This is an edited version of a recent comment to other online friends of Penelope (the girl we had believed dead).
What we have experienced does seem to me to match the descriptions I found of behaviour which has come to be known as Munchausen by internet.
After much research and much thinking, I have finally come to the conclusion that the girl we interacted with was indeed the real Penelope. As the online school records show, she and the girl pictured were in the same class and involved in the same activities. They were/are quite likely friends. I expect it would have been easy enough for her to obtain those photos; she might even have taken some of them herself. I imagine the other girl was not aware of the use to which they were put.
I believe we felt affection for the real person — that the emotions, reactions, ideas, opinions, tastes and interests she exhibited to us over the years were for the most part genuine, but that certain events she recounted were either exaggerated or downright false.
It has been distressing for us all in more ways than one.
I am not so devastated as I was when I thought she was dead; however I am sad to have lost a friend and sadder still to think that she must have some degree of mental disturbance.
I have now said all I can or want to on the matter. I certainly wish Penelope well, albeit with a heavy heart and not a lot of hope. But, ‘while there’s life there’s hope’ and I am sure she is alive. That’s something.