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  • Writer's pictureCaleb Kaltenbach

The Suspicious Case of Rey Rivera… and Why He Matters, Part 4: The Note

“False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.”


The note found on the Rivera home computer

***Read parts 1, 2, and 3 in this series if you haven't already.

***Warning: this post deals with the difficult subjects of mental & emotional health and suicidality.

During the 9 days that Rey Rivera was missing, his family searched his house for clues that might explain his disappearance. During this time, Rey’s brother, Angel, found a note folded up in plastic, taped to the back of the family’s computer, and was accompanied by a blank check from Rey's production company, Ceiba Productions.[1] You can read one person's attempt at transcribing the entire note at the very end of this post.

Oddly enough, the note was very small and cut into 3 different parts. Some have questioned whether or not Rey wrote the note. His wife, Allison, maintains, “I know he wrote the note the day he disappeared because there were scraps in the trashcan.”[2] Apparently, the scraps from cutting the note into 3 shapes weren’t in the trash before she left for her business trip.

Due to the note's undisclosed purpose, content, and structure, some have leveraged it to prove that Rey Rivera was undergoing a mental health crisis. In my previous post, I tried to show the fallacy of saying for a fact that Rey was suffering from a mental health crisis that led to his death. Yet, again, the contents and structure of the note leaves us with more questions than answers.

Part of the note is written in first-person (from the perspective of Rey), featuring one or more individuals addressing a council or secret society comprised of wealthy influential people—some of whom Rey knew. The note also includes many lists of celebrities, movies, inventions, and names of Rey’s family, friends, and co-workers. What's also interesting is how Rey's note excludes the names of family and friends who played significant roles in his life.[3]

As you might imagine, such a mysterious note has spawned many theories attempting to explain its purpose and meaning. Here are just a few...

Freemasons and Secret Societies?

Here's how the note beings:

Brothers and sisters, Right now around the world volcanos are erupting what an awesome sight.

The next line reads as follows:

Whom virtue unites death cannot separate.

This line intrigued Allison the most. ”I just took that first sentence [referencing virtue] and laid it into Google search, and the first thing that came up was Freemasons… He definitely was, you know, kind of curious in just secret societies, the Freemasons.”[4]

Regarding this phrase, author Mikita Brottman writes: “In its Latin form, this phrase was used in ceremonies performed by the Knights Templar, and it is still inscribed in the inside of Masonic rings.”[5]

The weekend before Rey disappeared, he began reading The Builders, a book on Freemasonry.[6] As referenced in my first post of this series, Rey purchased a book called Free Masons for Dummies on the day he vanished. That same day he also spoke with a Free Mason representative about membership. Reflecting upon their conversation, the representative described the phone call as a normal conversation with someone interested in Freemasonry.[7]

There has been no shortage of theories about how the Freemasons were responsible for Rey's demise... but there are multiple problems with this theory, such as answering the question, Why? For what purpose would the Freemasons want to murder Rey?

A Screenplay?

Far from Rey having a short-lived momentary interest, “family and friends recall that, in the time leading up to his death, he had become increasingly fascinated by Masonic secrets.”[8] Consider the following line from his note:

I stand before you a man who understands the purpose and value of our secrets. That’s why I cherish them as secrets.

The more one reads the note, the more one feels as if they’re peering into a movie about a secret society meeting currently in session. Besides listing movies that deal with secret societies (National Treasure, Eyes Wide Shut, The Matrix, etc.), the main character’s speech in the note definitely has freemasonry and secret society vibes.

Allison hypothesized that the note had to do with a screenplay that Rey may have wanted to write.[9] Before Rey disappeared, he finished writing a screenplay entitled Midnight Polo which was about a young Latina's struggle to compete in water polo (he also wrote, directed, and produced a 2002 short film called The Pigeon Catcher).[10] So, it's definitely possible that the note could've been laying a foundation for a future screenplay.

Secret Codes?

One theory is the note cutouts spell the word "HELP"... SPOILER: this probably wasn't Rey's intention

Law enforcement picked up on the secret society vibes and wondered if the note was a code about how the Masonic Order controlled the movie industry.[11] Similarly, some online sleuths and journalists saw the note as cryptic—in that each name represented something Rey was trying to tell us.[12] One can only guess if this theory is true or not, but it has prompted some to pay close attention to the names listed in the note.

