Encyclopaedia of the Impossible: Cow Head

steer skullPreviously: The Blind Maiden Website.

Type: Verbal Virus (VV)

Period/location of origin: Unknown, Japan. Some accounts state that subject dates back to the Meiji period or before; others, however, suggest that subject may have emerged during the 1960s. The truth of subject’s origin has not yet been determined.

Appearance: Subject is apparently a story called “Cow Head” which is so terrifying that it drives anyone who either hears it or tells it insane; targets may also expire shortly after either hearing or telling it. Subject’s details — that is, the substance of the story, etc. — remain unknown.

Subject may alternatively be known as “Ushinokubi,” “Ushi no kubi,” or “Gozu.” Subject should not be confused with the Ukranian folktale of the same name.

Modus operandi: During periods of uneventfulness, waiting, or boredom when two or more targets are present, one target (hereafter termed “storyteller”) may begin, unbidden, telling the story. Regardless as to whether or not any other targets present request that the storyteller not proceed, the storyteller will continue to do so until the tale has reached its conclusion. During the telling, the storyteller will appear to have vacated his or her own body; it is unknown what force spurs the storyteller onward, but it suspected that subject takes control of the storyteller’s body during this time.

The storyteller will find, upon finishing the tale, that any other targets within hearing distance will have lost consciousness, begun frothing at the mouth, and/or broken out into cold sweats and fits of shivering. Any and all targets involved in the incident, including the storyteller, may cease to exist before the week is out.

It is unknown how subject achieves this effect on its targets, and frankly, no one really wants to volunteer to find out. Furthermore, given subject’s tendency to eliminate any target who might hear it, it is unknown how subject proliferates. It may be assumed that subject is able to transmit itself directly into the brains of select targets via some as yet undetermined process. The criteria used by subject to select storytellers also remains unknown.

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Abandoned: Kings Park Psychiatric Center, Long Island, New York (Photos)

John Bencina/Flickr>/i>
John Bencina/Flickr

Previously: The Ghost Ship McBarge.

I realize that perhaps a disproportionate number of the locations I’ve been dealing with in “Abandoned” are former hospitals or psychiatric centers. There’s just something about them that gets me like nothing else, although what exactly that “something” is, I’ve never been able to articulate. Maybe it’s because of the sheer number of memories that must imbue them — all those people, for all those years… I don’t know. But whatever it is, the Kings Park Psychiatric Center on Long Island in New York has it.

Opened in 1885, Kings Park Psychiatric Center — then known as the Kings Park Lunatic Asylum — was one of four major psychiatric hospitals opened on Long Island during the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century; the others included Central Islip Psychiatric Center (opened in 1889), Pilgrim Psychiatric Center (opened in 1931), and Edgewood State Hospital (opened sometime during the 1940s). All four of them were facilities of the “farm colony” variety, with patients raising crops and taking care of livestock in an effort to make the facilities self-sufficient communities. At the time of its opening, Kings Park housed a mere 55 patients; indeed, its purpose was to play against the overcrowding issues that plagued so many hospitals at the time. Just 10 years later, however, it too began suffering from overcrowding, resulting in the state of New York taking over the running of the facility. The change in management also brought a change in name: The place became known as the Kings Park State Hospital.

What happened next is a familiar story: The hospital grew, and grew, and grew, until the campus consisted of over 150 buildings. Many were patient wards, of course, including the facility’s most well-known building, Building 93; many more were medical and surgery buildings; and others included a power plant, a patient-run café, a recreation center that included a bowling alley and a swimming pool, and more. The population, too, swelled; by 1900, it played host to 2,697 patients, and by 1954, it hits its peak at a whopping 9,303 — a long way from its original population of 55. The huge collection of buildings and the number of patients and staff they supported were frequently referred to not as Kings Park State Hospital, but as Kings Park Psychiatric Center.

Over time, the focus of Kings Park’s treatment changed, as well. Rather than the gentle rest and relaxation thought to be inspired by farming activities, patients were instead subjected to two of the most controversial procedures in psychiatric history: Electro-shock therapy and the pre-frontal lobotomy. The use of these procedures waned after the development of antipsychotic medication — most notably chlorpromazine, known as Thorazine, which became widespread as a method of treatment in the U.S. during the mid-1950s — but the development of the drugs also led to another change: Declining patient populations. Thorazine made it possible for cases previously thought to be “hopeless” to live on their own — which lessened the need for huge facilities like Kings Park. This, combined with the movement towards deinstitutionalization prevalent in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, resulted in a hospital which, once fearsomely overcrowded, was now virtually empty.

