Viral Story Rabbit Holes on the Web

Sena told me about the viral story on the web entitled “A Woman Removes Painting Varnish and Uncovers Husband’s 50 Year Old Secret.” It’s dated December 27, 2022. The story is written in slide show format, which has a rabbit hole feel to it, especially after I try to verify the details.

You’ve probably seen this or a slightly different version of it. The basic stem is somebody finds out her spouse has a longstanding secret life that she learns of only after he dies, leaves her a painting which is apparently worthless but underneath a lot of paint or varnish lies a note or some other object which leads to the discovery that he led a secret life and left her a vast fortune. Sometimes the story changes even this detail.

I found other similar versions which differ mainly in small details, none of which I can verify—not even the identity of the author of the story. For example, who is Lindsey Charleston? I can’t find out, even though I can find the web site “History All Day” where supposedly this author is listed among others, who are also anonymous. No biographical data is discoverable about the writers.

The pictures in the story are taken from web sites offering free images, such as pixabay. I’ve used images from sites like that. One of them features a video which is a slide show, featuring a photo of a woman who looks shocked and the picture is marked as copyrighted and being from “YouTube PBS.” It appears to be from PBS Antiques Roadshow, and it’s just a slide, like all the rest of the images. There’s no actual video with this particular woman in a green blouse. One of the slides shows a picture of Fiona Bruce, the hostess of the BBC version of Antiques Roadshow. After this last picture, there’s an ad by Amazon. In fact, the slide show has several interrupting ad photos.

However, the YouTube PBS picture is linked to another version of this story which is a video and it’s dated February 3, 2021. It looks like there are many different versions of this video. The names of the people involved, even the nationalities, are all apparently different. Yet the thread of the story is similar to the one published 3 days ago. One striking similarity is the photo of Fiona Bruce! Moreover, the narrator reveals that the art work was featured on the British TV show, “Fake or Fortune,” a show hosted by Fiona Bruce.

And the narrator of this video sounds robotic, like one of those non-human digital recordings because occasionally the accent falls on the wrong syllables. Near the end of the video while it is still in progress, another video is superimposed showing a fisherman and 3 bear cubs, entitled “Fisherman noticed the three bear cubs sneaking up on him late, what happened next is breathtaking! This is a familiar type of advertisement lure I’ve noticed many times on the web.

There are many different versions of the story showing different characters who are of different nationalities, names, and the identities, like those of the authors of the stories, are all either unknown or impossibly difficult to track down—like going down a rabbit hole.

The stories are identified as “Viral Stories” which seems to be a web site advertised on the PBS video, but is probably not. I should say I found a web site with that name but it doesn’t list this story or its permutations.

OK, many of you probably already knew this, but I think these are cleverly disguised rabbit hole stories designed to lure the reader into advertisement traps. Many of them are tagged with the short word “Ad” somewhere on the photo link—but some are not.

Incidentally, the featured image for this post is an obvious plug for my book. I don’t have to use cute bear cubs to get you to buy it—do I?

Author: James Amos

I'm a retired consult-liaison psychiatrist. I navigated the path in a phased retirement program through the hospital where I was employed. I was fully retired as of June 30, 2020. This blog chronicles my journey.

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