The myth of Four Aces at White Peacock is one piece of internet pseudo-legend that refuses to go away. As far as urban legends go, Four Aces at White Peacock has fine breeding – the first mentions of it are on the same boards where you’ll find Cicada 3301 and Webdriver Torso. In any good forum covering the topics of conspiracy or the paranormal, it’s easy to find an active thread with the title “Four Aces at White Peacock”.
The myth contains many aspects of the classic tropes of the internet age urban legend; an enigmatic secret society, an impossible puzzle, a classic video game, and a fantastic prize. It’s been said that in a specific version of windows Solitaire software package there is a card back that depicts a white peacock – a bird with a fantastic fan like tail, for those of you not familiar with the creature. Through some arcane and specific set of conditions, four aces can be used to open a hidden menu in the game of solitaire. What exactly must be done with the four aces to open the hidden menu is hotly debated – it changes from telling to telling. Some people say four aces simply have to be drawn from the pack. Other arguments involve finding a specific combination of cards out of the millions of possible combinations, or placing the four aces in a specific spot in a specific. You’ll notice I used the word specific a lot there – that’s because despite the many variations of the story, it is always agreed; this isn’t something most people are meant to find.
Beyond that, nobody knows. Very few images of the white peacock card backings exist, and there are even less certifiable as genuine. There are more arguments in the forums over whether the white peacock cards are actually real than how to solve the four aces puzzle. So there it is, the summary of a perfectly average urban legends – an internet curiosity built on whispers and heresy – but there’s one crucial difference to Four Aces at White Peacock. It’s entirely true.
I suppose this is the point in the story where I should disclose my true intentions, for this isn’t just a fiction. I haven’t been entirely honest with you. In many ways, I consider this somewhat of a confession. You’ll remember I mentioned earlier a secret society – for ten years, I’ve been a member of that secret society. When the Four Aces puzzle is solved, the first thing that opens is a chat client. Basic, but impressive for an early windows distribution, it allowed access to a single room. So far, including myself, there are 32 regular users of this chatroom. We don’t have real names – the username displayed is the name of the computer. That’s why I was known as Blackbrook Bowl-o-rama Staff for the longest period of time. What 32 people are doing in this hidden chatroom, I genuinely do not know. It’s purely habit that keeps me coming back. Habit, with perhaps a touch of curiosity. For, perhaps with every 99 posts of comfortable mundanity, there is one more morbid, stranger, or hinting at a deeper rabbit hole just behind the program.
For the longest time, we have been sworn to secrecy. Or, no, we haven’t have motive to tell anyone. Without a White Peacock copy of solitaire, it’s impossible to access the chatroom anyway. Why plaster the whole thing across the internet? Besides, why would we want the internet at large in this one tiny corner of it that was exclusively ours? In that regard, we have become a secret group if not in any other.
Before I explain my reasoning for posting this here, and go deeper into the nature of Four Aces itself, I should explain something about how I found it. How I became a member of this little secret society. I worked in a bowling alley for my teenage years, as my username suggests. I only got the job because my aunt ran the place – but she made me work darn hard for it. During my breaks, she’d have me up in the manager’s office. Those TVs that display the score above the lane are usually ran off a single system. If it’s anything like the one in my old alley, it’s an old system that breaks every – single – day. I was studying computers in my spare time, so my aunt put me onto getting it working again at the old computer at her desk in the manager’s office. To kill time, I’d play the games, including the classic solitaire, which came packaged with the computer. That particular solitaire came with one odd extra feature – a card backing depicting a White Peacock.
I’m not going to tell you how to pull off Four Aces at White Peacock for two reasons. One – the chances you’ll ever find a White Peacock package of solitaire are so slim it’d be pointless to pad out the piece with that, and two – I suspect the method varies from copy to copy, so there’s little chance my method would be repeatable. Given then, that it is so unlikely you’ll ever access the room, why am I telling you this? I promise this will be the last rhetorical question for a while. In short, I’m telling you this in some way to assuage my fears. Perhaps there’s someone out there who can offer me a reasonable explanation for this. I can but hope that there’s someone who can prove this isn’t what I think it is.
I have explained how White Peacock is accessed, I have explained the nature of the people who use White Peacock, I have explained how I found White Peacock, and I have explained my motivations as to writing this. Therefore, there’s just one final thing left. I promised something morbid, something strange, and something hinting at a darker truth behind White Peacock, so here it is.
Like any community, there exists sub-groups of people within the White Peacock chatroom. While most people tend to lose interest in the reasoning behind this hidden feature of the solitaire program when they find it, a handful kept the questions alive. There are many features of the program still to be probed and explored, even if some people aren’t interested in that.
