Kayla Berg, a 15-year-old teenager from Antigo, Wisconsin, vanished without a trace in 2009, but a newly discovered and very disturbing YouTube video raised fresh concerns about her fate. Antigo police now say, though, that the YouTube video is fake and was an acting skit.
That leaves Kayla’s grieving family with no more answers than they had before about the enduring mystery of the young woman’s disappearance but with hopes that the national spotlight could churn up some clues. Berg’s case has now been featured on an episode of Disappeared.
Antigo police confirmed October 11 that they were investigating the bizarre YouTube video posted two months after Kayla disappeared but discovered recently.
Some people thought Kayla was the woman seen screaming and cowering in a bathroom in the video, which has been viewed more than 1 million times on YouTube, and some people thought all along that the video might be a hoax or an attempt at bad acting.
In fact, amateur sleuths dredged up another YouTube video of a man who closely resembles the man in the disturbing video, acting out a completely unrelated scene with a woman in a wig. The second video, which is clearly an acting attempt, was posted to YouTube in October 2009. It’s not clear whether the two videos are at all related, though, as police did not identify the actors in the creepy video that went viral.
Kayla vanished in August 2009 after a friend dropped her off at her boyfriend’s house in Wausau, Wisconsin. She has not been seen since. A young woman is still missing. She simply vanished into thin air one day, and she leaves behind a grieving family desperate for answers. Her brother posted:
The hope of those who love Kayla is that the public interest doesn’t wane now that the video has been debunked so the national spotlight on her case can lead to answers about the central mystery: What happened to Kayla Berg?
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Say the Scene in the Disturbing Video Was Faked
The creepy video is headlined on YouTube, “Hi Walter! I got a new gf today! Hi Walter! Its me Patrick!” It’s not clear who Walter or Patrick are. The video has now been removed from YouTube, but you can watch a copy above.
Antigo, Wisconsin police initially posted a statement on Facebook about the video, indicating that they were investigating its origins and soliciting information from the public about it or the man in it. It took them about a day to unravel the fact that it was an acting skit.
Police then posted a new statement, saying the actors did not intend any resemblance to Berg, and clarifying that the video was posted in 2011.
Police Chief Eric Roller told WBAY-TV: “We’ll do whatever we can to find out who’s in there and identify them. Sometimes that’s hard on the web because of wherever this stuff may originate from [but] we’re going to do everything we can to get to the bottom of it.”
Tragically, the skit put Kayla’s family through a heart-wrenching series of emotions.
Kayla’s mother, Hope Sprenger, told WAOW-TV that she was worried the girl featured in the video was her daughter.
“[It] sounded like her, looked like her, it gave me chills,” Sprenger said, according to the Wisconsin television station. “Disturbing. It made me sick to my stomach.”
KTLA said Kayla’s mother considered it a “red flag” that the video was posted just two months after her daughter vanished.
Kayla’s brother posted on Facebook that the family contacted the FBI, and he almost had a panic attack at work after seeing the video.
A woman who identified herself on Facebook as a friend of Berg’s wrote, when asked by another user if it sounded like Kayla, “Honestly, yes. From what I saw, the sound of her struggling.. I’ve listened to it a million times and it sounds like her voice.”
You can get a better view of the woman in the video if you brighten a screen shot:
The video starts with a dialogue from the man facing the computer screen. This had led some to wonder: If the video had been real, why would the man expose his face so carelessly and clearly?
“Hi Walter, I was at the mall today and guess what happened? I met the most wonderful girl,” the man says in the video. He then says:
We went shopping at JC Penneys, and she tried on a lot of clothes, and she ended up buying a whole lot of them, you know what I mean? And then we decided to go and take a look at some of the jewelry at Kay Jewelers. She picked out this most awesome necklace, the most amazing necklace I’ve ever seen. And, I know she wanted me to buy it for her, because she kept on giving me the look, you know the look. And then we got kind of tired at the mall, and I brought her back to my place. And I know she hates cameras, Walter, but I’m going to show you anyway. Are you ready?
The camera then shows what appears to be a basement door to a bathroom.
“Why are you doing this? Help!” the crying woman screams as the man opens the bathroom door, showing her inside, and then goes inside himself and shuts the door as her screams escalate. The Daily Beast said the video was the user’s only post.
Sprenger told the TV station: “The clothing could be a big possibility. We do believe she was wearing that type of shirt, we know she had jeans.”
The description on the YouTube channel read, “my videos to Walter. My friend which cannot seem to find me.”
People filled the Antigo police thread on Facebook with theories. Internet sleuths studied the video and said they noticed various clues, such as the fact there was someone’s reflection in the man’s glasses. Police also spent the day debunking other theories. Police wrote on Facebook that a somewhat lookalike man named by amateur sleuths was ruled out as having any connection to the video, and they asked people to stop harassing him.
One particularly intriguing theory all along: Another man posted a separate YouTube video to the police thread that features a man who resembles the man in the creepy video acting out different scenes with an actress wearing a wig. The date of the video with the actors? October 9, 2009.
