Rarely does a guy who reviews horror games discover something that genuinely freaks him out. But for Jamie Farrell, an Irish YouTuber who runs the channel Obscure Horror Corner, Sad Satan — a game without an author, buried on the Deep Web — did exactly that. Farrell called it the "creepiest game" he'd ever played.
As Farrell navigated the throbbing corridors and glaring halls of Sad Satan, he heard various indecipherable sounds and audio clips. Famous photographs revealed sinister and Satanic imagery. It generated weird text files that blipped on and off. Farrell saw coded messages and Nazi-era photography. At one point, he came across a malformed little girl who let out a blood-curdling scream so loud it clipped the audio in his headphones. The game even started threatening him. So he deleted it.
Farrell released all five videos he recorded before uninstalling the game. Internet sleuths then picked up the trail and began to parse and decode the sinister messaging in Sad Satan. Now, the hunt is on to find an original copy of the game, a version anyone can play. The project has fascinated a fanbase obsessed with an emerging genre of Internet horror.
'Sad Satan' is the first game to ever be discovered on the Deep Web, hidden on a part of the Internet unindexed by search engines like Google and unreachable without specialized tools.
The first game born from the darkness of the Deep Web: Sad Satan is hardly a game so much as an experimental platform. In the videos, it's difficult to tell if Farrell is moving or not moving, if he's taking a single, prescribed path or one of many paths, or if there's even a path at all.
Sad Satan is the first game in memory that, like an obelisk or artifact in a horror movie, was discovered hidden away on the Deep Web," abandoned and out of sight on a part of the Internet unindexed by search engines like Google and unreachable without specialized tools.
It's not particularly well-made either. The audio is messy and the graphics are rudimentary; there's little actual gameplay or narrative and little to learn as you go alone. But like the hidden nature of how it was found, it adds to the fundamental eeriness of Sad Satan. "The game is fairly shoddily made, but it's shoddy and rough in a deliberate way," Farrell told Mic. He guessed that it was done deliberately.
As Patricia Hernandez writes for Kotaku:
Sad Satan is remarkably unsettling, even if you're just watching the game being played on YouTube. Partially, it's the audio, which works wonders for setting up a creepy tone. But in some ways, the crudeness of the game is exactly what makes it so potent. It adds authenticity. Horror is not a genre that revels in polish. It's often defined by rawness, by its sharp edges. This is why found footage horror movies are a thing. This is also why early survival horror games with shitty controls still managed to become classics. Horror is messy, in the same way real life is messy. It's ordinary, in the same way real life is ordinary. Which means it could happen to you.
Whatever the reasons, the Internet is working madly to decode the puzzle. After the game broke out on Obscure Horror Corner, small community of sleuths are attempting to parse out the clues, source the bits of photography and recorded audio and find the answers. On Reddit, a user named _cooI has begun a thread where a team has identified almost each piece of the Sad Satan puzzle. (We've laid out their findings below.)
"I can track you. U are on my list," the game threatens. "5 victim!! :) :)"
Many of the game's oddities appear to be codified clues, starting with the name of the game itself. Throughout the game, small clips of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" play in your ear. The song has a famously controversial segment that, when played in reverse, sound like Satanist preaching, including the phrase "There was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan."
Pedophile imagery and more: A small collection of photos crops up throughout the game, flashing at random intervals and checkpoints for a few seconds on the screen. One is a simple illustration of the Satanic idol Baphomet, or the "Sabbatic Goat." Another shows Franz Joseph, Ninth Prince of Thurn and Taxis, at the historical Konopiste Castle after Hitler fell from power. Another is of DJ and allegedly prolific sexual offender Jimmy Savile posing with Margaret Thatcher. Roman Polanski and other child abusers appear as well.
There is no explanation or consistency taken all together, except for their common theme of classical theistic Satanism — like horns, pentacles and the number 666 — and general expressions of evil and horror. As _cooI puts it in the concluding notes from exploring the videos:
The game surrounds you with delusions, severe paranoia and most importantly, images of trauma from ritualistic abuse that they are not trying to scare you with but inform you of. Because of the nature of this, 'Sad Satan' may actually be a campaign to denounce Ritualistic Abuse for the public, but it's much too soon to know.
Toward the end of Farrell's third video, his latest, the game starts playing Charles Manson monologues, and eventually it gets stuck on the classic Manson refrain, "If I started murdering people, there'd be none of you left." That's when you spot these creepy messages:
There are a small handful of these white keycards, written in a Unicode jumble. With substitutions, one redditor was able to come up with this summary of translations:
"I can track you. U are on my list," the game threatens. "5 victim!! :) :)"
Could the game be viral marketing? Some commenters think that the buried clues in Sad Satan could be a "trailhead," or the starting point for an alternate reality game. This means that the game was made to be found and decoded to kick off a journey into a deeper mystery, with more videos, texts or sites awaiting, either as part of some narrative project or viral marketing scheme. (Farrell says he has no idea where the videos came from and isn't behind the game himself.)
Hernandez, for her part, thinks this video from 2013, with its eery audio and disjoined editing, could be a possible next step in the path:
"I honestly have no idea what could be behind the game, if it's an ARG or something else," Farrell told Mic. "I wouldn't really rule anything out at this stage and just hope that someone who sees the videos might be able to shed some more light on the game."
Unless he can find a duplicate of the original file, his remaining videos could be the last traces of 'Sad Satan.'
The new age of Internet-based urban legends: No matter what Sad Satan is, it's entered the realm of "creepypasta," or frightening Internet memes that begin as digestible bits of Internet horror. Like the old oral traditions of urban legends, these myths start spawning new branches and repopulating across Web forums in the form of videos, audio clips, fake reports and stories.
Creepypasta uses the Internet and all its possibilities as the medium instead of as the plot device. Internet-native horror is viral in the truest sense of the word; it infects the imagination, grows new stories, splinters off into untamed branches and takes unexpected turns. The most famous of these is, of course, Slender Man, an Internet myth about a creepy white figure. Its legend culminated in the chilling story of two real 12-year-old girls who stabbed their friend 19 times as part of a sacrifice to appeal to the fictional Internet entity.
Even if Sad Satan was only meant to be a self-contained project, the aching void left behind by a lack of answers could inspire others to contribute, in turn creating more media, more questions and deeper mysteries.
All we can do is wait to see if more clues emerge, unless, like other times in the history of Internet horror, the story takes on a life of its own.
As for finding another copy of the game, Farrell is in touch with the original subscriber — the only person who knows which forum the game originally surfaced on — who tipped him off and is working on finding a second download link so that more people could find the game. Unless he can find a duplicate of the original file, the five videos Farrell created are the only evidence that remains of Sad Satan.
For now, all we can do is wait to see if more clues emerge — either from Farrell or the game's creator, if he or she is out there watching — and wonder if we've just stumbled into a claustrophobic corner full of cobwebs and empty of answers, or the mouth of a rabbit hole leading to more questions, and possibly darker places. Unless, like so many other times in the history of Internet horror, the story takes on a life of its own.