Entering the small town of Boros, Illinois, the first thing I noticed was the lack of human presence. I have been called into the newly turned ghost-town, to investigate the string of letters that have led to the disappearance of a young Bill Heron. At first glance, the police deemed the letters to be a burglary tactic. After the families started to move out, they decided to further the investigation. This is why I am here.
After viewing the letters addressed to Heron, I suspect the person has a wide knowledge of small town affairs. Since he/she seems to know so much, I suspect them to be a close member of the community. The only people who have not left the town are the stubborn families who have inhabited this town since the day it was founded.They have told me first hand that they are determined to stick it out even with the letters still circulating. With any luck, I wish to recreate Heron’s stakeout in a newly purchased house of my own. I have a good feeling the perpetrator is still residing within the neighborhood. I don’t have any pretenses about tricking the perpetrator into believing I belong in this neighborhood or establishing the same level of intimacy as existed between them and Heron. All I need is a letter of my own for further analysis.
The perpetrator seems to be using the letters to instill the fear of forgetting and being forgotten. In technical terms, this often ignored phobia is called Athazagoraphobia. Heron begins to panic when he realized his personal belongings are missing. Heron begins to understand, as his stuff is being taken or disappearing, that when everything is gone, he will no longer leave a mark on this world. A mark that says, “Hey! Bill Heron was here.” He came to question his own existence after all traces of him were wiped out, especially from the places – with his family and friends and in his memories – where his connections were deepest.
[The perpetrator’s use of Athazagoraphobia leads me to believe that he/she is of an older generation who has already been forgotten, and as a result, currently resides in the town – forgotten by time and the other townsfolk.]
“Mysterious and Violent Letters
Disrupt Small Community”
Anonymous Letters and Unsourced Burglaries Simultaneously Emerge in Northern Illinois
A series of anonymous and often violent letters have been appearing in the small locale of Boros, Illinois. As a part of the growing trend in “pocket neighborhoods”, the place has enjoyed relatively low crime rates since its founding and exemplifies the close-knit community approach. Thus the emergence of these unsourced letters, directed towards the town’s residents, comes without any sign of a precursor.
“I don’t know who would send these letters,” said one of the recipients. “I’ve lived here all my life. If someone wanted to contact me, they could just walk a few steps and be at my door.”
The strangest part of the letters is not the vague, unsettling tone, it is rather the mention of numerous family heirlooms, knowledge of personal affairs, and references to long-time childhood friends.
The local police on the scene believe the letters are a diversion tactic for widespread burglary. Although no deaths have been reported, some of the victims have notified officials about missing large volumes of personal belongings. The burglaries so far have only occurred in households that have received the cryptic letters.
I managed to track down someone who had received one of the letters roughly a year ago. Though his story appears to align with everyone else’s, Bill Heron, 28, offers a different account of what has happened since he first started receiving the letters.
“It started out subtly enough, but I had this feeling from the first letter that I was being targeted,” Heron recalls. “I mean, whoever this malicious person is said I would be forgotten, what kind of burglar says that?”
“A few keys went missing, my leftovers were gone, then my grandmother’s urn just vanished.” Heron soon noticed that other people were losing things related to him in any fashion. Shortly after the letters, his parents called citing that they couldn’t find any photographs of him. A few weeks later, he stopped getting calls altogether. “People don’t recognize me anymore. I tried to frequent bars and restaurants. I called friends, relatives, and friends to my relatives. Nothing. My parents won’t answer my calls.”
Wanting to confirm the foreboding messages in the letters, Bill decided to perform a stakeout, gripping tightly onto his most prized possessions. “I remember the letters very clearly. They said that the next thing they would take would be the last. I didn’t know what to expect.”
“Everything I owned was all piled up into one location with only one entrance. When it was nighttime, I just remembered darting my eyes back and forth between the windows and that doorway. I sat alone for hours. Even when the light went out, I remained. Still, I could hear everything outside. Then, I felt a strong pull coming from all directions. I checked behind me, to the left and right, only to see in my field of vision all of my possessions, then nothing at a blink. In the morning, there appeared to be a large black residue where the items used to reside. I couldn’t clean it out. I just left. I filed the police report, left the neighborhood, and just continued on with the rest of my life.”
