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(Courtesy of fravia's advanced searching lores)

(¯`·.¸ Hidden Essays Riddle ¸.·´¯)
Out of Finsterniss into the Light

by WayOutThere
published at searchlores in July 2001

I have hesitated before publishing this. Some of the intuitions by WayOutThere are so valuable from a searcher's point of view, though, that I feel I do not have the right to keep the considerable amount of work that follow off the web.
But insgesamt I do feel that too much work was wasted on that riddle of mine. Yet, as it often enough happens when searching, paths that did not exist did suddendly materialize and things that were not meant to be found have been found. The depth (and oddness) of the web made this possible.

Now to the riddle itself: Some parts of the riddle were not found (dark finsterniss --> first in darkness as a subdirectory: 18961897/darkness/first.htm, for instance) but so many things have been found that were actually not part of the riddle that the seekers did compensate in abundantiam. Once more, those among the readers that will have the patience (and the perseverance) to go trough the old riddle messageboard (now frozen) will find quite some gems.
I did it myself, and I have to thank now all those that not only took very seriously what in my mind should have been only a divertissement, but in doing this also did teach me quite a lot through their techniques and through their findings.

Following my fellow seekers' work was for me a quite amazing experience: I gave them a cylinder with a rabbit inside and they put their hands in and extracted a whale, a parrot, a cat, another couple of cylinders full of extravagant objects... and my rabbit as well, of course. Boys I was speechless!

vvf's "Comments on WayOutThere's (Zen) solution to Fravia's riddle" is to be found @ the bottom (august 2001)

(¯`·.¸ Hidden Essays Riddle ¸.·´¯)
Out of Finsterniss into the Light

by WayOutThere




This essay is my attempt to tie together the pieces, which lead me to the solution to the hidden essays riddle. It may be a bit disorganised as I was unsure of how to structure it in order to explain the solution without giving it right at the start, as I am trying to explain the thought processes which lead me in the direction I followed.
Forgive me if it sometimes skips too quickly, some of the jumps have to be made by you, as it is more a feeling of how it hangs together than proof that this is all totally correct, just how the clues along the way fit the solution and how to see the links. Some of the links are very obvious but I think you will agree the end result is more a feeling than anything, as there is no provable link or URL to go to - more of a message.

Many of the clues I have included were contributed by people on the messageboard and many were not, I wish to thank ALL those people who participated in the messageboard and thank them for their input and thoughts, all were valuable and illustrated the benefit of many points of view.

All quotes in this text, or information taken from other sources are shown in Italics

First Look at the Riddle

Fravia created a page called 'hidddoor.htm', and it was discovered by many people fairly early after its creation.

So, we go to the page and find it is very interesting. So we have a page with a number of elements on it, which forms a riddle. The implied meaning is that if you solve the riddle you will find a path to the hidden essays.

Hidden essays I hear you say - Of course we would want to find them, there are essays that we have not seen? Where could they be?

So to look at the page and the structure:

So first task is to list the elements of the page:
Title - Hidden Essays

Elements for Dark Essays:
Title - dark finsterniss
Picture - mucha3.jpg (Dark Side)
Name - ~S~ustrugiel

Elements for Light Essays:
Title - Light Blue Sky
Picture - mucha4.jpg (Light Side)
Name - Fravia+

Common elements:
Text - Riddle text (body)
Text - Comment

So we will now have a look at each of the elements, to get a brief idea of each before moving on.

The Images

These images are named 'mucha3.jpg' and 'mucha4.jpg'.
The light side has blonde hair, and the dark side has brown hair and they are facing each other. The dark side has her eyes open and the light side has her eyes closed. This to me had the meaning that from the light side you cannot see the hidden essays but from the dark side you can see the light essays. This may not be totally correct or may just be a by-product of the images selected, but it seems to fit with what we know.

The names lead the reader to firstly think that they are part of a series, as where are 'mucha1.jpg' and 'mucha2.jpg', or even 'mucha5.jpg'.
Fravia has a habit of naming some of his images after the author of the images or the content, so lets put 'mucha' into a search engine. Right done the results seem to point to an artist called 'Alphonse Mucha'. After many people looking through his assorted work, the following was found :

mucha3.jpg is known as the "Byzantine Brunette"
mucha4.jpg is known as the "Byzantine Blonde"

So the mucha pictures are the byzantine ladies, blonde and brunette.

They were created by an artist called "Alphonse Mucha" in 1896. They have been reproduced in many forms by many printers over the years and exist in many differing forms. Some of the forms have different coloring and surrounds.

The Text

The Riddle Text

This is the main body of the riddle text, and as you can see from the entry page is separated from the rest of the page, making it clear that this is the text of the riddle.
Searchers after forbidden knowledge haunt strange, far places, falter down black cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten sites. The haunted pages and the desolate texts are their shrines, and they linger around the sinister javascripts on uninhabited servers. At times the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous. In some places of the web have dwelt generations of strange people, whose like the world has never seen. Seized with a gloomy and fanatical belief which exiled them from their kind, their ancestors sought the web-wilderness for freedom. There the scions of a conquering race indeed flourished free...


These are the comments added to the bottom of the page by the author and are separated so as to show that these are not part of the riddle but are comments about the riddle and the assorted efforts to solve the riddle.
Well, ahem... on a real ~S~ site a small (sortof) "riddle" is imho necessary and welcome (per angusta ad augusta). I sincerely hope you'll have quite a difficult task :-) trying to fetch my own "dark" and "light" essays...

~S~ fravia+, September 2000

1. Nachtrag: 30 September 2000

In the meantime my fellow seekers have worked wonders in a few days (see this messageboard, for instance, where dan almost hit the first nail... which means either that my riddles are poor, compared to those of the older ones :-( or that what we have learned together here and elsewhere is truly powerful :-)

2. Nachtrag: 31 October 2000

In the meantime my fellow seekers have worked more wonders see this new, ad hoc messageboard, for instance, even if I believe that a 'dedicated' messageboard is a little too much for my poor riddle (and anyway imo the solving of a riddle is almost always a personal 'satori' exsperience, seldom a cooperative endeavour... but I admit, of course, that collective work can give truly powerful results :-)

Looking at the Text

The text is a modified version of 'The picture in the house' by HP Lovecraft written in 1897.
The Picture in the House by H.P.Lovecraft...
URL: www.gizmology.net/lovecraft/works/picture.htm

This was found fairly early on, and people quickly noticed that some words had been changed within the text. This again bore some similarities to the orc riddle. So everyone rushed off and tried to find all pages with the changed words on so that they could find the hidden essays.
Now we shall look at the original text.

