THE WEIRDER WEB
The week of February 22, 2015

The strange lives of Andrew Blake

By Aja Romano

On a sunny Saturday morning in May 2011, Brittany Quinn was optimistic. Sure, the night before, her ex had threatened to kill her. But his roommate at the time described Jason Eisenberg as the kind of guy who’d threaten to burn down your house if you cut him off in traffic. It was all bluster.

Quinn had just played her final hand in a months-long court battle. Eisenberg erupted Friday night after Quinn served him with a civil suit for ownership of the house they were both living in, a two-story home nestled on a wide, shady street in Fairfield, Calif. Eisenberg told her she’d be dead if she was still in the house by the time he woke up. It sounded like an empty threat. They all were. Quinn called the police, but no charge was filed.

Twenty-seven-year-old Quinn, Eisenberg, and Eisenberg’s father were all residing in the house they warred over, a growing cloud of tension in the heart of the cheery stucco residences in the Green Valley subdivision. After a judge ordered them to secure reliable third-party witnesses to their legal battles, they each installed supportive roommates. Eisenberg’s was 41-year-old Tony Chambers. Quinn’s was Andrew Blake, 27.

That Saturday morning, Eisenberg’s father heard gunshots. He fled across the street to alert a neighbor. His son had just walked upstairs and into the bathroom, where he shot Quinn multiple times before turning the gun on his roommates. He shot Chambers twice as he came out of his room, in the head and chest. Then he looked around for Blake, who was in his bedroom frantically dialing 911.

Brittany Quinn

A photo of Brittany Quinn uploaded by a family member after her death. Photo via Facebook

 

 

 

When Eisenberg walked into Blake’s bedroom, his gun didn’t fire, though Blake has said he heard it click three times. Eisenberg left the room at first, perhaps in frustration, and Blake quickly locked and blocked the door. Eisenberg turned back and fired once through the bedroom door, shooting Blake in the foot, before giving up and turning the gun on himself.

Police arrived at the house on Venus Drive. Quinn, Eisenberg, and Chambers were all dead. Blake was released from the hospital with only minor injuries.

This story should be about Brittany Quinn. It’s not.

It’s about the man behind the door, an Internet cult of personality whose life has overshadowed all of those around him.

Who is Andrew Blake?

For the last 12 years, a veritable industrial complex of people within fandom communities have been sounding the alarm about Andrew Blake. They describe him as a cult leader, a pathological liar, and a master manipulator. They point to the well-documented, endless string of lies Blake has told at various points over the years: that he was a child sex slave, that he had an evil twin, and that he has a “lost son”—who turned out to be a sparrow.

For years he was seen primarily as the source of numerous fandom in-jokes, after his failed attempt at hosting a convention led to the discovery that he claimed to be the cloned spirit of Elijah Wood. But the murder of Brittany Quinn changed the laughter into something far more ominous. Since Blake’s resurgence in the Supernatural fandom and his overtures toward other fandoms like Teen Wolf and Welcome to Night Vale, the mass alarm about Blake has transferred to Tumblr, where an ever-increasing lineup of fandom watch blogs believe that Andrew Blake was somehow partly responsible for Quinn’s death.

Blake has owned up to much of what he’s done, both publicly and in an extensive interview session with the Kernel. He has admitted to spending a full decade of his life claiming the ability to channel the souls of fictional and real people, allegedly up to 168 different beings at once, including Hollywood actors and World War II veterans.

Blake claims he spent 2002 to 2012 fully convinced he was an extraordinary astral channeler pursued by the government.

He’s attempted to apologize to the friend who turned him in to the police for fraud after he begged her to pay $10,000 toward a fan convention that did not exist. He’s acknowledged that he manipulated and coerced his live-in girlfriends by using his alter egos to pressure them into sexual favors and inappropriate relationships.

Blake, now 31, swears he no longer suffers from such delusions. He says his decade-long soul-channeling spree is over. Several friends we spoke with agree that he’s doing better and is in a good place.

