We are slowly approaching one of the scariest (or sugar-filled) days of the year…Halloween. It is the time of year where gamers everywhere start to contemplate what games will make them sleep with the light on for the rest of the year. If you are one of those people, you will likely have experienced the disturbing town of Silent Hill. This franchise took the survival horror of Resident Evil and added a psychological twist. How far did you jump the first time you heard the blade of Pyramid Head drag along the floor? How many times did you hit the pause (or exit option) when Lisa stalked you through the hallway in P.T.?
Silent Hill is unsettling, not just because of its monsters, but because of the real things they represent: the loss of a spouse, the grief of losing a child, parental abandonment, the list could go on. It turns the real things we fear the most into twisted manifestations, and to top it all off, a game of Silent Hill’s caliber would not be complete without a demonic cult pulling strings behind the scenes. The atmosphere, music, and storyline engulf players into a macabre world of rituals and sacrifice. It sure sounds like the makings for a terrifying experience. The Silent Hill franchise began in 1999, and even though it experienced a minor setback with the recent cancellation of Silent Hills, the previous installments still have secrets to explore. Here are 20 of Silent Hill’s most disturbing facts you had no idea about, warning, you may need to leave the light on after this one.
Pyramid Head is synonymous with the horrors of Silent Hill. He is the most recognizable villain by people who have not even played the game. Masahiro Ito, the artist who created Pyramid Head and a lot of the artwork in the Silent Hill games, dropped some knowledge as to why Pyramid Head exists in the first place. He is a physical manifestation of James’ guilt about his sick wife and his frustrations about missing the woman she used to be. Pyramid Head attacks other creatures like the nurses based on James’ delusions, and Pyramid Head eventually kills himself in the game because James has overcome his guilt. In future entries on this list, physical representations of painful events and emotions are common but just as disturbing in Silent Hill.
In Silent Hill 2, players are introduced to the “Bubble Head” nurse. Like Pyramid Head, they are a staple of the series and are some of the most recognizable and disturbing monsters of the series. Nurses are known to bring comfort to those they work with by caring for the sick. These creatures look as if they need their own medical attention. They exist for two reasons: their mangled appearance represents the anxiety James felt at watching his wife die in the hospital surrounded by medical staff which likely also included nurses, and their provocative clothing symbolizes the frustration James felt at the lack of intimacy with his ill wife. Their inclusion in the game represents a weird juxtaposition of feelings for the main character.
The old saying goes, “pictures are worth a thousand words.” These images would not yield a pleasant literary novelization. In Silent Hill 2, players may remember seeing photos of various mouths in the hospital, some with braces others with blood on the facial area. The person in the photos almost looks as if they are laughing maniacally. Again this imagery is meant to symbolize a painful truth. The photos suggest that Alessia Gillespie, daughter of Dahlia Gillespie who is one of the major players in The Order, is insane and that she has further descended into madness. They are also a personification of the disturbing nature of the “other world” the characters have had to enter into. This game is filled with family drama and tragedy, so expect to see more on this list.
Robbie The Rabbit, is a recurring mascot of the Lakeside Amusement Park in the Silent Hill franchise. From our dealings with Mr. Freddy Fazbear, we should already know that a smiling but lifeless looking animal suit means nothing but trouble. Robbie can be found in the amusement park alone with red stains around his mouth. His stuffed animal counterpart is often in the hands of an unsuspecting child. It is unknown whether someone is actually in the suit or if the suit is alive on its own. Also, many of the troubled children in the game have Robbie dolls. There is a theory that Robbie may actually be the catalyst for the evil in the game since many of them have the ownership of this toy in common.
P.T. is one of the scariest video game experiences of all time. Who knew a short playable trailer could cause the gaming community to devote endless hours to crack the code for the actual trailer? A significant component of the experience within the game has to do with the radio. There are times the player can hear a radio host retelling the story of a gruesome murder which is likely responsible for Lisa’s current state, the female ghost stalking the protagonist. However, there is more to the transmission. There is a message in Swedish that alludes to the famous 1930s War of The Worlds radio transmission by Orson Wells being accurate. The message also says that aliens control everyone, and no one is safe from their influence, not even police.
