This disturbing YouTube video has been viewed millions of times, and it’s not hard to see why. Indeed, it’s strangely captivating not only because of the shadowy masked figure, the abandoned setting and the creepy soundtrack, but also because of the encoded messages hidden within.
The creepy black-and-white video opens with a man wearing a hooded cloak and what appears to be a medieval plague doctor mask covering his face. As the mysterious figure stands inside a dilapidated building, a forest can be seen through a window in the background.
Accompanied by a grating, otherworldly cacophony of a soundtrack, the man seems to be conveying messages with his hands. Certainly, he appears to make an Illuminati sign, and he points at the camera before activating a sequence of blinking lights on his glove. Various symbols and lines of code, including Morse code, are also briefly shown throughout the video.
The frighteningly hypnotic video caught the public imagination when John-Erik Krahbichler — creator of Swedish technology blog GadgetZZ — posted it online on October 12, 2015, along with a backstory of how it came into his possession. In fact, Krahbichler explained that he received the video on a DVD mailed from Poland.
As Krahbichler described in his online post, he soon realized that the whole thing was some sort of elaborate puzzle. And, to go along with the messages in the video, the DVD itself had two lines of letters and numbers written on it.
Krahbichler said that he uploaded the clip in order to get help deciphering it. He was in luck because the online community was clearly just as interested in understanding the strange film as he was, as evidenced by Krahbichler’s story accumulating almost 1,000 comments over a seven-month period.
The first major breakthrough came on October 14, when Krahbichler posted the video on Reddit’s /r/creepy subreddit. The community was quick to decipher several messages, starting with the code written on the DVD.
Reddit user deisidiamonia realized that the message on the DVD was a line of base 64 code, a method of encoding binary into text. He was able to translate the message into “11B-X-1371,” which soon became the official name for the disturbing video.
The redditors also managed to uncover several disturbing images from the video using a spectrogram to visually represent the audio. One of the images contained the message “You are already dead,” while another showed a human skull with strange characters and code surrounding it.
Yet another community member took screenshots of all the secret codes and messages briefly shown throughout the video. These included numbers and words as well as various symbols and shapes, such as this rotating triangle.
Although some of the messages the enthusiasts eventually deciphered looked like gibberish, others had very real meaning. One of these, for instance, was decoded as, “Kill the president,” while another message hidden as an audio track read, “We are the antivirus.”
The online enthusiasts also figured out where the film was shot – the abandoned Zofiówka Sanatorium in the small town of Otwock, Poland. The facility, which opened in the early 20th century, was used to house mental patients until it closed in the 1990s.
But the strange story was only just beginning to unravel its secrets. For one, it soon became apparent that Krahbichler was not the first person to have posted the video online.
As it turns out, it was first posted online on May 9, 2015 — five months before Krahbichler received the DVD — with the strange binary code title “01101101 01110101 01100101 01110010 01110100 01100101,” and a similar line of code in the video description. It was submitted as the only video of the Spanish YouTuber aetbx.
However, further investigation by major news organizations, such as the Washington Post, revealed that the Spanish man who posted this video was not the creator. Although he claimed that the video was emailed to him by an anonymous girl who found it on a bench, it appears that he actually discovered it on the image board 4chan.org.
The online investigators also managed to connect the coded title from the DVD – “11B-X-1371” – to yet another identical video posted on YouTube. It was uploaded by the YouTuber Parker Wright two weeks before Krahbichler, and it was his only video at the time.
Finally, a month and a half after Krahbichler launched the investigation, a man with the pseudonym Parker Warner Wright announced on social media that he was the video’s creator. He also provided proof, which included photos of the mask, robe, and gloves used in the video, as well as photos of the DVDs he mailed out.
But the most compelling piece of evidence was a follow-up video titled “11B 3 1369,” which was uploaded to the Parker Wright YouTube channel on December 31, 2015. The video is similar to the first, with one major exception – it features a masked woman in a nightgown alongside the plague mask character.
Parker Wright describes himself as a politicized artist who used the videos to send a message. As he responded to one of his fans, “People need to wake up to the rest of the world, and what is going on. There is a virus of ignorance, and the media propagating it. My video should stand as evidence of that.”
Wright continues to regularly interact with fans on his Facebook page, and he has even posted a photo of himself in costume. He has said that he’s glad that people realized that his videos are not a threat of violence, but rather a way of artistic expression. He also noted that while some individuals have come close to correctly interpreting his main message, none yet have understood the meaning of his videos completely.