Cicada 3301. Many have heard of it, and the few who haven’t will eventually learn about the secret group that has turned heads. With puzzles, cryptic books, and a scavenger hunt around the world, this secret cult goes the extra mile.
Why? Although that’s a very good question, even conspiracy theorists are having a hard time with this one.
We do know that this group seeks intelligent individuals to recruit. Whether Cicada 3301 is a government ploy to hire future employees on the side or some kids trolling, the puzzles certainly stump most people and adding a book with a secret language to decrypt doesn’t make it better.
In January 2012, Cicada 3301 first became known to the public by posting an intriguing message and a photo of a duck on 4Chan. The message read:
Hello. We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck.
It ended with a signature that we all would remember as time went by—3301.
Solving this simply led to more puzzles to complete. As they became increasingly difficult, only a few would move ahead in the race to be recruited or get close to figuring out what Cicada 3301 really is. Soon, other individuals posted in Reddit and chat rooms, anything to communicate and share thoughts on what was really going on here.
One of Cicada’s grandest puzzles could easily have been the QR codes plastered all over the world on stop signs, lampposts, bus stops, and more. These places included Haleiwa, Hawaii, and Paris, France.
This was definitely proof that someone or some group could be behind this. But it also meant that people would have to team up to solve the puzzles that were intricately placed in various locations or that one person with enough traveling money would make the trips alone.
Eventually, after the QR code scavenger hunt, those who were fast enough would be led to a site that would disappear after some time. Those who weren’t as fast would receive a message that would tell the “followers” that Cicada 3301 “wanted the best, not the followers.” That was the end of Cicada puzzles for that year.
It soon became a tradition that Cicada came back each year with new puzzles and a new level of difficulty. Most of the puzzles had patterns, usually involving code. But the interesting ones didn’t have code. Instead, they related to books and quotes.
As an example, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance” was an answer to one of Cicada’s many puzzles. Another answer was in William Blake’s book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell which contains the quote “for everything that lives is holy.”
These references show what this anonymous group believes in. They appeared to be looking for people with similar views.
When the puzzles were finally over, Cicada announced that they had found what they were looking for and left. But where did they go?
Not many know why they leave and come back at a later time. They never seem to give more news other than additional puzzles and small hints every now and then. Those who did complete the earlier puzzles were either dropped completely and left in confusion or were actually picked up for recruitment. A teenager named Marcus is an example of someone who was recruited.
Marcus spent most of his time trying to complete these mysterious puzzles. After he passed the test, he was recruited and put into a dark web chat room with others who had successfully deciphered the clues. Marcus ended up working on projects for Cicada with his peers, although no one seemed to understand exactly what their mission was.
Ultimately, his group project was dropped. He hasn’t heard anything since. How odd.
Eventually, Cicada 3301 released a puzzle in the form of a book in runes called the The Complete Liber Primus. This produced more of a group effort to decode. Even so, the book is only half decrypted.
The book often helped others to complete puzzles. For Cicada to make a book completely encrypted for those to discover—and buy—truly means that everyone was missing a bigger picture and that Cicada was trying to lead us in the right direction.
Unfortunately, we only know what half of the book means. Some of it can be very confusing at first glance if you aren’t familiar with Cicada.
A good handful of people passed the test. They are still trying to find out what Cicada is and why they are searching for certain individuals. One of these winners goes by the name of Nox Populi.
He was a winner with the 2013 Cicada puzzle and still actively works on the subject. He has a YouTube channel consisting of tutorials for those who want to learn more about Cicada or those who are interested in learning the steps they need to take for future puzzles. He is very engaged with the community and even meets fans at conventions to talk about his experiences.
Joel Eriksson was another winner, one of the few who completed the 2012 Cicada puzzle. Like the others, he was a bit lost when Cicada left in silence after the completion of the puzzle. Eriksson was a cryptosecurity researcher and developer from Sweden.
Cicada was famous for popping up with new puzzles every year, although they haven’t come back in 2019 as of this writing. There didn’t seem to be anything published in 2015, either. No one knows if Cicada has a headquarters or how long they have existed. At least one person claimed to be a part of Cicada for more than a decade.
Some people believe that when Cicada disappears, they are prepping recruits and new puzzles for a later time of completion. They may also be finishing up projects they have left in the past. Project CAKES could be an example.
According to Marcus, who had successfully completed the puzzles in 2012, his group had been collaborating on a project named CAKES through a website constructed by Cicada 3301. Apparently, CAKES was created to protect whistle-blowers from retribution. But as we all know, the project was dropped.
The community surrounding the mysteries of Cicada is made up of intelligent individuals, theorists, and those intrigued by the puzzles. Many of the conversations take place on Reddit.
Cicada has brought together many different people to solve its puzzles. They learn together and help each other to conquer one cryptic message after another. However, the question remains as to whether someone will decrypt the book in time to get Cicada’s attention.
Many think that Cicada could be a ploy by the government to recruit some new hackers as this has happened before. Alternatively, the puzzles were initially thought to be an advertisement for a video game that was meant to intrigue people into buying it.
Some even thought that Cicada was affiliated with a group called 3301 which hacked into Planned Parenthood. But 3301 later confirmed they were not connected to Cicada in any way. Cicada has said the same thing.
Others theorize that Cicada could be a secret group like the Illuminati.
Unfortunately, this remains unsolved. But with the clues we have and the book unfinished, there is still time to figure this out once and for all. Those who do their part in the community and try to decode the book take us one step closer to identifying Cicada.
Let’s just hope we find out soon.
Antonia is an inspiring writer and a conspiracy enthusiast.