeared on the blog of “Bohemian Moon” (and possibly other sites). In her “farewell”, she blames people who “twisted and misconstrued” her words for forcing her to reveal something that she “regret(s) talking about” – presumably, her supposed contact with CPS.
Penn Mommy then largely disappeared from the internet (with the exception of one post, that I’m aware of) for the next six days; the Gosselin blogosphere was kept updated on the condition of “Jason” by “William”, ostensibly PM’s twentysomething middle son. William’s writing style resembled PM’s much more than that of any young man that I’ve ever met. Would a young man barely out of his teens really write the following sentences: “Friends and family work themselves into the fabric of our lives. Where's the Gosselin tapestry?”’
I had several issues with William besides his fondness for unlikely and flowery turns of phrase – he quickly, in the midst of his daily updates about Jason, began beating the same Gosselin-bashing drum that his “mother” had. Again, I was also suspicious of his priorities - this contact with strangers – not just strangers to him, but virtual strangers to his mother – at such a stressful and painful time in his family’s life seemed exceedingly odd to me.
Most of us know and have read the various updates that William regaled the internet with last week regarding his brother’s condition; I won’t rehash all the indignities that poor Jason was subjected to. Suffice to say, he shuffled off this mortal coil on Friday, October 3. One might think that this would be the end of the Penn Mommy saga, at least at it relates to Gosselin blogs, but as of late in the day on October 3, PM had a new blog up: http://willsjonah.blogspot.com/.
But let me back up a bit. The same day that PM claimed to have posted a message to this blog, a message that was mysteriously never received, another poster made the same claim – a poster going by the handle “Jhawksgirl1”. This poster’s location was traced to, you guessed it, Bakersfield, CA. The Bakersfield IP address has also posted as anonymous, Karen (a name Jhawksgirl does admit to having used in the past in one of her posts) and Becky.
There are a few significant things about the “Becky” alias – first of all, at one point, a poster by that name claimed to know PM personally, and said that PM had helped her a great deal many years ago when “Becky” lost her young daughter to meningitis. At another point, Becky posted using a last name; the same last name that William used when he first posted (the last name has, I believe, since been redacted from the various blogs it was posted to).
Last Sunday, I inadvertently let through two posts that mentioned trying to contact “the hospital” where “Jason” was a patient, in an effort to get information about him or disprove his existence. I’m sure some people will disbelieve me, but this was a genuine mistake on my part – I was cooking dinner at the same time that I told Nina I’d monitor posts, and I wasn’t looking at what was posted carefully enough before approving the posts. Luckily, nomoredrama was on at the same time and quickly deleted the posts.
Still, nasty messages poured in and various other blogs slammed us as “heartless”. I was also singled out for criticism because I posted the same night that I did not believe PM’s story. I was aware when I posted that what I was saying would piss people off, but I was sure enough that I was right to feel okay with posting it. If I had had any reasonable doubt, I would not have posted it and thus risked contributing to a grieving family’s sorrow.
Still, “William” felt the need to post to other blogs, claiming that within the previous “two hours, the hospital operator has received no less than twelve phone calls inquiring about Jason. One caller even tried to claim they were family! They hung up when the operator asked them for a name and phone number to give my parents. At the moment, my parents are in a waiting room at hour 3 of surgery. Do people have any idea what it's like to be there and have a charge nurse come in to say the call center is being bombarded by prank calls looking for Jason?”
This blog and its regulars were blamed for these “calls”, in spite of the fact that there is no record I’ve seen that indicates what hospital “Jason” was at; there are numerous hospitals in the greater LA area, and I believe even the number of hospitals that rail-crash victims were brought to was 12 or 14. Furthermore, it seems unlikely to me that a nurse would come in and tell the family that “the call center” was being deluged with calls (unless it is an extremely small podunk hospital, it seems unlikely to me that anyone would even inform the nurse, or that a call center would consider a dozen calls a bombardment).
Nevertheless, many people believed this story, and redoubled their efforts to condemn us. By the middle of last week, the moderators here were tired of being pilloried for a story that we were all quite sure was a load of bs. We started to do some investigating.
