Friday, August 28, 2009

The first few days

This blog is all about the Wired Magazine contest to find the writer Evan Ratliff. Get the latest info about the contest from

Well, I thought it was time that I started putting my theories down in (digital) print. Here is my theory of the first few days of Evan's journey:

August 13 - Evan spends $28.46 at Best Buy, San Francisco with his credit card. The purchase was for $25.99, with sales tax making up the remaining $2.47. I suspect that he bought a prepaid phone, but really it could be anything. What he bought doesn't yet seem relevant.

August ? - Evan enjoys a going away meal at Bar Crudo in San Francisco. The charge shows up on his credit card on the 17th, but is likely delayed because of the weekend and may have even been from before he left San Francisco on the 13th. At some point he spends $109.08 at REI, which also doesn't show up on his credit card until August 17.

August 13 - Evan uses Fasttrack toll system to leave San Francisco.

August 14 - Evan sells his car, a green Honda Civic, in Las Vegas. This is suggested by the fact that someone deposited a check from CarMax Las Vegas with Evan's name on it to one of Evan's accounts. The check was dated 8/14 and calling the CarMax dealer confirmed that the checks are printed on site at the time of sale. Supporting Evidence: The CarMax check had the VIN for Evan's Honda on it.

August 14 - Evan ships something via UPS for $85.73. Maybe his personal belongings from his recently sold car? Maybe his clothes/supplies because he'll be traveling light? We need to figure out where that package went.

August 15 - Evan is back in San Francisco, walks his cat Henry around 7pm. This is suggested by the EXIF timestamp on a photo on Evan's flickr account (here) that was uploaded on August 19th. The photo shows a San Francisco street cover in the background. This is very probably misdirection. Alternate theory 1: Someone else took the photo. Alternate theory 2: Evan altered the EXIF info and it's an old picture. I believe that one of those alternate theories is correct. Implication: Perhaps Evan didn't return to San Francisco from Vegas.

August 16 - Unknown Location & Activity.

August 17 - Evan transfers $1500 to his Checking Account. Evan transfers $360.75 into his Checking Account. This could have been done online from anywhere.

August 18 - Unknown Location & Activity.

August 19 - Unknown Location & Activity.

August 20 - Unknown Location & Activity.

August 20/21 - Evan passes through Santa Monica. Suggested by the deposit of a check for the sale of his car (8/14) for $3000, and two withdrawals of $300 each. I believe that he did this after the close of business on the 20th, knowing it would show that he was still in Santa Monica on the 21st.

While in Santa Monica, Evan buys something at the Viceroy Hotel for $17 that doesn't post until 8/24. When exactly that purchase was made is still an open question. Could it have been lunch on the 20th?

August 20 - We get a hit from one of his IP addresses in San Diego at 5pm. Does this mean that Evan went back to Santa Monica on the 21st, or does it mean that he immediately checked email after arriving from his 2+ hour ride from Santa Monica, following a 3pm (after hours) deposit at a bank in Santa Monica? I believe the latter.

Then the trail appears to go cold. Did he hop a train to Chicago? The cost of a one-way trip to Chicago from San Diego is $182. That's almost exactly 1/2 of the $360.75 amount that Evan put in his account, however that may be a coincidence.

This seems to be a logically consistent trail of evidence for Week 1. Please comment and poke holes in my theories if you can.

1 comment:

  1. How do we know that the IP on the 20th wasn't masked by Tor?

    We do know that he's been using it the entire time to mask his location, so why would he suddenly unmask it?