File 0040: AJ, the Puddle of Goo
In October 2004, AJ would leave their home in Maine and make the long bus ride to Pennsylvania, with dreams of escaping a bad home life and finding some place that they belonged. AJ had only known Jen, Angel and Jack over the internet, but they all seemed nice enough, what could go wrong? Find out as we interview AJ in the next chapter of the Jen Saga
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Cayla [00:00:16] All right. So, AJ,
what do you want us to call you? Call you for the interview here?
AJ [00:00:22] Call me A.J., if you want to go back to the name that I was actually using around the time I was in the house, like I said in the house, they called me something else because I didn't like my name. I was using, but on the demon-sushi website, you'll see me obliquely mentioned under Reno's account, under a guy named Goo. I was known as Goo back then.
Cayla [00:00:43] OK, what do you prefer to go by?
AJ [00:00:46] I go by AJ or EB these days. I usually get called EB by friends because my friend group actually has another AJ and it already
Halli [00:00:58] pronouns?
AJ [00:00:59] They them.
Halli [00:01:00] Awesome
Cayla [00:01:01] All right. And like I said, I'm Cayla and when you were talking to you a bunch already let the others introduce themselves.
Halli [00:01:09] I'm Halli. Nice to meet you.
Nathan [00:01:11] And I'm Nathan.
AJ [00:01:13] Nice to meet you.
Cayla [00:01:14] All right, so I guess where should we start? How did you even get to and how did you meet Jen? Because you grew up in Maine, didn't you?
AJ [00:01:27] Yes, I did. And I want, say, high school near the end of high school. Yeah, it would have been near the end of high school because of the way things went, I was. Just, you know, a Final Fantasy 7 fan, I was going through some shit in my life, everybody does. I'll get into that in a little while, but. So I was just going around looking at Final Fantasy seven stuff, because that was the first video game that I got really into. I wasn't really into gaming before that, so. I had gotten into, you know, like looking into things about the lesser known characters or the lesser focused characters which led to Hojo, which led to Hojo.org. Now, I ended up sending a message to the Web host or the server master, whatever they call no, that was Jack back then, known as Renee. I don't want to dead name them, but at the same time, I don't know if we're trying to keep the names.
Cayla [00:02:41] So we're calling them Jack now. So, yeah, we don't want to dead name them either.
AJ [00:02:46] OK, that was Jack. And I talked to Jack for quite a while, maybe a couple of months, Jack started slowly approaching me about what the house was about, soul bonding, a stuff before going, "I think you should meet Jen" and so over AIM they introduced me to he introduced me to Jen. And I started talking to Jen on my own from there. And Jen started getting me more into, you know, explain the soul bonding stuff and everything. And so it all happened over AIM. It was an email initially, but Jack, I say after we exchanged maybe two or three emails, Jack was like, well, here's my aim name. We should talk and. Most of it happened over AIM
Cayla [00:03:34] you remember what year that was like, was this like 2003?
AJ [00:03:38] 2004
Cayla [00:03:40] OK. So Angel would have been already part of the group at that point?
AJ [00:03:45] Oh, definitely, yeah.
Cayla [00:03:47] OK.
AJ [00:03:49] Pretty much everything involved with my involvement happened in 2004, so. From meeting Jack, to me getting into and leaving the house. So. Like I said, I was at the end of high school, then, I was 18, technically. There's only one minor I know of that got involved with the house, so. I've had people ask me that in the past, it's like, were there any minors that they go out and were there any minors involved? Like there's only one that I know of and. We talked about that elsewhere, we can get to that later, too, but so I wasn't a minor at the time, I was 18. I think that was part of the reason why they wanted to engage me because, you know, I said I was 18 and and I was, in fact 18. My birthday was in January. So. As for, you know, how they started enticing me, I was going through a very rough time at home from about the time my parents split up when I was 11 or 12. To pretty much. You know, the end of high school, I was having issues with my mom, had a boyfriend that she left my dad for, that abused me. And. When I finally spoke out about the abuse, even though my mom like this is like when I was 15, my mom had made the all the appropriate motions. But then basically said, you know, she didn't believe me behind the scenes, that she was still seeing him behind my back. And this led to a lot of tension and fighting with my mom. And she even let the guy move into our backyard to a trailer which let pretty much directly to my room. But he never did anything but, you know, I had to live with that fear,
Cayla [00:06:05] no kidding,
AJ [00:06:06] I'm close to my maternal grandmother. She didn't know about this going on at the time. She says if she had she would have brought me to her house and transferred me to school there and stuff. So. Plus, I didn't go to high school conventionally, I always had issues with my mental health and when I was 15, 9/11 happened. And that exacerbated my existing anxiety issues horribly.
AJ [00:06:45] So I ended up being pulled out of school for about a year and a half and being tutored at home. So I was also home alone online a lot, which led to getting involved with the stuff that ultimately led me to Jen. And in my senior year, because the home tutoring was kind of inadequate. I basically had to earn like four years worth of high school credits, because I didn't do very well my freshman year because of all the stuff going on in my life, I had to earn them in like three weeks. And it was the last three weeks of school. So that really pushed me to the brink in terms of, you know, what I was going through mentally and stuff. And that's pretty much what cemented my decision that I was going to end up there at the house. You know, it still took me a few months to get the means to.
Cayla [00:07:47] And was your mom's boyfriend still like living in the yard at that time?
AJ [00:07:52] He was, but I was no longer living there by that point, as soon as I graduated, I moved in with my grandmother, but I was still really harried because people were pushing me to go to college and stuff. Which I took a small scholarship that I had gotten a lot of people there in my hometown where I grew up and had gotten a scholarship because my town, my hometown, I grew up in was literally EPA Superfund site. So those are sorry we poisoned you money.
Cayla [00:08:23] Hmm.
AJ [00:08:26] Yeah, that was reassuring. So I took the money from that and my grants, the student loans. And that's what I used to go to Pennsylvania because at the time they were living in the house.
Cayla [00:08:38] And then was this Mela's house?
AJ [00:08:41] Yes. OK. And. I can give you like a rundown of the roster of who was there when I moved there
Cayla [00:08:52] yeah, that would be good. I would like to know who was there.
AJ [00:08:54] Then there was Jen, Angel and Jack. And I will say that even though Angel, that's how she's known almost everywhere online, I actually didn't know that until after I left the house. We always knew her as Anna in the house. Yeah. But so it was them, it was Mela, it was a woman named Ami, I don't see her mentioned a lot or pretty much ever, even though she was probably one of the ones who was most abused in the house, to be honest.
Cayla [00:09:25] Oh, I'm not familiar with her
AJ [00:09:29] It was there was somebody else who was there, but they were leaving just as I got there, I can't even remember who they were. Let's see, that was Ami. Joaquin, he came up a little after I did. Like a few weeks after I did. OK, then Jess came and went,
Cayla [00:09:55] yeah, OK,
AJ [00:09:56] Jess was the one minor.
Cayla [00:10:01] Now, did you know most of these people online prior to this, or did you just kind of have a relationship with Jen and Jack?
AJ [00:10:07] I knew Jen and Jack and I knew about Anna, through them mentioning her.
