Psst! Deep, Dark Secrets Shared

By Virginia Breen

Jul 14, 2009 7:00am

ABC News On Campus reporter Michelle San Miguel blogs:

A grief-stricken mother confesses to eating her deceased child’s ashes. A teacher admits failing a student so she can flirt with his father.

These are among the compelling anonymous tales sent in every week to PostSecret, a community art project/Web site that has become a global phenomenon.

 Every Sunday, PostSecret devotees turn to the project’s Web site to read the latest secrets sent in anonymously by people from around the world. On the site, fans see scanned copies of postcards sent in to the project’s Maryland address, but few observe the actual postcards that have been mailed. 

For nearly two months, PostSecret followers have been making their way to the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y., to look at more than 400 pieces of art sent in to PostSecret.  Sarah Massett, public relations director for the Everson Museum of Art, said the museum requested the exhibit be brought to Syracuse.

“This exhibit seems to really resonate with a younger crowd,” Massett said.  “It seems to be drawing people in from far away.”

PostSecret was created by Frank Warren back in November 2004.  Warren distributed 3,000 self-addressed postcards within public spaces in Washington, D.C.  The only requirements Warren established were that the secrets submitted had to be true and never shared with another person. 

More than four years after PostSecret was created, Warren has received more than 350,000 intensely personal and artistically crafted homemade postcards that span the range of human emotion. Warren receives about 1,000 anonymous postcards a week. 

“We’ve seen people tearing up reading secrets and then laughing when they read the next one,” Massett said.  “This isn’t just a display of secrets.  It’s a display of artworks that convey a secret.”

Megan McLaughlin, a PostSecret fan from Oswego, N.Y., visits the Web site every Sunday.  McLaughlin said she may send in a secret someday.  “Everyone has something that they don’t want to tell someone else,” she said.

James Vernay, a student at Stony Brook University, also admitted contemplating mailing in a postcard with his own secret.  Vernay said he understood why thousands of letters have been sent in to PostSecret.  “If people have thoughts that they think aren’t normal, they tend to repress it,” he said.   

On the morning of Sunday, July 12, the PostSecret Twitter page tweeted that the PostSecret Web site had just received its quarter-billionth hit.  While fans of the cultural phenomenon can no longer see the exhibit in Syracuse, the art showcase will be in the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings, Mont. on October 2.

“Everyone has a secret,” Massett said.  “Being able to see or witness someone else’s secret can be very personal.”

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