Mysterious Package Company

With the trends of Ebay and dark web mystery boxes swarming the internet, I think it’s best to pay for something that you know won’t rip you off and still give you that creepy or cryptic box you’re looking for.  If you’re aching for that mystery box, I don’t think you can go wrong with the Mysterious Package Company.  This is arguably the company that got me interested in packaged mysteries in the first place.  I couldn’t always afford them, but I always kept them in the back of my mind for someday.  When I first discovered them, I filled out the membership form and they asked for my blood type.  Why would they need my blood type?  Could they be vampires or some crazy cult?  What am I getting myself into?  There was also little to no information on the internet.  No spoilers or pictures of what could possibly be in the package.  Nowadays you can unfortunately, from people that broke their pledges.  Shame, shame.  It was bound to happen eventually though so I will review the two boxes I’ve received so far with only light spoilers.  If you want spoiler-free, you’ll have to just go buy a box without looking up anything about it. 

The Weeping Book came in a box that contained a wooden crate.  It would be awesome if they could just send the wooden crate but I’m sure that would get destroyed by the post office.  Your first decision is how the heck do I open this thing.  I have a small hammer and quickly got to work removing the four nails keeping the secrets held inside.  I like the crate, but it is made from a cheap composite wood so getting the lid off without cracking it is a challenge.  Worst case you could always glue it back together if you want to keep it.  Once inside, there was an old looking book wedged into the smaller box.  It was all very mysterious as promised and I dove into the contents as fast as I could.

Now the original premise behind these boxes is that you could send them to an unsuspected friend or family member.  Hopefully someone that won’t just throw it away or call the police when receiving scary looking packages.  Every experience is different and can include one to four separate mailings and packages.  The last package is always a brilliantly crafted item that ties the story together and acts as the climax and keepsake for the experience.  They would then receive a reveal letter explaining that it was all fake and everything was sent to you by *insert name here*.  Everyone laughs and hopefully no police were called.  The experiences range anywhere from $100 to $350, so if you had a friend willing to put up that amount of cash for you, you must have generous friends.  I’m still cheap so the two experiences I’ve tried so far were the $100 each.

The entire story for the Weeping Book is contained within the book as a journal.  The journal is well -written and seems like it could have been written by a young boy.  He accounts his recent move to England and everything starts going down hill from there.  The book feels old and looks as though it’s been crammed into this crate for a while.  The journal looks hand-written although it is missing the indentations that you might see in a real journal.  There are creepy images and cryptic letters sparsely sketched throughout.  There is also a witch medallion tied to the front of the book and its silhouette has been burned into the front of the cover.  The medallion itself is a light, cheap metal with a symbol and cryptic letters etched into it.  The story took me roughly one hour to read through and ended with vaguely typical to most horror stories.

Mysterious Package Company – Buried Puppet

The Buried Puppet came in a nearly identical crate with the same issue of opening the lid without cracking the wood.  Inside was some magazine pages to protect the contents which came from a horror movie review magazine.  This is one of the best product placements I’ve ever seen.  Also contained within were a composition notebook, a library card, and the broken pieces to an inhaler.  Of course, giving me a big happy smile was the buried puppet himself, Mr. Bellylaugh.

The puppet itself walks the line between being creepy and cute.  I won’t show any pictures because I think not knowing is half the fun.  He is a high-quality puppet made with nice sturdy material.  His clothing is a weaved cotton, face made of felt, and hair made of yarn.  They did an amazing job of making Mr. Bellylaugh look a bit aged and without actually making it dirty.  I would have immediately been turned away from it if it had dirt or stains all over it.  I knew I had to put my hand in the puppet, but the idea gave me anxiety as though spikes might clamp down around my wrist.  I guess I would be cool with having to chop my hand in case it got possessed to become Ash from the Evil Dead series.  My only complaint of Mr. Bellylaugh is that his mouth was made a little too stiff and so moving it is difficult with one hand.  I’ve had him for a couple of weeks now and so far nothing crazy has happened in my house.  Although I could have sworn I put him on the fireplace mantle and now he’s looking at me from the kitchen counter.  Nah, I probably moved him and forgot. 

The story is written in a composition journal and again looks hand-written.  This story is also about a young boy, but it is written by the character as a young adult.  For this reason, I thought the story was much better than Weeping Book.  As a confession, the writer was able to present the story in a more entertaining way rather than a slow blow-by-blow journal.  The writer is also witty if not a little crazy.  There are also sketches throughout this book that are simple but so animated.  They look like the initial sketches to a comic book before its ready for ink and coloring.  There are additional articles to read on a website for the library where the story takes place.  This was also executed perfectly and brought the story off the pages and into the real world.  Once again there was roughly one hour of content in the story.

Each box contains a single puzzle which is a cipher.  The cipher for the Weeping Book is obvious although difficult to figure out.  I’ve seen that type before, but it has an extra layer to it that will really wrinkle your brain trying to figure it out.  Be warned though because I searched for a hint and accidentally spoiled it for myself.  Once you figure it out, there’s no turning back.  The cipher for the Buried Puppet was much easier but a little better hidden than the Weeping Book.  I didn’t even notice it the first time going through the journal, although after knowing what to look for I found it with ease. 

Because these boxes are designed to be realistic and not look remotely like a game, it can be difficult to know when you’ve discovered everything.  I still have no clue if there might be an additional secret or two in each box.  There is nothing telling you the solutions beyond asking for help from others on the internet.  If the internet hasn’t found it though, there’s nothing else to show you the solutions.  I believe there is nothing beyond the initial story and solving the cipher, but I could be wrong.

