Petscop: Overview of Video 5

Video 5 was uploaded on April 11, 2017, four days after Video 4 appeared.

It is the only video to feature a description since the first video, and I reproduce it here in its entirety:

Hello folks. I guess this is for all of you, now.

The following are the questions where the response was “I don’t know”:

Care?

Mike?

Michael?

Who is Care?

Who’s Care?

Who is Mike?

Who’s Mike?

Who is Michael?

Tiara?

Who’s Tiara?

Where are you?

When am I?

What is NLM?

NLM?

Newmaker Plane?

Who is Newmaker?

Newmaker?

What is Petscop?

Petscop?

How to see windmill?

See windmill?

Windmill?

What is this?

bababababab? !? ??

Who is Marvin? (we asked this one after the video ended)

Who’s Marvin? (same as above)

Marvin? (same as above)

The following are the questions with real responses (so far):

Who is Tiara? Answer: Petscop kid very smart

Where am I? Answer: Under the Newmaker Plane

Who am I? Answer: Newmaker

Who are you? Answer: Tool

Remember being born? (the full question “Do you remember being born?” didn’t fit)

Answer: I’m not Tiara

When the color changed, we were able to ask two questions:

Who are you? Answer: TURN OFF PLAYSTATION

Why? Answer: MARVIN PICKS UP TOOL HURTS ME WHEN PLAYSTATION ON

The first line of the description seems to reveal that Paul has finally been joined by his audience, whoever that may be, and that he is now uploading the videos for our benefit.

However, the description also mentions that “we” asked a question of Tool. Is this a reference to the audience that is now with Paul? Or is it the first hint that others are going to become involved in the production and editing of the videos? In June 2017, radical changes were made to the YouTube channel, and it is now evident that a group I call The Censors is in complete control of Petscop. We’ll explore that when the time comes.

For now, let’s see what we can discern from this loooong description. A few key points:

  • This is the first time Tool identifies itself as such (I have been using the name Tool throughout these posts only for the sake of clarity; it never gave a name before).
  • Though Tool responds “I don’t know” to every question about Marvin when it’s in red mode, it suddenly has some shocking things to say about him when it switches over to pink mode. It is widely believed that Tool becomes “someone else” when it’s pink.
  • This is the first direct reference to Marvin (I have already mentioned him in the overview of Video 3, because Marvin appears to be the same character(s) as the Shadow Monster Man, and/or the Green-Faced Man and/or Care’s Dad).
  • “MARVIN PICKS UP TOOL HURTS ME WHEN PLAYSTATION ON” is the second instance (the note in Care’s Bedroom being the frst) in which text within the game seems to be referring to events occurring outside the game. Significantly, both instances might revolve around Marvin. If Marvin is Care’s dad, we’re dealing with a seriously creepy character.
  • I could be wrong about Marvin existing outside the game, because Tool might mean that Marvin is hurting someone within the game whenever the game is running.
  • Tool gives Paul/the player the name “Newmaker”, but this is not a proper name. It’s a title. Another character will assume the same title in a later video. That character appears to exist outside of the game, as well.
  • If this game is intended for Marvin (and it is), why does Tool order the player to turn off the Playstation?
  • Tool knows that Tiara is connected to the “Do you remember being born?” poster in the Mirror Room. Interesting. Is Tiara the Quitter?

Video 5 opens with Paul entering the Tool Room and explaining to us that he has been asking Tool the questions seen in the video description. Tool gave its default answer (“I don’t know”) to every single one, except for four of them. Paul says he is going to re-enter those questions so that we can see Tool’s answers for ourselves.

Tool is in red mode.

Paul, via the keyboard: Who is Tiara?

Tool: Petscop kid very smart

Is Tool calling Paul/the player a smart kid, or is it referring to Tiara? If Tiara wrote the note in the Mirror Room, which is printed in a childish manner, then she probably is a child. And her comments about the challenges of rebirthing a “psychologically damaged” child, quoted in the note in Care’s Bedroom, suggest she is wise.

Paul: Who am I?

Tool: Newmaker.

Paul does not comment on this.

Paul: Where am I?

Tool: Under the Newmaker Plane.

This is the first reference to the Newmaker Plane (I have been using the term Newmaker Plane throughout this series to differentiate the windmill level from the subterranean level beneath it). The name of the windmill level would seem to indicate that the player (the Newmaker) has some special dominion over that level, but from what we’ve seen so far, Paul is not the one in charge of it. He is unable to see the windmill that exists there, he did not open the cellar door that leads him under the Newmaker Plane, and he finds the Newmaker Plane to be a frustrating and confounding place.

Also, the Newmaker Plane is a place of desolation. The note in Care’s Bedroom stated that Care and other unloved children “wander the Newmaker Plane”, evoking the image of lost souls roaming through a purgatorial realm.

Tool suddenly turns pink. The keyboard, when it pops up, is also pink. Remember, this is not the same shade of pink associated with Michael Hammond.

Paul: Who are you?

Tool does not respond. “I think it broke,” says Paul. Previously, when he asked the same question of Tool during red mode, it replied, “TOOL.”

Tool: TURN OFF PLAYSTATION

Paul: Why?

Again, there is no response. Several seconds pass.

Tool: MARVIN PICKS UP TOOL HURTS ME WHEN PLAYSTATION ON

This answer could mean that Marvin picks up Tool and hurts Tool when the game is running, or it could mean that Marvin picks up Tool and hurts someone with Tool when the game is running. Either way, it’s a chilling reply. When Paul is able to enter windmill in a later video, he witnesses an animated scene that implies Tool is a small weapon or object that can inflict pain on children – specifically, the ghostly image of a girl inside the windmill. This scene appears to be a recreation of what might have happened in the windmill.

Tool does have a pointy tip that could turn it into a useful weapon. We still don’t know what the hell it is, though. It could certainly be an awl, particulary a bradawl (used to make holes in wood). It somewhat resembles a bellows, an accordian-like instrument used to fan the flames of fires.

Commentators have suggested it looks like a birth canal, or a child in a sack. But I think a potentially dangerous object like an awl makes the most sense.

Finally, the unflappable Paul is dumbfounded. “This fuckin’ game,” he says. “This game…”

He starts to enter another question, but the keyboard suddenly turns from pink to red.

Paul decides to re-ask one of the questions now that Tool is a different colour.

Paul: Who are you?

Instead of repeating its demand that Paul turn off the Playstation, Tool replies, “TOOL.” Beside the word is a drawing of the Tool shape, and it looks more like a bellows than Tool itself does (the bottom half is narrower than the top half in the drawing).

woman using a bellows

Paul says he is going to wait for “that to happen again” (for Tool to turn pink) and end the video at this point. For a moment, his avatar becomes grotesquely distorted. He doesn’t comment on that.

the avatar melts, Tool’s answer becomes faded in places, and a dark patch appears on the floor

The video continues. Tool remains red.

Paul: Remember being born?

Tool: I’m not Tiara.

Previously, also in red mode, Tool replied both “Petscop kid very smart” and “I don’t know” when asked about Tiara. The fact that it can give different answers to the same questions could be a coincidence, or it could mean that there is real communication going on between Paul and Tool. It would be interesting to give Tool a Turing test.

Advertisements

Petscop: Overview of Video 4

Video 4 was uploaded on April 7, 2017. There is no video description.

