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

Omniverse Book 1 – Prologue Interview

Before, there was either puzzle books or games or novels.  Now in a dystopian future we can have all three in a new project that is live on Kickstarter.  The Omniverse Book 1 – Prologue was created by Leona Rose and is a brilliant new concept.  Like the TARDIS from Doctor Who, this novel is much bigger on the inside than it is the outside.  Leona was gracious enough to answer a few questions I had.

J.C.-Hello and thank you for taking the time today to answer some questions. Are you the creator or one of the creators for Omniverse Book 1 – Prologue and did you create it by yourself or with a team? 

Leona- Hi there. I’m Leona, creator of what is to be The Omniverse Saga. It’s a solo project for which I am writing the story and designing the games. If funding on the current Kickstarter campaign goes well I’ll be teaming up with an illustrator for additional art, but it’s a solo project for the moment.

J.C.- Will the story be like a choose your own adventure type of book with multiple endings or is there one clear ending once complete? Will the decisions you make or the pages you’ve visited affect the story in any way? 

Leona- It’s not a choose-your-own-adventure as you know it. It’s a unique new format and the adventure depends on where you start. That’s what’s really unique about Omniverse! The implications of that are that if you start locked in one level you will need to defeat a boss in a different way to if you started in a different level, and to break out of a room you will need to solve different puzzles and acquire different objects than if you were trying to break in to that same room. It works like a Tangram. Each page reveals a bit of story or puzzle or both, and depending on which way you assemble them you get a different image, or in this case a different outlook on the game that’s being played. Just like in real life, there are a thousand different ways to experience the information you get on your life journey, and what you do with it shapes your view of the world.

J.C- I’m imagining something like an old style role playing game (RPG) or maybe a single player Dungeons and Dragons in a new format. I’m especially excited about the concept of facing off against bosses in a book. How would you describe the type of gameplay? 

Leona- So, I’ll level up with you here. I have never played Dungeons and Dragons in my life! I know – shock horror and I’m sure I’m missing out terribly. I’d liken Omniverse more to an open-world game like GTA or Myst for example. It works just like that – only your surroundings are described to you by the narrator, as a DM would in DnD. You play the role of the protagonist – moving about taking actions, etc, but part of the game is working out your character’s credentials – your role. I definitely didn’t want to design a game with random dice rolling mechanic for defeating bosses. It just doesn’t work for me. You’d just be sat throwing your dice until the right number rolled up! So defeating bosses may require you procure some obscure object with which to arm yourself, or then again it might not – you’ll find out when you come across one. That said there is definitely room in the adventure for other dice mechanics as you’ll find out.

J.C.- The open idea of the gameplay and story of being able to pick it up at any point is intriguing and I’m eager to see how it plays out. Something I can keep on my bed stand and jump into when I feel like diving into the Omniverse. Will there be some sort of guide provided to those who might feel a little lost when starting? 

Leona- Oh yeah of course. It’s really simple to play. I like a rules-light game myself so I’ve designed something I’d wanna play. The main rules are simple. You can move, and you can pick up and use stuff. That’s all. And it’s perfect for dipping in and out of, between commutes, when you’ve got 5 minutes to spare, and it has the world’s simplest save game mechanism…The humble bookmark.
So, to move forward just go to the page indicated at the top. Or, turn to face left or right by going to the pages indicated on the left and right. But you must only ever move to a page that is linked to your current page.  As you move you’ll pick up objects by simply writing them down in your inventory. Each object has a 4-digit number which allows you to use, combine or break things apart. You just need to add or subtract their object numbers. You see. Super simple.

J.C.- The puzzles I’m seeing look similar to the style of Journal 29 or Trip 1907. Of course The Omniverse is on a totally different level being much larger and with a non-linear storyline. How would you describe the types of puzzles that we might see in the book? Will they be critical to continuing the story or direct you to certain pages when complete? 

Leona- That’s exactly right. People like things to be a little familiar. So I’m adding on a new gaming experience.  In the game you move about left, right, forward, back – and as you move you come across puzzles that are fully built into the ambience of the narrative. Puzzles can be standalone or meta-puzzles and there’s not necessarily a given order in which they must be complete so that’s cool. Each of the puzzles plays a role and helps you complete a task or mission which the story may suggest to you. You basically have to find your way through a giant maze solving puzzles and completing missions. Each mission allows you to unlock different pages and chapters of your journey. These are the different levels of the game… Like in GTA, or when you’re in an escape room. In Omniverse you’ve got 8 levels to get through so it’s might take a while! There’s a whole range of puzzles in Omniverse. Ranging from real easy to not real easy at all. I’ve been very careful to have lots of variety in there. Some word, some math, some logic, some observation. I particularly like the one-word word search which you can see in the preview pages. Fiendishly simple. And here’s a hint. You’ll use the object you find to complete a gruesome task and unlock a new chapter. To be honest, I feel that the narrative is a huge bonus in Omniverse. When playing Journal 29 for example, I felt like I was just doing a compilation of random puzzles, which I found a little frustrating.  Whereas in Omniverse the puzzles actually mean something. You’ve strategized. You’ve made a found objects, made a makeshift contraption and know how you’re going to use it. I’ve really worked hard on contextualizing each puzzle and each action that your character takes. For me Omniverse is interactive fiction with a heavy bias on puzzles.