If you’re a fan of horror and mysteries, this company is something you will want to check out.  They’ve had trouble with their quality control the last year or so, but I believe they are working hard to turn that around and put out good stories.  They can be expensive, but if you have the funds I think it’s worth the money.  If you’re a generous friend or family member, I am super curious about what someone’s reaction would be if they had no clue about this company.  I would love to hear all about it, especially if something funny happens.  They’ve also recently updated their website to include spoilers and non-spoiler descriptions of boxes before you pull the trigger on your purchase.  Some of us just can’t buy something so expensive without knowing that we will get our value.  If you receive a mysterious package at the door, OPEN IT!  I’m sorry if it turns out to be something not from the Mysterious Package Company though.  Never leave a mysterious package unopened!

-J.C. Mystery Detective

House of Leaves

The House of Leaves can easily be described as more of an experience than just a written story. This book was written by Mark Z. Danielewski and compiled by Johnny Truant and edited by The Editors and written by Zampano about a documentary film by Navidson. It also has a companion music album by Poe called Haunted. Poe is Mark’s sister and they simultaneously wrote their respective works influencing each other rather than either being the original art.

In my opinion this book has been mislabeled as a horror and some claim it’s the scariest book they’ve ever read. The story has some horror elements in it for sure, but the type of horror would be better described as cosmic or existential horror. Not really meant to shock you or get your heart pounding but can keep you up at night as you ponder the big questions in life like “What did I just read?” “Am I too going mad.”

The bulk of the story is focused on what is called The Navidson Record. Its author was a blind man named Zampano who has written hundreds of pages of content fully analyzing a documentary that apparently does not exist. These pages were discovered by a tattoo artist named Johnny Truant after Zampano’s death. Johnny felt the need to compile this record and get it published.

The Navidson Record itself is about a man named Navidson and his family moving into a new home. Navidson is a prize-winning, world-traveling photography but has decided to settle down in order to save his marriage to his wife Karen. He begins filming everything in the house with installed video cameras in order to document his life as a way to adjusts to his new lifestyle. He becomes obsessed with measuring the home when he notices an odd discrepancy where he believes the inside of the home is bigger than the outside by 1/4 inch. From there things spiral as a new closet forms and eventually a whole labyrinth is discovered under the house.

Zampano describes all of this in a type of review or blow-by-blow commentary. He supplements the text with his opinions on things, reviews from other notable authors, how the public treated Karen after the first showings, textbook descriptions on echoes and light. He also meticulously credits anything and everything in the footnotes sometime listing pages upon pages of people’s names, important places, styles of architecture. Johnny also adds his own journal in these footnotes going on for multiple pages about his random sexual exploitations and how the story is slowly driving him mad. When you think you’ve finished the book, there’s nearly two hundred pages in the appendices including multimedia images, poems, and most importantly, several letters from Johnny’s mother to Johnny. In these letters she desperately seeks a relationship with Johnny from a mental hospital known as The Three Attic Whalestoe Institute.

Phew, just briefly describing the plots in this book can become it’s own novel. But the reason I wanted to bring attention to it is, of course, the secret messages! This book is completely packed full of hidden messages, codes, Easter eggs, hints. There’s braille, Morse code, different languages, different fonts, different colors. There’s meaning and thought behind everything written. Even the formatting is designed to make you feel a certain way and read a certain way as you turn the book back and forth or feverishly flip through several pages that only contain a few words.

A few examples I’ve found include using the paragraphs in a 3 long, 3 short, 3 long format to spell out S-O-S in Morse code. That’s one of the easy ones though as it literally tells you S-O-S in several ways in that chapter. In her letters to Johnny, the mother doesn’t trust her caretakers in properly sending out her mail so she describes to Johnny a few techniques she will use to send him messages in coded form. Applying these same methods into the footnotes and Johnny’s stories can turn out some interesting messages. Taking the first letters of each footnote will occasionally spell out the authors name Mark Z. Danielewski. On page 64, the footnote starts a list of photographers that Zampano wanted to credit. Taking the first letter of the surnames revealed “A LONG LIST…” followed by some gibberish and a few other messages. There are tons of forums online of people intent on finding all of these codes if you want to find more.

When I discovered this last code however, it gave me pause to continue looking for any more hidden messages. There are secrets sprinkled literally everywhere throughout the book, but it’s almost treated like a joke or to provide an endless amount of information to distract from the point. So what is the point? I believe that the mountain of information you receive and the never-ending codes you can find are meant to create its own labyrinth to the reader.

In the Navidson Record, Navidson goes on many expeditions into the maze beneath his home and ultimately finds nothing. There’s almost no point to it as he attempts to travel farther and farther into the abyss that provides him no answers to its existence. I believe the codes and information are meant to create the same feeling in the reader. Perhaps even provide a sense of horror that there might be some earth-shattering information you can get out of the hidden messages if you just keep searching for it. Maybe find the mystery as to who the true author might be, or the reason behind it all. It just isn’t there. The more time you spend looking for it the closer you get to the frenzied feeling that Navidson feels just hoping to find a reason behind it all. This is backed up by the myth of Perseus and the Minotaur being completely stricken out but still readable, because this is not that story. I’m not saying this book it irrelevant or meaningless, but sometimes you just have to take something at face value.

There is a 9-day challenge where you force yourself to read nearly 700 pages in that time. I think this could be beneficial for your first time going through this monster. There’s a lot of book here but don’t be intimidated as some of the sections can go by quickly. Such as just glancing over the long lists provided instead of reading every word and the nearly 100 pages with barely any text at all. Whatever you do, do not skip the appendices. They aren’t just there to look pretty and add pages. They completely change the story depending on the angle you take. Never leave a house unsolved!

-J.C. Mystery Detective