How common are fictional characters in real life?
May 23, 2013 5:45 AM   Subscribe

Last night I realized that two of the places I have worked have had, as part of the lore of the place, a fictional character who everyone willingly pretended was real (in a tongue-in-cheek way). These were both in semi-educational institutions, but it was the adults who propagated the myth of the character, for each others' entertainment. These characters both sent postcards from around the world, and gathered to them improbable stories about their adventures. I'm wondering, how common is this phenomenon, and can you describe any fictional characters that have been part of the lore and legend where you have lived or worked?

Examples: my summer camp has an "Uncle Traveling Matt"-style character who has been spoken of there for at least 40 years. The fun of him is that, like Snuffleupagus, you always just missed him - he visited yesterday, or he was sitting in the back of assembly, didn't you see him? And a museum where I worked had a character from one of the songs that we agreed was real, and who would send postcards from wherever one of our staff happened to be coincidentally visiting.

These stories are distinctly different from imaginary friends, actual legends of empirically existing people, or stories about supposed hauntings. These stories are presented as very real individuals with lives of their own who remain just a bit inaccessible.
posted by Miko to Society & Culture (71 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Brown has a mythical professor Josiah Carberry who dates to the 20s.
posted by shothotbot at 5:48 AM on May 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

The only example of this I can think of is snipe hunting at camp when I was a kid.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:55 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Would George P. Burdell do?
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:56 AM on May 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

My summer camp had a tajar. "He is something like a tiger, something like a badger and something like a jaguar."
He played pranks but only on the counselors, so the kids wouldn't be scared ;)
I don't know how many of the kids actually believed he existed and how many figured out it was just all of us Satan wrapping each others beds and filling the pool with rubber duckies. But we talked about him like he was real!
posted by missriss89 at 6:04 AM on May 23, 2013

I work in IT and we have a character we all call "Joe User" who we all sort of refer to as a real person who basically just sucks at using all of our systems. When we are speccing out a new app we always say things like "Yeah, but would Joe understand that?". We also have him as a client in our client databasde.

Maybe not exactly what you're looking for since his existance revolves around his using our programs...
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:09 AM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has Arthur Galpin who runs in campus elections as the candidate for the Inanimate Objects Party
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:23 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

My example is like that of PuppetMcSockerson. At the library where I used to work, we had "fake patrons" that we created for testing new processes in the catalog. They actually had library cards so that we could see what happened when we tried this-or-that new thing. Their names were things like the Joe User example above...I think one was Jane Patron.

We also had unofficial characters that represented classes of patrons as we talked about new ideas. They usually had a common first name and the last name of one of our branch locations. For example: Little Susie Clearwater was a child, Joe Highland was an adult, and I think our senior citizen was most commonly Edna Washington. The first name/branchlocationlastnames changed depending on who was talking about them. Little Susie Clearwater stuck with us, though.
posted by Elly Vortex at 6:26 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

In the 70s and 80s, Wesleyan University had Boon Tan.
posted by neroli at 6:48 AM on May 23, 2013

Bell Labs had a G. R. Emlin lurking about.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 6:49 AM on May 23, 2013

Does Alan Smithee count?
posted by jozxyqk at 6:56 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Since you are wondering how common this phenomenon is, I just wanted to chime in to say that I have never encountered this before.
posted by ohmy at 7:09 AM on May 23, 2013 [8 favorites]

One of my former employers created a fictional employee as a placeholder to assign an office to. The goal was to keep HR or other departments from putting someone in that office. Worked relatively well.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:10 AM on May 23, 2013

Relevant TVTropes page with a few real life examples.

