"Bitcoin is not here for you to opine about it. Bitcoin is here to profoundly and oft times painfully change your life. Whether you agree or not, whether you give permission or not, whether you think it 'acceptable' or 'called for' or whatever else. Nobody asked you."

News Of A Drowning

I once took a vacation with my family to Costa Rica’s pacific coast, not far from the place where Mircea Popescu reportedly died. It’s a beautiful part of the world, and it’s on my short list of places to relocate to if I get the motivation to leave the United States. I say it’s where he reportedly died, because there is little about Mircea Popescu that is certain. That’s the way he wanted it. Yes, I used the past tense, and I will keep doing so for the sake of consistency, but I’m not sure he’s dead.
I must confess that when the news of the drowning began appearing in bitcoin publications in late June of 2021 I had never heard of him. He was apparently an OG bitcoiner, a major whale and a famous blogger. The headlines said that he may have died holding over one million bitcoin, making him the only “bitcoin millionaire” other than Satoshi Nakamoto. I read elsewhere that his stash was not nearly that large. It was all based on speculation. So far as I can tell, none of his wallets have ever been traced or identified. Everyone just took his word for it when he boasted of his enormous hoard. I discovered that he was controversial. He was considered a brilliant bitcoin philosopher and a savvy entrepreneur, while at the same time he was described as hateful, racist, misogynistic, and anti-semitic. I am a bit of a history junkie, so I wanted to learn more about him.


He was a prolific writer, so the obvious place to start was to read his blog, called “Trilema.” Apparently in my part of the world that’s not so easy to do. The site was blocked by my internet service provider for unknown reasons. I had to turn on my VPN for access. Trilema has posts from 2008 until June 23, 2021. I will link to relevant entries, but you might find it entertaining and educational to just start reading at random. Trilema can be addictive. He had a unique writing style. I found long discussions about bitcoin interspersed with graphic, sadomasochistic sexual content, often complete with photos, and sometimes racist or homophobic rants. I found the stuff about bitcoin to be the most interesting. Here’s an excerpt from a long post he made on December 5, 2012:
What bitcoin is really is, uh, the way you'd use it as a user is you have like a piece of software on your computer and it has your, your bitcoins on your computer, your wallet and nobody else is able to touch those bitcoins, nobody else is able to tell you how to use those bitcoins. Uh, you are in control of your entire financial infrastructure. You are essentially your own bank. And the most incredible thing is, is, for instance myself, I've written my own bitcoin client, uh, with my own bitcoins that I've got and I'm able to send bitcoins to someone else on the internet, and it goes over an entire infrastructure which I've created as myself as an individual on the internet. Because it is open source software, what that means is anybody can read how the code is written. And in the same way that someone can read French or Spanish or whatever language I can read source code because I'm a programmer so I can actually read what is written and I can see actually this is how it works. So, uh, this is a piece of software that actually came out three years ago and started off as an experiment. And I might be here explaining it to you today and probably a large portion of you won't get it but that's fine because they laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Marconi and they laughed at, uh Gutenberg. So, and even they also laughed at Alexander Graham Bell, uh Western Union said that the telephone is nothing more than a mere toy and they refused to invest in it and something that is experience it-- an immense amount of explosive growth. Like I said, we're not a flashy start-up, we're just people and this is an example of a piece of technology which has really risen from a community of people around the world. You really like feel this-- they really like look at this and see something that this can bring to the whole world. You know uh, I can stand here and explain it's about digital money but it's really so much more than that. You know, if you read the original white paper, bitcoin is described as being a decentralized timestamping system for contracts, and what you can do with it is so much more than is currently possible, it's really unimaginable like some of the things that are possible. So, uh, I think bitcoin will always exist. Like, no matter what it will always exist because there will always be a class of transactions for which bitcoin is only possible.
I kept reading. I started to translate some of his pre-2012 Trilema blog posts, which were written in Romanian. I wondered whether he was always as crude and (at least to me) intentionally shocking before he made his fortune with bitcoin. The answer is yes. I found a response to a post that he wrote in May of 2009, when he managed to include racism, misogyny, homophobia and necrophilia in one short passage. I’ll provide the link, but you’ll have to run it through a translator.
Avram Iancu Memorial and Assumption Cathedral

