A macabre video with encoded references to death, plague, and the White House has fascinated certain corners of the internet since it emerged on a DVD mailed to a Swedish tech blog last October — or maybe it was found on a park bench in Spain. At first, no one was certain. The creepy footage, starring a man in a birdlike plague doctor mask, is backed by a grating digital whine, a sure sign of an encoded image hiding in its audio track. The whole package, titled “11b-x-1371,” made for a tantalizing puzzle.
Initially, it wasn’t clear what the video was supposed to be: a viral marketing stunt? A game? A terrorist threat?
One of the video’s hidden messages, “RED LIPSLIKE TENTH,” was an anagram for “kill the president,” and the geographic coordinates of the White House were also encoded in the video, reported the Daily Dot’s Mike Wehner, a reporter who has been researching the video since its early days.
Some also worried that gruesome images concealed in the video’s soundtrack pointed to a serial killer bragging about his work. The images of killings turned out to be from slasher flicks, though, plus one from the real-life case of the Boston Strangler.
After weeks of digging, Wehner and others determined that the video was shot in Zofiówka Sanatorium, an abandoned Polish mental hospital. This made sense considering that Gadgetzz, the site that first published the video, claimed it was mailed from Poland.
Wright claims to be a U.S. citizen living in Poland, and says the U.S. government is aware of, and possibly amused by, his little puzzles. They’ve been in contact, he claims, and don’t consider him a threat.
To verify his identity and satisfy his fans’ call for more, Wright promised to release a new video on December 31. To Wehner’s surprise, Wright followed through, uploading a new puzzle called “11B 3 1369” to YouTube.
He also hid additional clues on USB drives in locations around Europe, and released their coordinates to eager seekers.
At this point, the viral marketing and terrorist threat hypotheses have been ruled out, and it’s clear what Wright is really engaged in: art — albeit a strange, very 2016, very internet brand of guerrilla art whose target demographic is 4chan’s paranormal message board, /x/.
Wright told Wehner he feels “a call from within” to expand his puzzle, and that Poland was just the beginning. “There will be other locations,” he said.