The age of the anthology series is once again upon us and thanks to the likes of “Black Mirror” and “American Horror Story,” both long and short-form scares are being presented to audiences in very intriguing narratives. With the success of this type of storytelling, other projects have been put in the pipeline.
We’ll be seeing a new “Tales from the Crypt” series soon, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” is being reworked into a modern long-form anthology series, Amazon just picked up “Lore,” inspired by the popular podcast of the same name and “Candle Cove” — the first season of Syfy’s newest anthology series, “Channel Zero” — premiered to genre fans everywhere on Tuesday (Oct. 11).
Much like the aforementioned “Tales” reboot, “Channel Zero” is tapping into the power of the Internet to drive its subject matter. Exploring the various online tales — known as Creepypasta — the first season of “Channel Zero” tackles one of the most notorious Creepypastas to date: “Candle Cove.”
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What exactly is going on here? Let us tell you.
In 2009, the story of “Candle Cove” was introduced to the Internet as a simple question — posted on a forum called NetNostalgia, by a user named Skyshale033 — which asked if anyone else remembered this weird children’s show from the ’70s. Stating the show aired on a small station in Ironton, Ohio, Skyshale soon got a response from one mike_painter65.
Mike not only remembered the puppet show, but pointed to one character in particular — “Pirate Percy,” who was assembled from parts of other dolls — for scaring him quite deeply as a child.
The conversation was joined by a third user, Jaren_2005, who continued to flesh out the story by mentioning when she used to watch the series — 1971, to be exact — and pointed out side characters like “Horace Horrible,” who kinda looks like a weird version of the Planters Peanuts Man, and that Pirate Percy’s ship was called the Laughingstock.
Oh, and yes, the smiling boat also spoke. “You have to go inside…,” being one of its ominous phrases.
Once these details were out of the way, the conversation in the thread turned to “Candle Cove’s” main villain, known simple as “The Skin-Taker.” He was a top hat-wearing skeleton with a crooked jaw. Why did it move side-to-side? “To grind your skin,” that’s why.
It’s at this point in the online back-and-forth that Skyshale shares a nightmare she had inspired by the show, describing an entire episode where all the puppets stared at the camera, screaming. But alas, it turns out this was not a mere nightmare as the others involved in the online recollection remembered also seeing this episode.
The notion that this scarring experience was shared by a number of people is creepy enough, but what really makes this conversation achieve a new status of messed up is the final post in the thread. Mike Painter returned to the thread with an update that still succeeds to send a shiver down our spines. The post goes as follows (slight punctuation changes have been made):
“I visited my mom today at the nursing home. I asked her about when I was little in the early 70s, when I was 8 or 9, and if she remembered a kid’s show, ‘Candle Cove.’ She said she was surprised I could remember that. I asked why, and she said, “Because I used to think it was so strange that you said, ‘I’m gonna go watch Candle Cove now, Mom’ and then you would tune the TV to static and just watch dead air for 30 minutes. You had a big imagination with your little pirate show.”
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Not long after the story started making waves, it was revealed that the whole exchange was a work of fiction created by author and cartoonist Kris Straub. Claiming the idea was inspired by a story in The Onion about a man suffering from nightmares induced by a surreal children’s show called “Lidsville.”
In March of 2009, the entire comment thread was shared to horror fiction website Ichor Falls. Not long after, the online urban legend was taken under the umbrella of Creepypasta.com.
Creepy (viral) pasta
It didn’t take long before fans everywhere became enthralled with the concept of “Candle Cove.” People began to step forth and present their own tales and memories of the show, which by all accounts, never existed.
Still, it was the rabid fanbase of the idea that created a unique following who presented details of the show’s backstory — “Candle Cove” has its own Wikipedia page — with video recreations of episodes, art depicting Pirate Percy and his crew, among other crazy theories.
Pop culture phenomenon
It’s probably safe to say that Straub never thought his story would spark such a rabid fanbase, but here we are. Seven years after concocting this imaginary tale for flash-fiction fans to enjoy, Syfy’s “Channel Zero” is bringing his terrorizing tale to the small-screen.
As you saw from the first episode, Mike Painter (played by Paul Schneider) is the focal point of the show. Adding a cryptic history of child murders — and ’80s terror — to the mix, gives the new show a vibe similar to that of early David Lynch meets Stephen King. As for the new characters (that Tooth Child, though!), and details behind why the kids are going missing… Well, your guesses are as good as ours.
Season 1 of “Channel Zero” seems to be warning of the harmful effects that too much television can have on developing young minds. But with The Skin-Taker seemingly lurking in every shadow, we all might benefit from stepping away from our screens to go for walks more often.
At least there aren’t clowns in the show. There aren’t clowns … right!?
“Channel Zero” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy.