Did John McAfee, the anti-virus pioneer, discover a new and potentially revolutionary drug called SPT in his Belizean jungle laboratory? If so, then he may have meticulously documented his SPT synthesis in a semi-biographical series of over 200 messages posted to a public forum using the pseudonym Stuffmonger. The forum thread concludes with a generally skeptical community unable to replicate Stuffmonger’s results, and Stuffmonger’s drug attained hoax/legend status. But what if Stuffmonger is actually John McAfee, a super-smart multi-millionaire entrepreneur with unusual interests and a willingness to invest big bucks in his work? Does this mean the weird hyper-sexual drug called SPT could actually exist?

UPDATE 2012-11-26: McAfee has confirmed that he is Stuffmonger:

I am indeed that same Stuffmonger.

Stuffmonger’s Tan

In December of 2010, somewhere in a small Central American country, an intrepid psychonaut called Stuffmonger wrote to an obscure messaging board with a question about a hyper-sexual drug he discovered called “Tan.” Stuffmonger claimed to have a reliable process for converting one of those “legal high” drugs (MDPV) into something brand new and so different that it might portend a revolution in medical science. His secret was the single-celled Pseudomonas bacteria, which he wrote about at length on 2010’s New Year’s Eve:

In my process, I first culture a specific Psuedomonas strain (that I am convinced, through a year of difficult trial error, is the strain responsible), and must visually confirm its volume.

In post after epic post, Stuffmonger attempted to coach other forum members through the synthesis process so they too could experience Stuffmonger’s Tan, even though the other forum members might not have access to the same advanced equipment Stuffmonger did. Meanwhile, he made astonishing claims about the effects of the drug now referred to as Stuffmonger’s Tan:

the hypersexuality of the Tan is beyond belief. I have had a number of acquaintances (both male and female) who have rubbed their genitals way past the point of bleeding and still couldn’t stop.

Not one person in over six months has ever experienced a difficult comedown with the Tan (Other than total exhaustion from non-stop sex - which is a sort of negative comedown I guess).

Eventually the thread attracted a vigorous discussion from forum members all over the planet.

Sounds so good it can’t possibly be true

In due time, Stuffmonger disclosed more to the forum and even revealed a separate process for creating a refined version called Stuffmonger’s Pure Tan

And this might be the place to talk about “Pure Tan”. My first post in this thread alluded to the process, and visually showed some of the procedures. I purposely obfuscated a little, because, well, I did a lot of work to figure out how to make it pure, and it’s not really necessary for the average user anyway.

It’s possible Stuffmonger’s Pure Tan is the very same “SPT” referred to elsewhere:

I have distributed over 3,000 doses exclusively in this country. They call it SPT (I named it) and it is a seriously hot underground topic here. I know of at least a dozen people who spend virtually full time playing with this, and hundreds trying to get samples, which I dole out with meticulous care.

Among the strange tools Stuffmonger used in his Pure Tan process was this auto-rotating evaporation column and hot water bath:

evaporation column

Based on pictures like the following, it seemed Stuffmonger was unusually well equipped for this job.

well-stocked laboratory

However, as the weeks passed and the forum thread lengthened to more than a thousand posts, it became clear (to Stuffmonger’s dismay) that nobody credible could reliably replicate the results. Perhaps to remedy the non-replicability problems, one day Stuffmonger posted:

I wouod pay good money to find out what we have here, and what’s happening to get to where we are. I’m positive that a simpler, quicker process that gives better yields is out there. I just don’t know what it is.

Eventually, some members of the community became suspicious that Stuffmonger might have been lying about everything. By March of 2011, Stuffmonger stopped posting entirely, and it seems like the forum community generally decided the whole thread was some kind of hoax. In other words, there is no such thing as SPT or Stuffmonger’s Pure Tan.

But what if it really were all true?