During these decades, Kings Park’s many buildings were systematically reduced in usage or shut down all together — including Building 93, which originally consisted of 13 stories. By the mid-‘90s, only a third of it was still in use. The New York State Office of Mental Health made the decision to close both Kings Park and Central Islip in the early ‘90s, with the plan being either to transfer these facilities’ patients to Pilgrim Psychiatric Center or to discharge them all together. In 1996, Kings Park Psychiatric Center closed its doors,

There was one problem, of course: Although many patients no longer required facilities like Kings Park, the smaller community centers which were meant to help provide treatment for those living out in the world were never built in the numbers required. As a result, the patients released during the deinstitutionalization phase often did not receive the treatment they needed, leading to the rise in numbers of homeless individuals suffering from mental illness. This problem persists today; according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Of the approximately 610,000 people who were homeless on a single night in January 2013, one in five had a serious mental illness, and slightly more than one in five had a chronic substance abuse problem.” Those are big numbers, and ones we should be doing much more to try to reduce.

The decaying remains of Kings Park Psychiatric Center still stand. Some of the buildings have been demolished, but many remain — and though it’s illegal to go inside any of them (as it frequently is when it comes to abandoned buildings), it is possible to drive, walk, or bike through the site. Plans to sell the property have been unsuccessful, so for now, Kings Park lingers, waiting, perhaps — but for what, no one knows.


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The Most Dangerous Games: Frequently Asked Questions, Vol. II

bell book candle

Previously: Frequently Ask Questions, Vol. I.

A surprising number of questions about all these Most Dangerous Games have found their way into the comments section since the last FAQ I posted, so now seemed like a good time for another one. Again, I’m by no means an expert, and these aren’t be-all, end-all answers; they’re my best guesses, based on what we know about the games themselves and what we know about rituals in general. Speaking of, I’ve also added a “General” category to cover a few of the questions that address overarching themes that carry through from game to game.

Got something else you want answered? Leave it in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.


Why is 6am always the safe hour?

It’s generally believed that it’s harder for anything… shall we say, not of our world to cross over to it during the daylight hours. The sun has typically either risen or is in the process of rising by six o’clock in the morning — although you might want to wait a little longer if you play any of these games in the dead of winter. On the winter solstice, for example, it’s not unusual for the sun to rise around 7:30.

When you finish or abort a game, are you safe for good?

Not necessarily. Remember, most of these rituals involve inviting dangerous things into your home — and once they’ve been invited in, it’s really hard to get them to leave, even if you complete or abort the game (this, I suspect, is also why some games should never be played more than once). The Midnight Man is probably the best example of a guest who likes to stick around, even after his game has been completed; the same is true of Daruma-San.

The safest thing, of course, is just not to play any of them.

…But then, you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t get at least a tiny bit of a thrill from the danger.

What happens if you ignore any red flags?

You don’t want to know.

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Creepypasta of the Week: “The Theater”

abandoned cinema

Previously: “Annie96 Is Typing…”

“The Theater” is one of the first creepypasta stories I ever read. I have no idea who wrote it; I also don’t know how long it’s been floating around the Internet, although I know it’s been around for at least five years (2010 is roughly when I first discovered creepypasta). It’s not particularly terrifying, but it’s certainly weird — and the payoff at the end is what bumps it from merely an odd story to one with some darker undertones. 

A word of advice: Don’t bug the Ticket-Taker.

Have you ever heard of an old game called “The Theater”? Yeah, didn’t think so. Probably because many say it doesn’t even exist.

You see, The Theater was an old game released around the same time as Doom. Today, if you ever find it, it’s only available on crappy bootleg CD-ROMs, which, more often than not, don’t even actually contain the game.

The actual legitimate copies that they say were released back in the day feature a blank cover with nothing but the sprite of what has since been named ‘the Ticket-Taker’. He is simply a poorly drawn, pixelated, bald, Caucasian man with large red lips wearing a red vest over a white shirt and black pants.

He is completely expressionless, though some say that if you smash the disc his face is shown as angry the next time you look at the cover, though this is just dismissed as an urban legend. What is peculiar about The Theater, though, is that there is no developer named on the jewel case, nor a game description on the back. It is simply the Ticket-Taker on a white background on both sides.

The game was initially known for its inability to install correctly. The installation process immediately locks up the computer when the user reaches the licensing agreement. Also strange about the licensing agreement for The Theater is that whenever the development studio is supposed to be named, the text is simply a blank line. Anyways, most people who have claimed to owning one of the original CDs say that they figured out how to install the game by simply rebooting their computer on the licensing agreement with the disc still inside. Then they are prompted to press ‘I AGREE’ on startup. Then they continue with the installation.

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