Alright, as you can judge by the title of the thread, this is gonna be all over the place and possibly on the TL;DR side; but I want to hash out some thoughts of mine on paper and might as well put it up incase any of you get any enjoyment out of reading it. I'm going to drabble on about my original fanon about the series that I only really kept in my head, and then contrast it to my reimagined paradigm after playing Downpour and taking Past Life into account. For the purpose of this ramble, only the original four games and Downpour really matter. But honestly who cares about the other stuff anyway?
Oh, and there's gonna be spoilers all up in this bitch, obviously. So keep the hell out if that's a problem.
Everyone ready? Good. Scroll down because I'm not spoiler-tagging anything.
All the kids out of the pool? Alright, enough prelude. First let me discuss the nature of the Otherworld in my old paradigm, and how it fits into my imagined cosmology as a whole. A lot of details are probably totally irrelevant, but this is how it functions in my head. I imagine the universe of Silent Hill works identically to our world for the most part, or atleast seems to. Silent Hill's weirdness is obviously a very rare thing; what if it's literally the only supernatural thing in the universe? Who know? Perhaps the universe is a clockwork, quantum, mechanical universe of only the physical, where human spirit cannot survive the flesh and there is no divine maker of what we observe around us. Perhaps the world is a 'shared dream' reality where the world is what it is because everyone agrees to it, insisting with such strength that one person's delusions, or even a whole religion, isn't enough to break through it. Maybe both are true, and one causes the other.
Either way you look at it, Silent Hill is an anomaly, and the nature of that anomaly might be different depending on your world model. In the mechanical universe, perhaps it's an incursion of another universe; a fragment of power from a world with laws that seem supernatural and magical to us, but are still mechanically rigid and solid in their own universe (imagine a planet where shaping reality with your unconscious mind is the norm; what would that be like?) or is an expression of some strange law of physics we don't understand yet (lolquantum waveform collapse herpderp), or perhaps it's a hole in the dream where desperate shards of mind can escape and create private dreamlands based upon their own personal soulscapes, separate from the oppressive 'democracy' dream they hail from.
When necessary to distinguish between these two thoughts in my mind, I shall call them Clock World and Dream World, where either nothing matters, objectively, or only human minds truly exist, depending.
To elaborate this schema I'll look at the first four games for further elaboration, with special emphasis on certain characters, monsters, themes, or what have you, that I feel are relevant.
In Silent Hill 1, we have Alessa Gillespie, who irrevocably changed Silent Hill and it's power into a nigh-unrecognizable form. Before we talk about her in depth, let me talk about Silent Hill pre-Alessa, for a moment, based off the Old Model. Given what we knew about it, I imagined that it had a power, but no Other Side. No second reality. Perhaps you really could speak to the dead there, and the place was a window into the spirit world (is the afterlife that 'universe of mind' I speculated of earlier?) or perhaps only people who died there or with a connection to the place 'stuck' there as a recording, instead of dying with the flesh and bone. Or perhaps the power could manifest your mind's contents and desires, but only as visions, and didn't actually break reality as the Otherworld does. This schema admittedly didn't explain things like the Little Baronness, but perhaps Alessa's distortion of reality run in multiple directions in time. After all, the march of past to future is only a relative thing, born of the human culture and the turning of the divine clockwork of the mortal world; neither of which Silent Hill has any obligation to obey.
Now, as for Alessa, she is a girl who has the ability to distort reality with her thoughts. However way you look at it in my model, her mind overwrites the universe. She can defy the Clockwork, she can lucid dream, she can Say and her will be done. Where this power comes from is unknown, but it certainly seems fairly unique to Alessa. Perhaps her being born in Silent Hill caused a piece of it's potential psychic energy to break off in her young soul, born at the right time under the right stars in a logical, but unobservable, process.
Either way, at first, her powers seemed to atleast APPEAR natural, even if the process isn't; someone dies by heart attack; thoughts from one mind slide into another. But when she was pushed to the limits of what her mind could take, there was an eruption. Her mind divided in the instant of her intense pain (not a damn demon's doing; way to mess up the Multiple Personality analogy, Climax), and while one side of her mind fell deep into her own mind, in an imaginary dreamscape, her other side went another way. This piece of her mind, a mere infant, materialized physically. A simple astral projection of a piece of her consciousness was able to weave a physical form by pure act of will, creating matter from nothing. This was a monumental event for reality, with possibly disastrous consequences. Cheryl broke the laws of physics blatantly. She was a vulgar act of magic, not a coincidental one.