He’s also repeatedly denied any involvement in Quinn’s death. He has refuted the idea that he exacerbated the conflict that led to her murder. (“She had left him before she met me,” Blake told me. “She had sued him before she met me.”) Yet the allegations persist. Blake’s detractors simply don’t believe him.

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Andrew Blake, 2012. Photo via Facebook

Blake wants forgiveness for what he’s admitted to. He wants to be used as a cautionary example of how young fans can be manipulated on the Internet. But how long do you give someone to reform his past if you’re not sure the reform is real to begin with—especially when a double murder and suicide have been added to the mix?

Blake’s critics say the personas he chose, or “alters,” were a convenient excuse for abusive behavior, tools he used in a dangerous game of lies and manipulation—a game that some believe still isn’t over.

The early life of Andrew Blake

Andrew Blake was born in 1983 to conservative parents in Williamsburg, Va. His mother is an artist and sculptor who has created numerous public monuments around the city; his father spent three decades serving as deputy fire chief. Blake’s home life, tucked away in the wooded outskirts of the city, was generally stable; his younger sister has trekked to 11 different countries as an adult missionary. On the other hand, when a teenage Blake began “severely malfunctioning,” as he put it, he claims his parents turned to Protestant exorcisms to get rid of the root cause—to “try to cast out a demonic influence and then consider that it might be something else.”

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Blake in 2011. Photo via Tumblr

“As a [kid], I hated being me,” Blake told me, “but didn’t have any real reason I could identify. I just knew I could only stand the inside of my own skin when I was pretending to be someone else.”

Between 1999 and 2000, a teenage Blake, then using the handle Strwriter online, met a fan named Stormlight. Blake told Stormlight about an extremely religious and abusive mother, a complaint that didn’t seem to match the overprotective but courteous parent Stormlight occasionally spoke to over the phone. Blake also introduced Stormlight to his friend VB, whose life story included being forced into sex slavery and being “forced to ingest household chemicals.” Blake’s parents declined to comment for this story.

Stormlight once spoke to both VB and Blake on the phone at the same time. “I could have sworn at the time that I was talking to another person,” she wrote years later. “The voice was feminine but very rough-sounding, which I took to be caused by the attempted poisonings.” Gradually, however, Blake’s mother cut off his Internet access. The entity known as VB told Stormlight her former friend had been “shipped off to some sort of boarding-school-style college.”

There was no boarding school. There were no poisonings. Blake and VB were the same person.

In March 1999, at that point still pretending to be both Strwriter and VB, Andrew Blake wrote a work of Star Trek fanfiction called “Collective of One” and posted it under both of his sockpuppet accounts, pretending that they were separate people collaborating on the story together. It’s a short scene from the viewpoint of a character who’s been struggling to break away from the Borg collective, a giant hub of individuals forcibly assimilated into a hive mind.

I have not laughed or truly smiled since I was disconnected from the
Collective.

I wonder if that’s why no one likes me very much….

I am Borg.

No one loves Borg.

Resistance is futile.

I will always be a collective of one.

In retrospect, Stormlight was bemused that she could ever have fallen for all of it. Andrew Blake had spent months pretending to be two different people at once. But that was nothing compared to what came next.

Blake and the ‘others’

When he was 18, Blake came to believe he had been taken over by the soul of Merry, the hobbit from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings universe.

Other visitors joined Merry inside Blake’s head. The “others” arrived to Blake’s body disoriented and panicked, he told me, each with their own wealth of personal issues. These included honest-to-goodness We have to act now to save the universe! calls to action—the kind of exhausting, all-day dramas that seemed to require endless quantities of time, energy, and inside knowledge to deal with.

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Fanart illustration of members of Andrew Blake’s website community, along with fictional members of the Lord of the Rings universe. Abbey Willson and Blake are depicted on the far left. Illustration via KumquatWriter

Blake was enrolled in college but only attending sporadically. Desperate for a distraction, he claims to have begun taking lessons from a local “paladin master” who taught him to contact spirits.

