The Publius Enigma is a mystery involving a riddle proposed in connection with the 1994 Pink Floyd album The Division Bell. It originated on the Internet as a Web-based contest, implemented presumably as a promotion for the album and its tour. It remains unclear whether or not the enigma is a genuinely solvable puzzle, as certain details regarding the actual nature of the challenge have never been revealed. The consensus is that it was eventually abandoned by its creators, and the matter has not been brought to an official conclusion.
During the 1994 Division Bell World Tour, Columbia Records flew a 194-foot (59 m) long zeppelin named The Division Belle between Pink Floyd concert locations. The Columbia Electronic Press Kit was released to the media, along with the Promo Spots Video consisting of interviews with band members, footage of the airship in action, and a segment which contained the following:
"A spokesperson for Pink Floyd has issued the following statement: You have spotted the Pink Floyd Airship. Do not be alarmed. Pink Floyd have sent their airship to North America to deliver a message. The Pink Floyd Airship is headed towards a destination where all will be explained upon arrival. Pink Floyd will communicate."
>>>>>>>> T H E M E S S A G E <<<<<<<< My friends, You have heard the message Pink Floyd has delivered, but have you listened? Perhaps I can be your guide, but I will not solve the enigma for you. All of you must open your minds and communicate with each other, as this is the only way the answers can be revealed. I may help you, but only if obstacles arise. Listen. Read. Think. Communicate. If I don't promise you the answers would you go. Publius
A follow-up clarifies the challenge:
AS SOME OF YOU HAVE SUSPECTED, "The Division Bell" is not like its predecessors. Although all great music is subject to multiple interpretations, in this case there is a central purpose and a designed solution. For the ingenious person (or group of persons) who recognizes this - and where this information points to - a unique prize has been secreted. How and Where? The Division Bell Listen again Look again As your thoughts will steer you Leading the blind while I stared out the steel in your eyes. Lyrics, artwork and music will take you there
In order to refute the ensuing scepticism, Publius agreed to provide proof of his authenticity. On 16 July 1994 he delivered a prediction:
To validate the trust of those who believe, as well as to reconcile the doubt of others, I have gone to great lengths to plan the following display of communication: Monday, July 18 East Rutherford, New Jersey Approximately 10:30pm Flashing white lights. There is an enigma. Trust.
A year after the tour, the Penet remailer service was shut down by its creator over legal threats posed to the guaranteed anonymity of its users. As a consequence, Publius was unable to further contact the newsgroup without having to once again prove his authenticity. Subsequent claims to the Publius mantle have been made since, but none have ever been officially confirmed. A substantial amount of confusion thus followed in the wake of Publius' absence, leading to confusion about whether or not the enigma was ever solved or if it even remains active.
In April 2005, during a book signing of his biographical work Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason acknowledged that the Publius Enigma did exist, that it had been instigated by the record company rather than the band, and that the prize was to have been something along the lines of a "crop of trees planted in a clear cut area of forest or something to that effect."
"That was a ploy done by EMI. They had a man working for them who adored puzzles. ... He was working for EMI and suggested that a puzzle be created that could be followed on the Web. The prize was never given out. To this day it remains unresolved."
The comments made by Mason corroborate parts of a previous interview by Sean Heisler with Marc Brickman, the Floyd's lighting and production designer and the man apparently responsible for putting the "ENIGMA PUBLIUS" message in the lights at the New Jersey concert.
"...I think it really came and out of though - it came out of some guy of Washington DC, that used to be with the CIA or FBI or something that was in the encryption game. He decided he wanted to do some kind of album cover, and he started talking to Steve O'Rourke, and I think what happened was Steve O'Rourke had in his brilliant mind that he was going to try something on the internet because he had been listening to me. And he got this guy, cause if you notice a lot of this stuff can't be traced where it comes from. And I know that Dave for one thing didn't even know how to sign on."
