the photography, music and ramblings of Matt Lipstein

Mystery Part Eight: A Connection has been Made!

If you've been following, you know I'd pretty much given up on the whole squalloopi mystery a few days ago. Last night on a whim I did a google search for "real world mystery game." Two results popped up, one from Stupidfresh, but then, unbelievably, was a link to someone's Twitter feed.

I almost couldn't believe it when I clicked through to find that someone else HAS also been contacted about the game! She posted her letter and a photo of her key, also with a sualloopi label on it here on her Flickr stream.

If you look at the key, you'll see the smeared font is exactly the same as mine. The key, however is different. The design on the top of the handle is different, and the actually teeth of the key are different too.

We're going back and forth now to figure out if we have friends in common who may have sent this to us. So exciting! The game lives on!


Back to life - LA Redux

Well, we gave the real life mystery one hell of shot didn't we? As squalloopi fades into the past, we must focus on life as we know it and deal with the present.

So let's begin by heading back to the past!

A few weeks ago Amanda & I hit Los Angeles for a some fun in the sun with a bunch of great friends. Click the link below to check out the pics - I promise there aren't a lot of them. Some highlights include:
L.A. Story - March '08


Mystery Part Seven: Initiating Contact

So it's been a while since we've had any developments in the land of Squalloopi. Moments ago (8:33am on April 16th to be exact), I sent the following email to the address listed on the original letter that came with the package.

My name is Matthew Lipstein, and on April 1st I received your package with instructions of how to participate in the real-world mystery game. Up until now I have been playing to the best of my ability, publicizing my clues and enlisting the help of all my friends. All of the developments can be seen on my website,

While I feel I have made some progress, I feel I have reached a dead end and am requesting some assistance. Could you please provide another clue or some indication of which road to go down in order to fulfill my role in the game?
Any contact or instruction is appreciated.


Matthew Lipstein

Will anything come of this? Does anyone read this email account? Will this expose the whole thing as a marketing ploy for HushMail?

Only time will tell, and be sure I'll post any contact I receive right here on the website.

Stay tuned....

Mystery Part Six: A small success

Now when you Google "squalloopi" it comes up with my Stupidfresh posts. At least the person who is looking for me might be able to track me down!

Mystery Part Five: The clues continue

There hasn't been much momentum on the mystery in the past few days. I needed to take the weekend off after obsessing all last week. However a few new pieces of information have come to light:

1. Identity Revealed (somewhat) - I called UPS on Saturday with Marc and they told us that the company or person name who sent me the package is called "The Bean." I performed the requisite Google searches, but it's still too broad to narrow it down.

2. Darren pointed out that the logo for is a keyhole. Coincidence? It's been suggested that this is all a marketing plan for Hush, but it seems a bit too elaborate for that.

3. If you've been following along with these posts, but haven't clicked through to see the comments, you're missing half of the action! In addition to the thoughts and suggestions of other folks, it seems we have a poster in our midst who simply goes by "Anonymous". Anonymous posts comments giving some direction to people's search for solution to this puzzle.

Who is Anonymous? Dunno. Is he really the game master or some sadistic reader? Couldn't say. Here are Anonymous contributions so far, from least recent to most:

  • In reaction to our thread trying to understand the meaning of squalloopi, s/he writes:
Anonymous Anonymous
you dont want to know what it means
  • After Sara did a bang up job trying to substitute numbers for the letters in squalloopi, attempting to get a phone number, Anonymous simply replies:
Anonymous Anonymous

  • When Jgonso did further analysis of the Prisoner's Dillemma angle, and suggested we look more into the tracking information from the UPS label, Anonymous confirmed:

Anonymous Anonymous
hes on to something

OK troop - marinate on all that for a minute and leave me some comments with ideas of how to proceed.


Mystery Part Four: Next Moves & Facts

Thanks to all of you for your comments, suggestions, phone calls and emails. This is so much easier and exciting with everyones input. Here are some directions that make sense to me in terms of next moves.

1. Exposure

If you read the letter, it explains that part of my job is to use media to spread my clue. Stupidfresh has been great, but I'm starting to explore other options. I have already contacted Gothamist to see if they will run a post about these shenanigans. Let's wait and see. Should I begin hanging signs around Brooklyn and the East Village? Taking out an ad in the back of the Village Voice?

2. Focus on the next person

The other task at hand is using my clue to find the next person in the chain. I feel the answer to this still lies in cracking "squalloopi." It's been suggested by many of you in the comments that maybe the letters of squalloopi are a code, and each letter represents either a letter or a number. I like the idea of a number, because with 10 characters that would possibly be a full phone number. Some ideas of how to break it:

  • Darren led me to the idea of associating each letter with its corresponding number on a phone keypad. Since Q is not on some phones, I took a leap of faith and made it a 1, which gave the phone # a 718 (Brooklyn/Queens) area code. I called the person yesterday, and after getting a generic recording, left a nerdy message: "Um, hello. I'm in the middle of a real-world mystery. If you know what squalloopi is, please call me back at..." As of yet, no call backs.
  • Sara put up a great comment about switching the letters to numbers and then anagraming those to come up with a batch of NYC area codes. There are so many combinations of numbers, I fear this may not be the right road.
  • In the letter is listed an email address I went to Hush and tried to create my own account. When I did, I saw that it doesn't assign you a random number at all. So whoever started this CHOSE that email address. So what does that string of 8 numbers mean? Could it correspond with the 2 letters of squalloopi (remember two of the ten letters are doubled)
3. Give Up

After everything that I/we have been through with this, I am not about to throw in the towel. However, a big part of this is the aspect of the Prisoner's Dilemma. Jgonso left an awesome comment exploring this. Maybe it's time I just email the address in the letter to see what happens? Perhaps all of the back-story would be exposed. I am not leaning towards this, but it is an option.

