In recent days, one very popular genre of movie seems to be that of so-called "found footage," in which strange, unexplained video pops up to unravel a sequence of events that defies conventional understanding. It is all good, scary fun, and perfect for a Halloween video night, but what many may not realize is that there have been on occasion very real pieces of such found footage that have turned up, documenting everything from the sick and deranged to the decidedly paranormal in nature. These pieces of footage have emerged from the murky darkness of mystery to stare us right in the face and defy us to try and understand them, and here we will look at some of the weirdest, which prove that reality can be as horrifying as the movies.
Many of these grim found videos revolve around heinous, despicable crimes from the darkest corners of humanity. One very intriguing and mysterious piece of found footage relating to such an unspeakable crime was recovered from a cell phone found by a student within a taxi cab in Fiji. On the mysterious abandoned phone was found to be a 10 minute long video that would set the Internet and media on fire and incite endless debate. The mysterious footage, which is believed to have been taken in 2012 or 2013, shows four men bobbing about in the ocean frantically treading water on a piece of wreckage of what might be an overturned wooden boat and obviously submissively raising their hands in defeat, yet the crackling of heavy gunfire can be heard all around as an ominous voice shouts in Mandarin “Shoot, shoot, shoot!” and the helpless men are mercilessly mowed down and killed by the flying bullets as a pool of red spreads into the surrounding water. There were also heard to be voices speaking Vietnamese and Indonesian in the gruesome clip, including a Vietnamese voice that shouts, “If you see anyone, just kill.” When the victims are finally dead, crew members of the offending vessel can be heard cheering gleefully.
It is an unsettling and difficult piece of footage to watch indeed, and making it all the worse is that no one can figure out just who the dead men are or who killed them, and indeed not only have the bodies never been recovered, but no one even has any real idea of where the brutal crime actually took place. Upon analysis of the footage it was suspected that the grim killings occurred somewhere in the Indian Ocean, but that is about all that is known. One potential clue comes in the form of a vessel passing in the background with a registration number that identified it as a Taiwanese tuna fishing vessel, but this turned up no usable leads. Another clue was a banner seen in the background that says "Safety is No. 1" in Mandarin but this gives little insight and has led nowhere.
Making matters murkier is that the Fijian government washed their hands of the whole thing, claiming that they were thousands of miles from the suspected crime scene and that the incident did not involve their citizens and so it did not concern them, as well as the fact that maritime law makes things tricky in that vessels are not required to report crimes and the way for doing so is complicated and contrived. Taiwanese authorities for their part have speculated that this was all the result of a pirate attack gone bad and that there is very little that can be done considering the law of the jungle that rules the seas, but they could have also been illegal fishermen, stowaways, mutineers, thieves, or just innocent victims in the wrong place at the wrong time. No one really knows, nor seems too inclined to try and find out.
In fact, no one reported the crime at all at the time, despite there being several other ships in the area, and making it all the more frustrating is that the killers actually filmed themselves during the whole horrific incident. For several minutes the killers whoop and cheer as they film themselves celebrating their murder, but their faces are obscured, unclear, and no one knows who they are. As of yet, the identity of the the victims and their killers remain complete unknowns, and it is an absolute mystery as to why this footage should end up on a cell phone forgotten in some random cab in Fiji.
In another sinister case, one pair of murderers made more or less a whole amateur documentary of the days leading up to their gruesome deed and the immediate aftermath. Brian Lee Draper and Torey Michael Adamcik, both 16, were two friends who were students at Pocatello High School, in Pocatello, Idaho. The two buddies were movie fanatics, especially for horror movies such as Scream, and they also dabbled in making their own homemade movies with a video camera. The two also harbored an unhealthy burgeoning interest in serial killers and mass murderers, such as the killers behind the Columbine High School shooting, idolizing these monsters like most high school students might idolize athletes or entertainers. It was perhaps this rather macabre interest that would lead to the dark deeds that lie ahead for them.
