Mystery Code Cracked By Reddit Leads to Death Threats
What started out as a mysterious code-cracking phenomenon that gripped the Reddit community, and turned out a 150 strong crowd in the center of Manhattan yesterday, has now taken a nasty and unexpected turn.
The drama unfolded around a Reddit user named delverofsecrets, who claimed that a “raggedy dressed man” on the subway had handed him a code written on the back of a 50 dollar bill, then disappeared.
The post quickly rose to the front page of Reddit and within three hours users had identified some characters in the code as Russian, Basque and Hebrew. One user spotted that the key to decoding the message was the "Bifid Cipher," a type of algorithm invented by a French code master in 1901.
SirSpam28 deciphered the message as: "There's plenty more money to make. Figure this out and prepare to meet July 19th, 56th & 6th. There's a hot dog stand outside Rue57 cafe. Ask for Mr. Input."
A follow up post suggested a new time and place to meet: "You have managed to find the message with the help of friends. 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."
And sure enough, from around 3:30pm yesterday, a throng of Redditors began gathering at six-and-a-half and 56th, eager to find out whether this was a first round test for a job at Google, a marketing stunt, or just an elaborate hoax.
Keith Meilink, a project manager at a video company, told us that he "saw this on the front page of Reddit. Everyone was talking about it in the office, so we decided to take a late lunch break, come on down and see what it was all about.”
Max Fuldon, age 22, said, “I heard about this from friends, from Facebook, and from Reddit. I heard it’s something to do with Batman, but it could also be a hoax. I’m still looking for blue jay though."
The crowd, mainly young and male, gripped tightly to their smart phones, desperate for an update from the original poster (the “OP”) about his whereabouts. When an old man wearing blue passed by around 4pm, the crowd quickly swarmed around him, believing he was somehow linked to the “blue jay."
But the old man passed by, and the crowd continued to wait. Francesco Tetto, a 23-year-old college student, said, “I’m getting skeptical, it’s already 4:30...I guess we’ll stick around another half hour.”
Around 5pm, the man of the moment, the OP, arrived, greeted with applause as he showed the original encoded paper. He gave his name as Ali, telling the crowd, “I was expecting 10 people.” Ali had seen pictures in the Reddit thread of the old man in blue, and confirmed this was not the same man that gave him the code in the subway.
Ali did not reveal his last name, explaining that some Redditors had already tracked down his Facebook profile and phone number. “I’ve been getting a lot of creepy calls from people,” he said.
And this morning the OP announced he would be deleting his account after a hacker tracked down the names of his family and his address and threatened him with violence. He wrote, “This will be my last message from this account before I delete it...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.”
Undeterred by the exit of the OP, Redditor speculation about the meaning of the original cryptic message is running rampant. The main theory is that it’s all a publicity stunt for 'The Dark Knight Rises.' More recently users have suggested it could be linked to a new spy exhibit at the Discovery Museum in Times Square.
Redditors still plan to turn out in force on July 19th at 56th and 6th Avenue, as the original post suggested. Stay tuned to TheFW for more on this story and exclusive video from the event.