An archived copy of Blake’s online journal from April 19, 2002, reads:

10:23a – I am wounded. It will never really heal.…

When I took the oaths of a Paladin and began training, I expected spirit-plane battles. I expected that I might be asked to do extraordinary things. I just didn’t expect it….

I am… suddenly old. I have all of his memories. All of them. From toddler to the day he died. Over a hundred years of memories, every day, every moment crystal-clear in full sensory detail. He’s five times my age in life-years. I don’t know what to do with this. It’s overwhelming me by sheer mass of memory. I know things now, understand things that I’m just too young to, and I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t even think in the same language any more.

Blake told me the strain of the alters was incredibly taxing. “I became erratic, would go from overcompensating social posturing to isolating myself for days or weeks. My self-care went to shit. I failed school.” And anyone with whom Blake chose to share his special abilities also took on the unexpected and grueling task of saving the universe with him. In May 2002, he wrote of one friend “having visions,” another “having tantrums and memory rushes.”

By itself, Blake’s experience isn’t that strange. Channeling other souls is downright common in the nether-subcultures of the Internet. Multiple souls within a body are called plurals, multiples, or a multiple system. There’s often overlap between multiples and people with dissociative identity disorder (formerly called multiple personality disorder). It’s perfectly possible to live a full life as a multiple. If diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID), the alternative is reintegration, the process of identifying and merging all the different souls, alters, or headmates into one single identity. Reintegration generally requires years of focused therapy. According to Blake, neither he nor his therapist believe he had this disorder. His alters were “delusions,” he said. He told me that he needed only two months of therapy to get over them.

There was no boarding school. There were no poisonings. Blake and VB were the same person.

I asked a multiple system named L.B. Lee, owner of a website on healthy living with multiplicity, how to distinguish among various kinds of soul-channeling, different types of multiplicity, someone with DID, and whatever Blake might have going on. Lee said the whole subject is a distraction. Focus on Blake’s behavior, Lee said, “not who or what he claims to have in his system.”

Blake claims he spent 2002 to 2012 fully convinced he was an extraordinary astral channeler pursued by the government. In 2002, there were plenty of online resources for multiples. When I asked Blake why he didn’t look to these available resources for assistance, he said he did online research but none of it seemed applicable. Instead of seeking external support groups, Blake created his own communities. Several of the ex-members of these communities, who I spoke to both on and off the record, now describe them as cults.

“I was in a relationship/cult with someone who was actively brainwashing me,” Abbey Stone, now Willson, wrote in 2013. “I don’t use those words lightly; Andy [Blake] took distinct and recognizable steps, the ones outlined here, to change my thoughts, even alter my memories.”

Willson, Blake’s former partner, now runs a blog, LiveJournal, and Tumblr partly dedicated to warning others about him.

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Screencap via kumquatwriter/LiveJournal

Willson was 22 when she met Blake online, in late 2001, when he told her his paladin master believed the Goddess was trying to reach her “through a little man or a bird.” To Abbey, unused to the intoxicating rush of an intense writing or roleplay session, it was a clear sign that the hobbit Pippin, short for Peregrin—a hobbit (short man) who’s also a little bird—was real.

Lee pointed out that Blake “has only ever focused on the most dramatic and lurid effects of his supposed system.” In fact, Blake’s alters seem strikingly similar to the Dianetics roleplaying Scientologists use to purge “thetans.” Scientologists believe thetans are ancient alien souls residing in the human body who must be walked through their traumas, healed, and expurgated. Part of the power of Dianetics is the incredible adrenaline rush it provides the roleplayer—the power of having conquered a cosmic problem and freed a trapped soul from agony.

Like Scientology, Blake’s world-saving sessions may have served another ultimate purpose: control. “He used the alters to play off of each other,” Willson said. “He’d argue me into whatever he wanted and then switch alters and dismantle his previous argument and back and forth until whatever he wanted I did.”

