The expansive and anonymous nature of the internet makes it ripe for a good mystery, or, indeed, a nefarious one.
Over the last few days a bizarre and admittedly rather creepy video has been grabbing attention with various online communities. The video, which runs for only two minutes, appears to show a figure dressed in a Venetian plague doctor outfit making strange and coded movements against a backdrop of a grating and hellish "soundtrack."
Currently, no one is sure who made it or what it's all about. However, thanks to collaborative efforts, they are beginning to work their ways through the enigma—and so far, what they've found isn't very palatable.
The Mysterious Video
The video first grabbed major attention when it was discussed by Johnny Krahbichler, a Gadgetzz blogger from Sweden. He reportedly received a CD in the mail in late May and, assuming it was software someone wanted him to try out, did not think much about it.
However, when he did finally play the DVD last week, he found the following video. BEWARE: The video is rather loud, so maybe turn that volume down.
Regarding the video, Krahbichler stated:
I was unsure what to think of it, but I found it very odd. I later reexamined it and started noticing the ‘codes’ and letters hidden all around the video. That’s when I realized it’s some sort of puzzle. I didn’t really try that hard to solve it, but I had no luck either way.
Breaking It Down
The video quickly grabbed the attention of Redditors on the r/creepy subreddit and very soon all the puzzle-solving power of the community was put to work. There are still big questions concerning the video, but the community has managed to decipher some rather disconcerting messages and images.
I will attempt to break down the most important discoveries in a coherent and methodical manner below:
1. The Video Source: Where Did It Come From?
Although Krahbichler brought the video to widespread attention, it has actually been on the internet since May 9th when it was uploaded by a user named AETBX. This version of the video, which features a watermark that does not appear on Krahbichler's video, was reportedly sent to AETBX by an unknown Spanish woman who found it on "a park bench." It was also uploaded to a 4chan creepypasta forum with the same "found on a bench" story.
The video was also uploaded with a binary title of 01101101 01110101 01100101 01110010 01110100 01100101 and a description of:
The title translates to "muerte," the Spanish word for "death" while the description reads, "Te queda 1 año menos.." or "you have one year less." It's not clear if the description is attempting to explain that watching the video has somehow taken a year of your life from you (a la The Ring) or whether the watcher only has one year left to live.
Although there appears to be a Spanish connection to AETBX's version, it actually seems like the video is more intimately linked with Poland. The CD received by Krahbichler was sent from Poland and it appears the video was actually filmed in the same country.
One of the biggest breakthroughs of the investigation was the discovery that the video was filmed in Zofiówka Sanatorium in Otwock, Poland. Two images were discovered elsewhere online which appeared to show the same room the video was filmed in. The first from around 2013 shows the room without certain graffiti that appears in the video. Check it out below:
While, the second photo taken in April 2015, does show the graffiti seen in the video, including the distinctive 'G' in an oval which was mostly likely put there by the video creators. This therefore suggests the video was filmed sometime between 2013 and April 2015.
2. The Images - Horror Movies and Real Murder
The video is seemingly rammed full of hidden codes and messages, but perhaps most disturbing of all is a series of images hidden in the haunting, grinding soundtrack.
One Reddit user M4nic_H3dgehog extracted the audio of the video on the DVD and ran it through a spectrogram (a program which visualizes sound) and found various images. One image in the sound is of a skull with two sets of ciphertexts.
However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The video also contains graphic images that appear to show women being tortured and mutilated as well as the message, "You are already dead."
This immediately led to speculation the video was the work of a serial killer, but it turns out that might be a bit premature. Most of the images are actually taken from two little-known horror movies, Slasher and The Bunny Game . The images do include actual dead bodies, however, with one image showing the graphic murder of one of the Boston Stangler's victims.
3. The Codes: A Threat Against the President?
At various points throughout the video numbers, letters and various codes can be seen. For example at 00:28, 20 pairs of characters can be seen which appear to be coordinates. When these are entered into a map, it gives you location of the White House.
At 00:03 a series of Morse code characters can also be seen which appear to read "REDLIPSLIKETENTH," which is an anagram for KILLTHEPRESIDENT.
Meanwhile, the beeping signal which accompanies the flashing light on the palm of the figures hand appears to be "2015THEREWILLBE(THREE)" in Morse code.
A character-subcharacter ciphertext is also seen at 01:51 which appears to translate as a longer, but still enigmatic, string of text:
"SOON COMES THE FALL / ANOTHER GREAT EMPIRE.