I don't think I've encountered a long-running fake-real person legend, but I've definitely witnessed the creation of minor inside-joke people. Sometimes they arise from a typo ("Has anybody seen Batrick?"), sometimes they're imaginary scapegoats, sometimes they're imaginary model citizens. For a while I had a running joke going with my mom about the fake "good" kid I was switched at birth with.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:13 AM on May 23, 2013

Our family has a fifth sibling, Ahab.
posted by judith at 7:14 AM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Outside of use as a pseudonym that was considered "public property" to adopt by others belonging to an in-group (eg, Nicolas Bourbaki or, less seriously Jack Florey), I have never encountered this. The closest I saw this was a fraternity in which an actual alumnus from many years ago (but within living memory and who himself was still alive) achieved this kind of status-- but that was more of the fraternity members basically "taking over" his identity and using it for themselves.
posted by deanc at 7:17 AM on May 23, 2013

Not just a person, but a whole town: Ripton, Mass.

Also: My old job at an ISP had a manager named Keith who was friendly and had a southern accent. Irate customers were often transferred to him, and his likable, helpful demeanor would usually put them at ease.

Keith didn't exist. He was just whoever was on shift and could do the Keith Voice. None of the Keiths ever had any real power. Keith would often say he would be sure to speak to the offending employee, if someone was complaining about an employee, but this never happened. Keith was a way to offload angry people (who did not need anything fixed but mostly just wanted to be heard) and get them off the phone quickly without having to take up the time of actual management.

Eventually there was a Keith Mythos. He had previously worked at a Wal-Mart in some unspecified part of the American South. He was tall. He liked Larry the Cable Guy. He aspired to working in sales. I believe he actually had an email address at one point.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:27 AM on May 23, 2013 [32 favorites]

One of my workplaces (a local newspaper chain) used to have something of the sort. You know those ugly yellow rubber chickens? One of the guys used to have one on his desk (don't ask....) until the day the chicken "went on vacation". The chicken would go off somewhere and mail back pictures; people would grab the chicken as soon as it returned, and off it went again. That stupid chicken went all over the world.... It 'made friends' at dozens of custom posts and border crossings, partied on Greek beaches and 'saved a drowning swimmer' in Malibu, met Hello Kitty in Japan and took readings at an Antarctic research station, saw Buckingham Palace and the pyramids in Egypt.
posted by easily confused at 7:28 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

A small company I worked at had two imaginary customer service reps whose names would be used for support replies that were actually written by whoever: "Stanley Katz" and "Walter Hunt" (named after a VP's cat and dog)

At that same company, a coworker and I invented a person named Ira Fiston - I think he started out as a fake name for testing purposes, but he wound up taking on a life of his own (I recall he lived in 'Chorro Verde' California)

Years after that coworker and I had both left and gone our separate ways, I got a LinkedIn request from Ira.
posted by usonian at 7:34 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I lived in a co-op house for a while that had a legendary awful housemate from back in the day that the long-time members would tell tall tales about. I never did figure out whether he was a completely mythical figure, or a real figure with a heavy accretion of fictional details. There was a sort of No Soap Radio aspect to the whole thing, where the game was to trick new members into taking the whole thing seriously, and once you were in on the joke you were permitted to add your own details as long as you didn't fuck with the established mythos too much.

(They also had a weird rivalry with another coop that mainly involved signing each other up for absurd/obscene junk mail under absurd/obscene fake names, but I don't think any of those names took on a life of their own in quite the same way.)

Our family has a fifth sibling, Ahab.

Ha! My aunt and her sisters also had a Mysterious Fifth Sibling with a ludicrous name -- I don't remember what it was. There was a traditional bit of family shtick where they did a roll call before leaving for a trip and the M.F.S. was always running late for crazy reasons or having ridiculous problems with her luggage or etcetera and so they had to leave without her.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:39 AM on May 23, 2013

Like PuppetMcSockerson and Elly Vortex, at my university there is a fictional academic department (in a fictional field of study) which is used for testing out software upgrades and for training materials, but I am pretty sure their faculty and graduate students appear in other contexts as well (though I have never actually met one at a committee meeting, oddly).
posted by epanalepsis at 7:41 AM on May 23, 2013

My dad's family was entertaining the fictive company of "The Thems" [German: "die Euchs"] who were responsible for lost items around the house and stuff that fell out of shelves and such. The author of children's books James Krüss once wrote a poem about the Vagabund Mack Natt, who did all kinds of stuff the kids neeeever had done...