This is the shortest of the videos. It deals with the ephemeral nature of the windmill, which is central to the storyline, but it also contains an anomaly that could foreshadow future events.

Video 4 opens with Paul ascending to the Newmaker Plane via the cellar stairs, but this is not a continuation from Video 3. Paul says to his audience, “So if you remember what I was trying to explain yesterday…”

This is interesting. Paul did not post a video on the previous day, April 6. That means he is actually in contact with his audience (and this will be confirmed in a later video).

Paul finishes, “…and failed to explain…I’m just gonna demonstrate that to you now.”

He proceeds to a black object rooted in the grass, and explains that it is located directly above the Tool Room, in which a screen “broadcasts” footage of the windmill for some reason (Tool is deeply connected to the windmill and the character Marvin, as we’ll see in future videos).

Paul thinks the object is a camera aimed at the windmill, but when he advances through the grass he comes upon nothing more than a floating, octagonal structure that appears to be the foundation of the windmill, a “placeholder.”

the spot where the windmill isn’t

Paul walks around the foundation. “I think I’m missing something,” he says. “Okay, that’s it.”

Video 4 ends.

It isn’t visible in the picture above, but if you watch Video 4 on a large screen you should be able to observe some peculiar movement in the upper right portion of the screen. Close examination reveals a ghostly figure, identical to Paul, moving through the darkness. This “ghost Paul” seems to predict Paul’s movements.

A far more substantial Paul doppelgänger appears in the Child Library in a later video.

a brightened screen, with “ghost Paul” clearly visible (upper right corner)

What are we to make of this second Paul? Is this a curiosity, an Easter egg? Or is it a clue that Paul himself, like so many objects and characters in the game, has a double that acts independently of him?

I believe that this spectral figure isn’t actually Paul. It’s Shadow Monster Man, AKA Marvin/the Green-Faced Man. We’re going to meet him very soon.

 

 

 

Petscop: Overview of Video 3

Video 3 was uploaded on April 2, 2017, just one day after Video 2 appeared. Again, the video bore no description.

This part of the game provides more insight into what’s going on in Petscop than any other element of the game, hands down. It introduces us to several characters who will appear inside (and perhaps outside) the game, and partially reveals the intent of the game’s (fictional) creator.

In my opinion, it is the most disturbing part of the game.

A Word of Caution

I don’t use the word “triggering” lightly, and I do not hesitate to warn you that for some people, the events of the Child Library may cause emotional distress.

I know this to be true because I experienced some emotional distress. Like the character(s) Care, who plays a central role in the events, I was subject to abuse in early childhood.

As a result of the trauma and stress, I made a habit of plucking out my eyelashes. Although I did not know it until years later, the compulsion to pull out hair/eyebrows/eyelashes (Trichotillomania) sometimes develops in children who have undergone trauma. This is certainly not to say that all children with Trichotillomania have been abused or traumatized, but if you observe a child exhibiting this behaviour for no easily discernible reason, it would be a good idea to ensure that the child is not under any abnormal stress.

I will explain why these things are relevant to Petscop in the sections titled “Michael’s Bedroom” and “Care’s Bedroom”, but if you think reading about child abuse will be emotionally difficult for you, please proceed with caution.

———–

At the start of Video 3, Paul is back Under the Newmaker Plane. He enters a corridor absolutely loaded with tokens. Carved into the wall in huge letters, as though out of rock, are the words GOOD GRIEF AND ALAS, another direct quotation from Daisy-Head Mayzie.

The Child Library

At the end of this corridor, Paul finds a small, sliding door in a brick wall, similar to the entrance to a dumbwaiter or a bookdrop at a library. He examines the door, opening it and closing it.

He then enters an anteroom in which the bookdrop itself is located. There is an unusually narrow doorway in the far wall. There is also an easel set up in the foreground. On the easel is a gray placard with eyes and a nose, reminiscent of the eyes on Michael’s gravestone and above the door leading to the basement of the garden shed.

Paul finds that he can manipulate the facial features on the easel, selecting slightly different eyes, noses and eyebrows (but no mouths) to create different faces.

When he chooses a face, the anteroom begins to shake, and movement outside the doorway indicates that the room is moving very rapidly. This could be the plummeting of an elevator, but the shaking and the quaking noise that accompanies it remind me of the film Cube, in which a vast labyrinth made up of square, interconnected rooms rearranges itself periodically like that crazy proposed skyscraper in Dubai, making escape nearly impossible. I should add that Cube was released in 1997.

However, Paul is able to exit into the GOOD GRIEF corridor, and it is not quaking. When he re-enters the anteroom, the shaking has stopped and Paul selects another face on the easel. This time, the quaking goes on for so long that Paul finally stops playing and shuts off the video. When the video resumes, the quaking has stopped and Paul tells us it went on for about 10 minutes. He is now able to pass through the narrow doorway into a child’s bedroom.

Each time Paul creates a new face on the anteroom easel, the anteroom quakes for a while and a new child’s bedroom appears beyond the doorway.

Screenshot (11).png

the first bedroom Paul enters in the Child Library

The Child Library Bedrooms

Each room is identical in layout. In the foreground there is a small table illuminated by a lamp. There are two toys, one on either side of the lamp, that vary with the room. These toys include both familiar, brand-name playthings (a Rubik’s Cube, a PEZ dispenser, a can of Play-Doh, a Magic 8-Ball) and unusual items (a pair of tweezers, a small-scale Tool, a model car that looks identical to vehicles seen elsewhere in the game). Hanging on the wall above the table is a square object, possibly a cabinet, bearing the same face as that on the easel. Each face corresponds to a certain child. In the far left corner of each bedroom is a bed, which is barely visible by the light of the table lamp. Motionless figures can be seen sitting on the edge of the beds in most of the Child Library bedrooms, the notable exceptions being Mike’s room and Care’s room. Paul does not interact with the children in any way, and they do not respond to his presence.

The bedrooms differ not only in the toys on display, but in the pattern and colour of the carpeting and wallpaper. We later learn that these bedrooms are part of a Child Library, a sort of museum or zoo in which children caught as “pets” can be deposited. The bedrooms could serve as cages or display areas for such “pets.”

The word “library” is telling. It would be more appropriate for the place to be called an orphanage. “Library” hints that the children may be available for viewing – or for loan – to patrons. When Paul later deposits Care NLM into the Child Library, using the “bookdrop” in the wall, popup text informs him that he can reclaim Care NLM at any time within the next six months. And we will learn much later that a girl who could be the “real” (outside the game) Care, and is exactly the same age as Paul, vanished for six months.

At least two of the child bedrooms contain lengthy notes that provide a great deal of insight into what is happening in Petscop – and possibly outside of it, as well.

Paul doesn’t know quite what to do with the Child Library at first, so he returns to the garden area for a short time. After some thought, he goes back to the Child Library easel and recreates the face on Michael’s grave.

A message pops up: “Mike is not inside right now. He is dead. You may visit his room.”

Michael’s Bedroom

Mike’s bedroom has red carpeting with a pattern of circles and clown faces. On the table are a miniaturized Tool and what appears to be a pair of tweezers. We will soon learn that Care does not have eyebrows, and these tweezers (if that’s what they are) could indicate that the children associated with the Child Library remove their own eyebrows (suggesting Trichotillomania).

