We live in a digital world now, our planet connected by this vast wilderness we know as the Internet. It is one of the most powerful creations that we have managed to come up with, connecting us across vast distances no matter where we are and changing our lives in a myriad of ways. Yet it has also brought with it its fair share of strange mysterious and creepy enigmas. Among these are numerous codes and ciphers which have emerged from the depths of the web to tease and tantalize all who look at them, their origins cloaked in shadow and their meanings buried beneath the cloud of the unknown.
With its strong presence on the Internet, it is perhaps no surprise that many of these mysterious codes and ciphers pop up and are analyzed and disseminated on Reddit. One strange such case emerged in 2013, when a poster on Reddit calling himself “delverofsecrets” claimed that he had been approached by a seemingly homeless man in tattered clothing on a New York City subway, who had then given him $50 and a wadded up jumble of papers. On these papers was written a code that in cryptography is known as a “Bifid cipher,” which looks like a grid of numbers reminiscent of a Sudoku game. The Internet went nuts with this code as soon as it was posted, and commenters were immediately descending upon the thread feverishly discussing and trying to solve the strange code,which came to be known simply as the “Homeless Bifid Cipher,” and figure out what it and its surrounding circumstances all meant. Eventually the code coughed up oddities such as UNIX codes, names and IP addresses in Hebrew, Russian, and Basque characters, with the message finally being translated as:
There’s plenty more money to make.
Figure this out and prepare to meet July 19th, 56th & 6th.
There’s a hot dog stand outside Rue57 cafe. Ask for Mr. Input.
Huh? Even decoded it made little sense, and the cipher elicited a wide range of theories, opinions, and reactions. Some thought it was a clever viral marketing scheme that was trolling the Internet, while others believed it was a way for some shadowy tech company or even a wing of the government to recruit new employees, and still others thought it was all a big hoax. Then of course there were those who thought it had some profound meaning, and that the puzzle was just beginning.
Making things even stranger still was that not long after the message was decoded, a man claiming to be the very same homeless man who had originally handed it off allegedly came forward to contact delver of secrets once more, supposedly proving his identity by telling him what he had been wearing at the time of their meeting. After establishing that he was the same man who had given the first code, he then gave another cipher, which was posted on Reddit and finally unraveled to be found to read:
YOU HAVE MANAGED TO FIND THE MESSAGE WITH THE HELP OF FRIENDS. YOU CHANGED THE RULES NOW SO WILL I. JULY TWELVE FOUR PM. FIND THE BLUE JAY AT SIX AND A HALF AND FIFTY SIXTH AND TELL HIM YOU ARE THE LAST.
As far as is known, this is the end of the whole thing, and it seems unclear what exactly happened after this. Spookily, things seem to have escalated for delver of secrets, when he came forward with a final post saying that he was being stalked and threatened by shadowy forces, and he also sent out a warning to any of those who planned to show up at the original specified meeting place and date of July 19th. The creepy post reads:
Received a phone call today threatening violence against me and my family, going so far as to name members of my family and their addresses, unless I delete this post. The caller also told me not to show up on the 19th and to inform anyone planning to show up on the 19th that nothing would happen. This will be my last message from this account before I delete it. I’ll also be changing my number later today. I am sorry if a resolution to this never happens, but I’m not willing to risk my family’s safety for a few extra dollars.
As far as is known, that is the end of the whole, weird tale. No one knows what happened after this, who the poster really was, or what the cipher was all about. It could be anything from a viral marketing campaign to a hoax, to the workings of some dark secret society, who knows? The Reddit thread of the whole thing can be read here, and it is too long and rambling to go into much detail here, but it is certainly a very strange and wild ride. What is the Homeless Man Cipher? Who was the individual who passed it on to the Reddit poster? Did he ever even really exist at all? We will likely never know.
Reddit seems to be a veritable magnet for this sort of oddness, and there have been a series of strange codes that have surfaced here. One such incident began in 2011, when it was noticed that there were vast amounts of unintelligible code being dumped onto an a subreddit cryptically called “r/A858DE45F56D9BC9,” also known as simply r/A858, which was created by an account which had before that been inactive and just sitting there doing nothing. This sudden spark of life on the dormant account came in the form of reams and reams of numbers and letters that looked like utter gibberish, and there was an insane amount of it relentlessly churning forth constantly, and there was no comment or anything else to give it any context or explanation.
For a while no one even realized that this subreddit existed, but then some Redditors noticed it and theorized that it was some sort of code with inscrutable purposes. Of course it began to be picked apart as intrepid amateur sleuths and cryptographers endlessly and tirelessly discussed it and tried to solve it, and it was soon found that buried in the morass of nonsense was an ASCII rendering of Stonehenge, which appeared in response to a commenter saying that the page was “The Stonehenge of Reddit,” implying that someone knew they were being watched and talked about. Speculation went through the roof, ranging from that this was an online numbers station, churning out code to someone for some spy agency, to the idea that it was some recruitment tool for an unknown party, to a secret government project, to a cryptography experiment, to a suggestion that it was some sort of digital art project, but no one knew for sure.
In the meantime, the subreddit seemed to throw out little cryptic hints from time to time. Besides the Stonehenge picture there was one piece of code that spelled out “Happy New Year 2001,” and another that said ““NO 2 SOPA,” with SOPA standing for the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” as well as location coordinates, other little jokes, easter eggs, hints, and nods to those who were following it. At other times the mysterious poster of the code would alternatively both encourage readers and chastize them for poor puzzle-solving skills. Although obviously some of the nonstop information was decoded, much of it was encrypted, meaning that it was impossible to solve without the proper decryption protocol, and so most of it lay behind a wall defying all efforts and remaining murky and impenetrably mysterious.
Curiously, although whoever was behind it all did not seem to mind all of the attention they were getting, the subreddit would sometimes go private and shut everyone out when too many eyes fell upon it, only to come back with all of the previous posts deleted. Perhaps the creator did not want too many people snooping around his domain? Another strange thing that emerged was another account that began to post to the subreddit that included a new code that moderators were able to break with an automated script and which allowed them to directly talk to whoever was behind r/A858. In this subreddit, this mysterious new account claimed that the puzzles were generated by a cabal of people who had been paid to create them, but they remained elusive as to their ultimate goal, merely saying: “We cannot disclose the purpose. A858 will end when the purpose is disclosed or discovered. When the purpose is discovered or disclosed it will be obvious to all.”
This open line of communication was soon shut down as abruptly as it had appeared, ultimately leaving more questions than answers, and not too long after that the subreddit went private once again, as it had done a few times in the past. The difference this time was that when it came back into the public eye on March 29, 2016, it did so with a message stating, “The A858 Project Has Concluded. You may unsubscribe,” before going private once again, followed by the complete deletion of the account that had created it. One of the subreddit moderators posted some information that had been earlier gleaned by alleged contact with the people behind A858, saying:
I have had contact with the person behind A858. Some of you may already know about this and I apologize for how long it has taken us to release this info. It has been a big point of discussion among the mods over the past week or so and we have finally decided to handle it. We won’t be releasing any information about the people behind A858 other than it was a project funded by an unknown (to us) company for an unknown (to our contact) purpose. The person we spoke with said that he was paid to post code puzzles using encryption or various methods of text manipulation. He said that creating puzzles is a difficult thing to do because you never really know how hard it is to solve for others until you put it out there. Along with the puzzles, he said the majority of posts contained random data that was encrypted. Even if we used the right key to decrypt them we wouldn’t have noticed. He has said that the company paying him no longer wanted to fund the project and shut it down. It sounds like there will not be a reboot and the project is completely finished even though it remains mostly unsolved.
This all caused shock and disappointment among the legions of people who had dedicated so much time to following the r/A858 subreddit, but many of them believe that it is not truly over, and that the shadowy group will appear once again. In the meantime, the remaining archived codes continue to be pored over and analyzed, with much of it still a complete mystery. Who was behind r/A858 and what was their purpose? What does all of the remaining undeciphered code say? Are they coming back or is it truly at an end? There is no way to know for sure, but people continue to dig away at and debate the mystery to this day.
Very similar to r/A858 was another dump of enigmatic code in 2013 on a subreddit called “r/F04cb41f154db2f05a4a.” The subreddit consists of yet more codes, with the main difference with r/A858 being that it was not quite as complex and some of the codes seemed to link up to photographs on Imgur. What makes this subreddit creepy is that it opens with the line “Please help us,” without further elaboration, and some of the comments posted by other users are just as weird and nonsensical as the code and its messages. Interestingly, the owner of the account seems to have commented in the past on the r/A858 subreddit as well, although the significance of this is unknown. If you want to go down the rabbit hole there is a subreddit dedicated to cracking the mystery here.
Another creepy mystery that appeared on Reddit in 2013 started with a series of photographs poster by the user “Joelikesmusic.” The photos in question were of a room at the luxurious Hotel ZaZa, in Houston, Texas, where his friend had recently stayed. The room was quite bizarre and creepy to say the least, with a surreal and somewhat unsettling decor, adorned with deeply disturbing paintings of deformed, twisted visages and a strong skull motif, as well as the strikingly out of place painting of the president of the Stanford Financial Group on the wall, and was claimed to be a mysterious “Room 322,” which was apparently not advertised on the hotel’s website and which was not typically even really confirmed to exist at all. The poster said of the strange situation:
Hotel was booked solid and my colleague managed to score a room unplanned. We all had normal zaza style rooms (swank) and he ended up in this goth dungeon closet. Seriously- the room had a chain holding the bed to wall, pictures of skulls and a creepy, incongruous portrait of an old man. Room was about 1/3 the normal size with the furniture blocking part of the TV, bed and window. We asked about it at the front desk and the clerk looked it up and said ” that room isn’t supposed to be rented.’ and immediately moved him.
Besides the creepy, nightmare fuel decor and the size of the room, it was also described as having a dirty, unadorned concrete floor. Redditors immediately started theorizing that there were secret codes, symbolism and imagery hidden within the photos, speculating that the room was tied in some way to the Skull & Bones society, a secret society formed in 1832 at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, and which included among its more famous contemporary members George W. Bush, George Bush Sr. and John Kerry, and for which the number 322 has a sacred significance. Various paintings and words printed in the room have been thought to have some sort of coded meaning involving numerology, and that they serve to cover some secret information about the society.
For its part, when the whole mystery gained traction on the Internet, the hotel itself claimed that there was no mystery at all, and that it was simply a theme room called “Hard Times,” which was meant to simulate the feel of being in a prison. This still does not explain why the room was never advertised, why the alleged person had been kicked out, or why the room seems to share little in common with a “prison experience.” When pushed for further details on the room or what they think of all of the speculation of it on the web, hotel personnel have been incredibly evasive and vague on the whole matter. One interview conducted by the publication Vice with the Hotel ZaZa’s head of e-marketing, Kyra Coots, sends the interviewer in circles, and answers many of the questions with some permutation of “I’ll get back to you on it.”
This has only increased the amount of conspiracy fueled chatter on the web about room 322 and its meaning, as there was later a further curious post by the original commenter Joelikesmusic, who implied that someone had approached him with a cash offering to delete the entire thread, which seems shadowy indeed. The post reads:
This thread has been fun. I’m not much for conspiracy theories and don’t really buy all the skull and bones stuff. I just wanted to know what was up with the room and figured someone on here might know a bit. Lots of the posts are asking questions about the pictures – they were taken months ago and no staging was involved. I’m not the photographer, just a curious Houston traveler usually in town for work with a group – one of whom happened to get this room and had the forethought to take photos. And to the very new redditor offering me a bounty to delete this thread – I’ll totally do it because cash is cash. But i don’t want to die either. So let’s do this publicly – I’m posting your message you sent me. And we can meet at the Monarch bar next week – I’ll be in town on Monday & will update this thread when I get to Monarch so we can meet.
What in the world is going on with Room 322 and this mysterious poster? What does any of it mean? Did he meet with the mysterious threat and what happened? It remains unclear. At least equal to Reddit on the Internet in the behemoth 4chan, and there have of course been mysteries posted here as well. The origins of this enigma lie with an email posted to 4chan that said “You have been selected, where have you gone? We are watching,” along with a link to a website chock full of bizarreness. Included on the page are strange diagrams, symbols and codes that seem to be divided into “lessons,” none of which make any sense nor which anyone has been able to decode. Spookily, it has been claimed that the site began posting the IRC names of everyone who logged on to try and take a crack at the thing, as if it could truly see them, before going quiet.The website seems to remain inactive at the moment, but you can take a look at what is called the “432 Mystery” here.
If all of this isn’t weird enough as it is already, there is a whole mysterious site out there that seems to be devoted to nothing but mind bendingly weird codes and puzzles that have generated a fair bit of head scratching on the Internet. Called “973-eht-namuh-973,” the website’s main page is an upside down pyramid of letters spelling out the word “Abracadabra,” after which the user can click on certain letters to bring them to other pages. On these pages there are various bizarre numbers, characters, symbols, puzzles, codes, images, and nonsensical saying such as “I AM THAT I AM I THAT AM THAT NINE THAT AM THAT I zazazazazAZAZAZAZAZAZAZAZAZazazazazaz BLESSED BE THAT NAME BE BLESSED,” and “ARISESTHATSUNSETSTHATSUNSETSTHATSUNARISESTHATSUN ADDED TO ALL MINUS NONE SHARED BY EVERYTHING MULTIPLIED IN ABUNDANCE.”
And on and on it goes, pages and pages of this kind of thing, none of which makes any sense at all and much of it getting more unsettling and nonsensical the more you click and the deeper you go. Pretty much the only thing anyone can agree on is that there is a lot of religious imagery and numerology, and that the site is apparently owned by an artist named David Denison, but besides this no one has a clue. You can check out the site here for yourself.
Do any of these have any meaning or purpose? Are these indicative of vast mysteries, impenetrable agendas by shadowy, spectral groups or individuals, or are they just viral marketing or hoaxes? It is hard to say when no one has really been able to reach the bottom of their depths. What is known is that for all that the Internet has done to bring us closer together and allow us access to virtually unlimited information, as with any vast wilderness there are uncharted regions and enigmas lurking out in the badlands.