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History, Mathematics, Religion...
May 10, 2001 5:18 AM   Subscribe

History, Mathematics, Religion... All wrapped into a handy, easy-to-use {large graphic} format and distributed once or twice a year via a harmless school paper. This is the Mayday Mystery.
posted by carsonb (24 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
when i first saw one of the ads in our daily, last semester, i nearly crapped my pants. it reminded me vaguely of the obeygiant propaganda-without-a-purpose theme, but once i was sucked in i realized how much bigger it is.

what do you think? i keep coming back to the thought that these folks are a bunch of wacked-out, brilliant religious freaks {those who run the ads actually refer to themselves collectively as The Freaks} who are preparing for the end of the world.

rundown: the may 1st advertisements seem to be directions for 'tours' or meetings, outlining the location, time, and subject matter of the meeting. there are sometimes addendums run later in the year, for unknown reasons. nowadays they all incorporate complex mathematics {lots of prime theory, more that i have no clue about}, myriad languages {including dead languages like cuneiform, sanskrit, and latin}, and vague referencing {global coordinates, importance/level system using stars} jumbled together in a truly mind-boggling fashion.

history: the first advertisement was posted in august, 1981. they've been fairly regular ever since. the original instigator has hinted at a dedication to his purpose since the 70's. the ads have shifted style over the years, becoming more and more in-depth, historically, mathematically, and conceptually.

this is just interesting more than discussion-worthy, but i thought that as a bunch of intellectual-types {not to stereotype, of course *smile*}, mefi might enjoy the link.
posted by carsonb at 5:31 AM on May 10, 2001


*sigh* obeygiant is not propaganda-without-a-purpose. that was just a {very bad} capsulization.
posted by carsonb at 5:33 AM on May 10, 2001


y'know, I work for a living...or at least i did until i saw this. Now I'm going to have to quit my job, set up residence in the library, and forget about sleep, family, friends, etc. until this thing is solved. Thanks alot, carson!

:-)
posted by jpoulos at 7:20 AM on May 10, 2001


Very cool, but well beyond my mental capabilities - let me know when you figure it out!
posted by astro38 at 7:23 AM on May 10, 2001


Wow, fascinating stuff. Makes me want to go back to university and learn oh so much. I've set up a mayday folder in my bookmarks.

Made my first contribution - to the May 1, 2001 entry - just a simple translation of the German text there.

Definitely cool stuff...
posted by syzygy at 8:24 AM on May 10, 2001


"We're the Tres. And you know more about us than we do."
posted by darukaru at 8:30 AM on May 10, 2001


"Propaganda-that-is-its-own-purpose", maybe?
posted by harmful at 10:09 AM on May 10, 2001


Makes me want to go back to university and learn oh so much.

I spent way too much of my time at university learning things that I thought I needed to know. It would be much cooler to go back now that there are so many things that I just want to know. I started to take Greek one semester because it seemed so cool, but it quickly got crowded out by things that I thought were more relevant. I was wrong. Today, what I'd have learned studying Greek would be a lot more valuable than anything I learned in that microbial physiology class.
posted by anapestic at 10:19 AM on May 10, 2001


i have read just about everything on the site (low course load this semester), texts, correspondance, clues, etc. I have learned amazing amounts from this stuff. On more than one occasion i have spent the night in the library, crumpled printout in hand, prone on the floor between two towering bookcases poring over texts...just absorbing.

The Freaks (those who post the ads) do not look fondly upon today's college students, nor the institutions they attend. Through the Wildcat they see how we behave and what we do on campus (and disapprove). Through Bryan's website they see those who google search whole portions of their mysteries and shake their heads. They've admonished the site's owner rather harshly for being flip about the whole affair. They often ridicule those who post {what they consider to be} stupid clues.

Makes me want to go back to university and learn oh so much

anyway, i guess the point of these disjointed paragraphs is that you don't have to go back to university, or go in the first place, to learn. pull a Good-Will-Hunting and get a library card. then all it takes is a sunday afternoon spent in a comfortable chair to learn what you didn't earlier.
posted by carsonb at 11:50 AM on May 10, 2001


I read a small chunk of this site. I am sorry, but I cannot accept this as anything but a frat prank.

Run through the possible motives: why would anyone put a cryptic, incomprehensible *full page* ad in a *college newspaper*?

A secret society? Bull. Truly secret societies could use better means of communication (pyramid schemes, steganography), even in classified ads. A full-page ad that just screams "I am a mystery" doesn't quite cut it (on a college paper to boot).

Some bizarre society that would like to recruit people smart enough to break the "code"? Again, I am not saying that us netties are the smartest bunch, but you would thing that after 2 years on the Net, someone should have broken at least one ad. None have been broken, which leads me to believe that they *weren't meant to*. If it's not a secret code (see above) and if it's not a purposedly public code, what could it be?

It could be the work of a lone, disturbed individual. But the pattern doesn't support that: 40 years is a long lifespan for someone disturbed enough to pursue this this maniacally (assuming he/she had to be at least 20 to be literate enough in this wide a range of subjects; the ads have been running since at least 1981).

So, if a lone gunman is ruled out (I think so) and the messages are ruled out as crypto (ditto), what could it be?

My bet? Frat initiation/treasure hunt. It could be something as stupid as "find the obscure reference in the ad, check out the book from the library, and you will find the next clue in the page". It could be something more involved that would include a "private" cipher book. It could just be a stupid pointless tradition for new frat boys to come up with weird quotes and put them in the school paper.

The pattern is way more supportive of this theory: as the years pass the ads got bigger (new frat class tries to out-do older brothers), more complex (ditto) and techier (which actually weakens the lone gunman theory even more; people don't get *more* into technology as they age). Plus: "The Freaks?" please... and "The Orphanage"? what better metaphor for a frat than that?

I am betting some frat geeks somewhere are having a good laugh with this website... cool prank though :-)
posted by costas at 1:50 PM on May 10, 2001


I read a small chunk of this site. I am sorry, but I cannot accept this as anything but a frat prank.

Run through the possible motives: why would anyone put a cryptic, incomprehensible *full page* ad in a *college newspaper*?

A secret society? Bull. Truly secret societies could use better means of communication (pyramid schemes, steganography), even in classified ads. A full-page ad that just screams "I am a mystery" doesn't quite cut it (on a college paper to boot).

Some bizarre society that would like to recruit people smart enough to break the "code"? Again, I am not saying that us netties are the smartest bunch, but you would thing that after 2 years on the Net, someone should have broken at least one ad. None have been broken, which leads me to believe that they *weren't meant to*. If it's not a secret code (see above) and if it's not a purposedly public code, what could it be?

It could be the work of a lone, disturbed individual. But the pattern doesn't support that: 40 years is a long lifespan for someone disturbed enough to pursue this this maniacally (assuming he/she had to be at least 20 to be literate enough in this wide a range of subjects; the ads have been running since at least 1981).

So, if a lone gunman is ruled out (I think so) and the messages are ruled out as crypto (ditto), what could it be?

My bet? Frat initiation/treasure hunt. It could be something as stupid as "find the obscure reference in the ad, check out the book from the library, and you will find the next clue in the page". It could be something more involved that would include a "private" cipher book. It could just be a stupid pointless tradition for new frat boys to come up with weird quotes and put them in the school paper.

The pattern is way more supportive of this theory: as the years pass the ads got bigger (new frat class tries to out-do older brothers), more complex (ditto) and techier (which actually weakens the lone gunman theory even more; people don't get *more* into technology as they age). Plus: "The Freaks?" please... and "The Orphanage"? what better metaphor for a frat than that?

I am betting some frat geeks somewhere are having a good laugh with this website... cool prank though :-)
posted by costas at 1:52 PM on May 10, 2001


Maybe it's performance art.
posted by jpoulos at 2:00 PM on May 10, 2001


Mmm...I think it's a bunch of older folks who are trying to get college kids to actually learn something during their university years.

Ancient languages, obscure references, mathmatics....I'm hooked.
posted by jennak at 2:21 PM on May 10, 2001


as i've mentioned before, i've read all of the ads. congruent with your theory, costas, the ads do seem to have stylistic shifts that would suggest new composers, but not nearly as frequently as every year. more like every 5-8 years.

one major downfall of your theory that frats are behind this is the cost. i didn't expect you to know this, but i looked into ad pricing at the ADW, and a full-page ad on the police beat page (the most popular and most expensive ad page, and where most of the mayday mystery ads show up) costs right around $1,000 usd. so that, plus the half-page ad that took up the opposite page next to the police beat column would have cost this year's frat right around $1,700. that's a pretty big investment for a prank. heck, for anybody putting this on.

also, i'm not aware of any greek organizations on campus with the collective ability to do this. perhaps i'll look again, though. there was a historical gaming society (club, not frat) here back in the mid-80's....

also also, the list of the freaks is fairly short. they'd have to be a very exclusive frat.
posted by carsonb at 2:38 PM on May 10, 2001


Wow, $1,700 is a lot, but I don't think it's out of the range of a frat's purse, especially if the consider it a "tradition". I mean, 10 pledges a year (lowball estimate) that's $170/pledge. Back in my college freshman days 10 yrs ago quarterly (not semester) fees for a frat were in the $500 range. So, I don't think it's impossible.

Further, a frat could throw a lot of time on this prank: 10 pledges researching an add for 2 weeks that's easily 50-man days (assuming half-day per person; they maybe frat boys but they are in college after all). The website does the "cracking" job way faster than that. The synthesis should actually be *easier*.

As for the 5-8 year timeshift. No, I think it's congruent with my frat-boys theory: I used to be an Army officer (draft, blah, blah). Our officer school had initiations/hazing/traditions very much like an American frat. We had 6 classes per year, i.e. the population of the school changed completely every 4 months (2 months the "pledges" were trained, 2 were trainers).

Yet, when I visited the school a year after I left, some of the pranks/hazes I myself invented were still around, and not very much changed either. Verbal traditions in a close-knit group like this don't change as easily as you may think. To me, a 5-8 year shift means that the actual people behind it change at least twice as fast, i.e. 3-4 years.

Further, to bolster my theory some more: none of the stuff I saw is original text. I am Greek, so I follow the Greek references pretty well (no Greek/frat boy jokes, please...) and the style and language is archaic. The stuff is lifted off a textbook/reference book, it's not a rendering by an expert on the language or has a new spin at all. Even the Greek fonts on the newer ads are old and probably xeroxed from a book and photoshoped. Typical copy-cat work, not the work of some mastermind(s).

Finally, one question carsonb: you go to UAZ, the webmaster of the site works for the school paper. Why hasn't anybody "followed the money" as the Watergate saying goes? Somone must have paid for these ads, and at $1,000 a pop I am guessing not in cash either. Come on, the name is probably sitting in an Access DB a PC over, don't give me any privacy excuses :-)...
posted by costas at 3:26 PM on May 10, 2001 [1 favorite]


Here here, costas! Or is it "hear hear"? carsonb: It's time for social engineering, the most effective decryption tool of all!
posted by whuppy at 4:18 PM on May 10, 2001


well, hance (the webmaster) says he wants to 'play' the game and figure it out without any 'social engineering.' i've tried getting the money info, but ADW is really close-lipped about that sort of thing. i've even hung out in the newspaper office a few days before the first of the month to see what/who i could see.

and as much as i'd like to think it's really something special or even just what jennak suggested, i can see the possibility of what you suggest, costas....then i look next door and see my neighbor's paddle, woodburned with SAE, and i reconsider.
posted by carsonb at 12:38 AM on May 11, 2001


Alrighty then, who's up for a black bag job?
posted by whuppy at 6:24 AM on May 11, 2001


It's "hear hear." Or "hear! hear!"
posted by anapestic at 6:54 AM on May 11, 2001


I think the frat theory is good, but I have a hard time picturing the U of A frats (not to generalize about frats) doing anything too clever. What about a campus organization that is full of fairly bright people, that needs to foster its own little subculture, like, say, a student run daily newspaper?
posted by eckeric at 11:20 AM on May 11, 2001


eckeric: yet another interesting idea, but it would implicate hance. based on what i've seen and heard personally, i don't think he could have been a part of this, and i don't think he could have been kept out of the loop while he worked at ADW.
posted by carsonb at 12:54 PM on May 11, 2001


I've looked at a few of these and they bear a great deal of resemblance in form , content, and structure to some disinfotainment projects that I have worked on myself. It looks clear to me to be just this...
I discount the argument that no one would fork out a thousand bucks a year for an art project...I myself spend at least three times that amount in art supplies annually, noit always with any return in mind. It may be more difficult for college folks to understand just what disposable income is all about... why, many people spend that much in car insurance!
It doesn't take more than minor brilliance and a little dash of high weirdness to come up with stuff like this, especially if you grew up in an environment of mysticism and academia. And remember that when you're dealing with this kind of information , even semi-random samplings of quotations are likely to develop what seem like enticingly deliberate interconnectivity.
posted by half-seraphim at 1:12 PM on May 11, 2001 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of the whole Bible Code mess. A friend of mine gave me the book to read and I thought it was pretty funny how it got this journalist all worked up.

It's being milked by Hollywood in the form of The Omega Code. Check out the review they post, "Accurate Biblical Drama." ummm, yeah.

Yes, they are working on the sequel, Megiddo: Omega Code 2.

It also reminds me of all those books that are puzzle contests for money, etc. I think Hollywood sorta tipped their hat to them with Mercury Rising. Autistic boy cracks nigh impossible code in puzzle book and Bruce Willis has to protect him. Ummm, yeah.
posted by john at 1:58 PM on May 11, 2001


Yeah, good point Carson. Ah well. It is a fun site no matter what the story. Thanks for posting it. I am just glad that weirdness factor in Tucson is still pretty high. For a while I was worried that we were becoming a boring sports riot town.
posted by eckeric at 4:28 PM on May 11, 2001


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