THE FALL / THE EAGLE ON THE HORIZON.
JOIN US. THE EAGLE = INFECTED WILL SPREADD HIS DISEEASE.
WE AARE TTHE ANTIVIRUS WILL PROTECT THE WORLD BODY."
Many other codes appear to be hidden in the video, but they have, as of yet, been unsolved. For example, there is the significance of the 'G' (a letter common in masonic codes) and the gesturing of 3-1-2 by the figure. One reddit user suggested this might refer to the Abwehr Enigma G-312, a German coding machine from the Second World War II.
This is supported by the fact one set of code (shown above) appears to resemble an enigma output text, while the oval shape of the 'G' is also similar to the Enigma logo (shown below). Furthermore, it was the Polish which originated decoded the first prototype enigma machine.
4. The Themes - An American Virus?
As well as generally being creepy, there also appears to be several themes running through the video.
The concept of viruses and illness comes up often. Firstly the figure is dressed as a plague doctor, while some of the decoded text refers to an 'antivirus'. Additionally, the video was filmed in a sanatorium, which in Europe is mostly seen as synonymous with long-term illnesses such as tuberculosis.
There also appears to be an anti-American vibe in the video. Firstly, there appears to be a message advocating for the assassination of the President, as well as the coordinates of the White House. Moreover, the references to an "eagle," "empire" and "infection" could be a comment on the concept of a modern American neo-liberal empire. Having said that, the eagle could be a historical reference to the ancient Roman empire (whose symbol was an eagle), which of course eventually crumbled.
Who Made It? The Main Theories
Much like another of the internet's great mysteries, Cicada 3301, there are already various theories about the nature of the video. They range from the comical to the deadly serious.
Theory 1: A Serial Killer
One of the first, and perhaps most unlikely theories, is that this is a video showcasing a message from a serial killer. This was initially supported by the violent imagery found in the video.
Now, this theory has all but been abandoned. The fact the images could easily be found on Google image search and the fact the 'killer' seems almost too cliche suggests this is more the work of fiction than anything else.
Theory 2: A Terrorist Organization/Cult
Another lofty theory is that the video represent a threat by a terrorist organization who are possibly in possession of a biological weapon.
This is also incredibly unlikely. For one thing, terrorists are interested in getting their messages across clearly and succinctly, primarily because they have an agenda they wish to push. Hiding such a message behind code and internet games only serves to distort and limit the spread of their message.
Although Hollywood crypto-terrorists might act in this way, we only have to look at groups such as Islamic State to see how real terrorist organizations produce propaganda/threats.
Theory 3: A Viral Marketing Campaign
A popular theory is that the video could be a viral marketing campaign for an upcoming movie, video game or television series. Users quickly noted that many of the aspects of the video appear to reference Dan Brown's latest book, Inferno. One Reddit user, careersxmichael, stated:
Not sure if this helps at all but in the book "inferno" by Dan Brown. kinda Spoilers A man named Bertrand Zobrist makes a creepy video dressed entirely in the traditional plague doctor mask and suit. He says he's like death and is the cure. He makes references to scenes in dantes inferno.
All in all. Maybe marketing for the movie?
A movie version of Inferno is due in theaters next year.
Others have suggested the video shares similarities with television series version of 12 Monkeys, which is also concerned with the spread of a plague. One user, Lowfdog, posted:
But what about a 12 monkeys publicity stunt? "You are already dead" is said quite a bit in the show, they've also used the plague mask guy, and Season 3 of 12 monkeys would explain the 3-1-2 the guy makes at the beginning of the video...
The image taken from 12 Monkeys certainly bares a striking similarity:
It's not outside the realms of possibilities that the Syfy or Inferno marketing team contacted some Polish filmmakers with the concept of creating a viral video. One Reddit user form Poland, 9u4d, noted that the video did seem to resemble a lot of the amateur Youtube productions from the country, especially those used to market low budget video games and movies. He stated:
Our bets are that this is a indie videogame promotional, since our fledgling studios don’t have large budgets for “standard” advertisement. Plus a few years ago we had another “creepy” YouTube video stunt called “Poradnik Uśmiechu” (“Smile Guide”). It was actually quite good as a spoof ’80s/’90s kids tv series, and was a student art project. But I don’t think its the same crew — they had way better production values.
However, there are several points against this theory. Firstly, the use of violent imagery, including an actual crime scene photograph, seems unlikely for a major movie or television marketing campaign, while potential 'threats' to the President would also likely be off-limits. More mundanely, a marketing campaign might also not have the rights to use images from another movie.
