November 18, 2021
On October 12, 2002, a post was published at the website “8march2003.com.” Within days, it had been shared across hundreds of message boards around the Internet.
Upon visiting the website, you are greeted by giant red text that reads:
“GLOBAL PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT”
“On this date an astounding discovery will be revealed to the world
On March 8th 2003 something extraordinary will be posted on this site
Something that could have Global implications
Something that will make you want to rethink your future…”
In October of 2002, I was sixteen. My friends and I loved the spooky stuff. I was obsessed with Unsolved Mysteries. I’m not kidding, either, when I say that Unsolved Mysteries was my favorite television show.
The show’s sense of dread washed over my entire body each time I heard the opening notes of its theme song. Its masterful use of tone was leagues ahead of anything else in the blossoming “true crime” genre. As a rule, “true crime” shows aren’t scary, but Unsolved Mysteries was different. It scared you every chance it could. Not only with its “true crime” content, but with paranormal topics such as ghosts, cryptids, and so on.
For good reason, its theme song gets a lot of praise. The music that Gary Malkin composed for the series is leagues above anything else in this genre. This show has better music than most Hollywood-produced horror films.
Now, I can see that you’re doubting that this was my favorite show. If someone didn’t love this show to their core, would they have changed their AOL Instant Messenger screen name to “RobertStackLives” in 2003 to memorialize him after his death? Because that’s what I did.
The previous year, in 2001, I got together with my friends and we began making short films. The first noteworthy film we made was called “The Yeti.” The Yeti was a mockumentary style series in which a scientist and his team hunted for this monster.
I didn’t join the series as an on-screen cast member until “The Yeti: Tape 2” was produced later in 2001. My name was “Timmy” and I was one of Doctor Jacques VanStoole’s assistants who aided him in his mission. My performance was atrocious. I couldn’t stop looking at the camera or giggling through my lines.
In 2002, we started growing a reputation in our community for being “those kids that make those movies.” People started asking for copies of our work, we shared things with “friends of friends.” It went from there.
We made a lot of things over a four year period, but the Yeti was first “series” that we created and it has always been special to me.
Years later, in 2017, I was active in the Neocities community. Neocities is a website where you can create any website you wish, but much of the community is focused on nostalgic, 90s style web design.
That year I participated in a Halloween website jam project called “The Tapes.” A website jam is similar to a “game jam,” which are common in the indie game development community. In a game jam or website jam, you are given a set amount of time to create a product from beginning to end and publish it.
The Tapes was an ARG I created that told the story of someone who went by the name “The Collector” that found unsettling footage on some VHS tapes he came across. I used footage from the Yeti in constructing this story that was told across multiple websites. The story wasn’t anything spectacular and after a few months I stopped updating it.
Back to the website, the author goes on to say that they will keep themselves anonymous. A few months prior, they were on an amateur photo shoot through an unnamed mountain range. On this shoot they discovered a piece of broken glass, which came from a nearby camera. Upon further inspection of the camera, he can tell that it had been burned.
He wondered if this was done by a forest fire or if someone had burned it intentionally. He opens the camera and discovers that there was still film in the camera. He takes the film home and, despite some damage to the film itself, he was able to develop several images.
The author goes on to say:
“Nearly all of the negatives were color distorted. The images on the film sent chills down my spine. When I finally developed the photos and blew them up, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It made me wonder what the hell was about to happen on the planet!”
The author goes on to say that they begin to do research on “the net.”
“I used key words in the search engine - words that exactly described the images. That’s when all hell broke loose. After a few minutes the cursor suddenly started moving by itself, followed by a ‘whirring’ noise from the hard-disk. I froze with anticipation and by the time I thought to unplug the phone line it had stopped.
I had never experienced anything like this before, but I’d been told by a friend that if the cursor ever moved by itself and there was a ‘whirring’ from the hard-drive, they were the sure signs that indicated someone was hacking into my computer.
