Meet Harold Procter. He’s an ex-soldier, he served in Iraq, and he’s in possession of a mysterious jewel-encrusted box. Let’s just say things aren’t going terribly well for Harold.

Recently, my Twitterverse has been filled with the back-and-forth of some strange characters—a bartender in Maine, an antiques dealer, several Iraq War veterans—all from the small community of Cape Elizabeth, and all with lives intertwined by this strange, whispering box. And, when they’re not fighting each other, they’re killing themselves. Antiques dealer Jeremiah Webber committed suicide after having dinner with his daughter Suzanne and meeting a strange man that goes by the name Herod the Great. Ex-soldier Damien Patchett had been complaining about hearing voices, although no one knows what was being said. According to this newspaper article, Damien’s body was recently found on the beach, a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his head.

Then there is former sergeant Joel Tobias, who heads up some kind of smuggling operation. Joel is cold, sometimes cruel even to his “friends,” and personally gets my hackles up every time I see him tweet (which, unfortunately, is usually when I first wake up). Is he working for the shadowy Gutelieb Foundation? What about this suspicious man, Herod the Great? Where is this box that is driving everyone to suicide?

These characters are all part of a pervasive social media project called The Twisperers, an online extension of an upcoming book by bestselling thriller novelist John Connolly called The Whisperers. The protagonist is private investigator Charlie Parker, who appeared in Connolly’s first book, Every Dead Thing. The online content gives readers a snapshot of the plot of The Whisperers, and as participants interact with the novel’s characters, they reveal clues about the whispering box. According to our sources, the plot will soon escalate and lead to on-site clues in regional museums in the United Kingdom.

Commenting on the launch of the Twisperers game, author John Connolly, who is creating much of the characters’ dialogue himself, said:

There is no single character in The Whisperers who is entirely certain of what is happening, and that includes Parker himself. We flit from consciousness to consciousness, each one providing a piece of the puzzle without that individual being sure of where that piece fits into the overall picture. Bringing my characters to life across social media and inviting readers to interact with them to help solve the puzzle at the heart of the book has been a fascinating and surprising experience.

It can be difficult to keep track of so many characters, even as they are dying, so there is a Twitter aggregator for this project, which is probably the best way to get the most real-time, in-game information. Bar-owner Jimmy Jewel keeps a blog, and several of the characters including Joel Tobias’ girlfriend Karen Emory have Facebook pages. Join us in the Unfiction thread for speculation and the latest news.