5 Intriguing Internet Mysteries That May Never Be Solved
Anyone who's been here long enough can tell you that the internet is like a haunted house at a Midwestern carnival: scary, confusing, and with a frankly shocking amount of racism. Sure, we've all looked at Bill Nye Rule 34 out of morbid curiosity and used it to masturbate to completion -- you know, as a goof -- but that's hardly the weirdest or most frightening thing out there. Allow me to be the comedic Virgil to your online Dante, and let's plumb the depths of the strangest, most intriguing mysteries the web has to offer. For example ...
Was "Lake City Quiet Pills" A Secret Assassins-For-Hire Scheme?
The story of Lake City Quiet Pills begins on Reddit, in a now-thankfully-defunct section called /r/jailbait. Shockingly, a forum where adults ogle underage girls is not the creepiest thing about this. Our main character is a user who went by ReligionOfPeace, who I'll be referring to as ROP. ROP's comment history paints him as, shall we say, Ted Nugent's target audience. He primarily posted about guns, his time in the military, the evils of socialism, and how people were welcome to put pics on his image hosting site, lakecityquietpills.com.
On July 17, 2009, ROP made his last comments on Reddit. Later that day, a user calling himself 2-6 made a post saying that ROP had died, and that he was handling his affairs. About two months later, 2-6 posted that "For those who have asked, I bricked Milo's IronKey the same day. All is well." For those of you not familiar with espionage, an IronKey is an encrypted flash drive used to hide things you really don't want other people to read, such as how aliens killed JFK because he fucked their wives. What does someone who publicly posts on a child pornography board consider so terrible that they have to hide it on an encrypted flash drive, with a contingency for deletion in case of their death? Aside from, you know, the obvious.
A few enterprising sleuths did some digging. It turns out that someone calling themselves some variation of "2-6" had been active across a variety of websites for years. On one site, he listed his contact info as email@example.com. On another forum, he had a signature reading "Dispensing Lake City Quiet Pills to lousy bastards in need of permanent rest since 1968." Before long, the researchers realized that in Independence, Missouri, there's a government-owned bullet factory called the Lake City Ammunition Plant. Holy shit, Lake City quiet pills are bullets! Get it? "Quiet pills"?
OK, so what does any of this have to do with a sleazy image hosting website? A little additional research found that hiding in the HTML of lakecityquietpills.com was what scientists refer to as "some extremely weird-ass shit." Some examples:
-- Immediate need! 8-10 chinese/korean. Fluent korean/dialect/accent details after contact. 12 week halfpay sequester on refusal.
-- two ground types. Fluent farsi arabic french. no papers, no problems
-- Need formed group (8-10). single op. deliv bonus. "gentleman's agreement" insurance. Immediate need.
People quickly noted that this all sounds like Craigslist for extra-governmental militaristic work. Possibly a TaskRabbit for hired guns. Maybe even an Uber for the capture of inconvenient international liabilities. Whatever it was, the trail went cold. Was it a small circle of Army buddies passing around contract jobs? Some even speculated it may have been a job board for the assassins-for-hire behind the death of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh (though the evidence seems shaky at best). Or it was just some guys playing pretend? Who knows.
Multiple People Have Died Looking For Fenn's Gold
For this story, we actually know who's behind the mystery: an eccentric old multimillionaire by the name of Forrest Fenn. If you've ever been to the American Southwest, you've seen dudes like him: denim, cowboy hat, turquoise rings and belt buckle, makes a living selling Native American artifacts as if they're a mysterious vanished civilization and not living cultures whose stuff was stolen. In the late '80s, Fenn was diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer and told he only had three years to live. Talk about bad luck! Jeez, you'd think this guy had some stolen Native artifacts or something. Facing the imminent specter of his own mortality and suddenly finding himself with a new perspective on life, Fenn did what any of us would do: He gave all the artifacts back to the communities to whom they rightfully belonged. Pffffft, hahahaha, no he didn't! No, what ol' Fenn did was gather up about $2 million of his most valuable pieces (including chunks of pure gold), put them in a literal treasure chest, and hide it somewhere in the wilderness.