4. The worst of all options

It was suggested to me by Melody today that perhaps this is all an April Fool's joke on me. This would be the WORST of all options, but the supporting criteria are stronger than I would like. The letter is dated 3/31/08, and I received it on 4/1/08. The letter makes mention of the game starting the day after it is printed. Whomever picked me to receive this knows I would be into it, and would be taking it to the level I already have (read: obsessive). If this is the case, there would be no other clues, no answers, nothing but fruitless searching.

It would also be an amazing April Fool's for them, mostly on me but also on all of you who have been involved at this point. I'm planning on moving forward as if this is not the case, but I felt it would be best to share my fears.

Stay tuned for more information - I'll be highlighting some comments that have been intriguing, including some possible insight from an anonymous reader - possibly the GameMaster himself?

- Lip

Key Mystery Part Three: Clue Details

As per many requests, here is detailed information and photos of the key and the letter.

The Key
  • 10 inches long
  • about 3lbs
  • Metal
  • Ornate handle with a face repeated on the front and back
  • "squalloopi" printed in a smudged manner on cut white paper. Affixed with packing tape.
  • I lifted the tape, there is nothing underneath on the paper or the key.

The Letter
  • Printed via computer (probably on a laser printer) on brown paper
  • No return address
  • QR-code at upper left corner - after decoding it reads "If you have gone far enough to read this message then haven't you already made up your mind? Is the choice really even yours? This is a prisoner's dilemma after all."
  • Click image to see the full page scan

The Mystery Continues: Part Two - QR Code & Anonymous Tips

Hello friends and snooping sleuths!

Thanks for the outpouring of suggestions and support with the mystery. This morning I had a breakthrough on the QR Matrix that was printed on the letter. I mentioned in yesterday's post that there is an embedded image at the top of the letter. This is what it looks like:

When I showed it to Brandon at work, he explained that it is a QR matrix - basically an image that can be scanned to reveal data - like a bar code or UPC symbol. After giving me some explanatory leads, I found my way to a download of a QR matrix decoder. I scanned in the Matrix, and opened it in the decoder.

Lo and behold the QR-Code yields the following message:

"If you have gone far enough to read this message then haven't you already made up your mind? Is the choice really even yours? This is a prisoner's dilemma after all."
AMAZING! I am thrilled that the decode actually worked! Here's a screen shot of the moment of truth.

So what does this tell us? Not much in terms of moving forward, but it does reinforce that this mystery is based on finding the other people the clue connects me to. See this explanation of Prisoner's Dilemma.

One more piece of the puzzle: In the comments of yesterday's post, there was a lot of focus on the meaning of SQUALLOOPI. Many people tried anagrams, and translations of anagrams. This morning I received an ANONYMOUS comment on the post which reads:
"you dont want to know what it means"
Is this for real? Is this someone throwing me a red herring? I'm going to take it as real for now. But if I don't need to know what SQUALLOOPI means, what purpose do the letters serve?

Please leave me some comments with suggestions.


Help me solve a mystery

Yesterday in the mail I received a package addressed to my home with no return address. In it was the key pictured here and a printed letter, addressed to me. The letter begins:
"You have probably already noticed that this is not an ordinary piece of correspondence. You have been selected to participate in a real-world mystery game."
It continues to explain that the item I have, in my case the key, is a clue that leads to the name of the person with the following clue, and that I need to start snooping to find out who'`s the next person, and what it all means!

The typeface on the key is slightly smudged, but as far as I can make out is spells squalloopi.
The letter also has a bizarre graphic at the upper left-hand corner, that turns out to be a matrix called QR code that can be decoded.

I'm conducting my own research, but so far I have come up with nothing. This is intriguing as hell, and I can use your help!
  • Did you also receive a clue in the mail? Let's join forces to figure this out.
  • Do you know how to read QR code?
  • Any suggestions of avenues to search down for clues are welcomed!
Leave me any info in the comments section. I'll continue to post if I make any headway. Signing out - secret agent lippy

p.s. This is NOT an April Fool's related joke, like yesterday's!

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We're moving to L.A.

While we were on the left coast, we simply fell in love with the laid-back pace, the sun filled days, and the great friends we have out there. So when we happened upon a 2-bedroom house in Silver Lake, we went for it!

Come visit us in la-la-land soon. When you get there you'll be welcomed by a fresh squeezed glass of lemonade from the lemon tree in our back yard, and a cheer of "April Fool's!"

Sorry - I just couldn't resist.

Here's a great "fool" song for your troubles.

Curtis Mayfield - Fool For You


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