I am terrified of bears. Absolutely terrified. To me, they are eight-foot-tall death machines who charge unsuspecting hikers, their jaws slung with bloody saliva and eyes lit by the fires of Hades' eternal damned kingdom! Just ask Leonardo DiCaprio — or snowboarder Kelly Murphy for that matter.
Murphy was the recent star of a YouTube video that has already clocked up more than 2 million views in only two days. The video purports to show Murphy nonchalantly escaping the clutches of a brown bear as she snowboards down a slope in the Japanese Alps — while singing Rihanna. According to Murphy, she only realized how close to a mauling she came when she reviewed her GoPro footage at home. Check her out escaping from a piste ursine below:
OMG! I was going through my snowboarding videos and I found a bear chasing me!!! I nearly got eaten!!!
This was at Hakuba 47 in Japan, filmed yesterday! Be careful people!!!
Paws For Thought?
So, on the surface, this appears to be the capture of an incredible, exciting and genuine moment of snowboarding prowess mixed with a dollop of animal majesty and a pinch of pop culture. Perfect! Just the thing the internet is made for, right?
Except, it's probably not genuine. In fact, as much fun as it is to think this is real, it's almost certainly not. This is not to suggest the video isn't an impressive piece of video wizardry, which it clearly is, but merely to break it down and find out what's really going on. Below are some clues which could point to the truth.
The YouTube Account
Alarm bells should be ringing before you even watch the video. For one thing, "Murphy's" account was set up on the April 5, only a week before posting this latest video. The account includes two other snowboarding videos that appear to be taken in the same vicinity of the bear chase video.
Although it's not entirely impossible that someone could find virality in only five or six days, it seems much more likely this is simply a fake account created for the purpose of the viral video. The two other videos are likely merely an attempt to "set dress" the account and make it appear even remotely genuine.
OK, so the YouTube account could feasibly be genuine, but what about the actual bear? Well, considering it's only on screen for a short time, and at some distance, it is difficult to verify with certainty if it is real or not. However, for the most part, the bear does seem to be CGI creation.
For one thing, it appears to disappear from the frame and then reappear at a different angle, suggesting it somehow warped across the piste. For example, at 0:48, we see the bear pass near a small barren bush before moving out of frame. When the bear returns to the frame, it is far to the left of the same bush.
Added to this is the fact the bear does not really act like a bear. For one thing, it's moving pretty slowly for a predator that's apparently chasing something. Bears can reach a top speed of around 30 m/h, which is much faster than what Murphy appears to be going. Furthermore, it does not have the head-down, eyes-forward stance of an attacking bear, while at some points in the video it does not appear to be even looking at Murphy.
Then there's the species of bear. From the look of the video, Murphy is being "chased" by a type of brown bear. Japan is home to a species of brown bear called the Ussuri — however, this species is extremely rare in the area of Hakuba 47 sports park. In fact, the Ussuri is almost entirely confined to the northern-most island of Hokkaido, which is nowhere near where this video is supposedly filmed. Hakuba 47 is known to be the home of some bears, but only Asian black bears, which look completely different and feature a distinctive white V-shaped chest mark.
Perhaps the most damning piece of evidence questioning the authenticity of the video is the sound, in particular the sound of the bear. Firstly, the roars of the bear seem to be of the same volume and clarity regardless of the bear's location, while the fact we'd even hear them is also debatable. The amount of wind interference affecting the GoPro would likely drown out most sounds, and it seems the sound of the wind interference could have been reduced to facilitate the bear sounds. For example, in Murphy's other videos, the wind interference is much louder and seems genuine.
Secondly, there are also the sounds the bear makes. In fact, if you're a prodigious player of Skyrim or World of Warcraft, you might just recognize them. They appear to be taken from a stock grizzly bear audio that has done the rounds in film, TV and video games for quite a while.
So Who Actually Made It?
Well, that question is a slightly more difficult one to answer. Viral videos are developed for a whole bunch of reasons, whether it's to sell a product, promote a channel or merely to amuse people.
One possible conclusion could be that the video was developed as viral marketing for a company. GoPro is a possible candidate, although Outdoor Tech would have my bet. It's the manufacturer of the headphones seen in the video, while its website and demeanor certainly gives off a millennial, social media savvy, viral internet vibe. Murphy's singing and obliviousness to the bear's roars could also feasibly be a method to highlight the headphones, which might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Outdoor Tech's site also contains several videos of snowboarders filming themselves with GoPros, much like the one above.
The viral marketing angle is also supported by the fact that, usually, if a genuine video becomes viral, it's not long before the star of said video starts appearing on frothy breakfast chat shows for interviews. The fact this hasn't happened for Murphy is also suspect and suggests the video could be part of a longer marketing strategy.
Alternatively, the video could have been developed as a project akin to the famous eagle snatches toddler video (above). This video, which shares some basic similarities with Murphy's, later turned out to be for a college project in which students were tasked with making a viral video. Of course, it could also simply be Jimmy Fallon trolling everyone again.
In any case, the fact this video is probably fake at least makes me every so slightly less terrified of the prospect of being ripped limb from limb by an enraged furry murder beast.