Does the Wingdings Font Contain Cryptic Prophecies?

Conspiracy Theories Abound

A viral message circulating since September 2001 notes interesting results obtained by typing certain strings of letters (eg, "Q33 NY," "Q33NYC") into Microsoft Word and then converting the font to Wingdings. This email rumor is false.

Hidden Messages in Wingdings?

I encourage you to try the experiments below exactly as instructed to see the results for yourself. 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.

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 a secret message that urges death to Jews in New York City!"

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."

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?

Font Prophecies Debunked

The likeliest explanation is grounded in 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 person discovered that typing the word "MILLENNIUM" in Wingdings produces this dramatic result:

Once disseminated to a doomsday-obsessed audience online, this nugget of trivia was soon  characterized as "eerie," "spooky" and "a weird coincidence." As we now know, millennial doomsayers of every stripe were simply wrong. However,  in the interim, "fontlore" veered away from vague doomsaying toward pure prophecy.

Which brings us to "Q33NY"--according to email lore, this 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:

Some people interpret this as a direct reference to the terrorist attack. It's all there — the airplane, the Twin Towers (perhaps a stretch as those symbols also look like documents), a skull and crossbones (symbolizing death) and the Star of David (apparently meant to represent anti-Israeli sentiments on the part of the hijackers).

Flight Numbers Reveal the Truth

Problem is, neither of the airliners involved in the attack on the World Trade Center bore the number "Q33NY." The actual flight numbers were American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175.

Nor does the character string "Q33NY" represent the FAA-registered tail number of either aircraft. The Flight 11 tail number was N334AA and the Flight 175 tail number was 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"--just an Internet hoax.

Sample Emails About the Wingding Hoax

Here an email contributed by James A. on Sep. 20, 2001:

Subject: FW: Scary

One of the planes that hit the Trade Center 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 be amazed!!

Sample email contributed by Tiffany on 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 Change the font to Webdings
5 Now change the font to Wingdings

Further Reading

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.