Over a period of several years, we’ve made little progress, however in the last few weeks some things have come up of particular interest. Fellow user Calgary51 got into contact with me. We’ve passed around e-mails for the ease of it, and one from him turned up with the subject line Need a favour.
I’ve been working on figuring out exactly what the program is for. Could you check out a few things for me? Try this command in the chat window.
I think Calgary51 was an older guy. We didn’t know much about each other except for our usernames and the things we had said, but the way he type seemed more formal than anyone else on the chatroom. He was smarter too – smarter than most of us.
I tried /targets once the computer loaded up. The result was painfully slow, and when it finally loaded it didn’t answer any of my questions. It was a map of the contiguous United States, with red dots speckled across the country. Some were major population centres – New York, Washington, Los Angeles – but there were others that were seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Dots sat on otherwise unremarkable stretches of the Virginia Coastline, or in the empty Nevada desert. There was nothing remarkable about, these places, to my knowledge. All around the red dots were strange wave like patterns radiating out like topographical depictions of mountain ranges. These lines looked nothing like any mountains I recognized though.
Hey Calgary 51,
What the heck was that? Some kind map? It’s gotta be just an inside joke put in by the devs I reckon..
He didn’t e-mail back for a while. I spent a long time worrying that he had found something else, something worse than a weird old map. When he finally replied, it wasn’t much relief.
Once again, I typed it into the White Peacock chat program. Another image, much to my surprise. I wondered how he had stumbled across these commands, out of the possible thousands. As far as I knew there was no listing of accepted commands. The image loaded line by line, but I recognized it instantly. It was an aircraft recognition card, displaying silhouettes of Russian bomber aircraft for identification. A caption read – memorize for your own protection.
Just one word, but I knew what he meant. I’d kept the chat client running, so I quickly hopped on and queiried the command. What came up surprised me. On any normal system, the /help command would list all the accepted commands the user can input. I didn’t get that. A tiny video thumbnail popped up when I hit enter, and started playing without asking me. It was a low-res upload of an old informational film. Stock footage flickered and cracked while a classic American accent explained the steps to something. I wasn’t sure quite what for a few seconds until it dawned on me with a chill. It was a layman’s guide to surviving an atomic attack (HINT: Duck and Cover). The thing looked old, like cold war old. It had the unnerving cheer of propaganda films. There was something deeply wrong with watching smiling mannequins stripped of their flesh while a fatherly voice scolded the plastic people from not preparing properly for nuclear war.
Still think it’s just an in-joke?
Calgary51 got to me before I could reply to him. I’ll admit, it was the same question I was asking myself. The implication was obvious – a map of targets, a video talking about survival of atomic war – it seemed silly, almost childish. I still couldn’t help but think it. As I pondered what to reply with, Calgary51 sent me another message.
I tried every word in the dictionary. These are some of the best ones, but there are lots of others. This program is like a library of tips for the nuclear apocalypse. There’s other stuff too – not just info, but actual functions. It’s supposed to be able to do stuff, but I don’t have access to the servers or something.
I shot off a quick reply, thoughts racing though my head. What did he mean when he said the program was supposed to be able to “do stuff”?
It’s like some kind of doomsday prepper’s idea of an easter egg. Maybe it was put in so high ranking Microsoft execs could sit out the nuclear apocalypse XD
The next reply came a couple of days later. I had been chewing over the whole hidden client and its function in my head for the last couple of days
I need to ask you a question. Could you find out where your computer came from? You told me it came from your aunt at the bowling alley, but where was it from before that?
I already knew what he was really asking. I did it anyway – calling my Aunt for the first time in years. Once I got through the small talk, I remembered the computer to her. With a smile in her voice, she laughed at my silliness. I persisted, and eventually she recalled it was brought from a local surplus store. Ex-government property, and all that.
Called my Aunt, she said the computer was from a surplus store. Ex-government property. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
He was. In a flurry of e-mails over the next few days, we exchanged hypothesis over what exactly White Peacock was. It turned out he’d be talking to the other people who had found the hidden chatroom. Asking them similar questions to me. The pattern was obvious when he had asked around – the computers were all from government or military sources. The conclusion to make about White Peacock to be made was obvious; it was some kind of program designed for use in the immediate prelude to atomic war. Perhaps so a pre-emptive strike could be co-ordinated without fear of enemy intelligence discovering it. Perhaps so government computers could communicate in the event all other channels were destroyed by an attack. Whatever it was, it was packaged away in a common software program, hidden from all but the most careful of observers.
There was one thing that worried me about this more than anything else. Previously, I had thought little of this, but now it seemed more relevant than ever. Consider this the confession of my post, though perhaps it is more of a warning. If it is some kind of hidden government doomsday program, what exactly are the numbers sitting at the top of the page counting down to?
Akkad101 - 02/25/2016