Emily Dirr and Warrior Eli

This is a repost of a summary I wrote about the Warrior Eli hoax.  You can read all the entries about Emily Dirr by clicking here.

Since exposing the Dirr hoax, we’ve uncovered several other people faking cancer or other illnesses on Facebook or on their personal blogs.  Their stories are linked on the sidebar under their names.

If you have a page you suspect might be fake, you can email us at warriorelihoax@gmail.com.  Also, we have a public Facebook group here.

On Mother’s Day, a post from a recent widower went viral on Facebook.

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Dana Dirr, wife of JS and the mother of cancer patient “Warrior Eli” Dirr, had been in a car accident the day before.  She held on long enough to give birth to her eleventh child but then passed away.  A family already struggling with a son suffering from his fourth relapse of cancer now had to pull themselves together after losing their wife and mother.  Life truly didn’t seem fair for one family to suffer so much.

Here’s a cache of the family’s Facebook page created to share updates about Eli’s cancer battle.  The page had 1100 fans before Dana’s death was announced.  In the early morning hours of May 14, that number had swelled to over 6600.

Dana’s survivors didn’t ask for money, flowers or gifts to help ease their pain.  Instead, a page was set up with a children’s cancer charity and readers of the Warrior Eli Facebook page were asked to donate to the foundation in memory of Dana Dirr.

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By 3 AM on May 14, the family’s goal of raising $1000 in honor of Dana Dirr had already been exceeded.

At 3:30 AM, the Warrior Eli Facebook page was deleted and the profiles of Eli’s parents, JS and Dana Dirr, became private.  Why?  This blog was created.  Hundreds of people all over the world, those who had been online friends with “Dana and JS” and those who had been moved by the story of Dana’s death, came together and researched the story, gathered evidence and, in less than 24 hours, proved that “Warrior Eli” was a hoax and that the woman behind the curtain was Emily Dirr, a medical student from Ohio.

The first clue that something was off about the story of Dana’s death was when no news agencies carried stories about a young mother of eleven, an accomplished trauma surgeon in Canada, had died on Mother’s Day after delivering a healthy baby girl.  That seems like the kind of story that the media would jump on immediately, but 24 hours after Dana’s death, nothing.

A bunch of ladies in a community devoted to talking about another emotionally manipulative blogger started to become more and more suspicious of the story of Dana’s death.  When several started to take a closer look at pictures posted online of the Dirr children, it became clear there were no group shots of all  of them together.  We started using tineye.com and Google image search to see if we could find the children’s pictures anywhere else on the web,

Bingo.  JS and Dana’s twins, Lily and Jude

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They turned out to actually be Adam and Kate, the children of Tertia Loebenberg Albertyn, a popular blogger in South Africa.

Many other examples of the Dirrs stealing pictures from around the web and claiming they were snapshots from their own lives were found.

It was puzzling because, from Facebook, JS and Dirr looked so real.  Each had hundreds of friends and they were tagged in dozens of their friends’ posts and pictures.  Both Dirrs had many albums filled with pictures, even participating in those photo a day challenges.  Friends posted on their walls constantly.  These didn’t look like sock puppet profiles.

A closer look at the friends’ profiles, however, showed that all the friends were basically obsessed with talking about Eli’s cancer battle.  Almost all the friends “liked” two Facebook pages, Squeeze the Day and Fla-Vor-Ice.  Profile picture after profile picture of the Dirr’s friends were found elsewhere on the net.  We figured out originally that whoever was behind the hoax had at least 25 Facebook profiles devoted to making his or her story look legitimate.

Eventually we’d identify 71 fake Facebook profiles.

By now, we’d realized that Dana Dirr was fake, her husband and children didn’t exist and her son Eli really wasn’t suffering from cancer.  The lengths to which the person behind the hoax went to in order to make the story look real were staggering.

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The family had a CaringBridge page that went back five years and documented every aspect of Eli’s cancer treatment.  JS also had a Xanga journal, a MySpace blog and a huge presence on an online photo sharing site, Mobog.  All of these were updated often, included tons of (stolen) pictures and had very detailed stories about life in Canada.  JS also maintained an extensive Yahoo! Answers account, answering questions from parents of cancer patients, looking for emotional support for his family and even asking how much to pay a babysitter.

