There are eight days remaining in 2015, and it feels like the year has left us with more questions than answers, some more pressing than others. What gave rise to Donald Trump? Who, and where, is the elusive creator of Bitcoin? And what caused a bizarre bootleg SpongeBob film to almost completely disappear?
Below, find a collection of the year’s most compelling unsolved mysteries, from Avril Lavigne to Martin Shkreli.
In June, Derek and Maria Broaddus of Westfield, New Jersey filed a lawsuit alleging that they’d received a series of terrifying letters from a person who identified him or herself only as “the Watcher.” In the messages, the Watcher claimed that the Broaddus’s $1.3 million suburban home was “the subject of my family for decades,” and thanked the couple for “the young blood you have brought to me,” in apparent reference to their children. The family fled their home after three letters, and the suit accused the previous owners of failing to notify them of the Watcher’s frightening obsession.
Gawker traveled to Westfield, and learned from a neighbor that the letters may have come from Newark, not the Broaddus’s town. The neighbor also believed that police had done “nothing” and “didn’t seem concerned” about finding the culprit. Six months after the story made headlines, there’s a Watcher NBC series reportedly in the works, but we still don’t know the creepy stalker’s identity.
A Day With SpongeBob Squarepants: The Movie
What if I told you that somewhere out there, there’s an unauthorized film about SpongeBob SquarePants that no one has ever seen? Or maybe someone has seen it, but they’ve since gone into hiding forever? Or maybe the film isn’t real, but for some reason, someone out there wants you to believe that it is?
Ever since someone noticed a listing for A Day With SpongeBob SquarePants: The Movie on Amazon in July, a cadre of obsessive fans has worked to find a copy of the film, going so far as to sift through public records and make phone calls to unsuspecting film distributor. But despite a strange trail of evidence that’s taken the searchers across the internet, they’ve not found even a single clip or screenshot from A Day With SpongeBob SquarePants. Judging by recent activity on the website where the search for the film is chiefly conducted, they’re still reluctant to accept the increasingly likely-seeming answer: that maybe A Day With SpongeBob SquarePants never existed at all.
Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?
Earlier this month, Sam Biddle and I published the results of a deep investigation indicating that Craig Wright, an Australian researcher and CEO, was either involved in the creation of the digital currency Bitcoin or had spent years orchestrating an elaborate con to make it seem like he was. Working from many of the same documents, Wired published a similar story less than two hours before, and Wright’s home and office were raided by Australian federal police on the day the two pieces went up.
That was nearly three weeks ago, and in the time since, other reporters have uncovered bizarre inconsistencies in Wright’s digital paper trail that made the already murky story even more perplexing. Craig Wright himself disappeared right around the time of the raids, and has not raised his head in public since. Whoever he is, and whatever his connection to Bitcoin, it’s unlikely we’ll learn much more about Craig Wright until he comes back.
Did Avril Lavigne Die in 2003?
The year’s most esoteric conspiracy theory claims that, like Paul McCartney in 1966, the Canadian pop-punk singer Avril Lavigne died in 2003 and was replaced by a doppelganger.
But wait! True believers claim that New Avril—their clever nickname for the new Avril—would not leave her home to go grocery shopping after her Lyme disease diagnosis, as she was spotted doing in a store’s cheese section months after her illness was made public. Could it be that this was the old Avril, Lyme-free and ready for some cheddar? It’s a shocking idea, but perhaps Avril Lavigne never died at all. Mystery solved?
Is Donald Trump Secretly Helping Hillary?
The political ascendance of the sputtering hate machine called Trump shocked just about everyone in 2015, and Americans who aren’t interested in power suits and state-sponsored religious discrimination have spent the last several months flailing desperately to explain away his rise.
The most tantalizing and farfetched theory goes something like this: Donald Trump is bad for the mainstream Republican party, Donald Trump could take a significant chunk of votes from the Republican candidate if he decided to run as an Independent, and Donald Trump has a longstanding, documented relationship with the Clinton family. In August, the Washington Post reported that Bill Clinton actively encouraged Trump to get more involved in GOP politics this year. Could it be that his entire campaign is a ruse designed to ensure Hillary’s victory? As the conservative commentator Allen Ginzberg asked in July: “If Trump had an agreement with Hillary to ensure her win by embarrassing R’s & then running as an indie, what would he be doing differently?”
If Trump had an agreement with Hillary to ensure her win by embarrassing R's & then running as an indie, what would he be doing differently?— AG (@AG_Conservative) July 23, 2015
Sadly, a few scattered bits of strangeness do not a shadowy conspiracy make, and even if the unlikely Trump theory were true, it wouldn’t change the most important takeaway from his surprise run: that plenty of Americans are either evil enough or stupid enough to actually support the guy.
Where Is Once Upon a Time in Shaolin?
In early December, it seemed like the public profile of Martin Shkreli, the price-gouging pharmaceutical CEO, was on the wane. Then, Businessweek dropped a bombshell: Shkreli was the purchaser of the sole copy Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, a Wu-Tang Clan album that the group conceived and marketed as a piece of fine art.
Weeks later, the FBI arrested Shkreli at his midtown Manhattan apartment on charges of fraud, and the indictment against him indicated that the feds might attempt to seize his assets if they were connected with his alleged crimes in any way. It was natural to wonder: if the world’s most coveted rap album was purchased with dirty money, might the authorities lock it up? Gawker broke the story that Shaolin had not been seized, but we weren’t able to say for sure where the album actually was. Is it still locked in a vault in Monaco, where the Wu kept safe before the sale? Or, as one of Shkreli’s most recent livestreams seems to indicate, is it sitting in a drawer in his room? Most importantly, what the hell does the thing sound like?