Conspiracy, Scam, Cult, or Something Else: What is The Hope Valley Dream Survey?
Last week, I got a direct message on our app.
It came from a person here in town who was asking me about a topic related to a Facebook question I asked you. Namely, what is a conspiracy theory you actually believe? They saw some flyers around the east side of Sedalia, took some photos, and sent them to me. They had no idea what they were, but thought that I might know, or I might have access to know.
First of all, let's look at the flyers.
This sounds... interesting. I would say at first that they might be interested in some kind of neurological survey, but... then they get into weird stuff. The numbers, the animals, seeing things in the sky... sounds a little off kilter to me.
So I thought, well, let's see what we can find. I googled "Hope Valley Dream Survey" and found...something else entirely. There have been at least three different iterations of this "dream survey" in different places around the country. The first that I found was the Willamette Dream Survey, which was in Oregon in 2015. Nobody seems to know who is behind it, or what it was used for, but it was just a voicemail. But it was strange enough that the local newspaper tried to investigate it. They looked up the phone number and found it linked to a German language immersion camp, who said it was an old number of theirs they didn't use anymore.
Then, five years later, it popped up again in Utah and San Francisco, this time as the Happy Valley Dream Survey. It was investigated by some armchair detectives on Reddit, but there wasn't a conclusive answer as to who was behind it or what they wanted.
Now, here it is in a different form in Sedalia. Looking up the number, it's indicated to be most likely a landline. No name attached. I asked around, and didn't really find anything. The Pettis County Sheriff's Office, for example, had never heard of this flyer, and no one had reported it as a scam yet. So I decided to keep looking.
The Hope Valley Dream Center is listed on Charity Navigator as a "Educational Service and School" in West Virginia with tax exempt status. However, there isn't a web page, phone number, or social media listed for it. Humph. Another dead end.
I looked around on YouTube and found a guy named Nexpo who investigated the original Williamette Survey and the Hope Valley Dream Survey. It's a little long, but it's interesting, you can watch it if you want.
But if you don't have forty minutes....he didn't really come to a conclusion either. Basically he thinks it could be linked to a cult that thinks that bad things could have happened on a specific date, it's an "art project" from a telecom charity company, or it's an online game that people pick up whenever they see it.
So now, the real part has to come, right? Right. I emailed from a throwaway email account. Now the previous "Surveys" had replies to emails saying things like "This is not the right question" or "You must ask the right question". What was my reply?
Hope Valley is a dream survey, we are looking to listen to people's experiences. We are looking to hear what others have to say, about whatever is on their mind and think is of value. When we receive information from people sometimes we ask questions back to them and see if they can share some more detail on their experience. With only one question from you this is all the information Hope Valley has for you at this time. If you have more questions we would like to help if possible. If you have experiences to share we would like to hear those as well. Thank You for reaching out and sweet dreams.
The email signature ended with a quote from a Canadian psychologist. So... much different than the previous answers people got in emails from other "surveys".
Then I thought, well, go for it. Call. Who's it gonna hurt?
In previous iterations, namely the Happy Valley version, the callers would report getting a call back at three in the morning, or getting an instant text after calling, thanking them for participating. I recorded myself making the call, ready for anything weird in case I had to defend myself later, and... nothing. It's a Google number. Now they did apparently call me back - however, my phone didn't ring, so it assumed it was a scam number. They also texted me, apologizing for "missing me twice".
So while the bigger question of what the Williamette Survey or the Happy Valley Survey was/were and what they want isn't answered, I can tell you, in my opinion, that the Sedalia version...is hokum. While the original two iterations might have been part of an art project or a misguided attempt at an online cult, I don't think that's the case here. Somebody is bored this summer, saw it online, and tried to replicate it. I think even the name might be a key to it being a joke, because both Happy Valley and Williamette are names of the neighborhoods where the previous surveys was held (in Oregon and Utah, anyway). There is no Hope Valley here in Missouri, meanwhile. There's a treatment center in Boonville Called Valley Hope, but not Hope Valley.
So maybe they decided to just tweak the name a little and go with it? Might have been more believable to choose a more local name. I guess just to get giggles? I don't know. Either way, I wouldn't be concerned if you see the flyers around town. If you feel like calling just to mess with them, or if you really wanna talk about your dreams, go for it. But... there's no connection to the "real" conspiracy here.
Now if I'm wrong, please, reach out, prove it to me. I'd love to be wrong if there's real confirmation out there. Or, if this IS legit, and it's something for a school or for a lab or something..... again, I'm happy to be wrong. I'll write another piece if I'm wrong.