There are a lot of ways to kill a few hours on the Internet. One is through idle curiosity about the makings of celebrity, and whether famous people are truly who they seem. There’s a whole industry built on that relatively innocuous interest, from TMZ to Perez Hilton to venerable Us Weekly. But if you really want to venture into the stranger depths of the Web, you have to ask questions that probe more deeply. Like, say, whether an international pop superstar is in fact a dead child whose murder remains unsolved today.
Googling “Is JonBenét Ramsey Katy Perry?” yields a surprising number of hits. One of the first is this video from December 2014, claiming that Ramsey was not murdered in 1996, as conventional wisdom has it. Instead, she was kidnapped—as part of a Jewish/Illuminati conspiracy? It’s not entirely clear—and later resurfaced as Katy Perry. For the true conspiracy-theory connoisseur, the whole thing is nicely bananas.
“JonBenét Ramsey became Katy Perry. That’s a fact,” declares a faceless voice, over a screenshot of the Ramsey murder Wikipedia page. “JonBenét Ramsey did not die, nobody died, nobody got hurt,” he says. But she was sacrificed: “That sacrifice was in name only, and that sacrifice was to get something, and that something was to become a star.” The gist, extracted from seven minutes of creeping pans and easygoing voiceover, is this:
- Perry’s parents (Keith Hudson and Mary Perry) don’t look completely different from Ramsey’s parents (John and Patty Ramsey). Just like Ted Cruz doesn’t look completely different from Robert Kardashian, I guess?
- There’s a resemblance between photos of young JonBenét Ramsey and Katy Perry, highlighted by an eerie Photoshop cross-fade that provides enough nightmare fuel to keep your nocturnal demons well-fed.
- Ramsey was killed by strangulation, evidence of hidden Masonic forces at play. “See how they always put the non sequitur inside the story to catch those that have not done their work,” says the narrator.
This kind of casually unhinged rambling often seems like the background noise of the Internet, omnipresent but ignorable. That said, the video has more than 27,000 views; an updated video with nearly three minutes of added footage has more than 11,000 views. If that’s not enough to call this a thing, exactly, it’s at least sparked reactions—and not just denunciatory comments.
“JonBenét Ramsey became Katy Perry. That’s a fact.”
There’s a fellow YouTuber named Jungle Surfer, for example, a conspiracist who claims that basically everything involving NASA is a hoax, including the moon landing; Michelle Obama’s actually a man; and “Dinosaurs didn’t exist 100%.” His video takes up the case by comparing, at length, pictures of Perry and Ramsey. A telltale sign, he suggests, is the eyebrows: “You know, the eyebrows don’t change much on a person. You’re born with your eyebrows.” That they’re the eyebrows of the same person fits his philosophy of radical skepticism, where, “as you know, this whole entertainment industry is just a charade—you really don’t know the truth.” The Ramsey case in particular strikes him as “weird” and very likely a hoax, “just like Jeffrey Dahmer, just like Charles Manson.” He promises further investigation.
In the comments section, “Wendy Armstrong” (with only one comment, likely a pseudonymous burner account) adds more compelling evidence that something wicked’s afoot. To wit:
1) black & white checkered floor in their kitchen
2) the 26th of Dec. that year was a full moon
3) raped, wrist/throat tied up & strangled
4) she was SIX years old
5) they open up to the media on Sept 11, 1997
6) JonBenét Ramsey ==== 996 in English Gematria
7) 996 ==== twin towers, 9/11, one world order & IT IS WRITTEN to name a few
8) The murder happened in 1996 DO YOU SEE THE PATTERN YET?
9) the picture of her death is showing a cross around her neck, a star on her shirt & a heart in her hand – which are significant symbols
It’s the kind of contorted numerology not uncommon in conspiracy circles. Here’s another example, which links the pageant queen and the pop star based on the fact that Katy Perry is nicknamed “Fruit Sister” in China.
