“It’s a finicky technology. Just an empty wax tube with ridges cut into it as I speak. Its grooves locking in just a shadow of my voice. And hopefully, something else. Something that’s been haunting me. In more ways than one. I daren’t say it aloud yet. This will have to be enough. A mere echo of the horrors I’ve heard. The thinnest slice of reality, tinny to reality.
Such a…hollow medium.
– Lenora Bowen, Cylinder Zero
In October 1926, Prohibition-era bartender Lenora Bowen started making a series of wax cylinder recordings. Her primary goal? To document the paranormal activity she’s facing in St Augustine, and possibly even capture proof that she’s not crazy, etched in wax.
Almost a century later, an antique steamer trunk filled with Lenora Bowen’s recordings were unearthed, along with a collection of artifacts and ephemera from the time. The trunk’s custodian, operating under the whimsically appropriate name “Soul Proprietor” (S.P. for short), has started to pore through its contents, documenting them along the way on the website Hollow Medium. S.P. was even kind enough to send some people out to California’s Midsummer Scream to display the artifacts alongside gothic fashion, horror collectibles, and props for haunted attractions. S.P. eventually plans on archiving the audio recordings, to retell Lenora’s tale – however it may end.
In case the surprise Halloween convention appearance didn’t clue you in, Hollow Medium is an upcoming podcast from Granville House Productions that will release new episodes every Sunday in October, documenting Lenora Bowen’s investigations into the paranormal. But while the podcast itself is weeks away, Hollow Medium has been rolling out a few surprises for those looking to dig deeper.
Author’s Note: if you’re looking for up-to-date answers to the weekly challenges, this Google Doc is providing updates on the solutions as new Lite Brite-based puzzles launch.
Stranger Things is returning for its fourth season on May 27th, bringing back one of Netflix’s largest and longest running success stories – according to Netflix, fans have logged over a billion hours watching the series. So it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that Netflix is having a little fun with the leadup to launch through what they’ve cheekily dubbed an “interactive curiosity voyage” centered around the website I Am Hell’ s Master, launching in earnest on April 29th.
Finding Hell’s Master: Cracking Stranger Things‘ Hidden Trailer Puzzle Last week, Netflix released the official trailer for Stranger Things 4, and fans quickly noticed that amidst a flurry of extra-dimensional lightning strikes, one particular frame at the 1:59 marker showed a particularly interesting image featuring colorful bursts of energy, labeled with four additional timestamps.
Taken individually, the images found at each of the timestamps was fairly sedate: an image of Billy Hargrove’s grave, a Hellfire Club baseball tshirt, a government building in Lenora Hills, and a Dungeon Master’s screen.
However, when those two images are superimposed, a message is revealed – I AM HELL’S MASTERis legible, if you read the characters in timestamp order. Fans put together the pieces relatively quickly, and patted themselves on the back for a job unearthing extra-dimensional easter eggs, well done.
the world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes…
close but not close enough 🙃
After another round of investigations, fans put together the missing pieces and treated the solution as a URL, leading to the IAmHellsMaster.com website.
While finding the perfect frame from each timestamp might have lead to slight headaches, the construction of this puzzle was exceptionally satisfying, given Stranger Things‘ themes of overlapping layers of reality that most people blissfully ignore.
Earlier this month, Midnight Society announced their formation as a new AAA game studio founded by Robert Bowling as studio head, Quinn DelHoyo as creative director, and Dr Disrespect as “6’8″ visionary”. Part of the studio’s promise in the press release was to “[include] communities and influencers much earlier in the development process”. That process has started surprisingly soon, as Midnight Society has already launched a teaser alternate reality game for their first game, playing out across their website and Discord server. Curiously, the core of that experience is a text adventure facsimile of a first-person-shooter game, coded to play out through Discord private messages.
Trail to the Text Adventure: Glitched Tweets and Virtual Consoles On January 1st, the Midnight Society’s Twitter account posted a system error message directing players to MidnightSociety.com/Access, with the login credentials “VSM” briefly shown in a glitched GIF accompanying the tweet. At the time, logging in with those credentials would open up a virtual console and start to download a series of files, before the console crashes and reboots to try again. Every night so far, the console manages to advance a little bit closer to loading “Midnight Protocol”, adding more and more modules like security footage from a facility’s sectors and mission logs.
