After a year podcasting on ORIGINS, we introduce Season 2: Chapter 1 featuring an interview with Director Ryan Bellgardt to discuss his new film The Jurassic Games where death row inmates fight for their lives in a televised game. Plus, a look into gaming urban legends and other freaky supernatural stuff on the internet.
Can you believe podcast ORIGINS is entering Season 2? I’m excited to have produced 26 episodes and plan to bind the show notes and short stories into a single collection that I’ll have available on my website. To shake things up, I’m introducing a new feature to the show. I’ll be interviewing a producer, director, actor, or artist in conjunction with my short story reading and regular look into the ORIGINS of legend and lore. I’m not sure how all of this will play out as far as which part goes first, but through trial and error, I’ll figure it out. To jump start the new format, I’m interviewing an incredible guy who likes to take a bizarre story and add just a touch of something new that audiences have never seen before, like combining Civil War soldiers with an Army of Frankensteins, one of his earlier films. We’ll get into that interview after a discussion on gaming urban legends, a word from our sponsor, and a short story. And now, the show:
My house is filled with gamers. PUBG and Fortnite are the top picks currently, but there have been years of WOW and Starcraft and Minecraft too. I stopped gaming in the 2000s when Tomb Raider was brand new, the first game I ever played where you “felt” like the character, where the music matched the intensity like in a film, and one I couldn’t play alone in the dark at night because I was too afraid. I don’t game today, but two of my favorite three book series are based off games gone awry: The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game. Both put kids into situations that appear game-like though both are really about playing games that involve killing people. While scouring the internet for some crazy mashups of gaming and ghouls, I came across some pretty crazy urban legends in the gaming community. They’re all new to me…I hope they are new to you too.
Pale Luna was a game circulated in the San Francisco Bay area. As you booted it, you were greeted by a near black screen scribed with the following:
-You are in a dark room. Moonlight shines through the window.
-There is GOLD in the corner, along with a SHOVEL and a ROPE.
-There is a DOOR to the EAST.
After leaving this screen and reaching your first goal, the second screen basically repeated the same query only there was always only one answer. If you chose a door in any other direction, it would freeze the computer and cause you to reboot. As you can imagine, the few players who stuck it out through several of these repetitive, narrow directions lost interest through frustration only a few screens in. And who could blame them? Michael Nevins could. According to lore, he stuck it out through five hours going through thirty-three screens of much of the same until finally reaching a new command screen. Imagine his glazed eyes as they watched the words change for the first time. Widened eyes, leaning closer to the screen, he read the new phrase only to find he had to repeat the process for another hour or so until he could figure the correct combination of commands to move to the next screen, which I imagine he probably almost gave up on many times. His reward?
—— 40.24248 ——
—— -121.4434 ——
He stared at the numbers, wondering what they could mean when a thought struck him. Maybe they were latitude and longitude lines? Looking up the numbers, he was shocked to find that they lined up to a forest in the sprawling Lassen Volcanic Park. What were the odds? Considering this game was local to the Bay Area, it sort of made sense. The next day, Nevins grabbed a map, shovel, and a compass. He entered the park and walked the three-mile Bumpass Hell Trail, which I think should have been his first clue that this was not a good idea. I mean, if I ever got coordinates from a mystery video game that led me to the middle of the woods on a trail with the word “Hell” in it, I would NOT GO! Just saying. But Michael Nevins did go, and when he reached the coordinates delivered to him in Pale Luna, he began to dig, a mix of curiosity and nerves absorbing the pain. He must have wondered if he’d find buried treasure or nothing at all. I doubt he thought he’d find the severed, decomposed head of an eleven-year-old girl named Karen Paulsen who’d been reported missing a year and a half earlier. Imagine explaining that one to authorities. “A game gave the coordinates, I swear,” deep down hoping if he went through the motions again he’d actually reveal the screen holding the coordinates. An effort to find the game programmer turned up nothing but gray cyberspace. And the rest of Karen’s body was never found. Was this an elaborate hoax created by a bored gamer, a detailed plot by a murderer, or sheer coincidence? The world of gaming urban legends will never tell.