The Original Text

Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places. For them are the catacombs of Ptolemais, and the carven mausolea of the nightmare countries. They climb to the moonlit towers of ruined Rhine castles, and falter down black cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten cities in Asia. The haunted wood and the desolate mountain are their shrines, and they linger around the sinister monoliths on uninhabited islands. But the true epicure in the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteems most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods New England; for there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous. Most horrible of all sights are the little unpainted wooden houses remote from travelled ways, usually squatted upon some damp grassy slope or leaning against some gigantic outcropping of rock. Two hundred years and more they have leaned or squatted there, while the vines have crawled and the trees have swelled and spread. They are almost hidden now in lawless luxuriances of green and guardian shrouds of shadow; but the small-paned windows still stare shockingly, as if blinking through a lethal stupor which wards off madness by dulling the memory of unutterable things. In such houses have dwelt generations of strange people, whose like the world has never seen. Seized with a gloomy and fanatical belief which exiled them from their kind, their ancestors sought the wilderness for freedom. There the scions of a conquering race indeed flourished free from the restrictions of their fellows, but cowered in an appalling slavery to the dismal phantasms of their own minds. Divorced from the enlightenment of civilization, the strength of these Puritans turned into singular channels; and in their isolation, morbid self-repression, and struggle for life with relentless Nature, there came to them dark furtive traits from the prehistoric depths of their cold Northern heritage. By necessity practical and by philosophy stern, these folks were not beautiful in their sins. Erring as all mortals must, they were forced by their rigid code to seek concealment above all else; so that they came to use less and less taste in what they concealed. Only the silent, sleepy, staring houses in the backwoods can tell all that has lain hidden since the early days, and they are not communicative, being loath to shake off the drowsiness which helps them forget. Sometimes one feels that it would be merciful to tear down these houses, for they must often dream.

Comparison of Texts

Searchers after forbidden knowledge haunt strange, far places, falter down black 
cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten sites. 
                                                 cities in Asia 

            wood                  mountain
            -----                  -----
The haunted pages and the desolate texts are their shrines, and they linger around 
the sinister javascripts on uninhabited servers. 
             -----------                -------
             monoliths                  islands

for there
At times the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness and ignorance 
combine to form the perfection of the hideous. 

   such houses                                         
In some places of the web have dwelt generations of strange people, whose like the 
world has never seen. 

Seized with a gloomy and fanatical belief which exiled them from their kind, their 
ancestors sought the web-wilderness for freedom. 

There the scions of a conquering race indeed flourished free...
So comparing the original with the riddle text, we get:
forbidden knowledgehorror
sitescities in Asia
java scriptsmonoliths
some places of the webhouses

One thing I noticed was that the words made sense, what I mean is that did not seem to be changed much to me. But they seemed to be changed to our web world. For example, a server in the web world can be roughly compared to an island in the real world and a site could be compared to a city. People have often referred to mountains of text. I thought this was important but could not figure out why?

Another thing to be noted is that the actual meaning of the text has not changed - the message is the same. If we read both the riddle and the original passage of the same part they both give the same meaning, so the author had not changed or added much, so how can this be a clue. The words changed do not point to anything that has not entered our thoughts before, and all the terms refer to the web in the riddle and to an old world in the original text.

The author 'H.P. Lovecraft' can also be considered a clue, as the text could equally point to him as anything else.


The title for the dark part of the images is 'Dark Finsterniss'.
This seems to be in German, but the common use of the word is spelt 'finsternis' and not as in the riddle text. After some investigation it was discovered that this is an old version of the word, which is not in common use anymore.

I found and old version of the bible, where Finsterniss is used. It might add to your understanding of the German word:
"Die Augen der Blinden werden aus dem Dunkel und Finsterniss sehen" (Jes 29,18)

"...and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see" (Isaiah 29,18)

The dictionary gives: finster adj -dark, obscure fig gloomy, sinister
finsternis f darkness, gloom
sonnenfinsterniss = sun darkness
mondfinsterniss = moon darkness

I would take "sun darkness" to mean a Solar Eclipse, therefore "moon darkness" would be a Lunar Eclipse.

So 'Sun Darkness' and 'Moon Darkness' both mean an eclipse. So I took the meaning of finsterniss to mean obscured due to an eclipse. In other words something which you could see were it not obscured by something else.

Latin Quote

The quote included in the comment at the bottom of the riddle text should be considered a clue and also confirmed the hunt, telling the reader that the path to the solution would not be easy.

The Latin quote:
ad augusta per angusta (or)
per angusta ad augusta
meanings found:
Through hardship to glory ( motto for school in NZ )
through hard times to prosperity
through hardship to glory
through anguish to glory
through anguish to honours
through precarious times to the majestic
To high places by narrow roads

also related is : "Ad astra per aspera" meaning: To the stars through difficulties (this is the motto of Kansas, US.)

This seems to mean that there will be hardship of some kind along the way to the final destination. It also implies that there is something worth having at the end of the journey, that the journey would be worthwhile and not a waste of time and/or effort. But all the meanings seem to describe some kind of task or journey, which is closely related to our task of finding the solution to a riddle. This means this quote is very relevant to our hunt.

So the author is telling us that the journey to the solution will not be easy but that there is something good at the end of it. This has the effect of making us think that the riddle must be hard to solve and that it will not be easy and also re-inforces the idea that the hidden essays contain knowledge of much value to us, that the end result of the solution is VERY worth having from our point of view. The fact that the message is hidden in Latin from a lot of readers (how many read Latin - how many had to look it up) means that we add extra importance to this snippet of information.


On reading about riddles, I came across this interesting quote:
Konrad Becker : [1998]
The trick is to direct attention to a specific area, evoke psychological leitmotifs, and highlight one aspect in order to leave another one in the dark. The increased focusing of attention on the spectacle has the effect that everything lying outside of the horizon of events disappears.

"Lockpicking the future" requires multi-dimensional maps of the world for new exits and safe havens in hyperspace; it needs passports that allow travels from normative, global reality to parallel cultures and invisible nations; it requires nomad supply stations on the routes taken by the revolutionary practice of aimless flight; it needs psycho-geographical road maps that show the way to dreamtime and public transport to Kaddath.

Refugees of a refugee republic are not only capital but successful escape artists. They have capacities that become increasingly important and form the basis for a culture of escapism that transcends simple hedonism - in a society where fear has advanced in boredom, escape artists and hedonic engineering provide escape routes from an anxiously bored society.

This I found to be a most interesting and enlightening quote, It actually fits (in my mind) the riddle and the context of the riddle very well and sparked off many thoughts in my mind.
It sums up the idea of a riddle and also the way our web world is evolving all together in one chunk. It also refers to the participants in the hunt for a solution and those which inhabit the named worlds in both the riddle and the original text.

Second Look

The Byzantine Ladies

The images on the riddle page, which were painted in 1896 by Alphonse Mucha are known as the "Byzantine Brunette" and the "Byzantine Blonde", Mucha painted a number of them, with various color styles and surrounds. Some of the surrounds were gilted and some were not, they also features as a series of decorative plates, and chocolate wrappers of the time.

The images have been edited from their original form, the background has been erased and replaced with a solid color and also some text has been added into the image. The artifacts of these editing processes can be seen in most image editing programs and they clearly point to what was changed about the images. These two things mean that finding the original source of these images will be harder.

Knowing the authors love of stenography in the past, the searchers all tried in vain to find the original images to no avail, they found many variations on the two images but none close enough to aid the detection of any hidden data.
Next a detailed attempt to detect and decode any hidden data was undertaken but nothing was found to my knowledge. This was very discouraging as the feeling was that there was bound to be at least a clue hidden in one of the files, but this was not to be.

