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Is this 23-year-old yearbook prophecy about the Cubs legit or an elaborate hoax?

There’s a lot going on in the Internet’s latest mystery.

A high school yearbook from 1993 in Mission Viejo, California is turning the sports world upside down. Did a high schooler really predict the 2016 Chicago Cubs would win the World Series over two decades before it could happen? Perhaps, but it’s here where things get murky.

Origins of sports savant Michael Lee begin with Marcos M, who sent in an alleged shot of the yearbook to “The Heckler,” a Chicago-based sports outlet that is like “The Onion” for the sports world.

The shot made its rounds and suddenly people around the country were digging to find their own 1993 yearbooks to check. A Reddit post on the photo started a conversation, but Redditors raised huge red flags. Some users purported to have graduated the same year and never remember a Michael Lee, others scrambled through their attics and closets to find their own yearbooks. User “TimSpeedle” claimed it was all real.

“I was grade school friends with Mike, but we didn't talk much in high school. I checked his FB page, and Marcos posted the picture onto Mike's feed, as well as a video of Marcos opening the yearbook. It's weird waking up and seeing your grade school friend's picture at the top of /r/all”

But still there were questions. A few posters noticed a huge preponderance of people claiming to know Michael, yet few were willing to confirm whether the photo was true. Then an alleged shot of four different yearbooks seemed to put doubts to rest, but there was still no guarantee these photos were accurate.

As news spread of Michael Lee’s prediction it got more attention. A Twitter user claimed his mom found the prediction completely independently of the thread on Reddit.

WGN in Chicago wrote up the story and added some details. They received a screenshot showing a post on Facebook dated August 8, which came from Marcos M, the same person who sent the photo to “The Heckler.” In addition, WGN attempted to reach Michael Lee, who reportedly lives in Chicago, but had not had their call returned.

At this point there are still questions. Despite roaming across the Internet and becoming a sensation there were only three real sources without any real way of corroborating the truth of the story.

  1. Marcos M.
  2. Reddit user Tim Speedle.
  3. Thomas j Dale on Twitter

What makes this tricky is that there’s no way to guarantee these three sources aren’t the same person. Marcos M. hasn’t posted on social media publicly, the imgur link is anonymous and there’s no reason to believe the other Reddit accounts, other than them being old — meaning they weren’t created solely to spread this story.

There’s one more step that we took. We ran the photo of the yearbook page from Thomas j Dale through FotoForensics, online software which can show if an image has been manipulated. The following is a shot of the undoctored page after analysis, next to a version that we changed ourselves for a comparison.

In the first image you can see that all the text is the same color temperature under analysis, as well as the page showing similar patterns of coloration based on where light was hitting it.

In ours the text is noticeably different. It’s much brighter, despite being the same color. In addition, you can see large greenish-brown splotches around the text where we erased the prior yearbook message.

The story of Michael Lee’s yearbook post remains somewhat of a mystery. Currently there’s more proof showing it’s real than a fake, but there remain enough questions that this could be an elaborate hoax. It’s been almost 24 hours since the initial post hit “The Heckler,” and we do not have large numbers of 1993 Mission Viejo graduates coming forward and showing their yearbooks. So, for now, file this one away as true — but with some questions.

Whether it’s true or not, it proved to be right with the Cubs beating the Indians in Game 7 to clinch the World Series.