Cayla [00:10:13] OK, so did you take a Greyhound or something? Like, how did you get to Pennsylvania?
AJ [00:10:20] I took a Greyhound. I don't drive. I never did.
Cayla [00:10:25] So you, like, take the bus out there? Did they pick you up from the bus station or do you have to take a taxi or something?
AJ [00:10:32] Mela, pick me up from the bus station and even though it's rarely happened, when I got to the house, Jen and Angel actually weren't there at the time. It was actually very rare that they were at home. But for whatever reason, they weren't when I got there, so I didn't meet them immediately and was 24 hour bus trip, so I went and, you know, took a nap when I woke up. At one point when I first got there, Mela had called. They called them are they called the house or wherever they were? Because cell phones weren't really a big thing then. So then they asked to speak to me and I remember Jen commenting that I had the cutest accent. That was the first time anybody ever mentioned to me that I had an accent it was weird, but I've heard that a lot when I was in Pennsylvania.
Cayla [00:11:23] You don't sound like you have much of an accent to me, and I don't if it was different before, but
AJ [00:11:27] I don't know either.
Halli [00:11:28] But I was going to say I'm a Midwesterner. I would have mistaken you for a Midwesterner.
AJ [00:11:37] I maybe I had a slightly. More exaggerated Maine accent, because, you know, I grew up with Downeast Maine and. I guess I just don't anymore, but
Cayla [00:11:50] yeah,
AJ [00:11:51] anyway, so, oh, they put me in what they called the lab. It was actually that the house had been divided into the house was three floors, but the third floor was a separate apartment originally. So my room would have been the kitchen of that second apartment.
Cayla [00:12:12] Yeah, because there was 4 bedrooms in the house right?
AJ [00:12:17] Yes, I tried to remember because, yeah, there was three bedrooms, though, there's technically five bedrooms. There was the master bedroom that Jen and Angel used. Then there were two other bedrooms, one of them, was Mela's, one of them became Ami's, or it was also kind of like a multipurpose room because it was where the only computer in the house was. Then upstairs, the third floor. There were two bedrooms and one of those rooms was Jack's one ended up becoming Joaquin's. And then I had, like I said, what should have been the kitchen. And they basically put a futon on the floor for me. But I did have my own working fridge. They didn't know the refrigerator up there still worked. The stove didn't work. The refrigerator did. It did end up becoming a good thing later because I ended up having to hide food there, so. But, yeah, when I initially go out there, they're just like, you know, because they had already dubbed me Vincent, so they were like, well, let's put let's put them in the labs. At the time, I was IDing as he/him. So I put a futon in the lab and that's where I was, it was not even like a door or anything there because it wasn't a proper bedroom
Cayla [00:13:48] And I can't imagine you brought much with you when you came from Maine.
AJ [00:13:53] No, I didn't. Basically, the clothes on my back, whatever I could stuff into one duffel bag, I did bring more stuff eventually. My dad was in the military at the time, if you're wondering, you know, why my dad was totally absent during this period. My dad was and still is in the military. He'd actually been deployed to Iraq. And. At one point in November, my dad got leave and I actually left the house, he came back to Maine to see him and I willingly went back to the house because things hadn't gone bad that bad. Yet people hear about how I left and I came back there like "wait what?"
Cayla [00:14:29] Yeah, it's one of those things that people, it wasn't all bad or no one would have stayed there for any amount of time.
AJ [00:14:37] And things hadn't gotten as horrible as they would later either.
Cayla [00:14:42] And thinking the family house that you came from with an abuser in your backyard. Of course, like I, I don't blame you at all for staying with there and preferring that over coming home.
AJ [00:14:52] Right. You know, what's I first go up there? I was one of the few people that worked in the house. The other was Mela, who worked a lot. I think she's been pretty open lately about the fact that she worked as a stripper at the time. For a while, I was, when I would talk about this, I wouldn't mention what she was doing for work in case, you know, there's no shame in it. But at the same time, I didn't want to go and say what she did for work if she did have some kind of shame or was trying to put it behind her. But what I'm given to understand is she has been speaking about the fact that she was a stripper at the time.
Cayla [00:15:26] Yeah, she's pretty open about it now from what I've seen, too.
AJ [00:15:28] And she was working at two or three clubs at a time. She paid the majority of the bills.
Cayla [00:15:33] Wow.
AJ [00:15:34] And some of these clubs were pretty sleazy. Disreputable.
Cayla [00:15:41] Sorry to give it up to Nathan and Halli. So Mela came and joined shortly after Angel did, and then she ended up buying this house in Pennsylvania for them all to live in. And so she had to pay the mortgage and try to get everyone else to contribute to that.
Halli [00:15:57] Jesus.
AJ [00:15:58] All the mortgage, all the bills, utilities.
Nathan [00:16:02] Holy shit.
AJ [00:16:03] Which is why she was stripping at two or three clubs at a time. She would go and work at two clubs like two clubs a day.
Halli [00:16:13] Oh my God.
AJ [00:16:16] She liked dancing, but at the same time, that was a lot of dancing, especially clubs that weren't really, you know, didn't protecting her or didn't have her best interests at heart. I mean, there was like one club that was OK. There was one that the clientele was really sleazy. It was just kind of like a dive. And they basically, because it was only dancing for tips. So you basically paid for the right to dance there, then kept whatever you made other than that. And one club was actually kind of nice, but because some wealthier guys came, they didn't necessarily respect the don't touch the girls rule, especially if they paid for, like, you know, VIP dances. So she hated working there
Cayla [00:17:11] I read somewhere that sometimes people accompanied her to the club to watch over her?
AJ [00:17:16] I was one of the people who did
Halli [00:17:18] Wow
AJ [00:17:22] I learned a lot about, you know, strip club etiquette then, but, including that strip clubs get very boring after six hours, but that was beside the point and it was well, for one thing, Mela's about maybe five feet tall, even. So, she's not a very big girl. She wasn't back then I can't imagine she's got much taller. You know, she was very tough, but. He came from, you know, difficult background, she came from, you know, the Cross Creek like, Jen did. In fact, that's how they originally met.
Cayla [00:17:58] Mm hmm.
AJ [00:17:59] So she was, you know, tough as nails, but she was still one small woman versus, you know, grown men who were much larger than her, sometimes multiple. So, yeah, myself, Ami, I think Joaquin once or twice went, to the club with her to just make sure she got to her car and back to the club, alright.
Cayla [00:18:27] Wow that's intense
AJ [00:18:30] That was pretty intense. So she was doing that and then Ami was also working full time at JoAnn's Fabrics. And Ami was a Japanese American woman from California. I don't know how she got into all of this, but she was probably the most loyal member of the house, but also, like I said, probably the most abused member of the house, to be honest. I don't know if she might actually have some loyalties to them still, and that's why she hasn't spoken up about it. I do know Ami is actually her real name for real first name. She never went by anything online. But I thought I heard that she left the house. But through soul bonding things involving specifically Hellsing. The series Hellsing, yeah, she was declared the retainer, the butler so she would come home from her job, her full shift at JoAnn's fabrics. She was already in her 40s in 2004, by the way,
Cayla [00:19:42] So she was she was older then
Nathan [00:19:43] Oh, wow.
