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marble hornets: innovative storytelling in the digital age

February 1, 2010

I’m a bit of a latecomer to the whole Marble Hornets phenomenon, but better late than never. I got sucked in by a friend of mine last Saturday when I stopped by to hang out and have a couple of beers. We were waiting for a couple of more people to show up when he asked if I’d seen it. I said no, and since we had some time to kill, he started playing entries beginning with the introduction.

For anyone not familiar with Marble Hornets, it’s a YouTube video series that seems to be inspired by the Slender Man urban legend started on The SomethingAwful Forums. The videos are uploaded by a man named Jay, who, at the beginning, takes them from tapes that were originally shot three years ago — mostly by his friend, Alex — during the filming of a student film Alex was making called “Marble Hornets.” The tapes are in random order, and Jay sets out to systematically watch them all in order document some of the strange events and anomalies that occur after he realizes there’s more going on than just the making of a student film. Later on, Jay begins to upload some of his own videos as well.

To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed at first. The entries were short (most of them less than a couple of minutes long), and I didn’t quite get what was going on until a few entries in, but I quickly became immersed in the story once I started to piece together what was happening.

The series is fairly unique. I can only describe is an interactive, low-budget paranormal mystery that’s supported by a large online community dedicated to solving it. People piece together the time line, uncover hidden messages and decode various puzzles that are found in the videos themselves, as well as in the strange and unnerving video responses left by a mysterious figure known only by their YouTube username, “totheark.” What really intrigues me about the series, however, is the way the story evolves — especially with the introduction of totheark — and how the viewer is able to interact with the story and other viewers via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

I didn’t really find it all that scary while I was watching it, but it definitely creeped me out as I soon discovered on my way home. I left my friend’s house at around 1:30am. It was dark and drizzling. As I was walking home, I kept thinking that I heard someone behind me, although nobody was there whenever I turned to look. If that wasn’t bad enough, the lights surrounding a nearby school started to buzz and flicker eerily as I was walking by. I kept glancing around half expecting to see the Slender Man standing in the distance. I’ll admit it, I started walking a lot faster.

So if you’re into horror and you’ve got some time to kill one night, I suggest checking Marble Hornets out.

(A version of this post also appears as an article on Icrontic Life.)

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One Comment
  1. Hey thanks for posting that. I really liked those Marble Hornets videos. I'm hooked. And to be honest, I didn't sleep well after watching them.

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