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September 11, 2001: The Wingdings Prophecies

Netlore Archive: Viral message notes "interesting" results obtained by typing certain strings of letters ("Q33 NY," "Q33NYC," etc.) into Microsoft Word then converting the font to Wingdings.

Description: Email rumor / Conspiracy theory
Circulating since: September 2001
Status: Speculative / False

Example #1:
Email contributed by James A., Sep. 20, 2001:

Subject: FW: Scary

One of the planes that hit the trade centre towers was flight number : Q33NY

1) Open a new Word document and type in capital letters Q33NY
2) highlight it
3) enlarge the font to 48
4) click on Font Style and select "Wingdings"

You will then will be amazed!!

Example #2:
Email contributed by Tiffany, Sep. 19, 2001:

Subject: Did Bill Gates know?

Try this:
1 open up microsoft word
2 in a new document type NYC in capitals
3 highlight and change the font size to 72
4 then change the font to 'webdings' - interesting
5 now change the font to 'wingdings' - even more interesting!!!

Analysis: I encourage everyone to try the above experiments exactly as instructed to see the results for themselves. For those who don't know how (or who actually have lives and no time to play around with computer fonts), here's what all the fuss is about:

Both the Webdings and Wingdings fonts, available in Microsoft Word and compatible programs, consist of small graphic icons in place of the standard letter set. So, if you convert any block of text to either Wingdings or Webdings, you end up with a string of simple pictures instead of letters.

Wingdings have been around slightly longer than Webdings, and indeed it was first observed back in the early 1990s that converting the letters "NYC" to Wingdings produces results described as "interesting":

At the time, some folks not only saw a hidden message in this but leaped straight to the conclusion that it must have been intentional. A 1992 article in the New York Post even proclaimed, in screaming headlines, "Millions of computers carry secret message that urges death to Jews in New York City!"

Well. The Microsoft Corporation, which had bundled the font with the release of its Windows 3.1 software earlier that same year, vehemently denied the charges, responding that any so-called "secret messages" were purely coincidental, and that allegations of anti-Semitism were "outrageous." Which, let's face it, they were.

When Microsoft added the Webdings font to its system several years later, it only strengthened the convictions of those who believed there were hidden meanings embedded in the software. And no wonder. Here's what "NYC" looks like in Webdings:

How coincidental could that be?

The likeliest explanation I've come across is grounded on speculation that the designers of Webdings, having learned from experience that people with too much time on their hands will inevitably hunt for secret messages, intentionally planted the rebus "I love New York" to taunt them. It's one example of what software designers call an "Easter egg."

The doomsday font

The even more bizarre notion that digitized fonts might actually be prophetic in a supernatural sense first gained currency in 1999, when doomsday predictions of all kinds already abounded. Naturally, some clever wag discovered that typing the word "MILLENNIUM" in Wingdings produces this dramatic result:

Once disseminated to a doomsday-obsessed worldwide audience via the Internet, this nugget of trivia was soon being characterized as "eerie," "spooky," and "a weird coincidence." As we now know — because, after all, we're still here — millennial doomsayers of every stripe were simply wrong, but by in the meantime "fontlore" was already veering away from vague doomsaying toward pure prophecy.

Which brings us, finally, to "Q33NY," which according to email lore was the flight number of one of the airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. In Wingdings the string of characters looks like this:

Obviously we're supposed to interpret this as a direct reference to the terrorist attack. It's all there — the airplane, the "twin towers" (okay, that's a stretch — they look like symbols for documents to me), a skull and crossbones (symbolizing death, of course) and the Star of David (apparently meant to represent anti-Israeli sentiments on the part of the hijackers).

Problem is, neither of the airliners involved in the attack on the World Trade Center bore the number "Q33NY." The actual flight numbers were as follows:

  • American Airlines Flight 11
  • United Airlines Flight 175

Nor does the character string "Q33NY" represent the FAA-registered tail number of either aircraft:

  • Flight 11 tail number: N334AA
  • Flight 175 tail number: N612UA

It's clear, then, that someone carefully fabricated the sequence of numbers and letters in "Q33NY" to achieve the desired effect in Wingdings.

No "spooky prophecy" or "weird coincidence" there, just an Internet hoax.

Further reading:

ADL: Internet Rumors About Microsoft Wingdings Are False
The Anti-Defamation League pooh-poohs current and past "urban myths" about the Wingdings font.

Index of 9/11 Rumors
Urban legends, rumors and hoaxes pertaining to the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001.

Last updated 06/21/15

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