Warning: this pasta contains a minor spoiler for the game Silent Hill 4: The Room. Read at your own risk.
I have a creepy story about Silent Hill. Now I know what you’re thinking. Silent Hill, creepy? No. You don’t say.
But it’s true. Indeed, the Silent Hill series is creepy enough to have given me several nightmares as a kid. To be sure, the series is supposed to be creepy. The non-linear gameplay, the perfectly placed sound effects and music, the monsters, the occasional bloody scenes, etc. all make it one of the best survival-horror franchises to date.
Recently, I had two very strange experiences that I now believe to be related.
When I was a child, I was obsessed with video games. This is no hyperbole. I actually was obsessed. I had Playstation and Playstation 2, Nintendo 64 and Gamecube, and X-Box, and I also played PC and arcade games. When my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas or my birthday, one of the latest video games was always at the top of my list. I loved video games so much that my parents became concerned. They said I had become addicted. I suppose they were right. They told me it was unhealthy to spend all my free time playing games. They even took me to a therapist, though for more issues than just this. You see, I have always been an extreme introvert. Even now I have trouble making friends. I never really fit in at school. I was often picked on. Video games gave me a release, a sort of alternative reality to retreat to when I didn’t want to face the world. I also had trouble academically. My parents now suspect that I was suffering from some undiagnosed learning disorder.
One of my favorite series was Doom. Not only did I play Doom, but I also dabbled in WAD-making. You see, in addition to playing games, I also liked to hack and mod. I even made my own text-based adventure game when I was only nine. These activities were something my parents openly approved of and encouraged, since they seemed to give me a creative outlet and seemed more productive to them than just pissing away all my time playing games. And they seem to have paid off, as I am now studying to be a programmer (or a web designer; I haven’t made up my mind yet).
So anyway, in addition to making WADs and mods, I also liked using ones made by others. I still do, in fact. Recently, I was browsing for WADs for the original DOOM game. I found a peculiar one on an obscure website. The site had only one black page with text that read “Here is my new site. I’ll be posting new mods and other material here if I get around to it. Here’s one for Doom.” The uploader must never have gotten around to it, because this was the only downloadable content on the site. I downloaded the WAD. It took a lot longer than it usually does for me.
The WAD was a new map. It was simple, just a long passageway. For the first few minutes, I just went down the corridor shooting demons. Suddenly, the screen froze and textbox appeared saying “You are now about to witness our masterpiece.” The screen unfroze and there was a loud and bright explosion down the hall. A few demons ran out and I dispatched them. When I had finished them, I realized that they had turned into people after falling. I went into the room where the explosion had happened. It was disturbing even for Doom. Round tables and chairs were turned over and burning. Smoke filled the room. All around were people screaming, burning and bleeding to death. This went on for a couple minutes until the screen went black and the map ended.
The level was short and unimpressive. Hardly a “masterpiece”.
It was also somewhat disturbing, but nothing compared to what I was about to go through.
Recently, I played what I found to be the most disturbing Silent Hill world. This level troubled me more than any other. And not because of excessive blood and gore (although it had that to). Indeed, Silent Hill is not above including disturbing themes and images, including, for example, sexual abuse. But I never thought they would go this far. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.
First, a little background. In 2004, Sony released one of their Holiday Demo discs. We got one in the mail. There are a couple different versions of the Demo disc with demos for different games. The one we received had a demo for Silent Hill 4: The Room. As I understand, the game was originally supposed to be a spin-off not included in the main series, but Team Silent changed their minds. I was in fourth-grade at the time. The demo creeped me out and gave me some of the most severe nightmares I have ever had, but it also intrigued me. I wanted to get the full game but my parents wouldn’t let me because of the “M” rating. This was probably a good decision on their part, but when I was in sixth-grade they finally let me buy it, along with the other installments of the series (it took me a little while to collect them all because they made me pay for them with my own money). The games did not disappoint and I remain a huge fan to this day. Sure, the Resident Evil games are okay, but I find that they cannot top the unique flavor and psychological horror factor of Silent Hill.
A couple months after the WAD incident, I was feeling nostalgic and decided to play the demo again. I had the main game as well, but I had someplace to be in a couple of hours, and I wanted something I could finish in that time without having to start another save file.
(minor spoiler ahead)
The game was completely normal all the way though. The demo ends with Henry finding Cynthia all bloody and about to die. But this time the game went on. After Cynthia died the screen faded out and then Henry woke up in his bed, as he does several times in both the demo and the full game. This confused me both because the demo was not supposed to go on after Cynthia’s death and because even if it was this was not what happens after Cynthia dies in the full game. Henry seemed confused as well. There was no dialogue (or rather, monologue), but a cutscene played showing Henry groaning and putting his hand on his head.
Once the game returned to first-person view, I heard a growl outside the door. Then there was panting and sounds of scratching, as if a dog was trying to get in. I opened the door but found that nothing was there. I went to the bathroom but found that the gaping hole in the wall that takes you to the otherworld had vanished.
