Hey there, I'm back. This time with sort of sad but, "welp, obviously because it's still 2018" news. Like most pure things, the fun, satisfying, viral video of a former NASA engineer pranking package thieves, which made the entire internet feel vindicated, is not what it seems.
Earlier this week, Mark Rober, an inventor-turned-YouTuber who worked on NASA's Curiosity rover, among other impressive things, published an 11-minute video detailing how he spent six months creating the ultimate revenge contraption after someone stole an Amazon package off his porch. He called it his "Magnum Opus," and it went mega, mega-viral, garnering more than 38 million views in three days, and elicited a collective "HELL YES" of joy and satisfaction from everyone who has ever had their stuff taken.
But shortly after the ode to all the packages we've lost before swept across the media landscape, viewers on the internet did what they do best: pick it apart.
They noticed some strange coincidences, like how one of the porch bandits seemed to live directly next door to Rober's friend, Cici, and that the car used in one of the heists, a black Ford Focus with a rosary hanging on the mirror, was parked right in front of her house in Pittsburg, California.
At first, Rober's video made it seem like people were taking the packages off porches in Illinois, but later added a disclaimer to the video that this was not his actual house.
On Wednesday, a man named Peter Logan emailed BuzzFeed News to share some strange things he noticed using Google's Street View feature and Zillow. He realized that when the third thief, who opened the glitter-fart bomb inside her home, went outside to throw it out, her side yard and outdoor space seemed to be right next door to Cici's house.
After watching the video several times much more closely, he realized that the second package thief's car, a black Ford Focus, was also parked outside Cici's house in several other shots. Zooming in, Logan was able to read the address on the third thief's house, google it, and confirm that it was indeed Cici's neighbor, leading him, he wrote, to "come to the opinion that the whole video was a put-on, that the package thieves were in on the gag."
He published his findings on Imgur, spurring other viewers to do their own detective work. Another person found Cici's house on Zillow and noted that the interior seemed to closely match the background of the third thief's kitchen and living room.
In Reddit and Twitter threads and messaging chains, people also pointed out how strange it was that police weren't involved in the thefts, or how the bandits' reactions seemed far too calm and mellow for just getting sprayed with a torrent of glitter and fart spray.
After Logan and other internet detectives, including this reporter, contacted Rober with follow-up questions and details, small portions of the video disappeared and other details were blurred out. People also noticed.
On Thursday, after the photo evidence began to simmer to the top of social media's consciousness, Rober tweeted that he had removed about one and a half minutes of the video after he "was presented with information that caused me to doubt the veracity of 2 of the 5 reactions in the video."
The inventor explained that he had reached out to people "willing to put a package on their porch," and a friend of a friend volunteered to help. To compensate these people for their time and "willingness to risk putting a package on their porch," Rober offered to pay them "for any successful recoveries of the package."
"It appears in these two cases, the 'thieves' were actually acquaintances of the person helping me," Rober said. "From the footage I received from the phones which only record at specific times, this wasn’t clear to me. I have since removed those reactions from the original video (originally 6:26-7:59)."
Rober apologized for misleading viewers, writing that he should have "done more to verify" the content. He did, however, insist that the other reactions, when people swiped the package from his porch, were genuine.
"This is my first ever video with some kind of 'prank' and like I mentioned in the video it’s pretty removed from my comfort zone and I should have done more," he went on. "I’m especially gutted because so much thought, time, money and effort went into building the device and I hope this doesn’t just taint the entire effort as 'fake.'"
After viewing the images, people were bummed out.
While others who go through the world doubting pure things did have their suspicions.
"The 'thieves' just seem like shit actors to me," this person said.
While they were disappointed that the ultimate revenge experience was not entirely true, many of Rober's fans and viewers said they believed his explanation, thanked him for "being up front," and still contended that it was the "best video of the year."
"The beauty is the obsessive engineering that led to a gorgeous and elegant solution. I can’t wait to see your future videos all while my kids and I catch up on your past work," this person wrote.
As for Logan, he agreed that Rober's note was "a decent apology," but still had some questions, particularly about how the footage was obtained and cut.
From how he explained how the device worked, the package gets opened and then the cameras started to record. That means he has footage of the woman opening the package, carrying out of the house, walking to the house next door, and dropping it the trash there. To get next door she passed through the front porch or front yard that he should have recognized because it was in the video in three shots from three cameras.
"He admits to the deceptions where he was caught but promises the rest is the truth. I'm not sure what to do with that," Logan surmised. "I have no doubt that the glitter bomb trap device is real and works and he's a smart guy who spent a lot of time making it. But I continue to think the reactions of the people caught are all staged."
Overall, everyone still agrees that the invention is a work of revenge art, and we all would like to know when and how we can get our own, put it out, and grab some popcorn.