It started back in July, with a treasure chest delivered to a hotel room in China. It continued with a message and a golden turtle in Korea and a pill bottle in Mexico. And it's apparently still going on right now, which probably explains why Pete Wentz has been seen wandering around Los Angeles wearing a gold mask and clutching a mysterious manila envelope.
It's what Fall Out Boy fans are calling "Pregunta Deleon," a viral campaign that involves time travel, continent-hopping messengers, a faux Bible, inscrutable Web sites, a shady doctor, some medication, the MTV Video Music Awards and -- most notably -- Wentz and the Cab frontman Alex Deleon (despite the fact that, until very recently, neither had any idea they were participating at all).
It just might be the most involved viral scheme of all time, an ingenious (and sorta creepy) game that's seemingly taken on a life of its own. And it's the handiwork of one guy, a 25-year old student/musician named Brian Lee, who just wanted Wentz to listen to demos of his band, Ashbury. And yes, he has was way too much time on his hands.
"Pete and Alex had nothing to do with this at all. It's all based on a story that a buddy of mine had come up with, and we wanted to get Pete Wentz's attention, so we figured this was the best way," Lee told MTV News late Wednesday from his home in Las Vegas. "A lot of this was based on pure luck. I mean, I have a bunch of friends from Vegas that moved to China, because they opened a Venetian [Hotel] out there, and Fall Out Boy just happened to be staying at the Venetian when they played in China. So that's where we started.
"We had a chest that we got from Hong Kong -- like an old treasure chest -- and we put a letter inside of it, and I had my friends deliver it to his hotel room," Lee continued. "The letter was kind of the foundation of the whole thing; we introduced characters in the story and some of the passwords for the Web site. And on the chest, we wrote 'Pregunta Deleon,' which means 'Ask Deleon' in Spanish, because we were going to send the key to the chest to Alex, and we knew Pete would see him eventually. And then we just had to wait and see if Pete would play along with us."
And Wentz did. Rather than wait for Deleon, he pried the chest open himself, then posted photos of the letter -- and the other contents -- on his blog. Wentz figured that Deleon was playing some sort of prank on him, and he swore revenge. Of course, Deleon had no idea what was happening, and since he never got the key, Lee and his bandmates were forced to put two plans into action -- one at a hotel in Mexico and the other in Korea.
"We've known Alex and the Cab for a while, since we're all from Vegas, so it was kind of easy to get him something. I talked to him, like all innocently, 'Oh, you guys are going to Mexico to write the new album? Where you staying out there?' and he sent me the Web site to their hotel, so I was able to send him a package there," Lee added. "What we sent him, instead of the key to the chest, was the final piece of the whole puzzle: a prescription bottle, with a gel-cap pill inside, and inside that pill was a piece of paper with the final password for the Web site. And on the pill bottle was an address for our Web site: WelcomeToTheNewHate.com.
"Meanwhile, we knew Fall Out Boy were playing in Korea after they played in China. And we had a friend that lived there, too, so we had him stand outside their hotel room with a huge banner that said 'Pregunta Deleon' on it, and he stood there until the band noticed him," Lee continued. "One of their people approached him, because I think they were starting to get freaked out, and my friend gave them this golden turtle, and when you removed the shell from the turtle, there was a thumb drive, and it had pictures on it and a recording of someone counting backwards, urging Pete to count with us. So Pete got onstage, and he told the crowd his name was '10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1,' which was his way of telling us he was playing along."
And while Wentz was onstage, a bewildered Deleon posted a video on his blog, in which he read out the New Hate Web address, and just like that, everything went nuts. FOB fans flooded the site -- which featured a box where passwords could be typed -- and began entering basically every phrase from the letter Wentz had posted on his site, and clues began to emerge.
Entering "Pete Wentz" brought up an image of Wentz's "Time Travel" passport from September 2029, while entering "Escapist Manifesto" revealed the transcript of an interview between characters named "Ian" and "Jason." And, we figure now is about as good a time as any to have Lee explain just what the heck is going on.
"The basic story is this: There's a man named Ian Hinden, and Ian is crazy. And he's crazy because he's been cursed by this man, HateFilledBox. And Ian can't feel happiness, so he's obsessed with finding HateFilledBox to get revenge, because HateFilledBox took his happiness away," Lee explained. "And so he has a series of interviews with this doctor, Jason Tezanos, about going out and finding HateFilledBox. And Jason has found the first version of the Bible, which is called 'The Escapist Manifesto,' and it's all written in musical form. And since Jason is a cynic, he gives the manifesto to Ian, in the hopes it will help him find HateFilledBox.
"Anyway, so we decided to incorporate Pete into the story, like, our characters were dead in the future, but a future version of Pete came across all their stuff, and there's recordings and journals, and Pete felt we could change the world," Lee continued. "So he went back in time to get his younger self to find us and get this stuff out to people so we can change the world. Basically, that stuff was my band's music."
And to that end, once Wentz and Deleon finally met (at the MTV Video Music Awards, incidentally), Deleon gave Wentz the pill -- and inside, on a folded piece of paper, was the phrase "prosopagnosia." When it was entered into the New Hate Web site, it took visitors to a fake, futuristic version of Wentz's blog, in which a pair of Ashbury MP3s could be heard. And that, for all intents and purposes, was it.
Only, you know, it wasn't. Wentz -- who put up a lengthy blog post about the whole viral campaign -- has seemingly picked up the game and run with it. Earlier this week, he was photographed walking around Los Angeles, wearing a gold mask ("prosopagnosia" is the clinical name for a disorder of face perception, where the ability to recognize faces is impaired) and holding a manila envelop with a message written from a mysterious doctor.
Lee swears he has no idea what's happening now -- after all, his goal with this whole campaign was "to get Pete's attention and work with Decaydence" -- and Wentz isn't offering many clues, either. When asked about his involvement in the game, Wentz responded with an e-mail that read, simply, "More to come." Later, when asked what the end goal of the campaign was, he wrote, "The ultimate goal of all campaigns from here on out is to f--- with [Cobra Starship frontman] Gabe [Saporta]," then later posted a photo of him wearing the gold mask that linked to a picture of Saporta leaping into the air.
And so, the mystery continues. Which, given the scope of this entire thing, seems somewhat fitting.