Short answer, I think it's extremely common.
posted by Namlit at 7:43 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

There was a fictional exchange student during my senior year of high school. Anyone who listed a particular club in their senior activities was in on it. He has his own FB page now.
posted by mogget at 7:46 AM on May 23, 2013

Some of the teachers at my high school used to put Leon Fibonacci on their class rolls. I'm not sure how that worked -- it was all a little mysterious. A friend and I only discovered the tradition when there was some kind of computer dating activity at the school (this was before online dating; you had to fill out paper forms and turn them in, and a few days later you got a printout of your best matches at the school; seems surreal in retrospect) and for reasons I've forgotten we submitted a dating profile for a made-up person who we called Leon Fibonacci, but then it turned out that the faculty had submitted a dating profile for a different made-up person named Leon Fibonacci. What are the chances, right? After that one of the teachers filled us in a little bit on the faculty's made-up Leon Fibonacci tradition, but he was cagey about it.
posted by brianconn at 7:47 AM on May 23, 2013

Igor lived in our basement when I was a kid. Whenever my dad would have to go to the basement (it was a pretty creepy place), he'd yell, "Back Igor! Back!" Whenever we'd hear some mysterious sound coming from the basement, we'd attribute it to Igor.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:50 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

For a while my brother ran a small technology company. When they advertised positions for hire, they'd list a personnel director as the contact, who didn't exist. He told me that sometimes people would call and pretend to be friends of the personnel director as a way of getting past the receptionist in order to talk to him directly.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:58 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I work in IT and we have a character we all call "Joe User" who we all sort of refer to as a real person who basically just sucks at using all of our systems.

The Princeton Review has an average user they call Joe Bloggs who is the person who does basically average on standardized tests and is used as the "What Would Joe Do?" counterexample to help people try to do better. In various offices he was personified more and less.
posted by jessamyn at 7:59 AM on May 23, 2013

Oh, also: the hospital I once worked at had a shibboleth in place to alert security of an incident without tipping off the aggressor: someone would page "Doctor Johnson" to somewhere near where the incident was happening; there was no Doctor Johnson on the staff.
posted by usonian at 7:59 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't know how common this is, but I worked in a (super fun) work environment that was really invested in our imaginary colleague.

In my old office, we didn't just have a imaginary employee, we had a whole imaginary sub-company. "Ben" was the lead facilitator for an imaginary consulting firm (we worked in a union office) who used all of the consulting/facilitating buzzwords and would occasionally gather us for "learnings sharings" and "collaborative idea exploration sessions."

People would talk to Ben all the time - "Ben, can you get me that report about the Shandick project?" (there was no Shandick project) "Ben, what's the status of the ."

People would blame Ben for stuff all the time, too - "Ben took all the white board markers!" "Does anyone know where Ben put the projector?"

When I left the office, the guy who replaced me called and asked if he should set up a coffee meeting with Ben and if I had his number. When I let him in on the joke, it released an onslaught of email and phone messages from Ben trying to set up meetings with me, asking for input on projects, and asking if I could co-facilitate staff meetings with him. It was (and still is) awesome. It reminds me that I should have Ben contact my old colleagues this morning and see if they want to grab lunch today.

posted by elmer benson at 8:05 AM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've been in several U.S. Army units that had long-gone soldiers still on the books for some reason or another (usually AWOL, which takes forever to clear). We would often say, when someone was going on leave or leaving for another unit, "Say hi to Private McNeil" (or whoever it was in that particular unit), which would inevitably lead to a discussion of what Private McNeil was doing, complete with ever-ascending Bill Brasky-type tall tales about his accomplishments.
posted by Etrigan at 8:07 AM on May 23, 2013

I helped make one of these!

