Cipher Hunt was an ARG (alternate reality game) about Gravity Falls created by Alex Hirsch. The goal of the game was to find an actual statue of Bill Cipher, briefly glimpsed in the series finale, by retrieving and decoding clues hidden in various locations around the world. The first ones to the statue received a prize, though the hunt was mainly about the journey and not the destination. It began on July 20, 2016 and finished on August 2, 2016.
According to Alex, the official rules to Cipher Hunt are as follows:
- This is an unofficial fan tribute treasure hunt made just by [Alex Hirsch]! It has no affiliation with any company!
- No trespassing/vandalism. Everything is in a public place. Be respectful of your surroundings! Don't be a dummy!
- Be careful - you search at your own risk! Like Pokémon Go, keep an eye out for Gyarados!
- If you encounter Bill, whatever you do, don't shake his hand!
|Kazan Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia||@mindofaddict and a small group of fans||Encrypted message found inside the cathedral.|
|Kanda Myojin Shrine, Tokyo, Japan||@nyankun1||Encrypted message found at the back of one of the emas in the shrine.|
|400 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, Georgia, USA||@Parsleymagnet||Lost pet flyer for Waddles found with a contact number which plays a backwards message when called.|
|Ochre Court, Salve Regina University, Newport, Rhode Island, USA||Clue was accidentally disposed by the university before Cipherhunt began and replaced with another phone message from Stan.|
|Griffith J. Griffith statue, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California, USA||@ramblewheels||Golden head of Grunkle Stan with an encrypted message and an invisible pen inside.|
|Century City, Los Angeles, California, USA||@AchillesHeely, Jason Ritter, Ariel Hirsch, and a small group of fans||A black pouch with a USB stick containing an audio file.|
|Sublevel of the California State Summer School for the Arts, Los Angeles, California, USA||@DroveSouR||Graffiti with a crudely drawn Bill Cipher and a series of hex codes that, when decoded, forms a series of coordinates.|
|Piedmont Park, Piedmont, California, USA||Nick, and fans @minecreatr, @xXxN0831xXx, @OMGMei, and others||A pink key, and a small chest containing a Cryptex locked behind a five-letter keyword. Contained a key used to unlock a post office box and a message.|
|PO Box 27128, 1825 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, California, USA||@OMGMei, Jason Ritter, and a slew of other fans waiting at the post office.||A bag containing two thousand puzzle pieces, an envelope with an image of Bill saying "I HOPE YOU LIKE PUZZLES" in code filled with Stan Bucks, and decoy junk mail.|
|Corner of Rodney and Tillamook street, Portland, Oregon, USA||@easykehl||A message with a View-Master disc under a lawn gnome.|
|Confusion Hill, Mendocino County, California, USA||@rylee_stanton||A message under a jar of fake eyeballs only given when the passcode, FILBRICK, is said.|
|Stanley Street, Amity, Oregon, USA||@annahinchcliff||A message inside a geocache bolt near a telephone pole.|
|Enchanted Forest, Turner, Oregon, USA||@Niltiac6's son||Encrypted message inside a jar buried in a dirt enclosure on the property.|
|Reedsport, Oregon, USA||@shadow_wolfwind (currently @OfficialGFMayor)||Bill Cipher's statue and a chest buried in front of it containing several items. Split with @mypresidents Family, @temp_cdcan, and @tyrnn.|
Fans theorized that there was an actual Bill Cipher statue in the world based off of the end of "Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back The Falls," which contains both a clip of a real Bill statue and a message hinting at the presence of buried treasure "deep within the woods" and a statue "beyond the rusty gates".
Alex Hirsch and the team behind Gravity Falls did not talk about the presence of a statue in the months following the end of the show until the silence was broken on July 20, 2016. On that date, Hirsch tweeted "Are you guys ready?" and then proceeded to begin the game with a tweet containing the words "Let the games begin #FLSKHUKXQW" and the image shown above. The image contained several cryptograms and clues.
- After shifting the phrase "
#FLSKHUKXQW" three letters back, the text reads "#CIPHERHUNT."
