Randonauting for the First Time: Here’s What Really Happened

The Randonautica app led me to a mysterious empty road. Researching it led me to conspiracy theories, quantum physics, simulation theory, manifestation techniques, and chaos magic.

The trip began with a wrong turn.

I drove confidently down the street until I realized I was going in the wrong direction, and veered down a dead-end to turn around.

Immediately, I wondered if this was symbolic, a sign from the universe that I should turn back. On a randonauting trip—at least if you adopt the open-minded and deeply superstitious mindset of many of the app's roughly 10 million and counting users—everything takes on a weird and ominous meaning, adopting a number of possibly divine implications.

The app led me down the street, out of my immediate neighborhood and up some of the windiest streets in my town in upstate New York. Treacherous even on the sunniest day of summer, the serpentine road set me on edge. Suddenly, a car veered towards me out of nowhere, forcing me to swerve.

When I arrived at the destination, all I saw was forest on both sides, two parallel ravines on the edge of the paved road. I opened up the Randonautica app as if it would give me some kind of wisdom about what I was supposed to find.

The Randonautica app, if you aren't familiar with it, describes itself as "the world's first quantumly generated choose your own adventure game." Essentially, it's an app that sends you to completely random locations near where you live.

There was nothing here in particular to be found at the destination where it had sent me—only the quietness of a suburban road. Yet a closer look revealed that even this plain-looking street was studded with potentially meaningful images. A blood-red dot on the wooden pole nearby. A few numbers emblazoned on the pavement.

I stepped out of the car and began to wander around. Though it was a sunny summer day, as the wind picked up I suddenly began to feel afraid, then almost terrified. I've spent a lot of time traveling and exploring foreign cities alone at night, and never once had I felt the same fear I did then, in my hometown in the brilliant sun.

I jumped back into the car and plugged in my next destination. On the way, I felt a mix of emotions—fear, but also a sense of catharsis, as if something had been burned out of me by that rush of adrenaline on that empty road.

When I arrived at the cul de sac in front of my next destination, I found a tag for pigskin gloves. Inside was a list of mysterious numbers and writing in a language I didn't know.

That's the magic of Randonautica. In theory, it sounds mindless. But when you're actually out there in the world, brought to a random location generated by an algorithm, it can be an emotional, even revelatory experience—which is, as it turns out, entirely by design.

What Is Randonautica?

The original Randonautica code came from a group of programmers working on something called the Fatum Project. They were interested in the potential inherent in randomness, and in gaming randomness to discover new heights. Its theoretical roots go deep.

"The Fatum Project was born as an attempt to research unknown spaces outside predetermined probability-tunnels of the holistic world," explained a Reddit user named unitiveconsciousness, "and has become a fully functional reality-tunnel creating machine that digs rabbit holes to wonderland."

In 2019, 29-year-old Joshua Lengfelder discovered the group on the messenger app Telegram, and used the code to create a bot that sent people to random coordinates. The bot would eventually become Randonautica.

While Randonautica has been popular with Reddit users and other online communities for quite a while, it's only recently become popular on TikTok, as quarantined teenagers adopted the app and began using it as an excuse to venture around their hometowns and cities.

Now, TikTok and YouTube are full of videos (almost always set to eerie horror-movie music) and vlogs about people's experiences with Randonautica.

10 Most Scary Randonautica Videos www.youtube.com

The app has guided users to some peculiar places, but no Randonautica-related incident is more infamous than the time the app led a group of kids in Seattle to discover a suitcase that contained two corpses. The incident, which occurred in June, catapulted the app to a new level of Internet notoriety.

Henry ✰ on TikTok www.tiktok.com

Something traumatic happened that changed my life checkkkk 😐🥺 @natthecvt #fyp #viral #crime #murder #randonautica #randonauting #scary #washington

The app's success is partly thanks to events like this and partly thanks to its ingenious branding. Like many meditations, manifestation exercises, or similar pop psychology phenomenons, the app encourages users to set an intention before going Randonauting—an act that, at the very least, inevitably adds layers of significance to any experience. It also asks users to go exploring with a positive mindset. (They're also asked to bring a bag to help the environment, according to the app's Pro Tips).

Randonautica Randonautica AppRandonauting

Randonautica uses "a random number generator to produce specific coordinates within a set radius of your current location that you can travel to as a way of exploring the world around you," according to Wired. "People gather these coordinates through a dedicated app...where they can further define what they want to encounter. The app encourages users to set a personal intention before visiting a location, in the hopes of uncovering 'synchronicities,' coincidences or occurrences outside usual patterns of experience."

Perhaps because of all its peculiar context, there are some dark conspiracies swirling around Randonautica that add to its growing intrigue. Some fans have spread (baseless but undeniably creepy) rumors that the app is actually collecting people's locations in order to connect them to sex traffickers—and that was the very rumor that cropped up in my head as I walked around my randomly selected destination.

These conspiracies are fueled by a variety of odd, coincidental anecdotes from Randonauts—many of which resemble those old homemade Slenderman YouTube videos in that they certainly could have been fabricated, but have a way of gripping the imagination.

There's no evidence that the app has led anyone into the hands of sex traffickers. It has, however, led users to discover strange things about themselves and their neighborhoods.

WARNING RANDONAUTICA IS REAL AND CREEPY - Do NOT Try This CRAZY App (Gone Wrong) www.youtube.com

While often eerie and some are just absurd, many Randonauts' stories are extremely poignant. A user named @gothboithrift claims that the app sent him to his relatives' graves. Another said that while setting their intention, they asked for help with an eating disorder—and were taken to a poster about eating disorder recovery. Another discovered a letter from a man whom she later discovered had recently died; she was able to transport the letter to his wife.

Another user said she was seeking closure for her sister's death when she stumbled upon a field of flowers—the same flowers she had tattooed on her in commemoration of her sister.

Sometimes users' experiences are just plain weird, often in a charmingly kitschily and beautiful way: Users stumble on fridges in open fields, abandoned houses with lights on, strange symbols, car washes doused in rainbow lights, coyotes standing in open fields, doors in the middle of nowhere.

And then you have the grimmer side of things: a corpse by a shopping mall, creepy dolls, a man who had just been shot lying by a gutter. These things aren't exactly new, supernatural, or surprising, per se, but in the context of being sent to them by an app, it's easy to see why conspiracy theories abound.

Glitches in the Matrix: Conspiracy Theories About Randonautica

Some users believe that Randonautica is sending them to places for specific reasons—in order to connect them to strange and meaningful entities or to lead them on various quests.

"Personally I wouldn't use the app cause NO ONE can give[sic] me a guarantee that those coordinations aren't 100% random. Often times people end up in eery [sic] places and sometimes there are some suspicious people there," wrote one Redditor named SchuzMarone5.

| Randonautica - [ TikTok Compilation ] 1 | www.youtube.com

Another Reddit user named Undernourish proposed a more mystical explanation: "In a nutshell: [Randonautica] messes with synchronicity. The way the world manifests things is through random events. Think chaotic good," they wrote. "So, if you put enough yin energy (cool, tingly) when you put intent into an idea while you yawn deeply (flowing stream sound at the back of your head), the randonautica algorithm sets a completely random location so that the universe has an easier time slipping things into the world."

With all its emphasis on "consciousness" and "quantum physics," the app inherently emphasizes out-there theories and leads people towards strange experiences far beyond what they would ordinarily encounter.

Some users view the app as a way to enter a more interconnected, spiritual state, or even as a pathway to enlightenment. "After visiting the point," advised one user named crackenhigh_69, "have the intentions in the back of your mind all the time. You will see that your life experience morphs into delivering for you the intention even after you left the point. After some practice you will be able to stop using the app and see life as one infinite painting and you are the painter."

Still others have followed that wavelength further, proposing that Randonautica is an "undercover operation that's setting out to prove we all live in a simulation by showing glitches in the system," according to Daniel Falconer.

The coincidences and symbolic images Randonauters find, many argue, are the app's efforts to reveal cracks in our everyday reality—cracks which could lead to doors to other dimensions.

Finding Meaning in Randonautica (and in a Random World)

Most likely, Randonautica has led so many users to peculiar experiences because it's asking them to actually look at the world around them.

We often go through our lives on autopilot, yet the world around us abounds with strangeness, omens, violence, and mysterious, offbeat beauty. There's a reason why people have always believed in gods, extraterrestrials, and folk magics; regardless of whether these things are actually real, our minds are wired to search for much greater forces than what we usually see in our day-to-day lives, and our world seems happy to present hints of those forces if we let it.

Possibly the Randonautica app utilizes some kind of chaos magic, a form of modern occultism that relies on the idea that "belief is a tool for achieving effects." In chaos magick, as in Randonautica, "nothing is true and everything is permitted."

It's simple logic: If you go somewhere expecting to find something coincidental or eerie—or if you just truly open your mind to the possibility that strange forces might be afoot—they'll probably appear.