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By now, I’d set up this blog and created an email address for people to send any information they could find.  Early on, a reader sent me a link to a genealogy site with information about a woman named Emily Dirr.  Her name had been on the list of donors to a fundraiser for a cancer charity that was set up to honor Eli.

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I figured it was just a coincidence because I didn’t think whoever was behind this story would use her own last name.  Then people started emailing me about bracelets that the Dirr family had sent out to raise awareness of Eli’s fight.  The return address on the packages?  Emily Dirr in Rootstown, Ohio.

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JS and Dana claimed that Emily was JS’ sister who lived in the United States.  She would be handling sending out the bracelets because postage was cheaper from Ohio than it was from Saskatchewan.  Emily sent out hundreds and hundreds of these awareness bracelets, sometimes including artwork by Eli and pictures of him that she had printed out.

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A public records search revealed that the house from the return address was owned by the parents of Emily Dirr.  It looked like we’d found the hoaxer.

revealed Emily’s name on this blog.  She emailed me, at first spinning yet another ridiculous lie, but then called me and confessed.  I felt a great deal of sympathy for her and urged her to get help and move on with her life.  She sent me an apology to post on this site.  Later, I found out most of the sob story she had told me over the  phone was also a lie.  I too had been duped by Emily Dirr.

The scariest part?  Emily is a med student studying to be a doctor.  That might explain how she was able to pull this off.  It’s a labeled bag of chemotherapy medication that Emily posted on her Warrior Eli CaringBridge site.

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It turns out Emily had also carried on cyber affairs with several women, all the while pretending to be a handsome man in his 20s from Canada.  She had dozens of friends whom she texted and instant messaged every day, including a young girl who was 13 when she met the Dirr family.  She’s 17 now and absolutely devastated that her friend was just an illusion.  Dozens of people who considered JS and Dana close friends and allies in the fight against childhood cancer have been left shattered.

Many of the parents who took the time to emotionally support and comfort the Dirr family had sick or dying children of their own.  They now look back and realize that they wasted time on fictional characters, precious time they could have spent with their own children.  Some parents have removed their support pages from the web, terrified that someone will steal their children’s pictures and pull this same thing all over again.

If Emily Dirr does have Munchausen by Internet, she needs some very serious mental help.  People who have this disorder do not stop.  When one of their stories is revealed to be fake, they pull up camp, move on to a different community of victims and start all over again.

Emily still has 46 fake Facebook profiles that she hasn’t gotten rid of yet.

Thank you to the huge number of people, all over the world, who researched this hoax, sent in exchanges they’d had with the Dirr family, took pictures of their bracelets, floated crazy theories that ended up being true and taught me that nothing is ever anonymous on the Internet

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22 Responses to Emily Dirr and Warrior Eli

  1. jennifer scheller says:

    I think you need to alert the school she attends. My mother had Munchhausen Syndrome and she made me sick. She would give me other peoples medications to induce seizures. She would starve me to make it look like I was sick. She took me from doctor to doctor and I had hundreds of medical tests done and spent months in the hospital. If Emily is going out and doing something like this, who is to say that as soon as she has access to patients that she won’t try to be a “hero doctor”. Who knows what she could do to these patients to make their symptoms worse or she could turn it into a fatality. I have seen the face of Munchhausen Syndrome and they will stop at NOTHING to get attention.

  2. Reader ~an ex-faker busting community leader says:

    I remember reading that Emily had left med school because she couldn’t maintain her grades, or something of that matter. I think that little bit of info is important to include in this story, because otherwise, people may try to contact her school to warn them of the mental imbalance this woman clearly has.

  3. mckmamadrama says:

    Watching this on 20/20! Way to go Taryn. Now let’s hope we can find someone to get MWOP’s story out.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Just saw the story, looking good Taryn!!! It was surreal watching it, I had this blog open the whole time and showed my son the pictures on it as they were appearing on the TV.

  5. Reader says:

    I can put the Eli section on YouTube.

  6. Velma says:

    I am surprised that there weren’t more details of the story on 20/20. Some of the stories that they covered I feel were irrelevant to the topic. I was expecting it to be more like what Dateline would cover… I feel that is the type of coverage that a story like this needs!! Not 2-5 minutes at the end of an hour long program!! And not only that they jumped around from one story to the next and it seemed like they tried to make a joke out of everything!!