Fears about Loved Ones?

Thom Hickling

Among the list of names in the note were some who died under mysterious circumstances. One such person was Thom Hickling—Rey's friend and coworker at Agora (I briefly mentioned him in my first post). Thom was a former youth pastor and was seen by many as a leader in the evangelical world. One of Thom’s quotes resonated with me: “I used to only know how to be a professional Christian. Now I'm an amateur, and I like it a whole lot better.”[13]

Unfortunately, Thom died in December 2005 (only 6 months before Rey passed away) while visiting his daughter, Holly, in Zambia, where she served as a relief worker.[14] Thom and Holly were driving when their car was struck by another vehicle. Before being taken by a tuck to the hospital, Holly asked her father if he was okay, to which he replied, “Yeah, I’ll be fine.” [15]

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Thom’s wife, Cathy, first heard about the crash a few hours later.[16] Someone driving by Holly’s wrecked car in Zambia called Cathy to say there was "a dead white man in a car registered to Holly Hickling."[17]

With help from the US State Department, Cathy found the hospital where Holly was being treated.

It’s more than a little strange that Thom was never taken to the hospital and found dead after saying he was “fine.”

Thom’s death always bothered Rey.[18]

Again, Thom was one of a few people listed in the note whose deaths were either unsolved or mysterious.

The Game Theory?

Countless theories and suggestions have been made online and on social media threads.[19] The note's connection with the movie The Game starring Michael Douglas, has spawned a theory. In The Game, Michael Douglas portrays a rich banker who receives a birthday gift from his brother—a real-life game that Douglas has to participate in (but he doesn’t know it) that takes him on an adventure. Near the movie's end, Douglas jumps off a building, crashes through a glass ceiling, and lands in a chair where he sees everyone who participated in the game and realizes what’s been going on. A few Redditers have suggested that Rey may have been envisioning himself in the movie when he allegedly jumped off The Belvedere's roof.

While this is an interesting theory, I don't buy it. Many movies were listed in the note, and if The Game was as important as this theory suggests, Rey (or whoever wrote the note) probably would've highlighted it more. Terry Dunn Meurer said that Allison “spent a lot of time with that note, as did the FBI, just going through the note trying to figure out if there were any clues or anything else in there. She doesn't place any significance on the movie The Game. Rey liked a lot of different types of movies."[20]

The M. Night Shyamalan Theory?

This theory is ridiculous. The above picture speaks for itself.

Suicide Letter?

When asked if she views the note as a suicide letter, Allison reasons, “Because Rey was a writer, he would have left a beautiful note. He's a really, really good writer. We believe he would have.”[21]

An article in Men’s Health stated the following about the note: “family has refused to acknowledge it as a suicide note.”[22] Well, not only has the family refused to view the note as a suicide letter, but the FBI also indicated that it was not a suicide letter. According to research, suicide letters usually explain the victim’s psychological mindset, willingness to take responsibility, a loving attitude, apologies, and a lack of self-confidence or hopelessness (they thought there was no other way).[23] None of these elements were found in Rey's note.

Revealing Mental and Emotional Distress?

In part 3 of this series, I discussed the problem of concluding that Rey had mental health problems. Those who jump to such assumptions seem to automatically believe the note is proof of Rey's mental state.

Ironically, the FBI report about the note showed more empathy toward Rey and left more room for ambiguity than some podcasters and YouTubers that reported on the case. Psychiatrists associated with the FBI examined the note and suggested the author could have been experiencing symptoms from alcohol or drug abuse, abuse of medicine, a tumor, head injuries, delusional disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.[24] However, Rey’s autopsy showed no signs of alcohol, drugs, or other substances in his body. Additionally, the FBI noted that Rey's loved ones said that he did not display the signs of someone struggling with mental health problems.

The FBI report indicates the note’s author could be suffering from a persecutory delusional disorder—someone who believes they’re being treated maliciously by someone or several people.[25] Notice the FBI report indicates “could be,” and "could have been," not “is,” or “was probably.”

The report reports that a final conclusion can't be reached because:

  • Rey can no longer be personally interviewed

  • They’re taking the testimony of his loved ones into account

  • He had no history of mental health struggles

  • No one can 100% confirm that Rey wrote the note

Just like Socrates indicates, false words (aka, lies) are evil and impact our core with evil. Using this note to accuse Rey of absolutely experiencing a mental episode when there's no proof for such a claim.

