Watching Marble Hornets – Part 3

This is the third part of a journey through Marble Hornets, a YouTube-based horror mystery series. You can find the introductory post here.

Last time, we met some of the cast of Alex’s student film, watched Alex’s behavior deteriorate, and received the first responses from the mysterious ToTheArk.

Entry #11 (August 9, 2009)

And so, we return to Alex’s house. As we’ve seen before, Alex films himself constantly; he has also pinned some of his charcoal sketches from Entry #8 to the wall above his bed. On the sketches are the words “RUN AWAY”, “DON’T RUN”, “SEES ME”, “KILLS ME” and, confirming the name of the tall figure in the Marble Hornets universe, “OPERATOR”. We also see numerous examples of the crossed circle, the so-called Operator Symbol. The meaning of the symbol is unclear, but it appears over and over again through the story.

Alex gets up suddenly in the middle of the night, takes his camera, turns out the light and goes downstairs. He explores the ground floor of his house, peering outside as he did in Entry #1, but somehow manages to miss that the Operator is standing outside the window (look to the right around 1:06 in the video). Alex then climbs the stairs and returns to bed — but, unseen, a shadow passes over him as he sleeps.

This entry seems to come after the events of Entry #8, and continues to build on the same central questions: why is the Operator stalking Alex? Why does Alex film himself constantly? What are the sketches? We must also ask how Alex missed the operator outside his window, since that is specifically what he was looking for; it again seems likely that the Operator can move with superhuman speed, if not simply teleport from one location to another. Also, we must question the Operator’s motives. Since he can apparently gain access to Alex’s home and person at any time, he clearly doesn’t want to simply kill Alex.

What does the Operator want? Can he somehow remain unseen from people, if not from cameras? Is that why Alex films himself?

totheark: Deluge (August 11, 2009)

This particularly cryptic video from ToTheArk shows a pair of fluorescent tubes flashing, accompanied by a low bass rumble and what analysis revealed to be a girl’s voice saying the word “Alex”. It has been assumed that the flashes are somehow coded, but no solution has yet been found. At the end of the video, the words “WATCHING YOU” appear, with the letter O replaced by a zero.

There isn’t a great deal to go on here, except for the last message. Who is watching whom? The Operator and Alex? ToTheArk and Jay? Some other combination therein?

Entry #12 (August 29, 2009)

Marble Hornets is at its best when it subverts expectations. It’s one thing to build to a jump-scare when exploring a dark house at night, but it’s something else to suddenly twist what you’re seeing, and present it in a new and disturbing light. That is what happens in Entry #12, as we hear the film crew talking — note Alex saying, “I don’t know, he’ll move,” as the clip begins — and then blocking a panning shot featuring Brian. Distortion increases as the camera moves to the right, but stops when we pan back to the left, revealing the Operator standing in the background, apparently watching the action. Alex begins to walk toward the mysterious figure with an innocuous call of, “Hey, Buddy!” while Sarah, who seems to be holding the camera, asks, “What is he doing?” We cut to black, and the tape ends.

This may be the earliest interaction with the Operator that we’ve seen so far, although it does seem odd that Alex doesn’t make the connection between the Operator and “really tall guy” he saw while walking his dog all the way back in Entry #2, no matter which event came first. In any case, he doesn’t seem aware that there’s anything wrong, and approaches the figure in a friendly way. About what happens next, we can only speculate.

It is possible that Sarah’s final question is directed not at the Operator, but at Alex — while it seems likely that the others can see the Operator, and are discussing him as the clip begins, it’s possible that Alex is the only one who can see him, and therefore seems to be acting rather strangely.

Is this the first encounter between Alex and the Operator? Could Sarah, Brian and Tim see the tall figure, or only Alex? What attracted the Operator to the Marble Hornets shoot in the first place?

totheark: Impurity (September 1, 2009)

The word “begin” appears on the screen, and is followed by a sequence of zeroes. Counting the number of zeroes in each line and substituting the appropriate letter of the alphabet yields the message ZERO. Then, we see some foliage and power lines in the midst of a thunderstorm. After a few seconds, the word “operator” appears in dark text in the lower-left corner, and the screen is abruptly filled with zeroes, and a handful of other letters. Deciphering the scrambled letters gives the message, “THERE WAS MORE”.