Brickman later brought the accuracy of his testimony into question when he denied having told the truth to Heisler and refused to take responsibility for a series of strange Usenet posts made in his name.
The Pink Floyd magazine Brain Damage had a Q&A section reserved for a correspondent known only as "Uncle Custard". The name (phonetically similar to "Uncool Car Stud") was created by Glen Povey, apparently an allusion to Nick Mason's passion for auto racing.
Issue No.34 of the magazine contains the following:
Q: Who is Publius Enigma, what is the meaning of it all, and what is the treasure to be had?
A: (Uncle Custard) As the Infamous Q has emphasized, 'you humans are so limited'. This is a project for all those out there with higher IQ's, it does require a mastery of diverse languages, along with a lot of spare time. Now get with it...the lights were brighter, the meaning is worn inside out, the bell has tolled and the surrogate band is coming back to life. The answer lies, non-linearly, within the paradox of the theme of The Division Bell -- communication breakdown. (Hint: Watch the Learning to Fly video!) It may also involve an anomaly in the time-space continuum. There is an obvious solution and you do not need to be a Floyd historian to figure it out! Winners will receive official entry into the Mensa Society and some dry ice to cool down all those neural pathways in your brain. It is important to note that neither I nor anyone involved with this zine will enter into any correspondence on this topic. It's a puzzle for you, devised by the one who loves you enough to drive you mad. Besides, I'm much too busy creating crop circles and executing think-tank projects for the Pentagon.
Although the answers given by Uncle Custard over the years have all been written by several different people affiliated with the magazine, this particular answer has been attributed to former editor and final publisher of the printed version of Brain Damage, Jeff Jensen. The accuracy of the content of this answer and under what authority (if any) Jensen had to produce it remains unclear.
In the media
References to the Publius Enigma can be found in various Pink Floyd releases:
- P*U*L*S*E, a DVD of the 20 October 1994 televised concert at Earls Court, London, contains footage of the word ENIGMA being projected in large letters on to the backdrop of the stage during the song "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)". The DVD's authoring company, Das Boot, uses an enigma machine as their logo, which can be seen at the end of the show.
- In the artwork for the MiniDisc release of A Momentary Lapse of Reason, the word "PUBLIUS" has been inserted into the photo of the man in the rye field. The word "ENIGMA" appears in the lower corner of the picture of the man standing on the edge of the cliff.
- The words "Publius Enigma" can be heard spoken just before the song "One of These Days" on the 2003 DVD release of Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii.
- Storm Thorgerson's cover for John Harris' book The Dark Side of the Moon, published by HarperCollins in 2005 prominently includes the word "ENIGMA" alongside an ellipsis.
- Page 13 of The Division Bell's CD booklet contains an anagram of the word "enigma", hidden in third column from the right of the top verse of the lyrics to Wearing the Inside Out, perfectly aligned with the page number "jyusan". Anthony Moore, who wrote the lyrics to the song, has denied that the anagram was intentional on his part.
- Strauss, Neil (February 16, 1995). "The Pop Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- The Great Pink Floyd Airship Mystery
- The original Publius post at Google Groups
- A Brief History of the Publius Enigma
- the July 1994 East Rutherford Pink Floyd concert
- video of ENIGMA PUBLIUS in flashing white lights.
- A Fleeting Glimpse | pinkfloydz.com
- Interview with Marc Brickman
- "ENIGMA PUBLIUS • View topic - Marc Brickman". Retrieved 2009-10-11.
- "ENIGMA PUBLIUS • View topic - Matt Johns". Retrieved 2009-10-11.
- "Ten Tenths". Ten Tenths. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
- Sean Heisler View profile More options (1996-06-20). "Publius: Reality-Duality-Spirituality 2 - alt.music.pink-floyd | Google Groups". Groups.google.com.na. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
- "Enigma Anagram".
- "ENIGMA PUBLIUS • View topic - Anthony Moore". Retrieved 2009-10-11.