J.C.- This project looks pretty ambitious although you mentioned in your updates on Kickstarter that it’s nearly complete. How long did it take to make such an epic book? 

Leona- That’s why the writing hasn’t been the longest or the hardest part. It’s been designing the core principles and mechanics of the game, then compiling the puzzles and integrating them into the ambience. That’s what’s really taken up the time! I’ve working full-time on Omniverse for the last few months and it’s going to be finished shortly after funding ends. 

J.C.- What would you say was your inspiration for starting this project? What made you decide to make such a unique game? What keeps you motivated? 

Leona- I’m a problem-solver and inventor at heart and I’ve always loved a point and click adventure, an escape room and anything else like that. I spent hours and hours playing classic games like Monkey island, Leisure Suit Larry, Dreamweb…from the 90s on my Amiga 500 (which I expanded to 1MB!!), and as I feel that getting away from a screen and doing something 100% offline is good for the soul I came up with this.  I’m also a bit of a loner and I shy away from social media. So when I launched my Kickstarter campaign with no idea of how to use the platform and a Twitter account of 0 followers, I was more than a little in above my head!  I’ve been really overwhelmed to see that complete strangers are starting to get behind my project. And there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the pledges roll in. So I’m super-motivated about getting more of my projects out there and in the hands of people that can appreciate them.  I’m only just learning that I should be braver and unleash more of my ideas and projects on the big wide world. I have a whole load of other games and stuff that I’m going to be launching in the near future, so keep an eye out for them too. I can’t wait!

On that note, I’d really appreciated if you guys could go check out Omniverse on Twitter @_Omniverse and like the Facebook page! I can’t do this without you. Thanks.

J.C.- Thank you so much for your time. I am now way more excited about Omniverse if that’s possible and I’m excitingly waiting to see the finished product!  Please take a look at the Kickstarter page and help give the world the Omniverse!

Omniverse Book 1 – Prologue live on Kickstarter!

The Shakespeare Codes

Just about everyone has heard about the controversy surrounding the question of who really wrote Shakespeare. Maybe you had a grumpy English teacher that casually passed it off as nonsense. There are literally hundreds of books on the subject and all claim to have found the answer. It was Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth, Edward De Vere, Ben Johnson, and the list goes on for nearly forty candidates. Looking into the subject however shows a shocking lack of evidence on both sides. But what are the codes everyone has mentioned and what could they mean? Today I’m focusing on three pieces of evidence that show that someone has placed hidden messages in some of the greatest English writing in history.

One of the most well-known Shakespeare code-breakers is Peter Amundson from Norway. He has found countless codes and ciphers throughout all the works. He was featured on on Timeline’s “Cracking the Shakespeare Code “about all his findings, he’s been on the show “The Curse of Oak Island” with his theories of buried treasure hinted at in the Tempest, and he has his own book. His best discoveries are found in the original folio of Shakespeare’s works, published in 1623, 7 years after Shakespeare’s death. Two of his actor friends assembled over 1000 pages under the three categories of Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. On page 389 of Tragedies is a clear signature from the Rosicrucian brotherhood. There is the word Rosie surrounded by the word C-R-O-S-S in such a way that it forms a perfect 3-4-5 triangle. Hopefully you remember this from your high school geometry because this is legitimate. The Rosicrucian order thought of this geometry as sacred and also used it frequently in their designs and writings. The angles that are formed from this triangle are roughly 53 and 37 degrees. And wouldn’t you know, there are several other hints of codes on pages 37 and 53 of each of the sections. For example, the word Bacon only appears twice in all of Shakespeare’s works. And those two incidences are on pages 53 of Comedies and page 53 of Histories, despite the fact that the publisher had to skip pages 46 through 49 to make this happen. The reason Bacon is significant is because Sir Francis Bacon is one of the contenders for who really wrote Shakespeare.

Screenshot from the Timeline series “Cracking the Shakespeare Code” discovered by Peter Amundson.

Why leave so many hints though? Luckily for any Stratfordians out there (someone who believes that Shakespeare really did write Shakespeare), adding these little codes and messages into Shakespeare’s plays seven years after his death is little proof of original authorship. It does prove without a doubt that the Rosicrucian order had a heavy hand in modifying the plays. Their motivation for this might have been as simple as giving some of the best works in English history to the public. They were and still are big on enlightenment of the people. Peter Amundson goes a step further and suggests that it is all an elaborate treasure map. His work is compelling and fascinating and you can find out more on Timeline’s Youtube Channel.

