In all the seas, in all the world, there has never been a land quite like the isle of Eroda.

Starting in late November, the Eroda Tourism Board started running ads on social media inviting users to check out Unfortunately, both website and advertisements failed to provide any information on where to find the remote island, leading a curious Twitter user to share a tweet that launched a firestorm of speculation:

After clicking on the ad, Austin was introduced to a fairly sparse description of Eroda: according to the website, Eroda was an isle comprised of four quaint fishing villages. At first glance, everything seems normal with the slightly outdated tourist page. Each village is home to its own unique guest accommodations, making it easier to visit a brief list of local businesses and attractions. But something was clearly…off about the isle of Eroda. When describing the Fisherman’s Pub, the Tourism Board warns prospective visitors “don’t mention a pig in the pub”, while the Eroda Ferry description is paired with text reminding tourists to “avoid leaving Eroda on odd numbered days.” And while describing the island’s Fishing Charters, seafarers are told that, “for extra good luck, make sure you wear one gold earring”. A peculiarly superstitious island, at best. To say nothing of the peculiar fact that Eroda is ADORE spelled backwards.

The tourist bureau’s website also seemed a little fishy. Despite actively running multi-lingual ad campaigns for Visit Eroda across its Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles, the website made no mention of any of its social platforms on the website. The site also built out sponsored ad units, advertising itself. Even stranger, nothing on the site invited visitors to do anything.

And so, the internet was provided a tantalizing mystery: someone was paying money to advertise a fictional island, but didn’t give visitors any indication about what to do with that knowledge. And it blew up. At the time of this article, Austin’s initial tweet has been shared over 12K times, 84K people followed the Visit Eroda Twitter account, two thousand people followed the r/Eroda subreddit, and a thousand people joined the Eroda ARG Discord server to try and figure out what was going on.

LOST on Another Island: JJ Abrams, the Mystery Box, and the Undeniable Allure of Infinite Possibility
Over a decade ago, the internet was fixated on another mysterious island, and the numbers 4 8 15 16 23 42. LOST was halfway through its third season, and showrunner JJ Abrams gave a TED Talk on his philosophy towards storytelling, The Mystery Box. In it, he tells a story.

When Abrams was a child, he went to Lou Tannen’s magic shop in midtown New York City, and bought Tannen’s Mystery Magic Box: a $15 box (now $25) containing $50 worth of magic. To this day, Abrams has never opened the box. In the talk, he explains how the box as it stands “represents infinite possibility. It represents hope. It represents potential…[and] I started to think that maybe mystery is greater than knowledge.”

A major element of Eroda’s allure in those first few days was the infinite possibility the fictional island provided. Could Eroda be a horror ARG, introducing a remote isle of superstitious townsfolk as an immersive version of The Wicker Man? Maybe…there’s enough evidence to support it. Or maybe the source material is Brigadoon, and the 2004 copyright date paired with warnings about travelling on specific dates is a sign the island is out of phase with our reality. The immersive production company Punchdrunk is working on a television show starring Jude Law where he plays a man “who is drawn to a mysterious island off the British coast and is confronted with his past as reality and fantasy become blurred.” Or maybe it could be tied to an upcoming indie game called Adore.

Thanks to Visit Eroda’s focus on introducing the setting of the fictional world, all were very real possibilities, supported by scant evidence. And so, for a time, Eroda could be everything to everyone. And that scope of infinite possibility extended to the nature of interaction with the fictional isle, as well. Was the site a puzzle to be solved? The inclusion of a page on the site that offered high resolution files of Eroda’s map in both JPG and PDF formats was curious. Or maybe this was a challenge of social engineering or role-playing to extract information…after all, whoever was behind the project was actively paying to promote those channels.

The Rules of Engagement Clarify, But the Mystery Deepens
Over the past week fans of Eroda started to uncover a few tidbits about the remote isle, but gained a much better sense of the rules of engagement for the experience. Every day or two, the website would update with new features or information. One day, the Attractions page gained a handful of new featured locations, along with broken links to Weather Channel and Movie Schedule pages. On another day, the entire site was replaced with the site’s signature 404 page. One day might see the introduction of a scrolling ticker tape newsfeed to the top of the site, while another added the word “peculiar” to almost every attraction description.