When I was in grad school, my program had an overabundance of Sara(h)s. Specifically, we had nine women named Sara or Sarah in a relatively small graduate program. When you were talking about the guest list for an upcoming event, it became common to list all of the Sarahs at once, "Sarah Bergin, Sarah Jefferson, Sarah Marks, etc." A friend of mine and I started to slip in an extra Sarah, Sarah Morgan, mostly to see if people would notice.

One day, while I was supposed to be writing my dissertation, I decided that Sarah Morgan really ought to have a facebook presence. So I created a profile for her, and populated it with pictures of women whose faces were blocked in the pictures. I made all of her favorite books and movies things about artificial creations coming to life: Frankenstein, Blade Runner, etc. Then I gave the login credentials to two other grad students and started sending out friend requests. The three of us each log in as SM whenever the spirit moves us - we each have a slightly different style of how to control her, so you can usually tell who it is. Most of her friends are in on the joke, but some people just became friends with her because facebook suggested it and they assumed she was one of the real Sarahs in our program.

The director of our grad program thought it was funny and made an official folder for Sarah in the department office. She told her colleagues, and to this day the students and faculty of my old department will still write on Sarah's wall from time to time. It was just her birthday, and she got a lot of nice notes.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:09 AM on May 23, 2013 [12 favorites]

Military units often have mascots that they toast and pay homage to. It might appear on unit insignia, and they also personify the illustrated character (e.g. a skull figure becomes "Mr. Bones."). Like little household gods, if you will.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:10 AM on May 23, 2013

Oh, I should also say that a hallmark of Sarah Morgan is that she always arrives at the bar after everyone else has left, and we tag her in any facebook pictures where someone is blurry or mostly out of frame.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:12 AM on May 23, 2013 [18 favorites]

My fraternity chapter has had a member named something like Frank Weaver, for more than a decade -- but he doesn't actually exist. Frank gets written in the list of "Not Pictured" people in composites, gets mail when a traveling member wants to send a postcard to the entire group, that sort of thing. My favourite use of him is when making restaurant reservations: we've had lots of stories of members bumping into each other in various cities because they heard "Frank Weaver, your table is ready" from across the room, or waiters helpfully combining two groups who had no idea the others were even in the same state -- "Frank Weaver? Your party is already seated, follow me please..."
posted by Pwoink at 8:27 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

While he was an an actual person, the University at Buffalo Anthropology Department assigned a particular door to Dr. Aleš Hrdlička, to make it look like an office door. In reality it was some sort of cut-hrough that the department did not want dorm inhabitants using for some reason (the department is housed in a larger building with a dorm).
posted by oflinkey at 8:35 AM on May 23, 2013

I made up a fake sister once. I told my little sister that the reason she was never around was because she was at cheerleading practice. She's had a pretty enduring life on facebook, and she's gone through high school, college, and now she has her first job (cheerleading coach).
posted by mmmbacon at 8:53 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

The the spoof special interest group, SIG/CON, of the Association for Information Science and Technology has Dr. Llewellyn C. Puppybreath, III.
posted by MsMolly at 8:56 AM on May 23, 2013

One day at a cable station I was interning at, the manager added a "manual labor" in-box to the office collection of physical in-boxes, intended for use as a repository for incoming requests that "anyone can pick up and do" with a few minutes of down time.

Unfortunately for her, she labeled it "manuel labor", instantly creating the fictional hispanic employee Manuel Labór: he worked nights, was by all accounts a nice guy, and he always got assigned the grunt work nobody else wanted to do.

The boss became aware of this a few days later when, after asking us individually why none of us had pulled anything out of that in-box yet, we each responded with some variation of "why should I have to do Manuel's work for him?" or "you're right, Manuel could use a break, poor guy always gets the crap work to do."

