This Was The First Viral YouTube Channel...& It's Back

Photo: Alex Berliner/ BEI/ Shutterstock.
The original viral YouTube channel Lonelygirl15 is back.

After more than seven years without posting a video, Jessica Lee Rose and her character, Bree, have returned to YouTube. The video coincides with the 10th anniversary of the first Lonelygirl15 video, The Guardian explains.

For those of you who don't remember, the Lonelygirl15 series followed Bree, a teen who seemed like a normal teenager, except that she claimed to be homeschooled, that her parents were a part of a strange cult-like religion, and that she was getting ready to participate in a secret ceremony. With more than 273 million views, Lonelygirl15's channel — the most-subscribed channel on YouTube after it launched in 2006 — ended up becoming one of the first major Internet hoaxes once it was revealed it wasn't a genuine vlog from a teenage girl at all, but rather a carefully crafted series played out with actors.

Rose, an actress from New Zealand, played Bree in the web series, but she wasn't the only player behind its success. The YouTube videos were written and produced by Miles Beckett, Mesh Flinders, and Greg Goodfried. In the series, filmed in Flinders's bedroom, audiences also met Bree's friend Daniel, played by Yousef Abu-Taleb.

The series is a fascinating look into what was successful in YouTube's early days. "If it was a good freeze frame, you would get like 100,000 more views," Flinders told The Guardian of the series' preview images.

As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2006, internet users quickly became suspicious of the Lonelygirl15 videos. The Times speculated at the time that the videos could be "the lead-in to a horror movie's marketing campaign." (There were lots of other theories, too.) Eventually, in September 2006, 18-year-old Matthew Foremski and his father, who writes the Silicon Valley Watcher blog, found Rose's MySpace account and a cached version of her private Facebook page, The Guardian explains.
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The mystery's dissolution didn't diminish the Lonelygirl15 channel's popularity, though — it kept posting videos for two years after its exposé, and it became the first YouTube channel to earn money from product placement.

Now, the new Lonelygirl video, published last Thursday, hints that internet users and the Lonelygirl15 channel "might see more of each other" soon. The video's description bears a cryptic message: "Did you think that because they were quiet, this was over? Isn't that when you're supposed to worry, when the guys in suits and symbols disappear all at once? They didn't go anywhere, kids. You did. The world doesn't just freeze when you close your eyes."

The video references the religious ceremony Bree's character was "chosen" for in the original series.

"When I was selected, I was terrified," Bree says in the video. "I wasn't sure if I wanted to go through with the ceremony. And my friends thought something would happen to me. Nothing happened to me. Everything is fine. I went through with the ceremony, and it was an honor, a privilege. I'm living proof of that."

The horror-movie theory doesn't sound far off from the vibe of the mysterious clip, in which Bree also says that "the blood must flow." Still, it's anyone's guess what the Lonelygirl15 masterminds are up to with the series' resurrection, which has already been viewed more than 842,000 times.
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