When someone posted a puzzle on the notorious forum 4Chan in 2012, most of the peeps dismissed it as a prank. But the few who digged deeper realized that the mystery was deeper than the rabbit hole.
It all started when Joel Eriksson, a cryptographer from UK stumbled upon the image, and discovered that the image was designed to hide a url in it. Excited, he went to the url thinking that he has already cracked the puzzle, only to discover an image of a duck.
Most of the internet users at this moment would assume that they have been rick-rolled and would quickly move on. But not Eriksson, who thought that the picture could be another puzzle… and it was. Somehow, It didn’t seem like a prankster’s job anymore.
He also noticed that the url didn’t require the cryptic text to open that webpage, which meant it was intentionally inserted. That, along with the anonymous user’s posts (which contained encoded texts) led him to believe that those encrypted texts are the book and the cryptic numerals of the url is the key… and he was right!
Expecting to find a new image with another mysterious puzzle, Eriksson once again decoded the key and translated the text. But this time, he got a Texas, US telephone number instead… The puzzle which started in virtual life had abruptly been transformed into the physical world.
But wait it gets better:
A little scared, Eriksson called the Texas number which led to the following voicemail.
“Very good. You have done well. There are three prime numbers associated with the original final.jpg image. 3301 is one of them. You will have to find the other two. Multiply all three of these numbers together and add a .com to find the next step. Good luck. Goodbye.”
Putting it together, he realized that the other prime numbers could be the width and the height of the image which lead to the website with a countdown telling him to return to it after the timer has expired. When Eriksson returned, he was greeted with gps co-ordinates of telephone poles spread across the world including Japan, France, South Korea, Australia and US.
At this point, Eriksson couldn’t solve the mystery on his own. Thus, he relied on other people (locals) of the area to inspect those places, where they found posters with the logo of Cicada 3301 and QR Codes… leading to another set of images.
Not to be the one to call it quits now, Eriksson again decoded those images which led to a deep web url (only accessible through Tor Browser). But, in the biggest anti-climax ever, when Eriksson went there, he found the following message.
We were disappointed in the groups of people that had formed to share parts of the puzzles they discovered without any one member completing all the steps along the way and thus are compelled to look for highly gifted individuals by other means.
Unbeknownst to Eriksson, other people who took interest in the puzzle formed groups to solve the mystery, forcing Cicada 3301 to pull out in the last moment. The puzzle was almost solved by Eriksson in just under 3 weeks and had he stumbled upon the image sooner, he might have been the one to discover the organization behind it all.
And now, for the insane part:
That doesn’t mean that Cicada 3301 wiped out of existence. Infact, their twitter handle comes alive around the beginning of the year to post a new puzzle from 2012 onwards. They haven’t come out with 2015 puzzle, presumably because no one is able to solve the 2014 one to date. Care to give it a try?
Some peeps say they are from CIA, MI6 or even Google, but it doesn’t make sense as these organizations’ recruitment drive (though unorthodox) is acknowledged and well publicized. Other’s say that they are rogue hackers or organization who value logical / analytical thinking over everything else.
We have reasons to believe that they are from the “Matrix” and are here to free us from this world since we didn’t take the sequels seriously! Anybody could be right (or wrong!) since it’s all guesswork at this point, so go ahead and take your pick.