The thought that these images might be on the pages at the goal of the hunt for the hidden pages also lead people to try and find similar if not exact images, but this line of searching seemed less and less probable to turn up anything of interest.
The naming of the files as 3 and 4 leads to the thought that they may be part of a series, and the other images in the series may provide clues or be on the target pages.

The actual clue is the title of these images, which both have the same first word 'byzantine', this is very similar to byzantium. Also a clue is the artist and his history.

The byzantium clue was first pointed out by Dan, and this is what I believe constitutes the first nail. Dan almost hit the first nail, because he got the link but failed to see the relevance of it, therefore he nearly hit the nail, but missed.

Many of us saw the byzantium connection and just dismissed it as either a casual co-incidence or 'just' a reference to the old ORC riddle. Others tried to find hidden pages or links within the byzantium site, or a pointer to something else, however I believe it was pointing to some clues within the pages.

Firstly is it is a pointer to the old ORC riddle, and the fact that no-one found a real final solution that gave a page with essays on it. This is a key point that is shown more below.

Byzantium Site

So now we will have a look at the Byzantium site, which now can be viewed under a different light. The clues here seem to be many. I to start with overlooked them, mainly because they were associated with the ORC riddle and so I thought they only related to that riddle, checked some out, but over time found myself coming back to these pages in my thoughts more and more, they just seemed to make sense.

The page that interests me the most on the site is : found4.html

Now I will quote some lines which may at first not quite seem to sit together, but I assure you the more you read them the more they all seem connected.

Some quotes and comments:

"The Web is full of curious people burrowing around its darker recesses!"
This is very similar in meaning to a line from the riddle, and should mark this page as a possible clue zone. The matching line from the riddle text is :
"Searchers after forbidden knowledge haunt strange, far places, falter down black cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten sites."
Now these seem very similar in meaning to me, change a few words and they could be the same bit of text.

"Mind you, it may be one that points nowhere, just says something about ORC. "
This text bothered me from the start, and the fewer results people seemed to see the more it bothered me.

"It doesn't have to point anywhere - though it may do so."
This was another of those worrying quotes, indeed the hidden pages riddle does not seem to point anywhere, if this is a clue then it is a good one as it means STOP looking for the pages it points to, and instead look at the riddle text itself. I know we have all been doing nothing but looking at the text, but not in the right way.

"If the LoLander page is the ORC site, then it's a very clever one. It could not have been designed better to keep people guessing. If it's just a coincidence, then it's a very strange one."
Now call me funny in the head if you want to, but I was seeing similarities between the LoLander page and the riddle page, they both seemed to point somewhere but did not seem to include enough clues for the reader to find the solution. The more I thought about it the more I did not think that there was a URL to find at the end of the riddle.

"And if I were ORC (I'm not!) I'd say nothing and keep people guessing. I might even sow a few red herring clues around the place to have even more fun..."
This really hit me, I had read it before but had not picked up on this, there had been a couple of messages from an unknown person on the MB which could be taken as clues and which did not seem to lead anywhere.
This was the point that this hit me, when the clues were posted and did not seem to lead anywhere, just kept leading me back to this page and looking at this line.

Red Herrings - can anyone say Concrete?

ORC Comment

a message from ORC in relation to his riddle gave the following message :

"I'll tell you this: If you (when you'll) solve the riddle do not be deceived: you'll find a "dead" page with another riddle. Like "Matrioshkas", that's not nice of mine is it? But my knowledge, rest assured, you'll always have it for free (like everybody else). I'm not hyding any treasure on the web..., therefore your attitude is most correct... you're in for the game and the challenge... right so +cracker! "

Now if we are to believe the clues that lead to the ORC riddle, then we must assume that this has some meaning. What is being said in this quote is that there is no hidden site with hidden knowledge and that all his knowledge can be had for free and that the riddle is just for a challenge - not to find any hidden knowledge.
This could be taken to mean that there is nothing to find, just the thrill of the hunt and the reward is simply solving the puzzle and not from any prize at the end of it.

Also the "Matrioshkas" clue, this is a set of dolls or wooden shapes which fit one inside another, so from the outside you only see the biggest and then when you open that one there is another inside and so on. This could be taken to mean a riddle within a riddle.


If we take the meaning of Finsterniss to mean Eclipse. Then this has some relevance to Lovecraft as he travelled to see a few eclipses, one of which was in New York (W.NE), we know this from a quote in a letter to a friend of his:

"In 1925 (when I was in New York) some of us tramped up into the cold of northern Yonkers to see the January eclipse, but Long (judging from his description) seems to have seen about as much from the roof of his apartment house in 100th St." (to Miss Elizabeth Toldridge, 12 August 1932)

This seems to confirm (in my mind) the link between the hidden essays, the phrase "dark finsterniss" and lovecraft as it is a link between lovecraft's interests and the description of the hidden essays content or origin. This has to be a clue that the lovecraft connection is an important one to the solving of the riddle.

Riddle Text and Lovecraft

The clue in this instance was Lovecraft and to be more precise his mindset. The text gave a message which most people read and understood.

The first time I read it, now that I think back on it, it was describing what I was trying to do. A lot of parts did not fall into place at this time.

After reading many of HPL's other stories, thinking that the picture text might be a clue to another story, I started to notice that ALL of lovecrafts stories have a common premise and share a theme.

The more I re-read the riddle text and the picture in the house text the more I realised that the message was the same, the content had changed, but just to update the terms within the text.
What fravias alterations to the text did was to bring an old bit of text forward into a modern context, using words and themes which we could relate to in the modern world.

This was also the same message that was echoed by all of Lovecraft's stories in one way or another, they all seemed to be based around the same theme. This had to be a connection.
Also the way the text made sense to us all showed that the message still applied now as it did back then. The times may have changed but the message fits into both times equally as well, if the reference terms are changed but the meaning remains the same.

OLD Theme

So the text was old and the pictures were old, so the clue here is old.

Lovecrafts stories are old.

Maybee then we have to look at the old fravia, what had happened in the past of the associated sites and curators. So while re-reading fravias history page, which I have read many times, something started clicking in my head.

Historical Research

Some quotes from +Fravia's pages: history.htm

Censorship attempts
My pages have always spread knowledge for free and have been therefore heavily censored. They have been first censored by Compu$erve (& Micro$oft) on 21/08/1996. My following main page, had not much more luck... it was censored as well -by Geocities- after 18 months, on 16 April 1997.
I immediately set up two mirror pages, a new one at geocities and another one at mygale, hoping, optimistically, that the European free pages providers would have been far less bigots and commercially oriented than the American ones. Alas this was not the case, and the "mygaliens" have censored my site on 23 May 1997 as well, as soon as it had mounted among their "top ten" pages (which was very quick, since the "audience" of my site doubles every two months :-). Geocities censured my new site as well the same day, probably in the hope to "squeeze" me out of the web with a 'coordinated' censorship manoeuver... poor sod censors, they still do not seem to understand the "alfa and omega" of Internet!
From that moment I decided anyway to seek asylum among more solid providers

