The Bizarre Reasons This YouTuber Went On A Deadly Rampage

The past several years have seen YouTube become a popular platform for content creators of all kinds. It's become a means for otherwise ordinary people to become online celebrities, but that new-found celebrity status, as well as the pressure of gaining enough views to make enough money out of a video and constantly publishing content to maintain one's following, can often wear down on a YouTuber's mental health, as documented by Engadget. Many YouTubers are very candid about their mental health issues and use their videos as a way to have productive discussions about the topic. However, a YouTuber named Randy Robert Stair, aka Andrew Blaze, took a different, more disturbing path while confronting those challenges.

In the nine years immediately preceding his violent rampage at an Eaton, Pennsylvania, Weis Markets on June 8, 2017, where he shot and killed co-workers Victoria Brong, Brian Hayes, and Terry Sterling before dying by suicide, Stair maintained a constant presence on YouTube, per Fox56. He had most recently worked on a video series called "Ember's Ghost Squad," which was inspired by his favorite cartoon character. But dark as the content was, no one seemed to notice that the 24-year-old YouTuber was, in real life, "losing [his] grip on reality," as Wyoming County District Attorney Jeff Mitchell told PA Homepage.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, it was revealed that there were several unusual reasons why Stair did what he did, starting with his unhealthy infatuation with said cartoon character.

An obsession with an animated character

Born on September 17, 1992, Randy Stair turned to video creation during his high school years, starting his own YouTube channel and even gaining the attention of one famous content creator, Ray William Johnson, who featured one of Stair's sketches on his "Equals Three" series (via Hock Knife). However, his content would progressively get darker as he entered his 20s, in line with the depression he was trying to cope with in the real world. This culminated with the launch of "Ember's Ghost Squad," a fan-fiction video series inspired by the cartoon character Ember McLain from the Nickelodeon show "Danny Phantom," which ran from 2004 to 2007 (via Press Connects).

In hindsight, it isn't surprising that Stair greatly identified with Ember — according to the character's Fandom page, Ember was an "unpopular high school-aged girl who had dreams of becoming a rock star" during her time as a human. In ghost form, she realized her ambitions, utilizing her mind-control abilities as a musician to hypnotize young people and dominate the world. 

It was Ember's prior death in a mysterious house fire that supposedly led Stair to believe that he should also die to get the love and attention he had always craved. As for killing other people, he claimed on one of his last vlog posts (via Medium's Real Crime) that Ember wanted him to murder because her Ghost Squad "[needs] more souls."

Stair dealt with gender dysphoria and felt like a 'female soul'

On "Ember's Ghost Squad," Randy Stair took on the persona of Andrew Blaze, a self-insert character whom he voiced; he would also enlist the help of fellow animators and voice actors in creating his YouTube content. Interestingly, Blaze was presented as a female character despite her masculine first name (via Press Connects), and this was apparently a manifestation of her creator's gender dysphoria.

In one particular video message prior to the Weis Markets shooting (via Explore With Us), Stair addressed his parents, admitting that he started cross-dressing in high school. Whenever his parents and his brother were out bowling on Wednesday nights, Stair would supposedly stay home and wear women's clothes. He also claimed that he secretly wanted to undergo a sex change, per CBS News. But on the other hand, he also described himself in his journal as a racist and homophobic individual who didn't care much for gay people.

Stair hinted at his gender dysphoria multiple times in the lead-up to the shooting, revealing in his final video that he was "just a female soul trapped in a man's body my whole life." He also took to his online journal shortly before the incident, writing that he had just "62 more hours" before he would carry out his plans and that "the girl in me is clawing to get out." 

Stair drew inspiration from the Columbine shooters

Randy Stair was quickly reaching his breaking point in the final days of his life; according to Hock Knife, his last video upload started with an angry diatribe aimed at the animators who allegedly left him hanging and, despite showing initial interest, refused to help him see his final creation through. The project in question was a 42-minute upload titled "Andrew Blaze's Westborough High Massacre Video" — seemingly a reference to hate group leader Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church but also a nod to two of Stair's most notorious inspirations as a would-be mass murderer. Per PennLive, the video, which has since been taken down, saw Stair describing Columbine High School shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold as "heroes" and kissing a loaded shotgun.

Stair's idolization of Harris and Klebold was nothing new at that point. As pointed out by the Medium blog Real Crime, the YouTuber showed his particular admiration for Harris by buying three "Natural Selection" T-shirts, mirroring Harris' wardrobe choice on the day of the Columbine shooting. Stair's use of the words "I hate the f***ing world" in his first journal entry likewise echoed the very same sentence Harris used to start out his own diary. And in yet another nod to the older half of the two Columbine killers, Stair chose to give names to the two shotguns he would use for the Weis Markets shooting — he called the firearms Mackenzie and Rachael, naming them after two characters from his "Ember's Ghost Squad" series.

Relying on a series of coin flips

Ultimately, Randy Stair's decision to open fire at the Eaton Township Weis Markets came down to the flip of a coin, which he shot on video while speaking to his intended audience (via Explore With Us). As seen on the clip, he took a coin and announced that everything would come down to the results of a best-two-of-three series of coin flips — if it turned out heads, he'd "do it here," meaning at home, and if tails won, he'd carry out the massacre "[at the] supermarket." He then exited the house where he lived with his parents and documented the entire process, which had tails winning out "on the very last coin flip." After revealing the results, Stair warned his potential viewers that his attempt to let fate dictate his next move would end with the "loss of human life ... besides my own," and that he was considering killing more than one person.

On the early morning of June 8, 2017, Stair did as he had promised, killing three co-workers before shooting himself. As Explore With Us pointed out multiple times on their video about the shooting, the tragedy could have been prevented if only people realized that Stair wasn't fooling around when he'd talk about death, murder, Columbine, and other dark topics in his videos.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.