Obviously, there is no child on the bed in this room.

Paul next arranges Care’s features on the easel, which informs him that “Care is missing.”

Care’s Bedroom

This bedroom is colourless, except for the two items on the table: Another miniature replica of Tool and a box of crayons (identical to the one on the shelf of the garden shed). The carpet pattern features daisies and, oddly yet appropriately, paint rollers. There is no child on the bed because Care is still in the basement of the garden shed, in distorted red form.

There is a note attached to the far wall of the bedroom, and Paul examines it, bringing up a series of text boxes. This is where shit gets crazy. Take a look at the very first line of the note in the screenshot below. First of all, we don’t know precisely who “you” is supposed to be, but this note establishes that he’s probably Care’s father. Paul is certain the “you” isn’t aimed at him, as it was in the signs of the Gift Plane.

Secondly, take note of the purple text that denotes the wife (presumably Care’s mother). Recall that in Video 2, all of the furniture in the Mirror Room is purple, and the “Do you remember being born?” poster on the wall has purple text. The shades are not identical, however.

Here is the next portion of the note:

“You say, ‘That’s a puzzle.’

You’re secretly very excited to hear this news.

You’re in the bathtub thinking about her.

I have a guess at which child you’ll pick next.

When you find her room, the passage to my right will lead to her.

She’ll appear from the darkness, limping, and I’ll shoot her in the head.”

Not even Paul can be blasé about this. “What am I reading?” he mutters.

There is much to process at this point. First, “That’s a puzzle,” appears in green text. We haven’t yet seen green text at this level of the game (but it is associated with Randice, the flower-pet that Paul caught in Even Care). It could be associated with a character who appears later, Marvin. Marvin is also known as the Green-Faced Man, and he will show up in the flesh (so to speak) in a later video. Marvin may also be the Shadow Monster Man mentioned in the note that Paul found with the game.

The next three lines of the note are tremendously disturbing, and I don’t think I need to go into the reasons why. They still seem to refer to Care’s father (Marvin?).

But then we come to “When you find her room…” That seems to be directed squarely at the player of the game, who is “finding rooms.” And there are hidden passages to the right of where the note is located in each of the Child Library bedrooms. We will see a doppelganger of Paul vanish into one of them later in the game.

“I” is unknown, as is the “child you’ll pick next.” Obviously, though, “I” could be the game creator – and a note found in a Child Library bedroom at a later date suggests that a mysterious figure calling himself Rainer is the original creator of the game. The thing is, Petscop could have more than one developer. Remember from Video 1 that it is copyrighted 1996. Yet in later videos, events of 1997 and 2000 are referenced, hinting that someone added to the game. We will also learn that at least one other person with whom Paul comes into contact has played Petscop, and tells Paul about a tunnel in a very specific location under the Newmaker Plane. When Paul tries to find it, it’s gone.

The next significant Child Library that Paul will select (in a later video) does not even belong to a specific child; he experiments with the easel by combining Care’s eyes and nose with Mike’s eyebrows. The results will be very peculiar.

Here is next line of the note:

Tiara says young people can be psychologically damaged ‘beyond rebirthing.’

Tiara’s name and her quote are not in exactly the same shade of purple as the text associated with the wife/Care’s mother, but is there some connection between them?

The reference to “rebirthing” brings to mind the childishly handwritten “Do you remember being born?” poster in the Mirror Room, and a later Child Library note claims that Care is the reincarnation of a girl who vanished in 1977 along with a windmill.

At this point, we should examine the 2000 child death that I mentioned in my overview of Video 2. This aspect of Petscop is firmly entrenched in its lore and forms the basis of most superficial commentary on the series, but I don’t believe that what follows is central to the storyline. In my opinion, the references merely help establish the themes of child abuse and the mistreatment of adopted children. I have delayed discussing the Newmaker case because I wanted to de-emphasize it and focus on what I see as more germane themes.

However, this case is of great importance to me, because I have written previously about the mistreatment of adopted children who are diagnosed with “Reactive Attachment Disorder.” I have also examined some of the bogus treatments and (sometimes fatal) punishments that have been used to deal with RAD-diagnosed children, and will be addressing related issues on another blog (Swallowing the Camel) in the future.

The Candace Newmaker Case

In 2000, Jeane Newmaker was struggling with her adopted 10-year-old daughter, Candace (born Candace Tiara Elmore). Candace had been diagnosed with “Reactive Attachment Disorder”, which is characterized by behaviour that one should expect from children who have been removed from their natural homes.

There were several treatment options available to Jeane Newmaker. Unfortunately for Candace, she selected one that isn’t practiced or condoned by many reputable, professional therapists: Attachment therapy. Attachment therapy is predicated on an array of sketchy notions, notably the idea that if an adopted or foster child acts out in any way, it’s because the child has failed to bond properly with his/her caregivers and must work through his/her suppressed rage, abandonment issues, etc. Many people adopted as children, including Beth Thomas (the subject of the HBO documentary Child of Rage), have testified to the efficacy of attachment therapy. Other people adopted as children are dead because of it.

Jeane Newmaker was referred by a psychologist to one of the most prominent and influential attachment therapists in the U.S., Connell Watkins of Evergreen, Colorado. Watkins had treated Beth Thomas in the late ’80s-early ’90s using a system of strict rules and privilege-earning. By the time Jeane Newmaker paid $7,000 for an intensive two-week round of attachment therapy at the Attachment Center in Evergreen, Watkins was an avid practictioner of both holding therapy and rebirthing.

Holding therapy consists of swaddling and holding a child, against his/her will if necessary, in order to invoke cathartic outbursts of anger. The real aim of the holding method, I would argue, is to break the child’s will and make them more compliant.

“Rebirthing” is even less sensible. It is centred largely on the notion of psychological birth trauma (which is so absurd that Scientologists have embraced it), and the goal is to simulate the birth process so that the RAD-afflicted child can work through the awful things they must have experienced in their birth mother’s womb and be “reborn” into a good family.

For two weeks, Candace underwent “therapy” with Watkins and a small team consisting of psychologist Julie Ponder and two “therapeutic foster parents.”

At the end of that period, it was time for Candace’s rebirthing. Watkins, Ponder, the two “foster parents”, and Jeane Newmaker gathered around Candace inside a small room at the Attachment Center. Candace was wrapped up tightly in a flannel sheet. The four members of the therapy team then proceeded to push on Candace with their hands and feet so that she would have to fight to “be born.” Throughout the first 40 minutes of this lunacy, Candace repeatedly protested, pled to be unwrapped, and even screamed for help. She was in obvious distress. She vomited and soiled the sheet, but the team continued to harangue her about being born. Candace told them she was dying.

Julie Ponder responded with further taunts, including “Quitter, quitter, quitter, quitter! Quit, quit, quit, quit. She’s a quitter!”

After an hour, Candace had still not been reborn. She was, in fact, completely motionless. Jeane Newmaker pouted that this made her feel very rejected.

Watkins probably realized at this point that something wasn’t right. She shooed everyone but Julie Ponder out of the room, then unwrapped Candace, who appeared to be sleeping.

Candace had been unconscious for over 20 minutes, asphyxiated. She was declared brain-dead the next day.

Watkins and Ponder had videotaped the entire session, and this was presented as evidence at their trials for reckless child abuse resulting in death. Both women were convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Watkins was released in 2008, seven years into her sentence. We can safely assume that Ponder didn’t serve her full sentence, either.