- The text above the Bill statue reads:
"WKH XUEDQ OHJHQG KDV FRPH WUXH * FLSKHU'V VWDWXH'V FDOOLQJ BRX * WKH VHFUHW PDS LV LQ BRXU KDQG * WR WUDFH WKH FOXHV DFURVV WKH ODQG"
"THE URBAN LEGEND HAS COME TRUE * CIPHER'S STATUE'S CALLING YOU * THE SECRET MAP IS IN YOUR HAND * TO TRACE THE CLUES ACROSS THE LAND"
- The numbers above the Bill statue read "8-15-10-19-5." After putting the message through A1Z26, Atbash and shifting it three letters back, the text reads "PINES."
- The text below the Bill statue reads:
"GRQ'W IRUJHW LW'V DOO IRU SOHDVXUH * WKH KXQW LWVHOI'V WKH UHDO WUHDVXUH * EXW D SULCH DZDLWV WKH ILUVW RQH WKHUH * EH VDIH, EH VPDUW, DQG RI FRXUVH EHZDUH"
"DON'T FORGET IT'S ALL FOR PLEASURE * THE HUNT ITSELF'S THE REAL TREASURE * BUT A PRIZE AWAITS THE FIRST ONE THERE * BE SAFE, BE SMART, AND OF COURSE BEWARE"
St. Petersburg, Russia
Decoding the red letters placed across both sets of cryptograms creates the word "RUSSIA," hinting at the location of the first clue. The diagram at the middle left of the image was recognized by Russian fans as an architectural plan of the Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg. The diagram at the middle right shows exactly where in the Cathedral it can be found. Using this image, the first clue was successfully found. The text on the clue decodes to:
"Finally the hunt can begin
Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan
The exact location of the second clue is inside the Kanda Myojin Shrine, which Hirsch visited during his trip to Japan. On the back of one of the emas inside the shrine was a scimitar and crescent with an encrypted message. The text on the clue decodes to:
"Consider in your quest for truth
The address found from the second clue led to a Shriners' temple. A community stream found a missing poster for Waddles in the area, but it was water damaged and difficult to read. The poster contains a picture of and information about Waddles, a cryptogram, and a phone number to call if Waddles is found. When called, the number plays a backwards message. The poster contained some information about Waddles: "NAME: Waddles. SEX: ??? BREED: Pig. WEIGHT: 15 lbs. Last seen sitting around some rocks near a creek. ADDITIONAL INFO: Oink oink oink oink oink (etc.)"
The poster also contains an encrypted message:
"dfurvv iurp wkh vwrqhv ri wkh vsulqjv
While it was hard to see due to the rain damage, the text once decoded read:
"Across from the stones of the springs
"Hello, it's Grunkle Stan, and I have a riddle for you! What has two legs during the day, four legs during the night, and uh, it's red and white, and, I dunno, I'm no good at these riddles. It's at Ochre Court, all right? The next clue, it's at Ochre Court. It's, uh, it's like, it's a big old building in Rhode Island. And if you go up the stairs, there's gonna be a bunch of pictures of nuns on the wall. You gotta look behind one of the nun pictures. Sister Mary Hilda Miley. Real, real grouch, that nun. Lift up the picture to find a clue behind the nun, all right? That's the whole thing. So, you know, be careful with the picture. Don't break it. I don't want you to get anyone in trouble, all right? You don't want ol' Grunkle Stan going to jail. Anyway, go to the place, look behind the nun, find the thing, and uh, uh, always? Be...mys...look out for mysteries! That it, did, did I do it? All right."
Newport, Rhode Island
The fourth clue was to be located in the Ochre Court building of Salve Regina University in Rhode Island.
However, the university accidentally disposed of the clue before Cipherhunt began. Alex Hirsch promised to give a replacement clue at July 21st, 2016, 12:30 PST, and asked people to stay out of the university in the meantime.
GravityFallsCipher had also made a few cryptic tweets about Cipherhunt in the meantime.
- The first clue is:
"The Nuns have won
This is allegedly an old clue people forgot to solve. It relates to the "pink key" discussed on Waddles' missing poster.
