Michael Mullooly | Senior Staff Writer
This morning I found myself Googling kittens in teacups and using WhatsApp, or whatever it is the cool kids are doing these days. Through my studies I ended up on a forum dedicated to the cartoon Ed, Edd ‘n’ Eddy. I used to love watching this show, and spent several happy moments browsing the site, marvelling at just how big a place the internet really is. Then, as suddenly as my happy reverie had hit me, it was gone. In its place came a deep and overwhelming sadness that threatened to suck up my entire morning like a hoover with a cobweb. I remembered the purgatory theory.
A few years earlier I had discovered the internet horror website Creepypasta and realised that the internet isn’t all destruction and chaos and Facebook. There were, and are, horribly creative people out there who have weaved tales around the digital campfire and thrilled millions. I have always loved horror as a genre, even if it terrifies me. To create something capable of instilling genuine fear in others is, to me, just as amazing as writing something funny or tragic, if not more. Anyone can write something depressing, just ask those Greek fellows. Comedy is a little trickier, but there’s always the whoopee cushion to fall back on (literally, ha ha). But to draw from your darkest fears and emerge with a harrowing, emotional tale, or a creature like Slenderman, is genuinely amazing. A horror tale that both appeals and repels universally is a work of art, and very often a cultural phenomenon.
These tales take children’s cartoons and craft skeletal theories around them that strangle my nostalgia and make me feel very young and very scared.
There’s one genre of online horror that doesn’t scare me so much as it hurts me. I call them leech tales, though others call them the “lost episodes” or fan theories. These tales take children’s cartoons and craft skeletal theories around them that strangle my nostalgia and make me feel very young and very scared. Alternatively, they write tales about so called “missing episodes” that never aired and are always brutal, often with accompanying screenshots and Youtube videos. I spent a long time when I was younger researching these episodes; I had to debunk them for my own sanity. To this day however, I can’t enjoy Spongebob Squarepants the way I used to. I’m still not sure whether I’d shake the hand of whoever crafted such effective horror, or punch them in the face. It’s a nightmarish product of destructive, frenetic creativity that reads like a fever and preys on your inner, younger self. There’s nothing quite like it. Whenever I revisit it I experience equally a rush and sense of admiration, but also a sense of mourning for innocent young Michael, who wasn’t wary of relaxing in front of the telly to enjoy the exploits of a yellow sponge or a warring cat and mouse or three girls with superpowers.
The purgatory theory crushes me most of all, as Ed, Edd ‘n’ Eddy was a personal favourite of mine. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, go away. It’s a show about three friends who act like normal kids do, and are always looking for ways to con the other neighbourhood kids so they can buy jawbreakers. It’s brilliant; I rate it above even Courage the Cowardly Dog. It had a surreal colour palette and wacky characters, and parents were nothing more than a vague annoyance, occasionally in the background. Then one day the internet told me they were dead. The theory is as follows: all the children on the show (and really there are just children) are from different eras in time. All are dead and living in purgatory, and all of them are in complete denial about this fact. I scoffed at first, like so: “tchah! Pah!” Then the internet threw some more information at me. It would explain their weird skin tones, and blue tongues, it whispered into my ear. Where are the parents? How come they switch between using computers and typewriters, between plasma screen televisions and Rolf’s tiny circular set? How come it’s always summer, and their entire world is their neighbourhood?
Whenever I revisit it I experience equally a rush and sense of admiration, but also a sense of mourning for innocent young Michael, who wasn’t wary of relaxing in front of the telly to enjoy the exploits of a yellow sponge or a warring cat and mouse or three girls with superpowers.
The final part of the theory posits that the Kanker sisters, being the only people in the show with pink tongues, aren’t dead and are instead demons who prey on the souls in the neighbourhood. For some reason the sisters are attracted to the main trio, perhaps because they’re the weakest willed of the souls in the neighbourhood. Although this theory has been debunked by the official creators of the show, it’s just convincing enough to make me do a double take every times the show is on. Just convincing enough to leave me lying awake at night feeling a slight dread invade my memories. Again, like with the Spongebob lost episode, it’s so creative that I want to cheer, but so insidious that I want to blot out having ever read it. Internet horror at its finest is capable of tearing from me a more visceral response than just about any other art form. When these incredibly gifted creators gather us around the campfire, reach into our collective bag of memories and begin to reshape, we are equally thrilled, horrified and endlessly fascinated.
The internet is so much more than kittens in teacups.