The Lost Experience Explained
OK, "Lost" fans, hang with me. This may be long, but I'll try to keep it as concise as possible, yet give you a taste of what the real obsessives spent the summer doing. WARNING: Some people may consider some of the things discussed below to be spoilers. I don't really think so, because I doubt the show is going to repeat all the information revealed, but it certainly provides background for what we do see. Nevertheless, you might want to skip past this post if you don't want to know anything outside the actual TV show.
The Lost Experience began with "commercials" inserted into the show. These led you to Web sites such as the Hanso Foundation. Astute Web users soon discovered hidden portions of the Web site, aided by clues found in other sites advertised on the show, inside commercial tie-ins for Sprite, Jeep, Monster.com and others. The story, not told directly but hinted and indirectly displayed, was that the Hanso Foundation was not the benevolent entity its publicity claimed, but a sinister organization with ulterior motives. The alterations in Hanso's site were revealed to be by a mysterious hacker with some inside connections, named "Persephone."
Among the things hinted:
- Alvar Hanso had disappeared and the Hanso Foundation was under the control of the dastardly Dr. Thomas Mittelwerk, VP.
- The Hanso Foundation was involved in genocidal medical experiments in Southern Africa.
- Experiments were conducted on mental patients in Iceland.
- Mittelwerk's academic credentials were fake.
More information was delivered by many disparate means:
- A telephone number given for the Hanso Foundation.
- A book published in May ("Bad Twin"), supposedly by a passenger on Flight 815, Gary Troup (anagram of purgatory)
- References (including a video interview of 'Troup' on Amazon) to an earlier book "The Valenzetti Equation," all copies of which had been bought up and suppressed by the Hanso Foundation.
- Distribution of actual "Apollo Bars" chocolate bars, some of which contained clues.
- An internet DJ's actual podcasts.
- Appearances by Hugh McIntyre, Hanso Foundation public information officer, on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
- Appearances by Rachel Blake at ComicCon in San Diego (more about Rachel below).
Get the idea? Enthusiasts were pushed all over the net, and to actual events looking for clues. Fast as they were discovered, many were shared on blogs, Web sites, Wikipedia articles, and elsewhere.
In June the Hanso Foundation shut down its own Web site, declaring it had been hacked and was closed until further notice. Again the astute discovered clues in the HTML source code of the shut-down notice. These led to what was supposedly a blog by a young girl named Rachel Blake, detailing her summer vacation in Europe. Nothing in the Lost Experience ever being what it seems, more searching soon revealed that "Rachel" had left video traces of her real quest (to expose the Hanso Foundation) all over the net. This led to lots more searching to find the various parts of her video diary. She spied on Mittelwerk, researched libraries and public documents, and finally made a video of Mittelwerk expositing most of the "truth" to (apparently) new the Hanso Foundation trainees.
So what did Rachel uncover?
- It all began with the mathematician, Enzo Valenzetti. Sponsored by the UN after the world almost went to nuclear war in the '60s, Valenzetti developed an equation that predicts the exact date the human race will extinguish itself.
- The Valenzetti Equation has six terms. The constant coefficients of the six terms are (you guessed it) 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42.
- In order to avoid the extinction of the human race, some scientific means must be found to alter one or more of the terms of the Valenzetti Equation.
- Wealthy industrialist Alvar Hanso (AH) formed the Dharma Initiative to find a way to alter one or more of the Valenzetti Equation's terms (Dharma stands for Department of Heuristics and Research on Material Applications).
- Each station on the island is the center for researching one term. The groups are to work in secret until they make a breakthrough and signal it to the world.
- Mittelwerk says the Dharma Initiative failed, but the Hanso Foundation (under him) keeps searching for a way to change one of the core values of the Valenzetti Equation.
- One of the ways they are doing this is by infecting villagers in Africa with a virus, pretending to treat the disease, then examining the bodies of the villagers after they die. This process will kill ("optimally") 30 percent of the villagers.
- Mittelwerk likens this to a triage operation to "end all war, famine and disease."
The "active projects" list on the original Hanso Web site suggests that the six Valenzetti Equation terms (and six Dharma groups/hatches) were concerned with:
- Mathematical forecasting.
- Wellness/disease prevention.
- Mental health.
- Electromagnetic research.
- Genomic advancement.
- Life extension.
The following is a video that culminates the game:
Or is it the culmination? The shut-down Hanso site was altered again to contain a letter from Alvar Hanso, stating that he had been released from imprisonment thanks to the efforts of his daughter, Rachel Blake, and had returned to resume control over his corporation, wresting it from the Mittelwerk regime. In addition, Google searches on "Benjamin Linus" have turned up some very interesting sponsored links.
So now you have a hint of what all that burned computer time revealed. If you've been involved, you may have become overly obsessed â€“- a real Lost Experience junkie.
How can you tell if you've become a little too obsessed with the Lost Experience?
- You click randomly all over every Web site you visit, or slide the cursor around looking for hidden links.
- You read way too much fine print looking for slight changes in typography.
- You click 'view source code' on every Web site looking for clues.
- Your significant other is ready to trash the computer.
- You have WAY too many "Lost" bookmarks.
In the course of all this running around, I've encountered a good many Web sites chock full of information, both about the game and the series itself. Did you know that people out there (with better equipment than mine) have deciphered all the jungle whispers and posted scripts? Looking at the scripts and listening to MP3s of the whispers, I'd say they've done a pretty good job. I can't hear all the words they claim, but enough are audible once you know what to listen to, that I believe they've caught it. Others have produced detailed correlations about every fact, event, location, and character in all the episodes. Wikipedia has a fantastic set of linked articles on "Lost", and the Lost Experience, especially. There's a whole wiki out there specifically for "Lost" (Lostpedia).
A word of caution if you want to follow around some of the Lost Experience links. There are a lot of hoax Web sites out there. Misspell a legit site by one letter and you may be looking at an apparently legit but actually bogus site put up by a fan or a disinformation spreader.
And, of course there are several other recappers out there. One of particular note is Television Without Pity, which recaps a number of shows. Nearly as good as our dear Mac, but not as well organized -- mostly a straight narrative retelling of the events (with some speculations). Reading this will make you appreciate the trouble Mac takes to organize his "key points" format, and how much structure that brings to a sometimes confusing show that jumps around a lot in time and location. And note that these guys take six full days to get their recaps up, whereas Mac's right there the next day â€“ still the champ!
So here's a few links to get you started if you want to get some flavor of the game:
- A copy of the Hanso Web site before the shutdown, with most (but not all) of the hidden links operative.
- A great explanation of how to find many of the hidden links.
- The current Hanso Site.
- Wikipedia "Lost" articles.
- Wikipedia's explanation of the Lost Experience.
- Lostpedia: Detailed explanation of the game.
- Television Without Pity "Lost" Recaps
- Television Without Pity "Lost" Discussion Forum
Good Luck, and Namaste!
-- Cecil Rose