NEW YORK — An abandoned In-N-Out burger found on a street in New York sparked a grand internet mystery that leads all the way back to San Diego.
The photo, originally posted on Instagram by Lincoln Boehm, garnered more than 600 likes from his relatively modest following and spurred various news articles with a central mystery: How did a burger from a chain synonymous with California (and that only reaches as far east as Texas) end up abandoned on a street in Jamaica, Queens?
And what poor soul dropped it without even taking a bite?
Boehm told the New York Post he lives in Queens but is originally from Santa Monica. He and his wife were headed to catch a train when he spotted the familiar wrapping — at least 1,500 miles from the nearest In-N-Out location. He snapped the picture but left the patty untouched. Probably out of a sense of reverence for its cosmic significance.
After the mystery burger took the internet by storm, Boehm heard from 16-year-old Helen Vivas, who said she bought the burger all the way out in San Diego — Encinitas, to be exact — ahead of a red-eye flight back to New York City.
In a first-person account of the double-double whodunit published by Vice, Boehm writes that Vivas reached out to him via Instagram and provided timestamped screenshots of her flight information, burger purchase receipt and a photo she took outside the fast food joint.
If you’re having trouble visualizing the burger’s journey from San Diego County to New York, we’ve created this handy graphic.
Vivas — clearly an In-N-Out veteran — ordered several burgers with no sauce and “packed fresh,” meaning with the vegetables packed on the side, because she planned to take them on her flight and didn’t want them to get soggy. She ate one on the flight, but saved the rest for later, Boehm says.
After she landed in New York, Vivas said she was running down the street to catch the bus with her In-N-Out bag when it burst open and scattered the burgers on the street. The next day, along walked a California native, and the rest was internet history.
It’s possible Vivas is pulling one over on Boehm and the rest of us, but the evidence is pretty compelling. Check out the Vice essay if you’d like to review the forensics yourself.
Let us know your findings; we’re going to get a double-double. For research, of course.