Joshua Shepherd is the younger brother of Alex Shepherd, the protagonist of Silent Hill: Homecoming. The primary plot driver of the game is Alex looking for his missing brother, but the ending is a major plot twist that reveals a terrible deed Alex did to his brother. The story is heart-wrenching as every Silent Hill is, but the developers were again planning to take it up a notch. Whenever Alex sees Joshua in the game, he looks as if he is still alive. The original plan was for Joshua to resemble a corpse while he interacted with his brother, Alex. Joshua is said to be nine years old in the game, so an appearance like this one would have been disconcerting to see. It is nice they went with the less graphic option.
Have you ever been in a hotel and decided to take a look through the peephole? There is some creepy about staring into the blank nothingness of a hotel hallway. Silent Hill 4: The Room plays on this fear. Walter Sullivan is the main antagonist in the game and is obsessed with Room 302 in the apartment complex where he was abandoned as a child. He is also a serial killer for a religious cult. Sullivan stalks the current owner of the apartment, Henry Townsend. Very rarely, if players look through the peephole of Henry’s apartment, they will see Walter silently walk up to the peephole, and just stare back. After a few seconds, he will walk away, and the hands of all his victims will be on the wall behind him.
A Silent Hill 4 Monster known as the Twin Victim has a deeply disturbing origin. Walter Sullivan was fiercely loyal to The Order, and out of his anger at the abandonment of his parents, he was willing to do anything to stay in their good graces. One of those was to commit murders to fulfill the 21 Sacraments. On Walter Sullivan’s quest to kill 21 people in his ritualistic murder spree, his 7th and 8th victims were twin children, Billy and Miriam Locane. They are the only victims to manifest as monsters instead of ghosts or hauntings in Henry Townsend’s apartment. The young are not safe from the horrors of this game, and this is one of the stories that puts that principle on full display.
There is a trend in Silent Hill that the protagonist unintentionally creates the primary villain. The same is true in Silent Hill: Origins. The Butcher is a creature that terrorizes Travis, the main character. During the bad ending of the game, Travis’ face blends into the Butchers. Many theorize that the Butcher is a manifestation of Travis’ anger and fears about himself. It also shows that Travis could have a split personality since one side of his face remains normal while the Butcher's helmet covers the other. There is a note in the game that discusses split personalities, and in some ways, it alludes to Travis. People seriously need to get a handle on their personal situations in these games.
P.T.‘s audio had so much going on: creepy baby laughs, the sound of a swinging cooler above you, and the creepy voice of “the bag.” Yet, the radio is responsible for some of the most unsettling sounds and speech in P.T, and the people speaking into the radio had a lot to say. In addition to the protagonist murdering his wife, it is revealed on the radio that this is not an isolated incident. Fathers and husbands are losing it and taking out their frustrations on their families according to the radio. The voice on the radio has a straightforward explanation for why this is happening: broader trends such as employment, childcare, and other social issues facing the average family are stressing out fathers.
Sleep tight knowing this tidbit…the town of Silent Hill is real. The game is based on the actual town of Centralia, PA. A coal fire gone wrong has caused parts of the mines in the city to become engulfed in an endless state of flames. There are still people who live there, many of them elderly. In the early 1990s the town was condemned because of the fires, and while many left there were still a portion that chose to stay. Public information alludes that the government has decided to let these people legally live there until their deaths. The word on the street is that residents do not take too kindly to visitors, so unless you are in for an eerily similar experience to Silent Hill, skip this vacation.
It is not unusual for an artist to borrow from reality, but with a game like Silent Hill, there is always some apprehension in borrowing from real life because of the subject matter it likely deals with. Creators of Silent Hill 2 have said that the name “Mary” for James’ ill wife was inspired by Mary Ann Nichols and Mary Jane Kelley, serial killer Jack The Ripper’s first and last victims. Now, Mary is a pretty common name in America. It has stood the test of time and has been around for centuries. It is telling that the developers would go out of their way to say to the public that they chose to connect this name with one of the most dangerous killers in history.
Audio is just as important as visuals. As in an earlier example, Pyramid Head would be scary if you saw him in the game, but hearing the scrape of the blade and knowing that it is meant for you adds a whole new layer to the action. The sound designers of Silent Hill knew this and wanted to immerse players in the creepiness. They intentionally randomized different sounds to keep the player on edge during the game. Players can hear crying, screaming, breathing, whispering, and footsteps at any time during the experience. Nothing necessarily triggers these sounds which leave players guessing as to what will happen next. The most unsettling noise is a pig squeal. This also throws players off to never know what enemies to expect.