What if Stuffmonger wasn’t lying when he said he access to an extensive laboratory with specialized equipment? What if Stuffmonger actually did have highly skilled researchers who actually could work for an entire year to perform the strange synthesis he described? In fact, what if Stuffmonger went so far as to:

  • found a drug research company
  • and hire a Harvard microbiology post-doc with Pseudomonas bacteria experience
  • who could theoretically pull off a feat like identifying the role of Pseudomonas in this drug synthesis process
  • all for an apparently simple reason: to purify the drug called Tan?

If - and this is a huge “if” - but if this is remotely possible, then maybe Stuffmonger’s Pure Tan isn’t a myth after all.

John McAfee and QuorumEx

McAfee founded his famous anti-virus company in 1987, then after cashing out for more than $100 million, he spent much of the 1990s running a yoga business. After selling all his US assets, by 2008 McAfee was living in Belize where he eventually became interested in antibiotics research. According to a Gizmodo article written by Joel Johnson, McAfee bumped into a talented microbiology post-doc, Allison Adonizio, at the bar one day. Adonizio apparently ended up in Belize because she “wasn’t ready to settle down in a Cambridge laboratory infecting nematodes with strains of pseudomonas bacteria.” Johnson reports that McAfee’s new antibiotics research company, QuorumEx, was thereby founded - with Adonizio as chief scientist.

According to the WHOIS entry for QuorumEx.com, the website was created on March 20, 2010:

Updated Date: 20-mar-2010
Creation Date: 20-mar-2010
Expiration Date: 20-mar-2013

The very same day, an article entitled Our Research on Quorum Sensing was posted to the QuorumEx website featuring a picture of some equipment that was presumably in the QuorumEx laboratory:

QuorumEx lab equipment

By March 28, 2010, the QuorumEx website already listed McAfee and Adonizio as founding members.

QuorumEx founding members

Even though QuorumEx was nominally founded to research antibiotics, as early as February 2010 McAfee and Adonizio may have already begun researching a totally different type of product: a novel libido compound. According to a May 2010 article written by Jeff Wise for Fast Company:

Adonizio has one last surprise for me. Three months before I arrived, she says, McAfee had a brainstorm: What if they went looking for an herbal compound that would bolster the female libido? The potential market could be huge – a distaff corollary to Viagra. And with that, libido-boosting herbs had become a second priority.

An update posted April 7, 2010 to the QuorumEx website announced a product called JADE that would be sold as a personal lubricant. Perhaps this bears some semblance to the libido-boosting compound Adonizio mentioned to Wise. Adonizio even posted a lengthy reply to the Wise’s Fast Company article in which she explains the female libido comments were part of a joke:

I would also like to add that I felt a bit uncomfortable (at first) about playing our joke on Jeff … [John] insisted that I back him up with whatever nonsense he told Jeff, provided that it was obvious nonsense that a reasonable person would recognize as such. I work for John and he pays my salary. However, after reading the piece, I understand why John had wanted us to keep things under wraps. Jeff was there on day one with the intent to write something sensational. John kept saying: “an aggressor with no humor deserves no leniency”. We are creating a paradigm shift in medicine. Just because we have fun, doesn’t mean we can’t get things done.

As of August 2010, Adonizio was still listed on the QuorumEx website, but Wise reports that Adonizio had already left McAfee and QuorumEx by September, 2010. The QuorumEx website was updated by July 2011 to reflect the hiring of a new chief researcher, but it otherwise appears as if website activity has ceased.

Things took a turn on April 30 2012, when the Belize Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) raided McAfee’s house and also took a tour of the QuorumEx laboratory while they were in the neighborhood. Although the GSU claimed to be looking for firearms and drugs, they did not find any illegal guns and the laboratory was verified to be creating antibiotics (albeit without a license to do so).

EDIT 2012-11-15: incorrectly said GSU raid was in 2010; updated to reflect correct year (2012)

The latest on McAfee comes straight from Wise again, and this part is unfolding in real-time.

So who is Stuffmonger?

