Because NewsCut lives forever on the internet, I occasionally get mail looking for help finding someone or wanting some information from a post 10 or so years ago. And over the last 12 years, we’ve been able to solve mysteries and make connections using the power of the internet for good.
On Thursday, I got another request that reminded me that we were never able to solve one mystery: who is the Postcard Underground?
We first started chasing the question in 2012, when postcards for Gary Eichten started showing up. I wrote the following on a 5×8, at that time the morning roundup of all things strange in the news.
My colleague, Alana, has presented us with a mystery that only the power of the Internet can solve.
It appears that for the last week or so, at least two postcards a day arrive for the recently retired Gary Eichten, all bearing the mark of the “Postcard Underground.”
Today’s postcards were from the same person: “Sue.”
A Google search reveals no certain answers, although the blog of a woman in New England indicates she once received the postcards. Check the signature on the top card:
There are other websites all reporting the same thing: Postcards show up from someone who obviously is paying attention to the specifics of what’s being lauded. And “Sue” is obviously behind them:
Somebody in the InterTubes knows who Sue is. Come forward!
Sue came forward. Sort of. She sent me a postcard about two months later. But she didn’t reveal that much information.
We never were able to make much progress in uncovering the brains behind the Postcard Underground after Gary Eichten’s retirement in January, when anonymous (except for first name) postcards started showing up every day.
The fact that the postcards arrive in bunches indicate an organized structure but how do they communicate and keep it such a secret?
“Sue” shared no secrets in her postcard which arrived today in response to a NewsCut post last month.
They are clever, these postcarders.
And I let the mystery go. Until Thursday’s email got me to revisit Postcard Underground, and I found out it’s still out there. Somewhere.
Architect Grace Kim gave a Ted Talk on co-housing in 2017. Then started getting postcards, each bearing the red “Postcard Underground” stamp.
Other than finding out Postcard Underground was real, she didn’t have any more luck than I did.
In March 2017, Imesh Samarakoon appeared on a talk show on KPCC, the MPR sister organization in California, to talk about his effort to start an economic crisis team at UCLA for students in financial distress.
A month later, he started getting postcards. Tracking the mailing locations didn’t reveal much.
But one of them was from Sue. Sue from St. Paul.
He made a logical deduction. Postcard Underground is based in St. Paul.
Based on the high concentration of Postcard Underground members in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, it seems like the organization is loosely based there. But since they have members all over the nation, they often send messages to projects all over the place.
But he struck out on the other, more obvious question: who are they? Along with how do they organize? Who makes the decision to bombard someone with nice postcards?
So he looked at the type of organizations that get the postcards.
Postcard Underground seems to be an environmentally minded group of individuals. I also suspect that the members in Minnesota are a part of Audubon Minnesota, since one of their postcards is from the Audubon, and many of the members are interested in birds (so many bird stamps!).
So I’ve taken a small step towards identifying the members of Postcard Underground. But I really wanted to nail the identity of at least one member.
He wrote that he thinks he was able to identify one member: “David” a Lutheran in Gilroy, Calif. But there the trail stopped. He never wrote another post.
“Clearly, there’s a Minnesota nice connection,” Philadelphia Daily News columnist Helen Ubiñas determined in February when she became the latest person to try to solve the mystery.
Like those before me, I tried to figure out how the writers connect and communicate.
I noticed one sender from Minneapolis had included, inadvertently I think, her first and last name. I won’t out the kind writer, but her name was unique enough to turn me into a detective for about a week, leaving messages for at least half a dozen Minnesotans who are probably wondering just what’s in the Philadelphia water.
(If I did stumble on the right person, I’d love to hear from you. Maybe you’d consider letting me join the group — because who doesn’t want to be part of a secret society of kindness that cuts through the noise, especially when these days noise seems to be the country’s official language.)
And that’s where the trail ends, near the end of this blog. An unanswered mystery that allows the act to speak for itself.