The good news in this terrible story is that Candace’s death drew critical scrutiny to attachment therapy, and Watkins was barred from conducting therapy with children as a condition of her release.

———–

I entertain no doubts that the Petscop references to Newmaker, rebirthing and “pets” were intended to draw attention to the death of Candace Newmaker and the mistreatment of adopted children. For that, I am grateful. It could be argued that Ms. Newmaker, whatever her intentions, was treating her adopted child more like a naughty pet that had to be retrained to suit her own needs than as an actual child with independent needs, and that sort of behaviour is disconcertingly common in adoption cases involving foreign, abused/neglected, and RAD-diagnosed children.

Dangerous pseudotherapeutic practices deserve our attention, and attachment therapy is still with us. The Attachment Center in Evergreen, Colorado was renamed the Institute for Attachment and Child Development and continues to treat children with “Reactive Attachment Disorder” using attachment therapy.

Whew. Okay. That’s out of the way. Let’s move on to the rest of the note:

“A young person walks into your school building.

They walk in with you. You’re holding their hands.

They came out crying into their hands, because nobody will love them, not ever again.

‘Nobody loves me!’

They wander the Newmaker Plane.”

“Nobody loves me!” appears in yellow text, further reinforcing the connection between Daisy- Head Mayzie and Care. We can infer from this part of the note that Care was abused at the school (the brick building), possibly by her own father and/or someone who worked at the school. Later in the game, there are suggestions that Marvin worked at the school, possibly as a music teacher.

Paul remains standing in front of the note after reading it, and ponders its nature. He says the game, or this portion of it, could have been made for a specific person. “Not me, certainly.”

Paul then exits the child library, eager to check out the door at the very end of the GOOD GRIEF AND ALAS corridor. To his dismay, the doorway leads into an empty black expanse.

This is the first video that suggests the game is re-creating or re-imagining events that occurred outside the game. Someone has either modified an existing children’s game to turn it into an accusatory message directed at Care’s father, or someone has created a game from scratch to do the same thing.

 

 

Petscop: An Overview of Video 2

See What Is Petscop? An Overview of Video 1 here.

 

Video 2 was uploaded to YouTube on April 1, 2017. It bore no video description.

In Video 2, the cellar door opens. A simple melody plays as this happens, a melody that we will hear again when the game seems to momentarily take on a life of its own in the Mirror Room.

Paul explains that he did not open the cellar door. He simply left the game running, and at some point the door opened by itself. This will be a recurring event in the game; actions occur when Paul is not even playing, and may be “pre-recorded” (as Paul puts it). Objects appear and disappear without explanation. There are many disturbing things on these nocturnal levels of the game, which are called the Newmaker Plane and “under the Newmaker Plane.”

Under the Newmaker Plane

After entering the “cellar” (AKA Under the Newmaker Plane), Paul finds brick-like passageways filled with more floating tokens, and enters various rooms, including an office with a ringing wall phone and a hallway lined with pictures of a green house, a three-story brick building and a gray windmill. When Paul examines the picture of the brick building, an ominous tone sounds. We’ll look at these three buildings more closely later, because they assume extremely important roles in the story.

The office contains what appears to be a key piece of information: A graphic posted on the wall shows three images of the same small, dark-haired girl (she will later be identified as Care). The first image depicts a normal-looking little girl and is designated “A.” The second image is of a slightly more disheveled girl, “B.” The third image is of the same figure with her face buried in her hands, and this picture is labeled “NLM.” What do the initials NLM mean? Almost universally, commentators have stated the letters stand for “Nobody loves me.” We’ll see why shortly.

Screenshot (9)

the office (note the use of yellow text for Care; some characters in the game are associated with specific text colours)

A doorway leads Paul into another grassy area, enclosed by a fence.

This is where we encounter the first really disturbing thing in the game.

The Dead Kid

Paul examines a gravestone with eyes and a nose on it (no mouth). The gravestone is shaped somewhat like the gift totems of the Gift Plane. It is engraved with the inscription “Michael Hammond (1988-1995). Mike was a gift.”

Let me repeat this for those of you in the back: THERE IS A DEAD 7-YEAR-OLD IN THIS GAME FOR CHILDREN.

Screenshot (10)

“That’s a dead kid,” Paul observes.

Note the word “gift.” Does this have any connection to the pet-catching actions of the Gift Plane? Note also that in the text box, Michael’s name is in pink. This colour will appear repeatedly in connection with Michael.

The location of Mike’s grave is troubling, because it will soon become evident that this is neither a cemetery nor a churchyard. It appears to be a backyard garden area.

Nearby is a shed-like building with two entrances (often called the “flower shack”). Above the second entrance is another pair of eyes. This portion of the game is truly bizarre.

The Garden Shed

Paul enters the first room of the shed. It has a dirt floor and bare walls, furnished only with a shovel, a rake (both of which will reappear later in a strange context) and a shelf with a box of crayons on it. From a hole in the floor emerges a giant daisy. Paul finds that he can pluck the petals of the daisy. Every other time a petal disappears, the daisy sinks into the hole a little more, a harsh note sounds and the entire screen briefly flashes red. When there are only three petals left to pluck, Paul suddenly decides to leave the first room of the shack and enter the second, which is in the basement of the shed. There he finds a raised earthen platform topped with grass. The girl identified as “NLM” in the office poster is sitting on top of the platform, sobbing, with her hands covering her face.

the upper level of the garden shed (note that the implements on the wall are precisely what you would use to prepare a grave

Paul returns to the daisy room and plucks the remaining petals. The bad note sounds and the screen flashes red on the final petal. The daisy sinks down into the hole, vanishing from view. When he re-enters the basement, the earthen platform has lowered to ground level and NLM is still kneeling in the centre of it, but she has transformed into a ghostly, fragmented image that glows red. Paul attempts to catch her as he did the other “pets”, but his avatar passes right through her.

Again, Paul does not offer any comment regarding a very troubling situation. We have a small child, alone, crying in the basement of a garden shed. A 7-year-old boy is buried in the garden above her. The daisy in the upper level of the shed is linked to her emotional state. As Paul plucks the petals, she goes from bad to worse, fading into a red spectre. And Paul responds to this by trying to catch her and add her to his collection. Dude.

We now return to those initials: NLM. As you may have already realized, “Nobody loves me” is a direct quote from the Dr. Seuss book Daisy-Head Mayzie (1995), and it is uttered by Mayzie when she is seated atop a grassy cliff, crying into her hands. She is crying because a daisy has sprouted from the top of her head, and everyone is giving her a hard time about it. Daisies are also associated with the Loves Me/Loves Me Not game, and Paul’s petal-plucking was exactly that: The petals that made the screen flash red were the “loves me not” petals, and the final petal reduced NLM to her ghostly conditon. In Daisy-Head Mayzie, Mayzie’s misery is banishd when she plays Loves Me/Loves Me Not with the daisy growing out of her head, and ends up on a “loves me” petal.

Paul will resolve this puzzle later.