Life In Romania

Not much is known about Mircea Popescu before he started Trilema in 2009, but here’s what I found: He was born in 1980. He was from Cluj-Napoca Romania, in the Transylvania province. It is the second largest city in Romania. According to a Romanian Linked In page he created, Popescu attended high school from 1994-1998 at Avram Iancu High School in in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, with a concentration in mathematics. He attended Avram Iancu University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania from 1998-2002, with a concentration in Philosophy and Anthropology.
From 2005 -2007 he worked at a company called Norsena, Inc.
In 2007 he incorporated a company called Polimedia in Romania. It was described as an enterprise resource planning firm. I read a bitcointalk forum post from 2012 that referred to Popescu in an unflattering light, and referred to Polimedia as a porn site:
It is my duty to post here. This exchange is run by a dubious Romanian character, who is a content stealer, spammer, wannabe porn website owner, called Mircea Popescu.
He then listed the Polimedia web sites
Within this thread is the possibility that Mircea was posing as a woman to sell a nude photo for fifty dollars. I can’t prove whether this is true, but it does appear that someone from Polimedia was marketing these photos.
I don’t know what the truth is. Some people on the forum defended Popescu. I used the Wayback Machine to find the site, but got nowhere. He founded MPEx, a Romanian securities exchange, in 2012. It specialized in the listing of bitcoin related companies. Satoshi Dice was one of those companies. Here is a review of the exchange from February of 2013. From what I can tell it was the founding of MPEx that raised Popescu’s profile in the bitcoin community. He had strong opinions about bitcoin and wasn’t shy about expressing them.

Bitcoin Influencer And Philosopher

Popescu published a post documenting all of the scams involving bitcoin in 2011 and 2012. There were many. He was developing a reputation for spotting and revealing scams. He later identified Ripple as a scam, and the now defunct Bitcoin Savings and Trust.
Probably my favorite blog post involves his trolling of the SEC during the agency’s investigation of Satoshi Dice. The SEC wanted MPEx to provide information about the company and its CEO, Erik Voorhees. Popescu refused, and challenged the powerful agency head on. He memorialized the correspondence in this post.
Popescu was a firm believer that bitcoin’s code should only be changed incrementally and in a conservative manner. As a result, he was scornful of core developers, calling them “The Power Rangers”, and saying their attempts to improve the code were “ego-driven. misguided, and generally infantile.” He was particularly critical of Gavin Andresen and the latter’s claim to a connection to Satoshi Nakamoto. During the “Blocksize Wars”, he was solidly in the small block camp. In 2016 he threatened to sell all of his bitcoin, thereby crashing the market, if the block size was increased. He also firmly opposed any hard forks, and stated that MPEx, his exchange, would never recognize a fork.
Popescu was an early proponent of open source software. When OpenBSD, an operating system used by MPEx ran into financial difficulties , Popescu bailed them out. He said at the time that he liked its “clamped down, security minded approach”.
He is noted for declaring that a person could not be called a real bitcoin user unless he or she ran their own node and held a copy of the blockchain.
He also despised altcoins:
So for the benefit of all the derps derping about "cryptocurrencies" : there is no such thing. There's Bitcoin and that's it, because there can only be one. All the rest of the crap exists only inasmuch as a) it stays theoretical or b) it stays small enough nobody cares. Where a) and b) are only distinct in the derp point of view, otherwise they're the same thing. But good luck with all the community[-of-retards] driven, super-duper-innovative, ultra-mega-creative, asic-resistant, future-of-revolution-and-everything altcoins.
The blog is not all about bitcoin. It’s basically about whatever happened to be on his mind on any given day. He saw himself as a movie critic. He was always talking about the latest film he had seen. I learned, for instance, that he was not a big fan of Warren Beatty or Jennifer Tilly. In his mind he was as an expert in everything. His narcissism also led him to document just about every thought he ever had. Trilema is carefully annotated with footnotes, so you can discover links to posts and replies he wrote elsewhere on the web. It is a researcher’s treasure trove. He was intent on preserving the record.