Around the same time, Midnight Society opened up a Discord server, and gave members the choice to select the “Claws” role, granting access to ARG-related channels in the Discord. Players noticed that commands from the virtual console worked in these channels, and used the M:\Verify command to start receiving direct messages from the Midnight Protocol Discord bot, which requested a password. Using clues from the virtual console (which noted that the passcode format would be #####XXXXXX), players figured out the password was 14421PCGSPD – grabbing the numbers from the sector numbers displayed on the virtual console, and PCGSPD from the names of “watched users” in a separate popup.
This unlocked the ability for players to direct message the bot to access the M:\Access portal shown on the website, and query the console. Using command cues hinted at on the Access page paired with guesswork, players were able to map out commands, and check on what looks to be the aftermath of an FPS match involving ten players: three of them emerged victorious, and the rest were marked as “KIA – Loadout recoverable.” Through the M:\Map command, players even found an additional page on the website at MidnightSociety.com/Map, featuring annotated concept art of the facilities, including guard sight lines and potential routes.
First-Person Shooter As Text Adventure: Mapping Through Murder Finally, on January 5th, the M:\Access page showed Sector 1 as “ready”, and players were able to trigger an interactive text adventure within the sector, making key decisions by reacting to each successive text post with emojis. The goal? Survive the mission while gathering loot, while simultaneously avoiding death – too many “bad ends”, and players are locked out for the day. Loot persists across mission attempts, so players’ item loadouts grow with every successive raid.
There are multiple valid routes to complete sector 1. Two in particular stand out for allowing players to collect “Visor Cortexes” from Nikolai and LordsofKarma, two of the players labeled “KIA – Loadout recoverable” in the virtual console. So while the text adventure so far is something that can be played solo, risking virtual death to map out each sector as a collective may help players piece together the broader mystery.
Midnight Society has maintained an aggressive daily update schedule since the game launched with updates at 12AM PST (a potential nod to the Midnight Society’s @12AM Twitter handle), and signs point to that pace continuing through the month of January – typing in the command M:\12AM into the portal notes that “31 total moments [match] the start time of 00:00:00”, before tracking the number of moments that have progressed so far.
In August 2020, Warner Bros shared the first trailer for Robert Pattinson’s debut as the caped crusader at DC FanDome. Attentive fans noticed that during that trailer, the Riddler carefully wrapped up a greeting card for Batman, posing an initial challenge: “What does a liar say when he’s dead?” The card went on to say “Haven’t a Clue? Let’s Play a Game, just Me and You…” before devolving into a series of nonsensical characters. Nonsensical, at least, until a fan decoded the script to complete the macabre puzzle: HE LIES STILL. A fun, throwaway easter egg that has since returned, launching what looks suspiciously like a new alternate reality game leading up to the March 4th release of The Batman.
Known cipher letters: EHILST
The Batman (Cipher) Returns: Finding the Rabbit Hole Last week, fans started to notice an enigmatic message at the bottom of movie standees at their local theaters. Using the letters uncovered from the prior easter egg, the message spelled out ??? ??E EL ??T? ?L???. Incredibly, fans were able to piece together the context clues to spell out YOU ARE EL RATA ALADA – a message that doubled as multi-lingual accusation of being a “winged rat”, as well as a clue to check out the URL “RataAlada.com“. At the time, visitors were greeted with a glowing green question mark, and nothing more.
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…
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.
Alien Radio: Tuning into Frequencies The Alien Radio website is relatively sparse: after advancing through a screen where the outdoor advertisements flash by in rapid progression, the website shifts into a static-filled night’s sky with a minimalistic, rotating globe in the center of the screen. Visitors’ cursors are turned into a four-pointed star, and moving it across the page “tunes in” the frequency along both X- and Y-axes to reveal multi-lingual messages, with subjects ranging from the anatomy of baseballs and advertisements for the Scottish highlands for satellite launches to excerpts from Sherlock Holmes’ Adventure of the Dancing Men and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The only area that stands out amidst the multilingual chatter: an area in the upper right corner of the screen near 95 MHz x 55 MHz, which triggers a series of tones and scrolling text at the bottom of the screen in what appears to be Baudot (International Teleprinter) code. This message, which the players have taken to calling “signal.svg”, is currently unsolved.