As I will discuss in the rest of this post, if Rey is writing down ideas for a screenplay (that includes possible lines for the screenplay), then yes, the note would appear to be written by someone who is paranoid. Maybe he was paranoid for good reasons, or maybe he was writing down some ideas. You know what? Let's talk about that...

Stream of Consciousness and List of Ideas?

While the meaning of the note is elusive, Allison maintains that Rey consistently wrote down ideas and lists:

“He was just a guy who was interested in everything. If he had only ever left just that writing or if it was the only thing he had ever written randomly, then people would be a little bit more suspect. But this is what he did all the time. He kept so many journals full of random writing.”[26]

His journals included story ideas, business ideas, philosophical ideas, and more. Some of his writings may not seem to make sense to others, but they made complete sense to Rey. Agreeing with Allison, Angel Rivera (Rey’s brother) said, "I found the note, and it was just a stream of consciousness, nothing more."[27]

Stream of Consciousness writing is a method that authors like Ernest Hemingway have used to tap into the mind of their story’s narrator, protagonist, etc. Oftentimes, it includes lists, sentences, and monologues from the author as if they were the narrator or character, etc. Also, a “Stream of Consciousness style of writing is marked by the sudden rise of thoughts and lack of punctuation.”[28]

There are five other elements of Stream of Consciousness writing that may help us understand what Rey was doing:[29]

  1. It must be character-specific.

  2. It must sync with the character’s world; profession, relations, work, near and dear ones, and even daily activities.

  3. It must seem to follow the thoughts of that person.

  4. It must have some links and pieces of evidence of the thought process.

  5. It must not have structure, grammar, or any other formal linguistic evidence unless it is recorded for an educational academic.

All 5 of these elements appear to be present in Rey's note.

My Opinion...

When examining this case as a whole, I believe the weird note that Rey allegedly wrote is merely a red herring. Furthermore, while I acknowledge that I have no clue what the note means, I lean towards believing the note is a Stream of Consciousness writing containing lists of movies, celebrities, loved ones, and more that are somehow connected to a screenplay Rey intended to write. Part of me even wonders if Rey taped the note to the back of the computer so that he could remain in the "secret society" mindset when he looked at the note again (similar to "method acting"). Similarly, some authors have a location unique to the book they're writing. Such are not uncommon practices.

As an author, I have many notebooks filled with lists and random writings that make sense to me. However, if I disappeared and someone read my notebooks, they might jump to the wrong conclusion about me! Personally, I know many authors who possess similar types of writings that have served as foundations for books, screenplays, short stories, and the like.

Here's one of the many unfortunate aspects of the controversy surrounding Rey's note: too many people get locked into solving the note and forget about the other aspects of the case. Rey’s death looks like a murder once we put down the note, stop looking up at the hotel’s roof, focus on the observable evidence, consider the strange events that occurred in the days leading up to his disappearance, and re-examine his injuries.

Part 5 coming soon...


[1] Rosy Cordero, “Unsolved Mysteries Co-Creator Shares Update on Rey Rivera Case,” Entertainment Weekly (July 7, 2020); Miryam Moya, Rey Rivera, Suicide or Homicide: There is Only One Truth, and Science Holds the Key (February 2021), 44. [2] Marcus A. Clarke, “Unsolved Mysteries: Mystery on the Rooftop,” Netflix (2020). [3] Ibid. [4] Gina Tron, “‘Whom Virtue Unites, Death Will Not Separate': Why Do Some People Think the Freemasons Are Tied to The Death of Rey Rivera?” Oxygen (July 1, 2020). [5] Mikita Brottman, “Death on the Thirteenth Floor,” The Fortean Times 286 (2012). [6] Jayne Miller, “Suicide or Murder? Evidence Reviewed,” WBALTV 11 (May 17, 2007). [7] Ibid. [8] Mikita Brottman, “Death on the Thirteenth Floor,” The Fortean Times 286 (2012).