Father Of Bitcoin Toxicity

Popescu began to be referred to as the “Father Of Bitcoin Toxicity”, a name that was seemingly well earned:
He once placed a bounty on the head of Pieter Wuille, a bitcoin developer, though the intent of the blog post was to prove a point about verifiability. . Wuille received this threat after suggesting an automatic 17% increase in bitcoin’s blocksize every four years during the blocksize wars.
He was banned from twitter for making a death threat against Andreas Antonopoulos. After Andreas said that bitcoin “is an expression of extreme privilege, but doesn’t have to stay that way”, Popescu responded “but if it doesn’t stay that way, I will find you and I will kill you with my bare hands, how about that.”
Popescu led his own group of bitcoin followers, named La Serinissima after the Byzantine moniker for the City Of Venice. The name was chosen in support of the idea of the sovereignty of bitcoin. Jameson Lopp describes the group in his article A History Of Bitcoin Maximalism :
The Mircea adherents, sometimes known as the #bitcoin-assets denizens (their hangout on IRC), formed a unique culture. In their eyes, if you didn’t have a GPG key on the WoT (Bitcoin-OTC web of trust) then you were an “unperson.” If you did jump through the hoops to join the WoT then you needed to engage in meaningful interactions and trades to get yourself recommended by other WoT users via positive reviews. Popescu held court in this IRC room, and if you didn’t fit in with their culture, understand the lingo, and have a high tolerance for bigotry, misogyny, and racism then you wouldn’t have a very good time there. Mircea did not place much weight on the effectiveness of his communications; he’d post a rant in his bombastic hard-to-follow style and would not be particularly concerned with how it was interpreted. 
Playa Hermosa Garabito

The Murky Details Of His Death

Mircea Popescu was a nomad, having lived in the United States, Mexico and Egypt after migrating from Romania. At the time of his reported death he was living in Costa Rica with three women in an apparent master/slave relationship.
Hannah Wiggins was one of those women. She kept a blog of her own. She posted a memorial entry on that blog shortly after the drowning. It was titled “Goodnight, Sweet Master”. Bitcoin journalist Pete Rizzo had attempted to interview Popescu shortly before the drowning , and he asked Hannah for an interview to learn more about him after she published her tribute. Her reply was not encouraging:
@Pete Rizzo And as I recall he wasn't interested(in talking to you). No storytelling can surpass the vast libraries he left behind, in his own hand. His is not a tale to be re-told; it's told already, in more detail and with greater skill than anyone else can hope to touch. I know that won't keep people from trying. He knew it wouldn't, too --and he despised you all for it, which should come as no surprise. The time to walk with him in step --or at least, to try to heel behind-- came and went, for you, long ago.
This struck me as orchestrated, adding to my suspicions about the drowning. The tone sounds at least inspired by Popescu, if not written by him. I thought it strange that she didn’t want to talk about the man she loved after he had died tragically in the prime of life. It was an opportunity to burnish his legacy. Popescu had been quoted as saying that women were “suited to eulogize men.” Why didn’t Hannah step up to fulfill her role? What was the point of secrecy now? I became even more suspicious as I examined her blog more closely. The writing seemed reminiscent of Popescu’s. Her name, Hannah Wiggins, didn’t ring true either. There’s nothing shocking about a blogger using a pseudonym, so that wasn’t a big deal, but her “about” page contained no biographical detail at all. She would “rather have (her) posts create a biography for me than put one together deliberately.” That sounded suspiciously like Popescu.
Then I found her blog post entry for November 16, 2021. She related the events of June 23:
Even the day, this summer past, when I woke him before dawn and was greeted with his warm embrace, when I drove him through the fields and valleys that he loved towards the ocean, when he told me "See you soon," and slipped into the sea, when he was caught by the current and I fought into it to grasp his hand: those seconds before his unconsciousness, in the utter chaos of doom, he looked at me with serious eyes, free of fear, and showed me how to die a hero's death. It was indeed the very heart of tragedy. But the flaw belongs to me, and to that ocean, and to the world.
It was the first account of the drowning that I had found in my research. It was the first time that I had heard that he was not alone while swimming that morning. There was no mention of an autopsy or police report. I had no idea whether Hannah Wiggins was even interviewed by the police. The newspaper articles I read said that his body was on the beach and that he had died of asphyxiation. Hannah said that he was dragged by the current but that she fought through it and grabbed his hand. He was still alive when she got to him. He was a strong swimmer. She was close enough to hold his hand and look into his eyes, yet she lived and he drowned? It didn’t make sense to me.
On November 27,2022, more than a year later, Hannah again described the events of that morning in a blog post titled “Oratory Of A Mourning Slave” . I don’t know what inspired this more detailed, credible version of Popescu’s death. Here is what she wrote:
Product of my own processes, I always felt a rush to get to the water, which meant changing, exchanging the heels for flip-flops, and moving the middling-elaborate baggage train from the car's trunk to the water's edge, some couple hundred meters away, in that spot just over the first sandy break where the high tide never surprise-hit to steal a towel and there was less foot traffic. No foot traffic, really, as that was one of the prime attractors of this beach in the first place: at all hours but especially in the early morning, it was rare to come across anyone else. This clears up an issue I was wondering about. Popescu and the women regularly swam at this beach and knew the area well. That particular morning I ducked into the bathroom of the little hotel where we parked, not really wanting to dash madly into the ocean to pee, but at the same time feeling guilty for adding more time to my set-up. He was already swimming; my first moves were to get him from cufflinked suit and lace-up shoes to beach shorts and sandals, then spray him down in that hated but necessary aerosol-delivered sunscreen. The one that smells like cupcakes, we called it. "See you soon!" he said sweetly as he took off to enjoy what he enjoyed while I worked to catch up. I put my hair up, I took my glasses off, but not before seeing where the master was, at his usual distance, further out than ever felt controllable --but I knew too that the firmly crossed line of comfort was part of the ocean's appeal, for him. I walked into the waves intent on reaching him, but felt the usual dread as I got closer. A few times I'd sensed we were being carried out by the current, in the past. And once, we had very much found ourselves in a pull. But we always overcame it, even the time he'd gotten so thrashed and spun around he came out with blue lips and had to rest a half hour before moving again. I was confident that he could handle it, but less confident about myself, and so while