Fallout 3 is another game that was big in my house for a while. I remember hearing the old radio station playing tunes from the forties that just seemed off a bit in the post-apocalyptic world. From the game’s composer Inon Zur “because I could give them the ambience [sic] and the weird decadence plus an almost low-fi sound, but also bring up some more dramatic, orchestral elements with it when needed.” I couldn’t have explained it better myself. Galaxy News Radio is Fallout 3s most important station that can actually turn into a number-station, or a station that broadcasts coded messages. According to my research, the only way to turn GNR into a number-station is to kill Three Dog so he can be replaced by technician Margaret. I won’t go into the steps to progress the plot along and make these messages come to life. You can look that up for yourself. What I will say is the lore I discovered was frightening. When you reach the point in the game where you climb Raven Rock to boost the signal, you actually hear a depressed imitation of Three Dog bleat out numbers in a monotone voice, followed immediately by a song. The numbers, a string of nine or twelve single digits, is actually Morse Code. These varying messages stated things about watching a YouTube video or washing a car of grabbing Chinese for dinner, phrases that wouldn’t make sense in the Fallout universe and don’t carry much meaning. These two phrases, however, were a bit more sinister and caught a particular player’s interest:
“The Queen has died today. The world mourns, as on days like these, we are all Brits,” and “I can’t believe they’re actually done it. Not long left. The noise. I can’t take the noise anymore. I have a pistol in the attic.”
But it wasn’t until the player came across “one-two-zero-five-five-two-eight-two-zero-one-zero. What are you talkin’ about? You’ll be missed,” that he realized these were not mere sinister statements. This particular code had to refer to the recent passing of Gary Coleman (what are you talkin’ about, Willis?) as the numbers were the time and the date of Coleman’s death. No way! Looking further into the other codes and statements, he discovered more headlines:
“nine-four-five-four-two-zero-two-zero-one-zero. Accident in the gulf, several dead. Oil spill apparently averted.” The BP oil spill? The gamer and his friends used these two incidents to re-examine all the Morse codes through the lens of military format. Many of the messages were dated after the games inception, which makes sense, though a few occurred before like this one:
“22:15 April 15th, 1865 He’s dead and blame will probably be placed on that actor, Booth. Johnson better not cheat me out of the payment.” The Lincoln Assassination suddenly has a new twist!
Others had dates that occurred after the game’s release in 2008. Still others have yet to happen:
“The Queen has died today. The world mourns, as on days like these, we are all Brits.” 4:2 March 19th, 2014.
“Have you watched my YouTube video yet, I uploaded myself kicking bums in the nuts.” 24:16 December 24th, 2012.
“I can’t believe Britney’s actually won an Oscar!” 21:33 February 27th, 2023.
If I ever considered believing this urban legend, I think that last one about Britney, who I assume is Spears, winning an Oscar in 2023 brings it all to reality: this urban legend is false. But if she does win, then I will believe every urban legend I’ve heard in the past to be 100% truth. Extreme? Perhaps, but so is Britney Spears winning an Oscar.
I don’t think this chapter would be complete without mentioning the Minecraft Herobrine ghost. One day, a player was minding his own business chopping down trees for wood to make a fire. When suddenly, in the distance of his slow moving, glitchy game, he noticed something moving which he assumed was a cow. That cow would be the perfect topper for his fresh wood. He could build a fire, grab some A1, and enjoy a picnic for one. Only as he neared the cow, axe raised, it wasn’t a cow at all. It was another character with the default white skin, but the eyes were empty orbs and no name popped up to the linked gamer possessing him. The player, who had thought he was in single-player mode, double-checked and verified that he wasn’t in multi-player mode. So who or what was this thing? The albino character quickly turned on his heels and disappeared into the fog. The gamer chased him and found no one.
Freaked out, he entered a forum and asked if anyone had noticed the strange character. His post was deleted in less than five minutes. He posted again, and it deleted again, even faster this time. What in the world was happening? Suddenly, a DM came through from a user named HEROBRINE with a simple message: STOP. When the gamer went to research this person who sent the DM, he found his page 404ed. It just kept getting weirder. A private message came through from another player who said he’d seen the Herobrine too, as had a handful of other players who’d formed a secret board to be able to talk about it. The lore continues that about a month later, the gamer heard that the Herobrine character was the game developer’s brother. When the gamer emailed Notch, the developer, to ask him if he had a brother to confirm this urban legend, the gamer went white as Herobrine when Notch replied, “I did, but he is no longer with us.”
I’m Jaimie Engle, and you’ve just discovered ORIGINS.
ORIGINS is a bi-weekly podcast that shares the story behind legends and lore, where myth and science meet, written and produced by me, award-winning author Jaimie Engle. Please rate and subscribe to ORIGINS. It’s your greatest compliment. And if you really love it, support through Patreon.com/thewriteengle where I love to reward my tribe! Finally, stick around for the interview and a short story from my book The Toilet Papers titled “Roadside Vendor,” a story about a man who drove out of his way to try the special, not knowing he’d become it. (Now, you can watch on YOUTUBE!)
