On May 3 2021, one of several identical posts were shared to Imgur about an anonymous user’s discovery of a “fake town” in Utah; the first iteration (from u/AlexeyMalykhin) was titled “Spooky Pasta”:
That particular Imgur post unleashed the story to various platforms, and a May 2021 Tumblr post by u/catboymettaton transcribed both the post itself and some responses. The story was formatted as a “greentext” (or “green text”), a style of storytelling utilized on 4chan and related sites.
On May 7 2021, another Imgur repost appeared: “TFW you enter Night Vale.” In that variation, the original poster (u/ThatOtherGirlYouKnow) shared a similar story of an unsettling place, but with a twist:
I was walking through the back streets of Manchester (UK), cut through some back alleyways between Piccadilly Gardens and Ancoats to catch a bus. Late night. On my phone, not paying attention, walked this way 100 times. Hair falls into my eyes.
Flip hair out of eyes, look up.
NEW YORK. NYC. THE BUG [sic] APPLE. THE CITY THAT DARE NOT SLEEP.
I pause… WTF!
I look around me. The allyway I emerged from is no longer there.
Yellow US-style school bus pulls around the corner. NYC taxi cruises past. Two NYPD cops eat donuts in their car. Elderly guy sits in folding chair outside a tenement reading a US paper. Jewish deli. NYC shops. NYC street signs.
Cops start looking at me funny.
I start to panic.
Have I blacked out and come to in NYC? Check myself. No blood. Drop phone to test gravity (it was a nokia 3310, the pavement was more at risk than the phone). Local gravity is OK. Check watch. Read street sign, look away, look back, street sign still says the same thing. Check watch, times match. Try picking phone up with telekinesis, it doesn’t work. Not dreaming then. Pick phone up.
I attempt to will myself back to my point of origin, figuring the only explanation was that I’d developed the power of teleportation. Does Not Work. I’m unsure about the basic nature of reality and frankly a lot of things I took for granted are now up for grabs. Maybe my new teleportation power has a recharge time?
Decide I’m just going to roll with it.
Elderly guy says “Yo, miss, you shouldn’t be here” as I nonchalantly stroll past. I nod and mumble something back along the lines of “It’s ok, I have permission.” He nods and goes back to reading his paper and drinking his coffee.
Taxi drives past again. Same one? Maybe. Maybe I’m in a time-loop? Maybe I can move in both time and space? Maybe all yellow cabs just look the same to me. I consider teleporting to the corner of the block, but figure that if the cops see me teleporting they’d be explaining to do. Another yellow school bus drives by, followed by what I can only describe as an ‘American-looking’ powder blue car. OK, I hadn’t seen that before, not in a time loop then.WAIT! I teleported while in the allyway. Maybe I can only teleport when I’m I’m unobserved. The deli has a doorway next to it, I can duck in there and be unobserved and try teleporting.
Get closer to deli. It looks fake. I touch the brick wall. It’s fake too, made of some sort of plastic. The door is fake. I keep walking. Two streets later I round a corner and I’m back in the UK.
It turns out I’d wandered onto the film set for the 2004 Jude Law remake of the movie ‘Alfie’.
‘I Think I Found a Fake Town, Like Truman Show Fake,’ and ‘Greentext’ Stories
At the beginning of the transcription, u/catboymettaton indicated the story was first posted to a site on March 27 2019; its first line (“I think I found a fake town last year, like Truman show fake”) came before the ensuing “greentext” narrative, which is transcribed in full below:
[id: first image is a screenshot of a greentext from 4chan. the heading says “Anonymous 03/27/19(Wed)22:51:17 No.22418409″ and the text of the story is as follows:]
I think I found a fake town last year, like Truman show fake
>cross county road trip, hitting up some national parks for /out/
>in central/southern Utah
>it’s getting late, like 10pm (been driving since 6ish)
>it’s dark as fuck, no moon, can only see what’s lit up by my headlights
>decide to find someplace to rest for the night at next exit
>see a town off in the distance, turn off on only pull off I’ve seen for over an hour heading towards town
>pull off is unmarked and unlit, not on car gps, no cell service
>town is directly ahead though, keep going
>road turns to dirt road and is about 5 miles until it turns to pavement again right at the town where businesses and houses started showing up
>immediately town strikes me as weird
>nobody is on the streets, no cars on the streets or in the businesses parking lots.
