In an interesting set of coincidences, the charlatan identified in the story below, Beccah Beushausen, apparently lives in the same Chicago suburb as me, Mokena, IL, established her p.o. box in Oak Lawn, where Christ Hospital is located, and asked that donations be sent to the local pregnancy care center I support, Pregnancy Aid South Suburbs, which has now been implicated through no fault of its own.
This led one commenter on another blog to write, "Was the blogger suffering from a sort of Jill Stanek attention envy, or is she a Jill Stanek confederate?" I don't think so, but the coincidences are indeed strange. I checked my emails and don't think she contacted me to publicize her pseudo-tragedy. I can imagine how taken we on this blog would feel had I done so.
From the Associated Press, June 12...
The story was compelling: An unmarried IL mother chose to carry her terminally ill child to term rather than have an abortion because of her deep Christian faith.
It was all a hoax.
For 2 months, the suburban Chicago woman wrote about her pregnancy, her fears and her hopes on a blog that drew nearly a million hits to her Web site. Followers promised to pray for her and her baby, April Rose. They sent letters and gifts to a p.o. box she listed online.
But when "April's Mom" wrote on Sunday that her baby had died hours after being delivered at home - and posted photos - supporters soon realized they'd been duped.
One of the followers recognized the "baby" swaddled in white blankets as a lifelike doll that she had in her own home.
"As soon as I saw that picture, I knew it was a scam," said Elizabeth Russell, a doll maker from Buffalo.
There never was a pregnancy, only a 26-year-old social worker named Beccah Beushausen [pictured left] from suburban Mokena who said she always liked to write. Angry followers on dozens of Christian parenting Web sites helped expose Beushausen's identity.
Beushausen's Web site had been removed by Friday....
Beushausen said she started the blog in March to help recover from the loss of a son shortly after his birth in 2005, but then became addicted to the attention it was generating.
"Soon I was getting 100,000 hits a week, and it just got out of hand," Beushausen told the Chicago Tribune for a story Friday. "I didn't know how to stop.... One lie led to another."
Beushausen told readers that her unborn child had Trisomy 13 syndrome, a chromosomal disorder that can cause severe mental retardation and death. She also concocted a father for the child, and called him "D."
In a cached blog entry dated June 1, almost a week before she would post a fictional account of the child's birth, Beushausen writes about a supposed doctor's checkup that day, saying her estimated delivery date was likely off by a week. She also wrote about how she would panic if she didn't feel her baby move.
"To me, this is the perfect time for God to show himself. For God to heal April. For a miracle to occur," she wrote....
"I feel emotionally exploited," said Jennifer McKinney of MN, who now said it seems Beushausen seemed overly concerned with attracting hits to her Web site. McKinney, who writes a Christian blog, said Beushausen asked for help promoting her blog....
There is no evidence Beushausen committed a crime or received any significant financial gain.
She said she plans to write one final blog, to apologize.
"I know what I did was wrong," said Beushausen, who said she's been getting hate mail. "I'm sorry because people were so emotionally involved."
Here is a link to Beushausen's cached site.
Giving Beushausen the benefit of the doubt, she is a troubled young woman. At worst she is a merciless attention seeker, preying on kindhearted Christians and parents of terminally children. She even included an embed code on her site for blogs to post a link.
FWIW, I read yesterday that she's not a social worker, either. http://tinyurl.com/nqm6u7 Minor detail but I thought I would mention it.Posted by: Alexandra at June 15, 2009 7:05 AM
interesting Alexandra. Thanks for the update.
It's too bad that you have been linked with this unfortunate situation, although I can't say I'm surprised.
People can't seem to separate real sincere blogs from those which are fictional.
And there does seem to be a proliferation of this type of "sharing" of deep personal tragedies on the internet (aka the Faith and Myah blog is one recent example).
My question is, why didn't she just write a fictional story and seek to have it published online (or in print) as a FICTION? People do it all the time, and it still gets the point across without making readers believe that there is an actual, real-life situation going on. It really would have been easy for her to write this in the first person as a novel of some sort. Think Frank Peretti's "Tilly" or Francine Rivers' "Atonement Child."Posted by: Kel at June 15, 2009 9:09 AM
I feel so sad for her. She has some grieving to do for her baby. I will be praying for her.
There are quite enough legit blogs about real babies that need prayer. Thinking of Baby Faith Hope.Posted by: Carla at June 15, 2009 9:22 AM
Kel, that is an interesting question. Unfortunately I think that, rather than wanting attention or wanting to tell a story, people who do things like this are seeking sympathy. The attention, and the story that buys it, are just vehicles.
Sometimes people feel that the magnitude of their grief is not adequately conveyed by just explaining the circumstances, in this day where there's always someone who has a sadder, or even just newer, story. I know that when it comes to my health struggles of some years ago, I prefer not to mention specifics because I feel that they wouldn't adequately convey the despair and hopelessness to someone who doesn't already understand. I am no psychologist, but it seems plausible to me that this woman fiercly desired validation and sympathy, and felt her grief was most accurately described by circumstances other than what actually happened.
