I’ve been consuming a lot of media on YouTube lately, mainly in the form of various “creepypasta” channels. Various people with good or interesting voices read short stories and vignettes written for online readers – Reddit’s nosleep is a good source of creepypastas – and sometimes put in appropriate sound effects. I listen to hours and hours of such readings as I sew or iron or do repetitive tasks that don’t need my full attention to perform. It reminds me a bit of old radio serials – I wonder if my grandmother did the same, listening to assorted radio dramas as she ironed or cleaned the bathroom.
Creepypastas are fun but ultimately most are pleasant diversions as opposed to something that inspires me to write about them, but the last few months I’ve found myself combing through a couple of accounts that have proven to be far creepier than story recitations that have creepiness as an actual goal. Of course, both accounts aren’t shying away from presenting unpleasant, upsetting or gross content but when it’s not the goal and it happens sort of organically, it’s all the more interesting, I think.
I came across MrsMisanthropy’s account when I first discovered the industrial band, Pharmakon. As an aside, I am not the biggest fan of industrial music, but I find the people who perform it irresistibly interesting. Pharmakon is perhaps an exception because I heard Margaret Chardiet, the woman behind Pharmakon, perform before I knew anything about her and there was something about her music that was appealing to me. I lack the musical vocabulary to explain it but there’s something very compelling to me about the way she constructs her songs and how ragged and frenzied she becomes when singing. So I went looking for more of her on YouTube and searching for Pharmakon led me to MrsMisanthropy.
No idea if a man or a woman is behind this account but I will assume the “Mrs” does indicate gender. If I’m wrong I’ll be only too happy to edit this entry. MrsMisanthropy is a “fan-video” channel, meaning she takes songs and create her own visual accompaniment. My introduction to this sort of expression occurred years ago when I stumbled across a fan video for the Ulver song “Porn Piece or the Scars of Cold Kisses” that used segments of David Lynch’s Lost Highway in such a manner that it appeared seamless, absolutely perfect when supporting the song. I can’t find it now, but that was my introduction and most of the time there is something… off or maybe missing in most fan efforts. Not so with MrsMisanthropy.
A fan of fringe and cult films, she finds the perfect images to accompany experimental, noise and industrial music and, of course, she has a few Pharmakon videos that are deeply appealing to me and perfect for Halloween. Here’s the first video of hers I watched.
The film snippets she uses to accompany “Bestial Burden” are perfect and disturbing. And this song is a great example of why I love Pharmakon even as I have no idea why I love it. “i don’t belong here. I Don’t Belong Here. I DON’T BELONG HERE!” Just nervous and grinding, sort of like my brain as of late. But how perfect is this video and it’s so deliciously creepy and upsetting for Halloween, no? Witchy and demonic.
This video also illustrates something else I love about MrsMisanthropy’s videos and why I don’t read the comments – when suffering from insomnia I like to try to run to ground the films that she uses in her videos. This one was relatively easy – it’s a film called Antichrist from 1974 and it’s so bad that the only redeeming feature it has is that MrsMisanthropy used it so well with Pharmakon. It veers into “so bad it’s entertaining” at times but mostly it’s just bad.
The video she made for “Body Betrays Itself” is not quite as creepy as the one for “Bestial Burden” but it’s still dark and unpleasant. Haven’t been able to run this film to ground yet but if you know I won’t mind if you tell me.
And then there’s her video for “Pitted.” Oh my god. Plenty of blood yet somehow being stabbed to death is less frightening than people wearing animal masks. You’d think this film would be easy to find but a 2014 horror film called You’re Next messes up all the searches and I haven’t found the right set of keywords. Digging through cult cinema sites hasn’t been much help, either. This video verged into nightmare territory for me. I don’t really have a problem with animal masks, per se, but I saw this video shortly after I read a lot about Edward Paisnel and his horrible disguise as the Beast of Jersey and his mask was in the back of my mind when I watched this video.
MrsMisanthropy’s channel is so absorbing to me because it encourages me to do mental work – exploring new music that is decidedly difficult music, in that it’s so purposeful in a way that typical music is not, and searching out and viewing strange and fringe films. Here’s another one of her videos that I’m thinking about.
Never would have listened to German Shepherds were it not for this channel. I also had never heard of the films of Derek Jarman. MrsMisanthropy used different film clips for this, I think, but a Google on some variation of “three crosses” got me to the film Sebastiane. Haven’t watched it yet to see if it somehow includes the rainy drippy scenes at the beginning but the man at the desk bears a resemblance to Jarman. We’ll see when I get to watch the movie. But in addition to the appealing creepiness of this channel, I think MrsMisanthropy has a well of knowledge about subjects that are somewhat foreign to me and her videos are puzzles that can serve as a primer for noise/industrial music and fringe and cult cinema. I haven’t come close to watching all of her videos yet and am pacing myself so I don’t reach the end too soon.