>jazz music is being pumped through the streets for some reason, not loudly but loud enough to hear
>this town that looked to be about 7 blocks wide from some miles out has every major fast food chain I’ve heard of and 7 hotels on the main street
>still no cell service, still not on car GPS
>go to get food
>KFC was fully illuminated and unlocked, nobody there. Same thing with Jack in the Box.
>McDonald’s has a cashier and cook when I go there, both look annoyed
>take my order, give me distinctly non McDonald’s nuggets and fries
>start going to get a bed for the night
>Hampton Inn, empty parking lot, 3rd annoyed looking person informs me they’re all booked up
>La Quinta, person I’m now convinced was the cook at McDonald’s is behind the check in counter, also empty parking lot, also fully booked
>Holiday Inn Express, empty parking lot, person that was clearly the fucking cashier at McDonald’s is behind the check in counter, surprisingly they have rooms
>ask him if he’s the guy from McDonald’s “uhh, no, that’s my brother”
>fuck it, good enough for me
>get to room, wifi exists but nothing loads, shower, crash
>wake up next day, no breakfast in lobby, no other guests,
>McDonald’s guy still there for check out
>ask him how to get out of town
>”same road you came in on”
>head to McDonald’s to get something to eat
>town is still playing smooth jazz
>still nobody on the street
>order at drive thru
>drive thru lady is definitely lady from the Hampton Inn
>ordered a fucking mcgriddle and black coffee, she hands me a microwave English muffin sandwich and what I assume to be some kind of instant coffee
>place is too fucking weird to stay and argue
>heading down the only fucking road in and out of town
>maybe 3 miles onto the 5 mile dirt road notice big metal-wire fence on both sides of the road in the desert, meet on the road in a big motorized gate that is open
>soon as I pass thru, gate starts closing
>get back onto road, finally get onto 62? That’s not right, could’ve sworn I was on 89 when I decided to pull off and there’s mountains in between
>finally get cell service, nothing matches description of town, none of the charges ever show up on my card
I’ve told some people and 1 suggested it was Richfield but I know I was south of there and you know, they would’ve actually charged me for stuff.
Summary of the ‘Fake Town in Utah’ Story
The original “anon” relayed a purported firsthand experience in the summer of 2018.
The author claimed they embarked on a “cross county road trip,” one which eventually brought them to “central/southern Utah.” As is common in the course of multi-day road trips, they stopped at around 10 PM to “find someplace to rest for the night at next exit.”
At that point, the original poster (OP) observed a seemingly populated area “off in the distance,” but the exit to the town was “unmarked and unlit, not on car gps, [and had] no cell service,” and the road ahead consisted of five miles of “dirt road … until it turns to pavement again right at the town where businesses and houses started showing up,” making them deeply uneasy.
The OP noted that “nobody [was] on the streets, no cars on the streets or in the businesses parking lots,” “jazz music [was] being pumped through the streets for some reason, not loudly but loud enough to hear,” and neither GPS nor cell service was available. They continued, describing attempts to obtain dinner from a KFC and a Jack in the Box, both “illuminated and unlocked” but completely unstaffed, before finding an employee at a McDonald’s and ordering “nuggets and fries” from an “annoyed” cashier and cook.
Subsequent attempts to find lodging were odd — they described finding a Hampton Inn with an “empty parking lot,” no vacancies, and another “annoyed” staffer, and a La Quinta Inn was purportedly manned by the “cook [from the] McDonald’s” they visited earlier.
Here again, the original poster described escalating strange things — of a third hotel, a Holiday Inn Express, they said: “empty parking lot, person that was clearly the fucking cashier at McDonald’s is behind the check in counter, surprisingly they have rooms.” Noting a non-functional wifi portal, they said they showered and fell asleep.
Upon waking, the poster described a vacant hotel with “no breakfast” and “no other guests”; the McDonald’s employee was “still there for check out.” OP requested directions and was advised to use the “same road” they traveled in on, reporting a creepy vacant town and a final stop at McDonald’s — where they claimed an employee was the person from the La Quinta Inn, and their order consisted of off-brand food unlike the standard fare at McDonald’s.
Their journey away from the town included a “big metal-wire fence on both sides of the road in the desert” and a “big motorized gate that is open,” closing when the person drove out of the town (on to a different road from the one they used to enter. Eventually they accessed cell service as they drove on.