At some point they came across the idea to kill one of their classmates and film the whole process of planning it and carrying it out from beginning to end. The target was decided to be fellow classmate Cassie Jo Stoddart. In the days leading up to the killing the two filmed themselves interacting with the girl and also talking on camera about why she was such a good candidate for a victim and why they had chosen to end her life. Their whole attitude and demeanor throughout seems so calm and matter-of-fact, and one might all think it was a big practical joke if it weren’t for the fact that the two would go on to stab Stoddart to death on September 22, 2006. The footage even shows the boys driving home just after murdering Stoddart, seemingly excited and elated about what they have just done. The film they made of the whole thing would turn up later and become a crucial piece of evidence during their trial, which would find them guilty and get them sentenced to life in prison. Although we may never really know why they did what they did, the deranged video they took provides an unnerving look into a pair of twisted minds united in chaos.
Another surreal journey though the cracked, disintegrating mind of a deranged individual mired in madness has to do with Ricardo Lopez, the creepy stalker and would-be murderer of the popular Icelandic musician Björk. Lopez was a high school drop out born in Uruguay but who had mostly grown up in the state of Georgia, later moving to Florida to live by himself, where he began to cultivate an insane obsession with the singer some time in 1993. He began to meticulously and reverently research every single detail of her life and relentlessly sent her fan letters. As time went on, Lopez became ever more reclusive, and his longing for Björk more insistent as he derailed further from reality into an unknown place of darkness, his fantasies about the singer becoming increasingly more elaborate, including his inane plans to build a time machine so that he could be with her. All of these swirling random thoughts and fantasies he compiled and congealed into a diary that would grow to be over 800 pages in length.
Things took a turn for the dark and macabre when he learned in 1996 that the object of his affection was romantically involved with the musician Goldie. Lopez, who by now was already quite far disconnected from reality, went from wanting to be with the singer to wanting to exact revenge against her for breaking his heart, consequently starting a video diary that rather well encapsulates his rapid descent into a tunnel of stark, raving madness. He would go on to record 11 videotapes 2 hours in length each, all filmed in his unkempt apartment, in which he enthusiastically rants about his anger and frustration over this perceived betrayal and goes over his plans to kill the musician. Lopez finally decided that he would send a bomb to kill Björk, at first planning an elaborate one that would explode to hurl out needles infected with HIV but somehow gaining the lucidity to realize the impossibility of this plan and ultimately settling for one that would be sent by letter bomb and which would simply shoot out sulfuric acid to severely disfigure her and hopefully kill her so that they could be “reunited in Heaven.”
Over a 9 month period Lopez made these feverish, sick plans and videos, and no one would have known this at the time because he was locked away in his dark reclusive dungeon making these diaries and none had been released, yet. Indeed, no one even knew that they nor Lopez himself even existed. Then, on the morning of September 12, 1996, Lopez dourly filmed what would be the last entry in his video diary, called “Last Day,” in which he expresses his nervousness before going to mail the bomb and returning to his home to shave his head, smother his body with red, green, and black greasepaint, and then blow his brains out with a .38 caliber pistol as Björk’s music played in the background, all of it caught on camera. Since Lopez was a friendless loner who languished away in his own self-imposed exile, it would not be until September 16 that anyone would realize that anything was amiss, when the stench of decay and blood oozing from the apartment raised concerns and he was found decomposing right where he had fallen.
It was upon discovery of the body, as well as the extensive maniacal diary and the video journals, that U.S. authorities were able to contact Scotland Yard, who were then able to manage to intercept the incoming letter bomb. The videos are a morbid, fascinating chronicle of the degeneration of a warped mind totally isolated from society and its steady plummet into the depths of insanity. While it is very grim viewing indeed, it seems somewhat important to know what is going on in the psyches of these potential killers, and perhaps provide a beam of light to shine on the foggy landscape of their often unfathomable intentions. You can see some of it here, but be warned it is harrowing viewing at best.
