THE BODY was still warm when Detective Ed Bassmaster arrived on the scene, another life snuffed out on the streets he's sworn to protect.

Bassmaster's white dress shirt was triple-starched, his hair an unmovable force against the autumn wind and, behind those aviators, there was surely a steely glint in his eyes.

Some scumbag was gonna go down hard for this one, but first a cameraman had to check a battery pack dangling out of an open zipper in Bassmaster's pants, real up close and personal, and they both cracked up laughing. Then Bassmaster's face was all pure determination again and he paced up and down a narrow alley off South Street, eyeballing the woman's body beneath the sheet.

"Man, I really have to pee," he said, tugging at his belt.

Ed Bassmaster is not a cop, or a zombie, or a vampire, or any of the other dozens of irritable, lovable and strange characters he's created over the years. He's a married father of three from Northeast Philly who enjoys riding his mountain bike and bass fishing and taking his kids to school, like all the rest of us nine-to-fivers, but he got sick of selling cellphones one day in 2006 and starting to make videos on YouTube instead.

Now it's his job.

It's not a hobby or some stupid thing he does with buddies from high school to annoy strangers. He does annoy and terrify strangers, yes, but Ed Bassmaster gets paid to make videos on YouTube.

"I'm making a very good living at it," he said. "Can you become rich at it? Absolutely."

If you've never heard of Bassmaster - he insists that's his real name - there are tens, maybe hundreds of millions of other people who have, including Sean Penn, Snoop Dogg, Aaron Rodgers, folks at the "Today" show, and probably all the students at the college closest to your home.

"I have a big following in the Middle East," he said. "It blows my mind."

He has more Twitter followers than Mayor Nutter, and the videos he's posted on his YouTube channel have the kind of views that would make marketing directors and social-media mavens at respectable nonprofits and media outlets throw up their hands in defeat.

"I'm at about a half-billion" hits since he started in '06, he said.

Murder scene

Bassmaster recently dressed up as a scarecrow and posed for feel-good pictures with unsuspecting people in Philadelphia, only to peel off the mask as they huddled close, revealing his face, snarling in bloody zombie makeup. His posemates fled, screaming.

That video was picked up by People magazine's website, the "Today" show and broadcast on news stations across the country. It now has more than 3.5 million views.

On a recent Friday on South Street, Bassmaster was teaming up with other local YouTube celebrities Jesse Wellens and his girlfriend, Jeana, to make "ZOMBIE HOMICIDE PRANK!!" for the couple's popular channel, PrankvsPrank.

"We do it to boost one another's traffic," Bassmaster said.

Wellens, 32, was playing Bassmaster's partner in the homicide unit and Jeana - she doesn't use a last name - was playing an undead woman under the sheet.

Bassmaster almost never broke from his no-nonsense character, forcing people to cross the street or get off their bike to help identify the body.

"Guys, keep coming through," Bassmaster, his detective notepad out, told a group of teenage girls who looked, in horror, at the covered body.

Then Jeana exploded off the ground, her face looking like roadkill, and the girls scattered, screaming down South Street like banshees.

It doesn't always work, though.

Some people just flinch and look confused while others chuckle a bit, then want to hang around and watch others get duped. Bassmaster's neighbor, Juan Centeno, is the muscle of the crew, gently getting gawkers out of the shots.

There are awkward moments also, when mortified parents tell their children not to look as they hurry past the bloody sheet or when the Philadelphia police cruiser drives by and - luckily - doesn't stop.

"We're not trying to traumatize the kids," Bassmaster said later. "It's Halloween, though, that's the bottom line."

Bassmaster and Wellens lure in dozens of people in a few short hours there and get a handful of YouTube-worthy scares, like Daniel Galloway, who leaped off the sidewalk like a startled cat, cursing all the way.

"Man, they got me. They got me good," Galloway, 41, said afterward, clutching his chest. "It made my soul shake."

The video was posted on "PrankvsPrank" on Oct. 19 and now has more than 2.8 million views.

As a kid, Bassmaster dreamed of being on "Saturday Night Live" and always loved creating characters. Now he has about a dozen staples. He even sells shirts with their faces and slogans on them.

His favorite character, Teste, is a typical Philly street hustler with a good heart, always looking for a cigarette, dollar or a sandwich in his Eagles jersey.

His "Hacker" character mostly just coughs in people's faces between small talk but Bassmaster said it still makes him laugh the most.

"I've always been a comedian, always the class clown every year. I've been impersonating people since I was a little kid."

Bassmaster said he recently filmed a pilot with his characters for Country Music Television and the channel's president was there "crying" with laughter.

"That's a good sign," he said.

The goal, Bassmaster said, is to take what he does on YouTube and make it bigger, unleash his goofy characters on the world with an amped-up budget.

But he can't tell you how to do it, how to go from selling cellphones and busting jokes in the mall to becoming a viral sensation. Anyone can quit his day job and give it a try, he said, but trying too hard won't work.

"There's no secret, period. There's no way to make a viral video," he said. "It just happens."