Anthony Godby Johnson

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Anthony Godby Johnson
Born 1978
Residence New Jersey, USA
Nationality United States
Occupation Writer
Known for Supposed author of A Rock and a Hard Place: One Boy's Triumphant Story
Relatives Vicki Johnson (adoptive mother)
Suspected to be a hoax created by Vicki Johnson.

Anthony Godby Johnson is the subject and supposed author of the 1993 memoir A Rock and a Hard Place: One Boy's Triumphant Story. Subsequent investigations suggest that there may have never been a person by this name, and that his entire story was a fabrication on the part of Vicki Johnson, the woman who purported to be his adoptive mother.

The book initially appeared to be an autobiography describing Johnson's survival of an abusive childhood with parents who beat him and raped him. The book details his abuse at the hands of his parents and their friends, and his discovery at age 11, after he had been adopted by another couple, that he had AIDS.


Residence at the corner of Summit Avenue and 11th Street in Union City, New Jersey. The arrow points to the windows indicated by the 20/20 story to have been the apartment where Vicki Johnson lived.

When several magazines and journalists, including Newsweek and Keith Olbermann, attempted to investigate the claims of the book and profile Anthony, they contacted the woman who claimed to be his adoptive mother, Vicki Johnson. Suspicion was raised when it was learned that no one other than Vicki Johnson had actually seen Anthony – not his agent, his editor, nor his publicist. Further concerns were raised when a voice analysis expert analyzed calls from "Anthony" and identified the voice to be that of Vicki Johnson.

As a result of these irregularities, Olbermann hired an investigator, who suggested that there was no Anthony and the story was fabricated.[1]

A Rock and a Hard Place claimed that Anthony's biological parents were arrested and tried for abusing him, and that his police officer father was killed in prison. An alleged conspiracy of rogue police officers trying to kill Anthony was Vicki Johnson's justification for zealously preserving Anthony's privacy. However, no case matching that description could be found at any social service agency.

Many sources find it medically implausible that Anthony could be alive, given that he has supposedly been living with AIDS for over 19 years.[2] Most long-term survivors are actually living with HIV but had not yet developed AIDS; furthermore the medications that slow the progress of the disease were not known at the time that Anthony's AIDS allegedly became severe.[citation needed]

With so many similarities between the purported life of Anthony and proven hoaxes such as that of Kaycee Nicole and Kodee Kennings, the prevailing belief is that Anthony never existed.[citation needed]


Paul Monette wrote a foreword for an edition of A Rock and a Hard Place, later defending the book's veracity. Armistead Maupin, who wrote a blurb for an edition of A Rock and a Hard Place,[3] later wrote The Night Listener, a novel subsequently made into a film, in which the main character begins correspondence with an HIV-positive boy who is not what he seems. The book parallels Maupin's experience with Johnson. The story was also adapted for a 2002 episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent entitled "Faith", with the child's sex being changed to female and illness to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

On January 12, 2007, the ABC newsmagazine program 20/20 revealed new evidence that Anthony was Vicki Johnson's fictional creation. The photo of "Anthony" that Vicki had sent to Anthony's supporters was revealed to be a childhood photo of Steve Tarabokija, now a healthy adult and a New Jersey traffic engineer, who was shocked to find his photo being represented to people as the face of Anthony Godby Johnson. One of the viewers who recognized the photo was a woman whose son had been in the same fourth-grade class as Tarabokija. Their teacher for that class was Vicki Johnson, who was said to have taken pictures of the children in the class.

Vicki Johnson, whose real name was Joanne Vicki Fraginals, had allegedly handed Anthony over to another caretaker in 1997 when she moved to Chicago and married Marc Zackheim, a child psychologist and owner of the Associates of Clinical Psychology. In 2004, Zackheim was indicted for abusing child patients at a treatment center for troubled children in Indiana; his trial began in 2006 at the Marshall County courthouse. He was acquitted of one felony count of practicing medicine without a license and three misdemeanor counts of battery for inappropriately touching boys.[4] He died of a heart attack in 2009.[5]

ABC subsequently ran an update to the story, which included an 147-page response from Vicki Johnson's lawyer in response to ABC's questions about Steve Tarabokija. ABC also reported that Johnson and Zackheim have both died since their original 2007 story.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Olbermann, Keith (August 4, 2006). "Olbermann gets scammed, but he is not alone". Retrieved 2006-08-08. 
  2. ^ Stewart, Sara (July 30, 2006). "Phantom Boy: Bogus Tale of 'AIDS' Child – From White Lie to H'wood Film". New York Post (online edition). Retrieved 2006-08-07. [dead link]
  3. ^ David Valdes Greenwood (October 5–12, 2000). "Serial thriller: Armistead Maupin returns to serialize again". The Portland Phoenix. Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  4. ^ Plymouth psychologist pleads guilty to Medicaid fraud
  5. ^ "Zackheim dies after suffering heart attack" The Pilot News; November 21, 2009
  6. ^ "Not Believing in 'Tony'" . Believing in Tony's Existence]. ABC News. July 21, 2006. Page 2 of 3.


  • Tad Friend, "Virtual Love", The New Yorker. November 26, 2001 (pp. 86–89)

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