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“Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”
- William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 2
241543903 (a.k.a “Heads in Freezers”) is a numerical keyword associated with a photo meme that involves people taking pictures with their heads in the freezer & sharing them online. By tagging a series of image files with a cryptic number, a high level of search engine optimization can be easily achieved. As a result, typing “241543903” into image search engines like Google Images successfully yields pages after pages of pictures showing people’s heads in freezers.
On April 6th, 2009, David Horvitz, a New York-based artist known for his often eccentric DIY instructional projects, posted a picture with his head in the freezer titled “241543903” via his Flickr account SanPedroGlueSticks (shown left). Days later on April 10th, the same numeric sequence “241543903” appeared in a Tumblr post which provided the following instruction for readers (shown right):
Later in an interview with Urlesque in December 2010, Horvitz explained that he conceived the idea after suggesting his sick friend Mylinh to try sticking her head in a freezer. The number “241543903” stems from a combination of the serial number of his refrigerator and the barcodes on a bag of edamame and a package of frozen soba noodles that were stored in the freezer.
On April 6th, the same day Horvitz posted his “head in freezer” image, another Flickr user SakeBalboa posted a follow-up picture using the same freezer.
A few weeks later on April 23rd, a single topic blog dedicated to “Heads in Freezer” was registered under the domain 241543903.com. The site’s main page displays a headline that reads: “Experiencing a MEME in the Making.”
By January 2010, there were already hundreds of Flickr photographs filed under the tag “241543903” and eventually spread to other social media hubs like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. In November 2010, the meme was mentioned in Horvitz’ book of instructions titled Everything That Can Happen in a Day published by Random House.
In Brazil and Japan
Since becoming a popular tag on Flickr, “241543903” quickly turned into an international phenomenon with sizable followings in Japan and Brazil. In an interview with Urlesque, Horvitz shared the credit with his friend from Brazil for its international success.Upon returning to Brazil from a trip to New York in April 2009, Horvitz’ friend apparently spread the words by posting the original instructions and passing them onto local youths on the streets.
Once the buzz had reached Google’s social networking site Orkut--an especially popular service among Brazilian internet users--in 2009, the meme subsequently spread to Japan.
Resurgence in 2010
In December 2010, the popularity of 241543903 experienced its highest peak yet when the same instruction was posted again via Tumblr, which scored over 2,000 likes and reblogs within days, thus far surpassing the 430 likes and reblogs accumulated by David’s original Tumblr post.
On YouTube, there is a growing collection of short videos depicting people with their heads placed in the freezers, many of which have been featured on 241543903.com.
Its explosive resurgence has been also illustrated through the Google Insights graph for “241543903”: