GTA 5’s UFO hunters: a community in turmoil

A community of conspiracy theorists are convinced that Grand Theft Auto V holds an amazing secret yet to be discovered. It’s been three years since the game launched and they don’t seem to be any closer to the truth, but some people are still dedicated to the cause. They pore over code, rip textures, and clutch at any straw they can find.

The source of the mystery is a mural found at the top of Mt. Chiliad, the game’s highest mountain. It’s intriguingly cryptic, illustrated with bizarre, occult-like symbols including what some have interpreted to be a person using a jetpack—a mythical item many believe is the ultimate prize for cracking the code.

Others think the riddle has already been solved, and that the mural actually points to a series of hidden UFOs that were discovered, one of which only appears when a player reaches 100% completion. But this, if the hardcore truthers are to be believed, is just the first step to unraveling an even greater mystery.

I’ve been following the so-called Chiliad Mystery closely since the very beginning. Last year I wrote about some of the latest theories from the conspiracy’s subreddit, a place I visit regularly. But lately my interest has waned—and so has, it seems, much of the community’s. With no new evidence and silence from Rockstar, they’re becoming disillusioned. Is the truth out there, or has it all been a waste of time?


For many, the most compelling evidence is the existence of a string of code containing the word ‘jetpack’—which was later removed in an update. Then there’s a distinctly alien-looking HUD overlay that some think suggests flyable UFOs are, or once existed, in the game. Some think these are traces of secrets that exist in the game; others that they’re remnants from features that were cut from before release.

Whatever the case, these tantalising morsels of information are enough to convince people to spend hours scouring the game world for clues. Then they share their theories and discoveries online, no matter how far-fetched they may seem. One person wondered whether this flickering light is actually Morse code. Another loaded the horn sound effect of the Space Docker into an audio spectrometer to try and find hidden messages. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

People are, for the most part, willing to speculate about people’s ideas—or, at the very least, politely point them towards the search function if it’s covering old ground, as is often the case. But the mood in the community is beginning to sour. More and more threads are appearing written by once dedicated clue hunters who have finally given up on the idea that there are any secrets left to find in the game.

“This sub is over two years old,” says a user on the Chiliad Mystery subreddit. “And we’ve made absolutely no progress since the fourth UFO was discovered. People post any stupid idea they think of. Get your shit together.” A sentiment echoed by another user, who describes the sub as “an endless circle jerk of unconfirmed fantasy.” Sadly, this infighting is rampant across the community. As people become increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress being made, they seem to be turning on each other.


As the solid leads dry up, the theories get more desperate. People post screenshots of rocks and try to discern patterns and symbols in the shadows. Anything vaguely egg-shaped is—because of the icon that may or may not be a cracked egg on the mural—is posted and analysed. But, as absurd as some of these theories are, they’re entertaining. And if people are having fun doing it, what’s the harm? Even if there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the meta-game Rockstar have created (whether they meant to or not) is quite fascinating—even just to observe from afar.

“This sub isn’t really about solving anything,” says one user. “It’s more like a repository for cool, unusual things people find in GTA V.” And that is, perhaps, why I check it most days. The result of digging so thoroughly through the game’s innards is that they often reveal interesting things about how it was made—like this texture dump which contains, among other things, the mural. Rockstar don’t often show us how they make their sausages, so these peeks behind the curtain are valuable.

Compared to a year ago, the Chiliad Mystery community has clearly lost some of its fire. But new discoveries are still being made, and even if they have no discernible relevance to the mystery (frequently a safe assumption), they bring the subreddit and forums back to life. The recent discovery of a mysterious phone number that triggers explosions in the sky is the latest thing to jolt the community. “Just when you think the hunters have hit a wall,” says one user. “The game surprises you.”

Maybe that’s what keeps them going. The feeling that the the next discovery might be just around the corner. That the clue that’ll crack the mystery wide open is out there, waiting patiently to be found. Or maybe it’s because, after dedicating months or years of your life to something, it’s difficult to let go. As more and more people drift away from the Chiliad Mystery community, there’ll always be someone out there who keeps chipping away. Perhaps, one day, they really will find that jetpack.

Andy Kelly

If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story.