Unfortunately even this relatively solid server began being attacked for some of my pages (the ones about CGI-script security, i.e. how to nuke a site you don't like, on the web, given some conditions). In fact many servers are OWNED by people running scam commercial smut sites, and they can allow any abominable smut site BUT NOT a site that teaches you how to nuke them.
In November 1997 the situation in my old main page was deteriorating. The hosting server decided to put a 'default' page catcher for its smut search engines that snapped every time anyone on the server (even people not remotely connected with those sites) found a broken link.
Short afterward Sharp's part of the server was destroyed by the bigot american SPA association (note that they smashed only 'intelligent' cracker pages and didn't touch the warez sites on the same server... well, no wonder, they are the same lackeys that condoned the blatant piracy of Micro$oft in the Stacker software case...)
Anyway I hope that this relative 'tranquility' from censorship will allow me to deliver a less chaotic fravia's page of reverse engineering to my readers :-)

This continued censorship ("pagewaxing") should not surprise you: there's a growing hostility, on the web, against knowledge that's given away for free: they would like a commercial, mercantile world of stupid publicity ads and irrelevant frills, where the slaves and guinea pigs of their useless advertisements live and work only in order to consume... that's the real reason they despise and hate anything that moves in the opposite direction... but we'll win, because that what we do, we do for pleasure, not for money :-)

I'm proud of the censorship attempts I had to endure.

Syn attacks against my sites (January-May 1999)

For many years my fortress has been continuously attacked by young crackers
In January 1999 however, a massive a well organised syn-attack against my fortress frigged the local router and brought the server on its knees.
The fortress was taken off until 21 april 1999
The third week of April my old fortress reopened onto a stronger server, but -once more- a massive syn-attack frigged the router after less than a week on 26 april 1999.
Since the attackers began a series of syn-attacks against my mirrors as well

This solution was nevertheless not very elegant, and I wanted to re-set my fravia.org address on a "panzered" server.
This new fortress has withstood so far (October 1999) all sort of vicious attacks
At one point the attackers went so far to download microcode to a Cisco router, which is not an easy, nor very common, trick at all, but to no avail! :-)
The attacks have never stopped and are currently (October 1999) being routinely carried out, with slightly different patterns against my new fortress. As you are probably reading this on my new fortress, you can imagine how frustrated the silly syn-attackers probably are. Since we know now that the most attacks were stardet from the West coast of the States (where the attackers have been documented using 8 machines from a M$-stream at one given time :-) some visitors from that area may experience some problems (basically heavy automated trackwork :-) when accessing from West coast USA backbones
I should actually thank these clowns, since they gave me the opportunity to learn quite a lot of tricks I did not know of.

If we take the content of the above page, together with the riddle text and the lovecraft quote about his stories and lay them all side by side and look at them as one, and not as separate bits of text - a pattern starts to emerge.


The story was written in 1897 and the pictures were painted in 1896.

Now if we take the following snippet from the history page:
They have been first censored by Compu$erve (& Micro$oft) on 21/08/1996. My following main page, had not much more luck... it was censored as well -by Geocities- after 18 months, on 16 April 1997.

Now if we take the year as XXYY, and ignore the XX bit, we end up with 96 and 97 in both cases (1896 and 1996, 1897 and 1997). Could this be another connection, or just a coincidence?

I took it as a connection and a pointer that the history page was a good place to look for clues. This seemed to confirm my train of thought and I took this as a good sign.

This also made me think there might be a bit more to the dates as there seemed to be a connection, but we will come back to that later.

So taking this, we look further (deeper) into the text and how it connects to the riddle.

H.P. Lovecraft

H.P.Lovecraft made the following comment: 'You will, of course, realize that all my stories, unconnected as they may be, are based on one fundamental lore or legend: that this world was inhabited at one time by another race, who in practicing black magic, lost their foothold and were expelled, yet live on outside, ever ready to take possession of this earth again.'

Now if we look at the riddle text:

Searchers after forbidden knowledge haunt strange, far places, falter down black cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten sites. The haunted pages and the desolate texts are their shrines, and they linger around the sinister javascripts on uninhabited servers. At times the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous. In some places of the web have dwelt generations of strange people, whose like the world has never seen. Seized with a gloomy and fanatical belief which exiled them from their kind, their ancestors sought the web-wilderness for freedom. There the scions of a conquering race indeed flourished free...

Umm, is it me or do these two say the same thing, if we then also take the original text it also conveys the same message.
This message is basically:
There is a race that once was powerful. They had certain beliefs which allowed them a certain power, or superiority over others. Other races found this frightening or threatening and expelled them and forced them into hiding. This race have survived outside of the other races and are recovering on the outside. There is also the hint that they will once again take the position they used to hold before they were expelled.

This I found to be very interesting, as bells started to go off around me as I knew of several "races" which this could be applied to.

Alphonse Mucha

I found this description of Mucha along the way:
b. 1860 - d. 1932
Alphonse Mucha was born in Bohemia (Moravia, in what is now the Czech Republic) in 1860 and moved to Paris in 1890 where he became the star of the poster-art movement under the patronage of Sarah Bernhardt. After World War I he returned to Czechoslovakia and became the father of a slavic arts and crafts movement which combined elements of art nouveau with classic national themes. In addition to commercial art, jewellery design, interior decoration, sculpture and stage design, Mucha experimented with lettering and calligraphy to produce excellent source material for unique typefaces. Mucha's style is widely considered synonymous with French Art Nouveau and he is one of the most imitated artists and designers of all time.

Initiated 1898, Paris
founder of Czech Freemasonry
Sovereign Grand Commander
Supreme Council
Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite

He is often attributed with being 'founder of Czech Freemasonry', now the freemasons were also once a conquering race which now to a large degree have been driven underground, but yet still prosper and exist. They are also not understood by a lot of society and have been considered dangerous and secretive most of their history.

There does seem to be some doubt about his role in the freemasons, but it is widely published that he was connected to them, so we will take this as read. We also accept it because it seems to be a connecting point between mucha and lovecraft, and if it is accepted makes great sense in relation to the riddle and the direction we are moving.

Lovecraft and Freemasonry

Myth: Lovecraft's father was a Freemason For this misconception we have Colin Wilson's introduction to the George Hay edition of The Necronomicon to thank:

Dr. Stanislaus Hinterstoisser...wrote to me, via Carl [Tausk], telling me that he could not go into details about the source of his knowledge about Lovecraft's father, but that he could state categorically not only that Winfield Lovecraft was an Egyptian Freemason, but that he possessed at least two magical works, the famous Picatrix of Maslama ibn Ahma al-Magritit, also known as pseudo-Magriti, and Godziher's Book of the Essence of the Soul.

Wilson goes on to claim that the Necronomicon, which Lovecraft indicates in "The Dunwich Horror" is at least 751 pages long, makes up a mere portion of the Book of the Essence of the Soul! Thus, he is claiming that Winfield Lovecraft actually possessed a superset of the Necronomicon. In spite of all this nonsense, in the St. John's Eve 1984 issue of Crypt of Cthulhu Colin Wilson admitted that this edition was "such an obvious spoof". As if his pointing this out was necessary.

Although there's no evidence to indicate that Lovecraft's father was a Mason, his grandfather, Whipple Van Buren Phillips, was very active in Freemasonry. Whipple Phillips owned much of the land in and around the town of Greene, Rhode Island, and founded Ionic Lodge No. 28 there in 1870. The lodge hall, which still stands and has been used by the masons since 1886, houses a portrait of Phillips. Despite this, there's still no reason to believe that the Freemasons, Egyptian or otherwise, have access to rare copies of a fictional book.

