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Explore the Eerie World of Analog Horror

Before you hit play: beware. There's no going back...

Local 58, analog horror
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  • Photo Credit: Local 58

Given enough time, the past always makes a comeback. As we age, we grow nostalgic for the things we enjoyed as a kid. Likewise, old technology ages like a fine wine. Just look at how big retro gaming is nowadays. Analog horror, a relatively recent phenomenon in the world of online horror and creepypasta, has continued to gain the interest of users nationwide. The gist of analog horror is tension and fear conjured from suggestion rather than all-out gore or visuals. Analog horror plays up old VHS era grainy video, often using real clips from the public domain paired up with eerie music and writing that hinge on the principles of less is more. 

If you haven’t delved into the strange world of analog horror, we’re here to point you in the right direction. Just be ready before you hit play. Once you start, it’ll be tough to keep it from getting under your skin.

Local 58

Still shot of a strange creature on Local 58
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  • Photo Credit: Local 58

The genre began with Trope Maker’s Local 58. As you might suspect from the name alone, Local 58 is an anthology series built around a fictional local television station. It’s programming ranges from emergency alerts and odd found footage

At first, it seems like any old VHS tape recording some news story or weather service, but what Trope Maker did so well was build the feeling of oddity, how something about the footage is… off, but you don’t know how, exactly. 

It began with “You Are on the Fastest Available Route,” dash-cam footage culled from the early hours of the morning. Local 58 added additional videos like “Weather Service,” which portrays a vague warning about some sort of paranormal—perhaps alien invasion—meteorological event, and “A Look Back,” built to be a montage of the station’s various accomplishments before it is hijacked by a stranger with a bizarre message. 

Though Local 58 might not be as intense or frightening as some of the efforts that arrived later, it was the one that started it all. Simply put, if there was no Local 58 there would be no analog horror genre.

Blue Channel: Thalasin

Blue Channel Thalasin Nage emotion
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  • Photo Credit: BLUE_CHANNEL THALASIN still

What kind of moods are you having? An unseemly three minute video was uploaded by an animator named Gooseworx in 2018. Initially nothing more than a grainy VHS infomercial for an antidepressant called Thalasin, it goes through the typical infomercial beats, including explaining the statistics surrounding depression. 

Thalasin is said to offer emotions and moods that are otherwise difficult due to an implied epidemic of depression. Around the two minute mark, the infomercial takes a turn for the, let’s just say, odd. Like really odd. It turns away from happiness, sadness, anger, and other human emotions—and offers “new” and less natural moods, including dorcelessness, humber, and loric. Accompanied by illustrations of each mood, the viewer undoubtedly is taken aback by these “moods.” 

Blue Channel: Thalasin is an excellent example of how analog horror effectively produces genuine horror without anything more than a single picture, a grainy snapshot, and the familiarity of commercials, tutorials, and other would-be video guides. When inverted, they become haunting portrayals of manipulation and borderline cosmic horror.

Related: 13 Tales of Cosmic Horror to Get You Started

The Walten Files

The Walten Files
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  • Photo Credit: The Walten Files still

The Walten Files stands out amongst other analog horror offerings for its obvious inspiration from the Five Nights at Freddy’s game franchise. The series was created by animator Martin Walls. It starts off as a training video for new employees going through the onboarding process at a restaurant called “Bon’s Burgers.” It’s relatively lighthearted, depicting colorful and “cuddly” animatronic furries singing and dancing. Halfway through, the video begins to degrade as it goes down a much darker path, including disturbing footage of someone being chased in the woods by an animatronic.

The video became the talk of YouTube and TikTok—and is a bonafide analog horror standout. Two additional videos were uploaded to continue the narrative of “Bon’s Burgers.” If you weren’t frightened of mascots and “lovable” anthropomorphic characters before, The Walten Files will change that.

Mandela Catalogue

The Mandela Catalogue
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  • Photo Credit: The Mandela Catalogue still

If there’s one piece of analog horror that’s a must-see, it’s the Mandela Catalogue. Created by Alex Kister, an 18-year-old student from Wisconsin, the Mandela Catalogue is a series of instructional videos assumed to have been created by the local authorities of Mandela County to aid in spreading awareness of a supernatural phenomenon with a strong Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe. These beings, called “alternates,” attempt to replicate a human being, though they often fail to match all of the complex facial and body features of a human being. The result are long limbs, odd stares, and the full gamut of suggestive horror.

Mandela Catalogue debuted during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic—and quickly amassed millions of views. It has inspired YouTubers and media publications to investigate the reason behind the hype. Give the video a minute and soon you’ll see. It might be the matter-of-factly nature of the voiceover discussing how to protect yourself against the alternates. The disembodied voice tells viewers, “If you see another person that looks identical to you...run away and hide.” Or it could be the narrative that follows the sequence of tutorials, depicting a bedroom and a locked door, an alternate calling out in a borderline robotic voice.

Whatever it is, Kister tapped into the raw power of analog horror. If Local 58 jumpstarted the analog horror genre, Mandela Catalogue cemented it as an original and unique breed of suggestive horror.

Maple County

Maple County Analog Horror
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  • Photo Credit: Maple County

Mandela Catalogue was so effective and influential that someone went and made a short video game inspired by the series. Developed by Thorne Baker, Maple County uses a lot of the same concepts and delivery methods, namely instructional videos, disembodied voices, and the concept of “alternates.” However, viewers are now given the option to choose and navigate the hallways of a house amidst an alternate threat. The game clocks in at about five to eight minutes, depending on how long it takes the player to make their choices. Maple County is a perfect complement to the Mandela Catalogue—and should be required playing right after you finish watching Kister’s seminal series. 

Related: 13 Terrifying Horror Video Games You Can Play Tonight