Social posts would periodically introduce their own twists: a tweet with a broken link advertising Eroda’s merch store might be relatively straightforward, while a subsequent tweet claiming Eroda is “perpetually cloudy” explains why the Weather Service link might be broken. But then a seemingly innocuous tweet of Eroda travel brochures in a bookstore led to some very surprised fans reporting multi-lingual brochure sightings in New York City and Paris, closely mirroring the site’s content in trifold. The Twitter account even seems to have confirmed reports of television ads for Eroda airing.

Accordingly, players fell into a rhythm. Monitor social channels for updates, flag site changes, and theorize about what it all could mean. A few moments broke that rhythm: one such moment was when the tweet about physical brochures went up, aspiring tourists had to puzzle out if there was any information narrowing down the location on where they might be hiding. In New York City, scattered sightings popped up. Reported sightings placed them inside a Barnes & Noble, inside subway cars, and stuffed into newspaper stands until a copy was located. Another was just after the “last and final odd numbered day of November” in the UK, when the Twitter account changed interaction styles and started responding to people playing along through quote tweets, echoing language on the site.

One Direction For Eroda That Was A Little Unexpected
In parallel with efforts to figure out what Eroda is about and how to engage with it, players attempted to puzzle out who might be behind the experience. An early theory argued Eroda might be leading up to Harry Styles’ new album Fine Line: the third track on his upcoming album is called Adore You. The description for Fisherman’s Pub also mentions it’s on “the corner of Cherry Street and Golden Way” – curiously, Golden is the first song on the album while Cherry is the fifth, neatly bookending Adore You.

While this made for an interesting theory, more dispositive evidence emerged as fans dug into the details of the ad campaigns themselves: as Andy Baio reports, Down in the Pit Magazine’s executive producer checked an Eroda ad using Facebook’s “Why am I seeing this ad” tool on video, revealing he was retargeted for previously visiting – something that’s only possible if the owner of the Facebook Page taking out ads installed a retargeting pixel on that page.

This evidence was enough to convince Burger King’s Twitter team (who stans), but it took leaked footage of a trailer shown in Scottish cinemas featuring Harry Styles to seal the deal just in time for the trailer’s digital debut yesterday, linked within the “Movie Theater” section on Visit Eroda’s website and shared on social channels.

The trailer alone is just shy of three minutes, and confirms the full Adore You video will release December 6th.

The Danger and Allure of Infinite Possibility
“I got an ad for a place that doesn’t exist” is an exceptionally compelling internet mystery, especially when there’s evidence of an ad budget to support it. And because so little information was provided, the act of dreaming up plausible possibilities was a key element of gameplay for Eroda. Even now when the Harry Styles connection is confirmed, so little is known about the narrative of Adore You that the next few days will be a flurry of imagination, fitting the clues collected into visions of things to come.

And that’s a natural part of fandom: for both alternate reality games and many other passions. The danger lies in riding the high of uncertain potentials without giving viewers, players, or fans some certainty to grasp onto…some thematic, narrative, or experiential points of certainty to confidently say “I like this known quantity enough that I’m willing to gamble on a little disappointment with the elements of mystery, even if it doesn’t live up to the expectations built up in my head.”

That delicate balancing act is what has happily seen me through high fantasy LARP/megagaming, a Vampire: the Masquerade-themed dating site, a tween-targeted office comedy, a multi-lingual McDonalds game for the Olympics, puzzle hunts, modern day Jane Austen adaptations, and cult initiations without batting an eye. Firmly established elements of each project had me intrigued enough to make me eager to rush deeper into the mystery. It’s the act of going on a blind date with a book, knowing only the vaguest of descriptions and the relative certainty that you’re in for a book-like experience.

Eroda gave away surprisingly little at first, but the narrative seeds dropped in the recent trailer paired with the past week’s worth of worldbuilding left me excited to see what Friday’s Adore You release will be, and hopeful enough to risk imagining endless possibilities. Will Eroda extend past the music video debut and into the Fine Line release and tour? Who knows. But wouldn’t that be something…

To see for yourself, check out, follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and keep an eye out for stray travel brochures and commercials. To check out the community, follow the r/Eroda subreddit and join the Discord.