A hacker on the run.
A copy of the Necronomicon, stolen from the Grand Lodge of a Secret Society. A trail of blood leading to the darkest corners of the web.
How far would you go to unravel the mystery of The Verne Club?
ARG : (noun) interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and employs transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players' ideas or actions.
The Story So Far
The events on The Verne Club are fully interactive and could occur at any time or place, online and offline. To get the latest updates, you can either join our official discord server or subscribe to Free Bundle Magazine. Alternatively, you will see the most relevant events displayed on the timeline below.
A Redditor named Wepemnofret makes an intriguing post on the "Paranormal Encounters" sub and the "Supernatural Encounters" sub on Reddit, claiming to have come across a photograph depicting a ritualistic human sacrifice dating from 50 years ago during a "system intrusion."
There were like a dozen people or so, all wearing black robes and playing funny looking musical instruments in the background. Some had goat masks, others were just looking down, so their faces didn't show. Two were wearing a jester costume.
Judging by the Redditor post history and work description, Wepemnofret is a hacker. Some players note that the "Wepemnofret" was a Royal prince of the Fourth Dynasty. One of his titles was Overseer of Royal Scribes, Priest of Seshat. Besides describing the gruesome nature of the ritual sacrifice itself, the hacker briefly describes a "slug-shaped" creature present in the photo. However, he doesn't provide any more details.
Redditors also name Allister Crowley and his weird parties as a possible explanation for the photo. Others mention Satanist rituals as an unlikely source since human sacrifice is not among the Satanists' known top practices.
The hacker makes a new post only a few days after his first message on the Supernatural Encounters sub-Reddit. This time, he asks for information about "magic and rituals in pre-Columbian civilizations in South America." On the post, he shares a screen capture from a Brazilian history aficionado's blog featuring an eerie scene: a group of tribal men wearing bizarre costumes. One of the costumes he acknowledges to be somewhat similar to what he found in the human sacrifice photograph he ran into.
The History sub on Reddit enters into action: within a matter of minutes, a dozen resources on several South American tribes are posted by some of the historians present in the conversation. Some hint the hacker of a possible connection between ancient civilizations and the paranormal that is worth considering.
< xiPLEADthe5th > Learning about the South American culture can lead you down a deep rabbit hole. Check out some of graham hancocks work.
After a lengthy discussion that spans almost 2k upvotes and more than 100 comments, the hacker is contacted by a retired historian from Spain who claims to own a book describing a similar human sacrifice to the one he saw photographed.
Confirmed, the photo I came across had little to do with the Selk'nam people. Despite using a similar "jester" there's nothing connecting it with what I saw. I've met with the book owner I mentioned, the one who contacted me thanks to this post. He showed me some scans of the pages that reference a "magic" ritual similar to the one I saw, cannibalism and all.
A few days go by without any notice of the hacker until a new post surfaces. This time, he asks Redditors of the Esoteric Occult sub to help him find material regarding a french writer and occultist obsessed with the hollow earth theory, Alexandre Saint-Yves d'Alveydre. More specifically, anything related to his "lost journals," as he was told the journals were "a very exclusive collector's item."
Although he doesn't make any direct mention, by his tone and urgency, it is clear by now that the hacker's life is being threatened somehow.
You might have just saved my life, friend. All I find is that Agartha nonsense he wrote about. I have nothing against it or the people who think the earth is hollow, but I'm just getting frustrated at the lack of information on the guy, especially in my situation.
A post in the Occult Conspiracy sub introduces Reddit users to a peculiar secret society, the Verne Club, or Society of Extraordinary Readers. Among its members, librarians, scholars, and even famous writers are mentioned in the conversation. One user comes across the website, theverne.club and post the Society's motto: "Some books may not be opened with impunity".
On their website, The Verne Club mentions an "Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Apparently, their library contains rare literary works, such as the authentic copy of the Necronomicon, the handwritten manuscript of The Codex Gigas, or the complete translation of The Voynich Manuscript. The website also mentions these books are kept under "strict surveillance" and that their mission is "not to suppress or withhold knowledge, but to contain it from disruptive individuals."
Our primary purpose is not that of a censor but of a guardian. We seek not to suppress or withhold knowledge, but to contain it from disruptive individuals.
