In recent weeks, students at Temple, Villanova and St. Joe’s have noticed a mysterious URL scrawled in chalk on campus sidewalks. Visiting philadelphia666.com leads to more questions than answers. “I have done much research in composing this. And I have done my best to ensure, that all information is indeed fact,” reads the unsigned introduction. A downloadable sermon incorporates Mary Shelley, Jesus and The Hulk, building up to the thesis that “pro wrestling is real.” “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are paralleled with George Bush and Barack Obama, respectively. There’s also some Book of Revelation/apocalyptic stuff in the mix.
It was hard to tell whether this was a satirical art project or the work of somebody who genuinely believes every word. “I’d say it’s half and half,” says Philadelphia666’s author Will Harrison, who lives in Pittsburgh. “Obviously, it’s kind of crazy to compare two wrestlers to two presidents.” The point of the site, he says, is to tell a story and get people thinking. “I’ve had a couple people tell me it can be hard to follow. I’ve been doing this for a year. I’ve done a lot of cutting out because originally I had way too much information. Now the piece is centered on Washington, D.C., the mirror and Frankenstein. … I’m not sure where it gets complex for people.”
His overall message, he says, is that we are living in important times. Global warming, nuclear arms, religious fanaticism — things like that have put us a historical crossroads. While he has no specific instructions for readers of his site, he does hope to inspire them.
First, he needs some readers. “When I first started out, I was just handing out pieces of paper to people, but a lot of people, they just walk by you and ignore you.” He’s had better luck writing the URL on sidewalks. He’s done it in Pittsburgh and at Penn State, and noticed an increase in web traffic. He had a few days off, so he drove to Philly-area colleges to do the same.
“I think Dec. 21 and 22 are going to be normal days,” he says, as opposed to apocalyptic ones. “I don’t think at all that it’s too late,” he says. “I think maybe there has to be a change from within. That’s one of the reasons I wrote the piece, maybe to unite us, sort of.”