8 More Unsolved Internet Mysteries of the Shadowy Online Realm
By Morris M., Urban Ghosts Media, 20 August 2015.
By Morris M., Urban Ghosts Media, 20 August 2015.
With its vast reach, billions of users, and easy anonymity, the online realm is the sort of place where anything can happen. Horror stories can unfold in the basement of Reddit, cyber bullying has become alarmingly prevalent, and haunting, perplexing mysteries can go unsolved. We told you before about the most freakish puzzles no-one on the net can figure out. This article documents eight more compelling and thoroughly weird internet mysteries that remain unsolved.
1. Internet Black Holes
Image: Isaac Mao; mapping internet black holes.
Thanks to the internet communication has never been easier. Simply write an email, press send and, microseconds later, it’ll arrive in someone’s inbox. But things don’t always go to plan. Every now and then, that email will simply disappear. Where it goes, nobody knows.
It’s a phenomenon known as internet black holes, and we know as much about what’s inside them as we do the real thing. Unfurling across huge tracts of cyberspace, these holes are seemingly excellent at sucking stuff in.
Since the earliest days of the internet, people have noticed data packets failing to arrive at their destinations. This is important because data can’t simply vanish. It has to go somewhere. But where that might be, we have no idea. Tech firms, government agencies and hackers have all been unable to trace them; leading many to conclude a vast whirlpool of information is swirling out there, pulling them all in.
Frighteningly, this likely isn’t just a random malfunction. In late 2013 one internet black hole was discovered rerouting people’s information from the US to a shady address in Iceland. Who might be out there, siphoning off your data even as you read this? What could they possibly want?
2. Markovian Parallax Denigrate
Image: Joxemai4; example of a simple Markov chain.
We’ve told you before about the strange A858 mystery gripping Reddit. A seemingly random string of letters posted over and over again by one anonymous user, it’s been causing speculation for three years. Yet A858 isn’t a new or unique phenomenon. In the mid-1990s, Usenet visitors were treated to a series of strange messages created out of seemingly random words. They all came from one username: Markovian Parallax Denigrate.
Although Denigrate’s messages seemed utterly random (sample selection: “Dwight Hertzog different pinpoint dunk McKinley pendantfirelight Uranus episodic medicine ditty craggy flogging variac brotherhood”) their placing around the community seemed strangely deliberate. It wasn’t long before Usenet regulars began suspecting a human intelligence was behind them. Were they a message? Some kind of code? Despite some top flight programmers and mathematicians becoming involved, no-one ever uncovered their meaning.
Since then, the mystery has only deepened. Conspiracy theorists claimed the poster was a journalist who was wrongly accused of spying for Saddam Hussein’s government. Far from being innocuous, some suggest, Denigrate’s messages may well have been feeding information to shadowy intelligence services. Others maintain it was merely an online prank.
Image: screenshot via williamsthing/YouTube
A dark screen containing only a few cryptic lines of text. A link that leads you to crudely-drawn images of pyramids and Schrodinger’s cat. A phone number that most people are too terrified to call. Welcome to the mysterious world of Oct282011.com.
A website that appeared way back in 2011, Oct282011 had all the markings of a cult recruitment page. There was the fixation on a future date, and the mysterious text. There was talk of ‘mysteries behind the eyelids.’ But when its appointed date came and went, things started to get weird.
The site itself remained active. In curiosity, people began to call the number. What they heard was creepy, to say the least. There would be an unnatural silence followed by a loud beep. Some swore they could hear heavy breathing in the distance. One or two reported awful, muffled voices. At least one person heard something heavy being dragged across the floor.
In a YouTube video one person claimed they called three times, and heard something so disturbing, so disgusting that they can’t even describe what it was. One person who called six times heard a sinister voice whisper “it’s him again.”
Then suddenly, the website went dark. Just as Reddit got involved the whole thing shut down and vanished. You can go see for yourself. All that remains are banner ads, presumably put up by the enterprising new owner. Who was behind the original site, or what those horrible phone messages were, no-one can say.
Image: The Opte Project
Imagine stumbling across an electronic spy ring of unimaginable proportions. Thousands of computers are affected in 103 different countries. Data is being harvested and sent back to a shadowy organization. No-one knows who is behind it or what their goal is. Pretty scary, huh? Well, it really happened. In 2009, a group of Toronto University researchers were asked to check security on the Dali Lama’s private network. What they found was bigger and creepier than any had suspected.
Known as GhostNet, the mysterious online network was terrifying. It could activate cameras and microphones on infected computers, recording anyone in the room. Files could be searched remotely, and programmes installed without the user’s knowledge. The craziest part? We still have totally no idea who did it.
Because the Dali Lama was a target, many assume China was behind GhostNet - an assumption borne out by its massive presence on Chinese computers. But no proof has ever been found. Others think it might have been the Chinese mafia, or someone else entirely. Now that six whole years have passed since the discovery, it’s likely we’ll never unravel that internet mystery that is GhostNet.