Finally, the story concluded by stating that despite using a card for their McDonald’s dinner, Holiday Inn Express stay, and McDonald’s breakfast, that “none of the charges ever show[ed] up” on their billing statement. The coda was itself interesting, further hinting at the “facade” nature of the town.
Reddit Posts from June 2020, Featuring the Same Story
A fourth post to r/self was shared on June 28 2020, titled “Fake town in southern utah somewher[e] off 89.” Several commenters on the various posts indicated that a post to iFunny (on June 26 2020) prompted them to look for more information.
Imgurian and Redditor Comments and an Informal Investigation
One possible explanation touched on a related urban legend, that of “closed” or “secret” cities, which are purportedly filled with people living, working, falling in love, raising families, and dying — but all in areas that cannot be found on any map nor receive any mail.
Such places are not unprecedented. For example, mysterious cities appeared at one point in the 1940s, when thousands of people quietly began streaming into three areas acquired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
That mystery unraveled on August 6, 1945, when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, and President Harry S. Truman publicly revealed the purpose of the sites now known as Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Hanford/Richland, Washington. In roughly two and a half years, the Manhattan Project—so named because it was managed by the Army Corps’s Manhattan Engineer District in New York—had produced a weapon of previously inconceivable destructive force. While the ethics and strategic necessity of the decision to use such a weapon in combat are still fiercely debated, there is no question that this initiative was one of the most significant milestones in the history of scientific research and development.
On May 4 2021, u/P0G0THECL0WN posted “I think I found the location in the story,” a post beginning with the lengthy story in the screenshots above, and including a possible location for where the story was set:
Those screenshots were also transcribed in the Tumblr post linked above, but their precise origin and location were not immediately apparent:
next image is a reply from @/tiwatzyrsfist that says “OP accidentally drove onto a government training site. Most of the major agencies (FBI, CIA, etc) supposedly maintain small fake, but full built and realistic, towns for training exercises. The people in town were base staff and they were all pissed off at him because they were gonna have to fill out long and tedious reports about a civilian getting onto the site.”
final image is a reply from @/thegaysociallyawkwardcat that says “Piute Reservoir east bank. Military installation that is blocked on google maps. It’s visible from 89, and the road south passes through a (google maps censored) security gate right before 62.”
Both posts (the original and the follow up) were measurably popular through Google Trends, with “Breakout” popularity for related search terms:
- “fake town utah;
- “piute reservoir”;
- “piute reservoir fake town”;
- “piute reservoir town”;
- “piute reservoir east bank”;
- “piute reservoir east bank fake town”;
- “fake town in utah”;
- “piute reservoir east bank military installation,” and;
- “skinwalker ranch.”
Related, Previous Reddit Posts
Any discussion of the purportedly fake town in Utah greentext would be incomplete without mention of an extremely popular and since deleted story to the subreddit r/Glitch_in_the_Matrix, a very similar narrative that also appeared to draw on “secret cities” folklore, and which is equally difficult to fact check.
That story was originally shared in March 2013, in a post titled “Long read but definitely the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced.” Although it was deleted without explanation, it survived on a Reddit archive site:
My best friend found this subreddit. He told me I need to share this story. It’s kind of weird and unbelievable. I have no proof it happened, but if you want to hear a story…gather around.
In the winter of 2009 my brother and I took a road trip from Portland, Oregon to Port St Lucie, Florida and back again. We made the trip to visit my sister who lives in Port St Lucie. She and her husband just had their first child and my brother and I were excited to see the newborn.
On the trip to Port St Lucie we took a combination of freeways from the northwest all the way down to the southeast corner (basically a diagonal route), but several times throughout our voyage we were tremendously delayed by snow. The trip which should have taken no more than three days ended up taking five. Because of this delay, we had to cut short our visit with our sister’s family.
On the trip back to Portland we decided to take I-10 the entire way. This stretch of freeway runs all the way from Florida to Los Angeles and would completely keep us away from the snow. The I-10 route added several hundred miles, but we both needed to be home for work the following Monday, and this was a sure fire way not to be delayed.
The first day of the return trip was uneventful, but we did manage to drive 1,300 miles from Port St Lucie to San Antonio before stopping for the night. The plan was to make it all the way to Las Vegas the next night, which would leave us with about a fourteen hour final day drive. The trip was going well. It wasn’t until we left San Antonio that the glitches started happening.
