Search This Blog

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Decemystery 1: The Publius Enigma

"A spokesperson for Pink Floyd has issued the following statement: You have spotted the Pink Floyd Airship. Do not be alarmed. Pink Floyd have sent their airship to North America to deliver a message. The Pink Floyd Airship is headed towards a destination where all will be explained upon arrival. Pink Floyd will communicate."

The internet has provided the world with near infinite access to information. In spite of that, it’s also brought about its fair share of mysteries that, as you’ll see in coming days, can be just as mystifying as any unsolved murder or disappearance.

For the first mystery this month, we'll be doing a quick look over of the Publius Enigma.

Seen at a concert.

The Publius Enigma comes to us from the days of Usenet—the original chat forum where users could talk about whatever they wanted. Sports, movies, music, the whole nine yards. It was a place that’s primitive by today's standards, but a technological feat for 1980 when it was established. In its time while active, Usenet was the home to two of the most dumbfounding mysteries of the internet age. The first of those mysteries, the Publius Enigma, was birthed in 1994 when the Pink Floyd album, The Division Bell, was released. A user going by the name “Publius” stated that there was a puzzle associated with the album.

In the first of a few messages, Publius stated:

My friends,

You have heard the message Pink Floyd has delivered,
but have you listened?

Perhaps I can be your guide, but I will not solve the enigma for you.

All of you must open your minds and communicate with each other,
as this is the only way the answers can be revealed.

I may help you, but only if obstacles arise.





If I don't promise you the answers would you go.


Not long after, Publius put up another message clarifying their first message.

AS SOME OF YOU HAVE SUSPECTED, "The Division Bell" is not like its
predecessors. Although all great music is subject to multiple
interpretations, in this case there is a central purpose and a
designed solution. For the ingenious person (or group of persons)
who recognizes this - and where this information points to - a
unique prize has been secreted.

   How and Where?
   The Division Bell
   Listen again
   Look again
   As your thoughts will steer you
   Leading the blind while I stared out the steel
     in your eyes.
   Lyrics, artwork and music will take you there

Publius’ posts were met with much skepticism, with much of it centering on the lack of an official statement from the band and the publishing house. It wouldn't be until over month after the initial two posts, on July 16th, that Publius would return to offer proof for the entire claim.

To validate the trust of those who believe, as well as
to reconcile the doubt of others, I have gone to great
lengths to plan the following display of communication:

Monday, July 18
East Rutherford, New Jersey
Approximately 10:30pm

Flashing white lights.

There is an enigma.


True to their word, the words “Enigma Publius” appeared at the concert in bright lights below the stage. This sent those familiar with the so-called enigma into a frenzy; with speculation coursing through the veins of fans. In the end however, no answers came in spite of the countless hours of investigative work by dedicated armchair detectives.

Fanning the flames years later, in 1994, the Pink Floyd magazine—Brain Damage—published an interview with someone calling themselves “Uncle Custard”. The interviewer asked a simple question, and the answer was exactly as one would expect from someone discussing a Pink Floyd mystery.

Q: Who is Publius Enigma, what is the meaning of it all, and what is the treasure to be had?

A: (Uncle Custard) As the Infamous Q has emphasized, 'you humans are so limited'. This is a project for all those out there with higher IQ's, it does require a mastery of diverse languages, along with a lot of spare time. Now get with it...the lights were brighter, the meaning is worn inside out, the bell has tolled and the surrogate band is coming back to life. The answer lies, non-linearly, within the paradox of the theme of The Division Bell -- communication breakdown. (Hint: Watch the Learning to Fly video!) It may also involve an anomaly in the time-space continuum. There is an obvious solution and you do not need to be a Floyd historian to figure it out! Winners will receive official entry into the Mensa Society and some dry ice to cool down all those neural pathways in your brain. It is important to note that neither I nor anyone involved with this zine will enter into any correspondence on this topic. It's a puzzle for you, devised by the one who loves you enough to drive you mad. Besides, I'm much too busy creating crop circles and executing think-tank projects for the Pentagon.

The legitimacy of the interview has been called into question, with some thinking it's a load of bunk. Some speculate that “Uncle Custard” was an editor for the magazine, Jeff Jensen. Still, there are others who believe that it's a clue to the enigma.

In 2002, during a live webchat, lead singer David Gilmour had this to say about the enigma.

"Lynne from Floydian_Hemptress asks: Would you agree that the instrumental, Let's Get Metaphysical, on your About Face cd, was a precurser to the later alleged phenomenon, known as Pink Floyd's Publius Enigma? [sic]

David Gilmour: No it had nothing to do with it, there was no connection. The second thing was some silly record company thing that they thought up to puzzle people with."

In the 2005 book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, band drummer Nick Mason stated the following.

"That was a ploy done by EMI. They had a man working for them who adored puzzles. He was working for EMI and suggested that a puzzle be created that could be followed on the Web. The prize was never given out. To this day it remains unresolved."

He also stated that the prize would have been “[a] crop of trees planted in a clear cut area of forest or something to that effect".

The record company had never publicly commented on the puzzle as far as I'm aware, though it's likely that the entire thing was a marketing ploy for the band. In the end though, the interest Publius Enigma has died down. A few dedicated to figuring out the truth behind it have persisted, but to many: it's just another brick in the wall of unsolved mysteries.

1 comment:

  1. Tyler "Bio" RodriguezDecember 1, 2018 at 8:22 PM

    Good write up. What is it with Pink Floyd and mysteries? I'd wager there are more urban legends about them then any other band besides maybe the Beatles. Who can forget the whole play The Wall and it lines up perfectly with the Wizard of Oz.