The next set of codes is from an obscure video I found on Youtube called “Shakespeare, Bacon Enigma (1996)”. It was posted by John Huntly who seems to mostly post little videos from what must be his home-town in England. Most of the videos seem older as if he’s just trying to preserve some history. The Shakespeare video seems to have been filmed for a Mr. Dean and was not a public broadcast. It is filmed in a way that makes it feel secretive and their reputations are on the line for even suggesting these theories. It is hosted by Mr. Richardson a former producer for the BBC and covers a series of codes found in the sonnets written by William Shakespeare and discovered by Thomas Bokenham. The method is a type of cipher common for the era of lining up the words into blocks so that they form a grid pattern. What they find in several sonnets are anagrams that typically form the words Francis, Bacon, Tudor, Author, Prince, etc. They are never exactly perfect but they are almost always symmetrical.

It’s not the most impressive evidence, but it is interesting that it keeps popping up with the same similar letters in a grouping. If these codes were truly put there, then I think it proves that Sir Francis Bacon is probably the world’s greatest and most sophisticated graffiti artist ever known. The first publication of the sonnets was in 1609. Interesting because unlike the folio, this was made before William Shakespeare’s death on April 23, 1616. It was after one other’s death, however, who is the topic of our next set of codes.

Shake-speares Sonnets title page.

The absolute best proof of codes are found on the title page and dedication poem of the original publication of William Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Discovered by Alan Greene, the title page of the Sonnets has some oddly placed dots and overall doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If you literally connect the dots on the page, they create several, perfect right triangles. Furthermore, mathematically they form four points to create a perfect circle on the page. There are a ton of theories about this which you can read up on, but the best one comes from Alexander Waugh. His claim is that these two pages combined with the odd memorial plaque to Shakespeare under his bust in Stratford, the location of Shakespeare’s burial site is given.

Sonnets dedication poem, 1609.

Now a few things before we move on. Shakespeare was literally not dead at this point being 1609 when the Sonnets were published. This means that this theory entirely relies on someone else having been the author. Since the Tempest was written somewhere between 1610 and 1611, there must also be another author if it wasn’t William Shakespeare himself. Somebody had died however and he is the biggest contender to be the author. That person was Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

Shakespeare Memorial Plaque in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford

Alexander Waugh starts off by showing that the first line of the memorial plaque, (Pylius with his judgement, Socrates with his genius, and Virgil Maro with his art) was probably referring to Beaumont, Chaucer, and Spenser with historical evidence to back that up. Interestingly, those three are buried next to each other in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey in that same configuration. From there he goes on to show that the dedication poem in the Sonnets pamphlet can be laid out in a grid with 19 columns. He then shows a message that says Edward De Vere Lies Here, South Cross Ile St Peter’s at the Westminster. The fun part is that The Westminster is perfectly shaped like a mini representation of the Westminster Abbey layout. He concludes by showing that the title page can be interpreted as a map of Westminster Abbey with the exact location of Edward De Vere’s grave. Now neither Edward De Vere nor Shakespeare was officially buried at this location, but a statue of Shakespeare was erected in this location in 1740. His work is absolutely incredible and rock solid. All of the anagrams are perfect and he never changes his strict rules for what counts as a code. The chances of him being wrong are astronomical and you must watch the proof in its entirety. The most condensed version is a lecture available on Youtube called “Shakespeare was a fake(…and I can prove it)|Brunel University London”. He also has his own Youtube channel with many more discussions on the subject that expands beyond codes and proof with historical evidence.

After seeing all of these put together,the work of Shakespeare is riddled with ciphers and codes without any doubt. It made me think of the crazy people that come out with all kinds of prophecies and hidden messages from the Bible. However, the King James version of the bible was being written in the same time period. So, I will be investigating and can’t wait to see how many times Francis Bacon managed to get his name in the Bible.

I’m not sure what all of these codes in Shakespeare could possibly mean. The Sonnets seem to require heavy scrutiny given the amount of codes that can be found in the them. Although the most solid evidence of code is not in the works of Shakespeare itself, but in the dedications and poems surrounding it. None of these clearly state that Shakespeare himself didn’t write the plays. Just a few Rosicrucian signatures sprinkled throughout. So I think William Shakespeare from Stratford on Avon is still possibly one of the writers. It would be a shame if he really did these great works only to have the Rosicrucians hijack his work because they owned the publishing companies. There is much more to the theories that show evidence or lack-of of both sides of the argument. The answer to whether Shakespeare really wrote Shakespeare is still a hot topic for debate.

Yours Truly,
-R.C. Mystery Detective