In 2003, a series of strange deaths occurred throughout the United States, baffling police forces all over. The case is known to investigators as Case #304. The crime scenes at the victims' houses all shared similar aspects. The corpses were found next to their computer, leading investigators to believe that the suspect had murdered them all while they were distracted, or moved their bodies into the chairs. The victims seemed to have all died in the same manner...gashes all over their head, as if someone had slashed their faces repeatedly with a sharp object. After identifying the corpses, and searching the computers, detectives found that the victims all shared similar qualities. They were all very tech-savvy internet “thieves”, users who frequently shared copyrighted documents with other users on the internet. What they saw in the victims' rooms wasn’t anything too unusual. Messy furniture, bugs, blood stains, nothing they hadn’t dealt with before. What they found hidden on the victim's computer, however, was much more frightening than anything they had ever seen.
The computers of the victims were given to a team of cyber crime professionals, and all of them were assigned Case #304. Little is known about the progress that they made, for all records of the investigation have either been lost or destroyed. What we do know is that after three weeks of nonstop investigation, the team marked the case “inconclusive”. Shortly after ending the case, members of the team experienced symptoms of dyslexia, epilepsy, and narcolepsy. Two members committed suicide during the investigation, and three more did the same afterwards. To date, nearly all members of the team have been declared either dead or missing. The only remaining team member is Craig Brower, a Digital Forensics Examiner who worked for the Portland Police Department. Brower is currently admitted at the Oregon Mental Health Center, and has been diagnosed as “mentally unstable”.
When the team first started searching the victims' computers, they found one folder that happened to be in each victim's hard drive. The folder was titled “Unknown”. At first glance, the contents of the folder seemed non-important, but the team knew that this folder must have something to do with the murders, for it was stored on every single computer. The contents of the folder were simple...there was a text document, a video file, and several audio clips. Each team member was assigned a specific file to search for clues. The following is a description of these files.
There were five audio clips, the first titled were titled by the numbers 1-4. They were compilations of odd sounds stringed together with static, each about 30 seconds long, with about 10 seconds at the end of just white noise. The sounds played were distorted, reversed, and very choppy. Distinct screams could be heard among the static, as well as random piano chords, a mumbled voice, and glass breaking. The investigators found nothing of importance in these files. They tried distorting the audio in every way they could, but in the end, found no clues. One member, however, was very persistent with the audio clips.
The member assigned to file #3, Steven Nolton, was a retired professor who taught computer science and programming classes at Stanford. He was very interested in File #3, and he knew that there was something hidden in the audio. For days he listened to the clip, over and over again during lunch. Fellow team members said that every day he seemed to get more and more intimate with that clip. They tried to get Steven to stop listening, and get some work done, but he never acknowledged them. Nolton had told his team members that he had been listening to the clip overnight while he slept, saying that there were voices hidden in the sound clip, and in order to hear them you had to listen to it constantly. No one believed him. After the first week, he started to not only listen to the clip while he slept, but throughout the day as well. File #3 was playing in his ears 24/7. After about a week of this constant listening, Steven started to act very strange, and one day, news came to the team that he had died during the night.
After Steven’s death, the rest of the team worked harder than ever uncovering this case. They started to focus next, on the video file. It was simply titled “behindyou.avi”. The clip is roughly 25 seconds long. Seen in the clip is what appears to be a woman typing at her computer, filmed from behind. Nothing can be heard. The camera inches closer towards this woman. The screen in front of her is flashing black and white, as if it were a strobe, brainwashing her as she stares lifeless at her monitor. As the camera is almost all the way into her hair, the video freezes. Suddenly, the woman turns around. Her face is covered in blood. A piercing scream is heard, blaring through the speakers. Her eyes are gone, black. Scratches and bruises cover her face and ears. She opens her mouth as the sounds reverse into a loop. The video ends.
As soon as the video was played to the group, there was silence. Everyone was mortified, not knowing what to think. Then out of nowhere, one member got out of his chair and started yelling loudly as he could. Words that couldn’t be made out, it was if he was speaking another language. This added to everyone's existing fear. The member, Allan Merci, was scratching his eyes out on the floor, screaming in what seemed to be a demonic tone. No one tried to intervene, as they were all too stunned. They all just watched as Allan Merci mutilated himself on the floor yelling nonsensical phrases. They all watched as their friend was brainwashed into suicide, and on all of their faces, there was a smile. When the police interviewed each remaining team member, they each had the same reply as to what had happened:
“I don’t remember.”
It was through the interrogation of the video that police discovered how Steven Nolton had actually died. It was after the first week that Steve started showing very odd behavior. He became very secluded, not talking to anyone during the day. He lived alone in his apartment, so no one knows what his life was like at home. If anyone tried to talk to him, he would either ignore them completely, or shout angrily at them. On one occasion, a team member tried to talk to Steve, and ask him why he was acting so strange. Steve lunged out at him, scratching at his eyes and face. The team escorted Steve to his home, drugging him heavily. The whole team was shocked by the event, but were even more frightened by the news the next morning. Steven Nolton was found dead in his apartment. The corpse, sitting upright at his computer, was covered in gashes and scars. Police dismissed the case as suicide, but the whole team knew that Steven’s death was related to the previous murders. No one touched the audio files after that. No connection was made with the audio clips and video file.
The text file was one of the last files to be examined by the group. At that point, most members had quit the team, due to mental illnesses. Only four members remained, and they were all terrified of what lay in the text and image files. Craig Brower was one of the remaining four. Before opening the text file, titled “gone.txt”, Brower opted out. He eventually quit the team that day, and never saw the contents of gone.txt. Brower went home to his family, still experiencing faint signs of depression. His family members reported him being very angry in his returning days home, and said he wanted to be alone most of the time. On October 17 2003, the three remaining members of the investigation team were all found dead in their office. The walls were riddled with blood, the computers were destroyed, and their corpses were mangled on top of each other. The tips of their fingers had all been worn away. Their faces were covered in gashes.
To this day, investigators still don’t know the contents of the text, image, or final audio file. Since the original investigation in 2003, only four deaths have been affiliated with the files. The torrent containing the folder was apparently taken down from all major websites but some traces remain behind. Police have stopped trying to get the files erased from the internet. For now, they just hope they are long gone and forgotten.