5. John Titor
Image: Monaneko; from an animation of the Year 2038 Problem.
In 2000, the fledgling internet landed its biggest scoop to date. That was the year a time traveller began surfacing on message boards, informing users of the catastrophic changes that would happen in the near future. His name: John Titor.
In posts to multiple forums, Titor claimed to be from the year 2036. He said he was a survivor of a devastating civil war which had ripped America into five separate states and seen nuclear bombs explode across the continent. He was in the past to retrieve some urgently-needed retro technology and, just maybe, change the future.
If he was telling the truth, then we can only assume Titor succeeded. His prediction of a 2004 civil war, the death of the Olympics and a mid-2000s nuclear bombing of the mainland United States clearly haven’t happened (thankfully). Titor’s story has also been gone over with a fine-toothed comb and found to be full of internal inconsistencies. The mystery here isn’t ‘was Titor a time traveller?’ It’s that we still have no idea who he was.
The poster clearly knew his way around old computers. He was also very up to date on technological news, making reference to stuff like the UNIX Year 2038 problem (a kind of second Millennium Bug that will happen in January 2038). Beyond that, we’ve got nothing. Why did he dream up the Titor pseudonym? Why did he suddenly stop?
6. The Creator of Bitcoin
As the only crypto-currency to reach the public consciousness, Bitcoin is a fascinating anomaly. Launched way back in 2008, it went from a vague idea to something of real value. One million bitcoins are today worth US$250m and shops take them in lieu of money. Yet we have no idea who invented them.
The only thing we have to go on is a name and a location: Satoshi Nakamoto of Japan. Even that’s probably false. When a Swiss coder accessed all of Nakamoto’s message board posts, he found the guy never posted between the hours of 11pm and 5am Central Time; suggesting he was living in America. Others have theorised he isn’t even of Japanese descent, and the name is a ruse to throw people off-track.
The search hasn’t been helped by Nakamoto’s continued silence. Since Bitcoin took off in mid-2010, he hasn’t been involved in the community at all. Nobody has had any contact with him for years. Some think “Satoshi Nakamoto” could be anything from a hacker collective to a secretive government group. The only thing for sure is we won’t be finding out anytime soon, and of all the internet mysteries out there, Bitcoin remains one of the most compelling.
7. Valor por Tamaulipas
Image: via Wikipedia; Valor por Tamaulipas logo.
In the bloody inferno of Mexico’s Drug War, journalists are routinely tortured, disappeared and murdered. Criminals operate with impunity, with no-one left to challenge them.
Well, that’s not strictly true. On January 1, 2012, a Facebook page suddenly appeared called Valor por Tamaulipas. Dedicated to photographing and reporting drug crime in the region of Tamaulipas, it found itself on the end of the cartels’ wrath. At least one gang offered a US$50,000 reward for information on the account’s owner. It wasn’t enough. To this day, no-one knows who was behind it.
This entry is less strange and creepy than it is highly-impressive. The Mexican cartels are dangerous beasts. People who oppose them tend to wind up dead in the nastiest way possible. The administrator of a similar Facebook page was taken and murdered, images of her body posted to her Twitter account. Yet Valor por Tamaulipas managed to remain anonymous. Despite threats to them and their family (including their children), they stayed online reporting for a whole two years.
Finally in December 2014, the administrator announced they had chosen retirement. Thankfully their identity was never uncovered. The Facebook page, however, remains open. In a world of creepy internet mysteries, Valor por Tamaulipas reflects one of the most daring and physically hazardous to its admins.
Image: via website; 973-eht-namuh-973.
Said to be the work of a mad mathematician, 973-eht-namuh-973 starts slowly but soon descends into something approaching madness. A website concerned with numerology, it begins like many slightly-crazy sites of the early 2000s with a single, word-strewn page. But then you start to notice the links. Ten, fifty, one hundred…thousands of pages soon flick by, each of which goes on seemingly forever. And each one is jam-packed full of numerology.
The sheer size of the thing is frightening. Passages from the Bible are worked on complicated grids, eerie pictures are posted between strange, garbled messages, and flickering gifs are dotted at random through the site. Flicking through its pages is like reaching sensory overload. It’s the work of ten, twenty, one hundred years. It’s an impossible, freakishly pointless achievement, crowned with creepy artworks. It’s like looking into a mind which has quietly broken.
Go exploring and you might find anything on there. People have reported scary images, overwhelming walls of text. On a random flick through, we came up with a never-ending page on Lazarus that included hideous portraits of people with misshapen heads. Some think the domain owner has been identified as a British artist, thanks to an image buried on the site. But the creepier mystery still remains: Why?
Top image: The Opte Project.
[Source: Urban Ghosts Media. Edited.]