Monday, July 25, 2011

What is and what's with the strange USF connection? *UPDATED*

Posted By on Mon, Jul 25, 2011 at 2:36 PM

Have you seen this girl?
  • Have you seen this girl?
Over the weekend, my brother hipped me to the website Click it, and you'll land on a sparse white page with the image of a young girl staring back at you. Turn up the volumn on your speakers and you'll note odd noises playing in the background. Below the picture are links to information about the site, but they prove to be less than helpful. The whole effect is oddly chilling.

What is this place? Is it the latest bit of clever online viral marketing? A government research project? Yet another sign of the apocalypse? None of the above?

The Internet wants to know, and right now geeks across the world are lighting up message boards trying to get to the bottom of what happens on August 3. So far, the only thing anyone can agree on is that the site is creepy, like an Internet version of that Naomi Watts movie The Ring.

Here's what we (maybe) know so far:

• was created by persons unknown through on June 21, 2011.

• Amping up's creep factor are the weird sounds that can be heard as you click through the site's different pages. These loops are Numbers Station recordings — shortwave radio broadcasts long used by governments to send untraceable, encoded messages to spies/contacts/secret agents in far off lands. The clips used by are believed culled from The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations, a 4-CD set of the broadcasts. The recordings have been sampled before, with the band Wilco ending up in an interesting copyright lawsuit after failing to ask for permission before lifting some of the sounds for their album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Check out the video below for a full 5-minute clip of a Numbers Station recording. What do the broadcasts mean? No one is really sure …

• The people behind the site have apparently been answering questions on a Formspring account, which you can check out here. They've answered hundreds of queries, claiming the site is not a marketing campaign or an alternate reality game, is not about making money, and is not something you should fear. That said, the person answering the questions seems fairly cheeky with their responses, so who knows?

Whats this look like you you?
  • What's this look like to you?

• The main page has 5 links:
"Ask Anonymously" — which takes you to the Formspring page described above.

"About Us" — which when clicked brings up the image of an umbrella (right)

"Help Spread The Word" which links to downloadable PDFs of signs meant for posting on bulletin boards and light poles in your hometown

"Get Involved," which provides the following text:

Get Involved
Send your answers to the following questions to
Only serious applicants will be considered, the more detail given in your responses the better.

What do you think 8•3•11 is about?
Why would you like to get involved in 8•3•11?
What can you do to help spread the word about 8•3•11?
How did you find this site?
What is your general location?

Note: As of this writing I have yet to see anyone claim publicly that their application has been accepted.

And finally, "Sightings," which includes 37 pictures of the flyer posted in real-world surroundings. Many of the pictures are obviously from other countries (speculation says this "game" — for lack of a better term — is huge in South America and Europe, but that may just be people guessing based on the foreign languages clearly visible in the pics), but at least a few of the shots are clearly from the U.S. Most boggling for those in the Tampa Bay area: At least two of the photos were obviously taken on the campus of the University of South Florida. They are …


and …

Who at USF is printing out these flyers? And why? If it's you, please shoot me an e-mail. I'm interested in your story.

• There's already a copycat site,, but it seems more like a parody of the site than a related offering.

• Here's one guess (probably wrong) where you can see the kind of mental gymnastics people are going through in trying to solve this riddle (if it is a riddle):

• This next video probably answers all the questions … but it's in Spanish! Little help, my bilingual friends?

You want my guess? is either a psychological experiment that explores Apophenia, which is defined as "the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data," or it's viral marketing for an art event (possibly in Texas) to take place August 3.

Whatever is, I would like to offer some thanks to the people behind it (whoever you are) for setting the end date of your little game in the very near future. Usually, you have to wait years to find out that crazy thing you've been obsessed with (The Rapture, Y2K bug, the Lost finale) was full of shit. Here, all will be revealed in only nine days. Stay tuned …

UPDATED: 7/28/2011 at 2:18 p.m.:
Turns out it was … all just a prank that blew up on the prankster. "An Explanation" has now been posted at

An Explanation

It started as just a summer project. A way to have a little fun. Admittedly it got way bigger than I ever could have imagined. Honestly I didn’t think it would make it out of Houston. Some of my friends and I were just going to post the flyer around the town and that was it. In retrospect I probably should have left it there.

When I chose the date 8•3•11 it was totally random. And then I searched it online to see if it was already related to anything big. I saw the bible verse, and at first didn’t think much of it. Then as summer began I thought that maybe 8•3•11 should actually have some purpose, so I made that crude sketch of an interactive sculpture that was sort of supposed to imitate a stoning. Those were really the only two things that were ever intentionally related to each other. So it sort of started to be some kind of weird stoning awareness thing if you could call it that? The idea never really got developed because I was busy with other things.

So then the whole thing started to blow up online and people thought it was an Alternate Reality Game(ARG). I didn’t know what an ARG was before this whole thing and I’m still not totally clear on it. At any rate people were interested in it and that was interesting to me so I gave “clues”. I put that in quotes because I had no idea where I was going with the whole thing. I’m not much of a story teller. I was actually going to shut it down a few weeks ago (probably should have followed my gut on that one), but it was really interesting reading the ideas people were coming up with and a lot of people seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves. They didn’t seem to care that it was possibly nothing, so I carried on.

Eventually the whole thing started falling apart because nothing made sense anymore (probably because pretty much all the “clues” were just random bits of information). A lot of people seemed to think I was trying to create a game for them, but it was never really meant to be a game, that’s why it was a really terrible game. For the people that thought 8•3•11 was supposed to bring some earth shattering news, sorry. I mean, it’s a girl and a date with some spooky noises, how important could it really be? And it has a Formspring account… yeah.

As far as it being a viral campaign it went incredibly well until that whole crashing and burning part at the end. All I did was post about 10 flyers around my town and within two days the site had 1,000 hits and it snowballed from there. It was definitely interesting to see how some people could become so focused on something they knew practically nothing about. It even inspired a few spinoffs. I was never in this to harm anyone. I never said something would actually happen on 8•3•11. I’m sorry if I upset you. This was never meant to be a prank or anything like that.

None of the girls that people found had anything to do with the project and shouldn’t be bothered. It was just me and one friend working on it together.

In the end, I think what people really wanted was a mystery to solve and they did it. I think that’s pretty cool to be honest. I know it’s extremely cheesy to say, but it’s really wild to see what people can do when they work together like they did on this. So, good job. I hope you actually had some fun exposing me.

By the way, I noticed someone put up a CaféPress store with 8•3•11 merchandise. That was not me. Like I said before, I was never in this for some kind of profit.

Thanks for playing …

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