For what it’s worth, one of the most memorable scenes in the history of horror cinema involves daisies and a child. In James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), Frankenstein’s monster is shambling about aimlessly when he encounters a little girl playing at the edge of a pond. She invites him to play with her, and hands him a cluster of daisies in a very touching gesture of guileless trust and innocence. For a while, the girl and the “monster” amuse themselves by tossing daisy heads onto the surface of the pond to watch them float. Then the “monster” decides to make the game even more fun by scooping up the little girl and tossing her into the pond. He can’t really differentiate between flowers and children. This isn’t because he’s a monster (he’s just a man, made up of different parts). It’s because he doesn’t know any better. He has not yet learned to empathize with his fellow humans.

It is possible that Paul does not yet know how to empathize.

After catching Care NLM, Paul moves on, leaving the fenced-in area via a narrow alleyway between the shed and another building.

The Tool Room

Now we come to what many commentators consider the most fascinating aspect of Petscop: Tool. There are many theories about Tool, and in a sense Tool is the most developed character in the game. It offers more detailed information than any other element of the game (with the exception of the signage in Even Care and the notes that appear in some of the Child Library rooms).

Paul comes upon a room covered with posters of a blue object. At first, I thought it was a poorly rendered cello or violin, but when Tool appeared, I realized the poster images merely looked like a cello-shaped object. Tool is actually very rounded, with a pointed tip. It rests in the centre of a very small room that opens off the poster room.

Tool, in its red manifestation, offering advice or giving orders

Tool is about twice as high as Paul’s avatar, and is initially red in colour. As soon as Tool appears onscreen, a keyboard pops up, inviting Paul to ask a question. Startled, Paul asks only, “What?”

Tool’s response appears as floating, childishly scrawled pink text that circles around Tool: “I don’t know.” This is the answer that Tool throws out to most questions, and Paul assumes that it’s the default response. It should be noted that the shade of pink is not identical to the pink that denotes Mike Hammond.

Paul moves to the far end of the Tool room, where a large screen shows the windmill in motion, its blades rotating slowly in a clockwise direction. Paul moves away from the screen, and more floating text appears: “Keep watching the windmill.” Paul obeys, and this time an ominous piano note sounds. It is similar to the sound that accompanied the picture of the brick building. Nothing else of interest happens after a couple of minutes, and Tool is no longer taking questions, so Paul leaves the Tool area.

I hope y’all like windmills.

Tool later appears as a red toy in a few of the Child Library rooms, resting on a table.

As he’s trotting his avatar back to the passageway that leads to the shed, Paul opens up a little bit about his audience. He comments that he has already found stuff in the game that he can explore further, then addresses his audience directly for the first time: “But also, when you come home next month, and hopefully you’re feeling a little more enthusiastic about that now, we can investigate this together. And maybe you’ll find stuff that I can’t find here.”

As the game progresses, we are left with the strong impression that events inside the game reflect, or perhaps even directly influence, real-world events. For example, Tool orders Paul to turn off the Playstation because someone named Marvin hurts him/her when the Playstation is turned on. Another example: Paul or someone else has censored certain objects in the game by placing black censor boxes over them, and it is possible that some or all of these objects bear some personal significance to Paul. The Censors may also have taken control of the Petscop YouTube channel in June of 2017.

The Mirror Room/The Quitter

The next disturbing thing Paul encounters is something he calls the Mirror Room, also known as the Quitter’s Room. This is a bedroom – or pair of bedrooms – divided in half by a mirror-like partition. Each half of the room is decorated with the same purple furniture (beds, empty bookshelves, chairs, etc.), reversed as though reflected in a mirror. There is lettering on the floor: “Quitter’s Room.” On Paul’s side of the room, of course, the lettering is reversed and reads “moor s’rettiuQ.”

The spooky feature of the room is its occupant. No one knows what to call this character, so we’ll go with “The Quitter.” The Quitter has exactly the same body and apparel as Paul’s avatar, but its head is a simple black-and-white rendering of a girl’s smiling face that looks like it was drawn by a young child, perhaps with a crayon. Eerily, the Quitter’s face always faces the viewer even when its body is moving in another direction.

petscop - quitters room

The Mirror Room, AKA the Quitter’s Room, AKA Holyshit, game, you’re giving me hives

 When Paul moves, The Quitter moves in reverse (mirrored) motion – usually. On at least two occasions, The Quitter’s movements do not correspond to Paul’s movements. Whenever this “glitch” happens, a simple flute-like melody similar to the cellar door melody plays. Paul notices this anomaly the first time he explores the room, and he replays the portion of the video in which The Quitter is out of sync. This barely perceptible movement signifies that The Quitter is an autonomous character, only pretending to be a reflection. This character is one of several doppelgängers that will appear in the game, along with the recurring mirror imagery. It is possible that the Mirror Room itself is a double of Amber’s prison cell room on the Gift Plane.

The Quitter does not communicate with Paul in any way.

The Mirror Room contains a clock with immobile hands that are set at a different time on each occasion Paul enters. This time, the hands are at 7:40. The room also contains a poster with childishly handwritten purple text that appears backwards on Paul’s side of the room. As we’ll soon discover in the Child Library, purple text is associated with an unseen character known as Tiara. Tiara’s name, the title “Newmaker” and the Mirror Room poster are all linked to a deeply troubling real-world incident that resulted in the death of a young girl in 2000.

The line beneath the question indicates that whoever wrote the note expects an answer. A reply will appear on that line, in pink lettering, later in the game.

petscop remember being born

“Do you remember being born?”

Paul leaves the Mirror Room and inadvertently returns to the Newmaker Plane, which once again presents itself as a featureless, grassy void. Video 2 ends.

In Video 3, we’ll encounter the next disturbing thing: The Child Library.

 

Petscop: Overview of Video 3

What is Petscop? An Overview of Video 1

Almost one year ago (March 12, 2017), a most unusual Let’s Play video appeared on YouTube. Titled simply “Petscop”, it bore the same name as the YT channel and was the only upload on the channel. The video description didn’t offer much information: “the game I found.” The channel did not have any About content at that time.

Petscop appeared to be an extremely obscure 1997 Playstation 1 game, but it didn’t take curious viewers long to figure out that it wasn’t. To date, twelve Petscop videos have been posted to the channel. I’ll be posting an overview of each one here.

The storyline revolves around children and children’s games, child abuse, a vanishing windmill and other disappearances, a Dr. Seuss story, reincarnation and gifts. An overarching theme may be the abduction of children and/or the adoption and mistreatment of children.

I’m struggling with how to succinctly describe the Petscop experience, because phrases like “next-level creepypasta” and “Twin Peaks for Playstation” are far too trite (and inaccurate) for what is actually a minor masterpiece. I have long believed that the best horror fiction has an aura of sustained eeriness, rather than relying on a string of gruesome scenes and jump scares, and that the best stories are those that require the audience to process, analyze and interpret the material to suss out its true meaning. Petscop, though it appears so basic in its general premise, hits both marks.

petscop title screen

title screen

The video starts out as a conventional Let’s Play, with a player known as Paul talking us through the game.

But this is not a conventional Let’s Play video. Paul has already played portions of the game and is simply showing someone else (his unknown audience) what he has already discovered. Unlike the average Let’s Player, he doesn’t crack jokes, swear at obstacles, critique the game, or make clever references. His tone is one of curiosity and bafflement. We hear him say “uhhhh”, “oh” and “okay?” many times.