That's part of the magic of real travel. You see things you'd never ordinarily see, make connections, and discover that the world is a lot stranger than you ever imagined.

Neurologically, humans only see a very limited part of the world at one time, and our brains patch in the gaps in our perception. We're also excellent at detecting coincidences, connecting disparate experiences, and essentially seeing what we want to see—yet another example of the power and pitfalls of our perception. Confirmation bias leads us to search for and detect information that confirms our values or beliefs. These psychological phenomena are the foundations of manifestation techniques as well as, arguably, prayer.

In light of all this, it makes sense that Randonautica is currently going viral. Many of us are stuck at home; the world seems more random and chaotic than ever; it's clear that evil and invisible forces are at work behind the scenes, be them pathogenic or political.

In an often disconnected and random world, Randonauting allows us to make contact with our natural, immediate surroundings, while also playing into our desire to find deeper meanings in it and in our lives.

So if you're going out seeking evidence of parallel dimensions, Randonauting might be your way in. Though if you're planning on venturing out alone into a strange destination selected by a glitchy app, be sure to bring a mask, a friend, and some ample caution, because you never really know what you'll find.

As for me, my Randonauting trip made me reflect on the beauty of nature and the infinite complexity of the trees, as I knew it would. I also reflected on the wastefulness of suburban lawns and the eeriness of suburbia in general, and confronted my own feelings about being at home for such a long period of time. I thought about the pliability of my own thoughts, and how easily my emotions can be warped by a few flickering lines of code. Inevitably, I made a TikTok.

And of course, I started planning my next trip.

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If you've googled one thing during this pandemic, it is definitely: "Thai food near me."

Thai food has remained one of the most delicious and sought after takeout gems; and in New York City, specifically, there are so many delicious options that it can be overwhelming. Often unlike Chinese food, Thai food offers fresher ingredients and versatile cuisine options. Whether you want some Pad Thai or Pad See Ew, or some coconut milk-infused curry or even just some soup, Thai food is good for any occasion. But with so many options, how do you know you're getting the freshest ingredients at the best price? Here are the best spots to order take-out from, and we even broke it up by borough for you.

Manhattan: Fish Cheeks

Fish Cheeks

Reviewed by The Times as "fresh, vivid and intense," Fish Cheeks offers solid takes on traditional Thai Cuisine. Their speciality remains seafood, so their Crab Friend Rice and Coconut Crab Curry are delicious highlights. Their Tum Yum is also to die for, made with fresh galanagal, lime leaves and lemongrass.

The version [of tum yum] here hums with fresh galangal, lime leaves and lemongrass. Shrimp and knobby mushrooms simmer in a broth that gets extra body from milk, a twist I've never seen before but one I approve of. It could be spicier, but the use of bird's-eye chiles is far from shy.

Manhattan: Lan Larb

thia food

Arguably some of the best Pad Thai in the city, Lan Larb is focused mainly on the food of Thailand's northeast region. As a result, there is often a combo of meat and seafood involved in most dishes, such as the Lao Chicken Soup, which combines fresh chicken with pickled fish and a steamy brown broth. The menu will make your tastebuds whirl if you're one for experimentation, if not, their Pad Thai is iconic and filling enough on its own.

Brooklyn: Ugly Baby

Brooklyn has always been teeming with amazing Thai food joints, but Ugly Baby is the borough's most established success story. The Carrol Gardens sensation was preceded by two long gone Red Hook restaurants known for their authentic Northern Thai cuisine. With Ugly Baby, a name which comes from an ancient belief in Thailand that ugly children bring good fortune, chef Sirichai Sreparplarn had mastered his craft. The restaurant quickly gained glowing praise throughout Brooklyn and New York, and their take on Khao Soi Nuer and Kao Tod Nam Klook remain the stuff of legends.

Queens: Ayada

ayada thai

Ayada's cuisine is so good that it made a New York Times journalist cry at his table. Not out of emotion though, but out of spice. For those looking for a truly bold eating experience, this Queens Thai restaurant holds nothing back when crafting their drunken noodles or Pad Thai, but that spice is what makes it one of the best spots in the city.

Bronx: Ceetay

​While the Bronx isn't necessarily a buzzing Thai food borough, Ceetay's asian fusion cuisine is of the highest quality and will appeal to anyone desperately needing to nom on some noodles. Their sushi is amazing but their Pad Thai is packed with amazing flavor. Seasoned with onions, peppers, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, peanuts, scallions and cilantro, this Pad Thai is packed with flavors and will slam your taste buds in the best possible way.


