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As for question title, I am wondering if it is possible to actually land on the 404 page for a site (example: https://meta.stackexchange.com/404 ) without manually typing the actual link.

As far as I know, if you try to visit a not-existing page you do indeed see the 404 page message, but you are not redirected to the page, so the visited URL still is the one you tried to access.

I know the final effect is quite close, but I am asking this to evaluate the possibility of an unwanted behavior.

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I had never visited that direct link, but I got the hat within the first hour on Information Security. I had been viewing comment links, and I'm pretty sure one was a deleted comment. I went to the /404 to get it on the main SO site.

The "Oops!" page triggers counts for the Not Found hat of 2022 Bash. I confirmed by going to a bad link to a comment. I suspect the link is for a comment on a deleted question or answer.

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