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The 20 most bizarre theories on the Web’s biggest mystery

Something is going to happen on Sept. 24—the day Pronunciation Book's cryptic countdown ends—we’re just not sure what yet.


Aja Romano


Posted on Aug 1, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 10:14 am CDT

Something is going to happen on Sept. 24—we’re just not sure what yet.

That’s when Pronunciation Book’s eerie 77-day countdown finally ends. The once-quirky but banal YouTube channel has turned into a creepy, startling, and cryptic mystery, and sleuths from around the Web have created an entire 77 Day Wiki devoted to information-gathering and guesswork.

For reasons too numerous to list here, we believe the countdown is leading to a reboot of Battlestar Galactica, while Geekosystem has made a compelling case for a Halo connection. But there are an endless competing theories, many from 4chan, some more plausible than others.

We’ve gathered our favorite alternate ideas from the long and growing list below.

1) The Ecuadorian Coup

One theory holds that Pronunciation Book is counting down to a governmental overthrow and a possible presidential assassination attempt. Yikes!

2) This Is My Milwaukee (TIMM)

TIMM is an alternative reality game (ARG) that purports to be a tourism guide for the city of Milwaukee but is actually a fabrication of Milwaukee “places” mixed with puzzles, cryptic messages, and other mysteries. Several references during the countdown have some viewers believing it’s a continuation of the game.

3) Agents for S.H.I.E.L.D.

It hasn’t escaped many people’s notice that Marvel’s much-anticipated TV show also premieres Sept. 24. However, the bigger question is, given that Marvel already has perhaps the biggest buzz of the year around the show that brought The Avengers’ Agent Coulson back from the dead, why would they need a cryptic viral campaign buildup?

4) The speaker was brainwashed by the military

From the Wiki: “He might have been under surveillance by the military and might have possibly been under some sort of technique in which he is brainwashed by making YouTube videos in a room where he’s probably monitored. The military has probably stopped reviewing his videos recently (Thus they still are titled “How to pronounce 77”) so he’s been able to speak within the videos to his audience. Rather than what he’s been doing originally which was leaving cryptic messages.”  You heard it here first, folks.

5) Battlefield 4

Redditor jablome has a theory that the countdown is to the beta release date of a video game called Battlefield 4. “Lots of the words on the wiki page like riverboat, gasman, etc can be cross referenced with that. It also seems to have a war theme like the video game. ” Keen eyes, jablome! Now if we could just figure out why the countdown would be pointing to the beta release.

6) Nirvana is back

In a jaw-dropping bit of acronym-juggling, one wiki editor found that a list of names referenced in Pronunciation Book seemed to be referring back to a Nirvana album released on, wait for it, Sept. 24, 1991.  Of course, the album is the dubiously titled Nevermind, so maybe we should.

7) Imminent global extermination

The “World Population Reduction Theory” suggests that Edward Snowden was just the beginning of a vast global conspiracy that will end in mandatory population control. Wait, did we say this was one of our “favorite” theories?

8) The Jonestown Massacre

One frankly chilling theory posits that the videos have a direct connection to the few survivors of the horrifying Jonestown massacre. Could a rare survivor from the 1978 cult suicides be trying to send us a message?

9) Machete Kills

The Rodriguez/Tarantino double film feature Grindhouse featured numerous short trailers for fake movies. One of them, Machete, was so popular that it’s finally led to a real movie. Could the countdown be a viral campaign for a cult film favorite? From the Wiki: “Think about it, there’s Guac, tacos, South America, a conspiracy, someone in jail…just sayin’.”  Of course, the release date for Machete Kills isn’t until October, but why not?

10) This is only one half of the story

What if the reason we don’t know what’s going on is that somewhere else in the bowels of YouTube, or perhaps lurking on the rest of the Internet, there’s another countdown, filling in the unanswered questions, and, perhaps, pointing to something even larger than what we already think we know?

11) Insert video game franchise here

In addition to Battlefield 4, the list of proposed video game tie-ins surrounding the countdown seem to be endless. Mass Effect, Minecraft, Guild Wars, RuneScape, Dota, Smite, Skyrim, Starcraft, Pokemon, Destiny, and a new Tom Clancy game have all been floated as having possible connections to Pronunciation Book. And we’ve undoubtedly missed a few.

12) The Hunger Games

Though it seems the most unlikely, an early countdown reference to “tension between the Districts” seems to have put many theory-makers onto the trail of a Hunger Games-related viral game. It wouldn’t be the first time the franchise has tried to go interactive with their marketing, but it’s a longshot that they’d choose this route to do it.

13) Microsoft is joining the National Security Agency

One 4chan thread posited that the numbers linked back to something called the Business Data Catalog, a feature of Microsoft SharePoint. Could Microsoft be implicated in a larger government conspiracy?

14) The Russian Mafia is taking over New Orleans

Among the ideas floated in 4chan’s enormous info-gathering document is the idea that Pronunciation Book is referring to post-Katrina Louisiana when it references things like “escape from L.A.”  Current local rumor has it that the Russian Mafia has invaded the town, which could be a tie-in to Pronunciation Book’s repeated references to someone named “Don.” And why wouldn’t fearful Louisianans make a stealthy YouTube video series warning their fellow Orleanians to be wary?

15) Worldwide economic crisis

Several theorists have speculated that the countdown could be reference to an impending bank crisis. The Pronunciation Book’s reference to a “combat lien” (or bank debt) seems to be the basis for this theory—but let’s hope they’re wrong!

16) The Syrian rebellion

Many of the Pronunciation Book videos seem to point towards the ongoing political unrest occurring in Syria. More than a few viewers are convinced the Syrian rebels may have something big planned—though why they’d take time out of their busy insurgency to write and edit videos about it on a three-year-old YouTube channel is anyone’s guess.

17) Start your airplane engines

The Aerospace Defense Supply Chain Conference takes place Sept. 24 in Massachusetts. This could mean anything, but at least one 4chan-er is speculating that it could be linked to the testing of a nuclear power plant on that same day. Um, scary?

18) Renunciation Book

A 77 days countdown blog, Into the Deep, notes that this YouTube channel made in 2011, apparently in response to Pronunciation Book, has only one video—and it’s scary as hell. Could this video be telling us what’s going to happen in September? Let’s hope not.

19) Pronunciation Book hasn’t changed

Taken from a YouTube comment: “He is just giving? an example of how to use the number in a sentence. is that so hard to understand?”  Well played, Pronunciation Book. Well played.

20) Edward Snowden is Pronunciation Book

The theories about a possible NSA connection to the countdown are everywhere. Conspiracy theorists have floated everything from links to Obama legislation to military hackers and enraged Ron Paul supporters. But Into the Deep goes a step further, suggesting that Pronunciation Book could be tied to Snowden’s “leak” itself:

“[B]etween 2005 and 2010 contact could have been made between Snowden and PB, information was given to PB to leak and leave clues in his videos. While Snowden broke the initial story in June 2013, PB would provide further – potentially more damaging – leaks in September. The supposedly failed ‘mission’ mentioned throughout the channel’s history could well be the botched leak attempt in 2008, with Chief, Don  and the others being the aliases of others connected to Snowden.”

Could Snowden have been the key all along? Probably not, but it’s fun to guess.

Photo via cbrodie/deviantART

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*First Published: Aug 1, 2013, 11:00 am CDT