Remembering Jenkem, The Greatest Internet Hoax

The teen drug panic that was started by a prankster on a messageboard.

Behold: the greatest trolling effort to make local news believe that teens were doing a new dangerous drug called "jenkem".

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The year was 2007. Rickrolling was still a year away from invention, but fucking with people on the internet was, of course, eternal and ageless. It was during that heady time that the greatest fake drug hoax of all time made its way into the hearts of trolls and the minds of local police.

Jenkem isn't completely fake. The real version is tragic – a cheap high that street children in Zambia were using. In 1998 the New York Times mentioned it in a story about the plight of Zambian AIDS orphans. The drug is made by fermenting sewage in a bottle, trapping the gas that is emitted and huffing it.

The hoax started with a user named "Pickwick" on the now-defunct messagebaord (archived version here). Pickwick posted a bunch of photos of himself setting up a bottle of pee-and-poo-looking substances in the sun with a yellow balloon over it.

Ok today I set it up and put the bottle in the hot sun. My friend took pictures of the all of the steps. First I shit in the bottle, then pissed in it. I took a balloon and stretched it over the top to catch all of the gases. Now I will wait a few days and hope the balloon fills up.

A few more updates on the progress of the bottle ensued, and finally a follow up "trip report" describing the experience:

Well today I finally did it. I became probably the first person in America to huff his own shit gas ...

After breathing it in I immediately felt that I was passing out. I did not even have time to spit before I became unconscious. When I woke up my spittle had oozed out of my mouth and down my chin. I asked my friend how long I was out for. He said for about a minute, and that he had repeatedly tried to wake me but I would not wake up ....

After I was fully into the dream like state visual hallucinations began to start. I had fleeting visions of people who seemed completely random, like my second grade teacher ... At the peak of the trip I saw things like pillars in my lawn that disappeared and shapes in the sky.

Later, Pickwick admitted that it was all a hoax – the brown mixture wasn't his own poop and pee, rather common kitchen ingredients including flour and Nutella. Of course he didn't actually huff pee and poop gas, he was just participating in the more traditional teen craze of trolling on the internet.

However, his outrageous story spread and some 4channers started a campaign to try to convince local schools and law enforcement that jenkem was actually the new hot thing for teens.

4chan's copypasta instructions on how to spread the panic to local schools:

It worked. Enough internet trolls had contacted police and teachers that a Florida county sheriff's office issued this bulletin warning parents of the dangers of jenkem:

Glee spread among Totse as local TV news picked up the story of the hot new teenage drug (which of course, wasn't real). Someone from the Totse messageboard emailed South Park about it, and jenkem found its way into an episode of the show (Kenny becomes addicted to huffing cat piss).

The Washington Post was perhaps the most legit news organization to fall for it (the blog post about it is now gone from the internet). Shortly thereafter, Snopes debunked jenkem as an internet prank. Jenkem still lives on in the hearts and mind of the internet – there's a mildly active chan board still devoted to it, and a skateboard magazine named after it.

Lesson is: don't huff pee and poop. And don't believe kids who claim they do.

Listen to the Internet Explorer podcast discuss jenkem and Twitter deleting parody accounts on this week's episode:
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