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This tinfoil hat fits me well

Since the arrest of Ross Ulbricht, allegedly Silk Road’s Dread Pirate Roberts, conspiracy theories have been coming thick and fast and they range from the plausible to the absurd.


A lot of them involve his friend Rene Pinnell, for whom Ulbricht relocated to San Francisco – either that Pinnell is the real DPR and set Ulbricht up for the fall right from the beginning, or they are in it together and will provide each other’s reasonable doubt. Then there’s the one that it’s all an ingenious ruse that is going to plan so that double jeopardy laws can be invoked later. Or it’s all a setup so law enforcement can be seen to have done something. Or there’s a good chance of parallel construction of evidence by the authorities.

I’m not much one for wearing a tinfoil hat, though I get a kick out of reading all the theories. But there has been something odd happening, which probably has a totally innocent explanation, but it’s a bit weird.

As any regular followers would know, I’m writing a book about Silk Road. I started researching the inception of the marketplace over a year ago and researched in earnest a few months ago. I had picked up on the post made by DPR in October 2012 where he said: “Regarding marketing, I started a thread on the Bitcoin forum. Everything else has been word of mouth”. That led me to the ‘altoid’ threads on Bitcointalk, spruiking Silk Road and I drew the same conclusion that ‘altoid’ was the founder of the site. But somehow I missed the big stinking smoking gun that was Ulbricht’s email address in one of altoid’s posts. I put that down to skimming the posts because they were technical and boring.

However, I also discovered there had been a user ‘silkroad’ on the Bitcoin forums. But all traces of that user had been obliterated from the forum – the user and his/her posts. I don’t know whether by the user or by bitcointalk, though I presume by the latter because a massive thread about the market disappeared as well.  I took a screenshot of the sole remaining evidence that silkroad had ever existed on bitcointalk – where he/she was quoted by another user.

This was the ONLY evidence of user "silkroad" ever having existed before the bitcointalk hack
This was the ONLY evidence of user “silkroad” ever having existed before the bitcointalk hack

The Bitcointalk forums went down shortly after the arrest of Ulbricht. The reports said they were hacked by The Hole Seekers.

When they came back online, user “silkroad” made a reappearance, as did the thread introducing Silk Road. Of course, this might just be a result of the restoration process, but the timing is incredibly coincidental. Or maybe the forum owner decided it would be good click bait to have it there.

In any event, it severs the link between DPR’s post on Silk Road and Ulbricht.

So what do you think? Who removed evidence of “silkroad” from the forums and why have they resurfaced?  And was the gmail address really always in the altoid post?  Hit me up with your favourite conspiracy theories in the comments.

7 Responses

  1. The Pinnell/Ulbricht video, what a fascinating artifact. I don’t know if fiction writers could have thought that one up, it’s absolutely ripe for projecting conspiracy and fantasy.

    Just what was the “start up” Pinnell was so excited about that he twisted Ulbright’s arm until “the stars aligned” to get him to move to San Francisco?

    If I want to believe they were in it together, the conversation can look like a symbolic passing off, from one DPR to the next. Where Pinnell declares he is hanging up his dream, fearing that a need for validation is blocking his happiness, Ulbricht appears prepared to engage his dream, lead by a feeling of “oneness” and a desire to “live forever.”

    Alternately, if I believe that Ulbricht was the only DPR ever, then I might think that the story about Ulbright’s first love – a broken heart, transcendental experiences with psychedelics, and an introduction to shipping drugs from China – births the path towards the silk road.

    As for the bitcoin forum, I do think it’s strange you didn’t see the gmail email address. You followed the threads all the way to “altoid” – a gmail address at that point surely would have raised all the alarms. Does “frosty@frosty” tie Ulbricht to altoid and SR?

    It is strange that the forum should have been hacked in the light of Ulbricht’s arrest.

    “When two separate evens occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object in inquiry we must always pay strict attention.” Agent Cooper, Twin Peaks

      1. True fact: I went to high school with Ulbricht and Pinnell (Westlake High School, Austin TX. I am happy to verify this somehow if anybody thinks I am lying for whatever reason). They were a year older than me. I never met Ulbricht (that I can recall) but I was pretty well acquainted with Rene- he was a friend of a friend who was into making films.

        This is uncharitable, and maybe it’s unfair to make prognostications based on a person’s developmental state at age 17, but he was a pretty vapid and genial dude. Based solely on my experiences with him as a teenager, I would be completely flabbergasted if he was setting up a close friend to take a fall like this. I can’t say for sure that it didn’t happen, but it would require a pretty fundamental transformation for him to be constitutionally (or intellectually) capable of something like that.

        That video is indeed a pretty weird artifact, but 100% the kind of thing guys who want to become SF startup guys make on a regular basis. In San Francisco you meet a lot of guys who talk like this about everything, all the time.

        As far as whether or not Ulbricht’s email address ever actually appeared on Bitcointalk, the guy from the last thread who was a moderator at that forum schooled me pretty conclusively:
        As he says, the archival date is Nov 27 ’11. So either has been compromised or there is a link between the original ‘altoid’ poster and Ulbricht.

  2. I saw Ross’ email on bitcointalk forums with my own eyes. I think what we all really want to know is which bank is the money in because he must of started cashing out some of his holdings!!

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