We were pretty sure that the poster from Bakersfield was responsible for all of this. “William’s” first post, which he posted as a comment this blog on September 28 (earlier in the evening, before the calling-the-hospital drama), coincided with the appearance of “Bakersfield” on our site meter.
Various bits of evidence were collected by Anya, Nina, Mom, nomoredrama, and myself. We did a little googling, and quickly found an interesting blog by a woman with the same user name as one of the ones that “Bakersfield” has used on this blog. The owner of this blog does say that she lives in Bakersfield. The blog itself revealed a number of startling coincidences:
1) The blog owner details the recent illness and appendectomy of her five-year-old daughter. Rather oddly, in an email to certain “insiders”, “William” mentions that he has a five-year-old second cousin who has also just had an appendectomy. The girl’s name is the same in both cases. But lest one think that this blogger with the sick daughter and Penn Mommy are related but not the same person, please consider the following: this blogger mentions her own daughter's appendicitis on her blog, but never mentions having a sick (and now dead) nephew. She posted as recently as October 3 and said not one word about Jason. This is significant to me because it is proof against claims that PM and/or William having been staying with her in Bakersfield (again, a lengthy car trip from LA), which might explain the Bakersfield IP addresses that coincide with times PM and William have been on and/or posted.
2) The blog owner seems to have had recent drama with a couple (possibly fictional, although I have not really dug far enough into her blog to say one way or another) on whom she says she CALLED CPS, claiming that the father was abusing the children.
3) The blog owner has a recent entry regarding a spat between a friend and another individual; she claims that the other individual had an attorney send a “cease and desist” letter to her friend. This post coincided almost exactly with PM’s claim on her blog that she received a similar letter (which she later determined was a fake and not from an attorney) in regard to her blogging about the Gosselins.
Reading through this woman’s blog, she appears at times to be fairly normal. The subject of the blog, incidentally, is one that is certainly incongruous with the persona that Penn Mommy presented – this blogger is a fervent atheist (which made me a bit queasy, considering how many times PM and “William” entreated posters to pray for “Jason”). She appears to have issues with certain choices the Gosselins have made - possibly their religious devotion and the fact that they chose to have multiples. This may explain how she became involved in the Gosselin blogosphere and made the decision to create Penn Mommy.
As far as we can tell, this person is who she says she is on her blog. She does appear to be accurately identifying her husband and children, though we do not know if her daughter in fact had an appendectomy. My guess, considering that her daughter’s attack of appendicitis occurred, according to her blog, AFTER Jason’s, is that this too is fabricated. She appears to have a number of other blogs and web pages where she may or may not be representing herself truthfully (on livejournal, among the groups she belongs to are groups devoted to ljers who fake their deaths on and ljers who create elaborate online lies).
The blogger seems to have a preoccupation with illness and with sick and dying children. She claims numerous illnesses on her blog, both herself and her children’s’. In addition to the burst appendix in one child, another supposedly has heart problems and has had heart surgery and yet another purportedly had a kidney removed. The blogger herself claims to have lupus, and at one point states that she does not have long to live.
We cannot say for sure, obviously, what her motivations are. I would not guess that her main motivation is to scam money from people, but I will say that at the request of people who commented on her blog or e-mailed her, she “reluctantly” posted a link to her daughter’s Amazon wish list after reporting the girl’s illness.
Additionally, earlier this year a friend on her blog apparently collected money from online friends and sent a check for several thousand dollars to the blogger to purchase window shades that will ameliorate the lupus-related light sensitivity she claims to suffer from.
On October 4, we found the same photo that is identified as being of “Jason” on PM’s new blog (at http://willsjonah.blogspot.com/) on an online photo album belonging to the blogger. He is not identified in the photo.
Doubtlessly, we will be accused of being no better than those who have stalked and harassed the Gosselins. I would point out an essential difference (beyond my basic belief that the Gosselins have not lied to or defrauded anyone): PM perpetrated this fraud on us directly. We did not choose to have her come into our lives, via a TV show. She made her presence known and proceeded to lie over and over about who she was and what she knew. She then knowingly and maliciously created and killed off “Jason”, an action that I believe caused innocent people real grief. Her behavior is abhorrent, and it deserves to be exposed.