Other pieces of supposed found footage cover the decidedly more paranormal in nature. One very strange video began making the rounds in the 1990s, when it was claimed that an abandoned camcorder was found lying down in darkness by an explorer of the vast Parisian catacombs, and which held some chilling footage indeed. The catacombs in question are a vast warren of around 200 miles of rooms and dim tunnels arranged into seven levels and winding away into the murk like spiderwebs under the bustling streets of Paris, which are all the spookier considering they are stuffed with countless human remains that have lied there in the cold, inky confines for centuries. The whole network and its mind-boggling number of corpses, an estimated 6 million in total, were the result of overcrowded cemeteries in the 18th century, which prompted city officials to simply exhume bodies and unceremoniously dump them down below the city streets where no one would even know they were there.
In present day the catacombs have drawn in droves of tourists with a curiosity for the macabre, especially the Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp, an ossuary holding rows upon rows of skulls and bones that form a solid wall all around. Considering that much of the catacombs is closed off to the public and that there are large swaths that are unexplored, the place has become a magnet for urban explorers, who often covertly sneak in to penetrate into the dark unknown. It was one of these who found the camera lying there in the shadows, and it is one of these whose bizarre fate seems to remain forever etched upon its contents.
The video that the camera contained is a POV piece of footage apparently taken by a lone explorer as he meanders about the dark recesses of the tunnels and their various mysterious rooms. He manages to find and film increasingly creepier things down there in the darkness, including strange paintings on the walls such as a human figure with arms and legs spread painted in white, rooms piled high with skulls and bones, and bones arranged into arrows that point to who knows where. Around 40 minutes into this exploration, the man is suddenly spooked by something off camera and becomes increasingly panicked, breathing heavily and breaking out from a fast walk into a hurried run. It appears that he is desperately running away from something, as he seems to be just blindly careening through the halls and chambers in sheer terror, but at no point do we know what that menace might be. Finally the camera gets dropped to the ground and continues filming until the battery goes dead.
The whole time it is unclear just what caused the explorer to fly into such a panic or where he went off to after dropping the camera, and indeed he allegedly has never been seen again, despite expeditions launched since to try and find out what became of him. The whole chilling story was aired on an ABC TV episode about the scariest places in the world, as well as on the SyFy series Ghost Hunters, and it has been fairly intensely debated as to whether the whole thing is genuine or a hoax. Was this disturbing video real? If so what did the explorer see that freaked him out so much and what happened to him? Who knows? A portion can be seen here.
In October of 2005, a video turned up that allegedly shows the unsettling last moments and fate of a pair of teenagers in Croatia. The two teens can be seen talking about the new camera they are using and how they are going to test it out, after which they go out and fool around with their new toy, filming all manner of random stuff and banter between them until things take a turn for the creepy. At one point in the video they spy a man by the side of the road, only to see as they get closer that he is wearing a hood or bag over his head.
So far, so weird, but it gets worse. At first the two teenagers seem to think it’s just a drunk peeing in the bushes and they try to get even closer for a better look at who this odd stranger is. At this point, the shadowy figure turns around and begins stumbling and staggering towards them unprovoked and without a word as the startled boys turn around and run off as the man follows behind, drawing inexorably closer. At the end of the video the teenagers think they have lost him but he suddenly appears again and the camera goes dark. The boys supposedly went missing after that, and video is claimed to have been released by Croatian police looking for leads. Whether it is all real or not, the footage is certainly rather disturbing and frightening to watch. You can see it here.
Some supposed found footage videos seem to lean even further towards hoax than reality, pushing up against the very boundaries of the fringe, but which nevertheless remain mysterious, such as a story that claims that two boys went missing in England in December of 2008, after which they were later found dead in their car, which had been parked at an abandoned rural farm called Broomhall Farm. Apparently police found a camera in the car, which turned out to contain some rather bizarre footage. In the video, the boys purportedly seem to be out on a joyride, just aimlessly driving about until they get to a dark tunnel ahead which is supposed to lead to the old is clearly marked as not having a through road.
The boys then notice that they are hopelessly lost and that their GPS system is inexplicably malfunctioning for no clear reason. They also apparently spot a shadowy figure in a mask along the way, as well as a dead rabbit lying by the side of the road, which only serve to lend a distinctly surreal air to the whole affair. No matter how far they drive they seem to keep coming back to that same damn tunnel, and only after driving around for perhaps hours do they find that they have shockingly ended up back at the entrance to the farm. Real or fake? Check it out and decide for yourself.