  7. Reader ~an ex-faker busting community leader says:

    I apologise for the closed caption. I didn’t know that my DVD recorder would pick that up. I have the entire episode on DVD now, but the other segments were about lame jokes and pranks people play on each other. What Emily did was no prank or joke.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEAi4toHLjA

  8. Jenny says:

    Thanks Taryn for the meticulous research and for really presenting yourself well and solidly on the show. Still crazy to see my little guy’s pictures as “Eli” and still a little chilling. You really did a great job finding all this stuff. I guess I still will have pictures of my boys on my blog, but it does make one think… People are messed up. Sorry I didn’t reply to your first email, way back when — sort of freaked me out — but really, thanks. Jenny and Adam (healthy 6-year-old, not Eli)

  9. One of the Many Duped by Emily says:

    I think that Emily is likely setting up to do it again. She’s reading & studying what mistakes she made (because it was the mistakes that got her busted), and working on a new “project”, writing down all the lessons learned, how not to get caught. I think that she is maybe keeping those sock-puppet facebook accounts because when she starts again, those accounts will have been around for years — one of the reasons her JS & Dana story were SO believable is because that xanga blog had been around so long. I mean, it chronicled JS’s life through different girlfriends, breakups, births of at least 4 children. Seven or so years, if I remember correctly (I had gone back to read from the beginning when I stumbled on his xanga one night when I couldn’t sleep). The CaringBridge site was believable because it had been around so long, too.
    So, those facebook accounts, when they start being used again, they will show “joined facebook” in ___ year, and people will assume it has to be true because they’ve been on facebook for such a long time. People won’t think to google the names, and even if they did, you can completely change your facebook name now — so she’ll change the names, and the accounts won’t be all new & created at the same time as whatever is happening.
    I had a little niggle in my head when Dana died — it seemed off that they had 3 huge dramatic tragedies/near misses within a fairly short timeframe. But we all make amends for things, and being Canadian, I figured their little bitty town in Saskathewan was too far removed from the news — maybe Emily chose Saskatchewan to “reside” in because she knew it is the province with the smallest population in Canada (around a million people, and it’s bigger than the UK land-area wise) and anything she did wouldn’t likely be easy to find online.
    I have yet to watch the 20/20, but I will do it shortly — congrats on the segment, Taryn & all who investigated! I would LOVE to see you explain the MWOP thing — I tried to read about it one night, but something set off my McAfee security program, and it was late so I just took it as my cue to go to bed. But, yes, PLEASE explain that, and how your original group was formed (the one that was before the WEHoax) and what it was all about, and all the W’s about it.

    • DameX says:

      I looked through a ton of links of things that hadn’t been taken down (like JS’s supposed band), it was apparently immediately to me that it was all faked. She even used MS Paint on the faces of some of the bandmates. I also identified the singers of the song in the background too. The way it was written and how it was told struck me as a kid.
      I never did watch in real time her musings and hoax, but reading what others have managed to screen grab e.t.c it was far too unbelievable from the get go. I can’t believe she garnered that much respect or even people that believed her, other than of course no one wants to believe someone would take advantage of those surviving cancer nor would they go to the painstaking of sending out bracelets without donation required. I really think that was Emily’s saving grace, meaning that’s why people continued to buy into it. This is me looking back in hindsight and of course knowing zero of it before I stumbled upon this website. I’m by no means downplaying what she did!

      I also do no think she has quit or will ever quit. I can only hope she doesn’t breed. She is dangerous. What she wrote prior to the cancer saga could have been brushed off as one of the millions out there that create a fantasy world to escape, more so as bored children (she was very young when she began it) to distract away from not having any real friends or having a home life they don’t desire. When online relationships are created with people, stealing of photos and adulthood hits .. that’s where I look at it as more as a severe personality disorder and not a sign of depression or adolescence. I know this isn’t coming off clear and as I type this I want to delete it all because it’s going to offend but I am on everyone’s side here (not her’s), I’m just free writing how I view it all.

      I’ve been attacked by predators online, not with diseases or sorts but people have posed as me, stolen photos – wrote my Uni (and I’m still going through this), posed as other people entirely to gain my trust and stalked me. They were all women. It’s enough now that i’m living in the middle of nowhere essentially hiding out. I know what this feels like, to be victimized where you no longer feel that anything is private no matter what lengths you go through to ensure it. I understand what Emily’s victims feel like inside and I wish I had advice to give them, other than hindsight is 20/20 and not everyone out there is like this. Please hang in there and do not blame yourself, just examine how you make new friends online gain YOUR trust (no vice versa 100%). Like any relationship, let there be a build up and I know I employed the “Do not tell anyone personal details that I don’t want the world to know, unless it’s a therapist, DR, family or someone I know in person and for a long time”.

