A package arrived at the University of Chicago admissions department yesterday addressed to Indiana Jones, and as of now, no one knows why. The news come to us via the U Chicago Admissions tumblr, and while I would never disparage the place that hosted our live Frotcast last month, so far the most surprising part of this story is that the University of Chicago has a Tumblr. (The site seems legit, so far as I can tell).
We don’t really even know how to start this post. Yesterday we received a package addressed to “Henry Walton Jones, Jr.”. We sort-of shrugged it off and put it in our bin of mail for student workers to sort and deliver to the right faculty member— we get the wrong mail a lot.
Little did we know what we were looking at. When our student mail worker snapped out of his finals-tired haze and realized who Dr. Jones was, we were sort of in luck: this package wasn’t meant for a random professor in the Stat department. It is addressed to “Indiana” Jones.
What we know: The package contained an incredibly detailed replica of “University of Chicago Professor” Abner Ravenwood’s journal from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. It looks only sort of like this one, but almost exactly like this one, so much so that we thought it might have been the one that was for sale on Ebay had we not seen some telling inconsistencies in cover color and “Ex Libris” page (and distinct lack of sword). The book itself is a bit dusty, and the cover is teal fabric with a red velvet spine, with weathered inserts and many postcards/pictures of Marion Ravenwood (and some cool old replica money) included. It’s clear that it is mostly, but not completely handmade, as although the included paper is weathered all of the “handwriting” and calligraphy lacks the telltale pressure marks of actual handwriting.
They posted it ostensibly in the hopes of spreading it around the internet and getting an explanation. That hasn’t happened yet, but there are a few theories:
- Most plausible, least exciting: someone purchased one from the replica-maker on Ebay that we linked to yesterday, and on its way to the recipient, it wormed its way out of an outside package. Thinking the Egyptian postage was legit, a wayward mail carrier wrote on our zip code and it hitchhiked its way to our office. Certainly less exciting than our other options, but would still be a hilarious end to our vexing problem. If you are the original Ebay seller of this item and have an angry customer who never got their package, please let us know.
- An oft-suggested idea: this is a part of an Alternate-Reality Game (ARG). One of our alums has a post up here in an alternate-reality gaming forum to discuss this. And hey, we do offer a class on that…
- We have had two sources tell us the text from the page we photographed with our original post is from this website. This doesn’t solve the mystery, but is cool information (and if you like the Ark of the Covenant you can learn more about it there, too). [Source]
There are a few others, but now I’m smelling a rat, because it’s missing the most obvious explanation: it’s viral marketing. And that’s sort of why I’ve always hated viral marketing in a nutshell. It takes something cool and mysterious and gives it the lamest explanation possible – oh, someone’s trying to sell me something. Even worse, it just makes you distrust anything mysterious and interesting – eh, probably just someone trying to sell me something. It’s engineered to deliver huge letdowns. Viral marketing is like letting a bunch of petition solicitors and panhandlers into the public square, and before you know it, the townspeople don’t talk to each other anymore and hobos have pooped on everything. I may have taken this metaphor a little too far, but you know what I mean.