Unresolved: Down the Rabbit Hole of Cicada 3301

Previously: The Man from Taured.

On January 4, 2012, an image appeared on 4chan’s /x/board. This in and of itself is not unusual; after all, the exchange of content is what 4chan is primarily for. But this image was different. Consisting of white text on a black background, the image confronted readers with the following message:

“Hello. We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test.

“There is a message hidden in this image.

“Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through.

“Good luck.”

It was signed simply “3301” —  with the “we” it referred to being the group that would eventually become known as Cicada 3301.

And with that, the race was on. Code breakers, programmers, puzzle solvers, and more from all over the world began hunting furiously for the answer to the puzzle, only to have it go far deeper than any of them likely realized it ever would.

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The Most Dangerous Games: The Apex

dark woodsPreviously: The Knockertell.

By request of TGIMM reader Kai: Created by someone going by the name NeveRsLeePwitHme, The Apex is more or less a variation on hide and seek — although the stakes are somewhat higher than they are in games like, say, One-Man Hide and Seek. It’s a long one, and it’s best not attempted unless you are in possession of a certain set of survival skills. I’m unclear on exactly what the Apex is; we know it’s a hunter, and we know it lives in the woods — but given that the definition of an apex is, variously, “the uppermost point,” “the narrowed or pointed end,” or “the highest or culminating point”… well, what exactly is this hunter the apex of?

Although there’s also the whole idea of the apex predator, so, y’know, do with that what you will.

As for how you win, maybe this will be useful: In game theory, there’s a pursuit-evasion game called the Princess and Monster Game. In the basic set-up, the Princess and the Monster are thrown together into a dark room (meaning they cannot see each other); the object of the game is for the Princess to evade capture for a certain period of time. If the Princess is to survive, her best strategy is to move to a random position in the room, stay there for the optimal period of time, move to another position in the room, and repeat the process until time is up.

The trick, of course, is figuring out what that optimal period of time is — while also remembering that the Monster has a winning strategy up its sleeve, too.

As always, play at your own risk.

Players:

  • At least two participants. Your partner(s) should be people you trust beyond any doubt.

Requirements:

Creepypasta of the Week: “Are You Still There? (Chatroom)”

keyboard and mouse

Previously: “Satellite Images.”

Like “Annie96 Is Typing…”, “Are You Still There?” takes place primarily in the format of an online chat. Unlike “Annie96,” however, “Are You Still There?” hearkens back to the early days of the Internet — before WhatsApp and its ilk existed and when ICQ, AOL, and the types of IRC those two programs facilitated reigned supreme.

The thing with old school IRC is that the conversation was entirely composed of text. Webcams were rare, and the typing awareness indicator hadn’t yet become a fixture of digital communication. If someone went silent, there was no way of knowing where they went or when they would come back.

…Or if they would ever come back. 

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Haunted Road Trip: The Morgan-Monroe State Forest, Stepp Cemetery, And The Lady in Black Of Bloomington, Indiana

Stepp cemetery

Previously: Mount Misery Road and Sweet Hollow Road.

In the Morgan-Monroe State Forest just north of Bloomington, Indiana, there lies a small cemetery. It’s not uncommon to find old burial grounds deep in the woods, or even in state forests; the Jennings State Forest in Florida, for example, has not one, not two, but four cemeteries within its nearly 24,000-acre grounds. But although cemeteries are often found in the forest, and although many cemeteries have at least one spooky story associated with them — I suspect it has something to do with our fundamental need to explain death to ourselves — you’d likely pass right by Stepp Cemetery if you didn’t know about it. Like the Jennings State Forest, Morgan-Monroe covers 24,000 acres, but Stepp Cemetery itself houses a mere 32 graves. Those 32 graves, though? They’re not quiet. In fact, according to the legends, they’re downright chatty.

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A New Look

Hey gang,

 

As you may have noticed, The Ghost in My Machine is looking a little different as of today — I’m toying around with a new theme, so bear with me while I get all the formatting sorted out. Can’t find something? Everything that was on the site prior to the theme update is still there (I promise!); some of it is just in a slightly different location. You can find the old sidebar, “About” information, and so on, for example, by clicking the menu icon in the upper right hand corner.

 

Thoughts? Questions? Other observations or musings on the meaning of life? Leave it in the comments!

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Abandoned: The Skeletal Remains Of Williams Grove Amusement Park, Mechanicsburg, PA (Photos)

dfirecop/Flickr
dfirecop/Flickr

Previously: Kings Park Psychiatric Center.

There’s something about abandoned amusement parks that I always find particularly arresting. Maybe it’s knowing that thousands of people once passed through their gates, each one walking away with their own stories to tell about the adventures they had inside. There’s also something especially melancholy about a place that existed solely for the purpose of having fun being left to rot: Once full of laughter and bursting at the seams with happy shouts, they now sit in silence as nature reclaims its territory. Such is the case with the Williams Grove Amusement Park, located just outside Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: For the past decade, its remains have slowly decayed, becoming more and more overgrown with each passing year.

Williams Grove Amusement Park has quite a long-standing history, with its origins dating all the way back to 1850. The Williams family, who lived near Mechanicsburg at the time, began hosting picnics in the grove — which, over the years, led to the site growing into the Mechanicsburg Fairgrounds. The Williams family didn’t maintain ownership over the grove and fairground during its entire history; indeed, the property changed hands several times, with the first rides appearing in 1928 courtesy of its then-owners. The park functioned on a pay-per-ride basis for some time, with the opening of the Williams Grove Speedway adjacent to it in the late 1930s making the area quite the vacation destination.

In 1972, the park was purchased for $1.2 million by Morgan Hughes, an Irishman who had served in the Second World War with the British Army’s Royal Irish Fusiliers. Under Hughes’ management, the park acquired additional rides, many of which had been relocated from the recently-closed Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, of course; Williams Grove had its share of trials, including suffering terrible damage after Hurricane Agnes hit just after Hughes purchased in 1972. But Hughes rebuilt, with the park remaining in operation as a family-oriented attraction for over 30 more years.

In 2005, though, Hughes closed the Williams Grove Amusement Park, deciding instead to focus on the nearby speedway. Following the park’s closure, Hughes attempted to find a buyer—but unfortunately, he was unable to do so, and eventually most of the rides were auctioned off. Many were relocated; the steel Wildcat roller coaster, for example, which had originally gone up in the 1980s, found a home at Adventure Park USA in New Market, Maryland. Relocation is a common practice in the amusement industry, but even so, it’s still comforting to know that bits of these once-loved destinations often gain second and even third lives elsewhere. Morgan Hughes himself passed away in his sleep on April 12, 2008 at the age of 88.

Although the Williams Grove Speedway is still alive and kicking, little remains of the amusement park next door. What wasn’t sold has been stripped or vandalized, with nature taking care of the rest. The wooden Cyclone roller coaster still stands, though, and a flea market takes up residence at Steam Engine Hill on Sunday mornings in season. All is not lost, perhaps — although much of once made the place special is now relegated only to memory.

But sometimes memories are the only things that matter in the end — so at least there’s that.

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