So H.P.Lovecraft also has a connection to the Freemasons, even if it is a couple of generations removed this is still a valid point and gives us more evidence of a connection to Mucha, at least in thought and background.

This also together with the history of the Freemasons as given earlier can also be related to his stories and the message within them as it also relates to the Masons and their history. I do not know if this was intentional or subconscious but it to me seems like a real parallel of thoughts with history known to him, it may be that this is the real clue.

The Necronomicon and Lovecraft

One of Lovecraft's most well known props was a book called the "Necronomicon" which was meant to be a source of much "old" knowledge and power to be gained from its contents. So surely this bears some thinking about, it was a book of magic - very powerful and very old in the sense that older is better. He refers to it in his stories and it is also referred to by other authors of the time. The original author of the book was said to be "Abdul Alhazred".

from : http://www.hplovecraft.com/creation/necron/stories.htm

Lovecraft never used this Arabic title for the book again, except in letters and in his fictional "History of the Necronomicon" (1927). In this brief work, not printed until after Lovecraft's death, Lovecraft gives an account of the origin of the Necronomicon, as well as its translations from the original Arabic, into Greek, Latin, and eventually, English. Besides the "History", the greatest amount of information about the Necronomicon appeared in "The Dunwich Horror" (Summer 1928). The following passage is especially powerful:

"Nor is it to be thought...that man is either the oldest or the last of earth's masters, or that the common bulk of life and substances walks alone. The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, They walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen. Yog- Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They have trod earth's fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men somtimes know them near, but of Their semblance can no man know, saving only in the features of those They have begotten on mankind; and of those are there many sorts, differing in likeness from man's truest eidolon to that shape without sight or substance which is Them. They walk unseen and foul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their consciousness. They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or city behold the hand that smites. Kadath in the cold waste hath known Them, and what man knows Kadath? The ice desert of the South and the sunken isles of Ocean hold stones where Their seal is engraven, but who hath seen the deep frozen city or the sealed tower long garlanded with seaweed and barnacles? Great Cthulhu is Their cousin, yet can he spy Them only dimly. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! As a foulness shall ye know Them. Their hand is at your throats, yet ye see Them not; and Their habitation is even one with your guarded threshold. Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet. Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, and after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again." (The Dunwich Horror, 170)

This passage of text bears striking similarities with the message of the riddle text and also the original text for "The Picture in the house" and yet it is concerning the Necronomicon and its people. This seems to be a book which reinforces Lovecrafts beliefs within his stories, almost perfectly fitting them.

The Necronomicon - Was it real?
quote from letters to others : http://www.hplovecraft.com/creation/necron/letters.htm

To Robert Bloch (early to mid July 1933): As for the "Necronomicon" -- this month's triple use of such allusions is bringing me in an unusual number of inquiries concerning the real nature & obtainability of Alhazred's, Eibon's, & von Junzt's works. In each case I am frankly confessing the fakery involved.

To Willis Conover (July 29, 1936): Now about the "terrible and forbidden books"--I am forced to say that most of them are purely imaginary. There never was any Abdul Alhazred or Necronomicon, for I invented these names myself. Robert Bloch devised the idea of Ludvig Prinn and his De Vermis Mysteriis, while the Book of Eibon is an invention of Clark Ashton Smith's. The late Robert E. Howard is responsible for Friedrich von Junzt and his Unaussprechlichen Kulten.... As for seriously-written books on dark, occult, and supernatural themes--in all truth they don't amount to much. That is why it's more fun to invent mythical works like the Necronomicon and Book of Eibon.

To Harry O. Fischer (late February, 1937): The name "Abdul Alhazred" is one which some adult (I can't recall who) devised for me when I was 5 years old & eager to be an Arab after reading the Arabian Nights. Years later I thought it would be fun to use it as the name of a forbidden-book author. The name Necronomicon...occurred to me in the course of a dream.

Although Lovecraft may have wanted his readers to at least temporarily suspend their disbelief in the Necronomicon, he always made the fiction of the book known to those who asked.

This really intrigued me, as this was starting to click. The hidden essays were in a way like the Necronomicon in that they do not seem to exist, as no-one has found them and there do not seem to be any clues within the riddle text or images which lead the way to any essays. That does not mean to say that people do not believe they exist, and more to the point must exist. What if they do not exist - why would they be referenced if they did not exist, what would we gain - how would we find them? Who would create them?

So many questions, some of the thoughts fit the quotes below:

Despite all the evidence given in the other pages here, there will still be those who believe that the Necronomicon is a "real" book. There will also be those who merely claim to believe, as a means of getting a reaction out of others. There are also those who will claim that the power of the hoax Necronomicons is real, even those who admit that these books are "hoaxes".

There are also those who believe that Lovecraft's Necronomicon is an archetype of occult books. That is, that the book somehow exists in some Platonic sense, like a "perfect" circle. They are of the opinion that Lovecraft somehow tapped into some higher plane of consciousness and drew upon it for his creations. And they bolster their argument by pointing out his frequent references to his fantastic dreams.

These made a lot of sense to me, and also regarding the thoughts and ideas floating round the MB, the people seemed to be uplifted at the thought of discovering essays which they had not previously known about. The mere thought that they were there, without any proof or explanation gave them something to aim for, together with expectations and preconceptions.

I must admit that I was subject to this, and had many thoughts and preconceptions which clouded my view for a while, but gradually it cleared starting with little bits and them growing, what you are reading at the moment is the culmination of that process, which started out with little nagging thoughts which were explored in time.

More Lovecraft

In his introduction to Arkham House's "The Dunwich Horror and Others", August Derleth makes the following comment:
"The pattern of the Mythos is a pattern that is basic in the history of mankind, representing as it does the primal struggle between good and evil; in this, it is essentially similar to the Christian Mythos, especially relating to the expulsion of Satan from Eden and Satan's lasting power of evil. 'All my stories, unconnected as they may be,' wrote Lovecraft, 'are based on the fundamental lore or legend that this world was inhabited at one time by another race who, in practising black magic, lost their foothold and were expelled, yet live on outside ever ready to take possession of this earth again.'"

In fact, this quote did not come from Lovecraft, but from Harold Farnese, a brief correspondent of Lovecraft. After Lovecraft's death, Derleth wrote Farnese, asking if he could borrow the letters from Lovecraft. Farnese gladly agreed, and mailed the letters to Derleth. In letters Farnese then wrote to Derleth, he often "quoted" Lovecraft--these quotes appear to be, at best, paraphrases. In one, Farnese writes:

"Upon congratulating HPL upon his work, he answered: 'You will, of course, realize that all my stories, unconnected as they may be, are based on one fundamental lore or legend: that this world was inhabited at one time by another race, who in practicing black magic, lost their foothold and were expelled, yet live on outside, ever ready to take possession of this earth again.'"

