What makes a compelling mystery? Your mileage may vary, but typically, when you can’t shake the central story—be it a murder, a disappearance, or something paranormal—that’s when you’ve landed on the sort of unexplained phenomena that finds its way into an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. And one of the most fascinating mysteries at the center of the new Netflix reboot of the classic true crime show is that of Rey Rivera.
“It’s probably one of the strongest mysteries we’ve ever produced,” Terry Dunn Meurer, co-creator of the original series and the reboot, recently told Nerdist of the Rivera case. “That one is just baffling to me.”
If you’re unfamiliar, the episode details the mysterious disappearance and death of aspiring screenwriter Rey Rivera. The 32-year-old Baltimore man left his home in a rush one night and was missing for several days. Eventually, his body turned up in a locked room of the nearby Belvedere Hotel. The caved-in ceiling above him gave the impression that he jumped from the roof and to his death. But several odd details keep this from being a simple one-and-done suicide.
Near Rivera’s body was his cell phone and eye glasses—both completely unharmed, as if they survived the daunting leap unscathed; a near impossibility, given the mangled state of Rivera’s body. He also left behind one of the more puzzling pieces of evidence Unsolved Mysteries has ever seen: a peculiar note taped to his laptop that makes mention of many odd things, including references to the Free Masons and time travel.
Rey Rivera’s widow, Allison, discovered the note and turned it over to investigators. Though the episode only briefly references it, the note became the subject of hundreds of Reddit theories, fueling speculation. Meurer said she’s aware of the impact Rivera’s story has had, and is impressed by the sleuthing done online.
“The whole thing is baffling,” Meurer said of the note. “Allison, who knew Rey and knows that note better than anyone, said to me, ‘I know where each of those pieces of that note comes from. What I don’t understand is why they’re all put together in this letter form.’ So if Allison can’t figure it out, and the FBI can’t figure it out, I wouldn’t even venture a guess.”
Rivera printed the note in small type, trimmed it into an odd shape, and apparently taped it to the back of his laptop. He addressed it to his “brothers and sisters” and it contains the phrase, “Whom virtue unites, death will not separate,” in the opening paragraphs. That phrase is associated with the Free Masons, an organization Rivera was very interested in—in fact, on the day of his disappearance, he bought a book titled Free Masons for Dummies and visited a Masonic temple in Baltimore.
Allison Rivera told Meurer that she believes Rey, who was working on a screenplay, was conducting research for his next creative endeavor. But the note contains other odd references that throw that into question. He also lists a number of names of people he knew in real life—friends and family members—and makes mention of wanting to make these people “five years younger.” He also lists off famous people and movie titles, many of them the subject of conspiracy, like Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut; a film often associated with Free Masons and the New World Order.
We see the note briefly in the episode, but not in its entirety, as Allison and the producers wanted to maintain the privacy of the real people cited in the text. But the internet sleuths have done a good job of piecing the full thing together. Meurer said the fans have pretty much decoded the full text online.
As for the nature of the note, well, that’s still up for debate.
“There’s been speculation that it’s a suicide note,” Meurer explained, “but Allison does not believe that. She believes if he was going to kill himself, he would have left a note for [her] and for the family explaining why and what was going on. It’s rare that somebody that commits suicide doesn’t leave a note or people didn’t see it coming. There are often incidents prior where people can say, ‘Oh, I could kind of see where that was coming up.’ That’s Allison’s belief. She also said, ‘Because Rey was a writer, he would have left a beautiful note. He’s a really, really good writer. We believe he would have.’”
Meurer said she knows as much about the case as a person could: she’s stood at the top of the Belvedere Hotel, which spooked her—a person unafraid of heights—and pored through Rivera’s journals. And even she’s still completely baffled by it. Even in our discussion, she would occasionally trail off as she discussed details.
“I circled it constantly, just like we’re circling it now,” she said. “I can’t stop trying to figure out this mystery.”
She’s not alone.
If you have any information or leads about the death of Rey Rivera, you can report them to the official website, Unsolved.com. Meurer is hopeful that renewed interest in the case can finally solve this seemingly unsolvable story.
Featured Image: Netflix