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The 22-year-old viral star is currently vacationing in Japan and shared a video from a visit to Aokigahara, an 11.5-square mile forest on the slopes of Mt. Fuji better known as the “suicide forest.” The national park has been known for decades as a place people went to commit suicide because, according to the AP, “people can easily get lost there, and know they won’t be found for a long time.” Over 100 bodies are reportedly found in the forest each year.
Paul seemed to understand why Aokigahara was “haunted” at the beginning of his now deleted, 15-minute clip, but was surprised when he encountered what appeared to be a dead man’s body during a hike with friends over the weekend.
Like a lot of Paul’s uploads, the video had started out upbeat and playful. He joked about Mt. Fuji not being where Fiji water comes from, he put on a Toy Story alien hat. Then, he and his entourage happened upon the corpse hanging from a nearby tree.
“Yo, are you alive?” Paul said. “Are you fucking with us?”
After the YouTuber realized he was most likely filming someone’s dead body, he turned the camera back on himself. “So, a lot of things are going through my mind. This is a first for me.” The video then showed the body from a few feet away. “His hands are purple. He did this this morning,” Paul said.
Paul turned the camera back to himself. “Oh no, I’m so sorry, Logang,” he said. (Logang is what Paul calls his community of over 15 million subscribers.) “This was supposed to be a fun vlog.”
“This is not clickbait. This is the most real vlog I’ve ever posted to this channel,” Paul said in an intro to the video. “I think this definitely marks a moment in YouTube history because I’m pretty sure this has never hopefully happened to anyone on YouTube ever. Now with that said: buckle the fuck up, because you’re never gonna see a video like this again!”
Paul continued on to remark that, “Suicide is not a joke,” and “Depression and mental illness are not a joke.” Other members of Paul’s entourage, like Andy Altig, posted their own versions of the visit to Aokigahara, with titles like “WE FOUND A DEAD BODY!!! **emotional**”. For a group of people that were possibly the first to discover the victim in the forest, gathering content seemed to come way before, say, alerting the authorities or considering how the victim’s loved ones might find out about the news.
Reactions to Paul’s video were swift and negative. His name trended on Twitter for hours, with the majority of people calling for him to remove the clip:
logan paul exploited a persons suicide and FILMED the body after knowing the person was actually dead. if you stan that, youre disgusting. logan paul is disgusting.— ً (@GUCCIFlNN) January 2, 2018
I’m so so sorry if you subscribed to Logan Paul as escapism but were left facing that in your sub box today. In the UK you can call 116 123 and in the US it’s 1-800-273-8255 and you can talk to people who are there for you. Also: unsubscribe. 💜 you are loved.— Zoe London (@zoelondondj) January 2, 2018
Dear @LoganPaul,— Anna Akana (@AnnaAkana) January 2, 2018
When my brother found my sister’s body, he screamed with horror & confusion & grief & tried to save her. That body was a person someone loved.
You do not walk into a suicide forest with a camera and claim mental health awareness.
As somebody who lives in Japan, has Japanese family and has filmed a video in the suicide forest, the amount of disrespect Logan Paul showed in his video is honestly sickening.— Joey (@TheAn1meMan) January 2, 2018
No amount of demonetizing or "like if you feel sad" can excuse what he did.
Really disappointing 🙁
Still more people called on YouTube to address the issue publicly. The clip reportedly racked up 6.3 million views in its first 24 hours:
Just remember this. Before all the extended community outrage against Logan Paul’s “we found a dead body” video, there was a seemingly uncontested 550-600,000 likes on it.— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) January 2, 2018
His core audience doesn’t give a fuuuuuuck. Unless youtube does something, this doesn’t hurt him.
All eyes on you, @YouTube. What Logan Paul did was unacceptable and deserves decisive action. There is no place on YouTube for that kind of content.— Meg Turney (@megturney) January 2, 2018
Late Monday evening, Paul pulled the video from his channel and tweeted a lengthy letter of apology.
“Where do I begin…” he wrote. “Let’s start with this — I’m sorry.”
Paul wrote that sharing the clip was a “mistake.” He was also quick to cite his popularity as one of the main causes of his misstep. “I didn’t do it for views,” Paul said in the second paragraph. “I get views.”
Dear Internet, pic.twitter.com/42OCDBhiWg— Logan Paul (@LoganPaul) January 2, 2018
At its worst, the letter reads like Louis CK’s recent public apology: the proof is in the pudding.
Paul likens his content to a 15-minute TV show he puts out “EVERY SINGLE DAY,” and says the decision to upload the video was the result of getting “caught up in the moment without fully weighing the possible ramifications.”
In the future, Paul said he aims to take his “big reach” more seriously and consider his responsibility to his community before sharing videos.
Update 11:29am CT, Jan, 2: Paul posted a second apology this morning to Twitter.
“I want to apologize to the internet, I want to apologize to anyone who’s seen the video,” he said. “I want to apologize to anyone who has been affected or touched by mental illness … most importantly I want to apologize to the victim and his family.”
Paul also asked that his fans, who have been defending the YouTube star, to not speak out on his behalf about this.
So sorry. pic.twitter.com/JkYXzYsrLX— Logan Paul (@LoganPaul) January 2, 2018
Christine Friar is a writer and editor in New York who focuses on streaming entertainment and internet culture. Her work has appeared in the Awl, the Fader, New York Magazine, Paper Magazine, Vogue, Elle, and more.