ADVANCE FOR SATURDAY DEC. 24, 2016 AND THEREAFTER - In this Dec. 13, 2016 photo, Pioneers Home resident Joe Nistler, 90, reacts to a virtual reality video of a herd of elephants walking while Lincoln Markham, right, watches in Fairbanks, Alaska. Lincoln Markham and Dan Markham are the father-son duo behind the extremely popular What's Inside YouTube channel. (Matt Buxton/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP)

ADVANCE FOR SATURDAY DEC. 24, 2016 AND THEREAFTER - In this Dec. 13, 2016 photo, Pioneers Home resident Joe Nistler, 90, reacts to a virtual reality video of a herd of elephants walking while Lincoln Markham, right, watches in Fairbanks, Alaska. Lincoln Markham and Dan Markham are the father-son duo behind the extremely popular What's Inside YouTube channel. (Matt Buxton/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP)

Father-son YouTubers share virtual reality with seniors

  • By Matt Buxton
  • Sunday, December 25, 2016 6:19pm
  • News

FAIRBANKS (AP) — With a chilly Fairbanks morning framed in the rec room window, seniors at the Pioneers’ Home took turns taking a trip to sunny grassland in Africa.

There, through the lenses of a virtual reality headset donated by a family with ties to the Pioneers’ Home, the seniors laughed, gasped and smiled as a herd of elephants sauntered by in a 360-degree video.

“It just about knocked me out of the chair,” said a beaming Joe Nistler, a 90-year-old resident of the home.

The event was put on by Dan and Lincoln Markham, the father-son duo behind the enormously popular YouTube channel “What’s Inside,” during a family vacation to Fairbanks.

Lincoln Markham, who’s 10, is the great-grandson of well-known Fairbanks miner and University of Alaska Fairbanks leader Earl Beistline, who spent his final years at the Pioneers’ Home.

Dan Markham said he and Lincoln wanted to give back to the Pioneers’ Home and perhaps inspire their nearly 4 million YouTube followers to do the same for their communities, reported the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

“The reason we thought of doing this is we were looking for an opportunity to do a Christmas video and encourage people to get out and do some service,” he said.

The two donated a Google Pixel Android phone and a Google Daydream headset to the Pioneers’ Home. Seniors were thankful about the donation and eager to give it another try.

“I’d like to go to Italy,” Nistler said. “I never made it there.”

The seniors chatted with each other, describing the details they noticed in each video.

Al Weber, 99, watched the elephant video as well as one in an underwater shark cage surrounded by sharks. He said he preferred the shark video.

“It was fantastic, really great,” he said.

Lincoln and Dan Markham found YouTube fame after Dan posted some videos from Lincoln’s second-grade science project where they cut open a baseball, golf ball, soccer ball, basketball and tennis ball to see what was inside.

“My dad just wanted the teacher to have the impression that we had a YouTube channel that was cool, so I would just get some extra bonus points,” Lincoln Markham said.

Dan Markham said he did it because he was shy growing up and wanted to help Lincoln get comfortable with public speaking. Either way, it was the start of something life-changing for the two.

The channel had just been intended for some fun videos to share with the family back in Alaska and New Mexico, but after a few months he said he noticed they earned $4 from YouTube for people watching those five videos.

“People from all over the world started asking us to cut open this, cut open that and cut open a bowling ball,” he said. “I said, ‘Lincoln, we might have something. What if we hid all the rest of our (family) videos, changed the name to ‘What’s Inside’ and start cutting stuff open and maybe by the time you’re 18 you’ll have $10,000.”

But the channel took off far beyond their expectations, to the point where Dan Markham left his job to focus on producing weekly videos with his son.

Their videos include cutting open a bowling ball, light-up shoes, an Etch-A-Sketch and a genuine Olympic torch. Their most popular video is one about a rattlesnake’s rattler with an astounding 61 million viewers.

But Dan Markham said he credits the popularity not so much to the things they cut open but to the genuine relationship and fun that the father-son duo has on camera. The two have traveled the world, thrown a laptop from a helicopter and met Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

During visits to the Interior, they’ve cut open geodes with family and a snow globe from the Santa Claus House in North Pole.

“I don’t think people come to watch to just see what’s cut open, but they like Lincoln and I having fun and seeing the goofy things that we do,” he said. “We’re not the greatest hosts, or the smartest, but they have a connection together and are here for the ride.”

After filming at the Pioneers’ Home, Dan and Lincoln Markham went out to do what’s made them famous: cut open the VR headset and see what’s inside.

The video will be posted soon, you can see it online on the “What’s Inside” YouTube channel, which can be found at

More in News

Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Local candidates report support from state PACs

Labor unions and the National Education Association are among the groups putting money into Kenai Peninsula state election races

Signs and examples on the recycling super sack at the Cook Inletkeeper Community Action Studio show which plastics are desired as part of the project in Soldotna, Alaska, on Aug. 11, 2022. Plastics from types 1, 2, 4 and 5 can be deposited.(Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local nonprofit accepting plastics for synthetic lumber project

The super sack receptacles can be found on either side of Soldotna

This July 28, 2022, photo shows drag queen Dela Rosa performing in a mock election at Cafecito Bonito in Anchorage, Alaska, where people ranked the performances by drag performers. Several organizations are using different methods to teach Alaskans about ranked choice voting, which will be used in the upcoming special U.S. House election. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Groups get creative to help Alaska voters with ranked voting

Organizations have gotten creative in trying to help voters understand how to cast their ballot, as the mock election featuring drag performers shows

A school bus outside of Kenai Central High School advertises driver positions on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Staff shortage, gas prices change school bus routes

The changes do not apply to the district’s special education students

The cast of “Tarzan” rides the Triumvirate Theatre float during the Independence Day parade in downtown Kenai, Alaska on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
The show goes on as Triumvirate seeks funding for new theater

The troupe has staged shows and events and is looking to debut a documentary as it raise funds for new playhouse

Aaron Surma, the executive director for National Alliance on Mental Illness Juneau and the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition, leads a safety plan workshop Tuesday night hosted by NAMI and the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition. The workshop was a collaborative brainstorming session with Juneau residents about how to create a safety plan that people can use to help someone who is experiencing a mental health or suicide crisis. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Study shows a rise in anxiety and depression among children in Alaska

Increase may indicate growing openness to discussing mental health, according to experts

Alaska Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer addresses election information and misinformation during a press conference on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. (Screenshot)
With a week to go, officials work to clear up election confusion

Officials provided updated ballot statistics, fielded questions from reporters and clarified misconceptions about the current election cycle

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State reports 21 new COVID deaths; cases down from last week

20 of the reported deaths took place from May to July

A closeup of one of the marijuana plants at Greatland Ganja in Kasilof, Alaska, as seen on March 19, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly streamlines process for marijuana establishment license applications

License applications will now go straight to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly for consideration

Most Read