Although Heron and others like him had their own stories, it seems that I’ve lost contact with them, and most of the letters they had left with me have somehow been misplaced. For the other families in Boris, they have recently begun to move out in fear of literally losing everything, dwindling their population ever since.
“No doubt about that. My fear’s gotten worse. Hearing Hailey describing my screams on the radio like that has really upset me. I no longer wake up tired. I wake up tired and afraid. I wonder if the morning rasp in my voice is just from sleep or rather some inarticulate attempt to name my horror. I’m suspicious of the dreams I cannot remember, the words only others can hear…”
In House of Leaves, Johnny’s footnotes serve on the surface as a translation of certain parts of the Navidson Record into layman’s terms, but more importantly they give another dimension to his mentions of being disturbed by the Navidson Record, offering a first person point of view to his anxieties.
As the book progresses Johnny’s footnotes stays at relatively the same consistency, never going away for too long, but the length and content of these footnotes indicates a paradigm. Certain footnotes take up at least a page and continue from an ominously toned sentence in the Navidson Record. They tend to deal little with the content of the Navidson Record and more with the feelings of paranoia and delusion Johnny feels from the book as he reads and annotates.
On Page 179, at the 211th footnotes Johnny again goes on his long tangents before the rescue of Jed and Wax, at a time when Zampano is exploring the subjectivity of space. During this small arc Zampano gives a few academic sources discussing to the idea of spaces or rooms feeling smaller or bigger than previously thought to be. In context of the novel, Reston is feeling nauseated after being in the constantly changing black space of the house for too long, with Zampano commenting that the “disturbing disorientation experienced within that place…can have physiological consequences.” This is where Johnny’s footnotes take the wheel.
“No doubt about that,” Truant’s footnote starts, referring to the “physiological consequences” of the house. In this case he is talking about how his fear, particularly how it is affecting him. The Navidson Record as a whole, and the task of reading and annotating has taken a toll on Johnny.
All the delusions, smells, and sleepless nights lead Johnny to see a doctor that prescribes him a low end sedative. Later in the footnote as Johnny is waiting in another doctor’s office, contemplating the claustrophobic and unknown space that surrounds him, he says “I know what it means to go mad.”
At this point in the book it is clear that the Navidson Record is negatively affecting him, but not in a tangible way. The book is not directly making him feel anxious or experience delusions, but rather bringing up some dormant, underlying problem possibly being suppressed by Johnny. The phrase he writes, “I know what it means to go mad” addresses this by giving a familiarity to the feelings and mentality Johnny is going through.
Though the Navidson Record on its own is dense and slightly confusing, referred to earlier in the footnote when he speaks of the frustrating complexities of the chapter 9 footnotes, the book itself does not seem enough to give reason to Johnny’s fear and paranoia. Instead, through Johnny’s footnotes, we come to understand that whatever mystic force gives power to the house’s apparent sentience is what is uncovering or causing his fear. He feels a familiar sense of madness, going so far as to throw away all drugs in an attempt to alleviate any distortions. At this point Johnny is desperate for a way to end the approaching seemingly malevolent force that he senses in his delusions.
The footnotes help to explore these distorted feelings as they don’t happen too frequently. They come almost like a checkpoint in each chapter. As the house becomes stronger and more omnipotent, the effects are felt all throughout, especially to Johnny.
Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me? —
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, sympathy (or the lack there of) is a key component in much of the language and actions of the characters. The novel builds up the emotions and character composition of Victor Frankenstein, in an attempt to create sympathy for the shamed creator. In essence Shelley tries to generate concern for the titular character, however the true focus of sympathy lies in Victor’s creation. The shamed monster is a tragic figure, and the one deserving of the most sympathy in the text.
