Last week, a series of flyers started popping up around Nashville, featuring an image of a door, alongside the suitably vague message: “ARE YOU LOOKING FOR SOMETHING? Perhaps it’s this.” The bottom of the flyer was filled with tear-off strips, all bearing the same GPS coordinates. The handful of brave and curious passerby who followed the trail were rewarded with a business card introducing them to the organization behind the experience: Mysterious Nashville.
A Little Less Mysterious: Unearthing the First Cache
On Sunday May 2nd, Eva Snyder discovered one of the flyers in Nashville, and tore off a strip with the coordinates: 36.1815368, -86.7361754. After doing a little online reconnaissance, she made a rainy day excursion to the location along with her fiancé and her extremely cute dog. Upon reaching the location, they found a lockbox near a drainage ditch, with a follow-up message: “Open the box. Take one. Leave the box.” Inside, they found a baggie filled with business cards featuring an iconic black door with an eye on it. The back side of the card had a QR code, along with the text “There are no secrets that time does not reveal”.
Around the same time, Ashley Locke received an Instagram DM from MysteriousNashville, linking her to the same GPS coordinates after opening up the conversation with two wide open eye emojis – “👁️👁️”. She made the trek out with her boyfriend, and claimed another one of the cards before posting a video of the experience. Over the next few days, more people made the trip out to a random drainage ditch in East Nashville to claim their card, and receive an invitation to whatever came next, with many of them posting their adventure to TikTok.
While the MysteriousNashville social accounts previously featured the GPS coordinates from the flyers, they have since been updated to explain “There is nothing left at the coordinates”, so this initial phase has concluded. But while the initial entry point to the experience has been taken away, the Mysterious Nashville adventure continues on…
From Mysterious Nashville to Mysterious Website
While all the flyers sent curious Nashville-area residents to the same drainage ditch, the MysteriousNashville Instagram account featured a handful of creative locations the team hid their flyers, ranging from posting them on trees to hiding one inside a little library. Over the next few days, the MysteriousNashville TikTok account expanded on that theme, hiding flyers at evocative locations like the elevator of a building, near a park bench surrounded by natural stone walls, and even behind a graffiti-covered wall behind an abandoned train car.
At the time, visitors to Mysterious Nashville‘s social accounts had nothing more to go on. But people who visited the physical location and scanned the QR code were sent to MysteriousWebsite.com. The team behind Mysterious Nashville has since expanded access to the site, replacing the GPS coordinates on their social profiles with a link to the site.
The upper left corner of the website features an image of the door from the cards, while the upper right includes a link to the Mysterious Nashville Instagram account. Dominating the screen, an animated image of concentric triangles collapse and expand, growing whiter as they fade into the background. Once the triangles fully expand, the silhouette of a man casually strides across the triangles, before repeating the loop once more. A message in small text next to the Instagram link instructs visitors to “look below the triangle”. Doing so reveals the message “Odd things are happening in Nashville”, along with a signup form for updates on future events.
Cache Me If You Can: Leadup to the Second Drop
Over the next few days, the Mysterious Nashville Instagram continued to post video updates, masking the visuals to form an iconic drip pattern across the account’s grid view. Mixed into those updates was a message, posted on May 4th: “Something is happening on 5/8. Join the email list to participate.”
And right on schedule, an email went out from Mysterious Nashville: “You have taken the first step. Should you choose to continue, do so with a sense of confusion.” Below that message was a series of instructions, telling recipients to go to a specific location, and follow the below instructions:
- Enter and pay close attention to the artwork around you. Be discreet. Be respectful. One stitched piece might seem a bit out of place. You’ll know when you’ve found what you’re looking for.
- Pick it up gently and look at the back of the frame.
- Further instructions shall make themselves apparent.
The email goes on to warn that “there are spots available for up to 100 groups/individuals in this exploration”, along with the reassurance that “if you arrive too late, worry not – this is only the beginning. There is more to come.”
Another Round of Geocaching, with a Twist
Eva Snyder’s initial video on following the trail to Mysterious Nashville has received over 4.7 million views at the time of this article. As a singer-songwriter with a new single coming out soon, she half-jokingly DMed a link to her single to “the leader of the cult I joined by accident” in response to the heightened interest in her videos.
But when Mysterious Nashville released their second set of instructions the day after her single’s release, Snyder dove back into the mystery. At the first location, she found a cross-stitched picture of a house along with the phrase “time removes all things but love and truth”…and the signature door in the corner of the painting. The back of the artwork instructed her to ask about a mysterious envelope at the counter, which provided further instructions on where to search for a geocache, which contained a QR code driving to a new location: a Google Form to fill out. Presumably, the 100 group/individual limit here is linked to the number of Mysterious Envelopes available for distribution.
Where the Doorway May Lead
It’s easy to compare Mysterious Nashville to San Francisco’s Jejune Institute. Both experiences hid fantastic experiences in seemingly mundane flyers, and seek to add a little adventure in the lives of the curious. When one commenter on Snyder’s viral TikTok noted the similarity, Mysterious Nashville even replied, “I’m honored.” Mysterious Nashville‘s tone on social is refreshingly lighthearted, with the account jokingly agreeing with a number of theories in the comments, ranging from musicians like twenty one pilots and Eddie Island to more outlandish guesses like a timeshare or underground swingers club.
But while Mysterious Nashville is creating an aesthetic overflowing with mystery and intrigue, very little has been revealed about what’s actually going on, beyond the promise: “odd things are happening in Nashville”. While The Jejune Institute was a meta exploration of secret societies wrapped in a fictional murder investigation with long, hours-long chapters, in its current form, Mysterious Nashville is a chance for the curious to embrace confusion, and just go with short adventures for adventure’s sake. And that’s not a bad thing.
What the first two installments of Mysterious Nashville most closely resembles, so far, is a deeply-themed, serial version of geocaching. Limited run caches are hidden around Nashville before getting retired for the next great adventure. Both locations required a decent amount of exploration and discovery to find the caches, with looking for what’s hidden in plain sight as a key element of design. Whether or not that expands to encompass narrative exploration as well in the coming months, Mysterious Nashville is a project to watch.
If you’re in the Nashville area, sign up for updates at MysteriousWebsite.com and follow them on Instagram and TikTok to find out what’s coming next. And if not, check out Eva Snyder’s new single Hometown as thanks for the incredible job she’s done documenting the experience on TikTok, for both the first and second caches.
I know I’ll be 👁️👁️…will you?
Updated to add: There is now a fan-run Discord server dedicated to Mysterious Nashville