The Chosen One: Meet the Man Who Sparked the Reddit Mystery
The plot of the secret code deciphered by Reddit thickened on Thursday afternoon, when the recipient of the cryptic message arrived at a designated meeting place in New York City. He was greeted by crowds of Redditors and locals waiting for some resolution to the mystery.
On Wednesday night, Reddit user delverofsecrets had posted photos of a note he received on the subway from a “homeless looking man.” Within three hours, Redditors had voted the post to the top of the front page and a handful of users deciphered the coded message. It contained instructions to meet in midtown Manhattan on July 19.
On Thursday, delverofsecrets posted a private message that was sent to his account. It contained a new code, which Redditors quickly deciphered. “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.”
Mashable was on the scene at this new location and time, and found between 100 and 200 people gathered, waiting for answers.
Right around 4:00 p.m. ET, an elderly man wearing a blue hat emerged. The crowed quickly gathered around him.
Mashable asked for his name. “You can look me up on the web,” he replied. When asked if he created the code, the man looked perplexed. “Information Mechanics. Kantor. K-A-N-T-O-R,” he responded. “The field is named for my work.”
It was difficult to hear him on the scene, so the crowd speculated further on whether he was connected to the code. It’s clear now that he was simply identifying himself by his work. Frederick W. Kantor wrote Information Mechanics, published in 1977, a book theorizing that information might be the underlying foundation of physics. Intriguing, certainly, but ultimately unrelated to this mystery. Mr. Kantor’s timing and appearance was merely coincidental. This also debunks some marketing theories proposed by Redditors that the man was connected to a spy exhibit opening nearby.
Some time later, delverofsecrets updated the Reddit thread, saying he was on his way to the scene. The crowd swarmed him when he arrived, and cheered when he pulled the encoded note from his wallet. He said his name is Ali, though he declined to give his last name due to privacy concerns.
Ali had seen photos of Mr. Kantor posted minutes before to Reddit, and explained that he was not the man who gave him the note on the subway.
“I think today might have been one of my friends messing with me,” Ali said. “The username of the guy that sent me that message is similar to something personal related to me.” Ali later told Mashable that it was his phone number in reverse. “I’ve been getting a lot of creepy calls from people. ‘I’m gonna find you, and you’re gonna give us all the money! You’re a time traveler!’ Stuff like that.”
“I think it might be a marketing scheme,” Ali said. “But what I can assure you is, I’m not in on it. If I was, I wouldn’t waste everyone’s time here.”
“I want to figure it out more than anyone else,” he continued. “But that guy SirSpam who solved it? If it’s a job offer, I’ll send it his way. He deserves it way more than I do.” Ali was referring to Reddit user SirSpam28, who was among the first in the thread to determine that the original code could be cracked with the Bifid Cipher.
“But you’re the chosen one!” remarked someone in the crowd. Ali just laughed.
On Friday, Ali edited his original post with an update:
“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.”
Unfortunately, there are far too many variables now to draw any plausible conclusions:
If it is a marketing scheme, wouldn’t its creators want to reveal the stunt in front of hundreds of people while the whole Internet was watching?
No marketing agency would threaten violence (we hope). The threats may indicate that it’s either not a marketing scheme, or that the caller is someone unrelated to the original code (a prankster or otherwise malicious person who deduced Ali’s contact information from the web).
We still don’t know if the user who messaged him the second code is connected to the original note. If not, the meeting on Thursday may have been an unrelated hoax.
If those two subsequent communications are bogus, the original meeting on July 19 could still be on. It’s entirely possible the original code creator is unaware that the Internet is watching this drama unfold. Some Redditors are banking on this, and plan to show up to the original location next Thursday, whether Ali comes or not.
Mashable will continue to follow this story.