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Previously: Who Killed Sister Cathy?
In April of 2010, a woman named Karin Catherine Waldegrave joined Facebook. This in and of itself is obviously not unusual; people join Facebook all the time. What sets Karin apart was the sheer absurdity of her posts — posts which still defy explanation to this very day. In fact, many are still wondering whether Karin’s page was written by a real person.
According to her Facebook profile, Karin was an impressive individual. Listed as “Karin Catherine Waldegrave (Von Berg Habsburg),” she was apparently a Londoner by birth (b. 1969), although she also seemed to have traveled quite extensively. She earned a PhD in the History of International Relations from Canada’s University of Toronto — or at least, she was working on one at the time she was posting; according to The Waldegrave Files, a WordPress site that kept copies of her profile and posts, the PhD was “in progress,” with the expected year of award listed as 2012. She spoke a huge number of languages, including English, French, German, Russian, Estonian, Latvian, Latin, and “Gallic.” (We’ll talk about why I put that last one in quotation marks in a moment.)
Some dedicated researchers have been able to dig up a little more about Karin (although note that I haven’t independently verified any of this myself): She seems to have married a fellow named Peeter Leppik in 1992 and divorced about a decade later. (Leppik is a real person, so please don’t go bugging him about any of this.) According to his LinkedIn page, Leppik has been the CEO of a printing business called Technograph since 1988; meanwhile, Karin’s work history on her Facebook profile notes that she was once “Matrimonial Investor/Co-Owner” of Technograph. Then, in 2003, she married Gordon Finlay — and again, listed on her Facebook profile was “Matrimonial Investor/Co-Owner” for a company called Finlay Travel Ltd., which was seemingly “sold to Helen Thompson.”
But here’s the thing about Facebook profiles: You can fill them with whatever you like. And Karin’s raised a number of red flags.
There are holes in Karin’s profile — details that don’t quite make sense. For example, consider her PhD. From what I can tell, the University of Toronto’s political science department does offer International Relations as a field of study in its PhD program — but it does not offer a PhD in the History of International Relations. The university’s history department, meanwhile, also offers International Relations as a field of study; again, though, it’s not specifically phrased as a doctorate in the History of International Relations (you’d just be getting your degree in International Relations, full stop).
I bring all of this up to point out that, regardless of the fact that several departments at the University of Toronto offer PhD programs in International Relations, the way Karin described her studies on her Facebook profile was… odd, particularly for someone so highly educated.
Also odd was her inclusion of “Gallic” as a language she spoke. “Gallic” isn’t a language; it’s an adjective usually used to describe one of two things: Either France, the French people, and/or their customs; or, an ancient region of Europe (Gaul) or the people who lived there (the Gauls). Did she mean Gaelic? For what it’s worth, she did use most of the languages she listed in her profile in her actual posts; again, though, not unlike the way she phrased her educational credentials, the words she used to discuss the languages in which she was proficient were unusual.
And then there were her photos. These, too, felt a little… off: Many of them looked like they had been scanned in, and it was apparent that the original images had been damaged by water or other forces; other images, however, appeared to have been Photoshopped to look as if they were damaged — a quality identified by the fact that the damage pattern is identical in each one, suggesting that the same template had been applied to all of the images.
But all of this is small potatoes in comparison to the lengthy, rambling text posts Karin eventually begin writing on her own timeline.
She began to talk about the intelligence community (the FBI, the CIA, MI6), conspiracies, and mind control. She wrote about “the Elite” — specifically about having knowledge of illegal activities in which they were engaging — and about her connections with a number of international criminal networks. She spoke of people she said had either tried or planned to kill her. She had a lot to say about Kate Middleton and Prince William around the time of their wedding. These posts were intensely bizarre, both in form and content; in addition to being rife with conspiracy theories, the language used frequently did not seem to make any sort of grammatical sense.
But perhaps oddest of all was the fact that many of these posts had hundreds of responses, all written by Karin, many of which were posted nearly simultaneously. A huge number of these comments bear timestamps that occurred either at the exact same moment as several previous comments, or within just a few minutes of each other. One day, she spent 12 hours responding to her own posts in this fashion.