When Cheryl Mason returns to Silent Hill, and Alessa's spirit rejoins with her, it is in that moment that things hit the fan. She pulls herself physically into her own mindscape, body and all, making a paradoxical alternate plane of existence. A world that sits inbetween the spirit realm and the physical, like a cancerous bulge, perhaps. Or perhaps it's simply an error in the clockwork, or a dreamworld defined by Alessa's mind alone. She pulls in relevant parties either by design or by coincidence, and keeps mot of them away from her by creating ANOTHER layer between her nightmare and reality; a foggy world that seems to take cues from Cheryl's mind, though it has invasions from Alessa's in monstrous manifestations. Perhaps a symbol of how two separate mindshards are coming together?
Either way, over the course of the game, the Dark World consumes the Foggy, and then it falls into complete disarray when Alessa is captured. It no longer follows her will, but attempts to follow broken pieces of her law to disastrous effects. Eventually the God is born. What is the God, anyway? I certainly don't believe it's a legitimate deity. Atleast not under the Old Model. It's a construct of her mind, but what that means changes with different world models. It seems the distinction between the God and any other monster is that, left to it's own devices, it can pull others into it's world. Perhaps in the Clock World, Earth becomes empty as everyone dies in God's Paradise before terminating itself, destroying the wonderful expression of Alessa's madness and leaving Earth unpopulated. There's documentaries of what would happen to Earth if humanity disappeared all at once; check it out. Or perhaps in the Dream World, the Otherworld replaces the 'real' world. With no human minds on Earth, Earth no longer exists. And then the God terminates itself when it's job is done. Oblivion. Nothing exists any longer...
But we know what happens. Harry escapes with an explicitly supernatural and impossible baby and gets the hell out of dodge. Lisa, and perhaps some other nurses, are trapped in a fragment of Alessa's mind like a perpetual engine built on their suffering. Trapped in someone else's dreamworld where they have no vote, and the Princess is absent, unable to pardon or give parole. But if that isn't bad enough, Alessa has bent Silent Hill irrevocably and accidentally. She has made it into a maelstrom of human emotion and memory. The Otherworld now exists. This brings us to Silent Hill 2.
The tragedy of purity is that it's stained so easily. It's a blank canvas. It's a silent room. It's clean, but clean things always get dirty. Purity isn't a force of active good, but of passive innocence. Once anything happens, that attribute is lost. And so Alessa's nightmare was enough to stain Silent Hill irrevocably. If Silent Hill is a window to the Spirit World, it's now blocked by the Otherworld instead. If it's an expression of the natural world's beauty, it's now an expression of human ugliness. If it was an escape from the tyranny of other people, it's now just a smaller prison.
The Otherworld manifests strong emotions of people in Silent Hill, physically removing them from reality and letting them taste Godhood, their subconscious making a new, equally real world, save only for it's population and size. It may also call out to people with darkness in their hearts. Most attribute this to be merely guilt or evil, but do these qualities describe Alessa in any way? I say no. She was a tortured innocent that sought death via escape. Also, we'd be attributing moral judgment to the Otherworld, and none of my presented models make for a sentient Silent Hill. I simply dislike the notion as making it too actively antagonistic when Silent Hill as a narrative is Man VS Himself in every instance.
So what is the darkness within the heart? It's literally exactly up to the individual person. You're the facilitator of moral judgment on yourself and mental evaluation. The darkness could be guilt. Or loneliness. Or pain. Or delusion. Or sadness. Or perhaps even love.
That being said, the Otherworld's attraction is like a magnetic charge or a radio signal. Receptive souls construct their own reason for coming. When James Sunderland feels the call, he constructs the letter scenario entirely on his own. The Otherworld had no hand in it.
Another quality of the Otherworld is that it seems to record information. It has a 'memory' or 'database'. It can bring things from the past to the present, even if it didn't exist in the 'client's' personal memories, and certain people in the Otherworld can get trapped in a feedback loop, existing as ghosts in inescapable scenarios in their Otherworlds; desires and passions that simply can't be appeased, such as Ernest and Amy Baldwin, each in personal realities that interact with James'. That is yet another important quality. Perhaps the most important. It is the aspect wherein personal worlds can blend with others. When two personal worlds have a symbolic resonance, common theme or symbol, they can overlap like in a Venn Diagram. In my model, there is no â€œOtherworld/Foggy World/Realityâ€ triple-layer cake, but reality and the Otherworld, the interior being a series of dream bubbles constantly realigning with each other, and popping with the death or absence of a 'client'.