During the conversation, a Redditor says that his University roommate was a member of The Verne Club. He says that his friend "would dress formally a few times a month and go to late diners while the rest of us either studied or went out partying." Another Redditor says a relative by her mother's side was also a member of The Society.
My mother said her grandfather's brother (great-uncle?) was a member of the Verne Society. He was a librarian. She said there is a story in our family where he once brought some books to the family home and locked them in a closet for a year. According to her, the family had shitty luck for the entire year.
A player from the Alice & Smith Discord Channel makes an intriguing discovery: there is a Twitter account with the same username than the Reddit hacker, Wepemnofret. The account belongs to someone who goes by the name of Bishop. The information of this new discovery gets quickly posted onto the ARG sub on Reddit.
OOver the next few days, Bishop begins posting videos with encoded messages to his Twitter account. Sadly, while the videos are encoded in Base64, every letter is capitalized, making it undecipherable. A combination of capitalized and uncapitalized letters is needed for Base64 to work.
In some of his tweets, Bishop boasts about successfully hacking The Verne Club's website. But although he says to have found thousands of "uid" (Unique Identifiers) of encrypted data, he could not retrieve any of that information before the server kicked him out. He also mentions he will not be trying to gain access again for the time being since staying in one place for too long has become too risky for him.
A Twitter user called Monade asks Bishop if he needs help, and mentions the code he posted is too hard to crack. Bishop says he posted the code for someone else--someone who knows which letter should be capitalized and which letter should be lower case. He agrees on getting help and posts another version of the last video with the Base64 code accessible to anyone who knows how to decipher it.
After posting the video, Bishop publishes a series of Tweets from the countryside of an undisclosed European country. He says "Creeps" were waiting for him at the hotel and that he was forced to "leave everything behind." Bishop publishes one last time saying he will be traveling back to the United States within days, then disappears.
Bishop makes a new post on Reddit. This time he links Alexandre Saint-Yves, the french occultist, with the famed writer of Les Miserables, Victor Hugo. His post on the Books sub, titled Alexandre Saint-Yves d'Alveydre, french occultist and author, and Victor Hugo (THE Victor Hugo) might have been pals in a secret society states a fascinating and not very known fact about both men.
The son of a Parisian physician specialized in the treatment of mental diseases, Saint Yves was a rebellious youth his father placed in the correctional school of Mettray for a few years before sending him to the Brest Navy Academy where he studied medicine. There however he fell ill from cholera or ‘black pox’ and went to the island of Jersey to recover in 1863. It was his fortune to make the acquaintance of the greatest living French poet, Victor hugo who was living as a political exile in the channel Islands and dedicated much time to spiritualist sessions. The young Saint Yves was initiated in that small esoteric circle and continued to practise clairvoyance, astral travel and ‘psychurgy’ throughout his life, though he came to the conclusion that western spiritism and hypnotism were lowly shadows of the exalted techniques of extrasensorial perception known in the East. Those
Other Redditors add names to the list of writers interested in the occult. Hermann Hesse. W.B. Yeats, H.P. Lovecraft, Antonin Artaud, Arthur Machen and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are mentioned, among others.
Free Bundle Magazine sends out a newsletter informing its readers of an editorial decision; they are cutting all ties with the Society of Extraordinary Readers, one of their main partners. The dissociation comes after the disappearance of one of the most dangerous books in existence: the Necronomicon.
It is absolutely unacceptable to use the Pandemic to excuse the lack of security in a library as crucial as the one The Society of Extraordinary Readers holds. If that book ends up in the hands of some wacko, there is no knowing what could happen. We are not talking about some obscure first edition of Treasure Island here; it’s the freaking Necronomicon.
The full email can be found on the Newsletter Archive page of the Magazine.
The email Free Bundle Magazine sent out to its readers also mentions an ad ran by the Verne Club that appeared on some issues of the Magazine.
The ads on the Magazine were signed by Sir Nathaniel Baker, head and Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England. The message urges readers to join the Society's cause by subscribing to a co-joint newsletter, the Magazine they co-wrote between July 2020 and December of the same year. The invitation included a cryptic warning about an impending danger to those who dared to become affiliated with the Society.
A player makes a startling discovering: there is a hidden message embedded within the source code of The Verne Club's website. A candle burns next to the phrase "Light in the Darkness."
