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Cryptic Taylor Swift mural in Chicago turns heads, gets fans excited

Mysterious message for Swifties mounted in Chicago
Mysterious message for Swifties mounted in Chicago 02:33

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Crews were up on a scissor lift Tuesday to install a new mystery mural in River North — and it has the attention of Swifties everywhere.

The mural was unveiled on the side of the building at the southeast corner the Chicago Medical Society building at Grand Avenue Dearborn Street, facing eastward on Grand Avenue over a parking lot.

It is composed of the number 13 and the letters "TTPD" written many times in a font that evokes a typewriter. "TTPD" appears in both capital and lowercase letters.

In the center, the typewriter-style characters are superimposed over each other to form a QR code.


The mural is all part of the rollout for Taylor Swift's new album "The Tortured Poets Department," but it's got people asking why this particular site was chosen — and where the QR code leads.

There were so many eyes on the mural Tuesday afternoon that it might as well have been another solar eclipse like last week. But of course, this was a different kind of star power.

"We have got 'TTPD' three times, 13 four times — and if you do Taylor math, we get 16, which is, today's the 16th," said Dani Philip Bermudez. "So I'm not sure what else is coming. I think we've got more hidden in there. But that's what I've got so far."

Swift is famous for her Easter eggs and riddles that some solve more swiftly than others. The mural is an advertisement for her new album — "The Tortured Poets Department," for which the initials, of course, are TTPD.

What about 13? Contrary to what old superstition that has old buildings skipping from the 12th floor to the 14th, the number 13 is  actually Swift's lucky number. She works it into her music lyrics, release dates, and other work, much like John Lennon once did with the number 9.

The mural doesn't quite go Banksy-level with its enigmatic nature. It does have a heading, "Taylor Swift: The Tortured Poets Department."

"I looked up and I saw it, and I was like, 'Oh my God, it's right there!'" Samantha Jabor.

The mural has been building buzz with Swifties for a few days now.

"I think Taylor just has a way of connecting with her fans, and this is like why we love her so much," said Kristin Blevins.

The mural also stopped people in the neighborhood who might not be keeping quite the same eye on all things Taylor Swift.

"It's a QR code. I didn't think much of it until like everyone [was here]," said Maddie Hale, who works next door. "I'm like, that is cool."

"I love her music," said Becca Born, who also works next door. "it's been so fun just seeing this all day."

But the mural is leading to more questions than answers.

"I don't know with her," an observer said. "Everything is so unpredictable, so you never know."

As of Tuesday afternoon, the QR code led to a YouTube short in which typewritten characters reading, "Error 321" appeared. Some fans hoped it would later link to something else.

"I think it's a presale link, but I's hoping that it, you know, maybe something more — maybe like a new single dropping tonight or a music video coming out," said Jabor.

"I don't even necessarily have hopes, because I know she always delivers," said Blevins.

Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour - Singapore
SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - MARCH 02: EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO BOOK COVERS Taylor Swift performs during "Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour" at the National Stadium on March 02, 2024 in Singapore. (Photo by Ashok Kumar/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management) Ashok Kumar/TAS24

Others wondered why such a seemingly random site was chosen.

"We were fascinated because we are in Chicago," said Selin Kutucular, who was visiting from Turkey. "We definitely have to come and see."

"Everyone thinks this has something to do with 'The Lakes,' but there's a lot of places with lakes," said Ali Gonzalez. "Listen."

Yes, listen. Fans such as Gonzalez have a theory.

"News broke that her and Matty broke up the day after her Chicago shows," she said.

"Matty" is Matty Healy, with whom Swift broke up last year.

Whatever the case, all fans agreed the album rollout confirms Swift continues to be a mastermind.

"She is just so smart," said Tyler DeMartino, who is celebrating his 15th birthday. "She always is figuring out different ways to get in touch about different things."

Swifties are excited for whatever comes on the next album.

"She says she's cryptic and Machiavellian because she cares," said Blevins.

For anyone wondering why such an unflattering character descriptor such as "Machiavellian" would be used for Swift, it is a word-for-word quote from the song "Mastermind" – in which Swift describes herself that way in the first person.

And are there any references to Chicago on the new album? Swifties will just have to wait.

"The Tortured Poets Department" album comes this coming Friday, April 19.

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