In the final days before the world learns whether Harry Potter lives or dies, spoilers — or those pretending to spoil — are spreading on the Internet.
On Tuesday, digital images of what may be the entire text of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," including 36 chapters and a seven-page epilogue, were circulating among Web users. The book was apparently photographed as it lay on a carpet speckled with green and red, a hand at the bottom holding down the pages.
A separate link, http://www.zendurl.com/h/hallows, also displayed a seven-page epilogue and a 36-chapter table of contents from "Deathly Hallows," coming out July 21 under ultra-tight security.
Similar information appeared Monday on http://spoilerboy.googlepages.com/home.
Meanwhile, a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, has said that he downloaded hundreds of pages from the 784-page book and U.S. publisher Scholastic, Inc., has been busy ordering would-be spoilers to remove their information from the Internet.
"I'm guessing we're in the double digits," says Scholastic spokeswoman Kyle Good, who added that requiring material to be pulled down did not mean it was authentic.
"There's so much out there that it's confusing for fans. Our lawyers are trying to keep down the amount of spoiler traffic that's out there and clear it from places where fans might be reading."
Anxious about keeping a lock on publishing's ultimate mystery, Scholastic has refused all along to say whether a spoiler has the real book or not. According to Good, there is more than one version of the full Potter text on the Internet. She said the different versions all "looked convincing" and all had different content from each other.
Leaked copies of other highly anticipated works have appeared online in recent years, from O.J. Simpson's canceled tale of murder, "If I Did It," to "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," which could be downloaded before the film's release with the help of a file-sharing program, BitTorrent, an apparent source of the full Potter book.
Author J.K. Rowling, who has said two major characters will die, has begged the public not to give away the ending to her seventh and final Potter book. Fan sites such as http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/ and http://www.mugglenet.com have vowed to keep spoilers away.
"A lot or our tips about spoilers are coming from fans," Good says. "There's a groundswell from fans who find these links and send them to us, saying, `I'm not going to look at this, but somebody told me about it.'"
"I just hope they find these people and punish them accordingly," said Leaky Cauldron Web master Melissa Anelli. "This is exceedingly wrong and mean-spirited. Let people enjoy their book, for Pete's sake."
Last month, a hacker who identified himself as "Gabriel" claimed to have broken into the computer system of British publisher Bloomsbury PLC and posted key plot points on http://seclists.org/misc/harrypotterspoilers.html.
Those plot points differ from what is revealed on http://www.zendurl.com/h/hallows/, which contradicts itself on the fate of Potter's buddy Ron.
"There is a lot of material on the Internet that claims to come from `Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,' but anyone can post anything on the Internet and you can't believe everything you see online," Good says.
"We all have our theories on how the series will end, but the only way we'll know for sure is to read the book ourselves at 12:01 a.m. on July 21."