A Redditor makes a post on the ARG sub on Reddit, giving everyone a brief overview of the events. In her message, Redditor Hannacrash also posts the solution to the last encoded videomade by Bishop on his Twitter account.
When deciphered, the message on the video reads:
AGREED TO HELP THE SPANIARD GETTING SOMETHING BACK FROM THE VERNE CLUB. HE SAYS THEY HAVE A BOOK THAT TALKS ABOUT THOSE DAMN CREEPS THAT KEEP COMING AFTER ME. NEED SOME WAY OF STOPPING THEM. CAN'T RUN FOREVER. HEADING TO NARVA, THEN FINLAND.
The message mentions a Spaniard. Some Redditors believe to be the retired historian Bishop said contacted him via direct message after posting on the History sub on Reddit. In the post, Bishop mentions an ex-historian who agreed to let him inspect a copy of "The King in Yellow," which is said to be a cursed play that drives those who read it to madness.
A player found a hidden message secretly embedded in the image of Sesath of the About Us section of The Verne Club website. The Redditor making the post points out that "Seshat was the Ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom, knowledge, and writing. She was seen as a scribe and record keeper, and her name means she who Scrivens (i.e., she who is the scribe), and is credited with inventing writing."
Decoded, the message reads:
41.85421968333976,-71.38112496406848 Don't Bother The Family. 1900. Wear a Mask.
The coordinates in the image point to a cemetery in Providence, Rhode Island, where famed horror writer Howard Philip Lovecraft's earthly remains are. Redditors discuss the better course of action.
Bishop posted a new message on his Twitter account. This time, the video contained a message encoded in morse code. The tweet itself read: "here's your damn proof."
Players were quick to decode the message, which read:
The tinyurl lead to a mysterious book page. On the page, a man is holding what appears to be a young man or woman's head while reading from a book and talking to a creature emerging from a ball of fire and smoke. Post-it notes cover the creature's face, and an inscription present in the drawing.
Players extracted the EXIF data from the photo only hours after they cracked the morse code. The image carries the signature of a Jorge Munoz (presumably Jorge Muñoz).
< jv11235813 > wrote:
Credit: Jorge Munoz
Another player pointed that the book page comes from an obscure version of the King In Yellow, by Chambers. A controversial work deemed to be cursed and a precursory of the infamous Necronomicon.
The previous clue,
"Don't Bother The Family. 1900. Wear a Mask,lead Redditors to calculate where the shadow of the Phillips family monument would point to at 19:00.
Near the grave, a Redditor found an envelope with a microcassette tape.
Along with it, there was a letter with half a page missing, a cryptic page, a Mexican restaurant flyer, a series of catalog cards, a business card, and a strange Mayan calendar amulet/charm.
The back of the Mayan Calendar disc refers to "A Drama in Mexico," Jules Verne's first story, published in July 1851 as "The First Ships of the Mexican Navy." On the back, the disc reads K821.
Players from Discord community noticed the name and website on the business card: Shane C. Mitchell, https://shanecmitchell.wordpress.com/, which points to the personal website of a NY-based Freelance Journalist.
The post-it note on one of the clues read
dGlueQ==, which decrypted from base64 reads the word "tiny". Players quickly realized this had to do with a TinyURL web address.
It wasn't long until they realized that superimposing the page with the mysterious black rectangles over the first page of Free Bundle Magazine's stories written by H.P. Lovecraft, "From The Dark," revealed a TinyURL address.
The microcassette tape was uploaded to the Reddit ARG sub by the user who found it near Lovecraft's grave.
In the meanwhile, other players quickly transcribed the tape to text for easy reference.
Players speculate that the strange "slug-like creature" Bishop described in his first post on the Paranormal sub on Reddit is somehow linked to what they hear in the recording.
< jv11235813 > "The photo was black and white, not the best quality but, checked authentic. It dated from around 30, 40 years ago or so, according to a guy I know." On the cassette tape the unknown woman says " This tape contains the last recorded words of Frederik Walter Johan, Keeper 261, from the Grand Lodge of Sacramento, United States.