Cayla [00:19:45] Oh, that's interesting.
AJ [00:19:46] So she would come home from her shift at JoAnn's fabrics to be expected change to a uniform, quote unquote. It was black dress pants, white dress shirt and basically wait hand and foot on Jen and Angel.
Cayla [00:20:00] Oh my God. Jen and Angel, they must've been like twenty five at the time? Well, I guess, Angel is a little older.
AJ [00:20:08] Yeah. They'd probably be in their mid to late 20s by then. So, they had this woman, she would come home, she would just change her work, she would just basically wait hand and foot on them. We did all take turns with chores, but it was her job to be their personal servant. And. There was a specific incident, probably the month, a month and a half after I got there where she fell down one of the flights of stairs and ended up breaking her tailbone and she was specifically told that she needed to rest, stay off her feet, take time off of work if she could, and she couldn't. She both went to work and still served them hand and foot even while she was recovering from this injury
Cayla [00:20:59] Was there any inclination that she was romantically involved with them at all or?
AJ [00:21:03] Oh, definitely not.
Cayla [00:21:05] No. OK
AJ [00:21:08] I'm not going to wager any guesses on anyone's sexuality, but if I had guess she was probably maybe like asexual or something. She didn't seem interested in anyone in any way.
Cayla [00:21:20] I'm just trying to puzzle out how an older woman like that would, you know, get that much loyalty to Jen.
AJ [00:21:29] I learned very little about her past, to be honest, in the fact that she was Japanese American, did have relatives in Japan that she had gone to visit in the past. And she loved. She collected the scores for movies, not necessarily the soundtracks, which I thought was an interesting hobby, and she was really into like, S and K arcade games. But other than that, I really didn't know much about her past, where she was from California, I think she might have actually known Mela before coming to the house.
Cayla [00:22:05] OK.
AJ [00:22:07] But I couldn't tell you how she ended up in the house or anything. I know she wasn't there during the Arizona saga, so.
Cayla [00:22:18] So something must've happened. Yeah.
AJ [00:22:20] Doesn't necessarily mean that she completely stopped talking to them, as I would later find out, because even I still talked to them for a little while after that, but. I never see anybody mention Ami online, and it's just like she's the complete unknown in the house and it was like she was there when I was there and she seemed like such a prominent member of the house. It's weird that nobody ever brings her up.
Cayla [00:22:51] Yeah, that definitely brings up a lot of questions. I will have to see what I can find about her
AJ [00:22:56] I deactivated my Live journal, or I probably could've told you what her old live journal name was,
Cayla [00:23:04] you were friends with her on there once?
AJ [00:23:06] Oh yeah, I was friends with all of them on there at one point.
Cayla [00:23:09] OK, so we probably get an archived version of your friends list.
AJ [00:23:13] Possibly I deactivated by Live Journal because of. Oh, Kiwi Farms was doxxing me and my friends, for something completely unrelated to this,
Cayla [00:23:24] OK,
AJ [00:23:25] so I just want deactivated my live journal and technically it's still been within the last year. So if I had to, I could on deactivated just to see that. Also, she was quite the cosplayer. She didn't look her age. I was surprised when she told me how old she was. So she used to be like pretty big into the cosplay scenes and anime cons before she got involved with the house. And she has some of her costumes there because I was there during Halloween, so they insisted on dressing me up and one of them, which was actually a Sailor Mars costume, considering I was IDing as male at the time, probably should have been a red flag. Yeah. But. I just thought it was silly at the time, so
Cayla [00:24:13] Now, do you know if Jack was like going to school or anything at the time while you were there?
AJ [00:24:16] Jack was going to school part time. He was going through a course to become an accountant like not necessarily professional CPA. It was like kind of an H&R block kind of school. And then he was also working part time at a comic book store
Cayla [00:24:39] so it was you Mela, Joaquin and Ami that we're working?
AJ [00:24:45] Joaquin didn't work while I was there.
Cayla [00:24:46] OK
AJ [00:24:49] I don't believe he got a job after that either, he left not long after I did, but that kind of rolled into the Arizona saga from there. Because the house didn't last much longer after I left either, so. But I was working at it was my very first job ever, and I worked at KB Toys, which if you know anything about the history of KB Toys, it happened to close entirely like a couple of months after I started working there, like the entire franchise closed. So I went in there not only knowing it was a seasonal job, but that there was no way for it to become anything other than a seasonal job because the entire chain was closing.
Cayla [00:25:30] And I imagine, like with it being just kind of like retail work, imagine it's probably like minimum wage or something, too?
AJ [00:25:35] Yeah, it was first job retail work. So most of the money that I made would be just co-opted directly by Jen for her to get what she called "shinies", the things that she wanted.
Cayla [00:25:53] Now, did you have like a set rent aside from that? Or was it just like you got your paycheck and they took whatever they wanted?
AJ [00:26:00] It was basically I got my paycheck and they didn't necessarily, you know, say hold out their hands and say "give it all to me right now" but which is how I was able to stockpile some food behind their back when that became an issue. But it was pretty much expected that most or all of my paycheck was going to go to them. Well, and then sometimes they would even have me like contact people at home and wire more money in.
Cayla [00:26:31] Oh, my God.
AJ [00:26:35] Usually for my mother because they knew how my mother had treated me and they would, you know, convince me that she owed me so. I didn't really want to talk to her, but I would call her and bug for money, I'm pretty sure she just turned and tell my grandmother to do it anyway. It's not like my mother had money.
Cayla [00:26:55] Do you have an idea of, like, how much money she they ended up getting you to coerce you to get a bigger your family?
AJ [00:27:02] Not as much as it would sound, maybe a few hundred the whole time I was there, and then I also had to ask for money to get a ticket to get back home. Both times actually, cause i went back that one time
Cayla [00:27:18] Yeah. So Mela wasn't expecting rent from you or anything at all?
AJ [00:27:26] No. And I don't know, I know that most of Ami's money also went to the house and to Jen, I don't know what exactly the utility split was there. I think she might have paid the Internet bill. And possibly some other things, like maybe the food bill or something, but I know 90 percent of the house expenses were paid for by Mela, so.
Cayla [00:27:53] Wow.
AJ [00:27:57] Between most of us not making all that much and what we did make getting co-opted by Jen, most of it was on Mela, so
Cayla [00:28:08] From what I understand, Mela hadn't done any sort of like stripping work prior to that, that it was she was kind of coerced into doing it by Jen? That would have been before you were there. I don't know if you heard anything about that.
AJ [00:28:21] No, but I hadn't heard anything about that, but at the same time, I'm not surprised, at the time Mela insisted that she did like dancing and she even had like. Like in certain counties in Pennsylvania, they required pasties to dance, she hated clubs that did that because pasties were uncomfortable. So she would specifically go to, she would drive like sometimes an hour away to go to a club in another county so that she wouldn't have to wear pasties like one of the clubs that she wore would dance was in Altoona, which was about an hour away.
Cayla [00:28:57] Oh, wow.