What is more likely is that the creators of the video were inspired by Inferno.
Theory 4: It's Just a Creepy Pasta/Student Art Project
Creepy pastas are big news on the internet, especially on subreddits like r/creepy, r/NoSleep and 4chan (where this video was originally uploaded in May), and this video seems to bear all the hallmarks (and indeed clichés) of the internet phenomenon.
For one thing, the video goes a long way to appear "internet creepy" and appeal to the various tropes of creepy pastas and horror movies. This includes an old abandoned sanatorium/mental hospital location, a mysterious masked 'killer', violent imagery, unnerving gestures and bizarre coded messages. In this sense it appeals to our fictional impressions of serial killers and conspirators. The reality, however, is that neither of these groups would be likely to produce a video such as this. Not only does it not benefit their aims at all, but it would in most cases be counter productive as it would draw attention to them. Only Hollywood villains would produce such a video.
Furthermore, the fact most of the video was sourced from what was likely Google image searches—including the skull and body images—appears to suggest a distinct lack of professionalism, despite the admittedly impressive technical cryptographic knowhow.
But Who Made It?
The creepy pasta/student video theory is therefore one of, if not the most, likely. It also supported by various discoveries regarding an individual known as Parker Wright—who also uploaded the highest quality version of the video albeit only last week. In particular, one Imgur post appears to show the original video linked to the University of California, San Diego webcache.
The video was uploaded in April, likely soon after it was made and features 105 comments, meaning it was likely extensively discussed within the TritonTV community.
A Twitter account possibly linked to the name Parker Wright also appears to reference UCSD and the creation of 'creepy' videos.
Meanwhile, TritonTV, a UCSD film group on whose webcache a thumbnail of the video was found, claim they were hacked and various creepy videos were uploaded. This might be the case, but the Plague Doctor video appeared on the webcache on April 16, prior to its appearance on Youtube. It's also unlikely that many people would discuss it that extensively if it was just one of several creepy videos uploaded.
For his part, the "Twitter Wright" denies all involvement, which might well be true. However, despite this, Reddit users pointed out he does follow various "revolutionary" Twitter accounts such as TheRevolutionCollective and FixSociety, which are not entirely thematically at odds with the apparent message of the video.
A deleted Reddit post also seems to point in this direction. A user by the name of godscream wrote, but then later deleted, a post which cited Parker Wright as the creator and chided AETBX for 'riding the fame'. It stated:
This is also partly supported by a post made by AETBX in the comments section of his video. It linked to a now deleted image featuring a plague doctor and simple morse into binary code. Considering the simplicity of the image compared to the video, many are suggesting this is an attempt by AETBX to remain relevant and further build upon the mystery in his own way. For the record, few people buy his "found on a Spanish bench" story, it sounds too much like traditional creepypasta talk.
However, AETBX's broken English and the time-zones in which he comments— which likely place him in Europe—could mean he does live in Poland and perhaps had some hand in helping to create the video. Despite this, few believe he was the original creator.
My personal theory is that this is simply creepypasta, albeit a sophisticated one. Perhaps is was partly inspired by Inferno, especially the idea of a strange "plague doctor" video spreading a message. I think AETBX probably helped make it back in April and then tried to establish his copy as a traditional "Watch This and Die" creepypasta on 4chan and then by sending it to Krahbichler.
When no one seemed interested, he simply left it on his Youtube and continued to fill it with Pokémon videos (which have since been deleted). Its sudden rise to prominence probably surprised him just as much as everyone else, hence his first comment post of "This video was uploaded about 5 months ago, why everyone is interested?" Since then he has tried rather clumsily to continue the creepypasta with a poorly (and easily) made Morse code image.
A 'Parker Wright' is almost certainly involved (maybe not the one on Twitter), probably as the original filmmaking brains behind the operation, and perhaps in conjunction with AETBX who could live in Poland. Wright could even be the figure in the video, since he uses the Anglo-American "three middle fingers" instead of the European "two fingers and a thumb" to denote "three." The fact he uploaded the highest quality version suggests he likely has the original video, and not a condensed emailed/downloaded version. It was also uploaded to a film group website which suggests he initially shared and discussed it with his peers before removing it. One of this peers could be godscream who claimed AETBX was 'riding the fame'.
But that's just my theory, and I might be completely wrong. But what's yours?