- The second clue is:
"When one branch closes, another path may still be open. Return to what was and try again while awaiting something new."
It was stated in response to someone asking if the first clue was official. The fans have taken to returning to Georgia in order to find out if something was added in their absence. At 12:30 PST, Alex Hirsch tweeted Grunkle Stan's phone number (the same number on Waddles' missing poster), and said to leave a message.
The phone number plays a message from Grunkle Stan. The message says:
"A man who's first name is his last, a statue honoring his past. Right behind him by the sign of his park, a golden head shows light in the dark. I dunno what that means. Well, I don't have to go out there, 'n figure this out. Wonder what's on TV."
Griffith Park, Los Angeles
A golden head of Grunkle Stan was found in Los Angeles, which was the fourth clue. The Stan head came with a slip of paper with a code on it, as well as an invisible ink pen, which reveals hidden code. The text decodes to:
"50 + 50 THAT'S THE CITY
Century City, Los Angeles
This clue shows that the fifth clue is located in Century City, Los Angeles. A certain park in the city is trimmed into the shape of the Eye of Providence. Jason Ritter, Ariel Hirsch and a small group of fans went down to Century City and successfully found the black pouch, which contained a USB stick with an image of Bill on it. The USB stick contained an audio file that was later uploaded to Soundcloud.
- Music and sound effects from Super Mario World can be heard throughout the recording.
The full transcript of the sound file is as follows:
|Grunkle Stan||Howdy, treasure hunters! Grunkle Stan here to tell you about the next clue — whoa! Who are you?!|
|Sister Mary Hilda Miley||Mmmmm! It is me, Sister Mary Hilda Miley, and I decree that you shall never find the treasure! Muahahahaha!|
|Stan||Um... Some kind of ghost has flown into the Mystery Shack here, she's, uh, she's got a ruler and a ghost hand — *BASH* Ow! Hey!|
|Sister Miley||I am the spirit of seriousness! I hate anything fun: carbonated beverages, boys and girls holding hands at school dances, and most of all, I hate treasure hunts! Also, knuckles! *BASH*|
|Stan||Ow! Soos, get the vacuum cleaner.|
|Soos Ramirez||Yes sir, Mr. Pines. *Vroooom...*|
|Sister Miley||No! My one weakness! A creative solution! I'll be back! You'll never find the treasure!|
|Stan||Good job, Soos. Have a chicken nugget.|
|Soos||To me, this is a raise!|
|Stan||Alright kids, the next clue is, uh, a kind of tricky one, you see. This is one that can only be found by someone who is currently in the building it is hidden in. That's right, I'm looking for students at the California State Summer School of the Arts. Only CSSSA students can find this clue. I don't want anybody else going to CSSSA, alright? It's, uh, you're not allowed in. Only students there are allowed in. Students, scour the sublevel! You'll know it when you see it. And watch out for Sister Miley's ghooooooost! Seriously.|
This shows that the sixth clue is located on the California State Summer School of the Arts campus.
CSSSA Campus, Los Angeles
The clue was found in the sublevel of the CSSSA campus in the form of graffiti on a wall. The graffiti shows a crudely drawn Bill Cipher and a series of hex codes that, when decoded, form co-ordinates: 37°49'19"N and 122°13'59"W. These co-ordinates are located in Piedmont, California, the hometown of Dipper, Mabel, and the Hirsch twins.
The rhyme on the Waddles missing poster, as well as some guidance from Alex Hirsch, led fans to the Pink Key tied to a stump, in addition to a small chest with a Cryptex locked behind a five-letter keyword. Using the keyword from the original image of Cipherquest, "PINES," the cryptex was opened, revealing the seventh clue and another key. The clue reads:
"LA HAS THE CLUE YOU WANT
1825 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles
After several hours, the person with the key traveled to the post office box and used the key to open it. The eighth clue was a plastic bag containing two thousand jigsaw puzzle pieces. The box also contained an envelope with a drawing of Bill saying "I HOPE YOU LIKE PUZZLES" in code, thirty-seven Stan Bucks with the word "FILBRICK" written in invisible ink on their backsides, one Stan Buck with "FILBRICK" in code written on the front side, and some decoy junk mail.