As far as I know, personal Facebook pages don’t have scheduling capabilities — that is, you can’t write a whole bunch of posts and queue them up to go live at specific times. However, there is an easy explanation for the near-simultaneous timing of the posts: Karin could easily have drafted them somewhere else — an email draft or a word processing program, for example — and then simply pasted them into the comment field and hit enter, over and over and over again at a rapid pace. As the podcast Thinking Sideways points out, it also would be fairly simple to write or find a script that was capable of accomplishing this task.
However, even owing for these somewhat reasonable explanations of how all those posts went live at the times they did, the fact remains that both the posts and Karin’s posting behavior were really, really weird. The internet has a lot of theories about who Karin was or what she was doing, of course; the major ones are as follows:
1. She Has Schizophrenia
Many believe that Karin’s increasingly incomprehensible posts are an indication that she had schizophrenia or other mental health issues. The symptoms of schizophrenia do include delusions and disorganized thinking, which, to a casual observer, would seem to be consistent with Karin’s Facebook activity; personally, though, I don’t think someone else’s mental health is really something we should be theorizing about. Beyond the fact that I’ve never seen this particular theory presented by any mental health professionals, let alone a mental health professional who had actually examined Karin — and was therefore both qualified and in a position to diagnose her — the bottom line is that armchair detectives with no mental health expertise simply cannot diagnose strangers through the internet. We just can’t. We’re not equipped to do so.
I also dislike the narrative to which this theory subscribes. It’s the Hollywood version of mental illness — the brilliant PhD student who one day “snaps” and begins “raving like a mad woman.” This is an overly simplistic and stigmatizing way of thinking about mental health; far from helping, it’s actively harmful.
Yes, it’s possible that Karin might have a mental illness, and that her Facebook posts might be connected. But it’s not our place to speculate about a diagnosis.
2. She’s A Computer Program
Honestly, my first thought upon reading the archives stored at The Waldegrave Files was, “These look like Markov chains.” Remember the Markovian Parallax Denigrate? That’s what Karin Catherine Waldegrave’s Facebook page looks like to me.
Nor am I the only one; a number of Redditors made the same observation a couple of years ago on the r/UnexplainedPhotos subreddit. “The text looks like something generated with a Markov chain pseudo-natural-language text generator,” Redditor u/orost wrote. “It’s a program that knows roughly which words go together and how, so it produces text that resembles functional sentences that should mean something, but it has no knowledge of the actual meaning of the words so there is zero real sense to the text. The effect is often rather creepy.”
Another Redditor, u/charlie145, took it a step further and ran the words “conspiracy,” “government,” and “privacy” through a Markov chain generator. Here’s a short excerpt of what the generator produced:
“A exile to the realm of semiotics, especially for resourcefulness, will be presumptuous, obstreperous, and increasing with regime. Incursion by seclusion changes conspiracy which unsubstantiates inducement. Also, a neutrino at perjury is not the only thing the plasma reproduces; it also catalyzes gravity of privacy. In my experience, just about all of the administrations on our personal demonstration to the reprobate we disseminate reiterate a diagnosis and depreciate ateliers for apprentices. Even so, armed with the knowledge that dislocation that should be a commencement or subjugates probes insists, many of the scenarios at my response provision whiner but forsake the people in question. My aborigine may be a respondent. Conspiracy which will rivetingly be privation that yields is misplaced yet somehow classic with our personal proclamation by the device we augment as well. The development is banal but not howling, not militate. My assassin seethes. By interceding, a tenacious conspiracy can be more parsimoniously demarcated.”
That’s actually not too far off from the kind of stuff that Karin was posting. It’s possible that “Karin” isn’t a person, but rather a bot or some other form of programming trickery.
However, as other Redditors pointed out, there’s also evidence to suggest that Karin’s posts may not be Markov chains after all. u/Sacrificial_Lamborghi pointed to this post from Karin as an example:
“Also, the organized criminal pervert network which constructed our upscale condominium building in 1997 is advised to stop peeping tommery in it and activist social programming while harassing homeowners in a variety of ways including maste r key type entry in absentia and aggressive impertinent socialite curiosity. Selling retired entrepreneurial couples, war veterans, and young married couples with toddler age children and without (also considering other residents such as young professionals such as accountants as renters in the building) $2.5 Million worth of real estate (us for example – we are married and have been spouses for 8 years in a long marriage, a second long and faithful marriage for both of us – lifelong home owners in Canada both with the exception of 1947 – 1952), continuing peeping over the years and other home invading behaviour by frequent knocks on the door.”