The in-box was removed shortly thereafter, but he lived on for a couple of years before they closed the place down.
posted by davejay at 9:02 AM on May 23, 2013 [10 favorites]

I created one once, back in the mid-90s. I started sending postcards to a friend at her workplace purporting to be from "Gunter," a lovelorn skier she met on a trip to Europe who would alternately fill her in about his travels around Europe, and beg her to throw over her current life and run away to live with him. Apparently her colleagues loved this, because she started getting phone message slips in her inbox from Gunter (this was before they got voice mail), who happened to call only at times when she was out. We've lost touch since, so I don't know if that continued any further.
posted by telophase at 9:04 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

At my work we have "Grover", who is the notional well-intentioned but uninformed low-level employee who does exactly what he's told and loses piles of money for the company in the process.

He sits behind me on top of a stack of books which he is not smart enough to understand the contents of.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:23 AM on May 23, 2013

We had a fictonal buyer named of all things Willie Loman. Whenever a salesperson would call we would tell him/her that Willie was out on the road. Amazing how many never got that. After a while we got tired of Willie being on the road, so we shipped him off to the Gulf War. Oh, you didn't know Willie Loman was in the National Guard? Sadly Willie was killed while serving in the Gulf. But we got a new guy...Travis Bickel.
posted by Gungho at 9:45 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

We had a fictional employee in our small business. The name wasn't as clever as Willie Loman though; it was kind of a random name. Cold callers would ask for him. At some point someone said, "X never seems to be at work. Why don't you fire him?" Answer: "We would if he ever came in." Sometimes we got callers who clearly knew there was a joke, and would ask us how X was doing. Between this and Gungho's comment, I have a feeling a certain amount of this goes on. Probably more back in the olden days, when there were printed phone books and people made up names to avoid the expense of an unlisted number.
posted by BibiRose at 10:04 AM on May 23, 2013

I think this is very common. I can't think of an example from my own experience, sadly, but reading your question and this thread, I'm nodding and not surprised at all. I've definitely encountered things like this before.
posted by amaire at 10:15 AM on May 23, 2013

I used to work for a large electronic medical record company. All of their fake doctors in the training and testing modules had genderless first names and geological last names: Pat Feldspar, Chris Granite, Terry Quartz. I think the nurses had last names of cities: Sam Cleveland, etc.
posted by Madamina at 10:35 AM on May 23, 2013

Also, on the show Flipping Out, Jenni has a character named Deb who takes no bullshit from contractors. (She's kind of the Sasha Fierce of renovations, I guess.)

My brother and I have a sister named Lisa. She's 23. (She's always been 23.) Mom and Dad love her best.

We also have an imaginary friend named Purnie, whom my brother adopted from our cousin. This wouldn't be a real "character" except for the one Easter I developed a street hockey tournament. Tim had to play Purnie in the first round, but I got a bye :D
posted by Madamina at 10:52 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

A lot of theatres have a ghost that will get blamed for random failures or spooky door closings and such. My university's had Oscar who you had to talk to if you were in the building alone after hours.
posted by Uncle at 11:19 AM on May 23, 2013

In the media, it's not uncommon for writers to have a second pen name under which they write certain articles/columns, whether it be for personal reasons (they want to write about certain issues or reveal certain knowledge without their real name being attached) or just for laughs. Sometimes these are just a byline switch, but at some media outlets I've worked, these pseudonyms would take on their own personalities and we would speak about them as real people—even to the writer actually responsible for them. "Oh, we should get X to write that." "I wonder what X would think about this?" "I'm still waiting on X's copy for this week." Years ago, I knew a paper with a columnist who was actually written by sundry other staffers, and always got a laugh when people would say "X is my favourite writer at That Paper" but I rarely ruined the secret for them.

Also, my husband and I neither have nor want kids, but we have two fictional children whose names are combinations of our own (a joke about a relative who did this in real life) whose childhoods we scheme to make as embarrassing, confusing and screwed-up (in a legal way) as possible. (Aaaand now you know why we don't have kids.) I've never thought about sending cards or letters before, but this thread has inspired me. Next father's day, I am totally doing this.
posted by retrograde at 11:26 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

At my college dorm, we invented a former resident named Mabel who was haunting the place. The dorm was origininally built for unmarried working women who didn't want to live with their parents. Allegedly, the elderly women had been housed on the 4th floor, my floor. According to dorm lore, a lot of those women died there and didn't quite leave all the way. In general the place lent itself well to ghost stories. The front doors were flanked by the newspaper front pages covering the grisly deaths of the dorm's benefactors. Eep! Most of the other residents didn't really know what they were doing when they set up their computers and so I would help them and in the process get their printer added to the network. That way Mabel could send her printing directly to new residents' printers.