This is another strange video from ToTheArk, and is typically unspecific. The rain, and the use of a 0 in the place of a letter seem like connections with the previous video, Deluge. But what of the message? There was more on the tape Jay found of Entry #12? Does Jay have it? If so, did he miss it, or is he withholding it from us? Is ToTheArk, perhaps, referring to something else entirely?

Entry #13 (September 11, 2009)

Alex and Jay seem to be alone in the forest. Alex sends Jay back to the car to retrieve a spare battery for the camera, and continues on alone. He finds an operator symbol scratched onto a stone, and brushes away the leaves to get a better look at it. We discover that he is next to a small building. He climbs over a low railing and on to what appears to be an old, filled-in outdoor swimming pool; he lifts the camera to see weathered bleachers. We hear distortion, and then the audio cuts out entirely as Alex turns to see the Operator standing behind a boundary fence. Alex immediately runs back toward the building, moving his camera as though looking for something, and rounds a corner immediately in front of the Operator. The camera moves away suddenly, and the tape ends.

This is an intriguing entry, and surprisingly difficult to fit into the timeline. Alex and Jay seem to be location scouting, which would place it around the time of Entry #5; that said, Alex seems to be looking for the Operator, rather than running away from it, which seems more in keeping with Entry #2 and Entry #4. It’s possible that there was some overlap between the location scouting and the shooting of the Marble Hornets film, but it is, at least, unclear.

Did Alex know that the Operator would be there? Did he recognize the symbol? Did he deliberately send Jay back to the car to retrieve the battery so that he could investigate alone? How did the Operator move from the fence beside the old pool to the other side of the building? Can he move extraordinarily quickly, or is there more than one Operator?

totheark: Exit (September 15, 2009)

Words flash on the screen: “RAT”, “HE”, “ORE”, “TOP”, an anagram of “THE OPERATOR”. Then, we cut to footage of a white car in a parking lot, as seen from behind trees and bushes. We see Jay approach the car, open the driver-side door, and lean inside. He goes to the trunk, then returns to the driver-side door to lock the car. He leaves the car at a jog, and the camera pans left to follow him; the words “WHEREIS THEARK” appear for a second before the video ends.

There are two competing schools of thought regarding this video. The first states that ToTheArk — whoever that may be — filmed Jay during his excursion with Alex. The second suggestion, and the more plausible of the two to my mind, is that Alex filmed Jay before investigating the filled-in pool in Entry #13. Is this a sign of Alex’s rising paranoia? Did he simply want to ensure that Jay was out of the picture and not following him before he went to track down the Operator? If so, when did Alex excise the footage from the tapes he gave Jay, and how did ToTheArk get it?

Alternatively, if it wasn’t Alex who covertly filmed Jay, who did, and why?

Entry #14 (September 23, 2009)

A door is half open. Slowly, the Operator opens it and enters the room. Suddenly, the camera is picked up and the light turned on; Alex gets out of bed to close the door again, and turns the light out. Jay’s caption informs us that thirty-two minutes pass without incident, and then we see Alex with blood on his face. He stares at something without speaking for a few seconds, then looks at the camera when a buzzer goes off. Alex turns off the camera, and Jay tells us that he needs to find out where Alex has gone.

So, the Operator has been paying more nocturnal visits to Alex, as we saw back in Entry #11. The content of the entry is a little confusing, however: Jay says that thirty-two minutes pass before Alex changes the tape, and then we see Alex, covered in blood. So is the shot of Alex from another tape, after it was changed? Or was he changing it as a response to the alarm, as we’ve seen before? If that’s the case, when did the shot change from the ajar door to Alex staring into space? If it was a second tape, how did Jay know that it was linked to the tape of the Operator entering Alex’s room?

Overall, I’m inclined to think that the footage cuts when Jay inserted his caption — that is, we get thirty-two minutes of Alex sleeping, then it suddenly jumps to blood-and-staring Alex — and then he changes the tape. The alternative — that they were two different tapes — strongly suggests that Jay isn’t just reconstructing a narrative, but authoring it himself.