Also, Paul didn’t purchase or rent this game; he found it. His purpose in posting the videos is to “prove to you that I’m not lying about this game.” This line, more than any other delivered during the course of the videos, seems to establish Petscop as one in a long string of game-based creepypasta and “haunted videogame” stories. And it is both of those things. However, this deceptively simple video series manages to transcend the creepypasta and haunted game genres. This is not just Ben Drowned with a make-believe game substituted for Zelda. Even if it was, it would be a superior creation. Ben Drowned relied on the viewers’ firsthand knowledge of Majora’s Mask for its eeriness and for its entire storyline, narrowing its target audience to Nintendo gamers of the early ’00s. If you didn’t play the game, you’re going to miss most of the story.

Petscop, on the other hand, has never been played by anyone. We are all discovering its secrets at the same time. Nothing is familiar. Anything is possible.

The Player

The Player enters the name “Paul” when creating a new game, so commentators generally refer to the player/narrator as Paul. Sometimes they refer to him by the title that is bestowed upon him later in the game, “Newmaker.” Others merge the names Paul and Newmaker to create “Naul.”

In this series, I will use the name Paul to denote both the player/narrator and his avatar.

Screenshot (6)

the player/narrator never gives his name, but we’ll assume it’s this

The Avatar

Paul’s avatar is a creature with no arms and very short legs. It walks on two oversized bare feet. It wears a shirt and tie, possibly with suspenders. It appears to have a bulbous, bile-yellow head with few features – no nose, no ears, no hair, no visible mouth. I think this “face” could be a mask, because there is a point later in the game when the head of a character that has the same body as this avatar becomes a red pyramid shape.

petscop avatar

the avatar (note the triangular red area where a mouth should be – that could form the base of a red pyramid)

 The Game

Petscop starts out as a fairly average mid-’90s video game designed for kids. There is cheery digital music. A white, abstract field serves as the backdrop for a floating platform consisting of paths and rooms that are pink and light blue. Some of the paths end abruptly, leading Paul to guess that the game is unfinished.

petscop even care

a screen from the first level of Petscop

The title is not explained. The goal of the game is not entirely explained. The player does collect “pets”, but where does the “cop” part come in? Is the player really an investigator and/or a guardian of some kind?

The first question viewers wanted to resolve was Is this game real? It didn’t take long for the curious to establish that the company that supposedly produced Petscop, Garalina, never existed, the game itself never existed, and some of the effects used in the game (such as the light source that follows Paul’s avatar everywhere, illuminating the surrounding terrain) were not feasible for 1997 Playstation 1 games.

Screenshot (5)

the Garalina logo as it first appears onscreen

However, what you are watching is an actual game, or elements of a game, created with game development software. It is not conventional animation.

The Gift Plane

This initial level of the game is called the Gift Plane. It is surrounded by clouds and decorated with enormous gift packages like the one seen on the title screen. The gifts sit atop poles, seemingly in mid-air.

Signs inform the player that the Gift Plane was once home to over 100 pets, but has been “closed indefinitely” (it seems abandoned). 48 pets remain there in 8 rooms (both numbers are in red). However, Paul finds only five of these pets and is unable to catch one of them (a further indication that this level of the game, at least, is unfinished).

petscop loading gift

one of the game’s loading screens, featuring the distinctive “gift totems” of the Gift Plane

The only playable structure is a series of interconnected rooms known as “Even Care”, as in “Do you even care?” Signage in Even Care instructs Paul to find “somebody” (a pet) that he likes, and informs him that some of the pets might be afraid.

Petscop Even_Care_external

the exterior of Even Care

There are no obstacles or aggressive NPCs to interfere with Paul’s journey through Even Care. Paul’s avatar collects colourful floating shapes that should function as tokens within the game. They don’t, for the time being. There might be some significance to the form these tokens take, though, because they include a turquoise cone that resembles a birthday hat, a green ring, a purple pie or cake wedge, an asymmetrical nuggety thing that appears greenish, and a pink shape that resembles a box with an open lid. Birth and birthdays will become central to the storyline.

Bobbing question marks appear above objects that Paul can examine, and if he approaches those objects, text boxes providing information pop up.

Paul has to solve puzzles to catch peculiar “pets” with strange names. Perhaps the most troubling pet is Pen, a humanoid figure that looks something like a cross between a monk and a floating tampon. We later learn that she is deaf and an “aspiring mathematician.”

“Roneth” is also an unsettling character. It’s a combination of a bird and a plant, and a picture on a wall suggests that it’s a mashup of two other pets known as Toneth (a red bird, who doesn’t manifest on this level but makes a memorable appearance in the second) and Randice, a red flower with four petals. Later, we discover that some of the “pets” Paul is supposed to catch are variations of a small girl called Care.

petscop pen

Pen and her mysterious ball

petscot Toneth_and_Randice

the picture of Toneth (left) and Randice

petscop Roneth's_Room

Roneth’s Room in Even Care; Paul cannot catch Roneth because the room appears to lack playable features, and Roneth floats out of reach whenever he approaches

Take note of the various designs on the “abstract” white backdrops behind each room of Even Care. These will be significant later, in relation to the other levels.

Some commentators have observed that the puzzle Paul solves to catch Amber, a large boulder-like “pet”, is inherently deceptive and creepy. Amber is behind a set of prison bars, but it becomes clear from her actions that she is free to leave at any time simply by hopping over them. She is obviously choosing to stay in her cage, and has even been awarded a trophy for doing so. Weird, right?

petscop Amber's_Room

Amber’s room in Even Care (note the almost-perfect symmetry, marred only by the placement of the spherical trophy and the levers)

Paul catches Amber by activating levers that alternately open and close the prison doors on both Amber’s cell and a nearby cell (a precursor to the mirroring we will see many times throughout the game). Whenever her cell door opens, Amber bounces into the other (locked) cell, as though seeking sanctuary. Paul can capture her only by locking himself into one of the cells, tricking her. This is the first of several morally ambiguous game scenarios that Paul will play through without comment, leaving us to wonder why he isn’t as perturbed by them as we are. Sure, he has already captured the pets in a previous game and is merely showing his audience how he did it, but shouldn’t Amber’s strange behaviour elicit some reaction from this guy?

The unease you’re probably feeling at this point increases when a popup character description tells us that Amber is “afraid to leave home” and asks the player “What’s the safest place you can put her in?” This is probably the least troubling character description we’ll see. 

Amber’s appearance alone is baffling. Here we have a timid, skittish boulder with glaring red eyes and a cute porkpie hat. She could easily squish Indiana Jones, never mind scrunty little Paul, yet she just sits there in her cells with her tongue lolling out of one side of her mouth like a dog’s. Seriously, wtf.

After Paul has caught the pets of Even Care, he tells the viewers that a note left with the game contained a set of instructions related to the menu. This is the note:

I WALKED DOWNSTAIRS AND WHEN I GOT TO THE BOTTOM, INSTEAD OF PROCEEDING, I TURNED THE RIGHT AND BECAME A SHADOW MONSTER MAN

6/13/97

For you:

Please go to my website on the sticker and also go to roneth’s room and press start and press down down down down down right start

The note, as you can see, is dated on June 6th of the same year the game was supposedly released. The year 1997 will reappear in many different contexts, and in keeping with the game’s themes of mirror worlds and doubles, it will sometimes be twinned with the year 2000 in a peculiar way.