Though he's newish, I didn't realize that the Colonel at the Chicago Tribune was a character at first.
posted by PairofDucks at 12:01 PM on May 23, 2013

My company has this. His name is [redacted]. Sometimes they page him over the intercom, just for kicks. And at this Canadian university, there was a fake student "Joe Pillar" who took exams and almost graduated.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:01 PM on May 23, 2013

No "famous" examples come to mind, but my brother and his wife for a time had a fictional cat named Belvedere, who lived with them and co-signed birthday cards, etc., among other things. They then adopted an actual cat and named him Belvedere, though, so the fictional version sort of faded out.

Beyond that, the main (and probably better, per your question) experience I have with this is the leprechaun named Sean that inhabited my third-grade classroom. My teacher that year talked about him like he was a perfectly matter-of-fact person and he often showed up as a character in, for instance, drawing assignments we were given.
posted by aecorwin at 12:38 PM on May 23, 2013

Babbling high school French, we greeted a 'new student from France' at the train station. Somebody's brother put the 'arrival' in the newspaper, but there were no repercussions from the school.
posted by Cranberry at 12:43 PM on May 23, 2013

There was one of these at a place I knew, but I'm not going to say what or where, because then this thread might turn up if people google the name after I make facebook and linkedin profiles for the imaginary individual.
posted by yohko at 1:00 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Er, actually I meant to say I never heard of anything like this at all. Nope. Never ever.
posted by yohko at 1:01 PM on May 23, 2013

Harry Q. Bovik, a very important computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, in honor of whom a prestigious yearly machine learning conference is held. (As previously mentioned on the blue.)
posted by w1nt3rmut3 at 1:29 PM on May 23, 2013

American Airlines (used to?) use the name "Jim Wilson" when transporting a dead body as cargo. Some citations I collected.

This also reminds me of the "Yehudi did it!" catchphrase (link goes to a segment of my radio show).
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:35 PM on May 23, 2013

At my high school we had a fictional student named Quincy Gorpo. He became such a thing that there was even a "profile" of him in the school newspaper, featuring only a picture of his flipflops. He was featured in our yearbook (with a blurry photo obscuring any real person) and he ALMOST had his name called at graduation before the principal caught on and skipped him.
posted by OolooKitty at 1:39 PM on May 23, 2013

You mean like Paphnuty?
posted by tangerine at 4:14 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

It is somewhat controversial whether Gimley Farb does or does not exist, but it is certainly odd that if you look at the listing of homeroom classes in my highschool for 1962, he appears in the roster of nearly all of them.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:15 PM on May 23, 2013

Our family had "Mr. Nobody". He did all the bad stuff none of us kids would admit to.
posted by trip and a half at 4:24 PM on May 23, 2013

My mother has an identical impostor who's going to step in at any minute. We've known about her for decades. (This is based on a passport numbering oddity, but we've found plenty more proof over the years.)

My father had an identical twin, Frobisher, who got left behind when the family was boarding an ocean liner, or maybe he discovered Frobisher Bay, or maybe he was living in a lemon tree somewhere. I'm a little embarrassed about how old I was before I realized nobody else heard stories about him.

The Evergreen State College has a large metal ball named Bob who lived in the woods. He would move around. Sometimes people saw him.