For Silent Hill 2, I'll look at the following characters: Laura, Mary, Maria, and Pyramid Head.
Laura and Mary both represent innocence and purity. Laura, who crafted a world out of loneliness and Mary's stories and pictures, wishes only to see her again. Perhaps she did get to see Mary one last time. In this way, despite having trekked the Otherworld, Laura is using the power of Silent Hill for its original purpose. Mary also seemed to be able to reach the spark of purity and sacredness originally inherent to the town. She feels at peace there, and has a special resonance with it. Indeed, Mary seems to symbolize heavenly bliss and happiness for all who knew her. She was in every sense a truly good person. Perhaps this allowed her soul to remain in Silent Hill even though she didn't die there.
Maria is interesting too, in that to me she demonstrates something very important; the manifestations of the town do not have self-awareness. Even if the town was sentient, or had some sort of agenda, its own agents don't even know what that is. They're acting completely on hunches and instinct. They do what they do because that is what they are, and they do not think about the why, even if they have the capacity to do so. Maria almost does, but her psychology seems unable to make the critical leaps.
Pyramid Head is the Shadow Archetype. I've already written an article about it somewhere on this board, but honestly I'm not proud of that particular writeup anymore because it was too hung up in trying to justify Origins and Homecoming (which is a fool's errand, imo). However, the original point remains relevant. If James, and visitors like him, are the ones who define the laws of their personal world, the Shadow Archetype seems to EMBODY those laws. The Pyramid Head is everything about himself James denies, as well as being everything he isn't. It is the ultimate expression of that world's purpose and rules embodied as an antagonist.
Because of the Otherworld's noted property of 'recording' data, perhaps it cuts corners in it's manifestations, perhaps 'redirecting' to an already existing monster because the person calling it up has the same symbolic needs and issues. You can thus justify the reuse of monsters very easily, invoking a 'Collective Unconscious' motif; but it's still unsatisfying because it's basically lazy on the developers' part. Plot holes don't come into it.
Moving on to Silent Hill 3; not much to really cover here except the presence of the Otherworld outside of Silent Hill, and Claudia. Since Heather is the reincarnation of Alessa, the creator of the Otherworld, it makes sense that she can extend it to her current location and recreate it around her. Since her hometown doesn't have a supernatural power, however, it probably ceases to exist when she leaves it, and the Otherworld 'moves around her' like a field or a bubble until she enters Silent Hill and reintegrates with Alessa's original world.
Claudia has much weaker abilities than Alessa's, but are still greater than a normal person's. Since she was born in Silent Hill, perhaps a fragment of power was born within her own mind as well. Who knows why it's not as strong as Alessa's. Perhaps it was determined purely by their personalities; Claudia is a singleminded fanatic and Alessa had a dissociation between her faith and her loyalty to her mother. She's conflicted, and Silent Hill's power does seem to revolve around undecided wills.
Silent Hill 4 is....a totally different ballpark. For an assload of reasons. For starters, Walter's World isn't the Otherworld, even if it shares some principles, and it's not built on the bedrock of Silent Hill's power. Walter, like Alessa and Claudia, also seems to have been born with a good amount of potential psychic energy, possibly greater than Alessa's own. Using the trappings of one of the Order's rituals, he realized his potential and created a world without any assistance. A world under his conscious and deliberate control atleast to a partial degree, and with monsters that seemed to evolve naturally and live like animals despite their symbolic meaning, rather than being spontaneously generated phantasms with no potential or future. The monsters of all the other games in my old model is that they are effectively tulpa; masses of psychic energy that do a job, then cease to be when the job is done.
Most importantly, Walter's World could effect people in the real world. Henry felt compelled to rent Room 302 and spend as much time there as possible, and Eileen and the other tenants get a strange feeling from it. And in the 21 Sacraments Ending, when Walter's God is born, everyone in the apartment is hospitalized...
I think that's a good enough summary of my old model. Sorry it's so long, but I think it was important to share that information before getting into my new thoughts. After playing Downpour and reading Past Life, some of my old ideas seem unsustainable, and some new ones seem unavoidable.
