Welcome Home – The Evolution of Analog Horror
Despite Analog Horror being a relatively new genre in the horror scene, it’s already produced some of the most creative and terrifying projects ever seen. Analog horror is an incredibly accessible genre, with many creators making their masterpieces with little more than still images and creative editing. With this accessibility we’ve seen the genre shift and change as creators continue to build upon the skills and techniques demonstrated by those who came before.
Local 58 revolutionized the use of the public broadcast system as a way of delivering fear through nostalgia. The Mandela Catalogue then expanded on this, using religion and the uncanny valley to further prey on this nostalgia. While some have expressed the opinion that analog horror has grown stale with copycats of popular series popping up left and right, one creator has sought to squash this myth. Instead of using all of the usual analog horror tropes, they’re finding their inspiration from the most unlikely of places: The Muppets.
Welcome Home: An Introduction
When you first arrive at the Welcome Home landing page, you might be surprised by its cheery and colorful nature. While the inspiration from classic puppet shows like The Muppets is immediately clear, there is a sinister edge present everywhere you look. At the top of the page you can find a beautiful drawing of Wally Darling, the main character that we’ll be following throughout this Alternate Reality Game (ARG).
By all accounts his cartoonish and child-friendly design should fill us with waves of nostalgia for the puppet characters we all grew up with, however his unwavering stare and the all-too realistic eye painted on the rock beneath him just fill the viewer with a sense of unease. It’s clear that something is not quite right here.
Through the ‘About Us’ page we learn that this website is a part of The Welcome Home Restoration Project. This team consists of anonymous yet dedicated individuals who devote their time to restoring what remains of Welcome Home, a long-since canceled puppet show for kids. In their own words, “It is through these collective efforts that we will awaken the memory of this lost piece of media.” These words were clearly chosen with intent, leaving us to wonder if memories are all that are going to be awakened.
Navigating to ‘The Neighborhood’ page, we’ll find jaw-dropping art and adorable descriptions for all of the wonderful characters of Welcome Home! Some of these characters include Sally Starlet, a star who loves theater, Eddie Dear, Welcome Home’s mailman, and Barnaby B. Beagle, a dog who loves jokes. At the center of the neighborhood you’ll find the aforementioned Wally Darling, as well as Home, his sentient house.
At a glance, this neighborhood may seem like the perfect place to live, but a more thorough look at the rot seeping out beneath Home’s front door reveals the truth. Clicking on this rot will take you to a web page titled ‘So Below’ where Wally can be seen kneeling before the bloodied eye of Home.
Staying on this page long enough, you’ll notice that someone begins drawing a spiral on your screen. This spiral will take you to a hidden audio clip filled with the unnerving sounds of Wally trying to turn a door handle. This is our first taste of the true story happening with Welcome Home.
We Need to Talk About Wally
Now that you have a general understanding of the way this ARG works, it’s time to dive into what it’s really all about. As you may have noticed during your tour of the neighborhood, Wally seems to be a little bit different than everyone else. While none of the characters within Welcome Home look at the screen, Wally always has his eyes pointing directly at the screen, and by extension, directly at you. This little slice of awareness may seem like a coincidence at first, however a quick look at the site’s Guestbook reveals that Wally knows more than he should.
As the name implies, the guestbook is a place for people to leave comments about their love and appreciation for the restoration project. Across these comments we can see a variety of doodles and drawings, all painted by Wally himself! By right clicking on these doodles and opening them in a new tab, we can see that they actually all contain responses from Wally.
While many are cute and funny, several of them are very disturbing. When asked why he likes eye contact, Wally replies ‘So you will know I am looking at you neighbor’. In response to another comment, Wally writes ‘I can hear you neighbor’. There’s no denying at this point that Wally has somehow gained a level of sentience and awareness, but the depths of this awareness go deeper than expected.
When the site was first launched many immediately noticed that certain words had misplaced letters. At first these seemed like formatting issues on the side of the members of the restoration project, but it was quickly discovered that these letters were actually part of a code. By typing the letters onto the end of the site’s web address in the correct order, viewers could be met with a horrifying image. Wally isn’t just aware of himself, he’s aware of us too.
A Story in Progress
What’s been described so far is just a drop in the bucket for what this project has to offer. Welcome Home recently received a large update with plenty of puzzles, lore, and scares, and I hope that what you’ve read here has been enough to entice you into exploring the website for yourself. Welcome Home is one of the most unique projects out there today, and it’s clear that Clown, the creator behind the project, has an intense love and passion for horror.
If you’re impressed by what you’ve seen with this project, consider supporting them and supporting one of the best horror ARGs out there.