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Jaimie: No worries. It’s technology, man. It’s not your fault. I’m just glad there’s no dinosaurs chasing after me.
Ryan: Right? Right?
Jaimie: Well, we’ll get started. I really appreciate your time and I’m super excited to watch the rest of your movie. I started, and it was awesome. My podcast is called ORIGINS and it’s about the Origins behind Legend and Lore, where myth and science meet, with Project Entertainment Network. So, right off the bat, just tell me a little bit about the ORIGINS of the Jurassic games. What’s the story behind the story?
Ryan: Oh, wow. Okay, well we wanted to make a movie that kind of was going to appeal to the broadest audience we could. So, we just thought it’d be fun to mash together a Hunger Games kind of idea with … with convicts and death row inmates, all fighting for their freedom and then throw in some dinosaurs in there. That was kind of the original concept and then it was a little bit later on that we came up with the idea to make it kind of like a Running Man fast television game show in virtual reality. That was really because I was having a hard time coming up with why there would be dinosaurs in the first place in this scenario. It made a little bit more sense to me that, “Okay, there’s dinosaurs there because people want dinosaurs to be there.” And that seems to make more sense if it’s a television show where there’s sort of virtual reality constructs.
Jaimie: Absolutely. It was great.
Ryan: Yeah, it was a lot of fun to do.
Jaimie: I bet, and the graphics were incredible. It was like … like you said, it was Hunger Games meets Jurassic Park. It was awesome.
Ryan: Thanks. I’ve got a great team working with me of artists and visual effects artists that worked really hard to make the special effects look as good as they do and I’m just really proud of ’em because, I keep saying it, but when you get a bunch of people involved that are all kind of going above and beyond and outside of their comfort zone, you sort of get something that’s better than the sum of its parts. I think that’s kind of what happened here. Everybody was just so into it from the very beginning. Everyone was working so hard on it that it just makes me really proud to see it, the finished product, kind of surpass our own expectations for it.
Jaimie: Yeah, it’s awesome. I’m an author so just seeing your idea on the screen, I can’t even fathom how cool that is, so yeah. So okay, so you have these death row convicts that are fighting basically to entertain the masses. It’s kind of like Ancient Rome and to me it’s not a far-fetched idea. How plausible do you think this idea could be in our future and what side of the debate would you be on?
Ryan: That’s a great question. In the movies, one of the characters talks about how … she compares it to Ancient Rome and says, “Hey, you know, in the days of the Roman Empire, Gladiators fought against lions and tigers and a lot of times the lions and tigers won and the crowd was cheering them on.” So, she’s kind of saying, “Hey, we didn’t invent this. This is nothing new.” I think that’s … that’s what’s kind of fun about the story, is that the bad guys might be the people that are running the show and they might be even more villainous than the death row inmates that are the contestants. But what’s fun about writing villains like that, to me, is they think they’re justified.
Ryan: And so, you get a scenario where it’s like, “Hey look, they’re going to die anyway, by lethal injection, so why not make it a spectacle.” And to the death row inmates nothing’s happening to them physically other than they’re being injected with a lethal injection, which was what was going to happen. So, the question is: Is this some sort of mental abuse or mental torture to them? Which, they’re deciding that it’s not. So, I think there’s a fun argument to be had on both sides. I think that if I were … if this were real and I was watching it now, I would probably … that’s a really good question. I’ve never thought about that. I’ve never thought about that, but I’d like to think that I’d be one of the protestors that would be up in arms about this and upset with it, but probably deep down I would be tuning in every week because it would be my favorite show.
Jaimie: Right? I’m with you on that 100%.
Jaimie: So, as a director, you have to have been inspired by others in order to develop your own unique film style. Who would you say you’ve been impacted by the most and even what film in particular and why, and things like that?
Ryan: Well, I really love … I’m kind of the kid of the 80s and grew up watching Steven Spielberg Blockbusters and things like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and things like that I really loved. I like John Carpenter, too. I loved Big Trouble in Little China. I love movies like The Goonies and adventure movies, escapism. Those are the things that I’ve always … was always drawn to, were sort of these adventure type movies. So, I’m not so sure if it’s a specific director. I also love Tim Burton and that style, but I think … I’ve learned a lot.
