Someone’s Rickrolling Denver with a fake Meow Wolf-Casa Bonita collaboration

A mystery sign teasing a fake pop experience appeared — then disappeared — in the Highlands this week. 
4 min. read
A sign advertising a fake Meow Wolf Casa Bonita collaboration at 38th and Irving. October 26, 2021.
Courtesy: Michelle Gregg

We live in a surreal world. It's a world where the creators of South Park have actually bought Casa Bonita, and where ads requesting "shrimp memories" are posted all over the city.

So when a sign popped up on the fence outside of the old Thai Basil building on 38th and Irving  teasing a "Meow Wolf Highlands Casa Bonita Express Pop-Up experience" coming in fall 2022, it seemed that, in the context of our current reality, the event could actually be real. Not only did the sign use both groups' signature lettering, but it advertised a concept surreal enough to be legit marketing by Meow Wolf, which is known to have turned out bizarre, cryptic signage in the past.

A sign advertising a fake Meow Wolf Casa Bonita collaboration at 38th and Irving. October 26, 2021.
Courtesy: Michelle Gregg

Denverites who noticed the sign on Tuesday started discussing it in online forums, debating whether or not it was real. Turns out, all it took to find out was to scan the QR code tucked in the bottom right corner of the sign.

The code links to a YouTube video of a Rick Astley song. A good, old-fashioned "Rickroll," if you will. Some will remember that Rickrolling was an internet prank popular in the mid 2000s. It functioned as a sort of bait and switch, in which someone coerced an unsuspecting internet user -- who thought they were clicking on something unrelated -- to inadvertently click on a link to the official music video for Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up." 

So, no, Denverites won't be able to travel through alternative dimensions to enter Black Bart's Cave anytime soon, and you won't be able to scan your boop card to access secret messages from sentient sopapillas. The sign is decidedly fake.

"Though Meow Wolf approves of a good Rick Roll, we have no affiliation with the sign at 38th and Irving, nor do we have a partnership in the works with Denver's OG immersive arts experience, Casa Bonita," the Meow Wolf team said in a statement. "Maybe next year we can team up on a collaborative location and have Rick Astley play the opening."

In the short time since people started noticing the sign on Tuesday, it disappeared, seemingly sometime Tuesday evening. It's unclear who took the sign down, and who posted it in the first place. Meow Wolf representative Erin Barnes said that the arts and entertainment group is not responsible for its removal.

"We left it up in all its weird glory," Barnes said.

A fence on 38th and Irving where the fake Meow Wolf Casa Bonita sign used to be. October 27, 2021.
Maggie Donahue.
Maggie Donahue/Denverite

Denverite reached out to managing broker Mike Carnes, a founder and partner of the real estate group U-Collective and the co-owner of the building at 38th and Irving, according to his post in this NextDoor thread. When asked if he knew anything about the sign, he wrote:

"In the middle of the night, an X-File being with a breath that reeked of Vanilla Chig Champa did a slow-mo Matrix descent outta the butt end of a banana vessel to the corner of 38th and Irving. That being delivered the message to the people of Denver that Randy Marsh will one day say the magic words 'Creme Fresh' and begin deglazing his own pan on that very spot."

If anyone has more information about this mysterious sign, feel free to email me: [email protected].

And special shoutout to Denverite reader Bethany A., who submitted the question that led us down this rabbit hole. If you have any questions about our city and its many mysteries, you can submit them using this form. We might just investigate for you!

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