“So, my apartment is currently being haunted by the ghost of a dead child and he’s trying to kill me. He started appearing in dreams, but I think he’s crossed over into the real world now.
“The first time I saw him, I was experiencing sleep paralysis and saw a child sitting in the green rocking chair at the foot of my bed. He had a huge misshapen head that was dented on one side.
“For a while he just stared at me, but then he got out of the chair and started shambling toward the bed. I couldn’t move.
“Right before he reached my bed, I woke up screaming.”
What you’ve just read is the beginning of a chilling ghost story. The twist is, it’s being told as a series of tweets and is, as I write this, still ongoing.
I first learned of “Dear David” simply from seeing a retweet from someone I follow on Twitter with an expression of amazement. I’m thinking it was something along the lines of “Holy s**t”. Naturally I had to click.
Instead of being taken to a website or a photo, it led to a thread of tweets with the hashtag #deardavid. Written in an initial burst of 26 tweets on August 7th, 2017, it details Adam Ellis’ haunting dreams of a little boy named David, and subsequent weird happenings in his New York apartment.
Over the next days and weeks, Ellis documents the ongoing and unsettling events. Each night at promptly midnight, his cats take up position to stare at the front door, as if waiting for something.
He takes a series of photos, through his peephole and of the stairwell beyond, convinced there’s something moving out there. Other means of capturing or otherwise explaining things include a “sleep talk” app to see if he (or anything else) says anything during the night, and old-school Polaroids, which have a habit of turning out completely black.
Two weeks later, David appeared again in a dream, this time simply staring from his rocking chair by Ellis’ bed. The cats continue their midnight vigils, and the audio recorder is starting to pick up a strange static electricity sound every night at 3am. In subsequent dreams, we learn of David’s fate, killed by a fallen store shelf. Who pushed it, he will not say.
I had another dream a few nights later, where I was in a library and a girl came up to me and said, “You’ve seen Dear David, haven’t you?”
I was like, “Who?” And she said, “Dear David. You saw him.”
She continued, “He’s dead. He only appears at midnight, and you can ask him two questions if you said ‘Dear David’ first.”
Then she added, “But never try to ask him a third question, or he’ll kill you.”
Meanwhile, #deardavid is building a following. The very first tweet has, so far, garnered over 75,000 favorites, 54,000 retweets and almost 3,000 replies. Most other tweets in the thread routinely get between 4,000 and 6,000 retweets each. Readers of the bite-size serial are freaked out and on the whole seem genuinely concerned for this guy, many offering advice (“for god’s sake, get out”, “Nope, nope, nope”), or their expert analysis of photos he’s posted.
Over the next several days, the dreams continue, and he starts receiving calls from an unknown number late at night. When answered, there is the sound of static, then silence. Then, in an almost inaudible whisper, “hello.”
In late August Ellis packed up for a trip to Japan, and installed a nanny cam to keep tabs on the cats. While away, he began to get alerts from the nanny cam app of “motion detected” and “sound detected”. When he logged in to view the surveillance video, he caught the green rocking chair, David’s chair, start to slowly rock back and forth.
I won’t retell the entire story here, I’ll let Ellis be your narrator. He continues to tweet out updates, including new videos and photos, which have been subject to wild speculation from readers who swear they see David in the shadows. Pareidolia is a powerful thing, and it gains power in groups.
On the whole, I love the story of Dear David, both in substance and delivery. The nature of the tweet is already a seemingly personal connection to someone you may not even know. And their tweets are tiny snapshots into their lives, a sort of public journal. And these tweets actually tell a compelling story. Yes, they’re just status updates from a regular guy, but after a while, you feel as if you’re going through the experience with him. I think it’s brilliant.
All that said, what to make of it all? Is it a hoax? If so, I’d say the video of the rocking chair may have been his “jumping the shark” moment. When I saw that, I was first speechless, but then immediately suspicious. If this were all an elaborate work of performance art, I feel like he got greedy with that one. I wouldn’t know how he did it, but I’ve seen the kind of stuff that can be done with a personal copy of After Effects.
Then I learned that Adam Ellis is also a regular contributor to BuzzFeed, to which my hoax meter started flashing red. Yes, he’s penned such posts as “Is Sugar Ray’s ‘Every Morning’ About Pegging?”, “How Long Would You Last On ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’?”, and “Can You Get Through This Post Without Mouth Vomiting?”. Yeah.
However, he’s also an artist, and a damn good one. Most of his contributions to BuzzFeed are either collections of other artists’ comic strips, or his own. They’re very well-drawn and funny to boot. So, as an artist myself, that earns him back some points.
Either way, “Dear David” is a compelling ghost story, made better because it’s on Twitter. Perhaps this will be a trend. I know there have been other folks who have published serialized stories in 140-character chunks, but it would be interesting to see this take off. That doesn’t mean, however, that I wouldn’t like to see this converted to prose and released in book form, if only as an eBook.
Until then, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next notification that means the saga of “Dear David” has a new chapter.
See this Storify archive below of the first few weeks of the story, and follow Adam to see the story unfold.