Previously: Urkhammer, Iowa.
Type: EV (Electronic Virus).
Period/location of origin: Unknown, Japan. Subject could not have existed prior to 1994 (see: Additional notes); however, the precise year of origin has not yet been determined.
Appearance: True to its name — “Red QR code” — subject appears to be a QR code that is standard in every way, with one exception: Rather than printed in the usual black, it is red in color.
Modus operandi: Subject may be found in public places — graffitied onto telephone poles, plastered to buildings in tucked-away crevices, etc. — although some reports state that subject may occasionally appear spliced into horror films, occupying just a few frames before the film returns to its regular narrative. When encountered in public places, subject is typically only visible during the nighttime hours; some reports observe that subject vanishes come sunrise.
It is unknown whether subject is singular, and simply capable of appearing anywhere it likes, or whether subject is one of many.
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Subject will always scan, regardless as to subject’s state or condition. If it’s dirty, it will scan. If it’s damaged, it will scan. All that subject requires is a willing target with a mobile phone capable of scanning and reading QR codes.
Targets are self-selecting: Should a person who is curious by nature and therefore likely to scan a random QR code spotted in the wild catch sight of subject, that person will, in all probability, take out their phone and scan subject — just to see what it is — thereby becoming a target in the process.
Precisely what occurs following the scanning of subject is up for some debate. According to some reports, targets who scan subject will find their phones subsequently to become infected with a virus. This virus will impede any and all apps, programs, etc., gradually slowing their functions until the phone itself becomes inoperable.
According to other reports, however, scanning subject brings targets to a page on a website which contains a large quantity of personal and private information about themselves — passwords, addresses, even daily habits. This information may possibly, although not necessarily, be written in the first person. Targets who have experienced this result from scanning subject note that they did not create the page — or, at the very least, they do not recall making the page.
Still other reports describe targets being linked to the mail order page of a website or e-retailer selling… films. Film of a variety that you do not wish to see. Ever. Or, scanning subject brings targets to a website with a bright red background upon which the words of a curse appear, written over and over and over again. It is unknown how the viewing of this website might affect targets. (Note: It is also unknown whether this report has any connection with the previous entry in this Encyclopaedia identified as the “Red Room Curse.” There do appear to be some similarities; further research may prove fruitful.)
According to one final report, scanning subject brings targets to a video-sharing platform similar to YouTube, Vimeo, etc. — similar, yet different.
If targets are brought to this platform, they will be made to view a video of their own deaths.
There does not appear to be a way to avoid the fate depicted in the video, should target view it.
It is, in that sense, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Some things, once seen, cannot be unseen.
Containment: Unknown. It has been suggested that removal or repainting may be worth attempting; however, given subject’s unusual ability to scan regardless as to its own condition, and the fact that it is not always visible or present, the efficacy of these methods is not known. Further research is required.
Subject has not been documented outside of Japan. This does not, of course, mean that subject cannot exist outside of Japan — but if you happen to live elsewhere, you are possibly less likely to encounter subject, and may therefore be less at risk than those living within the country.
Additional notes: The QR code, or Quick Response code, was invented in 1994 by Masahiro Hara, then an employee of the Japanese automotive company DENSO Corporation, based in Aichi prefecture. Intended for internal use as an easier, more efficient way to track inventory and store information than standard barcodes, the QR code became so useful that it soon branched out into more general use. QR codes are capable of holding 200 times more information than barcodes can; they can also be scanned and read 10 times faster.
DENSO Corporation subsequently spun out a subsidiary, Denso Wave, which produces industrial robots, programmable logic controllers, and automatic identification products like barcode readers.
The black-and-white design of the QR code was inspired by the Japanese strategy game Go, which Hara occasionally played during his lunch break at work. It is perhaps worth noting that QR codes are able to function in any color combination, as long the two shades used are distinguishable from each other; black and white simply have the most contrast, and as such is the ideal color combination for a QR code to be.
Because the QR code did not exist prior to 1994, subject necessarily could not exist prior to 1994. However, it is unknown precisely when subject first appeared, as well as when information about subject began circulating.
In 2009, NipponIchi Software launched a page on one of their many websites regarding subject as part of a promotion for the recent ports of the first two Shin Hayarigami survival horror visual novels to the Nintendo DS. (The first game had been released in its original form to the PlayStation 2 in 2004). The page detailed what was known about subject — much of which has been recounted here — and included an actual red QR code at the bottom of the page. When scanned, this QR code brought users to the main Hayarigami.com website for the game series.
It is unknown whether this was the first report of subject appearing online. It, and a 2ch thread on the Shin Hayarigami series in which it is discussed, are the earliest-dated instances of subject this researcher has discovered online; however, due to geographic and linguistic barriers, there may be further information available that is beyond this researcher’s current access.
The Shin Hayaragami series frequently centers around well-known urban legends, and therefore may be of interest to readers of this Encyclopaedia. However, none of the games has yet been released outside of Japan. The next installment in the series is currently scheduled for release on the Nintendo Switch in July of 2021, again solely in Japan.
A piece of text that appears to have been copied and pasted in its entirety numerous times over the years, including in 2014, 2016, and, in translation, 2019, details similar information to that found within the Shin Hayarigami page. The original source of this piece of text is unknown; it may be 2ch, but as posts are regularly deleted from 2ch, particularly when they are very old, it is a difficult and potentially impossible task to track down the original post. It is also unknown whether the original source for this piece of text predates the Shin Hayarigami page.
A story based around subject was published to the Japanese online writing website and community Maho.jp in 2010. The writer notes at the end that they heard about the story from a friend, but does not point to a source which may be independently accessed or verified.
Recommendation: If you find one… don’t scan it.
Red QR Code at Hayarigami.com. (In Japanese.)
Internet Urban Legend: Red QR Code. (In Japanese.)
The Most Dreadful Urban Legend: Red QR Code. (In Japanese.)
Shin Hayarigami discussion on 2ch. (In Japanese.)
2020 interview with Masahiro Hara, inventor of the QR code, in the Guardian.
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[Photo via geralt/Pixabay, remixed by Lucia Peters.]