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Is This Video an Apartment Search Ad or Freaky Surveillance?

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Before you read the back story, watch this:


(feed readers, you’ll have to visit the site to see the super creepy video)

And now, the back story:

New York City actor Joe Cummings set up surveillance in his home to catch the unwelcome houseguest after suspecting his girlfriend of eating his food. His YouTube profile still says that he is not acting and that the video above, uploaded on November 7th, 2009 is legitimate and gives detailed questions and answers about the valid nature of the clip.

The video appeared nowhere in blogs (or on any news outlet) until nearly a month later when it appeared on the NYC apartment search portal, Naked Apartments’ blog in an article with the video, posted by the CEO. I searched Google and the video did not appear on any blog prior to Naked Apartments’ blog post.

After appearing on Naked Apartments, the Gothamist posted the video and attempted to contact Naked Apartments:

“We’re guessing that it’s viral marketing for something, perhaps the website it was originally posted on, which has an author that looks suspiciously like the lanky lady caught creeping in the apartment. We contacted them to get some answers and they directed us to their publicist, who assures us that this is in no way viral marketing for the website. So far they haven’t been able to give us an answer as to how they came upon the video, or provide us with the man’s name or what neighborhood he lives in so we can call the precinct… but they have asked us to link back to their site if we posted it. So with that, the needle on our bullshit detector is in the red.”

Naked Apartments posted a Twitter update calling it their “viral video” and taking credit for it, but have since deleted the tweet. After an extensive search of FriendFeed (no luck), their Twitter RSS feed (which sometimes has deleted tweets after the fact) and other places to no avail, but Ashley Drake Gephart discovered it deep in the bowels of Google (because you can delete tweets but Google doesn’t always forget):
naked apartments' twitter comment

Since then, it has not been a featured story in any traditional news outlet, nor can anyone locate any police report matching any claim such as the videographer’s who still claims it is not an ad or a hoax, that it is a real event he has been through.

I would also note that the actor’s fan page on Facebook only has 10 fans and his YouTube channel only has 44 subscribers despite enjoying over 1.3 million views on this one video, so it’s not converting for him personally or for Naked Apartments the way it should (or could).

Why I think it’s a fake- am I wrong?

First and foremost, this story has been done before, down to some of the specific details… in Japan, a man was confused about missing food and found a homeless woman living in the upper compartment of his closet for an entire year (which was verified by Japanese police). Secondly, there was an “experiment” in 2006 called “Living With Strangers” where they secretly lived with strangers for nearly a week and videotaped how they did it (which reeks of the claims of the actor who says someone secretly lived in his home without his knowing).

Furthermore, despite claims of legitimacy, some details in the video were off:

  • When he’s setting up the camera, you can see the supposed homeless woman moving around in the crawl hole.
  • If she urinated (or otherwise) in the sink, he would have smelled it when he had a midnight snack (that’s not a smell you just ignore).
  • It’s all too perfect: the framing of the camera to get her entry point instead of just the fridge (where he suspected she would go) and the homeless lady is consistently in the frame.
  • She’s super quiet and careful at first, then starts slamming stuff around. Please, he would have heard that ruckus in a tiny NYC apartment.
  • It’s not logical- why would she only come out at night while he’s home instead of while he’s at his job? Also, why would she watch tv and risk getting caught?
  • I’m not alone in thinking that his drinking for the exact milk carton she drank from (both for his midnight snack and before his jog (who chugs milk before a run?!?)) as an all too perfect reel moment.

I could be wrong

Maybe I’m a Generation Y cynic, but I side with the majority that it’s a fake video but there are still people (especially the actor) that swear it’s real. It’s a feasible scenario, but did this really happen or was it a well done buzz builder commissioned by Naked Apartments to go viral with mystery (like Gatorade did with their weird “G” commercials prior to releasing their new drink)?

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Jason Crouch

    December 14, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Lani – I saw this video after Chris Brogan tweeted about it a few days ago. I think it’s probably fake as well, but it’s interesting and creepy from an entertainment perspective, and I guess Joe Cummings got a lot of viral attention from it.