OK, then! But we’re not done. A YouTube video by VK 33 uses the slickest production values yet in analyzing Perry’s music videos (a butterfly, as you may or may not know, is symbolic of rebirth/transformation) and linking Ramsey’s murder to such allegedly Masonic activities as the Columbine killings and the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. VK 33 finds his “smoking gun” in a Katy Perry biography. She explains how she began writing her own songs at an early age. “Not that I was one of those stage kids,” she says. “There was no JonBenét Ramsey inside of me waiting to burst out.”
“There was no JonBenét Ramsey inside of me waiting to burst out.” He reads the sentence twice. At worst, it’s an analogy in dubious taste, choosing a murdered child to represent what Perry sees as unhealthy fame-seeking. But, VK 33 reminds us, “The Illuminati always puts out clues hidden in plain sight.”
The video goes on for more than 15 minutes, elucidating those clues. There’s this telling tweet from July 13, 2009, for example, in which Perry writes:
GOD BLESS AMERICA! LAND THAT I
LOVE, STAND BESIDE HER AND GUIDE
HER! I’m so happy I could cry. A WHOLE 6
days to sleep w/ KITTY PURRY!!!
As any good American second-grader knows, those are lyrics to “God Bless America,” the exact same song Ramsey sings in one of the most well-publicized videos of her.
“The Illuminati always puts out clues hidden in plain sight.”
And: Checkered patterns often appear in Perry’s visual aesthetic. The kitchen of the Ramsey house—remember “Wendy Armstrong”—had a black-and-white checkered tile floor.
And: Many of Perry’s song are about rebirth, using phoenix imagery.
And down the rabbit hole we go.
Of course JonBenét Ramsey is not Katy Perry. (A few years ago, Lady Gaga was supposed to be Ramsey, all grown up. Or Lady Gaga was Amy Winehouse.) But the claim is the product of a certain kind of thinking. It’s an example of what we might call “peak paranoia”: a worldview in which nothing apparent is true and beneath the surface, everything’s connected.
So, how did we get here?
The initial video from 2014 was produced by a man calling himself Dave Johnson, who also goes by “DaveJ” or “Davey.”
He’s left a pretty wide digital footprint, mostly on his YouTube channel, where he’s uploaded more than 1,000 videos, including visual evidence that Donald Trump is Joe Biden and Wayne Gretzky is Rand Paul. His profile photos vary by platform, but they always show a smiling middle-aged white dude wearing a baseball cap. There’s also a certain old-surfer cadence in his voice; when he appears on camera, his eyes are often partially glazed.
The glaze may have an obvious explanation; perhaps there’s a clue hidden in plain sight. On his vidme channel, Johnson alternates conspiracy theories with reviews of the latest kush hybrids. In one video, he takes a huge hit from his bong, then offers his review of Kolossus cannabis: “You know how you have that nice citrus taste? It’s really good. Instant head lift, I’m already feeling my eyes are—yeah, nice. So this would definitely work for all of you guys who blew the Sandy [Hook] hoax, who blew the Chris Dorner hoax, who blew the—what was that latest thing?—the Boston bombing hoax, where nobody died, nobody got hurt.” (This “nobody died, nobody got hurt” refrain seems to be tied to a belief that any well-publicized tragedy is a hoax, a lie designed to make people lose faith in the god who would allow such suffering. I think?)
Not everyone believes Johnson to be arguing in good faith, though, or even just high and confused. A YouTube account named Alien Fossil Project—an ongoing attempt, with more than 600 videos posted to date, to expose the New World Order forces covering up fossils of alien lifeforms—breaks down the problem with Dave J in a 12-minute opus.
The first line of the description for the video reads, “One view says JonBenet Ramsey is Katy Perry, while my countering view is Crack is a Helluva Drug.” But AFP doesn’t think crack is what’s fueling these shocking—outlandish!—theories. “This guy went from crazy, to super crazy, to being himself,” he says, but suggests there’s a more sinister motive behind Johnson’s ramblings. After all, the man was in the Navy.
“One view says JonBenet Ramsey is Katy Perry, while my countering view is Crack is a Helluva Drug.”