Paul does not even address the portion of the note that is in all caps. He enters the menu, and we see that in addition to the expected game options and categories (Resume, Pets, etc.), there is a Book of Baby Names, which Paul cannot access. Again, we are led to the belief that the pets are more human than animal.

Screenshot (7).png

the start menu

Using the menu, Paul follows the special instructions. The music abruptly stops playing. He then retraces his path through Even Care and, upon reaching the starting point, suddenly emerges into a radically different environment. This is where the story really begins.

The Newmaker Plane

Paul has emerged from a small brick structure and is now in a nighttime setting. The only illumination comes from a sort of spotlight that follows Paul wherever he goes. At first, the only thing visible is grass. There is no music. There are no pets or floating tokens to collect.

Screenshot (8).png

the second level

Paul walks around aimlessly in the grass until he finds what appears to be the entrance to a cellar. The door is closed and cannot be opened by Paul (no arms).

This is the end of Video 1. So that’s that.

 

Petscop: Overview of Video 2

 

Creepy Clown Sightings

“You realize a clown is just a transvestite that doesn’t stop?” – Patton Oswalt

“I don’t remember killing anyone. I could have done it without knowing it. I’m not sure if I did it.” – John Wayne Gacy

“If you’re the fucking…oh, God, the cops…and if you’re the fucking cops, go fuck yourselves. Because you’re full of shit.” – David Friedman, AKA Silly Billy

“Want a balloon?” – Pennywise the Dancing Clown

 

Clowns have a bad rep. Maybe it’s because the famous clown Joseph Grimaldi was beaten and forced into clowning by his brutish father. Perhaps it’s because of that Jerry Lewis film no one has seen. Or the Peter Straub story “Something About a Death, Something About a Fire”, in which Bobo the clown entertains the souls of circus-goers who don’t recall burning to death in a big top conflagration.

Nah.

It’s because clowns are creepy as hell. We all know this. The only exceptions are tramp clowns and mimes – they’re hellishly annoying rather than sinister. And now that literally no one on the planet enjoys maudlin hobo antics or invisible boxes anymore, it’s little wonder the clown industry bemoaned the imminent death of clowning two years ago.

But then the evil clowns started to appear.

Actually, they first showed up in 2013, in the English village of Northampton. That autumn, a clown clearly modeled after Pennywise was photographed all over the place, usually with a fistful of helium balloons. A “Spot Northampton’s Clown” group popped up on Facebook, and locals began clown-hunting with cameras.
The Northampton Clown finally granted an interview to the local Chronicle and Echo, in which he explained that he was just trying to amuse people, and was later outed as university student Alex Powell. It was Powell’s buddy, Luke Ubanski, who started the Facebook group.

northampton clown

The Northampton Clown

The next evil clown surfaced in Wasco, California in 2014. This guy (or group of guys) was much spookier, because he/they wore masks. But he seemed pretty harmless. He posted pics on Twitter and Instagram, encouraging people to find him. Despite rumours of break-ins in the neighbourhoods where he was photographed, the Wasco clown was never officially linked to any crime. He has not been identified, though an anonymous man claims the Clown was an art project created by himself and his wife.

wasco clown

The Wasco Clown

Wasco copycats soon surfaced in Bakersfield. There were rumours that one clown was armed with an axe at Golden Valley High School, though the principal assured local media the incident was a hoax. Another, unarmed, clown was arrested for chasing teenagers. “We will make arrests on this,” Bakersfield Police Sgt. Joseph Grubbs vowed. “We want this to stop.”

These evil clowns are indisputably real, flesh-and-blood people with too much time on their hands. They were photographed, filmed, and even arrested. But what are we to make of the clowns that are never found, the clowns that seem to exist somewhere between everyday reality and the fathomless depths of the subconscious?

This has happened. In the spring of 1981, school districts in and around Boston were suddenly besieged by reports of clowns trying to lure kids into black vans. Children in the Massachusetts towns of Brookline, Jamaica Park and Cambridge reported being menaced by such clowns. Daniel O’Connell, a counselor for the Boston Public School District, issued a district-wide clown warning to teachers and parents. Cops began pulling over any male driver in full-face makeup.

The initial wave of sightings that occurred around the Lawrence Elementary School in Brookline involved highly detailed description of the clown car. It was an older-model brown van with one busted headlight, no hubcabs, and a metal ladder affixed to the side.

Weird thing is, no one over the age of about 7 ever saw that van or the clown. Eventually, the police decided that these were probably bogus clowns created by overly-imaginative kids. Which is even spookier than real clowns, when you think about it.

But what are we to make of the sightings that occurred later on, throughout the summer of ’81? The clown panic spread from Massachusetts to Rhode Island, then abruptly leapt over to the Midwest. In Kansas City, numerous children saw a black-faced clown wielding a large knife or a sword. He often drove a yellow van, which was seen by at least one adult. Again, the descriptions were highly detailed; the clown wore a black shirt imprinted with a “devil face” and trousers with candy cane designs on the sides. He was spotted near half a dozen schools in Missouri before disappearing forever.
In Pittsburgh, a clown duo was said to be following children. Then a man in a pink rabbit costume began appearing, notably in Allegheny Cemetery.

In his Fortean tome Mysterious America (1983), cryptozoologist and self-proclaimed suicide expert Loren Coleman analyzed the clown panic of ’81 and coined the term “phantom clowns” to describe it. While he doesn’t dismiss the notion that some of the clowns were imaginary, he finds it baffling that clown panic managed to jump from state to state with little help from major media outlets or law enforcement. Each community that experienced clown infestations was unaware of the clowns appearing in other states, Coleman contends.
This seems to leave out a lot of possibilities. Isn’t it feasible that contagion was spread across state lines by teachers, parents, and students? Even in a pre-Internet age, word travels quickly when high strangeness is happening.

Others have pointed to events in the late ’70s and early ’80s that might have helped sparked clown panic, including the Atlanta child murders and the excavation of Gacy’s crawlspace. There was also the high-profile disappearance of little Etan Patz.

It’s easy to look back on the clown panic and blame it on everything from B movies to Shriners.
The thing is, though, the phantom clowns never really went away. And they’re not always phantoms.

Many of the bogus Satanic ritual abuse cases of the ’80s involved sadistic child molesters dressed as clowns. The infamous McMartin Preschool case in Manhattan Beach, California, included a few references to clowns, possibly because the daycare had a free-standing cabinet painted to look like a clownface.

mcmartin-happyfacecloset

The McMartin Preschool before it was demolished

Throughout the late ’80s, parents in the village of Oude Pekele, in the Netherlands, became convinced that youngsters were being scooped up and subjected to monstrous tortures by people in vans. Many of these phantoms wore clown costumes.
In spite of multiple investigations and intensive questioning by psychiatrists, not one suspected child molester was ever identified in Oude Pekele. The children of the town weren’t even out of their parents’ sight long enough for such things to occur. No adult ever saw a clown trolling the streets in a van.

Clowns were also mentioned in the Fells Acre daycare abuse case that began in 1984, resulting in the convictions of an entire family, including elderly Violet Amirault. There is evidence that a pediatric nurse involved in the case pressured the kids to talk about abuse. From the Fells Acre Wikipedia entry: “The children repeatedly told interviewers, including [nurse Susan] Kelley, that nothing happened to them, that there were no secret rooms, and there was no clown. However, the questioning continued and eventually the children claimed all these things happened…At one point, an interviewer told a child that the child’s friend had already testified that the clown had them take their clothes off. The girl being interviewed denied this happened, at which point the interviewer said that she believed what the child’s friend told her.”