      I don’t want this to get lost in the earlier posts because I’m not sure how often they are viewed, but I have a concern for Cara’s child. I do follow her new blog and not for malicious intent, more like out of curiosity of how she’s handling her life now as she is a mother. There are some alarming things presented that correlate with a “condition” she often bitched about when she was faking cancer. I by no means want to have her life overshadowed by CPS if she’s being a great mother … but .. I have concerns.

  10. DameX says:

    One last thing; when it came out where Emily went to college and the fact she was a medical student, something struck out to me. I am a med student myself (with a dual major in abnormal psych) and in my first year I was taken aback by the amount of people also attempting to gain degrees who had serious emotional and mental issues. It’s strange, or maybe it isn’t, but psych majors and some medical majors tend to attract people who have severe personality disorders. I have no idea if that’s their way of trying to gain control over themselves or it’s learning how to slip undetected. Just in my years of academics I’ve found too many for my own liking and it’s rather frightening. I know every field has people with emotional, chemical or personality disorders but law and medical fields really has a plethora.

    What scares me about people like Emily is that they are intelligent and feel untouchable in the same degree. It goes beyond pathological lying and starts bleeding into Histrionic/Narcism & a few have come out to acknowledge they have Border line personality disorder. Which of all the medical problems they list, these are the only believable ones for me. I’m not here diagnosing anyone but they seem to be the picture children of such things. Lying goes along with it because they feel no bond/empathy/guilt or remorse. It’s a “me” condition which can only be corrected in varying degrees through CBtherapy.

    I’m glad to know Emily is smeared enough where she could not practice in with even an RN degree. She could always get a job as a CNA or possibly LPN, and that too is frightening (geriatric community as a majority). I knew in person a nurse with the diagnosis I listed above and she was given a pass as she was “So helpful!”, but truly she desired to not be abandoned, to be noticed and her every action rallied around. Sadly her medchecks began to falter and patients weren’t getting specific medications, and their health would deteriorate but she stuck around after hours and called the families / developed close relationships with the kin and gave them more “informed” updated than the facilities, so she was never looked at closer. It took a death and a diligent nurse who just came onto the ward in training that noticed various life saving meds weren’t being given.

    Emily’s factious life shows a few things: She has zero common sense, although she had book smarts. I’m sure we all know how the common sense played into this, so I won’t post it (as I don’t want to give away what made it overtly obvious). She desired things in twos, repetitive behavior to the max. She involved herself for one purpose: pride. Her narcism is beyond help. She feels untouchable, and continues to try to dupe people who even allow her to redeem herself because she has no guilt nor remorse and in her head, she probably wonders “Why should I?”, as she didn’t take funds and she GAVE. To her this means it’s “no biggie” and she’s always going to fail to see why it was bad. I don’t think she even feels like shit for being caught, and I bet you she’s probably had an entire other family this entire time who is still active, most likely in another medical upset which she’ll keep going until the steam runs out.

    People that gravitate towards medical / terminal conditions / mental illness are those that should not have custody of their children as it will most likely develop into MBP. And now we have a hoaxer with an infant and subtle hints at illness sprouting. Once the “new” wears off of the child and other people begin to be involved in a child who will be vocal … things will shift. Cara is by no means healthy enough to have her child, she’s not healthy enough to be on her own (in my opinion), because she’s not even working or supporting them. It’s like watching a train-wreck and hoping it’s an unnecessary worry but I don’t think it is.

  11. aiblonde says:

    Reader ~an ex-faker busting community leader – Thanks for posting the video! I’m from the UK and was unable to watch it when it aired.

    Taryn – That was such a great way to raise awareness, good job!

    I was delighted to see Nev Schulman on it, I’m a huge fan of his. :)

  12. thunderbolt says:

    DameX- Thumb up to what you said. Here’s my own take: There are many great doctors, I was helped by some many years ago at Rainbow Children’s in Cleveland (where Eli Dirr would have gone if he had been real) and I was able to keep leading a normal life. There are also some who think by going into med/psych they can self-diagnose, and there are still others who just aren’t well enough to be there. I don’t know Emily but if she can do something like this, then she has no business being in med school.

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