There is yet another video that seems to be too much like a horror movie to possibly be real but has been hotly debated nonetheless. In this creepy footage, allegedly taken in 2006, two young men are driving around at night as they listen to music, laughing and talking boisterously, obviously having a pretty great time, but the jovial mood sours somewhat when they try and take a shortcut through some woods and seem to get lost. When they finally get out of the car to take a look around and try and get their bearings there is a loud, aggressive growling noise of some sort, which prompts the man with the camera to swing around trying to figure out what made the sound. The camera jolts every which way, and whatever the creature is attacks, with the camera tumbling away and one of the men making it to the car before collapsing. The men are claimed to have vanished after the violent incident, and the video is said to be the only evidence remaining of what happened to them. Again, the intense video seems to be staged somewhat, and is quite possibly fake, but some seem to think it is real.
Another inexplicable piece of scary, possibly supernatural footage supposedly comes from an actual haunted mental asylum. Pennhurst Asylum, in Pennsylvania, also once known by the rather unwieldy, ominous, and also somewhat insensitive title of the Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic, was opened in 1908 with the idea that people with mental disabilities were a menace to society and unfit to be proper citizens. With this ominous philosophy the asylum quickly became rather infamous for its poor record of human rights and rampant abuse and mistreatment, as well as its, shall we say, questionable treatment methods, such as solitary confinement, strapping patients to beds for days at a time, painful injections of noxious chemicals, and electroshock therapy, among others. In addition to the genuinely mentally disabled, the institution also took in various immigrants, criminals and orphans, deeming them too to be unfit for society, eventually housing thousands of such poor souls.
The rumors of the asylum practicing what amounted to torture were blown wide open when TV reporter Bill Baldini investigated the institution in 1968 and ran a 5 episode expose on what was really going on behind its doors, which were titled Suffer the Little Children. The graphic footage of the neglect and abuse endured by patients both children and adult was enough to sicken the public and invoke a public outcry against the asylum, leading to the eventual arrest of 9 staff for abuse and causing it to close its doors in 1987, while simultaneously revolutionizing the country’s approach and philosophy towards healthcare for the mentally and physically handicapped.
In the years since its closure Pennhurst Asylum has perhaps not surprisingly become well-known as a deeply haunted location with a wide range of bizarre paranormal phenomena reported from here that have made it a mecca for ghost hunters and curiosity seekers looking for a glimpse of the supernatural. In 2008, two college students came here to explore the haunted abandoned buildings and apparently got a bit more than they bargained for, if the footage on their discarded camera is to be believed.
The beginning of the video seems innocuous enough, merely showing the two students wandering about the eerie, spooky grounds, picking through debris strewn rooms and generally goofing around, but things begin to get odd when the video suddenly cuts from them going up some dilapidated stairs to a shot outside the hospital with only 40 seconds passing between the two. The video lingers on the outdoor shot for a few seconds, and then goes dark for a few moments and cuts once again, this time to a shot that is time stamped as being a day later before going dark permanently. The camera was allegedly found abandoned at the vacant asylum and the two students were supposedly never seen again. It is also unknown just why the camera suddenly was outside within such a short range of time or why it suddenly jumped to a day later before going dead.
Of course there have been accusations that the video is a hoax, but others have defended its potential authenticity on account of it doesn’t really show anything too melodramatic and seems mostly quite realistic. Just what happened here and did it have anything to do wiith the location’s haunted history? It is all just a hoax? Whatever the case may be, it is certainly quite creepy and somehow unsettling to watch. You can see part of it here.
What are we to make of such strange footage? Do any of these offer any real insight into these cases or are they just mere oddities and anomalies that only serve to incite discussion and endless debate? Such found footage can certainly be frustrating, often only adding layers to the mystery surrounding them, with no clear answers in sight, but they nevertheless offer a peek into a world that we may not never have know if it were not for their existence. They stir the imagination, invoke discussion, and as grim and morbid as they are may ultimately offer some closure. Or maybe not. If you have watched any of these, sweet dreams.