  2. Benn Rosales

    December 14, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Over a million peeps have seen the video, but the reaction to the video has been weak in terms of stickiness and notoriety- according to the article

    I would also note that the actor’s fan page on Facebook only has 10 fans and his YouTube channel only has 44 subscribers despite enjoying over 1.3 million views on this one video, so it’s not converting for him personally or for Naked Apartments the way it should (or could).

    Course that doesn’t make it any less real or fake.

  3. Jason Crouch

    December 14, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Benn – That’s a terrific point. All the YouTube eyeballs in the world don’t mean a whole lot if they don’t convert to any additional sales or endeavors. Maybe it will eventually help him as an actor? Either way, I will readily admit that it’s a memorable video.

  4. Steve

    December 14, 2009 at 11:57 am

    I thought I heard something about a Japanese guy who had the same thing happen to him. There was a homeless woman living in a closet or something in his apartment. While he was at work, she would eat and shower at home.

  5. Steve

    December 14, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    • Lani Rosales

      December 14, 2009 at 1:09 pm

      Steve, please see the above story where we mention the Japanese story is mentioned:

      “First and foremost, this story has been done before, down to some of the specific details… in Japan, a man was confused about missing food and found a homeless woman living in the upper compartment of his closet for an entire year (which was verified by Japanese police).”

  6. Shankar Desai

    December 14, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    As the CEO of Naked Apartments, I’d like to chime in.

    One, this video is not a viral campaign by us. We played a role in making the video go viral but it’s not ours — that’s actually the reason we deleted the tweet which we felt was misleading. We thought that was the right thing to do.

    Also, we were never contacted by anyone at Agent Genius with any questions about the video, our role in it, why we deleted the tweet or what conversions we saw. We wish we had been since we are extremely responsive to folks who reach out with questions.

    If people have questions about the video, naked apartments, or our involvement with the video please feel free to email me directly at sdesai at nakedapartments dot com.

    Thanks,
    Shankar Desai
    CEO & Co-Founder
    nakedapartments.com

    • Benn Rosales

      December 14, 2009 at 1:59 pm

      “Also, we were never contacted by anyone at Agent Genius with any questions about the video, our role in it, why we deleted the tweet or what conversions we saw.”

      We didn’t need to: (from the article)

      “”After appearing on Naked Apartments, the Gothamist posted the video and attempted to contact Naked Apartments:

      “We’re guessing that it’s viral marketing for something, perhaps the website it was originally posted on, which has an author that looks suspiciously like the lanky lady caught creeping in the apartment. We contacted them to get some answers and they directed us to their publicist, who assures us that this is in no way viral marketing for the website. So far they haven’t been able to give us an answer as to how they came upon the video, or provide us with the man’s name or what neighborhood he lives in so we can call the precinct… but they have asked us to link back to their site if we posted it. So with that, the needle on our bullshit detector is in the red.””

      They make excellent points.

  7. Matthew Rathbun

    December 14, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    I think this is an elaborate plot to convince the girlfriend that the signs of a second woman in the apartment are not his fault… #justsayin

  8. Brandie Young

    December 14, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Not to mention, didn’t the homeless girl see him setting up the camera? Or was that during the time she sneeks in a bubble bath?

  9. stephanie crawford

    December 16, 2009 at 4:48 am

    @Brandie – EXACTLY! She totally would have seen it. Especially since you can see her moving around up there while he’s setting up! Sooooo FAKE! Entertaining as hell though. Maybe he’ll get some work from it.

  10. josh

    December 21, 2009 at 3:26 am

    Actor Cummings is a keen self promoter, probably spends more time promoting than studying acting. He even to conivnce another actor on IMDB.com to give up Joe Cummings (I) so he wouldn’t have to be Joe Cummings (ll).

    Definitely a fake, and an attempt to go viral.

  11. josh

    December 21, 2009 at 4:37 am

    Also influenced by Paranormal Activity, right? Anyway good luck to the guy. The milk carton was a nice touch 😉

  12. PohTayToez

    February 5, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    It seems that the police arrested the woman then there should be a report on file about it… it seems that would be easy enough to verify.

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