I picked up the handset to phone my friend. I wanted to tell him what had just happened. My eyes bugged with surprise as I heard a ‘clicking’ sound. Someone was tapping my phone. My gut feeling told me to get the hell out of the house.”
The author puts the pictures and camera in a bag, and runs outside and hides in his vehicle. While hiding outside, he sees a black van with tinted windows approach his home.
A man and a woman get out, approach his door and enter his home once they realize he had left it open. The suspicious figures spend about 20 minutes inside his home. When they leave, he slowly builds up enough courage to go back into his house.
When he goes inside, he can tell that they’ve been through his belongings. He notices that they left a message on his computer.
“We need to discuss why you used particular words on the net search engine this evening.”
“They’d left a telephone number and told me to call it the moment I got in. After going through my things and not finding anything, I presumed they’d come to the conclusion that my using the words relating to the images must have been coincidental. I decided to bide my time, not to make any hasty decisions. The film I developed clearly related to a top secret of some kind. I shuddered at the thought of their response if they knew I actually had photos specifically relating to what I was searching for on the web!”
The author goes on to say that he packs his bags, gets in his vehicle and run from this situation. Not long after, though, he admits to himself that he has done nothing wrong. All he did was search for something on the Internet. Why should he hide?
Yet, on his way back to his hotel room, he sees that the same van he saw outside his house was now near his hotel.
He assumes they tracked him using his credit card and heads to the bank to withdraw cash. There he discovers that his accounts have been frozen.
“This was big!”
He closes out the post by saying he has created a new identity and has a friend supporting him. He announces that on March 8th, 2003 he is going to reveal the photos to the world.
“I am preparing for a mass release via the Internet so that it can’t be stopped. It is imperative that all people, not just those open to alternative views, are made aware of this event.
Particularly the younger generation who represent the very future and survival of our world. That is why I have chosen to reveal my story and warning in such a novel way. I only use computers at Internet cafés. I do not remain in one city, state or country for any length of time.
I must keep on the move. I must not allow them to stop me or trace my whereabouts. I have set the date for the release in the future to allow time to build publicity. With the worlds full attention, these secret agencies or privately run factions cannot deny or lie to the public about what I will reveal.
I know there will be those of you who will judge this to be some sort of fantastic publicity stunt.
But remember, things are not always as they seem. Make no hasty assessment about this event until you have seen the images in the photos.
Reserve your judgment…until then…when all will be revealed. Then you can decide what is or isn’t real.
In hope for our future,HM”
Message boards around the Internet had threads dedicated to the website.
Everyone had an opinion about it. Was it real? Was it a marketing campaign for a movie? A new product? Was it written by someone suffering from mental illness? Was it a new trailer for “Matrix Reloaded?” Was it a computer game? A book? A new X-Files movie? The list goes on.
A lot of the speculation centered around the validity of this information. If some shadow government didn’t want this information to be public, they would take it down.
I was one of those people following on message boards. I didn’t know if it was real or not. I kind of hoped that there would be more to it than being some sort of publicity stunt. What I expected? I don’t know.
About one month after the initial post went live, a disclaimer was added, but we will get back to that later.
In the months between November 2002 and March 2003, things start to go all over the place. “HM” attempts to address why he is risking everything by waiting to post the pictures when he could just do that now.
He explains that he made contact with a Native American Shaman. When he goes to meet with him, the Shaman begins a prolonged series of chants. After this, he tells HM the date in which he needs to post these pictures on the Internet.
The Shaman says that the timing relates to “planetary cycles." He says that it would be his best opportunity to share this information. HM goes on to explain that he has no family in danger, as his wife died in an accident years before these events.
Things go even more wild from here. We learn that there is a “resistance group” inside of the agency that is trying to track HM down. He spends the next several weeks on the run. He goes from hotel to hotel around the country. He visits Internet cafes to keep in touch with his contacts over ICQ.