5 Countries to Visit This Fall

As the weather starts to chill out, we're just getting warmed up to travel

It's not winter yet!

So that means, we're all about that fall travel. It's a beautiful time of year to be outside in many countries, soaking up the colorful landscapes and fresh air. Here are our picks for the top places to visit this fall.

1. Germany


Burg Eltz Castle is a magical step back into the Middle Ages that's been here for more than 850 years.

2. Switzerland


The red leaves in Bern are absolutely striking.

3. Italy


Nothing like the sheer beauty of the formidable Italian alps.

4. Peru


Machu Picchu beckons visitors from near and far this fall.

5. Mexico


It's not too cold to skip the beach!

Everyone has heard of the murder-hotel where dark shadows creep at the edge of your vision, or the abandoned house where the furniture moves each time you leave the room.

But sometimes the places set up to capture the fun and fright of the Halloween season for paying customers can be far more horrifying than any ghost stories. These "fake" haunted houses will leave you genuinely haunted.

Pennhurst Haunted Asylum

So spoooky!

Thomas James Caldwell

Pennhurst Asylum was in operation from 1908-1987 in the small town of Spring City, Pennsylvania. While we don't have all the records of the residents' experiences there, it doesn't take much imagination to realize that this building was home to true horrors. In many ways, 1908 wasn't that long ago, but in terms of mental health treatment—especially in small-town Pennsylvania—it was absolutely the dark ages. This was the time of lobotomies, straight jackets, and shock therapy. Whatever the jump scares and fake blood contribute to the fear you will feel walking through Pennhurst Asylum's aging, echoing halls, they can't come close to the deep, sinking feeling caused by the deep history of torment that has left its imprint on the very fabric of the place. Four spooky skulls out of five.


Haunted Trap House

Like this, but less 90s

In Centreville, Maryand, in the year 1989, a group of visionaries were struck by a bolt of inspiration. What if—instead of zombies and werewolves and demons, and all the stuff out of children's nightmares—what if they filled their haunted house with the real-world nightmares that were actually infesting their city, killing their residents, and generally afflicting every corner of the entire nation. Thus, the Haunted Crack House was born. Since renamed the Haunted Trap House, it's ostensibly an educational experience on the dangers of drug use, it features simulations of overdoses, arrests, and shootings, as well as actual former convicts who are paid to draw on their real experiences to make your visit as terrifying as possible. This kind of fetishizing of human misery to capitalize on the Halloween season is as despicable as it is spooky. Four-and-a-half skulls out of five.


McKamey Manor

He technically consented to this

A $20,000 reward? A 40-page waiver? These figures have garnered a lot of attention in recent headlines. Supposedly this is the "scariest" haunted house experience in the country. Who could resist the temptation of that once-in-a-lifetime experience, combined with the chance to win a big cash prize? Unfortunately, that is exactly what Russ McKay wants. There's a reason he's put so much work into the legal side of his operation. Rather than gassing up neutered chainsaws and chasing you around in a hockey mask, McKay has opted for producing actual, real, straight-up torture. You may not find the decorations and costumes that scary, but you will absolutely fear for your life when you consent to be water-boarded with fake blood. For being operated by a man who is clearly an unhinged psychopath, McKamey Manor ties the Haunted Traphouse, with four-and-a-half spooky skulls.


Donald Vann's House of Horrors

Donald Vann murdered eleven people. Happens to the best of us, but it does present a problem. How do you dispose of all those bodies? Donald's solution was to open a haunted house and put his victims' decaying remains on display as props. Props to him. For eight months he prepared his fetid, malodorous horrors, before debuting on October 1st. Unfortunately, you won't be able to visit his house of horrors, because he has since landed in some legal trouble—board of health, maybe?—but I'm sure for the lucky few who were able to visit during its brief tenure, and witness Vann's "psychotic smirk," I'm sure the nightmares they're left with keep on spooking.


Every Hell House in America


In the same vein as the Haunted Traphouse, Hell Houses are church presentations intended as educational experiences that warn kids and teens away from the path of sin. Their methods for achieving this obviously vary, but according to The Washington Post, you can generally expect the following: "A devil ushers a gay man dying of AIDS into the fiery pit. A teenager who is raped at a drug-filled rave commits suicide and also goes to hell. A young girl hemorrhaging from an abortion repents at the last minute." Awful. Truly sickening. What kind of trauma are they inflicting on these children to prop up their outdated ideologies? Six spooky skulls. Where'd that extra skull come from?? Nobody knows…