Now comes the first twist: Fenn ended up beating the cancer. He then wrote a memoir featuring a poem which he says holds clues to the treasure's location. The internet caught wind, and soon the tale spread like wildfire, launching several online communities dedicated to solving the poem. Multiple people have set off to find the treasure. Not all of them have come back. To date, four have died looking for Fenn's gold ... that we know of.
Here's where it gets dark. No one has actually seen Fenn's treasure chest. Some have claimed that they've definitively "solved" the poem, but the treasure wasn't where it should be. Fenn, meanwhile, notes that he likes "to embellish just a little." The state police chief of New Mexico has publicly asked Fenn to call off the hunt (he hasn't). Looking at the whole picture makes this seem less like a whimsical treasure hunt to get people reacquainted with nature and more like a crazy old rich guy sending people to their deaths on a wild goose chase in dangerous bear-infested wilderness. Hey, did I mention that Fenn's home has been raided by the FBI over looting?
As of this writing, none of the relentless hunters have found the treasure, or even determined whether it exists. Maybe the real treasure is the friends we made along the way? Or maybe for the rich, the real treasure is the joy of giving poor people false hope.
Geedis And The Land Of Ta Simultaneously Does And Doesn't Exist
OK, holy shit, that's enough people dying horrifically. Let's move on to lighter fare, like questioning whether or not our fallible senses are truly capable of perceiving the grotesque glory of Time Unending. Also, this one has a cartoon from the '80s, so that's neat. This little mystery starts on June 21, 2017, when comedian Nate Fernald posted this:
So "geedis" doesn't have any results on Google. Big deal. This friendly lil' guy doesn't seem ominous at all. He barely even qualifies as peculiar. Somebody made an enamel pin with a nonsense word on it. Maybe it was an elaborate in-joke between friends, right? That doesn't mean anything!
OK, yes, that's weird. But four copies existing doesn't really mean anything, right? It's not like there are dozens of them or anyth-
Fernald started amassing quite a collection of Geedis pins. They were readily available for purchase, but no sellers seemed to know where they came from. How could a bunch of disparate people all be selling the same vintage pins without any of them knowing what it was? What the hell is Geedis, anyway? On August 1, someone replied to Fernald's tweet claiming to have found something else pertaining to Geedis: stickers.
It looks like Geedis isn't the only inhabitant of the '80s-tastic "Land of Ta." There's also an assortment of birdmen, Harry the Birdsnake Wrassler, Pissed C-3P0, and Iggy, Haver of Two Rods. Before long, more sticker sheets featuring Land of Ta branding were discovered for sale online:
It seems push-up bras are mandatory in the Land of Ta. Otherwise, the stickers are heavy on scowling codpieced men but light on answers. Who are all these people? How do they relate to Geedis? Most importantly, what the fuck is going on? It seems there's merchandise out there for a franchise that never existed.
A group of mystery-solvers immediately jumped on it. After all, it's the internet! Everything is on here! The Land of Ta -- be it video game, board game, Saturday morning cartoon, or book series -- had to be archived somewhere. Yet this Google Trend analysis tells us that there was no search interest in Geedis or the Land of Ta before Fernald's tweet:
But this being the internet, there are plenty of people who swear they remember Geedis. People started citing this as an example of the Mandela Effect -- false memories, possibly resulting from people slipping between different timelines in parallel dimensions or realities. Alternate timelines might be a little weird, but then again, is it any weirder than merchandise for a franchise that doesn't exist? Yes. Very much so. Meanwhile, theories on Geedis abound, but so far that's all we have -- until it's revealed to be viral advertising for some goddamned Disney Plus series.
Unfavorable Semicircle Is YouTube's Most Baffling Channel
The sheer scale of this phenomenon is staggering, but we'll start small. What do you think this video means? Does it mean anything? Turn up the sound:
This was posted on a YouTube channel called Unfavorable Semicircle, which was active for less than a year. But in that time, the channel posted two or three videos every few minutes, resulting in tens of thousands of videos before YouTube shut it down. The shortest video is just a few seconds long, while the longest is over 11 hours. Almost all of them are simply colored pixels moving over the sounds of creepily distorted music and voices. They're still better than 99% of content on YouTube.
Even stranger, some people have reported these videos causing unusual behavior on their devices, such as making certain Android phones spontaneously shut down. People immediately started to try to suss out a hidden meaning in the videos. And they maybe found something? In this video, for example, it was discovered that when you overlap every frame sequentially, it creates an image:
OK, so maybe that's not exactly groundbreaking, but it shows the lengths people have gone to find clues. Two videos had their contents modeled in 3D, which resulted in this, which kinda seems intentional? Maybe?
In any case, a lot of work has been done trying to figure out exactly what the hell is going on. Nothing conclusive has been determined, but there's a consensus that it's not random (since there are hidden elements, such as music), and that it's not a test channel run by YouTube, like the infamous Webdriver Torso.
There are plenty of theories as to what Unfavorable Semicircle is/was, of course, ranging from the mundane (made by a mentally ill person, modern numbers station, hoax) to the extreme (alien messages, emergent AI trying to teach itself). While my money is absolutely on "porn for ghosts," there are some other interesting theories -- the videos are an attempt by a competing company to learn YouTube's algorithm, they're part of something written in the audiovisual programming language MAX, or they're an attempt to deliver some sort of payload through memory leaks. Since we don't know, feel free to pick the answer you think is the most fun.
Cicada 3301 Is A Sprawling Trail Of Incredibly Complex Puzzles Left By ... Someone
On January 14, 2012, a post was made on 4chan signed "3301," which claimed to be looking for "highly intelligent individuals" and said there was a message hidden in the attached image:
A series of puzzles would follow over the months and years, posted by the entity that would come to be called Cicada 3301. They mostly involve steganography -- the art of hiding messages within other messages. For example, when that image is opened in Notepad, it becomes a series of letters and numbers. It's mostly nonsense, but it includes the words "TIBERIVS CLAVDIVS CAESAR says lxxt>33m2mqkyv2gsq3q=w]O2ntk."
So then if you apply a Caesar cipher of 4 (Tiberius Claudius was the fourth emperor of Rome), that part at the end which looks like a cat wandered across a keyboard becomes a web address. And when you go to that address, you get ... oh goddammit:
I have no choice but to respect the such large amounts of work put into fucking with people. But there is a real clue in that image. The point I'm making is that the Cicada puzzles are extremely goddamn hard, and often intentionally misleading. And I mean "hard" in the sense that actual professional cryptographers have tried and failed to make it to the end. Each clue leads to another puzzle even more difficult than the last. Some of these puzzles involved finding posters in several real locations around the world. It's created with a whole lot of effort by people who have real expertise, all working together to do ... something. Seven years later, we're mostly left with a lot of intriguing clues and unverified claims.
Some people say they've solved all of the puzzles and followed the trail to the end. But even though some of these alleged winners are renowned cryptography experts, not even they are certain of who's behind Cicada 3301. The CIA has sworn it's not them. Meanwhile, Rolling Stone interviewed someone who claims to have "won" Cicada 3301. He says that solving the final riddle led him to be inducted into a sort of secret society that values privacy and anonymity. He was asked to work on a program to help protect government whistleblowers. (For free, naturally. Even shadowy secret organizations need interns, I guess.) But then, he says, a schism seems to have emerged, with an anonymous poster showing up on their hidden website claiming that Cicada 3301 is actually a cult that worships information, and that their ultimate goals are far less noble than what they stated. Or maybe a few smart people just got super bored.
For more, check out The Truth Behind Every Internet Conspiracy Theory:
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