The part of the novel narrated by Victor gives insight into the man’s mind, and reasoning for his words and actions. These instances of vivid detail into the man’s psyche come at times where he is reflecting on his own life, and the actions he has done. The detail and discernment occur during times when tangible events are not necessarily taking place, they occur more often in Victor’s head as his reactionary thoughts. They serve to help us see the actions from Victor’s point of view, which should make us more sympathetic to the man.
However when the creature is given a voice, and takes over the book’s narration, we as the readers understand who is really to blame for all the misfortune in the novel. When both perspectives are presented to the reader, the accounts of Victor are slightly neglected as we see the consequences of his own actions.
It is quickly apparent why Shelley would choose to include the Milton quote on the title page. The emotion of the quote foreshadows the unwarranted sorrow that will overcome many of the book’s characters. But as the novel lends a voice to the creature parallels are formed between the monster and source of the quote. The tragedy of the monster is due to no fault on his part, at least not at first. After he is created by Victor and immediately he is met with disgust and scorn. This never goes away, as he is met with similar if not worse reactions from every human he encounters no matter what he is doing.
The Milton quote becomes increasingly appropriate as the creatures sheds more and more light on his experiences. The monster is suffering no doubt, but he did nothing to draw the attention of the suffering. His only fault is that he is ugly, and people are scared of him. The one at fault for the creatures suffering is Victor. Victor is the creature’s creator, and Frankenstein acknowledges that their relationship should have been better.
“I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel.” The monster at this point of his life is aware that he is a disappointment to Victor, he knows their relationship should have been better. It is only Victor’s horror and disappointment with his results that lead to the creature knowing only mistreatment. In an example of nature vs. nurture the monster eventually is fed up with the treatment he faces, and he is pushed to the limit (committing murder). But considering his brute strength and imposing stature, it is unclear as to why the creature endures it all for so long. The sad truth is that the monster is a tragic figure because did nothing harmful to anyone at first, it was only after his environment (people especially) affected him that he was corrupted and fell to revenge and havoc in response.
In Emily Carroll’s digital comic “His Face All Read” the reader is presented with a story of the narrator’s guilt and paranoia when his brother returns to their town 3 days after he was killed. The brother had been murdered by the narrator after he killed a mysterious beast plaguing the town’s animals. The brother never finds out what exactly happened to the beast or his brother, though evidence in the text signals that the beast had taken the form of the brother.
The actual killing of the brother is not seen, the act is shown with a landscape shot with a red filter. Because the death of the brother is not explicitly seen raises the suspicion that he was not killed when the narrator presumably shot him. The brother was “killed” by the narrator (his face all red with blood), but given the narrator’s look of cowardice for most of the comic, there are indications that he has little experience with firearms. This leads to the idea that he may not have killed his brother when he shot him, only fatally wounding him. The 3 day gap from the woods incident to the return of the brother is intentionally left open to interpretation, but given more textual support the reader could construe the newly returned brother to be the beast.
If one assumes the beast is not just a wolf, and possibly a shape shifting creature, it is plausible to believe that the beast could have taken the form of the brother after the incident, arrived back into town, and assumed the role of the narrator’s brother. Though the logistics are not entirely laid out, I believe this is the case when the brother’s coat is considered.
When the narrator goes home from the woods he takes a torn, blood soaked piece of the brother’s coat with him, yet when the brother returns the coat appears brand new. No one but the reader and the narrator catch onto this detail, “And I was the only one who noticed…his fine coat, it wasn’t torn.” If the beast had somehow taken the form of the brother, and tried to recreate him, then the coat would have been re constructed as well.
The vagueness of the writing, and the omission of scenes shown to the reader are intentionally left open to interpretation, part of the atmospheric horror that the comic strives to make the reader feel comes entirely from the reader’s imagination. When one takes into account small details scattered throughout the story it is clear that fan theories, when formulated with enough evidence, are endless when it comes to the fate of the brother. In reading the comic, I found that the only reason I could give for the brother’s return was the beast’s acquisition of the brother’s form.