[9] Jayne Miller, “Suicide or Murder? Evidence Reviewed,” WBALTV 11 (May 17, 2007); and Gina Tron, “‘Whom Virtue Unites, Death Will Not Separate': Why Do Some People Think the Freemasons Are Tied to The Death of Rey Rivera?” Oxygen (July 1, 2020). [10] Stephen Janis, “Man Found Dead at Belvedere Worked at Company that had SEC Complaint,” The Washington Examiner (June 1, 2006); and “Rey Rivera,” Internet Movie Database, accessed July 20, 2022. [11] Gina Tron, “‘Whom Virtue Unites, Death Will Not Separate': Why Do Some People Think the Freemasons Are Tied to The Death of Rey Rivera?” Oxygen (July 1, 2020).

[12] Marcus A. Clarke, “Unsolved Mysteries: Mystery on the Rooftop,” Netflix (2020).; and Gina Tron, “‘Whom Virtue Unites, Death Will Not Separate': Why Do Some People Think the Freemasons Are Tied to The Death of Rey Rivera?” Oxygen (July 1, 2020). [13] “Thom Hickling,” Internet Movie Database, accessed July 18, 2022. [14] Ann Rodgers, “Evangelical Media Star Thom Hickling Dies in Zambia Crash,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (December 28, 2005). [15] Ibid. [16] Ann Rodgers, “Influential Evangelist Thom Hickling Dies in Crash,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (December 28, 2005). [17] Ann Rodgers, “Influential Evangelist Thom Hickling Dies in Crash,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (December 28, 2005). [18] Dave Troy, “The Case of the Sovereign Individual: Unlocking the Mystery of Rey Rivera,” Medium (April 21, 2021); Taya Graham & Stephen Janis, “His Mysterious Death Made National Headlines, So Why are Police Ignoring the Case?” The Real News Network (October 28, 2021). [19] Lindsey Romain, “Unsolved Mysteries Creator Talks Rey Rivera’s Strange Note,” Nerdist (July 17, 2020). [20] Rosy Cordero, “Unsolved Mysteries Co-Creator Shares Update on Rey Rivera Case,” Entertainment Weekly (July 7, 2020). [21] Samuel Spencer, “’Unsolved Mysteries': Show Boss Reveals Rey Rivera's Wife's Note Theories,” Newsweek (July 22, 2020). [22] Evan Romano, “3 Unsolved Mysteries Theories Explaining How Rey Rivera Could Have Died,” Men’s Health (July 8, 2020). [23] See Chapter 6 in J. Michael Bozeman, The Common Language of Homicide and Suicide: Evidence of the Value of Durkheim’s Typologies (El Paso: LFB Scholarly Publishing, 2014). [24] “Report on Note Associated with Rey Rivera,” Critical Incident Response Group, Behavior Analysis Unit of the FBI Academy, US Department of Justice (August 31, 2006). [25] Ibid., 4. [26] Rosy Cordero, “Unsolved Mysteries Co-Creator Shares Update on Rey Rivera Case,” Entertainment Weekly (July 7, 2020). [27] Josh St. Clair, “Rey Rivera's Cryptic Unsolved Mysteries Note Could Be the Key to His Mysterious Case,” Men's Health (July 13, 2020). [28] "Stream of Consciousness - Examples and Definition,” Literary Devices, June 29, 2022, [29] Ibid.; and Liz Delf, “What Is Stream of Consciousness?: Definition & Examples,” College of Liberal Arts, Oregon State University, June 26, 2023,

An Attempt at Transcribing Rey's Note:

**This transcription is taken from a Reddit page.



Stacy McAden
Stacy McAden
Jun 05

The Letter has to do with spirituality, spirit, energies,NDE, a knowing ,it's to be said there are indewindow in all these movies that we are all just energies,and reincarnated souls,religion doesn't exist only spiritual ,souls,light energies and love

If you look into it you'll see people do go crazy there are some insane idea's Out there that says we are not alone.

People get sucked into it.


That there are energies out there that we're a part of . We are all one energy light beings of souls???

Have you ever heard stories about Near Death Experience NDE listen to their stories you'll freak out!!


Pierre Menard
Pierre Menard
May 09

Sigh, I'm sorry I have to say this is all just so unconvincing and seems to be at root pure conspiracy theory given how much it screams "denial." The idea that "the family had no idea he was mentally ill" would make anyone who has struggled with mental health laugh because...half the time that's always the case. They always say that. And most of the time it is true because it's hard to accept and even harder to call out.

We get to the point where we are doing all this for one person and have to ask why would anyone go through the effort of distorting and lying to this large of a degree? It has virtually never happened…

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