Frequently asked questions


What is Crow Aptok?

There's a demolished bridge on the A40 dual carriageway near Oxford, England, that still has its vertical supports in place. Since at least the late 1970s, painted on these supports have been various odd phrases ('James BBondage', 'Plank is God' - now altered to 'Thank God for Jesus Christ' - and so on). The oddest of these is CROW APTOK.

Note: in 2009, the bridge was power-hosed and the graffiti was all but removed. Its ghost is still visible for those whose curiosity is still piqued.

Where is it?

If you are travelling to Oxford from the direction of London, you exit the M40 at junction 8. As you head north-west on the A40 towards Oxford, after about a mile on the right-hand siide of the road is a demolished bridge support. That is where Crow Aptok used to be, which sparked so much mystery for so many people.

View the precise location of Crow Aptok, together with Google Street View of what's left of it (taken in poor light) > >

What does it mean?

God knows. I don't have a clue. And I don't know of anyone who has any idea either. Currently, a Google search of the phrase reveals only this paltry site, while Googling on the word 'aptok' returns some random computer code, a seafood restaurant in Iceland, and a small village in North Korea, none of which I believe are likely to be the answer to the mystery. The proximity of the anarchy symbol and the peace sign make me think maybe it was a (failed) punk group, but that's just a wild guess.

UPDATE: possible lead?

I have received contact from three people in the last few months who claim to know the origin of the phrase. Of course, they could just be wind-up merchants, and I have realised, in a crestfallen manner, that I genuinely have no way of verifying this information. One correspondent claims to be related to one of the graffiti writers, so I am pursuing the lead, and yet another has given me even more explicit information - names removed as I pledged anonymity:

Tok was a guy called A_____ H_____, AP was A___ P________ and Crow, well I don't know this guys name but he was a friend of theirs.
I think it's funny that people are fascinated by it, but then I guess coz I know what it is or who wrote it, it doesn't mean anything to me. although when I drive on the A40 to the M40 it makes me smile to think that they would of had to have been seen doing it.. and the fact that it is never been cleaned off or painted over as it has been there for years!!

So maybe that's it - three scamps from Witney, Oxfordshire, tagging their initials on a wall, and having a minor effect on thousands and thousands of drivers. Or maybe it's all bull. Who knows?

Is there any cultural significance to the phrase?

Yes. All of these are either referencing the name, or dwelling on the mystery rather than its actual meaning, but are no less interesting because of it.

1. In 2003, a remarkable book was published. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon, is the story of Christopher, a highly intelligent boy who suffers from a form of autism. It's a simplistic mystery story, but also deals with his attempts to live with his disability and cope with his dysfunctional family, viewed through the emotionless prism of his autism. The book works on several levels - while it has enough humour and suspense to entertain children and help them empathise with sufferers of autism, it also manages, on an adult level, to be rather moving, despite the dispassionate nature of Christopher's narrative. Though Haddon does not himself suffer from the disability, it has been praised for its accuracy. If you haven't read it yet, I urge you to buy it. (See more book recommendations!)

Anyway, at one point in the book, Christopher spots some graffiti painted on a lamp post in Swindon: it says 'crow aptok'. I gather from reading his bio that Mark Haddon lives in Oxford, so almost certainly it is the same graffito from which he got his inspiration, but transplanted it to Swindon.

2. Two years ago I was contacted by a poet with a poem she had written about Crow Atpok, that was a finalist in the 2006 Strokestown poetry festival. Shamefully, I sought permission to post it but never got round to it. With apologies to Beatrice Garland, I now submit Crow Aptok.

3. A correspondent writes:

'Crow Aptok (Thank God for Jesus Christ)' was a track by the legendary group 'Flesch Kincaid' released during their rock-gospel-rap phase some years ago now.

Confused? Kincaid were a mythical group that grew to prominence amongst an audience of employees at a local computer company; they originated from a snappy response to someone who'd punched the wrong key whilst using MS Word (v2), and their track names were often taken from local graffiti, 'Crow Aptok' clearly featuring amongst their repertoire.

4. There appears to be a Texas-based indie group called Aptok Crow. I know nothing more about them, and there's no info on the linked site, but their use of the name can't be pure coincidence, can it?

Why do you own the site?

I grew up near Oxford, and saw this graffiti every time I went into the city. The phrase stuck in my mind, particularly because nobody I've ever met knows what it means. I design websites for people, and needed a domain name to display work-in-progress to my clients, so I chose '' because it was a phrase that nobody else had yet reserved. The other vague thought I had was that someone who knows what it means would eventually see this site. Maybe even the original creator? I did not know, at the time I reserved the domain, that the phrase would appear in a piece of literature.

So, if anyone knows anything at all, or even has a good theory, please

JavaScript must be enabled to display this email address.

. In fact, if you have anything at all to say, .

*Is it 'CROW APTOK' or 'CROW AP-TOK'? Is that a hyphen or a random splodge? Who knows?

<= back to contents