A weeklong investigation to discover who created the Twitter account that spits out “context-free nonsense” and in doing so has now amassed more than 40,000 followers and a devoted fanbase:

The feed’s strangely poetic stream has been embraced like a life-preserver by internet users drowning in a sea of painfully literal SEO headlines and hack Twitter comedians. Since it appeared in August 2010, word of Horse_ebooks has spread steadily, propelled by blog posts and Twitter chatter by internet obsessives. But unlike many internet culture phenomenons, it never truly went viral. Horse_Ebooks is too weird, too much of an acquired taste to break into exponential growth.

But these same qualities that have relegated Horse_ebooks to relative obscurity have inspired a passionate Twitter fanbase rivaled only by Beliebers. Followers have fashioned an elaborate fandom based on Horse_ebooks, comics, fan-fiction, merchandise, and inside-jokes. A browser plug-in that turned the text of any website into Horse_ebook-isms was the latest craze among fans. A characteristic Horse_ebook superfan boast is: ‘I unfollowed Horse_ebooks, because my friends retweet all its tweets anyway.’ We’re so deep into Horse_ebooks, you couldn’t escape it if you tried.

“How I Found the Human Being Behind Horse_ebooks, The Internet’s Favorite Spambot.” — Adrian Chen, Gawker

More from Chen: “The Mercenary Techie Who Troubleshoots for Drug Dealers and Jealous Lovers.” — Gawker, Jan. 25, 2012