Silver Ladder is more complex than it seems. It's not just a mysterious website, but an alternate reality game (ARG), or a piece of chaotic fiction, or perhaps performance art. It features characters and organizations struggling and collaborating across a dreamlike landscape of websites, conversations, physical buildings, and persons living or dead. http://www.silverladder.com/ is the starting point (read yesterday's post for a description). But, as Unfiction forum readers discovered, the story is based in many venues, including MySpace, YouTube, instant message, phone, and also the Silver Ladder site.
Let's assemble a narrative, starting with summer of this year. The Silver Ladder domain has been the home to an art studio, or an artist's site, run by Shane Watson, as far back as 1999. In June 2007 the main page (copied in archive.org) carried a paragraph informing the world that the site was down, and had nothing to do with the Halo 3 ARG. In July the Silver Ladder site changed drastically. Instead of being a digital artist's portfolio and set of personal pages, it became artwork without identification. The reason? AboutUs, a wiki-based directory, carries a description of Silver Ladder with this obituary note:
Silver Ladder is a site formerly run by Shane Watson, who was confirmed dead at 11:11 PM on June 11, 2007 from injuries sustained from a car accident in Tucson, Arizona. Mr. Watson was the only person injured in the accident, as it was a one-car accident, and he did not have a passenger in his vehicle. Following the passing of Mr. Watson, control of the site was handed over to Ms. Athena Snows of Seattle, WA. The site has since been run as a form of interactive art exhibit in tribute to the late Mr. Watson.
Shane Watson: we'll return to that name below. Same for 11:11.
In September, the story expanded. A mysterious YouTube video appeared on the 20th, entitled "The Two of Spades Speaks," and introducing several themes: playing cards, rabbit hole (classic ARG note), November 11th, and the Silver Ladder URL. The title's syntax also implies the idea of playing cards as characters.
On the following day a second YouTube video appeared, summoning collaborative help in finding out "the information." The speaker described a set of cards, implicitly structuring the search project, of which "only the Deuces are available". More cards are to appear, but only with increasing difficulty. The file's tags call out to ARGs, while touching on some themes from the Silver Ladder site:
rabbit hole 11:11 11/11 novermber 11 silverladder cryptic ufo bizarre transmission broadcast EVP voices recording
On the same day, an Unfiction forum thread opened up, asking for help in figuring out what the Silver Ladder site was about. One poster quickly whipped up this fine site map/list. Another created an even more elaborate graphic.
From this point on, I am largely drawing on that forum's work, occasionally adding insights of my own. Unfiction forum posters also elicited content by their actions.
A series of characters appeared via individual MySpace pages. For example, the two of clubs is a 27-year-old single male from Arizona... who is concerned about an upcoming Ice Age. Likewise there are the two of diamonds, the two of spades, and the two of hearts. Athena Snows - the woman named in AboutUs' obit - has a space with videos and suggestive text. Interesting name, "Athena Snows": an anagram for "Shane Watson."
A crisis struck around September 24th-25th, as a new character appeared and attacked: The Korporation. The Silver Ladder main page was apparently hacked by the Korporation. Athena Snow's MySpace was hacked, too, and some inserted content referenced Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. One Unforum poster received a message from Two of Spades, freaking out, worried about getting in touch with Athena, and insisting "if anybody asks you tell them that the plan for 11/11 is still on."
The Silver Ladder and Athena MySpace pages recovered by the 25th. Yet on the 26th a YouTube video celebrated the Korporation's takeover of a Seattle space, presumably the physical location of Silver Ladder Studios.
Also on the 26th Athena Snows appeared in an IRC chat (pdf) conducted by Unforum posters, and offered a series of clues: an object was to be found "in a fairway," aces are characters, and the entire game should last about one year (one card per week).
Yesterday one of the deuces published a YouTube video, called "Tribute to the Core," which includes images of some active Unforum posters.
What next? A long month lies between today and November 11th. If Athena's suggestion about weeks and cards is true, perhaps several cards, characters should appear.
There are many, many openings and mysteries here. To pick a few:
- What does the Radiohead link mean? In 2004 Shane Watson posted about his admiration for OK Computer to a board. Radiohead references keep cropping up (Infocult reader Cayden caught one).
- Other pop music angles, like the odd Paul is Dead reference.
- How do the anti-corporate politics connect with the other political threads about a New World Order?
- How does MySpace serve as an ARG or chaotic fiction platform? Should I start mine up?
(image from Athena Snows' MySpace)