The fans almost immediately got stuck on the puzzle. After two days, during which some took sleep shifts while some didn't sleep at all, they managed to complete scattered portions of it that show what the puzzle contains. It was of Bill Cipher, with a gnome under him and letters in Bill's cryptogram below and to the sides of him.
After another day, Alex Hirsch sent a tweet which showed a rough idea what the puzzle should look like upon completion, but with a different code that says "THIS IS WHERE THE CLUE WILL APPEAR" in addition to what was previously completed. After two more days, Alex sent two images of different sections of the puzzle and a virtual version of the puzzle was created by a fan to get some help. Fans used Photoshop to piece these two images together and then decoded what they could make out. Within a few hours the puzzle was then digital solved by a group effort.
- The code reads "CORNER OF NE TILLAMOOK EN NE RODNEY." "CORNER" is below the gnome, with the other words being on either side of Bill. They are flipped 180° around.
Progress on the puzzle eventually reached a point that a fan was able to guess the location of the next clue before the puzzle was completed. It was located on the corner of Rodney and Tillamook Street in Portland, Oregon, as shown in the code above.
Though the clue was found without completing the puzzle, Alex Hirsch provided incentive to complete both the physical and virtual puzzles by saying that if the physical puzzle got finished, he would release the Gravity Falls pilot and if the virtual puzzle got finished, he would upload unreleased cut scenes from the show. The puzzle was completed on August 1. Alex Hirsch showed up upon its completion, signed it and promised the release of the original pilot.
Using what was found in the puzzle so far, a fan went to Portland, Oregon and found a lawn gnome at the corner of the above streets - Rodney and Tillamook. Buried under the lawn gnome was a View-Master and the ninth clue. The clue says:
"To the redwoods you must race
Confusion Hill, California
A fan went to Confusion Hill and successfully brute-forced the passcode to the eyeball jar. It was "FILBRICK," the word in invisible ink on the back of the Stan Bucks packaged with the jigsaw puzzle. Using the code, the fan retrieved the eyeball jar and found the tenth clue on the bottom of it. Alex Hirsch has stated that fans will get a prize for taking a selfie with the picture of the Gravity Falls crew at Confusion Hill. The clue says:
"WHERE HAS MY GRUNKLE GONE? / TO STANLEY ST. IN OREGON / A TELEPHONE POLE IS WHERE HE'S AT / WHY'D HE HAVE TO BOLT LIKE THAT?"
A group of fans went to Stanley Street as instructed and found a geocache bolt, and then somehow lost it before finding it again. They unscrewed it to find the eleventh clue inside, written double-sided on a very narrow strip of paper. The clue says:
"ROGER TOFTE KNOWS THE PLACE
Enchanted Forest, Turner, Oregon
A family raced to Enchanted Forest in pursuit of the clue. They dug around a dirt enclosure near Pa's Laundry, but found nothing. Alex eventually realized that the clue was already taken by another fan before the family got there. The fan uploaded the image of the twelfth clue online. It was written on ripped paper and was encoded. The decoded clue says:
"RETURN TO WHERE IT ALL BEGAN / THE FINAL CLUE IS IN YOUR HAND / THE PARCHMENT CAN BE SUCH A TEASE / THE ANSWER'S WRITTEN IN THE TREES"
This points to the twelfth clue being the final clue, with the next stop in Cipherhunt being the location of the fabled statue of Bill Cipher. On the back of the final clue, there is a dotted red line leading to an X, as if it is a treasure map. This dotted line can be combined with the dotted red line found on the initial Cipherhunt image posted by Alex Hirsch. Fans used the initial image and last clue combined to search for the statue in several locations across the West Coast with no results. Meanwhile, many people made unsuccessful attempts to find an encoded message in the trees seen behind Bill's statue.
