Ong’s Hat: The Beginning (Authorized Version)

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Ong’s Hat: The Beginning (Authorized Version)

by Joseph Matheny

Reissued, authorized, and final version, 2021. 

Available as Kindle, Print, and Audiobook 

Free versions on and Lib-Gen

 Ong’s Hat, is known throughout the gaming industry and academia as the first, proto-ARG. (Alternate Reality Game). This work was profiled in Games(TM) magazine, as well as Inside a MindThoughty2, That ChapterSlate, Gizmodo, and many more media outletsThe Incunabula Papers CDROM was included by invitation in the BNF (Bibliothèque nationale de France) digital art collection. An FAQ about Ong’s Hat is here. 

This work is dedicated to the memory of my dearly departed friends: The members of The Formless Ocean Group (*) – Nina GraboiElizabeth GipsPaddy LongBetsy Herbert, and Robert Anton Wilson

Also to my “non-fog” departed friends: Mickey HollenbergDaveDW CooperDr. Hyatt (Alan),  humdog, and Diane DiPrima



“…a bizarre Internet phenomenon: an “immersive” online experience—part mystery, part game, part who knows what—known as both the Incunabula Papers and Ong’s Hat. The Incunabula Papers/Ong’s Hat was, or is, a “many-threaded, open-ended interactive narrative” that ”weds an alternate history of chaos science and consciousness studies to conspiracy theories, parallel dimensions, and claims that computer-mediated environments can serve as magical tools…. the documents provoked a widespread “immersive legend-trip” in the late 1990s. Via Web forums, participants investigated the documents—manifestos—which spun up descriptions of brilliant but suppressed discoveries relating to paths that certain scientists had forged into alternate realities. Soon, those haunted dimensions existed in the minds and fantasies of Ong’s Hat’s many participants. That was evident as they responded to the original postings by uploading their own—all manner of reflections and artifacts: personal anecdotes, audio recordings, and videos—to augment what became “a really immersive world, and it was vast”.

– The Chronicle of Higher Education—-

“Ong’s Hat was more of an experiment in transmedia storytelling than what we would now consider to be an ARG but its DNA – the concept of telling a story across various platforms and new media- is evident in every alternate reality game that came after.” – Games Magazine 2013

Though Ong’s Hat may not have set out to be an ARG, the methods by which the author interacted with participants and used different platforms to build and spread its legend has been reflected in later games. –Know Your Meme

The Incunabula Papers are arguably the first immersive online legend complex that introduced readers to a host of content, including what religious historian Robert Ellwood has called the “alternative reality tradition. – Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat

The Incunabula Papers CDROM was recently included in the BNF (Bibliothèque nationale de France) digital art collection.