AJ [00:29:06] But yeah, she was actually. Really talented, like seamstress. She did have a sewing machine set up and nobody ever bothered with that because, you know, nobody else knew how to use it, for one thing. But she would sometimes make things for. Jen and Angel, you probably heard the rumors about Jen and Angel would walk around with like skirts just hiked up over their boobs all the time? It would usually just be like one same one skirt for like days or weeks at a time until Mela would take time out of her schedule to make them a new one and get them to throw away that one.
Cayla [00:29:49] Yeah, I hadn't heard that that Angel had co-opted that same behavior, but that's kind of not surprising.
AJ [00:29:55] Oh yeah, she definitely did. As well as the lack of bathing.
Cayla [00:30:00] Oh, God.
AJ [00:30:04] They would smother themselves in like oils and stuff, and insist that was better for your skin than bathing, so.
Cayla [00:30:10] Oh my God. And I think the house had four bathrooms, I read a listing on it, is that right?
AJ [00:30:17] I remember three and one of them was more like a half bath or two of them or more like half bathes
Cayla [00:30:23] but still no excuse not to turn to basic hygiene
AJ [00:30:29] It's entirely possible the house got updated because, like I said, I remember one more bedroom and one less bathroom. So it's entirely possible that, yeah, maybe a little later renovation, one of the bedrooms was turned into a full bath. Because I remember there was. Like a half bath downstairs. Then the second floor, there was the one full bath. And then. It was technically a full bath on the third floor, but the bath tub shower didn't work. It was pretty much treated like a half bath.
Cayla [00:31:10] How often was everybody home?
AJ [00:31:17] Pretty often, actually, if anybody was ever gone, because usually Ami and I work during the day, usually if anybody is going to be gone, it was Mela at night, so everybody but Mela would be home most of the time. Everybody, including Mela, it would be far rarer. Because it was, like they said, working three clubs, she pretty much never had a day off.
Cayla [00:31:48] No kidding. And was she the only one with a vehicle?
AJ [00:31:54] Angel also had her own vehicle, actually. And Mela and Angel were also the only ones that drove. No wait. I think Ami also had a license. I think she just didn't like using their cars in case anything happened. Ami and I would take the bus into work, State College, which was nearby
Cayla [00:32:24] What sort of commute, was that?
AJ [00:32:25] Yeah, not bad, about 20 minutes
Cayla [00:32:28] Ok, that's not bad
AJ [00:32:29] But one problem was I did have to work late at one point. And I had told them that and Maila was supposed to come and get me. They totally forgot me. The entire mall that I worked at closed down for the night. And this was in November.
Cayla [00:32:50] Oh, no!
AJ [00:32:51] And I did not have much of a coat. So I was sitting outside waiting for them and waiting and waiting and waiting. I don't remember what time they finally remembered me and came to get me. I do remember that I was very close to hypothermia.
Cayla [00:33:05] Oh my God.
AJ [00:33:06] That this was probably like the beginning of the end of me realizing just how bad things were there. I got brought to the house. I was like half frozen, half conscious and I don't even remember being taken to the house, I just remember being found and being brought in and then being at the house, so I don't see any of the commute. So I think it was Angel that ended up coming to get me. So she brought me in and Jen looks at me as she goes on about how I've been attacked by an ice arrow like in Legend of Zelda, and makes a big show of pulling it out and stuff and saying, I'm going to be fine. And Angel's like "oh, yeah, yeah" that she goes and runs a hot bath and puts me in it. And that's honestly probably what actually saved me.
AJ [00:34:01] But that was probably the beginning of the end, be realizing they A, aren't actually that good people and B, they're actually pretty damn crazy. Yeah, I mean, for all I keep saying, you know. There's the people there weren't necessarily crazy, I mean, in terms of Jen. You saw when Joaquin and I were talking, we seem pretty split on just how much Jen bought into her own bullshit.
Cayla [00:34:32] Yeah.
AJ [00:34:36] Joaquin seem to believe that she bought into it more than I did.
Cayla [00:34:41] And how much of the rest of the house seemed to buy into the bullshit?
AJ [00:34:46] Ami I would have to say probably did 100 percent. And that's why she was...
Cayla [00:34:55] So loyal.
AJ [00:34:56] Yeah, was so loyal to them. And also, they did a very good job of like when even as bad as they treat her, they would love bomb her and insists that, you know, she was like the glue that held the house together and made her feel special and everything else, so.
Cayla [00:35:13] Oh, my God. Yeah.
AJ [00:35:15] I don't know where she came from, but. Apparently, that's what she needed to hear at the time that kept her very loyal. Mela? I am honestly not sure if. How much she book she talked more about being in Satanism than actual soul bonding stuff, she didn't even really talk about the soul bonding stuff much the whole time we were there or participate in the, you know, that aspect of it, the off times that she was there. And even like Jen and Angel would be like "she doesn't really have many bonds". I think they just kind of accepted that because, you know, it was her house that they were staying in and she was paying bills, so. Don't try to press their luck, which I guess they did eventually press their luck too far because she kicked them out
Cayla [00:36:08] Yeah.
AJ [00:36:10] Joaquin was pretty into it, and I think to some degree actually is still pretty deep into it. As part of it is he's been trying to, that they've been trying to get people to realize that, you know, having those sort of alternative beliefs doesn't necessarily mean you're crazy or cultist. So they've been trying to take it the right direction. They've been trying to take this stuff when they're comfortable talking about it. Jess I don't think believed in it at all. Was just looking for a place to stay.
Cayla [00:36:44] Yeah, so you want to talk about like when Jess showed up and what happened with that?
AJ [00:36:49] Jess was already kind of in and out after I got there, probably within a couple of weeks after I got there was the first time Jess showed up and they all just kind of shrugged like "yeah, she comes and goes from time to time". They explain what was going on with her home life and stuff, and at the same time that they were trying to convince her to get more in contact with her? You know, sold bonds and everything, so she would stay in the house full time. And. I guess I don't know the specifics about her home life, just that it was a very unfortunate situation and apparently wherever she came from had no problems with her walking away for like days, even weeks at a time when she was 17. So in theory, she should have been in school, I think. I don't know if she officially dropped out or not. Now, she was there during the day, so she obviously wasn't at school. And she also did spend some time on the streets and she spoke about spending some time in the. Oh, mental health institution that was also in the area. Which Jen also like to use as a threat specifically against me and Mela, because we had experience being in facilities like that. She would claim that we threatened or something to get us sent there
Cayla [00:38:18] Did she ever call?
AJ [00:38:21] She never actually called, but she would use that as a threat to get me or Mela to be more compliant.
Cayla [00:38:31] Who was the most rebellious in the house against Jen's rule?
AJ [00:38:36] The most rebellious, I would have to say probably Mela, to be honest. I think just because of the timing that I came in with shortly before, you know, she kicked Jen and Angel out, that's why it was more obvious to me that she was, you know, starting to have enough of their crap, you know. And then to some degree, Joaquin and I because we got really close, really fast and. Joaquin was the one to point out that Jen was basically trying to run things the way that she had learn how to run, learned how to do things at the Cross Creek school. And part of that was never to let the new students, the new people connect with each other. Because it makes it easier to conquer them if they don't have that unified force and they are, you know, bonding that way. So she was very angry at us for bonding so quickly and spending so much time together. And that's when she started like withholding food from us and stuff, which was also, if you know anything about cults. It's also a very common tactic. You withhold sleep, you withhold little food, which they also did withhold sleep. But I didn't notice it as badly as some others would because I've always had a horrible time sleeping, so.