Anytime HM gets too comfortable, he realizes the agents in the black van are on his tail.
In his December 8 update, HM explains:
“There have been many questions from people asking me whether the images in the photos relate to subjects such as a meteor striking the earth, the planet X factor, the ending of a galactic cycle and the Mayan calendar, the melting of the poles, Armageddon, our solar system entering the Photon Band, a pole reversal, an axis shift and even an alien invasion.
Once the images have been released, people in high places will have to come up with some answers because it’s not something they can simply explain away and sweep under the carpet.”
HM continues to tell stories of his run-ins with the individuals in the black van. As March 8 comes closer, he starts to document the damage this is doing to his mental well-being.
“I haven’t slept much lately. I’d be in denial if I didn’t admit that this whole caper is stressing me out big time. Nightmares continue to haunt me.
Several times now, after finding enough willpower to leave my motel room, I’ve had to rush back because of panic attacks. Sometimes I find it difficult to get my breath and I break out in a cold sweat.
It’s as if I’ve developed some kind of agoraphobia. Even now, sitting here at an Internet cafe, I can feel the coolness of the beads forming on my forehead.
My hands are trembling with nervous tension. I keep looking at the entrance, expecting that crazy dark-haired woman and her bulky sidekick to burst in through the doors, ready to blow me away.”
A few minor updates are posted in the week leading up to March 8th. They don’t reveal much outside of generating excitement for the big day.
And then comes the big day, at 12:05 AM Eastern on March 8, 2003, the big reveal.
“TOP SECRET PLAN
CATACLYSMIC WORLD FLOODS EXPECTED
The photo above is from the heat damaged film of the burnt camera I found while hiking through a mountain range last year. The images are badly distorted.
This photo was clearly taken from the cockpit of a small plane. In the distance you can see pylons towering high above a forest floor in the valley between mountains.
The next shot shows some kind of gigantic ship sitting inside a steel cradle on a man-made plateau between two mountains.
"Why the hell has a secret faction built a SUPERSHIP on a man-made plateau in a mountain range high above sea level?
This could only mean one thing! They are expecting an event to take place that will cause cataclysmic global flooding.
When I first developed the photos I thought it was some kind of spacecraft. I then realized that the rail ramp construction is aimed “downward” into the valley, not “upward” to the sky. It would seem that the ship is preparing to roll down the ramp.
This location is nowhere near the ocean. Clearly, they are expecting the seas to rise by hundreds of feet. The ramp continues down through the valley, obviously because they don’t know how high the waters will rise. That is why I am certain it is a sea faring sub-like ship.”
Unfortunately, many of the images published on this page were lost to time. The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine backed up all the text on the pages. It also backed up some of the photos on the initial post. But, only one appears to have survived from the big reveal. The photos that survived do show a watercraft being built in a mountain range.
The photos are taken from an airplane that we are led to believe was shot down from the sky. HM says that the photos were found in Australia. HM ponders on what could cause this massive flood to happen:
“But what could cause this? A Meteor strike? A pole shift? An earth-crust displacement? The Earth tilting on its axis? An alien invasion? A massive solar flare? The near passing of another celestial body such as planet X?
Or… could it be something as simple as the stupidity of Man - the polluting of the world by our unrelenting consumption of the planets resources, the burning of fossil fuels, the felling of endless forests, the putrefying of our oceans and the depletion of the ozone layer?”
In closing the big reveal, HM says that the faction chasing him has created another website. They plan to use it to discredit the story he is about to tell. He reveals that the “faction” will reveal their intentions on the date of April 15, 2003. HM also says on that SAME DAY he will reveal the exact location where he found the camera.
So, we survived the big reveal on March 8th and now it is time for another reveal on April 15th. Could this be the day that the project associated with this story is revealed? Is this story somehow true?
So, like thousands of others on this day, my friends and I headed to 8march2003.com. It was time to finally see what this was all about.
