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This is the third part of a journey through Marble Hornets, a YouTube-based horror mystery series. You can find the introductory post here.

Last time, we were introduced to our narrator, Jay, his former friend Alex, and the mysterious figure who apparently haunted Alex during the summer of 2006. This week, we’re going to see a little more of the figure in the snazzy business suit, meet some more of the Marble Hornets film crew, and begin to explore another layer of the narrative.

Entry #6 (July 4, 2009)

As Jay points out, this seems to be a continuation of Entry #1. The tall figure is outside Alex’s house, and while it’s difficult to follow the movements of the camera in the darkness, it does seem as though the figure moves around the house with surprising speed. This seems to be consistent with Entry #4, in which Alex encountered the figure in a playground at night; on that occasion, the figure vanished suddenly as soon as Alex lost sight of it.

This entry contributes to our sense of the overall timeline: Alex and Jay scout locations for Marble Hornets in Entry #5, Alex reports having seen the tall figure while walking his dog in Entry #2, apparently goes in search of the figure in Entry #4 (which may conceivably be a continuation of the events of Entry #2), and is then visited at home by the figure in entries #1 and #6. Then, some time later, Alex is seen to be recording himself obsessively, as in Entry #3. We have no sense how much time passed between the events, but we know that it all took place over the summer of 2006.

It may also be argued that Alex goes in search of the tall figure in the playground after being hunted at home, but we have no evidence for that as yet.

Can the tall figure really move with supernatural speed? Is it significant that we don’t see him move with such speed on camera? Does the presence of the camera somehow inhibit his power? Is that why Alex is filming himself?

Entry #7 (July 7, 2009)

Meet Brian, the star of Alex’s film. Alex, Brian and an unseen girl are in a car, rehearsing a scene that Brian will later perform with someone named Tim. As they prepare, we see the distinctive visual tearing at the bottom of the screen. Brian rehearses the scene with Alex, then leans back to reveal the tall figure in the alley behind him. Alex is apparently alarmed by his presence, and starts up the car amidst rising audio distortion.

It’s tempting to immediately add this sighting of the tall figure to our timeline, halfway between the events in the playground and those at Alex’s home. Certainly, Alex isn’t curious about the figure; he is clearly afraid and unsettled, and rather than investigating further or challenging him — even in the company of his friends — Alex chooses to run. If we are correct about his changing response to the figure — first curiosity, then fear — then we may be approaching the end of the original Marble Hornets shoot.

Jay mentioned in his opening caption that Alex is talking to a girl at some point; this character isn’t seen in the footage, but we can hear her laugh around the forty-eight second mark, right after the visual visual tearing. After Brian’s scene, the figure is suddenly present in the alley; again, we do not see him move, which is all the more unsettling.

On an unrelated note, I adore how stilted and terrible the scripted dialogue is. “Stuck in a loop of unhappiness,” is brilliantly sophomoric, and gives us a great sense of the tone of the in-universe Marble Hornets film.

Where does this event fall in the timeline? How did the tall figure appear in the alley? Was the visual tearing evidence of his imminent arrival? Is he, as Jay asserts in the closing caption, following Alex?

Entry #8 (July 12, 2009)

Jay notes there doesn’t seem to be any visual tearing, but the audio is missing again. Alex is scribbling a series of strange images and words with what seems to be charcoal. He stops abruptly, turns out what appears to be the same lamp as in Entry #1, and Jay tells us that the rest of the tape is effectively blank.

Alex’s papers include a sketch of the tall figure with an X across the (otherwise blank) face; the words “FINDS ME”, “SPEAKS TO ME” and “LIES” are also visible. He seems to be writing the word “HELP” when he stops and turns out the light.

I should note that there was some discussion amongst fans of the series if we were really seeing Alex in the video, since part of the video’s description on YouTube, “Doesn’t seem like Alex,” could mean that this is someone else. I don’t support that theory; this is clearly Alex’s house, the presence of the sketches connects with the sounds of tearing paper back in Entry #3, and it fits with Alex’s desire to constantly film himself.

Does the tall figure speak to Alex? If so, what does he say? Why is Alex sketching in such an apparently compulsive manner? What happened after the light went out, and why is the audio missing? Where does this fit in our timeline?

Entry #9 (July 19, 2009)

Footage from a Marble Hornets shoot in the gazebo we saw Jay and Alex scout in Entry #5. We are treated to some more of Alex’s dialogue, but he stops the scene and tells the actors that the pacing is wrong, and that the conversation sounds stilted. From there, Alex’s temper deteriorates, culminating in an argument with the cameraman, who stopped filming between takes, rather than leaving the camera running. Alex seems to pull himself to together, and they continue, although Jay’s closing caption notes that the stress seems to be adversely affecting Alex’s personality.