Asphyxia is a monster in Silent Hill: Homecoming. Its meaning and reason for existing are utterly terrible. Margaret Holloway was a member of The Order who took her dedication way too seriously. In the act of tribute to the demonic cult, she sacrificed her daughter. The world of Silent Hill turns the fears and painful memories of its occupants into monsters, and this one is no different. Asphyxia is a representation of this act and a real living and breathing monster in Silent Hill: Homecoming. One has to finally ask themselves if there any credible police or authority in this town? Someone seriously has to start reporting this stuff, but as with anything in Silent Hill, it would be a moot point as residents do not seem to have any control.
Great horror games (and movies) know how to take innocent objects or harmless memories and turn them into something dreadful. Silent Hill: Downpour has rocking chairs scattered throughout the game. Have you ever wondered why? The developers have never confirmed their true purpose, but the theory is that they represent grief and estrangement. The main character is experiencing grief because of his deceased son, and as a result, distances himself from society and the people closest to him. Usually, rocking chairs are seen as inviting and nurturing, but Silent Hill twists their meaning (as they do with everything else) in Downpour. In horror movies, rocking chairs are typically used to signify the presence of a ghost, but here they are just a depressing reminder of death and loss.
Remember when you found something unsettling in your favorite kid’s movie? An off-color joke or weird urban legends that did not make it feel quite the same? If you are an Arnold Schwarzenegger fan, chances are you have seen the movie, Kindergarten Cop. The hellish school from Silent Hill, Midwich Elementary School, is based on the building used for the film which is a family-friendly comedy. The film is PG and safe for kids, which makes it disturbing that they would use a model of this school for the awful events of Silent Hill. The Japanese developers needed an American school to model after so they chose this one. It is suggested that some of the staff at this school were indoctrinating students, so have fun enjoying this lighthearted movie next time.
Chucky is pretty scary by himself, but the horror factor increases exponentially when you find out that he harbors the soul of a voodoo-obsessed serial killer. The same idea applies to the creatures of Silent Hill. Obviously, the monsters in Silent Hill are terrifying, but they become psychologically menacing when we find out the meaning of their existence. In Silent Hill 4: The Room, there is a monster called The Bottom that is only found in South Ashfield Heights, the location of Room 302. This beast represents Water Sullivan’s rage at the parents who abandoned him as a child in that room. It also alludes to the act of childbirth since the head is facing downward as if it is exiting the womb. You can always count on things getting weird in this franchise.
Kojima knew what would leave a lingering feeling with gamers. Jump scares do serve a purpose, but it is the storytelling and off-screen tragedies that make players cringe. The developers of Silent Hill are not one to shy away from delicate topics, and the death of children is an unfortunate staple of the series. It is discovered that a good number of the horrendous creatures in the game represents how certain key child characters passed away. The Sepulcher, Scarlett Mannequin, and Asphyxia (referenced in an earlier entry) tell the story of how each child died. We will not describe the gruesome details here, but if you take a look at the descriptions of each monster, it is not hard to see where they got their inspiration. In a sense, these monsters are now tormentors seeking retribution for their murders.
There are many stories of people hearing weird voices on transmissions from two-way radios or baby monitors. This fear stems from knowing that someone can intentionally hi-jack a technical device you own. A villain in Silent Hill: Downpour apparently has some technical skills. Murphy, the protagonist of the game, is tormented by the Boogeyman. During random times in the game, the radio will emit distorted audio among the white noise that is difficult to decipher. But if players go into an abandoned Monastery they can better hear the fear-inducing messages from the Boogeyman himself: “He’s Commin,” “He’s Gonna Get Ya!” They happen at moments of tension in the game, so it immediately puts players on edge. You may want to avoid radios in your communication technology.
Any song can sound evil when played backward. The lightest pop offering by Katy Perry can sound like the most unsettling song ever heard if played in reverse. Many times, any coherent string of words heard is a coincidence, but the developers of Silent Hill felt you needed a backward message to wreck your dreams. At the end of Silent Hill 2, a happy and triumphant song called The Reverse Will plays if you receive the Rebirth ending. It sounds very uncharacteristic for a Silent Hill game. In fact, anything happy, joyous, or hopeful found in these games is odd. However, if you play the song backward you hear dark and creepy whispers of the famous prayer: Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. Dare: listen to this before drifting off to sleep.