July 28, 2014 2:10 PM   Subscribe

In 2008, strange flyers started showing up in the streets of San Francisco. If you followed up on them, they led you to a discreet office in the financial district. Inside was the Induction Center for the Jejune Institute. Sit in the lounge chair provided, watch the induction video (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), and then…. Well…. And then things really got weird...

Would you like a better understanding of this, the Jejune Institute? Would you like to know what it really was—what was fact, what was fiction, who was paying for it and why, and what happened to people after they were inducted? Good luck.

Start here: Where Else? Explorinating Nonchalance, which provides a first-hand account of the Jejune Institute and surrounding antics/cult-related intrigue/mystery/adventure. It is long, it is complex, but at least time travel is kept to a minimum.

Then check out these photo sets on Flickr, from Everfalling, that walk you through different parts of the Jejune Institute: Act 1, Act 2, and the 4/30 Protest. (All flyer links above go to images in these sets.)

You can also read Yelp reviews from those who visited the Induction Center, as well as a quick write-up of the place at Laughing Squid.

And then you can get completely lost in the Unfiction Forum dedicated to the subject.

You may also want to check out this documentary about the whole thing: The Institute, which is available on Netflix and Amazon On Demand Video. However, it might leave you without all your questions answered. To quote the Huffington Post’s review, “if anybody reading this piece can explain the film, or the Jejune Institute, or its principles, I'd be eternally grateful.” (More: The Bold Italic interviews the filmmaker.)

Last, but certainly not least, nonchalance.com, the website for the creators behind the whole thing.
posted by meese (24 comments total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
You are shitting me. This is awesome and makes me miss SF much more than anything has in a while. I used to work with a magically entertaining guy who liked to taunt the scientologists in the tenderloin by muttering "space clam" outside their recruitment center. He had stories, real or imagined, who knew, about being followed by men in suits who wanted to keep their secrets about the intergalactic origins of scientology only for the initiated. I wonder what he's up to these days.
posted by eggkeeper at 2:22 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by Omnomnom at 2:34 PM on July 28, 2014

I really regret not doing this. I remember seeing the flyers around town (this one was my favorite), and even read a little about it online, but never went.

I saw the documentary and left it mostly confused about what was real and what wasn't. Maybe your links will answer those questions.

Oh, and just yesterday, I visited the Chapel of the Chimes because of the documentary. What a beautiful place.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:36 PM on July 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best. God. Damn. Post. Of. The. Week.
and it's only monday

That induction video is pure gold.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:39 PM on July 28, 2014

Man, I wanted to read that Start Here link but that's got to be the most unreadible, obnoxious prose style I've seen in months. I mean, damn.

Everything else is pretty great though.
posted by Itaxpica at 2:43 PM on July 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

The Sea Org should never have invited J R "Bob" Dobbs on that site tour.
posted by Devonian at 2:59 PM on July 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

That chair -- that chair! A housemate of mine had one in orange corduroy -- the preferred vehicle from which to watch Star Trek re-runs!

I doubt these new customers had that much fun, but who knows?
posted by allthinky at 3:12 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

1. The background music to the start of the induction video uses a loop based on the intro to Dead Can Dance's How Fortunate the Man With None.

2. Try to visit their center in Milwaukee.
posted by boo_radley at 3:13 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is a great bit of serendipity: I met and hung out with someone who works at Nonchalance this weekend at a Python conference. He was attempting to explain what they did to me and I hadn't heard of the Jejune Institute, so it just ended as "interactive art stuff". Now I know! Sad I missed out on this — I saw the stickers but just assumed they were from actual local crackpots.
posted by spitefulcrow at 3:17 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Walking into that random, very corporate-y office (one of my fave buildings in SF) to watch that intro video was like stepping into something from the Matrix... Very cool. Also the trek through Chinatown, something I've done dozens of times before, suddenly became something magical. One of the most memorable experiences I've had living in SF hands down.
posted by the lake is above, the water below at 3:34 PM on July 28, 2014

Clever, and apparently based on a belief that the average Joe/Joanne doesn't know the definition of "Jejune."
posted by Sassenach at 3:48 PM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

This looks creepy and awesome at the same time. Like, the exploring looks really fun, but there is no way in hell I would have responded to those ads.
posted by maryr at 3:48 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow, a cardhouse link. Awesome. (Figures.)
posted by jjwiseman at 4:01 PM on July 28, 2014

I'm hoping these flyers are somehow the same project.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:59 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

The documentation lured me out as well. It's more intriguing than the documentary, and possibly also than the institute itself. The whole Darpa / The Game vibe was immediately killed when I watched the documentary and found that it the Jejune Institute was filled with [S-P-O-I-L-E-R A-L-E-R-T] fucking hipsters.

Well, what isn't today? Except Brooklyn. Apparently.
posted by ouke at 5:29 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I did the induction (which was amazing) but didn't do the rest of it. My husband, however, got super-involved in the project and has stayed in touch with Mr. Cardhouse and others since.
posted by echolalia67 at 5:44 PM on July 28, 2014

I saw a sign for Elsewhere Public Works outside the East Bay Vivarium in 2008. Called the number. One of the options in their phone tree was "Press 4 to hear the sound of a baby chinchilla." I pressed 4 a few times. I got some other people to do that. I feel like I fell in the foot-deep rabbit hole and didn't notice the tunnel to the center of the earth a few feet away.
posted by aws17576 at 6:22 PM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nonchalance looks like it came from folks who realized "You are the slack you've been waiting for."
posted by drowsy at 6:55 PM on July 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

Reptile and I did this on our trip to SF, apparently the last summer it was around; we didn't know it was a multi-part thing, so we did it on our last day before driving down to Big Sur and then further to LA - where the Museum of Jurassic Technology bookended the trip. So while it was kind of a bummer not to do the further parts, it actually may have kept it from being disappointing. Maybe that's why I've never watched the documentary, either.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:06 PM on July 28, 2014

I'm pretty sure Eva was on that one Very Special episode of Candle Cove.

Does anyone else remember that episode?
posted by allthinky at 7:29 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

The whole Darpa / The Game vibe was immediately killed when I watched the documentary and found that it the Jejune Institute was filled with [S-P-O-I-L-E-R A-L-E-R-T] fucking hipsters.

I hate it when people younger than I with haircuts I don't understand enjoy / don't enjoy things that I don't / do enjoy.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:36 PM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

This was a really fun adventure. The guy behind it has been working on an even bigger project for over a year now. Can't wait for that to launch. Or maybe it already has and we don't even realize it...
posted by twsf at 10:37 PM on July 28, 2014

Cardhouse, who wrote the sublime 'Where Else? Explorinating Nonchalance' pieces—one of the finest attempts to describe the indescribable experience of being within an ARG—is one of MeFi's own.
posted by Hogshead at 3:45 PM on July 29, 2014

Great post - I really got sucked into this. Reminds me of what a great place the Bay Area is.

If you're interested in hearing more about the mechanics behind the experience, two of the producers gave a talk The Fool's Guide to Immersive Narrative Adventure

One fan expresses his disappointment about the ending

The story still lives on at The Elsewhere Philatelic Society
posted by Otherwise at 5:41 PM on July 29, 2014

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