Derleth took this "quote" as fact and used it on several occasions, but investigation into Lovecraft's letters does not reveal this "quote". In several other letters to Derleth, Farnese quotes the letters he sent to Derleth, yet comparison to the letters themselves reveals that Farnese was not quoting, but merely recalling. Farnese at one point refers to a writer for Weird Tales by the name of "Bellknap Jones"--an obvious misreference to Frank Belknap Long.

This is also important, as if I leave it out someone is bound to point it out to me, I know it puts into doubt one of the pieces that I am relying on to explain the solution, but after reading Lovecraft's stories I do think that the message of the quote holds true, even if it may not have been transferred from one person to another in the exact way quoted, it is undoubtable that it does hold true for Lovecraft's stories - you only have to read them to come to that conclusion. This is why the quote seems to fit so well, this is because it does fit very well - it may not have come from lovecraft that way, but it is often attributed to him and does hold true for his stories and explains his motivation in the plot lines of the stories very well and easily. I also have to take a bit of a leap of faith and take that the author of the riddle also took the message of HPL's stories that way as well.

Putting it all Together


This is something that interested me as soon as I read it, the quote from Lovecraft, which reads : "You will, of course, realize that all my stories, unconnected as they may be, are based on one fundamental lore or legend: that this world was inhabited at one time by another race, who in practicing black magic, lost their foothold and were expelled, yet live on outside, ever ready to take possession of this earth again.'"
This is the same message as before, but the terms have changed slightly. Now the thing that this group did to be exiled is given as 'black magic' - this is a very emotive term which can and has been used to describe many things throughout history. The people with this skill or knowledge have normally been expelled from society as the rest of their society fear them through lack of understanding.

It has often been said that a skill which to an educated or advanced society appears normal or not out of the ordinary, can to a group of a lower development level appear 'alike magic'. This is due to them not being able to understand how it is possible, and thinking it must be magic as it is unexplainable or simply not possible with their level of technology and tools. This is true of both technology and knowledge alike.

People are known (en masse) to fear that which they do not understand or agree with, however this decision is made it is normally with negative implications for the group under consideration. This has happened to numerous groups throughout history which were not practicing magic but were considered to be by others. Initially this discovery can be met with wonder and astonishment but can quickly turn to fear and hatred.

I was reading a book and came across a quote where the author refered to a team of cryptographers as 'magicians'. This got me thinking, the link had been made before but this brought it to the front. To the people who did not understand the processes and thoughts involved, decrypting encoded messages could be analagous to magic. This term was also used to refer to early computer programmers as no-one else could understand how they got these hulks of metal to do what they did - it all seemed so baffling and beyond comprehension.

Now in this modern world, is the skill of reverse engineering or understanding how the technology behind computers and the internet somehow related to 'Black Magic', after all early programmers were many times referred to as magicians.

At the start people with these skills and way of thinking were revered (honoured) for their knowledge and treated as highly skilled and special. For they understood the machines and how to make them function and this seemed so puzzling to the other people. They tinkered around with the internals to make the machines and programs faster and more complex and people applauded them for their actions.
They gained the nickname 'hackers' and it meant a good thing in that it was a person who understood and knew how things worked and learned how to improved and change them. Sadly over time this name became dirty and poluted with many misunderstandings, and also interchangeable with crackers and other things (note: how many of the public can give the original meanings), this lead to very negative public images of people who like to look under the hood or change/improve things, as they are now bundled with people who take down servers and crack protections and security. They now are often condemmed for their actions, however un-malicious. As now it is not considered good to try to improve the work of others and seek below the hood of the machine.
In this part they were a conquering race that now is not.

These people were essentially reverse engineers but without the history, they share thoughts and patterns with some seekers as well. To most of the world in these new times they can be compared to the early hackers in their understanding and utilization of these new technologies when many fail to understand or want to understand them.

Exiled Races

Now these groups of people have been expelled and their activities have been declared illegal in most countries. If you then consider those who practice the art which was present on the old +F site, they were exiled even more and have definitely been declared an undesirable part of society by most computer companies, even though they are forced to recognise these peoples because of their skill.

+F said "Fortress at *** was re-attacked after 6 days :-(" "My main mirror has been syn-attacked as well.
Seems like someone is working very hard to attack me :-)"
this would appear as though someone was trying hard to take his site down, on the web would this act not be like exiling someone. By preventing them being on the web, you are forcing them elsewhere, if they go elsewhere you do the same there - thereby exiling them.

Yet they still exist and still continue their travels, but could they be considered to be on the outside, certainly they have been in various parts of history, this situation seems to be improving and so they could be said to be returning. It has also been said recently that the skills that this group possesses are becoming more and more valuable and important as data becomes a more central thing in the modern world.

The riddle page says:
"In some places of the web have dwelt generations of strange people, whose like the world has never seen. Seized with a gloomy and fanatical belief which exiled them from their kind, their ancestors sought the web-wilderness for freedom."
"There the scions of a conquering race indeed flourished free..."

These strange people whose like the world have never seen could very easily be a reference to reversers, crackers, hackers or searchers as there are still a lot of people in the world who have not seen them, or begin to understand them - and only now is more of society becoming aware of them in any kind of positive light, and not just in the negative light that has been present in recent decades.

The groups mentioned above certainly have a belief that they have a right to do what they do, which if translated into historic terms could have been called fanatical and gloomy in parts of history right up to today.
Also the above groups have also experienced problems with their kind over their beliefs, which meant hiding or disguising their skills from their own kind, for fear of being branded with the tar that other people had created.

They have most definitely sought the web for freedom, and a fair amount of them would not have come into contact with their kind was it not for the web. Their scions are now enjoying a freedom that they have been denied for a period of time, and are now enjoying a resurgence in both public exposure and the attitude towards them.

Forgotten Sites

"Searchers after forbidden knowledge haunt strange, far places,"
When searching for something that is not widely known (hidden) how many strange far away sites do you visit? Quite a few I would guess - this applies to all of us.

"falter down black cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten sites. The haunted pages and the desolate texts are their shrines, and they linger around the sinister javascripts on uninhabited servers."
This also all applies to the above groups of people. How many old not recently updated sites have each of you visited recently. Surely if a site on the web is not updated for a long time it can be roughly described as uninhabited (no one lives there at the moment), it may not be in the future but for the time being is.
Haunted not updated pages and old texts which appear desolate and abandoned number many on the web, echos of former sites and abandoned sites long forgotten by the author float around with servers as they change hands and organisations.

Many of their homesites appear to the outside world to be uninhabited unless you use the right entrance, and a lot of the protection is implemented in javascripts which could be described as sinister.

So this also applies to the above groups.

1896 and 1897

Changing tack a bit, but bear with me. Back to the dates.
The years still puzzled me, as I was sure there was some other clue somewhere which related to the dates. Much searching turned up nothing, both with the separate dates and combined into '18961897' and '18971896'.

After a while, I started to wonder and went on a search for a page with the name '18961897.htm' as this seemed to fit our authors naming structure for pages. Then started a hunt of all the servers and all known directories for this page. I did not find a thing, I had started to just hit pages as the search engines had not turned anything up, but this did not mean it could not exist, just that it was not linked or indexed anywhere. This was already known as it had not been found in any search engines using clues from other pages.