Willson found the attention each of Blake’s alters fixed on her exhilarating, and she grew conditioned to silence the alarm bells in her head. “Sometimes I knew it was all lies, but I couldn’t hold that as true the way I could hold Andy’s stories,” she told me in an interview. “I kind of just let those doubts go.”

The Elijah Wood scam

In 2003, Blake (as VB) achieved fandom infamy through a series of alleged scams in the Lord of the Rings fandom. It started out well enough: Actor Sean Astin, who played Samwise Gamgee, collaborated with VB’s website on a charity project. Despite raising $3,000, the event wound up in the red, but Blake went ahead with his next project anyway—a music fest promising a number of bands and Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood. Neither the bands nor Wood showed up. Blake owed the venue $1,800, and although numerous former friends of Blake’s chipped in, his check still bounced. (Blake says he doesn’t remember this.)

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Blake and Abbey Willson cosplaying as Frodo and Sam in 2002. Photo via Turondo

Blake phased out the VB handle and replaced it with a new, supposedly real-life entity, “Jordan Wood.” What only a small inner circle of people knew was that “Jordan” was an alias for Blake’s real identity—what he described as a duplicate of the soul of Elijah Wood, who’d taken over VB’s body. Seriously.

Blake mailed a vague suicide note to his parents from his former self; they immediately contacted police and instigated a missing persons search. Oregon police learned Blake had recently tried to get a Social Security card under his new identity by claiming he had no official documentation because he was born in an “Estacada pagan commune.”

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Blake, Sean Astin, and Willson. Photo via KumquatWriter

In October 2003, Blake moved to L.A. together with a group of friends who shared a house and made plans to host a Lord of the Rings convention called Tentmoot. He had no convention experience, but he was popular and easily convinced his friends things were fine. After all, he did have Sean Astin’s phone number.

Andrew Blake in 2004

Blake in 2004. Photo via Jeanine Renne

 

 

 

In December, just days before the con, everything went belly-up. Blake had promised the Oregon Convention Center that Tentmoot would bring in 1,500 fans. He’d told the other con organizers, including Willson, that they’d sold “hundreds” of online passes. In fact, they’d sold only 21 tickets. Elijah Wood had failed to return any of Blake’s calls or emails, much to Blake’s hurt and bafflement. On top of that, Air New Zealand had no knowledge of an airfare deal Blake claimed to have struck, a deal that was supposed to have given the convention organizers exorbitant plane fare free of charge.

One of Blake’s friends, Jeanine Renne, claimed she used her credit card to charge $15,000 worth of plane tickets from New Zealand—enough to buy tickets for the four minor actors from the Lord of the Rings cast who had agreed to make the long trek from the filming location to Portland for the convention. By the time the actors landed in Los Angeles, however, Renne and the rest of the members of Blake’s Los Angeles household had discovered the magnitude of lies he had told about the convention. Renne canceled all of the remaining airfare on her card, leaving three of the confused actors stranded in Los Angeles with no way back to Auckland. Two of them wound up spending the night on the floor of Blake and Willson’s empty apartment.

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Renne spent the next several months embroiled in a dispute over the remaining $10,000 in airline charges. Furious and betrayed, she called authorities the next time Blake and Willson came to Portland, and Blake was arrested for identity fraud.

The state of Oregon allowed Blake and Willson to avoid charges of fraud by paying a fine and agreeing never to solicit funds for charity in the state again. Jeanine Renne later wrote a book about the entire experience called When a Fan Hits the Shit. For the last 11 years, she has dedicated her website, Turondo, and her LiveJournal, turimel, to documenting the ongoing exploits of Andrew Blake.

