How’d He Do That?

So a couple days ago I decided to have some e-fun for Halloween. Specifically, I built a mock L.A. Times web page with a news feature headlined “Legend of the haunted Griffith Park picnic table” that I posted and linked to from


[click here to go to the complete story]

It’s not my first time with this type of gag. Back for April Fool’s Day last year I did a less-sophisticated rendering which told the strange and disgusting tale of a living and carnivorous 200-pound tumor that had escaped in the valley.

By “less sophisticated” I mean that this time I went a bit more intricate. Waaaaay more intricate. With the tumor piece I’d crafted a decent mimic page that looked real enough, but none of the links worked as I didn’t trouble with taking it to the next level and making all that crap active and so forth.

This time I went the extra pixels and did all that tedious stuff, which actually took more time to do than the writing of the tall tale that I pounded out over the course of a couple hours’ work last week and yesterday.

Brief backstory: I got the idea for this ghost story back when I first biked past the table’s location back in 2001. But when I found the scene still exactly the same earlier this year the gears started turning.

But the true catalyst that got it all going last week was the availability of the otherwise nonsensical domain: Sure, it spells out l-a-t-i-r-n-e-s, but at a casual glance at a browser window’s address bar the “r” and the “n” look like an “m” and that can be perceived as Why is that a big deal? Well, when I did the tumor piece I basically had to load it up on my domain so that when the link on was clicked the page that opened up in a browser had an address that was and that was a total gag killer right at the top.

This time I wanted the added authenticity. Not only would I do my best to follow the Times’ online style and format, but I’d make all the links live — and the icing way up top on the spoofcake would be the latirnesdotcom page address.

Of course all that realism didn’t stop me from sprinkling the piece with all sorts of hinty details as to its fake nature… from the “Norm Bates” byline to the post time of 10:31 p.m. (as in October 31) — even the map illustrator is none other than Michael Myers, the indestructible evildoer from all the Halloween films.

And I didn’t suffer with factual accuracy. As the civic-services-savvy L.A. City Nerd jovially pointed out in the comments on, I blew the story’s cover by referencing the city’s tree division when Griffith Park has its own forestry outfit.

Hell I barely spellchecked the thing.

I also didn’t bother expounding my original storyline, wherein investigation via mediums and seances uncovers that it isn’t Nancy and Rand who are haunting the place but rather the ghost of an Asian man who had been lynched up on that tree during the horrible Los Angeles Chinese Massacre of 1871 — and that it was his ghost who murdered Rand and Nancy.

Had I been even more obsessed I would’ve biked up there after dark and gotten creepy shakycam video of the crushed table a la Blair Witch.

Insetead, what you see is what you get. And I’m pleased with the result.

Now the more pertinent question might be why’d I do it? And the plain and simple reason is that I had fun. This last few weeks of job hunting and dwindling account balances have left me plenty of opportunity to doubt and dwell and doubt some more. However brief this frivolous endeavor’s respite, it did me good every time I giggled like a giddy school kid at everything from figuring out how to implant the LAT favicon in the address bar to making the photo windows pop-up.

The devil’s in the details, so they say. And I certainly enjoyed the dance. I hope you enjoy the finished product. Happy Halloween.