Curiosity is essential to our humanity. We engross ourselves in mysteries because they bring us face to face with what we both fear and love: the unknown. And as we rapidly adapt to the new norms of a digital society, the traditional mystery is no longer confined to the material world. Internet mysteries now enthrall the curious-minded in the same way that, say, the Black Dahlia murder would have 70 years ago.
Today, we’ll be taking a deep dive into two under-appreciated internet mysteries, which are sure to get your imagination racing.
Of all the most beloved internet mysteries, Mortis.com is without a doubt one of the spookiest. However, it is far less talked about than, say, a Cicada 3301. This is probably due to the fact that Mortis is just so tough to research. The site itself became defunct as soon as it began to gain notoriety. What we have left are alleged screenshots of the site and its source code, as well as archived threads discussing what may be contained within it.
From 1997 to 2011, visitors to Mortis.com would be met with nothing but a black background and a white box, which prompted for a username and password. Despite a horde of web sleuths attempting brute force attacks to pass this login screen, no one is known to have gained access to the site’s content. (Note: a “brute force attack” refers to a series of trial-and-error attempts to guess login info.)
While registry of the domain Mortis.com dates back to 1997, the site did not reach the attention of web sleuths until 2011, when it was posted to 4chan’s “Paranormal” board. Considering that “mortis” is the Esperanto word for death, people understandably assumed that something dark was lurking behind the login screen. And when one user dug deep into the site’s source code, some shocking discoveries were made:
- The site hosted over a terabyte’s worth of data, with the largest file being 39 gigabytes.
- It hosted an embedded media player.
The Thomas Ling Connection
Further investigation showed that the domain was registered to a man going by the name Thomas Ling. 24 other domains were found to be registered to Ling, including Cthulhu.net–which featured nothing but a photo of a chess piece above the text “dead but dreaming”–and Dentalfillins.com, which points to Thomas Ling as a dentist based in California. Like Mortis.com, these sites were taken down as soon as the greater internet started to catch wind of them.
So what kind of content was Mortis.com hiding? Every theory is widely debated. Some insist that it hosted heinous, death-related content.
Others believe that it contained classified information. Recently, a new theory was proposed: perhaps Thomas Ling was simply hosting pirated movies that he wanted to share with his friends and family, to whom he gave usernames and passwords.
It would explain the massive amounts of data, as well as the embedded media player. Why he chose to name the site Mortis.com, however, is up for debate.
With the site down, we will likely never know for sure. But we sure do enjoy the rabbit hole.
Kutchie’s Key Lime Pies
In 2009, bizarre reviews for a closed restaurant–Kutchie’s Keywest Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina–began appearing in the comment sections of blogs across the internet. Despite said blogs having nothing to do with the restaurant (or food in general), the commenter would rave incoherently about the wonders of Kutchie’s, specifically its key lime pies.
Below is a sample of one of these so-called reviews. Note that this is only a small section within a lengthy, rambling wall of text.
“OK, Kutchie and Anita Pelaez’s Key West Key Lime Pie Factory is at the Top of our list of Favorite Places to eat also and it has been for 30 something years now. They were serving cheeseburgers in paradise when Jimmy Buffett was still in the college circuit. Those king steak sandwiches have caused more fights than a whore in church on Sunday. Anita and Kutchie’s Pies have caused traffic jams of people trying to get in there for those key lime pies. They are wonderful pies. Everyone should have Kutchie and Anita’s Key Lime Pies on they’re Bucket List. That’s for darn sure!”– The Kuthie’s Commenter
Now imagine something like that appearing in the comment sections of nearly every major blog on the internet. And none of the reviews were copy-pasted. While they all adhered to the “long disjointed rant” formula, each one was unique.
Intrigue was inevitable, and soon, web sleuths across the globe committed themselves to answering the questions: who was writing these strange reviews? And why? Kutchie’s Keywest Cafe had been closed for two years at this point. So the business was obviously not benefiting from the sudden uptick in press.
The Oswald Pelaez Connection
What makes the situation even creepier is the fact that many of the reviews referenced members of Kutchie’s owner Oswald Pelaez’s family. Some even went as far as to make suggestive comments towards his wife Polly. Because of this, it was thought that perhaps the mysterious commenter was Pelaez himself, who–after the closing of his restaurant–may have gone a bit off the deep end (to put it lightly).
This would certainly make for a better scenario than the alternative theory; the commenter was an obsessive Kutchie’s customer, who had been stalking Pelaez and his family.
Since the Kutchie’s key lime pie mystery has exploded in notoriety, it’s assumed that the majority of recent Kutchie’s reviews have been the works of trolls impersonating the original commenter. But who was writing the original reviews? And for what purpose?
Unless the commenter comes forward, we may never know.