The L.A. years

The L.A. household fell apart. One of the residents, a minor who’d been living there with her parents’ permission, returned home. Reacting to Blake and Willson’s apparent escalating duplicity, two more friends cut ties and left. The final resident, a longtime Lord of the Rings fan nicknamed Diamond, quickly became initiated into the inner secrets of Blake’s soul-channeling abilities. For a time, the three of them enjoyed an uneasy household fraught with astrally projected drama and sexual tension. Blake said he routinely encouraged them both to vie for the sexual attention of his alters—one of which now included, he said, the soul of Orlando Bloom.

When I asked him, in 2014, if he had sexually coerced both women, he replied, “In retrospect, yes.” He stressed that it was a byproduct of believing that the “others” required actions and sacrifices that would allow them to save the world. “Sometimes I lied to them to get them to cooperate,” he said. “But it was because I thought the stakes were that high.”

Blake came to believe he had been taken over by the soul of Merry, the hobbit from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings universe.

Willson and Diamond, who remain friends today, believe that Blake designed the Orlando Bloom persona specifically to manipulate Diamond, and that he added and discarded personas as they became useful for manipulating those around him.

Eventually, the wedge between the three of them proved insurmountable. They were evicted, Diamond left, and Willson and Blake embarked on a three-year period of extreme poverty as cosplay panhandlers on Hollywood Boulevard. A 2005 article in the Wall Street Journal describes Blake, cosplaying as Puss N Boots, jumping “into other characters’ pictures at the last minute,” then trying “to wrangle some of the tip.”

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Willson and Blake cosplaying as Shrek and Puss N Boots on Hollywood Boulevard, circa 2005.
Photo via Turondo

As Willson fell deeper into the delusion, she claims Blake culled details about her past, including abuse that never happened, to further isolate her:

He’d keep telling me, in the form of my father figure/guide, that there was more to remember. It was like a game; unraveling these riddles that had (apparently) always been inside me, ruining me.

Under Blake’s influence, Willson committed what she called her “greatest shame.” On Mother’s Day in 2004, she sent her mother a diary, one she now alleges Blake handwrote himself, detailing false accusations of abuse and cutting her out of Willson’s life. It would be nearly three years before they spoke again.

Two months before she died, Brittany Quinn wrote a similar letter to her father on Facebook, accusing him of trying to “destroy” his nine children. At the end of it, she broke off contact with him entirely. Her baffled father replied repeatedly to assure her how much he loved her. “I am guilty of many things and many mistakes,” he wrote, “but not all the things I am being accused of and in the degree you are accusing me of.”

“[T]hat letter is so disturbing,” Willson wrote about Quinn’s letter much later. “It’s Andy all over it. So much of it is just like what I wrote to my mother under his direction/coaching.”

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Willson and Blake on Hollywood Boulevard, cosplaying as Fiona from Shrek and Legolas from Lord of the Rings.
Photo via Turondo

Abbey Willson’s escape

In 2007, with cops on the Boulevard increasingly cracking down on the costumed panhandlers, Blake grew fixated on starting a new life in Canada. By now convinced the government was closing in on him, he persuaded Abbey Willson to try to walk across the Canadian border in the middle of a February blizzard—almost freezing to death in the attempt. The border patrol officers allowed the pair to sleep on the floor of their office, where Willson longed to call her mother. “I had never felt as utterly defeated. So hopeless. So done,” she wrote.

Willson’s mother moved quickly to transport her daughter safely back home and began a systematic process of extricating her once and for all from Blake, who was still using the name Jordan Wood. After weeks of carefully reintegrating Willson back into her old life, it worked.

Years later, Willson wrote:

She guided me to the car as Jordan began to scream; that same hideous, chilling, keening wail that he terrorized all of us with in the cult. Now no longer the howl of some supernatural anguish, but that of a thwarted, monstrous child. I got into the car and Mom drove [Blake and me] the hell away from there.

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Abbey Willson enjoys a week of freedom in New York shortly after her trip to the Canadian border. Photo via kumquatwriter/Wordpress

The rise of the DAYDians

Willson’s mother returned Blake to the custody of his parents, who insisted on getting him into therapy. Blake now claims he lied his way through his 2007 therapy sessions, terrified the government would kidnap him and put him on a “dissecting table.”