Wrote u/Sacrificial_Lamborghi, “As incoherent as it may seem, there are short sentences that are structured and sound somewhat of personal information. That’s what makes it odd.” u/i-am-qix agreed, stating, “THIS is not Markov Chain babble. Markov rarely refers to previous topics in the same context, and almost never (at least, I’ve never seen one) stays in the same tone of voice and topic in such a manner as this text.” Added u/Hlothwig, “She goes on long mid-sentence tangents and is generally difficult to understand, but her writing isn’t just semantically meaningless. It has a purpose — a long-winded, paranoid, ridiculous purpose, but she sticks to it over the course of a single message.” Karin has the ability to stay on message; Markov chains generally do not. They’re not, as Thinking Sideways put it, self-referential — but Karin is.
Do with all that what you will.
3. It’s A Social Experiment
I think this theory — which, like the Markov chain one, hinges on Karin not actually being a person — is a little thin, but for the curious, here’s what Redditor u/SeaBones wrote in that same r/UnexplainedPhotos thread:
“Honestly, and I don’t mean to be damper on this mystery, I feel like this is a social/psychological experiment or demonstration for a psychology or sociology class. It reminds me of something someone did back in high school on Xanga (big when I was in high school as we couldn’t actually use Facebook if we weren’t in college back then). They made a fake profile and filled it with nonsense to demonstrate a type of disorder. People in this thread have already pointed a possible generator of quick, nonsensical ramblings.”
It’s possible, but what’s the experiment meant to be examining? How people deal when they’re presented with a string of seemingly nonsensical text that appears to come from a real person? To what end?
4. The Facebook Page Is A Way For Spies To Communicate
And here’s where we start to leave the realm of “likely” and head towards the land of “prooooobably not”: Some theories posit that “Karin’s” posts were actually coded messages spies sent to one another. Paranormal website Ghost Theory put it as follows: “Could Karin Catherine Waldegrave’s Facebook account have been a modern spy communication log? Some sort of social networking Number Station that can only be deciphered by traveling spies?”
On the one hand, it’s kind of an interesting idea; Karin’s page does sort of look like a “social networking Number Station” — a contemporary version of the Buzzer. But on the other — and realize that I say this as someone who has absolutely no background in espionage, so take it with a very large grain of salt — I can’t help but think that if spies needed a secure line of communication, Facebook would quite literally be the last place they’d go.
Maybe that’s just me, though.
5. She’s A Victim Of MKULTRA
Or if not a victim, then at least involved in some way. You’ve probably heard of MKULTRA, if only because interest in it has risen again recently thanks to Stranger Things (although The Manchurian Candidate also has shades of MKULTRA in its writing — and if you’re a longtime reader of mine, you might remember the Indian Lake Project); it didn’t involve telekinesis, but it is often called the CIA’s mind control program. Its goal, according to court documents from the CIA v. Sims case, was “the research and development of chemical, biological, and radiological materials capable of employment in clandestine operations to control human behavior.” Not always ethical, MKULTRA was… not our best moment as a country.
The MKULTRA theory proposes that Karin’s ramblings as a result of experimentation from the program; her vehemence against the CIA in particular seems notable in this context. Here’s the thing, though: Karin said she was born in 1969. MKULTRA was originally launched in the 1950s, reduced in 1964, reduced again in 1967, and officially had the kibosh put on it in 1973. I’m sure there are loads of conspiracy theories speculating that despite being “officially” shut down, MKULTRA is still alive and well… but that’s a path I don’t really want to go down. (Logical fallacies and all that.) Assuming that MKULTRA finished when the government says it does, and assuming that Karin didn’t lie about her birth year, I doubt four-year-old Karin (who, again, was born in London — that is, not the United States) would have been a part of it. There’s just no evidence that places her in the right location at the right time for it to be there case.
No matter which way you slice it, the story remains incredibly strange — and incredibly unsolved. Karin eventually deleted her Facebook page, and although there’s a fan page that tried to keep track of her for a while, its last update from January 2015 notes that there are, in fact, no updates. We don’t know who Karin is, why she wrote the things she did, or where she’s gone, or why she deleted her page.
Maybe she just wanted to get away from our social media-saturated world.
I can understand that.