I went out in to the hall and was confronted by one of the “sniffer dogs”. This really startled me, as none of the monsters were supposed to appear in the room itself. Henry, still in first-person view, was knocked backwards to the ground as he was pounced on. I was able to throw the creature off after randomly pushing buttons and Henry got to his feat. The first-person view remained, but I was able to access my weapons arsenal. I found that the Glock-17 had been replaced by an Uzi. Awesome. I pointed the weapon, still in first-person view, at the sniffer dog and shot it four times. I was delighted. Apparently Team Silent had included a hidden alternative gameplay in the demo, which I had somehow unlocked. I heard another growl in the bedroom and went back in. Sure enough, there was a sniffer dog in there as well. It was on the bed and tried to jump on Henry as I killed it.
Having conquered this very unexpected twist, I went to the main apartment room. It was raining outside the windows. I looked outside and saw that there were no cars or people. I turned around and noticed a spider. It ran and disappeared. Then I noticed another. Two, three, soon the whole room was crawling. Then I noticed that the chains that had kept the player from exiting the room were already gone. I went outside to the hall. It was almost completely dark. I found my way to the staircase, killing a sniffer dog along the way, and exited the apartment building.
The rain had stopped, and I appeared to be in a Fog World version of South Ashfield. I explored the town but did not encounter any monsters or ghosts from the game. Instead, there were new monsters, which I soon realized looked like Doom demons but with better graphics. I found a back alley that I had not discovered before. It was getting dark and the sirens that indicated that the Fog World was about to change into the Otherworld were sounding. I exited the alley and entered what looked like a school.
I was in a hallway with the familiar sound of wind blowing through a tunnel in the distance. There were school lockers and trashcans, and broken glass and papers were littered about. I finally encountered some ghosts and sniffer dogs. There were also some classroom doors that I tried to open but couldn’t. However, I could look in and see the empty chairs and desks.
I came to what appeared to be the school's cafeteria. Round tables and chairs were overturned. There were windows but they were blacked out. Just as I entered I heard the sound of pots and pans clanging to the floor. I went into the kitchen but found nothing there except a sniffer dog which was dispatched quickly. Just then I heard a scream. I exited the cafeteria after some more exploration and went up a staircase.
I encountered a couple more sniffer dogs, but this time I just skipped them and entered a dark room. I could hardly see anything so I turned up my PS2’s brightness. It was a library. Also, I must have entered the otherworld, because their was blood splattered everywhere. I walked down a row of books and killed a sniffer dog. A couple ghosts also attacked me but actually disappeared after a few seconds. I then noticed that some tarantulas were crawling around. They were few and far-between at first, but gradually became more frequent until the whole room was crawling with them. I went out into the hall, which was also covered in moving tarantulas. It was then that I noticed it. The library looked familiar. The way the room was set up, the computers, tables and chairs….
I went back into the library and paused the game. I went to my laptop and made a quick Google search and confirmed my suspicion.
The room was an exact model of the Columbine High School library before it was demolished.
It all made sense now. That’s why the blood was all over. Also, I remembered that the cafeteria had had round tables such as were shown in the security tape of the Columbine High School cafeteria during the shooting. The exterior of the school had also looked like Columbine.
The WAD from earlier also came to mind. I recalled that Eric Harris, like myself, was into making WADs for Doom. These are now known as “Harris levels”. It was rumored that he even made a WAD to resemble the interior of Columbine High School.
Just then my game unpaused by itself. I went back to it to see what was going on and to go back to the cafeteria to make sure I was right.
Out in the hallway, I was confronted by monsters. Zombies, actually. They appeared to be high school students dressed in T-shirs, baseball caps, etc. I felt dirty shooting them with my Uzi, in effect reenacting their murder. Of course there were twelve of them, followed by one zombie teacher. And then, Harris and Kleebold themselves. They were missing their heads, but were recognizable by Kleebold’s trenchcoat and Harris’s T-Shirt and BDU pants. They were holding sawed-off shotguns and fired at me.
After finishing them, I looked over what I had done. The bodies were bleeding and strewn all over the place. Suddenly the camera zoomed out and Henry was shown shooting himself in the head. The screen froze and a textbox appeared saying “The whole world has witnessed our masterpiece.” This textbox then disappeared and another came up saying “We may be gone now, but we can still fuck with your head from beyond the grave.”
The screen went back and the obnoxiously loud music for the Demo disc menu played. I was so distraught I turned off the TV and ejected the Demo disc.
I researched this online but found no leads. A couple weeks later, I decided to go back and see if I could unlock that world again. I wanted to get video footage of it. However, when I put in the demo disc and turned on the PS2, I found that the Silent Hill 4 demo was missing from the menu. In it’s place was a Demo for the original Doom game.