Some people theorized “Walter” could refer to Milwaukee serial killer Walter Ellis, however the modus operandi and most victim profiles in Ellis’ serial killings did not resemble the Berg disappearance at all (they were, generally, older prostitutes or otherwise vulnerable women who lived in Milwaukee), and Milwaukee is three hours away from Antigo, which is located north of Green Bay.
The police chief told The Daily Beast that “an out-of-state tipster alerted him of the video last weekend.” It was posted in 2009 but only went viral recently. A Facebook page devoted to the video posted it in July 2016.
One man who has dissected the video online claimed he could hear the man in the video say “action” before he opens the door to the bathroom with the girl inside. He thought from the start that the video was faked, and police now say that’s correct.
However, it leaves Kayla’s mother and brother no closer to finding out what happened to her.
2. Kayla Vanished After Being Dropped off at Her Boyfriend’s House
According to Crime Watchers, Kayla was last seen in Antigo, Wisconsin on August 11, 2009 by a friend, Kevin Kielcheski, 24.
The crime site says the friend dropped Kayla off at her boyfriend’s home in Wausau, Wisconsin between 9:00 and 11:00 p.m. “He said it looked like no one was home as all of the lights were off, and he never saw her go inside,” says Crime Watchers. He says he left and had nothing to do with her disappearance.
The home was abandoned, says WKOW-TV. CNN says it had been condemned and was undergoing renovations.
The FBI, which is offering a $20,000 reward in the case, says, “Kayla May Berg was last seen on August 11, 2009, in Antigo, Wisconsin. Kayla was last seen at her father’s home until she was picked up and given a ride from Antigo to Wausau, Wisconsin.”
The Charley Project says Kayla’s boyfriend said that he never saw her that night.
Kayla’s missing poster with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says Kayla’s “ears and navel are pierced. Kayla has a scar on the right side of her nose. She also has a scar on her right shin.”
The Charley Project says that Kayla was last seen wearing “a red spaghetti-strap top, a dark blue hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, tan low-heeled sandals, and a silver ringed necklace.”
However, CNN says there conflicting accounts of what she was wearing, and the person who last saw her said she was wearing a long-sleeved shirt.
3. Police Considered Berg a Possible Runaway at First
When Berg first disappeared, police considered the possibility she was a runaway, but after time passed, that theory became less likely, according to The Charley Project.
Berg’s parents did not immediately report her missing because each thought she was at the other’s house, according to CNN. That made the investigation harder from the onset.
Berg’s mother’s Facebook page reads, “I am the mother of missing Kayla May Berg, 8-11-2009, from Antigo, WI. I just want answers…”
According to CNN, the family – including Kayla’s older brother Jimmy – had just moved to Antigo from Texas because the children were raised in Antigo and were homesick for the small Wisconsin community. Kayla’s father and grandparents lived in Antigo, said CNN. The parents had an open arrangement where Kayla went back and forth between the homes whenever she wanted, often walking or biking there, said CNN.
Kayla had called her mother the afternoon she disappeared from a local McDonald’s, where she was hanging out with friends, and said she was going to go to her dad’s, according to CNN.
Police initially believed her friends were not being forthcoming about her whereabouts, but as time passed, that theory evaporated, said WSAW-TV.
WKOW-TV says Kayla’s mother said from the start that she did not believe Kayla had run away, quoting her as saying, “Kayla if you can hear this, please just call me, you’re not in trouble. Just call mom. I need to know.”
On Kayla’s 16th birthday, a candlelight ceremony was held in her honor, says WKOW-TV.
4. Kielcheski Was Initially Charged With Endangering Berg
Kielcheski was charged with “recklessly endangering Kayla Mae Berg’s safety in August 2009 after he admitted smoking marijuana with her, then giving her a ride to a home in Wausau,” says WSAU-TV.
However, Kielcheski’s attorneys argued that the charges should be dropped “for lack of evidence.” In 2011, WKOW-TV reported that the charges against Kielcheski were dismissed for lack of probable cause.
WSAW-TV said police revealed in 2011 that “things of interest were found” on his property that they would not identify, “but there was no indication that Berg was on his property.”
CNN says that a friend of Kayla’s brother had dropped her off at McDonald’s. She spoke with a friend and said she planned to ride around in a car for awhile, and the next thing police know is that Kielcheski says he dropped her off at her boyfriend’s house 34 miles away in Wausau. The boyfriend was 19 and Berg was 15, says CNN.
5. Kayla Had a Passion for Gymnastics
WSAW-TV reported that Kayla had a passion for gymnastics, quoting a friend as saying. “She wanted to go to gymnastics camp and I told her that she would make an Olympic gold medalist.”
CNN said Berg was looking forward to competing on the high school gymnastics team.
At one point, police received a tip that Kayla was seen getting into a truck at a Wal-Mart parking lot, but the driver was found and cleared, said WKOW-TV.
In August 2016, the community released balloons in memory of Kayla, said WSAW. Kayla’s story was featured on CNN and America’s Most Wanted.
If you have information that could help find Kayla Berg, call the Antigo, Wisconsin Police Department at 715-627-6411.
Read more about Kayla Berg and this disturbing video in Spanish at AhoraMismo.com: