The Internet is a vast, mysterious place. It’s hard to fathom the sheer amount of unexplored information that exists beyond the four percent of sites Google actually indexes. While there is certainly no shortage of trolls, there is the occasional, intriguing puzzle that stumps even the most dedicated of nerds. Below are some of the most bizarre and enduring enigmas remaining in cyberspace.
1. Cicada 3301
“Cicada 3301” has all the ingredients for classic intrigue: coded messages, inscrutable clues and the promise of admission to an elite, secret society. The name “Cicada 3301” refers to an anonymous group which posts elaborate puzzles for the stated purpose of recruiting “highly intelligent individuals.” Although a few people have claimed to have reached the finish line, no one knows whether it’s a recruitment tool for the CIA, a cyber mercenary group, or just a couple guys in their mom’s basement.
2. Markovian Parallax Denigrate To explain this one, we’ll have to travel back to a primitive time at the turn of the twenty-first century when people still (apparently) used a proto-web community called Usenet. It was essentially a giant message board system founded in 1980 that people visited to share information. In 1996, Usenet got spammed with bizarre messages, all titled with three words: “Markovian Parallax Denigrate.” Each post contained what seemed like gibberish. But small signs of human intelligence ignited the forum, whose dedicated users never got close to unravelling the mystery at the time. Years later, only one message with the subject “Markovian Parallax Denigrate” remained in Google’s public Usenet archives. Here’s where it gets creepy: the name on the sender’s email address is Susan Lindauer, a journalist who was arrested in 2004 after allegedly serving as an agent of Saddam Hussein’s government. Very soon after the connection between Lindauer and the message was made in 2006, her Wikipedia page vanished. As you can imagine, that last bit was like Christmas for conspiracy theorists.
3. Black Holes
This one is a bit unsettling for even the most average Internet user. Apparently there exists the phenomenon of an “Internet black hole”, a term used to describe the unexplained disappearance of packets of information that simply never reach their intended destination. Some intelligent people whose job it is to solve these problems believe firewalls or faulty IP addresses are to blame–but no one really has an answer. Small comfort that is when you’re wondering whether your Facebook message never actually reached that girl you like, or if she’s just not that into you.
4. 973-eht-namuh-973 Since the early aughts, a primitive-looking website called 973-eht-namuh-973.com has captivated people for years. The site’s creators display enigmatic text and images, which contain links to numerology and ancient mysticism, among other things. The jury is still out on what it all means or why we care.
Ah, Reddit. Seeing as Internet mysteries only gain momentum when an active community of people draws attention to them, it makes sense that the infamous site is home to a few good puzzles. Ever since 2011, a Redditor called A858DE45F56D9BC9 has been posting strings of coded text and numbers every single day, without relenting. That’s sort of the whole thing: an anonymous poster, strange missives, and thousands of people dedicated to decoding them.
6. Jack Froese emails
This one falls into the category of old-school creepiness. When a man named Jack Froese died of a heart arrhythmia in 2011, it was safe to say his family and friends didn’t expect to hear from him ever again. Five months later, however, one of Jack’s oldest friends got an email from his account that referenced their last conversation. The friend claims that he never shared this conversation, which was about his attic, with anyone. Soon after, several of Jack’s family members received posthumous emails, too.
7. Valor por Tamaulipas
This entry deserves special acknowledgement for not only eluding the the general Internet populace, but also powerful leaders of some of Mexico’s most violent drug trafficking organizations. In 2012, an anonymous person created the Facebook page “Valor por Tamaulipas” for the explicit purpose of publicizing drug-related violence in the Gulf state of Tamaulipas. The page–which had more than half a million likes–spread information of illegal activity and shared pictures of crime scenes. In 2013, a Mexican drug trafficking organization offered a $46,000 bounty for the page’s unknown creator. The administrator, despite this, managed to stay anonymous.
8. John Titor Here’s another mystery brought to you by Usenet. In 2000, messages started appearing on the platform from a man named John Titor, who claimed to hail from the year 2036. Titor’s elaborate cover story to explain his alleged time travel captivated curious minds for years, but his identity remains unknown. One of Titor’s more extreme predictions was of a global nuclear war in 2015 that will destroy most major cities, kill a large fraction of the world’s population, and leave the environment contaminated with massive amounts of long-lived radionuclides. We’ll just leave that here.
9. Satoshi Nakamoto
It’s sort of insane to think the creator of cryptocurrency Bitcoin remains anonymous. In 2009, a person–or group of people–introduced Bitcoin to the global marketplace using the name Satoshi Nakamoto, which has never actually been tied to a real person. Not for lack of trying, though: a 2014 Newsweek article claimed it was a Californian Dorian Nakamoto. Nakamoto denied the report–which is now considered faulty at best–and announced plans to sue the magazine. Meanwhile, the public Bitcoin transaction log shows that Nakamoto’s known wallets contain roughly the equivalent of $250 million.
10. Webdriver Torso
Okay, so this one has technically been solved. But for a time, it was considered one of the Internet’s most intriguing and infuriating puzzles. Starting in late 2013, a YouTube channel titled “Webdriver Torso” began uploading a prolific number of nearly identical 10-second videos, which each contained images of blue and red rectangles accompanied by eerie electronic notes. This drove people crazy. The BBC’s Stephen Beckett spent a considerable amount of time analyzing data from the nearly 80,000 cryptic missives, only to conclude the videos were maybe uploaded from France. Some wildly speculated the channel was a modern version of cryptic radio signals used during the Cold War to send messages to spies; others thought the videos contained information from alien life in faraway galaxies. Turns out, as one Italian blogger casually discovered, “Webdriver Torso” was simply a testing channel used by Google’s Zurich office.
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