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Denver Man Admits Christmas Lights Web Hoax

Associated Press
Wednesday, December 29, 2004; Page A02

DENVER -- A man who boasted to reporters around the world that his Web site allowed strangers to turn his outdoor Christmas lights off and on admitted Monday it was an elaborate hoax designed, he said, to spread holiday cheer.

Alek Komarnitsky, a computer specialist, said he started the site two years ago to see if he could use computer tricks to make it look as if the thousands of lights adorning his house in Lafayette were blinking on command.

Alek Komarnitsky, who boasted that his Web site allowed strangers to turn his Christmas lights off and on from afar, holds a remote control for the lights on his home in Lafayette, Colo. (Richard M. Hackett -- Longmont Daily Times-call Via AP)

This year, he went even further: At one point, with a television station helicopter hovering overhead, his wife was inside, turning the lights off and on herself.

The Web site was featured in numerous holiday stories, including one by the Associated Press, and Komarnitsky said he decided to announce his scam to the Wall Street Journal because it had gotten "a little out of hand."

"For the overwhelming majority of people who read about this, it will continue to provide a little Christmas chuckle," Komarnitsky said after the Journal posted a story on its Web site on Monday.

On his site, Komarnitsky explained how he used a series of still photographs of his house from three angles -- with the lights either on or off, and with varying amounts of snow on the ground.

To make it seem more real, he would sometimes add an image of a person or a car driving by in the Web cam "shot" looking at the lights. He added computer-generated low-flying planes because an airport is near his home.

Although people may have believed they were controlling the lights, all they actually saw were the prepared photos -- nothing was happening at the house.

When one television reporter came to view how the display worked, Komarnitsky said he responded that the Web cam was broken and he was waiting for a part to be delivered.

The AP picked up the report from a local newspaper and checked out the Web site but never visited the house.

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