we were almost always in the water together, we weren't quite together. I kept my short distance, a decision I fight to not hate myself over every day and imagine I always will, like a thousand other choices that morning that replay over and over in my head. I can't know if things would've turned out better if I'd acted differently. I try to stand on the logic, to listen to those who tell me that his death was not my fault, to follow the lines of reason, but they're often enough washed away and scrambled in the chaos of the water. Floating on my back, I heard him yell something. "What?" I uselessly replied over the roar of the waves. "Master, I can't hear you!" How desperate I felt in the water, with my vision and my hearing both tamped down to nearly nothing. But the next thing he said, I heard, as I paddled closer --"Help." I fought against suddenly angry waves to get closer to the hazy image of his head, the occasional flash of a hand. "Master come to me, come towards the sound of my voice! Here!" The water crashed with greater and greater fury, and I felt the clean, hard strength of the current's pull as I got closer. I saw his head go under again and again, and knew he was in actual trouble this time, unable to keep his head above the waves. I pushed myself to him as hard as I could and in what must have been less than half a minute, but what felt like an eternity, I found his hand and pulled. I pulled as hard as I could; I felt him grip my hand. We both went under and I felt myself shoot up again in a rage of determination, my hand iron-clad to his. "Help!" I screamed as loud as I could once I broke the surface. Over and over again I screamed as I tried to move us back towards the shore. For a moment it'd seem we'd made progress; the next we were further out, and always new waves were crashing over us, inching us away from whatever direction I was trying to move in. I saw distant rectangles in the far distance that I knew must be people; I screamed and screamed, and eventually felt my foot hit the bottom. Still latched to his hand, I pulled as hard as I could against the current, still yelling frantically, trying to signal with my free arm, aware that his face had gone in the water, nothing in me but saltwater, panic, and the dead, no-thought, racing need to get us the fuck out of the ocean. As I collapsed the third or forth time in what was now only waist-deep water, I saw a man running towards us. He tried to take my arm, and I barked at him to help me get the man out of the water. We pulled, each with one of his arms in tow, struggling awfully against that hungry riptide. At knee-height I fell again and couldn't rise, the acid in my legs too much now to move. The man dragged him over my useless body. I crawled to them; we started trying CPR. His eyes wouldn't open; his chest wouldn't rise. I slapped him, I talked to him, I screamed for more help. And more help came; I can't say how many people rushed to us to try to offer their technique or animate him as if by sheer will. Maybe six? It felt like a crowd, and I wanted them off him, but I also wanted someone to know exactly what to do. It didn't occur to me that he might die. It just wasn't something on the list of possibilities, even if it was always possible. A few minutes passed (another eternity), and the sickening idea that he might actually suffer some sort of neurological damage here started to set in. The ambulance was coming; they'd called it, any second now. They'd come with the Right Equipment, the Correct Methods, they were coming to make this shit stop so I could see his eyes open again and he'd say oh holy shit what a wave jump that was, maybe we should call it a day and go home? Just a tiny bit longer, I told him, they're coming, hang on. But foam was starting to come out of his mouth when our hands pressed against his heart. The Red Cross guy ran over to us from somewhere up on the road, directed by an apparently gathering crowd I heard on the periphery. He kneeled in the sand and started to administer the Official CPR that my flooded head imagined would fix everything. He asked me how long he'd been in the water. "I don't know, twenty minutes," I answered, before realizing he meant how long had the man been drowning. "It was maybe two or three minutes, with the problem." I stumbled over my spanish, willing everything to just stop and make my Master breathe again. He took a pulse. He shook his head. I heard the machine hooked up to master's chest beep, but only when the medic's hands pressed against him. After yet another eternity, he shook his head again and said, "it's difficult." And he stopped the CPR. "What?!" I didn't look at him as I bent back in to keep pressing against his chest, keep inflating his lungs with the the mask. "It's difficult," he said again, and in some twisted back and forth he managed to tell me that there was nothing for it. I kept pumping and felt the crowd around me getting closer, a hand here or there landing on my shoulders. The medic started to pack up his shit.
I must admit it. Hannah Wiggins, or whatever her real name is, convinced me that it’s more likely than not that he is dead. I found big parts of her accounts convincing. I was intrigued by the image of his wake:
The body of the Master was laid out in full suit, of course; nothing new for that fine and handsome form. It was attended by two naked slaves in heels; perhaps the only time that particular parlor ever had or will have such a ceremony.
I would like to contact the funeral director to verify this account.
I still have some doubts and lingering questions, but her second, detailed version of the drowning is convincing. On the other hand, it could have been a well orchestrated drama, and Popescu would be up to the task. It is in the grand tradition of bitcoin to pull off this ultimate fraud to gain privacy and peace. Mircea Popescu’s date of death is listed as June 23, 2021, the same date that John McAfee allegedly hung himself in a Spanish jail cell. I like to think of the two of them living an underground life on an exotic, sunny island, comparing notes on the local women.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if Popescu is alive or dead. His place in history is set. Despite his many flaws, his contributions to bitcoin are undeniable.
After hearing of his death, Pete Rizzo said this: “Mircea Popescu was offensive, flawed and unapologetic. His death is the most significant in Bitcoin's history since the passing of Hal Finney.”
what a story!
Thanks for taking the time. Bookmarked to refer to this later
Thanks. I know it's really long. I got a little carried away.
I bookmarked it because it's a great post and I want to refer back to it later — not because it's such a long post I didn't read it in the moment (I did).
Just clarifying 😂
Not at all, your posts are always nice and clean / organized, easy to speed read when pressed for time and bookmark for later.
The world would not be the same without the wildcards dancing through it.
Where are La Serinissima now? Is there any remnants of this group still existing? If not, what happened, is the group just mostly dormant now? The IRC group is probably still around, no?
I came across this thread of ppl reflecting on his vibe regarding blocksize increases and not pissing off the MP group https://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/5dth6w/who_is_mircea/
Also what ever happened with WoT? Do ppl still do that? Who is it popular with?
It's [all but] dead, Jim.
There are incredible stories about nearly every name in that list, at least in the first/top 100.
Necrodaria, built witcoin which preceded SN by a decade, same vision.
Magicaltux (mtgox), mrb_ fastest GPU rig in the world, at the time, davux (bull Bitcoin), Was such a different time for Bitcoin.
Bull Bitcoin founder's nym might have been davout, not davux. I forget.
Memory lane ...
Kiba ... Casacsius, Mndrix (coinpal , buy with PayPal) Diablo d3 (miner software) Genjix (the dude that went on to fight in Syria)
So much history.
I don't have the answers to your questions, but the reddit group you found is very interesting. Thanks
Here's another enjoyable thread where he seems to be saying he owns 5% of all bitcoin https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=350103.0
Also not that relevant but i did find a more professional piece of his writing worth it https://nakamotoinstitute.org/gpg-contracts/ " And it doesn’t stop here. I have always thought the principal utility of Bitcoin is that it renders any sort of mandatory taxation model unviable. I am firmly persuaded that as Bitcoin takes hold taxes will have to return to what they were in ancient Greece : willing donations to the state treasury, and something people openly took pride in. This shift will bring about all the improvements we were vainly trying to achieve in the old money paradigm, such as public accountability and reasonable expenditure in one fell swoop : good luck getting people to donate to the police department if they don’t like the police. And good luck with the welfare programs, for sure."
Popescue always intrigued me. Had a hard time believing he died but it seemed reasonably confirmed. Really hard to know, which you captured well. Thanks for doing this historical work. I'll have to look back at trilemma.
Interesting, bookmarking this one, going to be fun to read through his site. His writing style / the words you quoted above make it sound possibly like an unfiltered audio recording of himself talking that was transcribed in order to post on his blog, curious to see if they’re all like that
That one sounds more like a transcription than some of the other stuff I read. I'm not sure. Maybe that was a common thing with him.
He was definitely a weird guy or should I say eccentric? "naked slaves in heels" definitely got my attention.. lol I would actually want to see that. I wouldn't be surprised if that "death" is the gateway to some other life. It actually maybe just that in real life as well, come to think of it.
Great story, thanks for sharing. I've been to Playa Hermosa, now it's famous.
Oh man, this is great! Thanks for writing it! You got me hooked and waiting for more of your stuff.
Wow, well written, engaging yet mysterious, like many Bitcoin related things. You might be sitting on a script for a movie 😄
I remember asking him to consider keeping Bitcoin-related stuff off trilema so as to not give journalists and anti-bitcoiners a direct link between Bitcoin and toxicity, ... (before toxicity had that label in our ecosystem). He actually was thrilled that I was complaining, and vowed to post even more extreme/toxic thoughts in new ways that he could imagine somehow they would intersect with bitcoin, lol.
What a character, hot blooded indeed 😁
Not very respectful to put a photo of the dude, the fact that this guy has a lot of bitcoin, and your suspicions about his death on the internet. Let the guy live his death in peace.
I thought of that, but he had a large photo of himself on the landing page of his blog, and dozens of photos within that could not in any way be described as "respectful".
At the time of his death, there were literally dozens of articles written worldwide that contained many photos of him, most that he originally posted.
I don't think I doxed him.