The Chicago Reader receives dozens and dozens of pieces of mail every day. The vast majority of them are PR, with a few periodicals, letters to the editor, and notes from home (hi Mom!) sprinkled in; nothing too exciting. But yesterday an editor received a peculiar envelope with no return address that has some of us trying to wrap our heads around a bona fide mystery—a $10 art mystery, as it’s been called, although it could be called the $1,000 art mystery.

  • Andrea Bauer
  • The contents of the mystery package. The name of an editor has been removed from the large envelope.

Inside the envelope was another envelope that says “for you” on the front and “follow your Narrative Urge!” on the back; inside of that was a $10 bill, a small block of text on a strip of paper next to the number “65,” and a note with a message book-ended with little hearts that says, in pretty handwriting, “Thanks for opening the envelope. The money is real. We are all parts of each others’ stories. Let’s create one together. Please join the project! Use the hints. Find me.” Instead of a signature, the letter is signed with a “haiku clue” that hints at “a site to see.” It reads:

robotic cranes dance
in singapore. in taiwan
appears tornadoes!

It was tagged with a scribble that was evidently a tiny tornado. That was it.

What was going on, we wondered. What project? Who’s Whose (oops!) stories? Why just give away $10? Easing past the thought that this was a trap laid by some kind of modern-day Devil in the White City, we figured we were holding a kind of puzzle or conspiracy—we didn’t know which.

As about an hour on the Internet revealed, the $10 art mystery turns out to be a really sophisticated and as-yet-unfinished narrative fiction experiment that hasn’t quite made it out of the underground. We’d still love to figure out the mystery, and since we’re obliged not to take the $10 bills due to our editor scolding us “ethics,” we’ll give you the $10 if you can figure out Chicago’s part in the story.