On a night whilst sipping some nice wine (Fleurie - nice Swiss wine) and enjoying some nice relaxing music with a good book (Yes - Paper!) a thought struck my head, what if the directory was not a known one, this would make sense, but it would have to be possible to find this page as part of the hunt, or I would have to discount this line of searching. So taking the line that our quizmaster has taken that most things seem to be out in the open (Unless you look too deep). I thought, so what about if the directory name was the same as the page name so giving the dates a double meaning. I thought this was very likely as I had tried to find the page using known locations and had also tried searching for the dates and that pagename. The name of the page was fairly certain in my mind as it seemed to fit the 'obvious' slant of the search.

So off to the main server, and the servers holding mirrors to try and 'fetch' the page in a directory called '18961897' and with the name '18961897.htm' and guess who was very surprised when it came back as a valid page. Yup, VERY!
Have not checked if it exists on any of the mirrors since it was found on the main site.

The page on searchlores contains the images from the riddle page, together with another clue. It is definitely part of the riddle, but am not sure if it was meant to be found as the riddle gives the same clues, and no new clues seem to be on this page. BUT it does re-inforce the other clues, as shown below.

The address of this page is http://www.searchlores.org/18961897/18961897.htm

Interestingly the names of the images has been changed to '3.jpg' and '4.jpg' from the original 'muchaX.jpg'. This presumably was to foil any attempt to find the page through the images and their names, but the images are the same, complete with the same width and height ;)

from the page:
the year in the novel and of the paintings?
the width and height of the images?
you got the first subdirectory name... but what you'r seeking is not on this server... here is the local path you should follow, able seeker! (Good luck... you'll need it)
Well, ahem... else my riddle would have been too easy, eh...

I presume the two comments with a question mark after are meant to show how we came to find this page, either by one method or the other. Sorry to disappoint the author and say I found it by another method.

As far as I know this page has only been found by a couple of people and a couple posted references to it on the messageboard, giving hints to the content but not the full address. The lack of response to these messages showed how few people had come across this page in their search for the solution.

Now, this page struck me as interesting as it was the same as one of the clues posted on the messsageboard, which was :
What about homepages searching (30/09/00 14.00.48)
[Xoom] [Tripod] [Fortunecity] [Geocities] [Crosswind]
[just passing by]
eheh :-)

This message was considered by the messageboard readers to be a clue from the author of the riddle, so this message and the previous page both seem to be giving the same clue, which is to go to the local search page and look there. The local search page is used for homepages searching on the major freehomepage providers. The thought here was that there would be a page within these providers which was the next clue.

This bothered me, as it did not seem to fit the pattern of the riddle and the thoughts I was having about the solution. It seemed a bit inelegant when compared to the rather elegant construction of the riddle and the pointers to the solution that came up along the way. The clue was to do a local search, or a search of local things or places. Or that the solution was in a local place, so many thoughts.

Hidden Essays

Thinking about it, the riddle text is just describing the visitors to the site, and more closely the type of people who are likely to try and find the hidden pages. The text is a description of US, not of where to find anything.

The thought that the light ones are searchlores I think is correct, as they are +F's pages and we can see them, so he would not be using that to point anywhere else. Taking the dark and light theme. I think the dark essays are just dark because we cannot see them. This could mean that they are hidden, but if we take the quotes from the other riddle, which are considered by me to be clues, "Mind you, it may be one that points nowhere, just says something about ORC. " could be taken to mean 'it says something about US', and "It doesn't have to point anywhere - though it may do so." together with the fact this riddle does not seem to directly point to any essays, it could mean that they have not or will not be written, or just that they have not been written yet!

So if we take the line that they have not been written yet, but are to be written. Once they are written they would no longer be hidden and so would become part of the light side, as in the side we can see. So this is saying if essays are written then they will be published on the light side, as this ties both sides together - they are the same thing, but before and after of the essay. First the essay is hidden then it is brought into the light.

So we are back to the same question - who is going to write the essays? In the past there have been an assortment of authors to the essays, this seems to be the way, not many have seen an essay by sustrugiel, so it must be someone else. Normally 'we' (the readers of the essays) as individuals are the contributors (writers of newer essays) so this trend would continue.

So now back to the clue given by the page related to the dates and also in the clue on the messageboard, the 'LOCAL' clue. I was thinking one night, again with some nice wine and a thought started to come to the front that had been skulking around in my thoughts but had been surpressed, I had been trying to figure out alternative meanings of local. When I started to think in terms of distance, I came up with the answer that the most local thing to me - is ME! If you are to try and find the thing most local (distance wise) from you, it is you, as you cannot get anything close enough to you to be closer than yourself.
I had come up with this part of the solution by taking all the information without the local clue, but when you add it into the equation it just seems to fit perfectly. This to me seems to be the whole point of the local clue, it was actually giving us the solution to the riddle but we were so tied up in trying to find a page that it was missed. As the earlier quote would have it, it was so out in the open that we totally grasped it at the time, it was too obvious.
So this is another pointer to us, either in the community or individual sense, which seems to match with all the others and forms an even stronger picture of the solution.

From all of these clues and bits of information we can go to the next step and say that WE are to write the essays. The essays will remain hidden (un-written) until they are written by us and therefore brought into the light when they are published on searchlores. Even when we have written them they are still hidden until published somewhere on the web.

The hidden essays are on our own personal server, inside our heads and are just waiting to be transferred to another medium so they can be read and enjoyed by others.

This means that the hidden essays are to be written by us then submitted for publication on searchlores, and the author has said that he will accept essay contributions and provide a place for them by offering this invitation.

After all SOMEONE has to write the new essays and if we all sit around waiting for someone else to do the work then none of us will get ANY new essays!!

Final thoughts

Firstly we should not consider this to be the end of the riddle, but the beginning of the next phase, consisting of colored scrolls and precious items waiting to be discovered and displayed for others viewing pleasure in our gallery of knowledge. Fravia has given us this place to share thoughts and views and surely we should return the favour by contributing to that which we treasure so much, in that way the legacy will be continued and will not turn into the remnants of a forgotten race.
In this web world of ours that which is not changing and updating is considered all too soon to be abandoned and deserted, to be discarded as old and not useful. The world around us is changing constantly and we must learn to adapt and move with it, constantly learning new skills and discovering knowledge for ourselves and others to digest and utilise.

This quote applies equally to all us, even in todays world of information and communication :
"It is an unfortunate fact that every man who seeks to disseminate knowledge must contend not only against ignorance itself, but against false instruction as well. No sooner do we deem ourselves free from a particularly gross superstition, than we are confronted by some enemy to learning who would set aside all the intellectual progress of years, and plunge us back into the darkness of mediaeval disbelief."
[Lovecraft to The Providence Evening News, 5 September 1914]

I would also like to thank ~S~ Fravia+ for his award and his Riddle.


I must point out that I would not have got to the end if it had not been for all the people on the Riddle MessageBoard for their help and encouragement, as long ago I might have given up. So thanks to EVERYONE who took part! ;)

Do not forget the message of the riddle:

Hope you enjoyed reading.

Copyright (c) 2001, WayOutThere

vvf's "Comments on WayOutThere's (Zen) solution to Fravia's riddle"
- a few ramblings by a leech -

Dear Fravia, WayOutThere and friends, I have been hovering around searchlores.org and the former fravia.org for quite a while, leeching as much info as I could. Well, here's an essay of my own and I hope you'll enjoy it.