Cayla [00:40:02] So, yeah, she started directly trying to punish you guys just because you guys were close?
AJ [00:40:06] Right
Cayla [00:40:09] So how would meals normally work, was there kind of like a group meal time and then they just decided not to include you, like, how would that happen?
AJ [00:40:18] When I first got there, there was a set dinner time, every night. There was usually only one meal a day, but it was generally a pretty big meal. I've mentioned before because a lot of people are like "oh, I bet Jen didn't even cook" or "Jen was a horrible cook" or "Jen probably ordered out all the time" like, no, actually, Jen loved to cook. She was a great cook.
Cayla [00:40:39] Yeah, I've heard that, that she's actually really good at cooking.
AJ [00:40:44] As long as she didn't do any of the cleanup afterward, she was fine with it. So when I first got there, you know, she made plenty of meals and there were, you know, big meals. They were great. And eventually, as I got there and she was you know, Mela was never around at dinnertime. She was punishing Joaquin and I so it became kind of a everybody would make their own food. But at the same time, we weren't allowed to have access to the food, if we were caught having access to the food we would get, you know, punished. Which usually was verbal in my case. The most physical I remember was I got pushed against the stairs. I was at the bottom of the stairs, so it wasn't like I got pushed down the stairs. But Joaquin seems to remember me getting punished physically more than I remember.
Cayla [00:41:43] Maybe you blocked it out?
AJ [00:41:44] Yeah, I think there's a lot of stuff from that time that I blocked out until fairly recently. Because Joaquin seems to remember things going down certain ways that I didn't necessarily remember, and then they would bring it up and be like, "oh yeah, that is right". Like, I barely remembered that we would walk like a mile to the nearest store that was open all night, nearest convenience store just to buy food with the money that I, you know, squirreled away or that that we would hide it in the fridge in my room.
Cayla [00:42:18] Who was the primary punisher? Was it was an Angel?
AJ [00:42:23] Yes, it was Angel. That's why I've said because, you know, people tend to be more sympathetic towards her these days. Yeah, and I can acknowledge that somebody can be both victim and victimizer. But at the same time I remember her being like the enforcer, the one who did most of the punishment. She was also the one that saved my life during that one time I spoke about, but. You know, she just didn't want a dead person on their hands
Cayla [00:42:57] When you're still going to bring money into the house, right?
AJ [00:43:00] Well, that and I think, you know, if they had an actual dead person on their hands, what the fuck were they going to do?
Cayla [00:43:07] Yeah fair
AJ [00:43:08] mean, the unfinished basement...
Cayla [00:43:13] That would be effort, though.
AJ [00:43:14] Yeah, they'd make Ami do it.
Cayla [00:43:19] Oh, my God.
Nathan [00:43:20] Well, I mean, in that case, they might make someone finish the basement.
Cayla [00:43:23] Make Ami finished basement.
AJ [00:43:27] Yes.
Cayla [00:43:30] Now, like when when Angel would like, deal all these punishments, was this usually like kind of at Jen's commands or if you just do it?
AJ [00:43:38] Usually she would just do it, they were pretty much operating as a unit. It was like a solid unit at that point in my mind. They probably could have been seen as co leaders, even though. In hindsight, it was more like, you know, obvious that Jen was the one in control at the time and felt to me like they had some kind of co-relationship going on. But it was Jen herself that was through yelling at me, got me to fall back onto the stairs, hurt my back.
Cayla [00:44:19] And was there lots of like yelling and punishment like that among the other people too?
AJ [00:44:28] It was usually for me, Joaquin and also. Jess, there was a point in the house where somebody had stolen from the house, they were 99 percent sure it was Jess because she was the only one that really came and went. And things got very scary at that point, so it wasn't like a lot of yelling, but there was definitely a lot of very quiet threats, definitely a lot of violence and threats of violence. And it turned out that the thing that they were convinced was stolen was misplaced. And Ami actually found it while this whole thing was going on. She kind of quietly slipped out while they had kind of lined up me, Jess and Joaquin as the prime suspects. But they were focusing on Jess. But they were definitely, you know, throwing out the accusations at us as well. Ami just kind of quietly slipped out and I didn't know what for. I thought maybe she just couldn't bear to watch this. But eventually after this had been going on for maybe half an hour. Forty five minutes, Ami came down from upstairs and was like, you know, "I found it. It was wherever". And all of a sudden, Jen acts like none of this had ever happened, you know, she started saying, oh, she didn't even apologize to us, she just lapsed into treating us like we were, you know, her friends again.
Cayla [00:45:56] Do you remember what it was that went missing?
AJ [00:45:59] I don't think it was probably like one of her crystals, something that she was convinced was worth a lot, but actually wasn't.
Cayla [00:46:10] Do remember, if any like, if they were ever physical with Jess?
AJ [00:46:16] I. Don't recall, but I wouldn't be surprised, especially before or after I go up there. I know they yelled at Jess a lot, especially since. You know, like I said, she kind of came and went as she pleased. I think they dislike the fact that even though all of her choices were crappy, she still had choices. I also think that's pretty much the only way that they could have, you know, this underage girl with them without being accused of kidnaping or anything, basically by letting her come and go as you please. I think Jen was aware of certain laws to a certain extent, she wouldn't have dared try anything with anyone underage if they weren't from as bad a home life as Jess seemed to be and be able to come and go as she pleases. So she couldn't be accused of luring her in and kidnaping or whatever.
Cayla [00:47:17] How involved was Jack during all of this?
AJ [00:47:21] Jack. Was. Kind of pulling away by that point. I said I didn't even remember Jack being part of the Arizona saga, according to Joaquin, he was at least at first. It seemed like, well, I gather he and Jen had been seeing each other, that Angel came into the picture and Jack kind of got forced more to the outskirts. He was still. Kind of considered, you know, one of the higher ups in their group, but you could hear him fighting with Jen and Anna from their bedroom a lot. He didn't often join Jen for sex or anything while I was there.
Cayla [00:48:09] Like, they didn't really have much of a romantic relationship at the time.
AJ [00:48:12] Yeah, but I think I remember being surprised to find out they were technically romantically involved. And I didn't quite understand polyamory at the time because at the time I was told that Jack and Jen had a relationship, Angel and Jen had a relationship, Jack and Angel didn't, which is also another reason why I was shocked to find out the supposedly Jack and Angel marry each other. Yeah. So. Did I mention that, you know, you could hear things coming from Jen's bedroom at whatever was going on there definitely sounded violent, not maybe one hundred percent consensual. So, yeah, and sometimes Jack was involved and sometimes he wasn't.
Cayla [00:49:00] Do you remember kind of what sort of arguments that Jen and Jack would have, what it was about?
AJ [00:49:06] I don't know, they would go into the room and I could hear muffled noises, but you couldn't hear the actual words. That was all I remember, even if I could hear it,
Cayla [00:49:17] yeah, so Jack just kind of kept to himself.