And there it is.
The image of a novel. “The Shift of the Ages: Volume 1 - At the End of Time.”
All the hype, intrigue, and mystery was a vehicle to promote a novel by author Jean Neyemeth. It wasn’t real.
Remember that disclaimer that I referenced earlier? Less than a month after the website’s launch, on November 9, 2002, this post was published to the website. It read:
I want to assure you that this site has been posted as a piece of writing with purposeful clues and discrepancies to indicate its fictitious nature leading up to the release of …
Thank you for your overwhelming positive response. I have posted some of the emails that I’ve received during the last few months for your viewing.
The purpose behind this site is to create intrigue, fascination and interest leading up to what this publicity event is about.
I trust that (like many others) you will enjoy this journey.”
HM goes on to explain that he appreciated the interest this story was receiving. Yet, he’s concerned that people were taking it far too seriously. He wanted to calm things down so that people didn’t get themselves too worked up over it.
The Shift of the Ages is described as a “gripping” novel that will “change the way you look at your future.”
The beginning of the book’s synopsis reads:
“In the final moments before the turn of the last century, the world paused, held its breath and waited for the prophecies of the ancients to come true.
But nothing happened. Only a select few knew that the Gregorian calendar was out by twelve years.
Come on a fast-paced adventure about a man who is awoken to a memory from his distant past - a past that will take him to another place and time - a past that will reveal humanities potential future.”
The story in the novel takes place in the year 2008. This is a few years after the events that were taking place in 2002 and 2003 in the story we were witness to.
Further reading indicates that a lot of elements in the story center around something that garnered a lot of attention in the early first 12 years of this century. The Mayan Calendar that indicated the end of a 26,000 year galactic cycle that ended in 2012.
If you were around at the time, you’re aware that there were many theories about this year. They centered around how a cataclysmic event would occur. Most of them lead to some “end of times” scenarios.
The website states that the novel will include characters from the 8march2003 campaign. The website also includes several quotes from readers and publications about the book. Here are some of my favorites:
“It truly is the Matrix Reloaded of contemporary literature” READER
“It has the best sex scene I have ever read – enlightening, sexy, yet tasteful, all at the same time” READER
"…an absolutely brilliant thriller. Your tongue will be hanging out waiting for Volume Two ” DIANA WHALEY 3RPP RADIO
The website for the Shift of the Ages indicates that “At the End of Time” was intended to be part one of a larger story.
I’ve been able to discover that the planned name for Volume Two was “The Nexus Factor.”
The website explains that the book isn’t the only thing you get with your purchase. You also get a CD with the book’s theme song on it, titled “At the End of Time,” performed by Nemeyeth himself. Here is a clip of the song:
"At the end of time, loves all that matters. The power of this love will set you free. At the end of time, loves all that matters. At the end of time. At the end of time. At the end of time. So hold on to the dreaming, and spread your wings and fly. And we’ll climb to eternity, where our spirits can soar, side by side. At the end of time, loves all that matters…"
The End of Time
The book was published by a company called Wakeman Publishing. Wakeman Publishing itself is a trademark of a company called Omnivisions Global. This company is based out of Southbank, a neighborhood outside Melbourne, Australia.
The only information I have been able to find about Omnivisions Global is on the Internet Archive.
Their mission statement reads:
“As our company name and logo implies, it is our intention to produce projects that will ‘embrace the bigger picture’ of all ideas, opinions, creeds and beliefs, in our desire to play a small role in uniting and opening peoples awareness to the fact that we are all connected and are all part of the same human family.
We believe that humanity is approaching a time whereby we must open our hearts and connect with one and other, and truly ‘embrace the bigger picture’ of who we are and bring our focus to our highest potential.
