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Friday, March 1, 2019

What Could Have Been: Sad Satan

The internet is a really big place to put it mildly, with 4.5 billion websites indexed across the various search engines. Because of this, you can find nearly anything on it if you look hard enough. If you want to take into account the Deep Web, which is said to be 400 to 500 billion times larger than the “surface web”. It’s there that you’ll find things ranging from websites simply not indexed by search engines like Google and Yahoo. To access these sites, one must use the Tor search engine. Popular lore states that the deep web is the home to “Red Rooms”—live streams where you pay to have people brutally tortured for the pleasure of yourself and others, a la Hostel. Whether or not they exist can only be proven should you be ballsy enough to seek one out.

However, not everything on the Deep Web has murderous intent. There's the infamous “Silk Road”, which was a popular place for drug users to find their fix, your average conspiracy websites that will tell you how the government is hiding aliens and other terrible secrets, and other amateurish websites that people make because they’re bored. There's also the now famous Sad Satan, which is nothing like those other websites and has horribly illegal content involved.

Originally discovered by someone named “Jamie” from the YouTube channel “Obscure Horror Gaming”, Sad Satan is a monochromatic horror game with no clear goal. In it, you explore a series of hallways to the tune of distorted and reversed audio. Said audio primarily consists of interviews and audio recordings of serial killers like Charles Manson. There’s also a very heavy reliance on the backmasking involved with both the interviews and music; this being the way that the game got its name: playing the Led Zeppelin song “Stairway to Heaven” backwards. The original lyrics go as follows.

“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now, it’s just a spring clean for the May queen. Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

Meanwhile, reversing them allegedly reveals Satanic lyrics one can hear; one part supposedly being:

“Oh here’s to my sweet Satan. The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is satan. He’ll give those with him 666, there was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.”

As you navigate your way through the hallways, players will encounter children who merely stand around and do nothing, though one will eventually you around cause contact damage. Without any way to defend yourself or heal any damage you take, you’ll inevitably die and the game will eventually end.

While this is going on, the player’s progress will be stopped as an image takes up the entirety of your screen. There’s no way to remove this image, though it will close shortly after it’s appeared. The content of these images primarily centers on child abuse: the likes of Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris, and notorious Japanese serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki being featured, though political figures like Margaret Thatcher are also included. This goes on for about eleven minutes according to an article on Kotaku, which also gave an origin of sorts to the game. According to Jamie, he’d been sent the game via a subscriber. When said subscriber was asked by Kotaku about where he’d found it, he answered by saying he discovered it on a “deep web forum”. He went on to say:

It’s like an all purpose site, all your usual forums can be found there (tech help, reviews, fitness, things like that), plus some original content

The subscriber went on to say that another user of the forum posted a link to the game and, “That was the first time I had seen a game posted on the site”. He also claimed that the when it came to media that was posted on the forum, it was typically movies, not games. Nevertheless, the subscriber stated that, “The user never specified whether it was his own content or someone’s else’s.” Instead, he “presumed” that Sad Satan was the creation of the original poster, who signed off with “ZK”. When asked about ZK, the subscriber said that some of his posts were “weird” and included “dark views” and “satanic mumbo jumbo”.

The interview is very interesting and you can read the entire interview here. The response to it was mixed though. As is the case with anything involving the deep web, many suspected that the game likely contained gory images and child pornography in its files; both staples of the deep web. Jamie refuted this, saying that he’d seen no such images during his playthroughs and that the .onion address he’d linked to download the game was perfectly safe. Breathing a sigh of relief, internet armchair sleuths got to work attempting to find out the truth behind the game. A subreddit, simply named r/sadsatan, was created. Immediately, the subreddit hit a massive roadblock. The .onion address lead to an error page.

The roadblock would last three days until Jamie came out and admitted he’d lied: the game did in fact contain illegal content and he didn’t want to be held responsible for sharing such content with others.

Meanwhile, a major twist was about to shake the armchair detectives worlds. Mere minutes before Kotaku updated their article with the statement from Jamie, a thread was started on 4chan that read as follows.

What you've seen on youtube isn't right. Don't believe that coward Obscure Horror Corner. He did not show you what was truly in this game.


Linked along with ZK's post was a link to a file sharing site. Many posters were hesitant to click the link, though some ballsy enough did. When the game was finished downloading and the game was booted up, many returned to the thread and complained their computers were running sluggishly. Others said that their computers outright stopped responding while they attempted to play the game. A handful of unlucky users you their computers flat out wouldn't turn on once they stopped running the game.

Meanwhile, on Reddit, a user opted to play the game via a Live USB instead of their computer's primary hard drive. Once done, they tried to start up their computer. To their horror, it failed to load.

As it turned out this version of the game, which r/sadsatan dubbed the “clone version” contained malware that infected those who opted to download the game. To make matters worse, this version of the game contained extremely grisly images, such as victims of beheadings and the remains of those struck by buses, and child pornography. Some of these images were even accessible at the title screen. An edited version of this version without the ponography, which was dubbed the “clean version” was made by a few Reddit users for those who wanted a more graphic Sad Satan experience.

From here, the story of Sad Satan stagnates. The burning questions within every armchair sleuths mind ate away at them: who was ZK? Who created the “clone” version? Was Jamie the creature of it all, or was ZK someone else?

Those questions and more are what fueled the subreddit of r/sadsatan, which remained active and dedicated to solving the mystery, but seldom did it get anywhere or reveal anything.  On 4chan’s /x/ board, many went about with other mysteries.

Many false leads came and went, though by and large the truth behind Sad Satan remained a mystery. That is, until Reddit user discovered that a user named “ScareBereZK” who had been trolling the subreddit since its early days, dropping various hints and clues. His account creation date was prior to the clone version originally being posted on 4chan. Looking up the name revealed a YouTube channel with a video called “Sad Sad Satan”, which was a video Jamie said had nothing to do with the game. Through some more detective work, the Reddit user was able to discover that “ZK” was a 32 year old man named Gary Graves from Texas. He was arrested for distributing child pornography via his phone, which was discovered by his girlfriend. The Reddit user discovered that Graves operated a YouTube channel named “scarebere” and through this was able to transfer the account back to Graves, who by then was awaiting trial.

As for the true identity of Sad Satan's original creator, we may never be known due to the clone version of the game having tainted the public's view of the game. However, many agree that Obscure Horror Gaming was operated by Jamie himself. As for the purpose behind the game, the general consensus it’s about child abuse; the eventual movement of the children representing the abusers past catching up to them and damaging their public image before their world as they know it ends.

Sad Satan isn't like other video game that'll be featured this month. While the others may have been completed and released, but saw large swaths of content removed, canceled, or restarted, Sad Satan is a completed game. Nothing was removed. It exists, but with a legend behind it. However, I think it's still deserving of a spot. It's an enigma of video gaming lore; a game that drove the internet up a wall and whose creator is still a mystery. Ultimately, whether or not Jamie truly made Sad Satan is a mystery that I don't believe needs to be solved. Rather, I think the mystery adds a bit of charm to this obscure horror game.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting...

    Side note: I always love the reversing lyrics bull. I'm very curious as to where these people come up with this lunacy.