Ryan: Someone said that to me once and I really liked it. They said, “Hey, everyone’s an expert in movies and TV because we watch so much of it.” And I thought, “You know, that’s interesting. We really have consumed so much of this that you sort of know just by watching, whether you’ve made a movie or not, if the movie is good or not.” And so I think … for me, it’s a sort of build on the things that I’ve enjoyed … movie fan growing up. And then once I sort of learned a little bit of the technical aspect of how to do all this stuff, I just sort of take to things that I love, and try to put them into movies.
Ryan: I’ve always wanted to try to come up with something or show something in our movies that no one has seen before. That’s kind of why these … these mix and matches things are kind of fun, where you add a dash of this and a dash of this and then something else that no one’s ever heard of or seen. They’re kind of like, “Oh, that’s crazy.” Like in this movie, we have a guy roundhouse kicking and Kung Fu fighting against three raptors. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. And when we were filming it we were laughing, ’cause we were just like, “Hey, this is great. No one’s ever … I don’t think anyone’s ever done this before.” So, it’s just kind of fun to try to come up with ideas like that.
Jaimie: Well, yeah, and I didn’t know that in the Civil War there was brother against brother against Frankenstein, like in Army of Frankensteins. So, yeah, I think you nailed it.
Ryan: Exactly. Exactly. We started that backroom Army of Frankensteins. We were … it’s sort of like it’s … yeah, it’s an army of Frankensteins that are cloned and it’s a whole bunch of Frankenstein monsters. That’s really fun; that things sort of add that extra element. Oh, throw them all back into the Civil War or something and I think that’s where we kind of like to take that extra step, like the one more thing kind of deal.
Jaimie: It was awesome. You were very entertaining.
Ryan: Thank you.
Jaimie: So, where can fans of ORIGINS find more about The Jurassic Games?
Ryan: Well, you can go on Facebook and we’re there, just by looking for Jurassic Games on Facebook. It’s gonna come out on VOD on June 12th, and then on DVD on July 3rd, and you can find it on Amazon and in different stores and things like that. So, it’ll be available pretty much everywhere, so that’s really exciting and I hope people will have fun watching the movie ’cause we had a lot of fun making it.
Jaimie: Yeah. Yeah, I’m excited for you. It’s been really fun to watch the trailers for the other movies and start this one. On your website you have a quote and I think it might be more than just a quote for you. It says, “Your chance of death increases by 100% after you are born.” That also made me laugh, but I noticed you do have the element of death as a topic in all of your films. Is that something that is a theme that you happen to put in there or is that something that you like to question about, “You’re gonna die anyway; maybe it’ll be by an army of Frankensteins or maybe it’ll be by a Jurassic creature in an online game.” So, was that intentional or is that just a theme you have?
Ryan: I feel like I’m in therapy right now.
Jaimie: Just lay back.
Ryan: Yeah. That’s … that’s actually a really great question that no one’s ever asked me and honestly I’ve never even thought about it until you asked it. But it is something that I’ve always been curious about: death or maybe afraid of death, and I kind of just always push it back behind me and I think that one of my philosophies is kind of like, “Hey, I’m on this planet for a limited amount of time and I wanna make sure that I’m having the most fun that I can” and this sounds kind of corny, probably, but like, “the biggest adventure that I can while I’m here.” And so, I think maybe the movies are kind of a reflection of that. It’s like, these people are gonna die, but they’re gonna die in the most … having the best adventure or the biggest story. I think that might be an interesting parallel you can draw there. If I’m laying on the couch and you’re my psychologist, we could explore that much deeper maybe in another episode. So, I really like that. Yeah, that’s good.
Jaimie: Oh, that’s awesome. Alright, so if you like that then you’re gonna like my closing question, which is: Which Avenger would you be and why?
Ryan: Well, I think I’d be Doctor Strange. I like the idea … seems to have the ability to have a very big picture vision of everything (and maybe I should have picked Vision), but I like Doctor Strange because in Infinity War it doesn’t … he can go into the future and say, “I’ve seen 14 million probabilities here.” I kind of feel like as a director and as someone who’s making these stories, it’s like, I love the idea that I can sort of maybe see the big picture of what we’re trying to do with a movie and then work backwards to get there. Plus, I just think that Doctor Strange is the coolest because I love Benedict Cumberbatch. I just love his magic and all the … I just thought that was so cool. So, yeah, Doctor Strange, pretty easy.
Jaimie: Yep. I’m with you on that one. Ryan, I really appreciate your time and I wish you all the best and all the success with your films and thank you for your interview today….
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