Make Everything Else Scare Again: remote corners of the internet

You can find the weirdest stuff online. Webcomics, blogs, performance art. Surely some of these are ideal Halloween fodder.

After the jump, let’s peek into a couple of strange corners.

Tom Chick: the photography of Joshua Hoffine
Joshua Hoffine is a photographer in Kansas City, Missouri. Just a regular guy with a family. He does, like, weddings and whatnot. He also does other stuff. Stuff that you kind of have to see to appreciate. Such as a shot of a baby in her mother’s arms that I want to warn you about before you click on the link. Lucky for you, I can’t play a loud sound effect when you click here because, oh boy, you should totally jump out of your skin if I could do that.

Hoffine’s stuff is extremely gruesome and extremely striking. And it’s all real. Real in the sense that these are photographs. He works with models, props, and make-up. This isn’t CG or animation. Imagine how much trouble he went through to get everyone to stand still for this freeze frame. You’re in for a disturbingly ghoulish treat if you just poke around his site.

You can also see for yourself that everything he does is practical by watching this short film, featuring his own daughter. In an interview, Hoffline explains why children are often featured prominently in his works: “We can all remember being children, when our fears were still very primal. My photographs remind adults of things they used to be frightened of, but have forgotten about. Recover the memory, and you recover the fear.”

Last April, Hoffine and a publisher called Dark Regions ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for a coffee table book of his work. The original December release is a bit behind schedule as they finish some shots specifically for the book, so don’t count on being able to get this for a loved one as a Christmas present. It’s now due out sometime in early 2017, so maybe it’ll make a nice Valentine’s Day gift.

Chris Hornbostel: The Dionaea House

Mark and Eric and Andrew were high school friends in the late 1990s, getting together with a couple of other buddies for regular boardgame nights. After graduation they all drifted apart, heading away to school, jobs, and relationships. No one in the group has really communicated with the others in years, until Mark drops Eric an email: Has he heard about Andrew? Does he know what he did?

Thus begins a weeklong email chain that appeared online in 2004 under the heading The Dionaea House. Andrew went mad and did something that was truly terrible, and Mark has an idea about when their mutual friend might have lost it. Mark reaches out to see if Eric remembers a thing that happened, a time when Andrew had to house-sit in a rental house owned by his stepfather for two weeks. Mark thinks something happened to Andrew during that time, something that may have broken his mind. Their group of friends split up shortly after this incident, and it was easy to have maybe missed Andrew’s change…but something about it stuck in Mark’s head.

Eric does remember that bit of oddness, and that commiseration sets Mark off on a sort of private investigation to find out if there are more details than have been released about what Andrew did. He details his progress with Eric, and those emails make up the bulk of the email dump on the site. When Mark goes missing himself, its the impetus for Eric to create the email website to help get information to the public to see if anyone knows anything. There are a few developments detailed in an update page, tantalizing clues found on old live journals and even an AIM chat log.

That’s the essence of The Dionaea house, a spooky and utterly creepy series of detailed events that will get under your skin. You don’t want to know anything more than that if you’re unfamiliar with the site. Just start reading from the landing page, and then circle back to the check the updates link. Click to each hotlinked clue listed there to best follow this enigmatic series of weird happenings. Whatever you do, don’t read any further here!

The rest of this post will assume that you’ve either heard of or already read everything at the Dionaea House web page. It was created by a guy named Eric Heisserer to buttress a screenplay pitch for the same subject matter. Although the film version of the story detailed here eventually died on the vine, Heisserer’s career has flourished. He wrote the remake of The Thing, and wrote and directed Paul Walker in Hours. He’s listed as a co-writer for the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.

What’s great about The Dionaea House is that it represents an early bit of what we now know as creepy pasta. More than most examples of that style, Heisserer made fantastic use of the web as a medium by creating a blog and two Livejournal accounts to help tell the story and lend it an air of authenticity. The story doesn’t need a lot of the traditional plot elements a short story requires, because casting it as existing real events allows him to create a modern epistolary, one with a frightening immediacy. As the tale unfolds, we learn that the descent into madness caused by the Dionaea House occurs to anyone who starts to figure out its secrets. Hey reader, you’re not figuring this out, right? Right?? As a medium, the internet is a wonderfully effective way to spin this yarn. It removes the layer of disconnect between author and reader and puts us within the story as well. And yes, anyone with a lick of common sense is going to ping highly with plenty of natural incredulity as this story goes on, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to follow. It’s always more fun to watch a magician pull the rabbit from the hat than to be shown how the trick was done.

Tomorrow: BooTube
Making October Scare Again