Now reunited with the Internet and calling himself Andrew Blake, he took the handle Thanfiction and began posting a long Harry Potter fanfiction series full of original characters. He called it Dumbledore’s Army and the Year of Darkness (DAYD). Its fans showed a notable degree of loyalty to the series. The DAYDverse racked up fanart, a TV Tropes page, its own wiki, and a Facebook community. The DAYDians even threw an informal convention for themselves.

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Fanart book cover for Blake’s fanfiction. Photo via dayd.wikia.com

The DAYDians are a closed, quiet group. Though community activity has died down as Blake’s interest in the universe has flagged over time, he remains the obvious center. In 2008, he posted to his LiveJournal account encouraging readers to practice starvation for a few days in order to write better.

Two separate former DAYDians who spoke to me on condition of anonymity both told me they saw Blake’s alters. One saw “at least three personalities,” along with several instances of online chats and phone calls “where the line between what was ‘channeling’ and what was ‘roleplaying’ became very blurred.”

One ex-DAYDian thought isolation was a big part of what drew group members to the community: “We were still of the generation that grew up with it not being OK to be a nerd.” The ex-DAYDian told me:

See the people he really went after were all people of low self-esteem and/or emotionally unstable, me included. … We happily plugged the gaps and ignored gaping holes in his stories ourselves because I think we WANTED it all to be true … once you strap yourself in for that ride you’re in it for the long haul. And then when I really spent time up close with him I was always hungry, exhausted, and disoriented … so I was much, much easier to influence.

Both of them were adamant that Blake was manipulative, claiming he often faked illness or sickness to get out of taking responsibility or blaming other project members for setbacks.

“He tended to go through ‘favorite people’ who were a part of his ‘inner circle,’” one DAYDian told me, “but appeared to quickly push them out if they did something he didn’t like.”

Channeling other souls is downright common in the nether-subcultures of the Internet.

For this group member, fear and worry eventually outstripped the fun. The member started to believe Blake was “either lying, or it was more of a mental health issue” and eventually “broke contact when I started to fear for my safety, [when] what he demanded from me was more than I was willing to give.”

The other ex-DAYDian was even more succinct: “In hindsight I’d have saved a lot of people a lot of trouble if I’d just kicked him off a cliff when I first had the chance.”

In response, Blake offered a blanket explanation. “At the time, I was not doing healthy things,” he said. “I was not living in healthy ways, and I did not have healthy perspective on what was good or not good.”

Remembering Brittany Quinn

Blake’s critics have bent over backward to piece together evidence suggesting he had a hand in Quinn’s death. They point to alleged patterns of behavior, like the similarities between his 2011 eulogy for Quinn and an allegedly similar eulogizing note he wrote in 2000 for a member of Star Trek fandom in which he “thanks” one of his own sockpuppets. They also cite a 2011 LiveJournal comment, purportedly written by Quinn’s father just weeks after her death, alleging that Blake emotionally abused Quinn and encouraged her to pressure Eisenberg for money. They pore over every word of his current Tumblr blog, analyzing and re-analyzing both his more recent posts and posts from years ago. Some have even parodied his previous overwritten attempts at explanations and apologies. Their findings paint a portrait of a troubled young person with a knack for emotional manipulation, but nothing yet has convincingly placed Blake at the center of the conflict that led to Quinn’s death.

Brittany Quinn in 2010

 Brittany Quinn in 2010. Photo via Facebook

 

 

 

Even suggesting that this evidence lacks weight prompts vocal dismay from the anti-Blake faction. While researching this article, I was forced to defend myself from concerned attempts to essentially deprogram me from Blake’s influence. But I also met antagonism from one of Blake’s supporters, who threatened to email my editor about my perceived anti-Blake bias, as well as pressure from Blake himself to publish the article in a hurry: He wanted his story to be told, and soon.