Think about it: Why plant obviously fake rumors that JonBenét Ramsey is Katy Perry? Because it’ll throw everyone off the scent of the real conspiracies: Reptilian forces controlling the world’s money supply, the Bilderberg Group’s secret meetings, alien fossils. Amid so many over-the-top, clearly inaccurate conspiracies, your Average Joe ends up dismissing the real truth, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. To counterintelligence watchers like AFP, this is what Alex Jones has been doing for years. (The “Katy Perry is JonBenét Ramsey” gambit does double duty, not only discrediting the entire Truth movement but also taking the real Katy Perry conspiracy out at the knees: She’s a member of the Illuminati.)
Johnson is a bit of a lightning rod even among conspiracists, actually. One minute-long video purports to catch him “in his own lies” by highlighting Johnson saying he’s from “the school that if I have nothing good to say, I won’t say it,” then showing two examples of him issuing threats in YouTube comments. Another, titled “Friendly Convo with Dave Johnson,” features a Skype argument between Johnson and a man determined to “expose him, and help him realize that I am Christ.”
More damningly, conspiracist Ed Chiarini—the same guy who thinks Ted Cruz is really Robert Kardashian—says “Dave Johnson” is just a pseudonym, a “dick joke.” He reminds viewers he’s previously warned that anyone whose name sounds like a dick joke is not to be trusted. “By them using a dick joke, we know that they are trying to manipulate you in the wrong direction,” he says, “Just like this person is.”
Chiarini goes on to detail a falling-out between him and Johnson involving Facebook posts, drug paraphernalia, and a complaint to PayPal. (If you really want to get into the minutiae of conspiracist internecine warfare, Johnson responds here by revealing the hidden symbolism of Chiarini’s Facebook profile picture.)
Back to Chiarini’s claim that he’s found the “real” Dave Johnson: In 2011, the New York Times published what he calls a “hit piece” on his claim that the shooting that wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others was a hoax. The story was aggregated by the Huffington Post, which Chiarini describes as one of the Times’s “affiliates.” And who happens to work at the Huffington Post?
Political reporter Arthur Delaney:
“I am not Dave Johnson,” says Delaney over the phone, when I contact him a few minutes after watching the video in which Chiarini “outs” him. “I don’t even look like the fucking guy!”
For what it’s worth, even our friend AFP agrees, in a debunking video that exposed the false debunk job—a de-debunking?—by pointing out the issues with the side-by-side comparison. “This guy obviously is quite a bit younger on the left,” he says. “If he smoked crack every day a few years, he might look like [Dave Johnson] eventually.”
Still, it’s got to be odd to have a stranger accuse you of being a false flag operative and give your name to a bunch of conspiracists. But Delaney says it hasn’t really affected him. “I’m fully reachable, and no one is trying to bang down my door to expose the conspiracy,” he says. “It’s a little menacing, but not really, so I haven’t put in any mental energy into this.”
A few people left murky messages on his Facebook wall. (Example: “We want more Dave J videos, you’re the best.”) And he got tweeted at once about his alleged connection, but he didn’t even understand the vague message. No one’s really accused him directly or even asked him about it until I came along. “If they’re trying to expose a conspiracy,” he said, “they’re not really trying that hard, I don’t think.”
And maybe that’s where the rabbit hole ends—among an energetic but ultimately harmless collection of, ahem, “people skeptical about mainstream opinions about the nature of reality,” let’s say. It’s not really an echo chamber, in that there is plenty of vigorous infighting; it’s not really even hidden, like the Dark Net, since anyone with ample boredom can stumble onto it. It’s just a factory in a bubble, producing content for others within the bubble, who then respond—and maybe it’s kind of like high school, too, with a bunch of people arguing about things that are trivial or absurd to outsiders yet have the highest stakes for insiders. It’s a strange world, premised on the belief that nothing is as it seems, and no one can really be trusted.
One thing I can say for sure, though: Do not buy weed from a guy named Dave J.
Illustration via J. Longo