The car we took on this trip was a 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid. The entire trip we had been getting right around 35mpg (this is digitally displayed on the dash), so we had become very aware of how many miles we could squeeze out of a tank. We knew to refuel around 350 miles, but we also knew we could stretch that number into the low 400’s if need be.
About 100 miles outside San Antonio, I notice the fuel gauge was dropping noticeably faster than usual, so I clicked the button to change the dashboard display only to see the car was getting barley 26mpg. At first I was shocked, but I reasoned it to possibly driving uphill the entire way (I still don’t know)? I thought throughout the course of an entire tank of fuel that it would eventually balance itself out and we would finish the tank within that 35mpg range. I was wrong.
I kept a very detailed log of this entire trip, and this one stop in Fort Stockton, Texas is the only anomaly in the entire book. The car which had consistently held around 35mpg suddenly finished an entire tank off at 25.8mpg. That is over 100 mile difference in the vehicles normal range. I still to this day cannot figure out why there was such a drastic shift in fuel consumption in that 300 mile stretch from San Antonio. I’ve reflected on that tank of gas several times since this happened, and I have almost come to the conclusion that it was an intentional glitch in order to make us pullover where we did.
Our original plan was to refuel about 50 miles later in a town that I cannot remember, but we obviously ran short on fuel. Anyway, with our GPS programmed to Las Vegas, Nevada, we headed back onto the road in which the GPS directed. Pretty soon after we got back on the road we realized we were no longer on I-10 heading west, instead we were north on highway 285 (here’s a TIL for some people. Evenly numbered highways and freeways are heading East/West while odds are north/south). We didn’t think much about being off the interstate because many times throughout the drive we had been directed onto bypass highways. We assumed this was just another such instance.
After about an hour and a half of driving on highway 285 we crossed into New Mexico, which was about two hours earlier than we should have crossed the border. By this time we realized the GPS thought this was a more efficient way to go to Vegas even though by all accounts it is about an hour faster if we had stayed on the 10. We were annoyed, but decided to just stick it out with the GPS and keep heading north through New Mexico.
Nearly five hours after refueling in Fort Stockton, my brother and I were hungry and decided it was time to find somewhere to eat. Driving through this part New Mexico is kind of lonely. There are very few towns, and where there are towns, they are small and on the verge of becoming ghosts. I think their economies are built around helping travelers fill up their gas tanks. Other than that, I cannot see a reason for them to exist.
My brother and I have talked about what happened next so many times, but we still cannot figure it all out. We passed through a small town with a couple gas stations and we know the town was named Vaughn, NM, and then about 20 miles later we drove through a town call Encino, NM which did not have a gas station (that we can recall). In fact, the second town didn’t really seem to have much there if anything. I wasn’t sure if anyone was living there. I seem to remember questioning why it existed in the first place, but then quickly dismissing it and driving right through.
Not even ten miles after passing through Encino, NM, we surprisingly came upon a city/town that wasn’t loaded in the GPS. This wasn’t a big deal, because I was using a cheap handheld that lost its signal all the time, but usually the only things it didn’t display were newly built roads and recent construction areas. This city was definitely not brand new, so I figured the GPS was being buggy. The oddest part of finding this city, neither of us remembers seeing any warning we were coming up on a town of this size. It had several fast food joints, restaurants, hotels, motels, grocery store (Albertsons maybe) and even some bars. If I were to guess, I would say this city was roughly 10-20k people.
We decided to pull off and grab a bite to eat. Normally we probably would have grabbed some fast food, but my brother saw a Ruby Tuesday’s and really wanted to try it out. There were a couple Ruby Tuesday’s around the Portland area at the time, but neither of us had been there. We had just heard they had a pretty good salad bar, and I guess my brother was in the mood for something other than fast food. I went along with the suggestion because I was sick of eating junk.
((((((for the rest of this story, I will be N and my brother will be G)))))
We pulled into the Ruby Tuesday’s parking lot, got out of the car and walked in the restaurant. Immediately upon entering a waitress who was milling around the hostess station says, ‘Oh my word, is that N and G?’ Both my brother and I answered that it was indeed us, and the waitress went on to ask how life was in Portland. Suddenly it clicked, this girl knows who we are, but we are over 1,000 miles from home. Did we know her from back home?
My brother and I both gave very basic vague answers to her question, and I could tell she was kind of unsettled that my brother and I were being evasive. When we were seated, my brother immediately asked me where we knew her from, which was the same question I was going to ask him. I told him that I had no idea who she was, and that she obviously had mistaken us with some other people. Not more than a minute later this guy bartender comes up and says, “No fucking way, G and N. You back for jobs?”