I was first clued into a potential connection between McAfee and Stuffmonger by a comment Jeff Wise posted to his own November 8th Gizmodo article in which he connects this bluelight thread to somebody using the Stuffmonger alias on a Belizean website.

possibly confused pseudonyms

Clicking through to the Belizean website, we find that on May 5, 2012, a user named Stuffmonger posted a comment to The Reporter, a Belizean newspaper that reported on the Belize GSU’s arrest of McAfee.

I would like to point out the deeper implications of my disagreement with the gsu. If you google – mcafee beluze – you will find 200 articles in the first ten pages of results …

I beliieve the GSU has has underestimated the reach of my voice. If you googlle “mcafee”, the single name every american knows me as, you will find a total of 353 million web pages that talk about me.

Although the comment is written in the first-person (as if it were taking the perspective of McAfee himself) the comment is nevertheless attributed not to McAfee but instead to Stuffmonger, exactly as Wise reported.

Stuffmonger claims to live in Central America

According to a comment Stuffmonger posted to bluelight:

Don’t know anything about the legal aspects. I live in a Central American country that doesn’t pay much attention to drug regulation.

Stuffmonger says his name is John and he works with bacteria

In what may be the most personal and endearing message posted by Stuffmonger, he tells us:

My name is John, and my main focus is the effect of medicinal tropical plants on bacteria, and vice versa. I don’t need to tell you my exact location, because it doesn’t really matter. “Imagine there’s no country”, as another John once said.

I do research on the chemical signaling molecules that all bacteria use to upregulate gene expressions. This means – the signals that bacteria exchange to determine when to go pathogenic, when to form biofilms, when to produce protease, when to produce bioluminescence, etc.

The timing of the bluelight thread

The first comment posted by Stuffmonger to the bluelight thread appeared on December 7, 2010 - approximately three months after Adonizio was supposed to have left Belize.

Stuffmonger said he works for Quorumex.

Although it appears he later (wisely) removed the comment from the thread, Stuffmonger makes specific references to QuorumEx.

I work for Quorumex in Belize.

Since the original comment was deleted, the Quorumex statement only appears as a quotation embedded in another user’s message.

Even in 2011, bluelight forum users suspected Stuffmonger was McAfee

One user in the thread explicitly pointed out the similarities between Stuffmonger and McAfee.

I can’t be the only one who has read the Fast Company article and noted the reference to Quorumex focusing on developing a female viagra.

Stuffmonger uses the same equipment as QuorumEx

Both Stuffmonger and QuorumEx posted pictures of what appear to be the same models of laboratory equipment. Compare the bottom two images with the top image:

evaporator comparison - quorumex

evaporator comparison - stuffmonger

The bottom line: Stuffmonger still may not be McAfee

Nobody has publicly confirmed the identity of Stuffmonger, so this circumstantial evidence might be as good as it gets.

UPDATE 2012-11-26: McAfee has confirmed that he is Stuffmonger:

I am indeed that same Stuffmonger.

Closing words about Stuffmonger

I really can’t say anything about McAfee one way or the other, but Stuffmonger I can comment on. First off, it really seems like there was nothing illegal about Stuffmonger’s research - not even in the United States (at the time). Granted, the US has criminalized parts of Stuffmonger’s process in the meanwhile, but Belize hasn’t (and perhaps never will) so Stuffmonger is definitely not a criminal. One more thing: just because it’s now illegal in the US does not mean Stuffmonger’s research has suddenly become immoral.

Next up, there is a good deal of consistency to Stuffmonger’s story throughout. Sure, there are parts that don’t make sense, and nobody outside Belize could replicate his process, but it does seem like Stuffmonger legitimately believed in his process. On top of that, he’s actually pretty likable for the way he deals with some of the nastier trolls in the thread, and more often than not he seems to genuinely want to help others.

Let’s not be hasty

Ultimately, Stuffmonger’s Pure Tan is still a mystery. Do you think he could be possibly be telling an honest story about his SPT synthesis - even the truly novel part about the Pseudomonas bacteria? I suppose that all depends on the answer to another question: who on Earth do you suppose Stuffmonger might be? It’s possible we have a legitimate discovery on our hands here, and it would be a shame to overlook it for the wrong reasons.