In Parts I and II, we looked at the influences and aesthetics of Kris Straub’s Broodhollow as well as the stories that led to its creation respectively. But now, we move away from considerations of structure and background into the realm of an evolving myth: an interactive reality …
In 2009, long before his comic Broodhollow, Kris Straub created a story on Ichor Falls called “Candle Cove.” He constructs its narrative as a transcript from a Chat Forum–with typos, bad grammar and all–for the purpose of discussing a creepy 1970s children’s show that doesn’t actually exist. But what’s really interesting is that this story was turned into a creepypasta–essentially an Internet urban legend copied and pasted into many different online forums–to the point where some people seem to believe that a children’s television show of Candle Cove actually exists.
This is a phenomenon very reminiscent of the legendary Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast that apparently caused its listeners mass panic: actually making them believe that the Earth was being invaded by aliens. Straub discusses this phenomenon, as well as his own creative process in making the story, and muses on it having “entered a subset of the public subconsciousness, much in the way the characters were trying to figure out if it was real within the story” in his Blog article “Regarding Candle Cove.” It’s a really interesting look at how art not only mimics and affects collective memory, but also a community’s need to tell stories and become a part of them. In essence, a story can become a meme that either convinces people that it is exists, or that it should do so.
Certainly, it can be argued that Straub himself taps into that communal power through his Kickstarter itself. Through offering bits of Broodhollow “period memorabilia” such as Broodhollow’s Society of the Skull and Shovels initiation papers, enamel town pride pins and potentially even “archival recordings … of regional music in and around the town of Broodhollow, West Virginia”: songs that haven’t been heard “in 75 years”: he attempts to draw on his fan base and increase its immersion into the world that he is creating. It can be seen as a two-part idea: making Kickstarter backers feel like they have a part to play in the creation of the physical mythos through funding it, and presenting or selling the mythos as though it is something real and tangible through the creation of “realistic artifacts.” As of this article, the Kickstarter is still in the process of being supported.
This examination and evocation of mythos carries on quite overtly into Broodhollow’s actual content as well. Aside from the fact that the Stitched Man—who chronologically existed in Ichor Falls before the “Candle Cove” story was made—and his actions are similar to the Skin-Taker character’s making clothing out of people’s skin, there are a few moments where Wadsworth Zane and others ruminate on the nature of legends. For instance, when Wadsworth is talking to Maurice–one of the Bottlefly Boys–at the Noble Experiment Switchwater speakeasy about the truth behind the story of Young Maddy, the latter tells him that there is “Always a kernel of truth to every ghost story! A tiny one. Maybe a young lady did die in that Hotel, and that just stuck with someone. Enough to tell a story about. That story gets spread around and changes, and you got a legend on your hands!”
Wadsworth goes into further depth on this matter with Dr. Angstrom: a retired Austrian psychoanalyst living in Broodhollow. He hands Wadsworth a text on the “Narrow Localization and Social Storytelling Cues in the Mason County Area,” which posits that when the body of a young lady named Madeleine was found in one of the downtown hotels, the community felt compelled to spread “a traditionally constructed fairy story” to give voice to the grief and uncertainty it was feeling: especially with context to the fire that killed the Harker family and caused much in the way of overall destruction around that time almost one hundred years ago.
Dr. Angstrom then goes on to comment that he is “fascinated by the idea that a tragedy could leave a population so psychologically scarred, that it would respond in non-logical ways to specific mnemonic stimuli.” Essentially, Angstrom says what Maurice said: only with psychoanalytic jargon. Yet it’s interesting that Angstrom focuses specifically on the “mnemonic”–on collective memory–and how traumatic events not only make and perpetuate supernatural ghosts, but psychological ones through the minds of other people both in the present and in the future as well.
Yet it’s Iris Bellwater, in her own research, who really clarifies the matter. She tells Wadsworth “The way I see it … Science helps us in our struggles to understand how. But Stories … stories took care of us a lot longer than Science did. Stories tell us why.”  Stories have been humanity’s way of understanding the non-human, and the human world around them, for ages. Stories don’t seek out a truth that human beings may or may not be prepared for: they just are. They tap into that place of human understanding, emotion and experience. In this case, they tap into an old collective fear and a sense of the uncanny.