When Andrew Blake talks about Brittany Quinn, his entire body shifts. His voice drops, he slumps, and he stares off in the distance. His manner is so altered it elevates his narrative into the realm of a soliloquy.

“It was a Saturday,” he told me after recounting the events of that May morning. It sounds like a story he’d told many times before.

Quinn fell into the DAYDian community early, in 2009; she hung out with other DAYDians in real life and attended the informal DAYDian convention in 2010. She was caring and maternal—“very kind and always willing to lend advice and encouragement,” according to one of the former members, who asked to remain anonymous. Between 2009 and 2010, Blake and Quinn lived together with a family in Orange County. According to Blake, they’d been working as domestic help for the family but left after things got fishy, tax-wise. From there, they spent a few months couch-surfing until Quinn moved back into her old house, bringing Blake with her.

One of the ex-DAYDians told me they felt Blake had a “concerning amount of influence” over Quinn: “It seemed as if Andy used Brittany’s maternal instincts to gain her sympathy so that she felt obligated to ‘assist’ Andy in whatever situation he (or possibly the other personalities) felt was important at the time.”

After Quinn brought Blake into her household, Quinn filed several lawsuits against Jason Eisenberg, seeking more control of their property. News articles about the murders reported that in 2010 Quinn began pressuring Eisenberg for large amounts of money, at one point threatening to involve law enforcement. Much like Abbey Willson abruptly accused her mother of abuse and cut off all contact with her admittedly under Blake’s influence, Quinn did the same with her father. (Quinn’s family did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

None of this is evidence that Blake had something to do with Quinn’s murder. He did not pull the trigger on the gun that killed her.

His latest fan

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Meg Carlson and Andrew Blake, 2014. Screengrab via Skype

The word everyone uses to describe meeting Andrew Blake is intense.

“I remember that it felt like talking to a minor celebrity,” one ex-DAYDian said.

“Intense and a little overwhelming,” said Cara Loup.

Meg Carlson agreed: “A lot to take in, definitely.” She said this while sitting on Blake’s bed. Carlson, 21, is Blake’s current “best friend,” she said, and a member of Blake’s latest group of real-life fandom pals, who’ve nicknamed themselves “the Virginia posse.”

When I spoke with Blake over Skype in July 2014, he was back living with his parents in coastal Virginia. Carlson joined him in his room for our interview. At one point in our conversation, Carlson got up to leave, and Blake stopped her. “My mom doesn’t want you wearing those pants in the house,” he told her. At another point, she asked him, “Am I allowed to answer this?” He looked discomfited but left the room to give her some privacy.

On Tumblr, Carlson has become the subject of close speculation from the ongoing and growing community of watchdog blogs that now exist to warn new fans about Blake.

When I asked her if she’d had any alarm bells, she surprised me with an unhesitating yes. She could easily see why some people felt his influence over the “posse” was cult-like. I asked about the difference between how she viewed his behavior as his friend and how the watchdog blogs viewed it. She replied, “He got to me first.”

Prone to codependency due to borderline personality disorder, she claims, Carlson has worked to maintain an appropriate distance from Blake ever since she met him in early 2013. Another formerly close real-life friend, Jennifer Cilento, said she broke off contact with Blake after deciding he was being manipulative and controlling toward Carlson. She later stated publicly that Blake was “abusive.” She’s now moved away and asked him not to contact her again.

A few months after our first interview, Carlson moved in with Blake’s family as groundskeeper. When I asked Blake about it, he answered, “We made sure to lay strict limits so that our relationship kept the necessary space.”

When I asked Carlson if she was happier now than before she met Blake, the answer was equally emphatic: Yes.

Fandom fights back

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Andrew Blake has become a memeified figure in fandom. Photo via Fandom Wank

In July 2012, Andrew Blake was fired from a job as a camp counselor in South Dakota after his supervisor discovered his storied Internet past. On the drive from the airport, his parents gave him an ultimatum: He could enter voluntary therapy or they could refer him as an inpatient at a local residence.

Convinced he could fake his way through voluntary therapy like he had in 2007, Blake took the first option. Two months later, he insisted, he had a therapy breakthrough: For the first time in a decade, he came to understand that the alters weren’t real.

“I am solo in here, which is awesome!” he told me.

But the problem is that most of his detractors believe he was flying solo all along—that the “alters” are his way of avoiding responsibility. If all of his suspect behavior had ended in 2012 when he claims his delusions did, we might have had a different interview. But new rumors have continually surfaced that he’s allegedly as controlling and manipulative as he ever was.

At numerous fandom watering holes, Blake is a daily topic of conversation. He answers fewer questions from truth-seekers these days, but his posts and profile changes are frequently dissected by the community, convinced they provide evidence he hasn’t changed at all.

“Whatever the ultimate source, that energy was absolutely real and quite fascinating.” —Cara Loup

Blake is working on transferring from community college to a four-year school in Hampton Roads, Va. Last weekend he attended an anime convention, Katsucon, with friends. Underlying his eagerness to tell his side of the story is the worry that the telling might jeopardize his attempts to start this next phase of his life with a clean slate.

I asked why he doesn’t just leave and start over somewhere else. He said he was staying for the benefit of future potential victims of manipulators like himself. “I want the right to live it down,” he told me.

But isn’t that kind of selfish, to seek redemption on your own terms? I asked. “I give them as wide a circle of their own space as I possibly can without stalking their blogs,” he said. “On the other hand, I do think it’s important that I stay visible for the sake of responsible accountability.”

In fairness, he could also get a new Tumblr handle and come straight back, and no one would really ever know. But Blake is aware of that, too, and said his choice not to do so is “kind of like a self-imposed offender registry.”

In essence, he wants to be the one to turn his own past into a cautionary tale—to demonstrate that even the most “fucked-up” fan “can get treatment, can get help, and become this dude with a perfectly enough normal life.”

“That’s maybe something powerful and helpful,” he said.

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Another image from our Skype call. Photo via Skype

A dangerous fascination

Carlson urges anyone looking to befriend Andrew Blake to understand what they’re getting into first. “If it’s just too much drama to handle, then I encourage you to stay out of it because it’s a handful, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for simply not wanting to get involved,” she said.

Another person, who was originally eager to speak with me but ultimately backed out, told me, “I’m removing myself from everything about Andy [and] the cult. … I just can’t do it anymore.”

I asked Blake flat-out, given the manipulative patterns that pre- and post-date the appearance of the alters, why should people—the watch blogs, his victims, all the bystanders in the fandoms he’ll enter in the future—believe he’s telling the truth now? He answered, “I’m not saying you should, and I think you’d be foolish if you just straight-up took my word for the sky being blue (currently, actually, it’s blackish and snowing).”

Last week, in a final email, he wrote me:

What I do offer are two things:

  1. Exterior evidence of a change in behavior. … That’s being backed up by the people who actually know me currently and in person.
  2. Whether I’m “ok now” or “not ok now” becomes one half an effectively rhetorical question that no one can prove… and one half very, very simple: if ANYONE tries to get you to do bad shit, they’re not to be trusted and you shouldn’t do it. If they’re just keeping a blog where they talk about their life and theories about media and are not asking you to do anything except maybe read their fanfic, watch a TV show with them, try a recipe, or have a cup of coffee, you’re probably pretty ok.

And maybe ultimately that’s the whole point: Blake isn’t offering the people around him a chance to be inspired by his recovery. He’s daring them to define his behavior for themselves—at their own risk. The payoff for those who do is apparently Blake’s endless font of creative passion. Cara Loup, a fanfiction writer who met Blake in 2002, told me, “Whatever the ultimate source, that energy was absolutely real and quite fascinating.”

And so is the fascination with which we wait for him to reveal his true colors—whatever shade they may be.

Illustration by Max Fleishman