The YouTube baker fighting back against deadly “craft hacks”

A warning in the description of every 5-Minute Crafts upload reads: “The following video might feature activity performed by our actors within controlled [sic] environment—please use judgment, care, and precaution if you plan to replicate.”

Wilkens said TheSoul Publishing has a “quality assurance” team who review every video throughout its production, “and we adhere to the policies of the platforms where our videos appear.” He added, “Additionally, on a daily basis, we monitor and collect feedback from audiences and partners, making necessary changes and improvements.”

On September 5, 2019, a Chinese teenager died after allegedly attempting to copy a viral hack video. The video, uploaded by cooking influencer Ms Yeah, taught viewers how to pop popcorn inside a soda can placed above an alcohol lamp. The family of a 14-year-old identified only as Zhezhe said she and her 12-year-old friend Xiaoyu were trying to follow the video instructions when the can exploded. Both girls were severely burned, and Zhezhe died from her injuries.

Ms Yeah, whose real name is Zhou Xiao Hui, paid the families an undisclosed amount of compensation but denied that the girls were copying her video, as they had reportedly heated up alcohol directly inside two cans. “I used only one tin can and an alcohol lamp, which is safer,” she wrote on Weibo. She added that her videos are not meant to be instructional. The Ms Yeah YouTube channel has 11.7 million subscribers who watch Zhou cook in unusual ways, often with office equipment. She has barbecued meat on a filing cabinet, spun cotton candy on an electric drilland fried food inside an oil-filled coffee pot. Ms Yeah did not respond to a request for comment.

Apart from this incident, Reardon has shed light on egg-poaching hacks that have left a number of people injured. There are tens of thousands of YouTube videos about poaching eggs in the microwave, many of which are user generated. Microwaving eggs can cause them to explode, and researchers have found that microwaved yolks are an average of 22°F hotter than microwaved water. In the last three years, multiple people in the UK have burned themselves attempting to do this.

Deaths or serious injuries from craft and cooking hacks are still relatively rare. But fractal wood burning is different.

Reardon first became aware of fractal wood burning after a Wisconsin couple died attempting the craft this April. But the practice has been popular for a number of years. The American Association of Woodturners has counted 33 US deaths from fractal wood burning since 2016, but the total is likely higher, because the organization only counts deaths that make the news. A 2020 paper by doctors from a burn hospital in Oregon found a 71% mortality rate after accidents involving fractal wood burning; the paper’s authors called this rate “stunningly high.”

In May 2020, Matt Schmidt, a construction worker, was electrocuted trying fractal wood burning in his garage. His wife, Caitlin Schmidt, then a nurse, was at work, and her oldest son was the one to find his father’s body.

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