Those who continue to believe in the reality of Satanic ritual abuse in spite of the dearth of evidence still insist that the perps must have worn costumes to confuse and discredit their child victims. Note, however, that no costumes were discovered in any of these cases.

Fortean researcher Paul Meehan claims that around 1990, his daughter’s public school in Queens, New York, issued a notice about a clown hassling students. This would have been the first full-blown clown panic since the mid-’80s, when a few communities experienced brief outbreaks. In ’86, a newsletter sent to teachers and parents darkly warned that kids who encountered clowns in vans could end up on milk cartons. Never mind that there still hasn’t been a single case of an adult in clown costume abducting a child. Remember, Gacy’s victims were older teens that he lured with promises of construction work, not balloons.

In the summer of 1991, schools in South Orange, New Jersey, Chicago, and other cities were gripped by rumours that a clown called Homey – after Damon Wayans’ character on In Living Color – was driving around in a van, trying to kidnap children.
One boy claimed he had been shot at by a clown toting an Uzi and brandishing a machete. He was able to escape by hurling his backpack at the fiend. This kid ultimately confessed to making up the entire story (duh).
Hundreds of schoolkids were affected by the Homey rumours, yet there wasn’t a single documented sighting other than the fake Uzi Clown.

In the summer of 1994, the D.C. area was plagued by phantom clown sightings at the same time as Pasadena, California.

In 1995, the most sinister clowns yet were said to be terrorizing Honduras. According to rumours, clowns were riding around in ambulances and cars, scooping up children who were never seen again. No actual clown sightings or abduction attempts were documented, though.

In 2000, Fitchburg, Wisconsin was beset by another black-faced clown. From the Wisconsin State Journal of Madison (June 20, 2000): A man dressed in a complete clown costume and holding three helium balloons tried to lure children into woods near the King James Court apartments, at about 12:30 PM Monday, Fitchburg Police said.”

In 2008, a clown with teardrops painted on his cheeks was seen by children in Chicago. He reportedly attempted to lure them into an old van with broken windows. As in the ’81 cases, no adult glimpsed the clown and no children were actually harmed.

Then, of course, there were actual clowns committing actual crimes. In Ontario, former clown Linda Beaudoin has been leading a largely one-woman campaign for legislation that would require children’s entertainers to be licensed. She attended the child porn trial of Randy Miller, AKA Honker the Clown, in 2011.

In October 2014, creepy clown sightings were reported all across the U.S., likely as a result of the Wasco Clown and possibly the character “Twisty the Clown” on the fourth season of the anthology series American Horror Story.

Real clowns were growing extremely annoyed with evil clowns by this point. The president of Clowns of America International, Glenn Kohlberger, responded to Twisty with a firm position statement: “We do not support in any way, shape or form any medium that sensationalizes or adds to coulrophobia or ‘clown fear.'”

twisty the clown

Twisty the Clown, portrayed by John Carroll Lynch

At the same time, more than a dozen teenagers wearing clown costumes were arrested for harassing pedestrians in southern France. This was just one of many “clown malefique” incidents occurring throughout France, where dressing up as clowns and terrorizing strangers with axes, knives and other weapons practically became a sport.
It began in the northern part of the country, with school sightings eerily similar to the ’81 clown panic in the States. Soon, however, the clowns were getting aggressive. In Besançon, a man was injured trying to defend himself from a chainsaw-wielding clown, while in Montpellier a clown with an iron bar chased down and beat a man. One village got so fed up with asshole clowns that it banned clown costumes for a month. In other areas, anti-clown vigilante groups – “chasseurs de clown” – were formed. Things got so heated that in late October, the Police Nationale warned that “anyone, regardless of whether they are an aggressive clown or a clown-hunter, found with a weapon in public thoroughfares will be arrested.”

Think about this for a minute. The French have a demonstrably high tolerance for clowning. France has more mimes per capita than any other nation, with zero mime-related homicides (well, except for that one time a mime killed a child-fan for uttering his stage name in public).
So if even the French are fed up, clowns have become a problem.
The frustration is not limited to France. Alex Powell claims he received hundreds of death threats during his run as the Northampton Clown, and (as we’ll see) South Carolinians are getting close to the snapping point.

In October 2015, Hillview School for Girls in Tonbridge, Kent, was at the centre of a clown infestation. Clowns in vans were also sighted on St. John’s Road in Tunbridge Wells that month, and one fuzzy photo was snapped. Police and teachers issued warnings to schoolchildren to go straight home from school, even though these particular clowns weren’t doing anything. They simply wandered around in clown masks. One was identified as an 18-year-old girl.

Now, in 2016, we are in the grips of another clown wave. Wisconsin was hit again in August, by a “dirty clown” roaming Green Bay with black balloons. This turned out to be the work of one Adam Krause, who wanted to draw attention to his short film about a creepy clown.

green bay clown

The Green Bay Clown

Also in August, parents living in the Fleetwood Manor Apartments in Greenville, South Carolina, began complaining to police that people in clown costumes have attempted to entice children into a nearby wooded area. Kids aren’t the only ones seeing them this time.
The Greenville sightings began on August 19, when Donna Arnold’s son told her he had encountered a gang of clowns in the woods, “whispering and making strange noises.” She later saw them herself, beaming green laser-lights.
The kids say some of the clowns carry knives and chains, and try to tempt them with fistfuls of cash or candy.
As panic climbs, the apartment managers are encouraging residents to monitor their children at all times and keep them out of the woods. The problem is, the clowns aren’t restricting themselves to wooded areas. They have been seen loitering around basketball courts and dumpsters, too. And they have been spotted near at least three other Greenville apartment complexes.

Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller has declared that clowns will be arrested, since South Carolina law forbids concealing your identity in public.

There is speculation that the clowns are part of a viral marketing campaign for the upcoming Rob Zombie killer-clown flick 31, but that’s doubtful. Impersonating child molesters in the woods isn’t going to sell movie tickets.

Numerous media outlets are taking a skeptical approach to the Greenville Clowns. The Atlantic (which has been oddly at the forefront of recent clown panics) suggests there simply aren’t any. It’s true that in the two weeks since the first clown was spotted, only one guy has managed to snap a single blurry photo (below). That’s sketchy. However, France’s clowns malefique have finally proven that phantom clowns aren’t always phantoms. Sometimes, they’re just jerks with makeup.

greenville clown

Alleged Greenville clown photo

The South Carolina clown infestation is troubling. The residents of Fleetwood Manor are working-class people living in an economically depressed area at a time of deep social unease. Undoubtedly, some of them are armed. There are already reports of people firing into the woods to spook the clowns.

How long will it take for someone to fire on a suspected clown? Will the folks of Greenville become the next “chasseurs de clown“?

 

Further Reading:

Juggalo gangs

Scary Clowns Are Terrorizing France“, The Atlantic

“Cotton Candy Autopsy: Deconstructing Psycho-Killer Clowns” chapter in The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink by Mark Dery

“The Phantom Clown Panic” chapter in The Martians Have Landed!: A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes by Robert Bartholemew and Benjamin Radford