A couple became online sensations by pulling pranks on their kids and posting the footage on YouTube. At first, they thought their stunts were hilarious. However, following a shocking development, they’re not laughing anymore.
Mike and Heather Martin are based in Baltimore, Maryland. Together they have five children, all from previous relationships. Heather is a mom to three sons, while Mike has a daughter named Emma and a son called Cody.
Life in the Martin household was often pretty crazy and, one day, Mike decided that their everyday exploits were worth sharing. At the very least, the footage might provide an honest portrayal of a modern, blended family.
As a result, the dad decided to establish his own YouTube channel in August 2015. “This is my crazy life,” Mike explained in the channel’s about section. “We always thought our lives would make an awesome movie, so we as a family decided to make this YouTube channel, just for fun.”
Mike named the channel “DaddyOFive.” And before long he began posting videos depicting his family’s life. Many of the clips contained fairly ordinary family footage. However, that’s not what made the channel popular.
Mike’s channel had soon clocked up more than 750,000 subscribers and millions of views. And most of their fans were tuning in for just one thing: to see Mike and his wife prank the youngest of their clan, Cody.
The pranks included one in which Mike told Cody that a new family were adopting him. Another saw the father pushing Cody and causing his nose to bleed – an incident Mike later claimed was staged. In another, Mike destroyed his son’s Xbox One with a hammer.
The pranks would often reduce little Cody to tears. On other occasions, he’d start screaming or would start throwing objects. Most shockingly, in one video he begged for death so the torment would stop. “I hate my, life just kill me,” he sobbed.
However, Mike and Heather didn’t stop. Indeed, their channel was hugely popular with YouTube users. Thanks to their channel’s success, the couple were earning $200,000 to $350,000 a year according to New York Magazine.
However, in April 2017 the couple posted a video which would turn their followers against them. In it, they accused Cody of spilling ink all over his room. But it was actually Heather who had spread around what was in fact invisible ink.
At the start of the video, Heather explained that Cody had gotten ink on his carpet in the past. On that occasion, the family had paid to have it cleaned. So this prank was to be a form of revenge for their troubles.
She alerts Cody to the issue by screaming, “Get your f**king a** up here! What the f**k did you do?” Mike then joins in with the accusations. Cody has to defend himself against the wrath of both his parents.
“I didn’t do that,” he insists. “I don’t have anything with ink or whatever this is.” However, his pleas do nothing to stem his parents’ feigned anger. Instead, they continue to berate him and even threaten to sell his Pokémon toys.
The video ends with Cody in floods of tears. Only then does Heather confess that she planted the ink. “It’s just a prank, brah, you guys got pranked hard,” Mike says. “I was about to flip out and start breaking things,” Cody replies.
Mike’s followers reacted to the six-minute video with outrage. In fact, some even accused the parents of child abuse. “It was just a flat-out horrendous thing to do to children,” a PhillyVoice columnist wrote. “The parents should be ashamed of themselves.”
The backlash grew to such an extent that Mike and Heather took to YouTube to defend themselves. They denied that they were child abusers. And they claimed their choice of language in the video was no worse than that used on TV or in music. Meanwhile, when asked by Heather, Cody denied that he was traumatized.
However, the prank was a step too far for Mike’s ex-partner Rose Hall. She is Cody and Emma’s mom and was tired of seeing her children in tears on YouTube. So she contacted a lawyer to seek emergency custody of her children.
As a result, Hall took back guardianship of her two kids. “They’re doing good,” Hall later said in a video. “They’re getting back to their playful selves.” Meanwhile, her lawyer, Tim Conlon, added, “The kids are in a deprogramming sort of mode [at] the moment.”
Mike and Heather subsequently issued a public apology for their actions. “This has been the absolute worst week of our life, and we realize that we have made some terrible parenting decisions,” Heather admitted in the YouTube video.
The couple confessed that they’d made their videos more shocking in a bid to attract more viewers. They also revealed that they were in family counselling to try to fix their issues. “We just want to give our kids back some type of normalcy,” Heather said. “We just wanted our kids to be happy, and we went about it the wrong way.”