The woman who sparked mass transit chaos when she brought live crickets and worms into a New York City subway car Wednesday and subsequently flew into a rage has revealed she is an actress who staged the incident to prove a point.
Though early reports said the woman released the critters into the train car herself, a woman named Zaida Pugh posted a new, lengthier video of the incident on Facebook late Friday. The clip showed a young man clearly knocking a container of the crickets and worms out of her hands, sending it flying into the air.
Fusion, which noted that the video was “suspiciously well-produced,” contacted Pugh to ask her about it, and she admitted she was behind the whole thing.
“It was a prank,” she told Fusion. “I’m an actress. That was me.”
Pugh has gained notoriety for other viral stunts in the past, most infamously for a graphic video last year in which she pretended to stab a baby to death.
In the cricket video, the men who knocked the bugs out of her hands were actors and the “attack” was planned in advance. Her apparent breakdown was just acting. But the hundreds of crickets and worms were real, she told the New York Post. (She also said she really did urinate on herself.)
But Pugh told The Huffington Post that she never meant for the chaos to get so extreme.
“I’m sorry how it went,” she said. “I didn’t want it to go as bad as it ended up going.”
Pugh intended for the man to knock the crickets out of her hands, she said, but didn’t mean for the box to go flying into the air or for the insects to get on the train’s passengers.
She also said she did not plan for one of the passengers to pull the train’s emergency brake, which stops the train in place. (It’s intended to be used in situations like a person getting caught in the doors.)
Passenger Ezra Mechaber tweeted during the incident that someone pulled the e-brake, and Pugh also recalls this happening. The NYPD told Fusion that the brake was never actually activated, but the video makes it clear that for one reason or another, the train came to a halt.
For his part, Mechaber says he was not part of the act.
“Absolutely not in on it,” he told HuffPost in a Twitter message. “That woman’s intentions may have been a ‘prank’ but the fallout was very much real.”
Incidentally, another widely cited tweet mentioning “crickets in subway” around the same time as the incident turned out to be totally unrelated. The Twitter user later clarified that she works at a Subway sandwich store and there were some crickets in the building.
An anonymous police source also told the New York Post that Pugh could wind up facing charges for the stunt, but Pugh told HuffPost she hasn’t heard anything about this from the police.
She called the whole thing a “social experiment,” saying it made a point about how poorly people react in emergencies and how little people actually care about each other. For example, when the man was pretending to attack her, she says nobody intervened, though a lot of people started recording. And when she started freaking out, most of the train passengers were laughing or filming her, but didn’t try to help.
It’s unclear whether acting like a caricature of a person with a mentally illness and inadvertently causing mass panic will have any net positive outcomes for anyone who is homeless.
It also seems pretty mean to the crickets.
This story has been updated with comments from Zaida Pugh.