What? My brother went on to tell the guy they had us mistaken with some other people. He laughed and dismissed my brother’s response as a joke. The bartender continued on seamlessly and started asking us how we fared in the three month anatomy and physiology course we had taken at Oregon State.
I remember thinking all of the sudden; this is not a coincidence anymore. My brother and I had taken a three month 15 credit A&P class at Portland State University when we were in our early 20’s (We were late 20’s when this interaction happened). Finally, I asked the guy exactly where they knew us from, and he just kind of paused and started looking me over. Then he said, “Oh damn, you guys just look really similar to some people that used to work here.”
He apologized and claimed he had to get back to work. After a bit, our food came and my brother and I noticed they had switched out our waitresses from the girl who recognized us when we walked in. That wasn’t a big deal, although a bit strange. Next a guy who I can only guess was the manager starts walking over to our table with a big smile on his face. As he gets within about ten feet of us he kind of starts looking over my head and stops. I think someone behind me was directing him not to talk to us. After he received the message he sharply turned 90 degrees and walked away without saying a word.
This had quickly become the most awkward meal of our lives. It went from people acting like it was a celebration for us to have shown up to everyone avoiding eye contact with us at all cost. After we finished up with our meals the waitress came told us the cash registers were frozen and that our meal was on the house.
I really wanted to ask the waitress what the name of the city was that we were in, but I also really wanted to get out of there. After leaving the restaurant we were running pretty low on gas, so I decided to refuel before we got back on the highway. I assumed the name of the city would be printed on the receipt. We were not that lucky.
This city strip was a one way road on the eastern side of the highway. When we left Ruby Tuesday’s the only way to turn was right, and it headed straight back to northbound 285. In order to refuel I would have to head north on the one way street and turn right on a side street to head back to the southern part of town to the gas station. The only available right hand turn off that one way street was closed so I was forced back onto the highway without fueling up. About 20 minutes later we found a truck stop at the intersection of 285 and I-40 where we finally filled up.
The rest of the trip was very ordinary. We talked at length about how weird that Ruby Tuesday’s was in the middle of New Mexico. We came up with solutions about how we had doppelgangers with the same names. We joked about how people that look similar follow the exact same paths in life regardless of their upbringing. We talked ourselves into it being a major coincidence. When we finally got back to Portland we decided to do a little research and find out the name of this town.
Here is the google maps picture of that stretch of highway.
We know we refueled at a truck stop at the intersection of 285 and I-40, which means that we had to have passed through Vaughn and Encino, so there should be a city between the truck stop and Encino. I don’t see anywhere on the regular map or the satellite map where this little city could possibly be. We have never really been able to answer what happened that day. I can still vividly remember the waitress’s face of unease by the way my brother and I were behaving, the bartenders’ voice change when he figured out we were not the people he thought we were, and thinking the manager looked identical to the actor Ken Moreno. My brother and I know this stuff happened, but we have never been able to find the solution.
Maybe some redditors can give me an answer or maybe this was just a glitch. Maybe someone has driven that stretch of road and knows the town.
tl;dr apparently my brother and I worked at a Ruby Tuesday’s in the middle of New Mexico
The story was indeed long. It also involved a road trip (for two people, not one), an unexpectedly populous town or city, a bevy of national chains (Ruby Tuesday in particular), and the unsettling impression that something about the well-known locations described being increasingly, disconcertingly weird. Like the “fake town in Utah” story, the “fake Ruby Tuesday in New Mexico” tale involved transactions which were not successful — the “cash register was frozen,” and the meal was “on the house.”
A March 2019 “greentext” about a fake town in Utah (speculated to be in Piute County) spiked in popularity in June 2020, and again in May 2021. It closely resembled what was essentially an earlier urban legend about a mysterious town in New Mexico with a strange Ruby Tuesday. Readers who believed the accounts largely attributed the experiences to civilians stumbling upon “secret cities” that were actually top-secret military installations, and likewise, the stories were by their nature entirely unverifiable. The possibility also exists that these stories are both complete fiction inspired by previous folklore, which was itself inspired by real-life “closed” or “secret” towns. In any case, tales of “fake towns” emerging during road trips in the American Southwest were perennially popular, and therefore destined to circulate in screenshot form in perpetuity.