AJ [00:49:21] Yeah, he didn't mind it if I hung out in his room as long as I was quiet. He said that I had kind of like a soothing presence, Jack was pretty open at the time, that he was on the spectrum. He. Of. He was diagnosed with what they called Asperger's at the time, they're trying to move away from that name now, especially since a Nazi came up with the name, but.
AJ [00:49:49] At the time, he was the kind of person who was using it as kind of like a get out of socialization free card so he could suddenly turn on you on a dime and be really rude, nasty to you. Or at least to me, but at the same time, as always, I was just, you know, around and quiet, he didn't seem to mind me at all. And he said that there's not very many people he didn't mind hanging around with. I was one of them. Maybe it was because I was on the spectrum myself, so I knew what those boundaries were like, I didn't really bring it up at the time. I mean, I don't think I spoke out about being on the spectrum until, honestly, my 30s because the Internet had turned it into such a big thing that I kind of kept under wraps.
Cayla [00:50:37] Yeah, that makes sense.
AJ [00:50:40] I got there mid-October. Then left late December 2004.
Cayla [00:50:51] Oh, wow. Yeah, so you really weren't there that long?
AJ [00:50:54] No.
Cayla [00:50:56] Doesn't take long, though.
AJ [00:50:59] No. And like I said, I had spoken before speaking to Jen and Anna for quite a while before that, Jen and Jack, and then I still spoke to Jen for a little while after that. It was actually we stopped talking after she became convinced I owed or a hundred dollars for some reason. I don't remember why I would have owed one hundred dollars. But I finally got sick of her bringing it up, so I sent her one hundred dollars I didn't have. I only recently started a job at a call center then. And I went into overdraft just to pay her back. Instead of paying off my own bills and stuff. And then I completely blocked her from all social media stuff, so. As soon as I did that and I still was talking to Joaquin at the time. I didn't even really remember. I remember when Joaquin left because they initially went back to Louisiana where they originally came from, and then they went to Arizona and then not long after that is when Jan Angel and apparently Jack moved out there, although I think Jack left eventually.
Cayla [00:52:19] Yeah, I think he left for a period at some point before, like before they fully left.
AJ [00:52:32] But I do remember Joaquin moved out there before they did.
Cayla [00:52:38] And so do you think that, like Angel and Jen moved out to Arizona because Joaquin was out there or because, like Angel's family was there?
AJ [00:52:47] I think it was because Angel's family was there, it was just a coincidence, at least that's how Joaquin always painted it. I mean, you have to ask Joaquin for specifics about that and. I don't want to speak for them too much other than what they've already said elsewhere.
Cayla [00:53:08] Yeah, that makes sense. So you ended up going back home for a bit in November, right? Were they worried you weren't going to come back?
AJ [00:53:23] You know, I think they were pretty confident that I was at that point. Yes, things hadn't actually gotten too terribly bad at that point, I was still quite enamored with them and living there. I think they were pretty certain that I would come back. They even encouraged me to go. I think they saw this as like, you know, kind of like a trial or a test.
Cayla [00:53:52] And you were gone for like a week or something?
AJ [00:53:55] yeah, only gone a week or so.
Cayla [00:53:59] So when did things start getting bad?
AJ [00:54:05] When I got back. It started getting bad, probably within a week or two of coming back, so the two months I was there was only really the last month things were really bad.
Cayla [00:54:24] And it started because of your closeness with Joaquin?
AJ [00:54:27] yeah, I think it was somewhat because of my closeness to Joaquin and somewhat because now they knew that they had me hooked. They could do whatever they wanted. I think they thought I was like Ami, I would be loyal no matter how much they, you know, they kicked me around, that they could mold me into being something even more obedient.
Cayla [00:54:49] So what was the straw that broke the camel's back?
AJ [00:54:55] There wasn't necessarily a straw that broke the camel's back. I was pretty certain I wanted to leave for quite a while after they started mistreating me. Like, I could understand what they were doing wasn't right and I wanted to get out, but I couldn't, I felt like I couldn't. Jen kept, you know, threatening me or holding the fact that, you know, she had all my stuff. All my money and everything. So what happened wasn't necessarily that there was a straw that broke the camel's back so much as I had an excuse that I was finally able to leave that would be allowed. And that was for some bizarre reason, that I still don't quite understand to this day, Jen had become friends with an aunt of mine that even I'm not close to. It wasn't at the time it was one of my dad's sisters. And. I don't know how they met each other, started talking to each other. But. They started talking and that. Well, she had some medical issues, so I said, well, "what if I go back to Maine so I can help take care of her?" Because said Aunt was still totally enamored with Jen. I think she saw that as a way to keep me compliant in the fold as long as I was with that aunt. So she let me go, in theory to go and live with that aunt. But, you know, I never planned to.
Cayla [00:56:34] She just let you go then?
AJ [00:56:37] Yeah, yeah, because she was convinced that I was going off to be with, you know, said aunt.
Cayla [00:56:43] Wow
Nathan [00:56:44] That's weird.
AJ [00:56:45] And I'm still not close to that aunt
Cayla [00:56:48] And do you know if that Aunt and Jen stayed in contact afterwards?
AJ [00:56:54] I know they did for a little while because I got in contact with that aunt, spent the a couple of nights there at one point after I left. But. Jen was well aware that I didn't actually go and stay with her, by the way, she still kept in contact with me even after finding that out. I guess she was like, well, as long as I was I was still talking to her and it was really nothing she could other than try to get more money out of me, I guess.
Cayla [00:57:26] Did she try to convince you to come back?
AJ [00:57:31] Like I said, I'm pretty sure the house was falling apart and Mela was getting ready to kick everyone out at that point. And then, like even Joaquin left not long after I did so, and they didn't have the same kind of excuse that I did, so I think just everybody was being scattered to the four winds at that point
AJ [00:57:58] For the record, even after seeing that aunt, years after that account, after all that stuff, no, we never did talk about what happened.
Cayla [00:58:10] Just pretended it didn't happen. That's so strange that Jen reached out to her and tried to form this connection with her.
AJ [00:58:17] And not that I have seen that aunt all that much since then, but it is really weird knowing that thinking about that. If I did see her, I'd be tempted to ask her, you know, "when and how did you start talking to Jen and how that ended up ending?"
Cayla [00:58:34] Was your aunt on live journal or something like how did this even happened?
AJ [00:58:38] She didn't even have a computer, as far as I know.
Cayla [00:58:41] Oh, my God
AJ [00:58:43] I think she actually called her on the phone.
Cayla [00:58:47] Oh, my God.
AJ [00:58:47] I think it was like my relatives trying to get you out of there, like. Desperately sending like any relatives they could call the phone number that I had given. And my aunt Jolene, that's her name, ended up getting through because she was kind of like, you know, the mystical type is that ended up reporting back like, "well, the good news is I ended up speaking to them and the good news is I also like them. "
Cayla [00:59:16] Oh my God. It was so. "Oh they're fine. It's good. Yeah. That Jen is so sweet".
AJ [00:59:23] Basically.
Cayla [00:59:25] Oh my God.
AJ [00:59:26] It was such a bizarre series of events like.