What did the Operator do to Alex? Whose blood is that? How unreliable is our narrator?

totheark: Program (September 26, 2009)

Following a color test pattern, we see a building in the rain. In the bottom left corner is what appears to be the letter S, which moves as though it were hand-drawn on each frame. A series of zeroes and dashes appear on the building, and then the words “BLEED MORE” appear.

This video seems similar to Impurity. The rain is back, as are the zeroes. The hand-drawn S is new, although it is possible that it connects both to the girl’s voice hidden in the audio to Deluge, and the message that “THERE WAS MORE” in Impurity: can it be that Sarah is somehow connected to ToTheArk?

What is the building being shown? What is the significance of the rain? Is ToTheArk suggesting, as seems likely, that Alex should bleed more? What is the meaning of the S symbol?

Entry #15 (October 2, 2009)

This video marks an important transition: Jay is no longer limiting himself to Alex’s tapes from 2006, but is now investigating on his own. He contacts Tim, who we saw at the gazebo in Entry #9, and arranges a screen test. The two meet, apparently for the first time, and discuss the filming of Marble Hornets. Tim mentions Alex’s friendship with Brian, and that Tim lived next to Brian. Alex filmed himself compulsively even on the set of Marble Hornets. He hasn’t heard from either Alex or Brian in some time, although Brian mentioned someone leaving dead animals on his lawn. He talks a little about the locations used for shooting, but Tim doesn’t remember anything about “a guy in a suit”. Jay approaches the subject of the raw footage he received from Alex, but Tim says that he needs to get to lunch after his screen test, and the tape ends.

This entry doesn’t contain anything particularly striking, but it’s a nice character piece; we see Jay step out from his narrator role, and get to see Tim three years after the scene in the gazebo. We’re given a few details about Alex’s behavior during the filming, but nothing concrete.

Is Tim telling the truth about what he remembers? Who was leaving dead animals on Brian’s lawn, and why? What is Jay’s next move?

totheark: Advocate (October 12, 2009)

We begin with the words “tick tock”, upside down. Through heavy distortion, we see Brian, apparently in footage that was taken at the same time as Entry #7. This isn’t the same footage, however, as the camera pans to the right to reveal the back seat, which didn’t happen in the previous entry. A series of zeroes and dashes are overlaid upon the footage, and the hand-drawn S symbol appears in the upper-right corner. The audio is also heavily distorted, but playing it backwards reveals what could be a male voice saying “Alex”.

This video is interesting in a number of ways. First, ToTheArk proves again that he — or she — has access to the original Marble Hornets footage. Second, the distortion on the footage — was it added by ToTheArk, or was it present in the original? Is this missing footage from the appearance of the Operator in the alley behind Brian’s head? Third, the coded message of zeroes and dashes is actually a binary clock, which can be used to decipher the similar code in the previous ToTheArk video, Program. When this is done, we are left with the letters YAMA. In Hinduism, Yama is the god of death; others have interpreted the letters as the initials of the phrase “You Are My Ark”. While the latter is an interesting theory, I see no evidence to support it, so I continue to regard this as a cryptic reference to the god of death.

What is the purpose of the coded messages? Did something happen during Entry #7 that we didn’t see? Did ToTheArk, Alex or Jay edit this footage out of the entry? Was the distortion present at the time?

Next week, things kick into high gear: Jay continues to investigate, a new threat emerges from the shadows, and an old one returns. Stay tuned!

If you enjoy Marble Hornets, support the creators by buying the DVD set.


One thought on “Watching Marble Hornets – Part 3

  1. I’m quickly finding your commentaries on these installments to be as compelling as the videos themselves. I’ll admit to watching “Entry #11” six times, and then resorting to frame-by-frame, to see the Operator at the window as you pointed out. If I hadn’t had the commentary, I wouldn’t even have known what I missed.

    I imagine it’s slightly odd to get comments on these blog entries some two years after they were posted, but you should be pleased that people are still happening upon your analysis and finding it useful. I look forward to the next entry.

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