After several days with no progress, and after asking the fans on his Twitter account if they wanted it, Alex Hirsch tweeted a hint for the final clue:
"An urban legend arcade game
The urban legend arcade game is Polybius. From this hint, it was discovered that the code needed to solve the clue was a Polybius square, a code that uses pairs of numbers and turns them into letters via a grid, usually of 5x5 spaces, placing the whole alphabet in those spaces, and that may use a keyword to encrypt messages.
Cipherhunters needed to find a pattern in the branches and knots of the trees that could be converted to pairs of numbers (the side each branch was in not being a factor). They also had to find out which specific version of the Polybius square was used to encode the message. Through clever cryptoanalysis of the branches and knots, and by manipulating the possible results with the assumption that the decoded message was a location that had to end with the letters "OR" (Oregon), a "reverse" code cracking method was used. The most likely resulting message was "REEDSPORTOR," so the fans were able to narrow down the location of the statue to Reedsport, Oregon. Alex Hirsch retweeted messages of fans that were heading there, reinforcing the assumption. The treasure map was assumed to be a map through the city's parks or surrounding forests to find the statue, so the fans searched in Google Maps for a path where the map fitted, locating one at the end of S 22nd Street.
The complete code was cracked later that evening (the message already presumed to be "REEDSPORTOR"): an upwards branch with needles means 1; a downwards branch with needles means 2; an upwards branch without needles means 3; a downwards branch without needles means 4; and a knot means 5. Read from top to bottom and from left to right, the resulting numbers, grouped in pairs, are "42-15-15-14-43-41-35-42-44-35-42." The Polybius square needed to decode the sequence and get the message "REEDSPORTOR" from those numbers is a 5x5 grid that combines the letters P and Q, with no key words. The first digit of each pair is the number of a line, and the second digit is the number of a column.
Reedsport, Oregon - Cipher's Statue
Fans raced to Reedsport to be the one to find the statue of Bill Cipher. The statue was allegedly found on August 2 at 19:53 PDT (2:53 Aug 3 UTC) by @shadow_wolfwind (now @OfficialGFMayor), who tweeted a photo of it.
Later, a treasure chest buried in front of Bill's statue was found and dug up by a series of other fans, with several of them (including a baby) shaking Bill's hand. The treasure chest contained a wide array of loot, such as plastic coins and gems, Russian and Japanese currency, a copy of Gravity Falls: Journal 3 with special drawings by Alex Hirsch, a black light, a plastic crown and a sash that says "Mayor of Gravity Falls," a music box with Bill's eye that plays the Gravity Falls theme song and contains a slip of paper, a miniature Bill Cipher statue, a framed sketch of the main characters and the statue, and a USB drive. Some currency in the chest was marked by a person named Bradley who found the treasure before the hunt began.
The drawings in the copy of Journal 3 are caricatures of Soos, Grunkle Stan, and Old Man McGucket, with Stan saying "ENJOY THE NERD BOOK, SMARTYPANTS!" and text reading "FROM GRUNKLE STAN, SOOS, & MCGUCKET -(ALEX HIRSCH)" shown below. When investigated via blacklight, Bill's name is added to the signature, Bill hovers over Stan's shoulder, and Bill says "STAY PARANOID!"
When the slip of paper in the music box is investigated with a blacklight, a note from Alex Hirsch can be found:
"CONGRATULATIONS ON FINDING THE BILL CIPHER STATUE, BILL'S FINAL RESTING PLACE! WHOSOEVER FINDS THIS TREASURE IS HEREBY THE NEW "MAYOR OF GRAVITY FALLS" - SO USE YOUR TITLE WELL! CHANCES ARE YOU DIDN'T DO THIS ALONE, SO SHARE THE WEALTH! YOU ARE AN AMAZING FAN!
- Because of this, the user @shadow_wolfwind changed her username to @OfficialGFMayor.
The framed image depicts Soos, Grunkle Stan, Dipper, and Mabel all posing next to the Bill Cipher statue with the word "CONGRATULATIONS" being displayed above. Bill can be seen floating next to the "CONGRATULATIONS." The image is signed by Alex Hirsch. When investigated with a blacklight, the statue gains Bill's eyelashes and bowtie, and its pupil glows. In addition, the eyes of all the main characters glow, and "TRUST NO ONE" is written on top of "CONGRATULATIONS."
