You don't have to be a fan of the Disney XD show "Gravity Falls" to appreciate the bizarre scavenger hunt it ended with back in 2016. But if you want to know how the mysterious statue of Bill Cipher became part of a roadside attraction off the Redwood Highway, it might help to get some backstory. Given that the show won two Emmy awards and spawned a Nintendo 3DS game, it's certainly worth looking into.
"Gravity Falls" 101
Gravity Falls is the story of Dipper Pines, played by Jason Ritter, and his sister Mabel Pines, played by Kristen Schaal. In the show, the siblings are sent off to Gravity Falls, Oregon, to stay with their great uncle, aka Grunkle Stan. The pair spend their summer tackling strange phenomena with the help of locals, as well as Mabel's pig, Waddles, despite the mayor of Gravity Falls trying to play down the town's supernatural troubles.
The show aired its series finale in February, 2016. In the final episode, titled "Weirdmageddon," the Gravity Falls protagonists, known as the Mystery Shack gang, finally reckon with the antagonist Bill Cipher, a villain who looks like the eye at the top of the pyramid on the back of a dollar bill.
While heroes overcoming villains is something most GF fans would expect at the end of a Disney series, they also got a glimpse of something they weren't expecting. At the end of the episode, the footage changed from animated to real-life, and Gravity Falls fans were shown a strange sight.
What they saw was a tangible statue of Bill Cipher nesting in some actual woods. In addition to this brief clip, they received the messages, "Hidden deep within the woods a buried treasure waits. Secrets lost and statues found beyond the rusty gates."
With that, the series ended.
Written in Cipher
It wasn't until a few months later that the shows creator, Alex Hirsch, launched the "Cipher Hunt" for the show's fandom. On Twitter, Hirsch wrote:
"Are you guys ready?"
Followed by the post:
"Let the games begin #FLSKHUKXQW"
In addition to this strange code, he also supplied fans with an image that contained clues and cryptograms.
Forget Carmen Sandiego! Where On Earth is Bill Cipher?
In the tradition of geocaching, augmented phone apps, and similar alternate reality games, these clues led fans on a real-life hunt for further breadcrumbs that would eventually reveal the statue's location. These clues spanned the globe, from Russia, to Japan, and back to America, where a majority were found between California and Oregon.
Each clue was hidden in a clever place, but marked in a way that true "Gravity Falls" fans could recognize. For instance, the first clue in Oregon was found under a garden gnome. Gnomes were an integral and persistent faction of side characters in the series.
The hunt ultimately ended in Reedsport, Oregon, where competing fans finally recovered the real-life Bill Cipher statue. Later, someone discovered that a treasure box buried near the statue's feet. In it they found a range of loot, the most important piece of which was a USB drive.
The USB drive contained a file that gave its champions access to the show's unaired pilot, a first episode done with significantly different art, dialogue, and scenes.
Where is the Bill Cipher Statue Today?
The statue fell into a state of limbo following property issues that eventually required police intervention. Over the course of the next two weeks, the statue was moved several times before finally finding a home at Confusion Hill, a roadside attraction in Piercy, California.
The Bill Cipher statue is still at Confusion Hill today. What's more, the treasure chest is part of the exhibit, and fans regularly take and leave treasure in it for other visitors.
Have you seen the Bill Cipher Statue yourself? Tell us what you left and took from the treasure chest on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!