Past Life demonstrates a supernatural experience where Jeb is tormented by the ghosts of his past. The comic implies they're legitimate ghosts, and they were able to harass Jeb despite not dying in Silent Hill, so it seems that 'Gateway between the Physical and Spiritual Worlds' is the proper way to interpret Silent Hill's original power. After all, Inola was able to reincarnate her daughter successfully, who is implied to start the Gillespie line; could this be an explanation for Alessa's powers? If the power is genetic, could that mean Alessa, Claudia, and Walter are distantly related? Food for thought, but not really important.
Two other things of note from Past Life:The introduction of Howard Blackwood, a postman who seems to have intimate knowledge of Silent Hill, and Inola's comments near the end of the Past Life comic, indicating that the fires and the land belong to the spirits. Both the dead, and the spirits of the earth, and that they're â€œdone being silent now.â€ Did the events of Past Life somehow change things for Silent Hill? Did Inola's interfering with the natural course of life and death allow the spirits of Silent Hill to more readily effect reality? Who knows?
Let's move on to Downpour. For the most part it's standard fare for the Otherworld, though there's a lot more influence from ghosts in sidequests and the like. More Ernests and Amys who cannot pass on for whatever reason, whom Murphy has to appease. Howard also makes a reappearance despite it being over a century later for him, and he's demonstrated aging. Of special note I'm going to draw attention to Frank Coleridge, who seems to give advice to Murphy beyond the grave (and these aren't just memories; they include new content as well), DJ Ricks, who seems to understand how the town works, and the Bogeyman, who is another Shadow Archetype. The Screamers also bear discussion.
DJ Ricks is quite an interesting tease. He's getting call-ins requesting songs, who also seem to inform him about the existence of Murphy Pendelton, and he's somehow learned of the rules of Silent Hill, and thinks it's consciously judging him or threatening him. When he does seem to 'break a rule', he's attacked by Screamers. However, even though he's gone missing, he can still be heard over the radio.
Bobby Ricks lacks the courage to do what he knows needs to be done to get out of Silent Hill, and he seems to have some connection to a â€œRickyâ€ who killed himself in the Overlook Penitentiary. The people giving him calls also seem to be among the deceased, acting on behalf of Silent Hill. It is my theory that Bobby Ricks is Ricky, who killed himself and is now being judged. He refused to finish his trial, so he distracts himself with the radio station. The town and it's spirits don't mind playing into his fantasy; it seems to respect free will as paramount for whatever it's up to here, after all, but it does make use of him. Either spirits of the dead give themselves minor comfort by having him play songs with special meaning, or they serve him information for a bigger agenda, such as helping Murphy. When he does his job, he SEEMS to be killed. But perhaps he's merely being...reset. Ricks is in a loop, and he will repeat this cycle of refusing to save himself, and giving others the means the escape. He will never have the courage to see things through to the end, just like in prison.
The Bogeyman is interesting. He's the Shadow Archetype of both Murphy and Anne, representing their judgment of others, seeing them as immoral monsters deserving of all their hatred. For Murphy, this is Pat Napier. For Anne, this is Murphy. The Bogeyman ceases to be for Murphy when he accepts that what he did was selfish, and didn't help his son, and Anne doesn't dismiss the Bogeyman unless she dies or she forgives Murphy. By the way, it's interesting to note that Murphy literally transforms into the Bogeyman. Yes, he's the Bogeyman for Anne, but why exactly does this occur? It's interesting to note that in Silent Hill 3, we have Claudia transfiguring her subjects into monsters as sacrifices to Heather's hatred, and Leonard Wolf seems to become a monster after his death, due to Claudia's demonization of him. Valtiel also seems to have reincarnated some nurses as the nurse monsters. Perhaps the same nurses who suffered in SH1, who knows?
It's because of this information that I'm starting to reconsider how I see the monsters in Silent Hill. Of course, I still think they're largely how I described them, but perhaps they're more than that.
Silent Hill, according to Past Life, is haunted by more than the spirits of the dead, but also the elemental spirits of the natural world immediately around Toluca Lake. It's already been speculated that the Screamers might represent these spirits, who no longer wish to keep silent.
I'll come back to the nature of the monsters because it's going to tie in to some of my reinterpreting, but first let's take a look at Howard Blackwood. What's his deal? He seems to serve the town's greater will (which is probably a committee of dead people and nature spirits, actually), and possesses immortality of a sort, but he also AGES. Perhaps time is just going slow for him (â€œYour last century is my last decadeâ€), or perhaps he's completely mortal, and just reincarnates with full memories of who he is and what he has to do. The latter would explain why he's not present in most of Silent Hill's events. He's certainly what I want to hear Tom Waltz explain most.