Cayla [00:59:31] Yeah. Do you want to address Reno's story about what happened with you?
AJ [00:59:39] Oh, OK. The first thing to bring up is, once again, I was 18. Yeah. So what happened was. I was actually part of a Final Fantasy seven roleplay group, that's how I met both Reno and the girl, that if you notice, he said that has something to do with a love triangle or
Cayla [01:00:04] Mellon? Zarla?
AJ [01:00:05] I don't know, I don't think so
Cayla [01:00:07] or someone else entirely?
AJ [01:00:09] Someone else entirely, as far as I know. I think his account vaguely said that it was about a girl or that it was about some sort of love triangle. Yeah, but what happened was. We're in this group and we all went to Otakon together. And that's when we first met each other. And I had been talking to Jen and Anna at the time, and I mentioned that vaguely to, you know, the group. And Reno was telling me,"you know, these people are bad news. Don't get involved with them." And I'd already disliked Reno for completely unrelated reasons, but. So I did, in fact, go and, you know, tell Jen and. Angel, that, you know, he was talking shit about them at this convention and that's what he said in that account, but he also wrote there was something involving my girlfriend or that was a love triangle involved. What happened was I kind of got put on this whirlwind. I don't really want to call it romance with a girl while I was there, who just while we were there, she was like, by the way, we're dating now, OK? By the way, we're going to live together, OK? By the way, we're engaged, OK? By the way, this is all moving too fast now. We're broken up, OK?
Cayla [01:01:32] And this all happened in a weekend?
AJ [01:01:35] About a month
AJ [01:01:37] But the whole time that this was going on, she was just really into Reno. She was like stalking him.
Cayla [01:01:44] Oh.
AJ [01:01:45] And he wanted me to, like, try to call her off. But I didn't even know about this until after she'd already kicked me to the curb. So by the time he got in contact with me because he'd already blocked me for being mad about telling Jen and Angel the stuff. He, I don't know, that's still the case, but he was a pretty angry guy, even at times pretty angry, a scary guy, to be honest. Managed to get in contact with me because I had already blocked him for other unrelated reasons. It's like, you know, "Call her off, do whatever you have to do!" And it's like, "no, I'm not dating her and she's not my problem. Call the cops. I don't know what to tell you." And that was that.
Cayla [01:02:28] So he tried to tell you about what happened with, like Icarus or Zack. And what did you think when you heard that stuff?
AJ [01:02:40] He didn't really get into specifics, he just talked about how these people were bad news. I didn't want to get involved with them and stuff.
Cayla [01:02:48] So you really had no idea about the history other than that, right? Was it surprising to you when demon-sushi did come out?
AJ [01:03:01] It was and I remember at the time. I was still talking to Jen and. I actually remember. Not long after I got to the house, phone calls between Jen and, well, I guess are known as Theo now?
Cayla [01:03:22] Yeah
AJ [01:03:23] they're fighting over the phone and stuff. So when the website came up, Jen painted it as, you know, this person just has a vendetta and that,
Cayla [01:03:33] Sorry, Icarus is the one who made the website
AJ [01:03:38] Yeah. It basically was like, oh, that's just somebody with a vendetta. It's just it's nothing. But obviously, you know, it wasn't nothing. It went up the next year after I got out of there?
Cayla [01:03:56] It was April 2005. Yeah.
AJ [01:03:59] So yeah, I was still been in contact with them because I had gotten another job fairly recently around then. And that's what led to the demands so I give the money. That's why I pulled back. But.
Cayla [01:04:11] Did you ever think about, like, submitting your story to the website?
AJ [01:04:16] I didn't because for a long time being associated with them in the website, I was just trying to kind of forget that it happened. And also, I hated that my name was mentioned on there, even just vaguely in Reno's account. You know, again, I was young, and though there's two sides to every story, I did do exactly what he accused me of. At the same time, you know, the whole romance stuff was not what he portrayed to be. It wasn't a romance. We were both being treated horribly by one girl.
Cayla [01:04:50] Yeah.
AJ [01:04:53] Maybe he had a little bit worse than me, but so. Yeah, I never considered submitting my story on there, and I think I was also still a little bit afraid of the power that and Angel might have had over me. And then especially since I was still close to Joaquin at the time and Joaquin was still close to them.
Cayla [01:05:16] You didn't want to get them in trouble.
AJ [01:05:17] I didn't want to get them in trouble or jeopardize our friendship or whatever.
Cayla [01:05:25] So then what ended up making you decide to come out and speak about your story?
AJ [01:05:31] It started when I first saw the down the rabbit hole video. I had vaguely mentioned that I'd been a part of all that mess to some people, mostly just friends. But I hadn't actually come out and spoken about it in a real public setting. But I watched the video and then I was looking at the comments. All the people talking about all the people that got involved, deserved, what happened to them. They were just stupid or they're just crazy and all I wanted to do is clarify that, you know, these people weren't crazy, weren't stupid, that any of those people in the comments could have easily fallen for something like that had they been in situations like us, which is most of us came from really bad backgrounds. We were neuro divergent or mentally ill. And. That's basically why we, quote unquote, fell for this, we were desperate for that type of escapism, again, was just very good at playing on that.
Cayla [01:06:35] She took advantage of you guys because you were in a less than ideal situation
AJ [01:06:41] And so I first start talking about on there, one or two people were asking me questions from there. And it kind of snowballed from there and wanting to... Another video eventually came up about the house. They didn't ask my permission, but they did end up using one of my quotes from the testimonial I gave in the down the rabbit hole videos. Comments? That led to. Couple more people like reaching out to me, and then I eventually start reaching out to others saying that, you know, I'm willing to talk and say what my story is, to the best of my recollection, is I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm willing to talk about my own situation and my own experiences now.
Cayla [01:07:28] And it takes a lot of guts for you to come forward and do that.
AJ [01:07:35] You know it took, 15, 16 years to do it, but. By then, I'd forgotten a good portion of it, Joaquin either had to jog my memory or weird things would jog my memory, and I was suddenly remembered something that I had forgotten from that time.
Cayla [01:07:53] I'm sure you probably try to forget a lot of it for a long time.
AJ [01:07:57] Yeah, I definitely did. And now the more I talk about it, the more I remember. Memory is, you know, a faulty thing, especially when you're trying to forget something.
Cayla [01:08:11] Especially when it comes to trauma and stuff like that as well, can really twist things around sometimes.
AJ [01:08:16] Now, like whenever people are talking about how they're going to be working on things involving the Final Fantasy House, the people ask them to reach out, say, "you know, I was in the house. I can show proof that I was if you want somebody to talk about it with". Just to get the perspective from somebody who actually was there and, yeah, you know, was a well, I guess you could say like a survivor or a victim or whatever.
Cayla [01:08:45] Yeah, so for the people at home, AJ did end up joining the Tattle-Crime Discord, which is that other discord that I've been working with people on doing research for this. So they've been on there and talking to other people and answering questions which like. Hats off to you to being willing to put yourself in that situation, considering like everything that you went through that could have that, you know, you went through a lot of trauma and. I applaud you for being willing to expose yourself to potential triggers by doing that.
