One of the creepiest series in YouTube history is now a decade old and can’t seem to die

Ten years ago, this week, a video appeared on the Something Awful forum describing a treasure trove of unlabeled tapes that had been recorded as part of a student film project. The director had allegedly ordered the tapes burned. But years after the project ended suddenly, the narrator of the video reveals that he kept them intact and decided to analyze them through the images.

"If I find something in any of them, I will upload it to keep it as a permanent record". The narrator wrote. In a few climbs, the public was subjected to a series of clues about what led the director to cancel the project. The ribbons were full of scary symbol shots and a tall, creepy figure without a face and dressed in a suit.

These videos were some of the first entries in Marble Hornets one of the first fiction stories on YouTube. series that got a cult following and has a vibrant fandom on all platforms, even today. The series lasted five years, ending on June 20, the same date it began. The climbs were sporadic, some only a few seconds long. Others extended to the 15-minute duration that is popular with today's creators. The series is a beloved relic of the old YouTube culture and the early Internet.

"In years of internet, 10 years is old. Like, it could be almost Ancient Greece almost, "said Tim Sutton, one of the writers and actors of the series, The Verge ." We are only a couple of years away from the land of flash videos and & # 39; You're the man now, dog. "We're vintage internet."

The series follows a character named Jay Merrick, played by Troy Wagner, as he tries to understand what happened during the creation of a student film that was shot by his friend, Alex Kralie. While watching the tapes, Jay learns that Alex was being tormented by a figure known as "The Operator," a version of the mythical creature Slenderman that was popularized on the Something Awful forums. Forum members would convert Photoshop to the creature in photos and share their creations with each other. This content generated by the community inspired the creators of Marble Hornets to create a complete series of videos dedicated to fandom.


YouTube was a completely different world then; monetizing the content was more difficult, and the site was often a secondary platform for the popular creators of Newgrounds to publish their animations. It was not the corporate beast that it is today, full of full-time creators, sponcon and the evening television clips that plague the Trends tab.

It was this YouTube that I grew up with. I spent countless hours sitting in front of my family's Dell desk in our "office," which was really just a room with my grandfather's old rocking chair, framed quilts, and an imitation wood desk that could fit a computer. But it was on that computer where I would celebrate reaching the necessary level in World of Warcraft to buy for the first time a mount with my guildies on Ventrilo. It's where my friends and I used to meet to see Weebl & # 39; s Stuff and Salad Fingers, and it was also where I would binge eating Marble Hornets not knowing if it was a work of fiction or a real investigation of lost material outside in real time on YouTube.

In high school, I was sitting in this dark office, chatting with friends about ooVoo and watching the series together. By then, it had escaped the Something Awful forums and other platforms such as Reddit and Tumblr, which is probably where my friends and I could find it. Marble Hornets separated from the original source of the forum and left me, a naive and easy-to-persuade 15-year-old girl, terrified that Slenderman could be real. In fact, I was so naive and persuasive that one night while talking, my older friends were able to convince me to throw salt on my shoulders and go around a few times to make sure the crazy and faceless man did not kill me

It was the mystery and ambiguity of Marble Hornets that attracted me at a time when the Internet and YouTube were not saturated by brands and 4K, forty-minute vlogs. Myspace and Facebook have been around for some time, but my platforms of choice, Tumblr and Reddit, were less popular and compared to baby websites. The space felt personal, and the algorithms had yet to determine all of the content I consumed. Marble Hornets traveled to me, and probably to many others, by word of mouth and online niche communities where people discussed the series as if they were investigating along with Jay.

"The rise of social networks made it easier to share," said Sutton. "There were still a couple of forums, which I think are now somewhat outdated at the moment, having those tools to share those things had not existed for so long."

Marble Hornets felt like the cult Evil Dead the classic Internet horror for me. But instead of picking up a VHS tape at a video store, I discovered it through threads and other fans' posts.

Wagner told The Verge that he was grateful for the fans that have been around for the past ten years, but he also said that the newest kids still find him today. "It seems there are always new people," Wagner said. "Something like television might have a problem with this because the programs shut down when they end, whereas this is always on YouTube."

The series transcends generations; many children of generation Z are friends and follow the creators of Marble Hornets . "The fan base has been getting younger and younger," Sutton said. "I get many messages from children aged 14 or younger. I received a comment in one of my Instagram posts the other day that said they were 11 years old, and I said to myself: "Are you kidding me? & # 39; "

When I asked Sutton why he thought the children followed and even cosplayed. his character in contemporary applications such as TikTok to this day, offered an explanation that spoke of my past experience. On the Internet, Marble Hornets seems to be a hidden and universal treasure.

"It feels like you're investigating something, you still feel like you're a bit into the mystery," Sutton said. "Especially because it never became a big, huge, huge number of followers."

He continued: "It feels like people are stumbling on something like a secret, especially if you're younger, because it's scary, it's kind of PG-13, but I imagine if you're 12 or 13, it would be something you would hide from your parents, I think that's part of the draw. "

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