I do feel very sad for her. I wish she was given some anonymity in this because I think that the shame and humiliation will probably make it harder for her to get better, mentally.Posted by: Alexandra at June 15, 2009 9:39 AM
Unfortunately I think that, rather than wanting attention or wanting to tell a story, people who do things like this are seeking sympathy. The attention, and the story that buys it, are just vehicles.
I realize that personal grief is a difficult thing to write about, but even if she could have just written about her own actual loss (her son), it might have brought her some healing and the sympathy she was craving.
I do feel bad for her, especially if people didn't acknowledge her loss. You see that a lot these days... someone has a miscarriage or a stillborn infant and people just don't know what to say, so they don't say anything to acknowledge the loss or try to comfort the mother.
However, putting up a P.O. box and receiving gifts for a non-existent child is a huge red flag that this woman needs help and had no problem with taking advantage of people's sympathies.
Alexandra, regarding your last paragraph - you may be right. The publicity of this whole thing probably won't help.Posted by: Kel at June 15, 2009 9:44 AM
Wow. That is just so sad that so many people were manipulated by this hoax. Even sadder is the fact that this woman actually did lose a child. I don't know why she wouldn't have written about her actual loss, instead of making up one about a fictitious baby. She is a very good writer- there obviously are some psychological issues going on that would cause someone to do something like this. Is it possible that she didn't receive any compassion after her loss, so she felt compelled to find some sympathy from others elsewhere? Or is it also possible that she did get so much sympathy from her last loss, that she didn't want it to end, and this was a way of continuing getting all of that sympathy?
Whatever the case, it is terribly sad for all involved.
I should add that when I mentioned my own health problems, I didn't mean to imply that I had set up a fake blog etc or anything - but rather that sometimes there is the sense that the generic sympathy that often comes from sharing your story - "how sad, at least you're okay now and it's over" etc - can feel hollow.
And I don't think any of this excuses her actions. I just think that there's always some good in trying to understand motives when it comes to things like this.Posted by: Alexandra at June 15, 2009 9:55 AM
I understand what you are saying, Alexandra... Absolutely.Posted by: Bethany at June 15, 2009 10:17 AM
Knowing an actual woman who lost a child to Trisomy 21, both she and this person are still so broken from their grief, from the non visibleness of the pain they hold, that it has remained an open wound.Posted by: Sherrytex at June 15, 2009 10:56 AM
This is indeed a very sad situation. I will pray for Beccah.
I can't help but think this reminds me a little bit of the mindset of some who are in the field of writing stories. I once took a creative writing class, and I was surprised at what seemed to be an overall acceptance of the idea that an author--writing non-fiction--could add, embellish, color, the details to suit his story. It was not taken for granted that if something is labeled non-fiction that all the details should be real accounts of historical events. If they don't alter the main story line, why not take some license to flesh out the story?
This idea seemed to be pretty much accepted. And this was not a liberal college.
There is a notion I think, out there in the world of college English departments, that the truth can be whatever you want it to be through your writing.
I'm not suggesting Beccah was influenced in this way by college English classes. I have no idea. However, I do think there is in general an attitude among young adults (twentysomething) today, especially if they are college-educated, that "truth" is not a clearly defined or stable thing. It can be what you want it to be.Posted by: Scott Johnston at June 15, 2009 12:23 PM
I have a blog about this hoax.
According to several of Beccah's family members, she never lost a son. She was never a social worker. It is obvious she has some mental health issues.
She was very calculating in setting up this blog. She had fake online profiles (some set up at least a year ago...who knows what she's been up to online) that she would use to leave comments on her own blog, asking if she'd allow an address for gifts, etc. And then she got a P.O. box and people sent her cards, gifts, and money. She has denied it all.
She marketed the blog by going to other blogs and leaving the site in their comments, posing as someone else, of course.
She has been involved in an adoption scam and was accused of stealing from a business she worked for as well.
I wish I could feel some kind of pity for her, but I don't. I think she is a sociopath and potentially a dangerous individual. She has no conscience.Posted by: Michelle at June 16, 2009 2:11 AM
Also, after reading the Faith Hope blog, I think Beccah may have been inspired by Myah's story. The story she told on the April Rose blog was very, very similar.Posted by: Michelle at June 16, 2009 2:13 AM
That is awful...so there's pretty much nothing about her life that she has said that can be trusted, not anything...
I at least felt sympathy for her when I thought she actually did lose a child, but now... that changes things.Posted by: Bethany at June 16, 2009 7:20 AM
Wow. Thank you for the research you are doing. I hope Beccah gets the help she needs.
Off topic.... I like your blog. Especially interesting: "Are You a Prude?Posted by: Janet at June 16, 2009 11:34 AM
I found it very interesting that this "attention" needy person's name ends in a very familiar name fragment... hausen.
Kind of like Munchausen.
Maybe just coincidence... but an eery one.Posted by: Mita at June 16, 2009 12:06 PM
Thanks, Janet!Posted by: Scott Johnston at June 16, 2009 12:06 PM