This story was updated on Dec. 21 to reflect that Mark Rober admitted that at least some of the video was a hoax.
Angry about a package theft, this YouTuber said he designed a contraption that would administer vigilante justice — and record it all on video.
But days after the video spread like wildfire on the internet, engineer Mark Rober wrote on Twitter that his “credibility is sort of shot” because some of the alleged thieves actually appeared to be in on the prank.
“It appears (and I’ve since confirmed) in these two cases, the ‘thieves’ were actually acquaintances of the person helping me,” he wrote on Twitter. “I’m really sorry about this. I am responsible for the content that goes on my channel and I should have done more here.
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“I can vouch that the reactions were genuine when the package was taken from my house.”
Rober wrote that he “put out a feeler” for people in the area who would allow the fake packages on their front porch — and even offered to “compensate them” for “any successful recoveries of the package.” And that, he said, is how fake reactions got into his video.
Rober said in the video posted on YouTube Monday that he concocted the plans for a package hiding a glitter bomb and fart spray seven months ago, after a package went missing on his front step. Security footage revealed it had been stolen by a pair of thieves, Rober said.
“They’re just going around the neighborhood, making an afternoon of this,” Rober said, explaining that police told him trying to catch them would be a waste of time. “I just felt like something needs to be done to take a stand against dishonest punks like this.”
That’s where he said his invention came in. Beyond the fart spray and glitter, the package included four phones, which each had a camera pointing outward so they’d capture video of the thief who opened the package, Rober explained.
Packages have been disappearing from porches across the United States at alarming rates as e-commerce has boomed. It’s gotten bad enough that Amazon is teaming up with local law enforcement in some states to put dummy boxes on door steps as part of a sting to catch thieves, the Associated Press reports.
Others have taken matters into their own hands. Some have hidden animal poop or dirty diapers inside packages, while another woman created a glitter trap with a spring, as McClatchy reported last week.
That glitter trap was much more rudimentary — and less smelly — than Rober’s.
“You can clear a room with one spray of this stuff,” Rober said of his fart spray in the video.
“We keep repeating five sprays every 30 seconds until they throw the package out of their car or house — before they realize there’s four phones inside,” Rober said. “This increases our chance of finding it because we always know the package location at all times, due to the GPS on the phones.”
As reported by Buzzfeed News, a person named Peter Logan reached out to the outlet with proof that the video was at least a partial hoax. It all stemmed from a woman named Cici, who is Rober’s friend and appeared to have a close connection to multiple alleged porch bandits in the video.
“He realized that when the third thief, who opened the glitter-fart bomb inside her home, went outside to throw it out, her side yard and outdoor space seemed to be right next door to Cici’s house,” Buzzfeed reported. “After watching the video several times much more closely, he realized that the second package thief’s car, a black Ford Focus, was also parked outside Cici’s house in several other shots.
“Zooming in, Logan was able to read the address on the third thief’s house, google it, and confirm that it was indeed Cici’s neighbor,” Buzzfeed reported.
Watch the video — which Business Insider reported has now been edited to remove the fake reactions — to hear Rober explain how he built the devices.
As of Friday afternoon, the video had been viewed 42 million times.