People say there isn't such thing as a free lunch. I can't think of anything that proved it more wrong than the mere existence of "searchlores". All you need to get your lunch there is to be hungry. And aren't we all? Sure, it would be very nice if everyone posted some fresh info back in the same spot where they found all those clever snippets that make their lives so much easier and open their eyes so much wider. Remember those old BBSs where downloading and uploading were free and the sysop would say something like "please upload 1 new file for any 5 downloads". That spirit is long gone now, as it belonged to the "web of the old".

So, this would be a nice world if everybody contributed, but ... the world is certainly not that nice.

I'm sure all of you enjoy the essays posted on "searchlores" and often check the site or the message boards for more. You may be into rather technical stuff on searching, anonymity, php and the like, or crave for more philosophical food for thought such as the "reality cracking" essays and Fravia's riddle. Regardless of your preferences, I assume your pretty much read all of them just to keep informed. You probably save some on your computer for later reference. And I almost can hear you wonder "Why aren't these cool guys writing more? What's the matter with them? Slacking?"

If all the above applies to you and you never made an attempt at writing an essay, then you're a leech my friend! Don't worry, I'm one myself, we're the vast majority.

So why is it that so few essays are posted on "searchlores"? The answer is closely tied to WayOutThere's solution to Fravia's riddle. And I guess you figured it out yourself by now: because we don't write them!

I asked myself very honestly why I haven't done the small polite and decent thing suggested by Fravia in his welcome addressed to visitors, namely contribute to seachlores. Wrong or right, here are (or were ;-) my reasons:

Whatever the excuses, trust me: I'll always find reasons NOT to do something.

But I digress. Let's go back the title of this essay: Comments on WayOutThere's (Zen) solution to Fravia's riddle. Apart from the solution to the riddle there are a few key elements that got me very excited, ones I saw glimpses of but did not really grasp until WayOutThere's essay.

What WayOutThere is teaching us here is a crash course in Zen problem-solving. Remember what Fravia says in his intro: "Some of the intuitions by WayOutThere are so valuable from a searcher's point of view, though, that I feel I do not have the right to keep the considerable amount of work that follow off the web."

If I recall well an old but powerful essay on Zen cracking, the Zen approach used by WayOutThere is obvious if we look at how he came across important parts of the solution: "sipping some nice wine (Fleurie - nice Swiss wine) and enjoying some nice relaxing music with a good book (Yes - Paper!) a thought struck my head", or "I was thinking one night, again with some nice wine and a thought started to come to the front that had been skulking around in my thoughts but had been surpressed".

This is similar to an old technique of mine I sometimes use: concentrating on some problem or task for quite a while, then leaving the topic aside and switching to something totally different, like a drink&chat with friends or simply a good book. Typically, if I can afford it, I would allow at least one day to pass before I get back to the problem, but that depends a lot on the problem itself. This "Zen" approach somehow dictates its own timing and it would be counter-productive to hurry it. However, I'm not saying it works all the time. There are problems more likely to be solved this way than others, and one example would be riddles such as Fravia's, where one loses sight of the forest because one can't see past that huge and wonderful blossoming tree. What this approach can give you is, paradoxically, some distance. It allows your mind to withdraw and view the big picture, or at least view the picture under a different angle you would not have considered otherwise.

As you know, the mind never stops thinking. Unlike Window$, it's a true multi-tasking environment with scores of background processes. What you do is take advantage of these possibilities if you let your mind work at its own pace. It can indeed come up with bright and very rewarding solutions if you use the right tricks (reverse engineer the mind? Why not, there's no copyright involved, even if it's not exactly open source).

However, you have to provide it some new info from time to time to feed upon, and never really cease being interested in that solution you seek. Remember, WayOutThere almost quit his search for a solution to the riddle. I sure am glad he didn't. So what else is involved here? Patience and tenacity. Look at the sheer length of time needed to solve the riddle: September 2000 - July (or rather June) 2001. At least 9 months. You may say the solution ripened like a newborn baby (btw: is it a boy or a girl?).

Another thing: look at the numbers of people who posted on the riddle board. I've read most of their postings with a lot of interest. Some of them were very, very good. They're a true wealth which deserves to remain online for other people to read and enjoy. As WayOutThere admits, they've helped a lot. And imagine the number of people who tried to solve Fravia's riddle on their own, but without posting to the board. I should know about that, I'm one of these "invisible" people.

Just a few words, though, about my own approach. At first, I tried the "obvious": steganography, names of folders and files based on the words changed by Fravia in the "Picture in the House", searches on Mucha and Lovecraft, etc. Not very imaginative. I failed to see the importance of the years (18961897). I made some Zen attempts of my own which did not bring any relevant results (but were otherwise instructive...). I was basically wasting time. Bitterly, I decided I would quit because there was no way I could find that solution. I believed I lacked the cracking skills to do it. But then, I had this idea: I would quit active searching, yes, and then I could still visit the riddle board just for the fun of it, without any more frustration, and with a very Zen-like detachment.

By then I really liked that place just for itself and the riddle became just a pretext for my frequent visits to the board. Besides, I figured the riddle will eventually be solved by someone and the solution will become available to all. I knew this was bound to happen (as it had already happened in the past), the only unknown was the timing. I assumed it would be a safe bet to consider a term of 1 year (4 times longer than I would wait for a crack or other similar stuff on the net). Why? Because I assumed Fravia had hidden the essays well, because the type of info I believed to be contained in those hidden essays depreciates pretty fast and because, on the web, what was once hidden soon becomes revealed (somebody would link to those *%!$@#* essays sooner or later...).

And finally the (surprising) solution came. I truly enjoyed reading it and I believe it brings something new for all of us. It's certainly not your everyday easter egg hunt: beware! there are no eggs out there, just hunters.

Regarding the riddle, you might say I used the Waiting Approach ;-). Is it useful? Well, if you can't find a crack for that cool app released yesterday, and can't crack it yourself, just put the app on a shelf if it's really worth it, wait for 1-3 months and then search again - your problem is solved.

So is waiting good? I don't know about yours, but my life is already in such a rush due to my work and other things I have no control over, that I just love the feeling of sitting back and enjoying the unfolding of the riddle's saga just for the beauty of it! There's so much to learn in doing so, like reading a good book. The last time I felt the same pleasure was when I re-read Tolkien.

Finally, WayOutThere's solution reminded me of a memorable quote from a novel by H. Hesse. I had it buried somewhere in the recesses of my memory but could not remember it fully, so I looked it up on the web and here it is, for your enjoyment, in all its splendor:

"...Listen, Kamala, when you throw a stone into the water, it finds the quickest way to the bottom of the water. It is the same when Siddhartha has an aim, goal. Siddhartha does nothing; he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he goes through the affairs of the world like the stone through the water, without doing anything, without bestirring himself; he is drawn and lets himself fall. He is drawn by his goal, for he does not allow anything to enter his mind which opposes his goal. That is what Siddhartha learned from the Samanas. It is what fools call magic and what they think is caused by demons. Nothing is caused by demons, there are no demons. Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goal, if he can think, wait, and fast."



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