AJ [01:09:18] Just felt like I was in a better place to be able to do so, like in the case of Joaquin, who also came on to the Tattle Crime server, they were only able to do a lot like twenty four hours and then that was it. They didn't want to discuss it anymore. And, you know, I totally understand that. I totally understand people not wanting to come out and talk about it at all and do it not just for the people who were involved in that house specifically, but similar situations. So they know that you a there's a life after that you can move on and, you know. Have a good life after something like that has happened and B, you know that you weren't some crazy fool or an idiot like the Internet might say you were, because it happens to people who, it can happen to almost anyone, really. There's always the circumstances line up right or wrong as the case may be.
Cayla [01:10:23] Definitely. Now, have you thought much about like if you had a chance to talk to Jen now what you would say to her? Or even Angel in your case?
AJ [01:10:34] I haven't really thought about that. I have honestly have no desire to speak to either of them ever again.
Cayla [01:10:43] Totally fair. And what would you tell somebody who may have been maybe in a similar situation as you were at that time?
AJ [01:10:52] I'd say. If your gut is telling you. If they're still in a situation, if your gut is telling you that this is wrong, there's a good chance that, yes, this is wrong. Do what you have to do to get out of that. Even if it's weird or unorthodox, as long as you get away from that, you can start rebuilding from there. And if you have recently gotten out of that or have that in your past, it doesn't have to define you. You can go on to do all kinds of other things you can. Create, you know, a whole life that has nothing to do with it. I mean, I'm only, you don't have to come out and talk about it like I do either. And I made that decision, but it's up to you if you want to put that completely behind you or not work that out you know with a therapist privately or work it out, you know, talking to other survivors, do what you need to do for you, basically do... Only go as far as what makes you comfortable and do what you have to do so that you can live a good life following this event and. Preferably, you know, what brought you to this. As there is life after this and. It doesn't have to define you. Like I think the weirdest thing that happened was. A couple of years after I got to the house, I was getting my first tattoo and after it was finished, I was waiting to get a ride back home. I heard my artist and somebody else talking about the Final Fantasy house. And it was such a bizarre thing because it was something that I was involved in was that well known? And. So. To think that I was involved in something so well known that people out in the wild would be talking about it. That struck me as so bizarre. And just I didn't realize, you know, the breadth of this whole situation and how much traction the demon sushi website was going to get or how big an impact this was going to have on Internet culture. I didn't, you know, I didn't recognize that at the time, that's. You know, going back to what I would tell somebody in a similar situation, whether it ends up becoming a big thing or a small thing. You know, you only have to let that define you as much as you let it define you, you can walk away and move on and not have anything to do with that, even if other people point at you or say they were there? You don't have to say anything about that. You could say I've moved on and walk off.
Cayla [01:13:50] Absolutely. Yeah, you got to take your mental health first above everything else, you know, and like survivors like you coming forward and sharing the story, I think it helps a lot of people. But it's only beneficial if it's also. If it doesn't hurt you in the process.
Cayla [01:14:13] Well, we really appreciate you coming on the show and sharing your story. That sounds like a wild two months you had there, and I'm glad you were able to get out.
AJ [01:14:24] That was definitely a life experience.
Cayla [01:14:28] Yeah. Is it weird that something like that is so famous?
AJ [01:14:32] it is, like I said when I heard the word tattoo artist talking about it, that's when I realized just how far that started to go and how well known is starting to be. It was just wild to me and it's still wild to me at some points when people will bring this up. You know? I'll casually mention, like one of my best friends I talk to now, he when we first met, somebody had mentioned that I was in the Final Fantsay house. He was like "THE Final Fantasy house?" Yeah, that was a crazy time at the time, I wasn't exactly I was telling friends about it, but I wasn't
Cayla [01:15:20] Open with it.
AJ [01:15:22] Yeah, nowadays I think I've pretty much exhausted my supply of interesting stories that are not necessarily traumatic from that time, because there were some situations that arose in an area that, you know, looking back on it were more funny, like the Neopets sweatshop.
Cayla [01:15:41] OK, I'm sorry, explain
AJ [01:15:47] Jen was really into Neopets, and the thing is, it's you know, she doesn't like to do a lot of work, but there are certain things that she likes in Neopets game and that it has its own economy and stuff. So we all did happen to have Neopets accounts, or if we didn't, we had to start one and we would go on there and exhaust the games that, you know, we were good at to get the maximum amount of points and transfer them over to her so that she could get the things that she wanted. So in a way, it was like a microcosm of what was happening in the house itself.
AJ [01:16:24] And frankly, I'm surprised we didn't all get our accounts suspended because it would look like, you know, somebody with a lot of alts who were sending points to one account. And yet it was like a neopets sweatshop going on. She would just have us take turns going on to the one computer going on neopets and earning all the points.
Halli [01:16:49] Oh my god
Nathan [01:16:51] Oh, wow.
Cayla [01:16:52] That's fucking wild and amazing
AJ [01:17:04] I actually still have my Neopets account from that time period, Jen is no longer a friend on it. But I still have the account
Cayla [01:17:14] that's a relic of the past now.
AJ [01:17:16] Oh yeah. Well, a time capsule at this point because I have had it since high school, so
Cayla [01:17:22] I lost my high school count, man. Oh, that's wild.
Cayla [01:17:30] Thanks so much for sharing that. Again, like I said and coming on. It was, yeah, really good to hear like insights from what your experience was, because it's kind of an era we don't have a lot of information about. And to just realize how many people were being sucked in at that time, like, that's crazy. The house was so full of people like and like Ami and all these other people that I didn't know about. I can't even imagine how many people that Jen has gotten to now.
AJ [01:18:00] Oh, yeah, especially since cropped up and try to do it, another fandom, which I honestly didn't know, she was attempting it again until the down the rabbit hole video, which in hindsight, I wasn't shocked to find that out either.
Cayla [01:18:14] Yeah, it's like we know that she was doing the Hannibal thing around 2015, but it's like, what has she been doing since then? I have a hard time imagining that she, like, just stopped.
AJ [01:18:25] Same here, it's either she's got a lot better at hiding who she is or maybe she did finally find, you know, a long con grift that sustains her so she doesn't have to do is anymore. She's definitely not working.
Cayla [01:18:44] I would be shocked. Nathan, Halli do you have any questions?
Halli [01:18:52] I just I just wanted to say thank you again, because I know this shit is tough and, you know, being open and sharing like that, I think it's really important because it's so unfortunate and so sad that there are people out in the world like that are willing to just use people up.
Nathan [01:19:15] Yeah, I'm on the same I'm on the same page like you. Absolutely. Aren't expected to to do this, but we're super grateful that you're willing to come on and with us. So, yeah, thank you for that.
AJ [01:19:29] Oh, no problem, like I said, if it can help anyone else out there, then I'm glad to talk about it.
Cayla [01:19:37] For sure. Is there anything else that you want to share?
AJ [01:19:40] No, I think that's about it. I get on pretty much all the stories and experiences that I had at the time, so.
Cayla [01:19:50] Again, thank you very much and yeah, we hope you keep continuing living your good life away from Jen forever.
AJ [01:19:57] Yep. Thank you!