On the USB drive was a text document titled "Hi" which contains a link to Bradley's Twitter account, an audio file of Grunkle Stan singing "We'll Meet Again" and congratulating the finders, and a text document with the title of "MyExWifeStillMissesMe.ButHerAimIsGettinBetter." When opened in Notepad, a text reading "RETURNBACKWARDSTOTHEPASTAGAINTHREE" appears, which is a reference to Back to the Future III.
The complete transcription of Grunkle Stan's message is:
"We'll... meet again... Don't know where... Don't know when... But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day... *coughing noises* Oh, my esophagus. Hey guys. Congratulations on finding my, uh, mysterious treasure, of the-th-(stuttering) statue in the forest. Uh, this is it. This is, you reached the end, you really did it! You really, you looked for it, and you found it. And, um, now it's yours! Uh... You know, i-if you were hoping for some kind of, like, y'know like a cash prize... Y'know, I can't blame you but the real, the real treasure is the journey and the friends you made along the way. In case you don't have any friends, in which, y'know, at least you got some exercise. Um, anyway, y'know, take a picture with the statue. Y-go, shake his hand, that's kinda like a prize. And uh, tell everybody how you, you did it first, and that makes you the best. Also y'know, if any other people helped you, give 'em some of the gold plastic coins. Share the wealth! Anyway, congratulations! I'm Grunkle Stan, and as I always say... No refunds!"
Inputting "RETURNBACKWARDS" as a username and "TOTHEPASTAGAINTHREE" as a password on themysteryofgravityfalls.com/pilot will let users watch the unaired pilot of Gravity Falls. It is a prototype of "Tourist Trapped" with a radically different art style and some altered dialogue and scenes.
On August 3, the statue and its treasure were taken by local authorities because of a property conflict: the apparent proprietor had authorized Alex to place the statue, but there was another person claming ownership of the land where it was located.The hat was broken in the process, though it had already sustained damage. The police ended up holding the statue for Alex Hirsch, keeping it intact. It was to be moved to another location. By August 5, the statue ended up in Bicentennial Park, in Reedsport, Oregon. It was bolted to the top of a tree above the ground, lacking its hat. The treasure box was located beneath the statue. Fans continued to visit Bill.
On August 15, Alex called for volunteers to relocate Bill's hat and to move the statue via truck to a new location. Three days later, on the 18th, Bill had been removed from Bicentennial Park with a sign in his place that read "BILL WAS HERE" in Bill's substitution cipher. The other side of the sign contained a stylized image of Bill. On August 19 (around twelve hours after the discovery of the sign), Twitter user @Knarkill34 tweeted that they had moved Bill to an undisclosed location, but provided pictures.
The promised reveal of deleted scenes from Gravity Falls has yet to be delivered on.
- Several of the locations for clues have been tied to religion — the cathedral in Russia, the shrines in Japan and Georgia, and the paintings of nuns in Rhode Island.
- Several of the locations for clues have been tied to Gravity Falls — the Eye of Providence-shaped building in Century City, the post office near the House of Pies (the House of Pies being the place where Alex Hirsch thought of the name "Gravity Falls"), and Confusion Hill, which is a tourist trap similar to the Mystery Shack.
- Alex Hirsch took a picture of himself posing next to the statue eight months before Cipherhunt.
- Cipherhunt's place in Gravity Falls canon is unknown, considering it is unclear why Grunkle Stan would want Bill's body to be found, or why a hunt would be organized around it. It is most likely noncanon, but the fact that the picture of the main characters recovered with Bill depicts the characters eyes glowing in a similar way to possession via Bill suggests that Bill could have tricked the Pines family into organizing the Cipherhunt.
- Alex Hirsch's Twitter For official updates on the Cipherhunt.
- GravityFallsCipher's Twitter For updates on the Cipherhunt.
- r/gravityfalls megathread For a detailed timeline of every clue and location.
- Bill's Final Resting Place For a detailed timeline of what happened to Bill after his discovery.