Once again, I’m going to break my rule about out-of-game information to fill in the names of the characters. We aren’t told in the entry, but the actor on the left with the cigarettes is Tim, who was previously mentioned in the scene with Brian; the girl is Sarah, and sounds like the unseen girl in that same scene. The camera operator is Seth.

Is Alex’s irritability caused by the stress? Why is it so important to him to keep the camera running? Is it significant that the audio distortion which was so prominent on our last scene of the gazebo is now absent?

totheark: Regards (July 22, 2009)

Until now, Marble Hornets was progressing in a relatively straightforward — albeit nonlinear — fashion. Now, things get a little more complicated, and much more interesting.

YouTube user ToTheArk (it’s all lower-case on YouTube, although I will intercap it for clarity) created his — or her — account on July 22nd, and uploaded Regards as a response to Entry #9. The following day, Jay tweeted about it:

@marblehornets, July 23, 2009
Very strange video response to Entry #9 from “totheark”. Not sure what it’s trying to say.

That tweet was seen by fans of the series as proof that ToTheArk is a part of the Marble Hornets story, rather than the work of an enthusiastic fan.

The film is clearly in a very different style to Jay’s entries. Engaged viewers immediately set about solving the cryptic slashes: the first interpretation was that the flashes represented morse code, which gave the apparently-meaningless message GKQ; the second interpretation revealed that the rectangles are 12, 15 and 11 slashes high, which yields the letters LOK. Combined with the word “CLOSELY” at the end of the video, the message is thought to be, simply, “LOOK CLOSELY”.

The addition of a new narrative perspective have two effects: the first is that is anchors Marble Hornets in the tradition of Alternate Reality Games, wherein players infer the story from multiple real-world sources; the second is the addition of a new pressure on the primary narrative. We’ve wondered about the internal tensions in both Alex and Jay’s accounts; we’ve wondered too about the external tension between their stories. Now, ToTheArk is encouraging — if not demanding — more scrutiny, more speculation, more analysis, and, arguably, less trust.

At this point, we must also question ToTheArk’s purpose in the creation of this video. What is it that they want? What will a closer analysis of the tapes yield? Is their message intended for Jay, or for us? It is possible that ToTheArk knows something about Alex’s story, and wants that information revealed; it is also possible that they have another goal which is served by Jay’s closer attention, or by our own.

So, who is ToTheArk? At what should we be looking closely? What is their involvement with the events of Marble Hornets?

Entry #10 (July 28, 2009)

This entry is also missing its audio track. Someone, presumably Alex, is in the forest at night. He catches a glimpse of the tall figure, and immediately runs away. He eventually stops at what seems to be a building and turns around, only to see the figure closer than before. He runs again, and the entry ends.

This is an interesting entry to try and fit in our timeline; why is Alex out in the forest, if not to find the tall figure? But if that’s his intention, why does he flee when he sees him? We don’t get to see much of the building, but it looks as though it could be the red tower that Jay pointed out during the location scouting back in Entry #5, although there’s no sign of artificial lights near the tower in #5, while we see them clearly here.

Is this more proof that the tall figure can move with supernatural speed? Is there, perhaps, more than one of them? Why was Alex in the forest at night? Did he end up at the red tower we saw in Entry #5? If not, where is he? What happened to the audio?

totheark: Operator (July 31, 2009)

ToTheArk’s second video seems a little less cryptic than the first, but raises many more questions. The capitalized letters in the message, “Lakes In Stillnesss will Take Every life of the Night,” spell out “LISTEN”, an interesting companion to the message “LOOK CLOSELY” from the previous video.

Two days after the video was posted, Jay turned to Twitter:

@marblehornets, August 2, 2009
Agreeing with others. The video response “operator” sounds like some of the missing audio. Maybe from entry 10?

And yes, it seems as though the audio from Operator fits nicely over the silent footage from Entry #10. It doesn’t add anything significant to the scene, but it is now clear that ToTheArk had direct or indirect access to Alex’s tapes at some point. ToTheArk isn’t just observing Jay’s investigation, but is somehow involved.

How did ToTheArk get the audio? Why does he want us to look closely and listen? What is his connection to Alex, and to the tall figure?

One last note, before we conclude: as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been happy to include out-of-game information when it comes to naming characters, just so we can talk meaningfully about the people we’ve seen. I have avoided, however, naming the tall figure who is haunting Alex. The figure does have a name in the Marble Hornets canon, but I wanted to wait until it was referenced directly in the narrative. We don’t know what significance it has, if any, and we certainly don’t know if it is explicitly used in-universe, but I’m going to switch to using his name, rather than his description.

So, ladies and gentlemen… meet The Operator.

The Operator Fan Art, by Curtain Comedy

In the next installment, we’re going to find out just how close The Operator got to Alex, discover more questions about ToTheArk, and watch Jay become more active in his investigation. Stay tuned!