Next, I want to introduce you all to Alceste Esseintes. He is deeply depressed, suicidal and seems to be making or posting videos in his exploration of misery. The tagline for his channel is “Misanthrope.”
I am very careful when viewing Alceste Esseintes’ videos because he has the ability to stab my heart into little pieces when I least expect it. His video called “Abortion: The Kindest Thing a Mother Could Do for Her Child” is littered with animal deaths. I don’t particularly enjoy National Geographic demonstrations of wildlife competition but they don’t upset me too much. I got through this video all the way to the end and ended up sobbing because the last images were of a stray cat, frantically kneading the body of it’s freshly dead companion. I don’t like to speculate why it is that I can stomach just about any atrocity as long as it doesn’t happen to an animal. I’ve read this can be a trait of psychopaths – they idealize animals as purer than human beings, and who knows – that may be the case. All I know is that I was able to watch the whole of “One Maniac, One Icepick” just fine but Luka Magnotta harming kittens was a bridge too far. So I approach Alceste Esseintes carefully lest his examination of his own misery exacerbate my own.
I don’t know how I found him but I think it was because I was looking for a scene in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. I wanted to see that horrible bit where Satan in the form of a woman is carrying that old-baby in a mockery of the Madonna and Child. Alceste Esseintes paired scenes from The Passion of the Christ with the Death in June song “He’s Disabled” and it was remarkably effective and strangely upsetting. Of course, that video is gone now. I searched through my YouTube history going back a year and can’t find it. I almost wonder if I imagined it. Possibly, but even if I did, there’s plenty left to share.
MrsMisanthropy seems to me like a fellow traveler, a person for whom extremity is quite interesting and for whom outsider art and fringe effort has more meaning. Alceste Esseintes is more of a case study in how the human brain works when it is broken. I am unsure if this is an art project (his name, if I am correct, comes from opera adaptations of Euripides’ Alcestis and Jean Des Esseintes, a Huysman character who is a hermit and a hedonist, so make of that what you will). This name shows up in strange places online, like the Deep Web subreddit, Prison Planet and similar, linking to supposed deep web videos that upset him and discussing a book about Satanism. That either convinces you this is an artistic endeavor or the genuine ramblings of a man on the edge whose mind is grinding down under the weight of what he sees and knows. My opinion of the account is somewhere in between. But even if this is not a man recording aspects of his descent into misery and madness, it’s close enough to my own experiences to not really matter much in the end.
Sometimes his videos are a gut punch.
Take this one for “i’m horribly embarrassed to admit i’m quite lonely.” I have no idea what song this may be but it is juxtaposed with the 1923 silent adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame starring Lon Chaney. I’d never seen any part of this film until I watched this video. I found myself wanting to cry the way I did when I saw the desperate stray cat trying to revive its dead friend. Even the monstrous get a moment’s comfort – does Alceste Esseintes not feel that he gets even those brief reprieves from wretched loneliness? I didn’t suppress any tears because this reminded me of anything I have experienced lately. Rather, I just felt sick inside contemplating the human condition, the base cruelty, the nastiness we cannot avoid.
But then there’s this video that makes me wonder what I am supposed to take away from the experience. The film is of a group of patients in a what appears to be a home for mentally disabled people who are being treated to a party. The film is set to a Nurse with Wound song, and it seems strangely jaunty because the people are not miserable. They seem to be having a good time. The title of the video is “A tour of my apartment complex.” A neuro-typical man is filming the video and for a moment I thought it was the man behind the Alceste Esseintes account but comparing the images of the camera man to films where the real Alceste Esseintes seems to be showing his face shows they aren’t the same men. So he’s not showing a piece of his life at work.
It came to me that he’s demonstrating how he can escape misery only if he loses the intellect that fuels it. I think. But the fact remains that the people in the video are largely happy and the man behind this account is anything but.
As I said above, I have not viewed all of Alceste Esseintes’ videos because I need to make sure I’m in a good place when I view them lest they show me a part of myself I don’t want to see during a time when it’s best that I not see it. But here’s his video list – if you are strong in constitution, watch these from beginning to end to see if these have a greater story to them, a linear narrative, or if they are random experiences he turns into videos when he feels he must. I’ll eventually watch them all, in the fullness of time. For now the pieces I have watched haunt me well enough.
If you look through any of these videos, let me know your reaction. And if you have a favorite YouTube channel, share it with me.