I'll point out something interesting about Howard Blackwood, though. He interacts with Jeb and Murphy, who both feel guilt about the deceased, and he's a postman. And James and Angela both received letters. Letters that play on their guilt, and who have unresolved issues with the dead. Perhaps Howard only responds to this specific tier of issues, explaining his lack of presence in say, SH1, SH3 and SH4.
Perhaps he must carry the burden of that mailbag because he himself has done something terrible to the dead...
So. First off, let me admit it. Unless they're manifestations of the Native American's minds, (which his possible, but is unlikely given their actions, will, and narrative importance), the nature spirits of Silent Hill exist, and that blows both my Dream World and Clock World cosmologies clear the fuck out of the goddamn ocean.
Well. Fuck. I kind of liked them. But oh well.
But given their 'silence', and the lack of supernatural hooba-joobie going on around the entire planet, they seem to be unique to some degree. So I'm gonna make up a new cool cosmology.
I see similarities in the functioning of the Otherworld in the Dreamtime of aboriginal mythology. For those unfamiliar, the basic concept is that during the original era of the world, when it was being created, EVERYTHING had a spirit, even non-living things. And they essentially created the world by agreeing to be certain things in the new world. Now, interestingly, the Dreamtime is effectively timeless. It doesn't have a flow of time that acts in a straight line. For instance, for a human spirit, you've always existed before you were born, then you live and die, and continue to keep existing forever. The interesting thing is that the spirit-child you were before ever being born may be shaped by the experiences of your final living moments. Everything is happening right now at the same time, and the progression of past to future is only an illusion of the physical world.
It influences the World of Darkness roleplaying game, which seemed to be a thematic influence on Silent Hill to some degree. The difference with the World of Darkness, and with which I'm interpretting into my Silent Hill cosmology, is a fundamental sense of 'brokenness' in reality. Something may have happened a long time ago that caused reality to fundamentally split into physical and spiritual worlds, and in the Silent Hill univers,e this might have 'killed' most of the natural world. Those trees, mountains, rivers, and skies have no 'soul'.
As for Silent Hill, the spirits of that place may have gone silent in order to protect themselves. With the existence of humanity, and their insistence on a clockwork world, washing out non-human souls with their dreams, the souls of Toluca Lake ceased to contribute to the world, so that they were ignored. The trees, the lake, and the mountains dream, and hibernate. And perhaps their dream allows the spirit world to touch the world of matter, and keeps the disconnect from being complete.
And perhaps, when an act of Magic brings a dead soul to live in flesh again, and when the spirits of dead men and women touch the spirits of the still living, the land of Silent Hill awakens, and screams.
For the most part, my interpretation of the Otherworld Alessa created remains exactly the same. Ditto with Walter's World (which now sticks out in contrast to Alessa's in a much greater way). However, I'm now pondering if perhaps the monsters and other manifestations are incarnated spirits. In this new world they helped create, they can no longer be their original selves. So perhaps Mister Oakwood Tree has to give up that name, and is now a Lying Figure. And in it's own mind, it's a Lying Figure, and nothing else. It thinks that's what it truly is, embodying a new role and identity in this universe. It's not merely 'acting the part' to fuck with some loser clerk who killed his wife, it's just 'reincarnating'.
I'll point out that in this model, most of the monsters are these nature spirits; monsters-that-used-to-be-human are still quite unique. This also puts a nice spin on â€œThey look like monsters to you?â€ that I haven't seen offered up much before.
This has interesting implications for humanoid manifestations such as Maria, by the way. Imagine you were a mountain or something one day, and now you're a stripper with someone else's memories who has this attraction to a guy who never met. Man, pain sucks. I'm afraid to die...
Walter's World, by contrast, is a world completely of his own invention. No spirits are intruding into it or living in it without his say so. The ghosts are his warped prisoners, and the monsters are genuinely new lifeforms that were never anything else...
And what about the God? Still probably a manifestation; perhaps the spirit of Toluca Lake itself reserves the right to 'reincarnate' as a Deity.
Perhaps when the God consumes the entire universe into the Otherworld, all the sleeping and dead spirits of the Earth can be new things again, even if they're ugly things. Even if they're things of human nightmares and regrets. It's better than nothing. And perhaps when humans are all dead through the transition of this 'Paradise', the spirits can let go of this plaything-world of human dreams and moral failings, and enter a new Dreamtime, and make a new world.
I thought he meant the special powers of her vagina.