If you’ve visited r/legaladvice — a popular Reddit board devoted to, yes, legal advice — over the last few months, here are some of the people you might have encountered: a guy who lifted a bad batch of ketamine and wants to know if he could sue the veterinarian he stole it from after it made him sick; a troubled teenager panicking as his school shuts down his fake-ID operation; a kid who nearly blew his hands off with illegal fireworks and wants advice on how he could hide from the cops; and a convicted street racer who violated his probation by racing and doesn’t get why a judge might be mad.
These posters represent the typical mix of brazen criminality and abject stupidity that’s made r/legaladvice the Reddit trainwreck of choice for Twitter, Tumblr, and bloggers. They’re also all fake. All four people, and a handful of others, were all the creations of one person: “Klairvoyant,” a troll who claims to be an “anorexic Ivy leaguer” who’s fabricated a number of elaborate stories for r/legaladvice. Why? Well, uh, in order to draw attention — she says — to a breakaway pro-eating-disorder subreddit. More on that in a minute.
In theory, r/legaladvice should be boring. And in practice it often is. In an effort to keep out amateur legal experts and sovereign-citizen types, posters with actual legal knowledge are starred. As with so much else on Reddit, the key here is the way you sort the front page. Reading the subreddit sorted by “hot” topics (the default) is as exciting as spending the day in your local county clerk’s office. It’s a web page full of disputed wills, trees leaning over property lines, and capricious bosses. But if you sort by “controversial” — i.e., threads that have a near equal number of positive and negative votes — you can get past the subreddit’s county courthouse and into legaladvice’s equivalent of a strip-club parking lot, where desperate people try to recover from their previous schemes with even worse ones.
This r/legaladvice, the how-do-I-dispose-of-a-body legaladvice, is the one that made the subreddit one of the most popular among Reddit’s legions of haters and voyeurs, earning it 80,000 subscribers, and making it one of the top 100 most active subreddits. The trademark combination of bravado and hopelessness turned legaladvice’s most deluded posters into legends on Twitter and Tumblr, and supported an entire other subreddit, r/bestoflegaladvice, devoted to its most outrageous posts.
But as legends often are, many were too good to be true. On Monday, a poster called Klairvoyant took to bestoflegaladvice to admit to faking a dozen of the “requests” for legal advice: “Since it’s 2016, I’ve decided to stop trolling Reddit and become an adult,” she wrote.
Nearly all of the most notable recent r/legaladvice posts, Klairvoyant admitted, were fake. She then posted confirmation from the accounts of each the characters she’d created. For fans of the ongoing r/legaladvice pileup, it was a stunner. A post about Klairvoyant’s confession on SubredditDrama, the traditional end of the human centipede when it comes to meta-Reddit news, shot to the top of the subreddit. One user noted that her posts amounted to “like half the subreddit.”
“Fuck you, you piece of shit,” wrote another.
It can’t have come as much of a surprise. Given how many of the best r/legaladvice threads can read like a film-school draft, commenters regularly accuse the most sensational stories of being trolls. But it still stung: While her readers thought they were getting a glimpse of ketamine-fueled crime, Klairvoyant explained, they were actually a thrilling invention of a bored Reddit user with too much time on her hands. The street racer, the kids with the IDs and fireworks — she’d made them all up.
In a series of messages, Klairvoyant explained to me why she set out to dupe a bunch of law nerds. (Klairvoyant describes herself as an 18-year-old student at an Ivy League college, but declined to offer any concrete proof of her identity — though she did post what she says are her ACT scores.)
A scheme this strange had to start in an appropriately strange portion of the internet: the “pro-ana” subculture, where people with anorexia and other eating disorders openly exchange tips about cultivating their disorders. Feuding with the moderator of the prominent eating-disorders subreddits, Klairvoyant, who claims to be anorexic herself, launched her own. Somehow, she says, she decided the best way to promote it would be by making up eating-disorder stories on legaladvice, and linking back to her own page.
(Like anything an admitted troll says, this story should be taken with a grain of salt, but if Klairvoyant is also lying about having an eating disorder, it’s a committed lie: She’s been a frequent, multiple-times-a-day poster to various pro-eating-disorder subreddits for nearly a year.)
The mention of eating disorders reminded me of one of legaladvice’s most poignant questions: A prisoner headed to jail who wanted to know whether she could refuse to wake up before noon and avoid foods whose components can’t be separated (i.e., salad with dressing on it). Naturally, like anything worth reading on legaladvice, it turns out that Klairvoyant had made it up. She pulled the insistence on separated foods from an eating condition from her own childhood.
Even after she felt done promoting her eating-disorders subreddit, Klairvoyant says she started making up r/legaladvice stories for fun. A user suing over tainted ketamine came to her from an episode of Criminal Minds. Several Reddit users accused Klairvoyant’s drug-user front account of making the story up. When she got in an argument over brain lesions from ketamine abuse, though, readers decided that only a ketamine user could know about the lesion. “This just goes to show that people see what they want to see,” she says.
But, after her GPA dropping, Klairvoyant has decided to stop terrorizing r/legaladvice. “I’ve realized that trolling Reddit is a massive waste of time,” she says. Those of us who still just want to waste ours reading r/legaladvice will have to stick with the posts Klairvoyant hasn’t claimed, like the woman whose neighbors keep painting her house, or the guy banned from his local Smash Brothers tournament — assuming those aren’t fakes, too.