We are a young company with big plans for the future. We look forward to your support and patronage as we strive to create new and exciting projects.“
They planned to release several books in the coming years. The genres they plan to focus on are fiction, self help, philosophy, spiritual and new age. They plan to expand into movies and music. On top of all this, they say they’re looking to creating a non-profit foundation to assist up and coming “writers, performers, inventors, and researchers in general."
After this, I began to do research into Jean Nemeyeth, the author.
The next time Nemeyeth would resurface in the world of literature would be nearly a decade later. In 2012 he would publish the title “OMG! Why The Hell Have You Forsaken Us?: Where Angels Fear To Tread” a book that is described as a “devotional dialog.”
This book is unrelated to the Shift of the Ages series. The Amazon page for this title does state that The Shift of the Ages is set for a re-release late 2012. The page says that Jêan is developing a CD of original songs and covers.“
The last thing to note about this second book is the back cover. It reveals that Wakeman Publishing is the who released this title.
As can be expected from the Internet, discourse around this reveal was rough.
Everyone had concocted these grandiose ideas of what this would lead to. It wasn’t hype for the Matrix Reloaded. It wasn’t a video game. It wasn’t a revival of the X-Files. It was a novel.
There’s nothing this publisher could do would be able to follow the hype train.
In 2003, Internet users were used to pirating everything. We didn’t have services that made accessing legal content easier. We opened KaZaA and stole everything. We weren’t ready for idea of investing in something on the Internet to have to spend money at the end of it.
Today, the landscape of the Internet is different. We assume everything we come across will end with them asking for us to pay for something. Want to keep enjoying this game? Purchase the season pass. Want to watch the TV show everyone is talking about? Sign up for your 10th streaming service subscription to keep up.
To be clear, I am not arguing that we return to the days where piracy is king and creators are struggling for to be paid for their work. I’m pointing out the contrast in the tech landscape of the two periods.
Twenty years ago, the Internet was the wild west. Above all else, it stood as this remarkable thing that helped us connect with others and explore our passions. These elements exist in today’s Internet, but the content isn’t the focus it once was.
ARGs, or Alternate Reality Games, weren’t big in 2003. When they did pop up, a lot of them didn’t generate the level of discussion across the Internet that this novel did. 8march2003 wasn’t the first, but it was the first that caught my attention.
If 8march2003 was brought into existence today, what would it look like? Would it be an ARG that spawned from Reddit or YouTube? Would it be the launch of an ad campaign for a book? Or would it be like much of the cross-promotional, tech bro trash that exists out there?
8march2003 makes me think of a period when our time on the Internet was almost pure. A cool website pops up on one of your favorite forums and you spend the evening theorizing with your virtual buds about what it could be.
Today, technology is a hellscape of content that is beyond exhausting. Everything is a part of something else. Movie franchises have to be exhaustive “cinematic universes.” Video games have to have endless IP cross promotion to get you to look at them. Every company now yearns to create a variation of a “metaverse” that puts you in a virtual world that throws everything at you in a more literal sense than the constant feed of content you receive now.
Play a video game. Select a seasonal character from that movie you loved as a kid. Go to a digitized chain restaurant in the game. Get a code for something free at the meatspace restaurant. Buy a drink at that restaurant and, quote, “earn” cryptocurrency. If you’re lucky you’ll win an NFT commemorating this month’s promotional sandwich. Make it stop.
8march2003 perfectly embodies what I love about old Internet. Even though it was a vehicle to promote something else, when that something else came out, that was it. The work stood for itself and wasn’t under pressure to be something that is constant. It didn’t exist to ensure that "engagement " metrics were strong. It just was. It’s what inspired me to make the website I made back in 2017. It’s what inspired me to make it the subject of the first video on this channel.
The overarching idea behind the publisher of this website and book was a desire to build up new artists. Even though it doesn’t appear as if they were able to achieve the lofty goals they had set for themselves, their creativity in using the Internet in telling their story is something that stuck with me and inspired me, even 19 years later when the Internet has all but forgotten about 8march2003.com.