My high school had a former student who showed up every year in the alumni magazine's class notes, doing fascinating things but perhaps never existing. This went on for decades.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:47 PM on May 23, 2013

Copied from a USAFA traditions site:

"Nino Balducci '59 to present - Nino entered with the class of '59 and to this day has not graduated. He's never gotten off any probation, yet the big-wigs can't gain any hard evidence to disenroll him. A little more unsubstantiated rumor concerning the perpetual cadet was that some members of the class of 1959 went to Italy and heard about an aeronautical engineer who designed a bomber which never flew. His name was "Nino Balducci" and he started to appear on Alpha Rosters, etc."
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:05 PM on May 23, 2013

Some of my college friends invented a student named Momar and ran him for freshman class president. His picture on the campaign posters was actually Kevin Costner's yearbook photo. According to his slogans, the reason you've never seen him around was because "He Works So Hard For You!"

Eventually, Momar got an account on the school server thanks to a friendly sysadmin. His username was momar and his full name was Maurice DeLafayette Omar. Sometimes he sent unusual emails to individuals or mailing lists. He ran for freshman class president in several different years, and remained known around campus after his creators had graduated.

When the barista asks my name in a coffee shop, sometimes I say it's Momar. There's always more than one Matt in the shop, but there's never another Momar.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:54 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

My mom used to have a "housemate" named Oscar Walrus. He always signed up for anything that could generate junk mail and occasionally door-to-door salesman would ask if they could talk to him. We did sometimes make up stories for him, but really the main use was he could sign up for things instead of you.
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:02 PM on May 23, 2013

The theatre group I've been a member of since 1985 is based in a converted municipal incinerator which, according to legend, is occupied by the ghost of a man who apparently fell asleep in a pile of rubbish and was subsequently burned to death on what is now the stage. He's constantly referred to when lights blow or unexpected things happen during a performance.
posted by h00py at 3:08 AM on May 24, 2013

I have a second older brother named Frank. He lives in the basement and sometimes works in a coal mine in Pennsylvania.
posted by topoisomerase at 11:17 AM on May 24, 2013

When I got hired on at Blockbuster Video, there were two other new hires at the same time. One was a guy named Lewis who ended up only working one shift and never came back. However, that one shift that he did work, he managed to grab a stack of about 60 VHS tapes and re-shelve them successfully onto the new release wall without even using the cart.

Flash forward a few years where I had been promoted to one of the shift leads and 90% of the staff had turned over like two or three times. I'd tell the employees under me the legend of Lewis and how it seemed like whenever he worked a shift, he'd be carrying an insane amount of tape returns. Made it sound like he'd been working there for years when I hired on, instead of just sharing a first day with him.
posted by radwolf76 at 10:05 PM on May 24, 2013

When I trained on the TypeWell software system, the lessons were designed as a dialogue between the software creator (giving instructions via audio) and a cheerful little computer elf named Kyp (responding as scrolling text within the program itself). Kyp also has his own blog on the TypeWell website.
posted by brookedel at 3:47 AM on May 25, 2013

My uncles explained a dark stain on their childhood bedroom floor as the remains of an eighth sibling, Joey, who had met with an unfortunate end after waking them up too early.
posted by bendy at 12:06 PM on May 25, 2013

My friends in college had a house they called The Doug, of which I was an unofficial resident. People would ask why it was called "The Doug". We'd say that there was to be another roommate, Doug, whom everybody had been friends with freshman year. We'd all talked about having a house together off-campus, how fun that'd be, etc. The following summer, though, there was an accident at the battery factory he was working in (or "that his father was the foreman at", depending on whom you asked) and Doug's never coming back to school. We never explicitly said "Doug died". People would get these really sad looks on their faces. And for a while there was a nasty leftover Solo cup from a party sitting on a rafter in the basement. We referred to it as "Doug's last cup".

There was no Doug.
posted by knile at 7:35 AM on May 31, 2013

Franz Bibfeldt was an influential theologian.
posted by knile at 7:31 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just read a charming short story titled Bomar by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in While Mortals Sleep: Unpublished Short Fiction. It's about the unintended consequences of a fictional persona (of a real person, in this case) invented as a running gag by a couple of coworkers.
posted by usonian at 6:08 AM on June 10, 2013

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