At the same time, Dr. Angstrom’s observations tap into something else in Broodhollow: something that, in many ways, is far worse than remembering past horrors. Extreme trauma can cause communal pain and guilt–and the need for a space to displace and express it–but it’s also capable of creating a form of communal amnesia: of forgetting the mistakes of the past, of … simply forgetting.
And this is where Uncertainty meets the precipice of Hesitation and comes to something even worse. For if fear is knowing the limits of perception, then by extension true horror is a complete loss of perception: of losing memory itself. After all, perception is your reality and if you can’t trust it, your life and your very sense of existence itself is in jeopardy. It is literally H.P. Lovecraft’s definition of horror–the fear of the unknown—incarnate.
Ironically enough, it‘s unknown at this time whether or not Broodhollow’s loss of memory towards specific events is the result of “scarring” from the great fire that happened almost a century ago, or something else altogether. The most striking example of this is when Iris Bellwater–who has been waiting for her father to come back from a business trip and has taken Wadsworth to the Amaranth Hospital just outside of Broodhollow—begins to remember that her father is actually dead.
It’s from this particular incident that Wadsworth begins to realize that something is affecting people’s perceptions and memories in the town of Broodhollow. It isn’t just Iris that has forgotten her father’s death either. Not even the Mayor can remember what happened to Iris’ father or even that he’s dead. Even when the police find Iris and Wadsworth in a sealed up hidden room underneath the Harker estate–after surviving his depredations–the police seem to forget that the two were even there: not even going back to question them. It’s these subtle nuances and “punch lines” that really drive the story of Broodhollow. However, the greatest punch line and twist is at the very end of the Chapter when, after deciding to live in Broodhollow, Wadsworth–the protagonist whose perspective we have been following this entire time–begins to lose his memory as well. This is an example–and the resultant pay-off, of Kris Straub’s “slow burn” in action–presenting us with this ultimate situation. Because when it’s all said and done, after Hesitation and Uncertainty is another completely alien “defamiliarized” companion which is not Fear of the Unknown, but the Unknown itself.
Broodhollow is a comic in-between knowing that there are dangers beyond human comprehension out there and the possibility that you’ll forget that these forces even exist: and that they will get you. Certainly, the Stitched Man is a microcosm of that idea–of needing ignorance in order to prey–and most likely only one example of what’s to come. It will be very interesting to watch Broodhollow continue to grow under Kris Straub’s direction–as a place across the different media of the webcomic strip, print comics and prose–and through the minds of his fans: a quaint little rustic background with, in the words of Alan Moore from his Swamp Thing arc, “old and cherished horrors” always waiting at the horizon.
Straub, Kris. “Broodhollow Chapter One: Curious Little Thing.” Comic strip. Broodhollow. N.p., 8 Oct. 2012. Web. 20 July 2013. <http://broodhollow.chainsawsuit.com/>
Straub, Kris. “Next Stop: Broodhollow.” Weblog. Ichor Falls. N.p. 4 October 2012. 31 July 2013. <http://www.ichorfalls.com/2012/10/04/next-stop-broodhollow/>
Straub, Kris. “Candle Cove.” Weblog. Ichor Falls. N.p. 15 March 2009. Web. 28 July 2013 <http://www.ichorfalls.com/2009/03/15/candle-cove/>
Straub, Kris. “The Stillwood King.” Ichor Falls. N.p. 3 November 2008. Web.