< jv11235813 > In addition, Wepemnofret mentioned in his post " Now, that was weird, but here's the really screwed up part. There was this thing sitting? crouching? next to the central two figures of the photo (the man and the woman). Picture a 200-pound slug the size of a man. That's what it looked like. Maybe it was a statue. Maybe it was a costume. I don't know what it was. It was this thing, this freaking ugly giant slug, sitting there with them. " Could this be Gla'aki, one of the Great Old Ones of Lovecraft's Cthulua Mythos?
Players contacted Shane C. Mitchell, the freelance journalist whose business card they found in the package near Lovecraft's grave, by sending him a PGP encrypted email with the key listed on his Wordpress website.
Players also found Shane's email registered on the Keepers protected area of the theverne.club website.
When players email Shane C. Mitchell, they get an automatically generated reply explaining he is out of the office on a business trip.
At the end of Shane's email, players find a strange string of numbers.
Without a moment to waste, players of the Discord server get to work. A few days later, someone cracks the code.
BRETHREN MY GRAND MASTER SENT ME TO VALENCIA TO CONTACT A MAN CALLED JORGE MUNOZ HE OWNS WHAT WE BELIEVE MIGHT BE THE ONLY EXISTING COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION OF KING IN YELLOW I WAS AUTHORIZED TO MAKE AN EXCHANGE IN THE NAME OF THE MOST WORSHIPFUL GRAND LODGE BUT IT MIGHT PROVE DIFFICULT SINCE MUNOZ WANTS TO GET RID OF THE BOOK AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AND OUR SOURCES TELL US ZAIN ONYEJEKWE MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN MAKING THE BUY IF YOU OR SOMEONE IN YOUR NETWORK KNOW SOME GOVERNMENT LOCALS IT WILL BE AN INVALUABLE HELP TO OUR CAUSE I WILL BE RECORDING AS MANY LOGS AS I CAN TO KEEP EVERYONE UP TO DATE.
The hacker known as Bishop/Wepemnofret tweets another video encoded in Base64.
Although the video is blurry, and the string of code moves fast, players of the Discord server are relentless in their effort. Within moments, they manage to decrypt Bishop's message.
He was supposed to meet up with Jorge to make the exchange in Valencia, but Zain kept getting in the way by bidding higher through his people. I had no choice but to go back to the States to keep Zain from getting in the way. I messed up his bank accounts there and bought us some time, but now Jorge tells me Shane never arrived at the meeting, so I came back to Spain.
The Society of Extraordinary Readers finally makes a public statement over the attempted robbery of the Necronomicon by posting a PDF on their website.
In his message, Sir Nathaniel Baker, the current Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, directs Keepers to stop propagating false rumors and ensures them the Necronomicon, although removed from its displaying case, never left the property.
In the spirit of reducing the dangers posed by disinformation and misinformation, I have decided to publicly release the CCTV footage of the incident to mitigate any of the circulating rumors.
The security tape footage can be found here.
He then goes on by giving more specific details about the robbery:
The burglar, who as far as we know was unarmed, was able to make his way outside the Grand Lodge with the Necronomicon, but the prompt response of our security personnel prevented the individual from parting with it, as he left it behind after being forced to jump out of a two-story window.
What are Alternate Reality Games?
Alternate reality game (ARG) are interactive narrative networked experiences that uses the real world as a platform and employs transmedia storytelling to engage players and deliver its story. Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and collaborate as a community to analyze the story and coordinate real-life and online activities.
Do I have to subscribe to a monthly service to play?
Not at all. The Verne Club is a free Alternate Reality Game. There is nothing you subscribe to.
Is this in real time? What happens if I come in late?
The real time nature of the game does means that you will definitely miss certain events in the story. Don't worry though, we will do our best to keep you up to speed to what is happening through this website and the Free Bundle Magazine newsletter. In case that wasn't enough, the ARG community is well known for doing an impressive job when it comes to creating guides that aid newcomers.
What about real world events? Does where I live affect me taking part in those?
Yes and no. Live events can be done online while others require real world actions. Some of these real world actions can be localized to a specific country/city, while others can be more generalized.
Do I need to give out my personal information to play?
No at all, players are not required to give any personal information to play the game.
Are grimoires (book of spells) real?
Yes. While not all magical books are grimoires (esoteric texts that deal with occult forces in the natural world, such as works on alchemy or astrology), there are a number of texts in astral magical rites and conjurations that defenitely fit the category of grimoire.
Is the Necronomicon a real or fictional book?
Only you can answer that.