Every year on or around May 1st, bizarre and cryptic ads have been taken out in the Arizona Daily Wildcat that have baffled interested parties since the first placement showed up in 1981.
Bryan Hance, a reporter for the Daily Wildcat was the first to begin cataloguing and investigating the ads when he was on the newspaper’s staff in the late 90s. His interest had been piqued when a mysterious full-page ad was taken out his first year at the school.
“The cryptic mix of languages, symbols, and mathematics intrigued me, but I chalked it up to an obscure campus organization…”, says Bryan.
After an exhaustive investigation and having tracked down every ad placement he could, he decided to start MaydayMystery.org, a web 1.0 repository of all ads that he could find.
“The complexity of the puzzles was mind-boggling, encompassing cryptic historical references, symbology, languages and mathematical calculations. Someone is spending a great deal of time and brainpower to construct these mysteries”, Brian explains.
He also began to figure that whoever was taking out these ads had serious money. It’s expensive to take out a full-page ad in the Wildcat. Additionally, if it’s the work of one person, they must be older (although the first one Bryan could find was printed in 1981, staff members noted that similar ads had been taken out since the early 1970s).
Bryan invited visitors to his site to have a go at trying to “crack” the meaning of the mysterious advertisements. Since the site was launched in 1999, it has garnered attention from cryptologists, occultists, and flat out curious people from around the world, each with their own theory as to what the ads are all about.
Several months after the launch of the website, things got weird. The organization behind the the ads who call themselves the “orphanage” began to communicate directly with Bryan. He began receiving notes in the mail, packages, and mysterious e-mails (all of which he has documented here).
A community of armchair investigators traced the payment of the ads to a lawyer in Tucson. He claims that he is simply an intermediary for the parties, and receives anonymous direction and payment to place the ads.
Similar to Toynbee Tiles, though with a dash of Discordian “Operation Mindfuck” ethos, this mystery is one that has fascinated us at Esotericana since we first discovered it.