28 July 2013. <http://www.ichorfalls.com/2008/11/03/the-stillwood-king/>
Straub, Kris. “Curious Little Thing.” Ichor Falls. N.p. 31 October 2008. Web. 28 July 2013. <http://www.ichorfalls.com/2008/10/31/curious-little-thing/>
Straub, Kris. “October 2011.” Weblog. Ichor Falls. N.p. 16 October 2011. Web. 28 July 2013. <http://www.ichorfalls.com/2011/10/16/october-2011/>
Straub, Kris. “New Stuff Added to Visitors Center.” Meta. Ichor Falls. N.p. 5 November 2008. Web. 28 July 2013. <http://www.ichorfalls.com/2008/11/05/new-stuff-added-to-visitors-center/>
Straub, Kris. “Terminus.” comic strip. Ichor Falls. N.p. Web. 29 July 2013. <http://www.ichorfalls.com/terminus/>
Straub, Kris. “History.” Weblog. Ichor Falls. N.p. Web. 29 July 2013. <http://www.ichorfalls.com/history/>
Straub, Kris. “Local Legends.” Weblog. Ichor Falls. N.p. Web. 29 July 2013. <http://www.ichorfalls.com/local-legends/>
Straub, Kris. “Dear Vanderbeam.” Weblog. Kris Straub | humor scientist. N.p. 3 October 2012. Web. 28 July 2013. <http://krisstraub.com/2012/10/03/dear-vanderbeam/>
Straub, Kris. “Regarding Candle Cove.” Weblog. Kris Straub | humor scientist. N.p. 27 November 2010. Web. 28 July 2013. <http://krisstraub.com/2010/11/27/regarding-candle-cove/>
Clough, Rob. “Sequart Reprints: Percy Gloom, Bardin The Superrealist, Things Just Get Away From You.” Weblog. High-Low. N.p. 5 Mar. 2013. Web. 28 July 2013.
Lovecraft, H.P. “Supernatural Horror in Literature.” Article. GASLIGHT: electronic text and discussion site. N.p. Web. 28 July 2013. <http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/superhor.htm>
McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperPerrenial, 1994.
Straub, Kris. “Broodhollow Book 1: Curious Little Thing.” Kickstarter.com. Retrieved 31 July 2013. <http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1795723651/broodhollow-book-1-curious-little-thing>
Straub, Kris. “Update #3.” “Broodhollow Book 1: Curious Little Thing.” Kickstarter.com. 19 July 2013. Web. 29 July 2013. Message posted to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1795723651/broodhollow-book-1-curious-little-thing/posts/541738
 Straub, Kris. “Candle Cove.” Weblog. Ichor Falls. N.p. 15 March 2009. Web. 28 July 2013 <http://www.ichorfalls.com/2009/03/15/candle-cove/>
 Straub, Kris. “Regarding Candle Cove.” Weblog. Kris Straub | humor scientist. N.p. 27 November 2010. Web. 28 July 2013. <http://krisstraub.com/2010/11/27/regarding-candle-cove/>
 Straub, Kris. “Broodhollow Book 1: Curious Little Thing.” Kickstarter.com. Retrieved 31 July 2013. <http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1795723651/broodhollow-book-1-curious-little-thing>
 Straub, Kris. “Broodhollow Chapter One: Curious Little Thing.” comic strip. Broodhollow. N.p., 8 Oct.2012. Web. 20 July 2013. <http://broodhollow.chainsawsuit.com/2013/02/08/on-your-mind/ Panel 5>
 Straub, Kris. “Broodhollow Chapter One: Curious Little Thing.” comic strip. Broodhollow. N.p., 8 Oct.2012. Web. 20 July 2013. <http://broodhollow.chainsawsuit.com/2013/03/11/specific-stimuli/ Panels 4-6>
 Ibid. <http://broodhollow.chainsawsuit.com/2013/04/26/on-stories/ Panels 6-7>
 Lovecraft, H.P. “Supernatural Horror in Literature.” Article. GASLIGHT: electronic text and discussion site. N.p. Web. 28 July 2013. <http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/superhor.htm>
 Straub, Kris. “Broodhollow Chapter One: Curious Little Thing.” comic strip. Broodhollow. N.p., 8 Oct.2012. Web. 20 July 2013. <http://broodhollow.chainsawsuit.com/2013/03/01/stay-there/ Panels 1-7>
 Ibid. <http://broodhollow.chainsawsuit.com/2013/03/04/what-kind-of-person/ Panel 6>
 Ibid. <http://broodhollow.chainsawsuit.com/2013/05/20/the-rules/ Panels 4-6>
 Ibid. <http://broodhollow.chainsawsuit.com/2013/07/05/a-stitch-in-time/ Panel 4>