all began with a framed poster, something that had caught Phil
Mantillio’s eye when he was wandering around the local Spencer’s Gifts
looking for a joke birthday present. Phil wasn’t normally the kind of
guy to hang a poster on his wall, much less pay sixty bucks to have it
professionally framed. I guess there was just something about the sight
of those two heavily airbrushed and scantily clad women making out that
excited his college-aged sensibilities.
lived in the Theta Upsilon Omega frat house; a three story building
just a stone’s throw from the SUNY campus. I know what you might be
thinking but the boys of Theta Upsilon Omega were not known for their
shenanigans. In fact they were more Revenge Of The Nerds than Animal House.
if Phil had been in one of the more debauchery oriented frats he might
have been too busy partying to think about hanging smut on the walls.
Maybe if somebody had reminded him there was a whole internet full of
faux lesbians just waiting for him to download he would have kept his
sixty dollars. Maybe if he had even the slightest understanding of the
female sex he would have understood that his shiny new objet d'art would
ruin his chances with any young ladies he might have convinced to come
up to his room. So many maybes, any one could have saved him but not a
one of them did.
say the kingdom was lost for want of a nail but in this case Phil’s
personal kingdom was lost because he had a nail. It was his lousy
hammering of the thing that cracked the plaster of his wall into a
fist-sized hole. He barely had time to mutter an “Oh shit!” before he
saw the slim cardboard box of videotapes crammed between the inner and
outer walls of the room.
suppose Phil could have taken those video tapes to the college’s media
center but instead he decided to stop by Vincenzo’s Pawn and pick up a
VCR. Oh yeah, we’ve got plenty of the damn things in stock. Make us an
Phil had been hoping to find something scandalous on those tapes but the first two were nothing but episode after episode of Green Acres.
opening moments of the third video revealed chickens, a whole room full
of chickens. The video camera was at floor level giving Phil a coop’s
eye view of the proceedings. It speaks to Phil’s investigative spirit,
or his boredom, that he fast forwarded through almost twenty minutes of
poultry footage. The chickens milled about, the chickens alternately
examined and ignored the camera, the chickens crapped everywhere. At the
twenty-four minute mark the chickens began to panic. Phil set the VCR
from fast forward to play.
boot came crashing down in the midst of the birds, killing one of them
instantly. The animals went wild, the screen became a storm of feathers
and panic. Phil watched the pair of boots come down again and again,
crushing the life out of the chickens with cruel determination.
that moment all he had seen of the ‘star’ of the video was a pair of
workboots, a shape wearing heavy winter clothing and a pair of thick
hands that clenched and unclenched spasmodically with every downward
all the chickens were dead the owner of the camera picked it up and
glared into the blood and shit streaked lens. Whoever they were, they
had chosen to hide their face beneath an ugly burlap mask. The picture
then went to static. Phil sat there for a moment, shaken and confused,
then he rewound the videotape and told his frat brothers there was
something they just had to see.
brought the tapes and the VCR down to the main room of the house. Phil
hooked the VCR to the wide screen TV they all shared and then the boys
of Theta Upsilon Omega settled in to enjoy the freak show.
of the tapes were more Green Acres, hour after hour of the show;
sometimes a tape would be nothing more than the same episode over and
over again. But mixed in with those shows was other footage, the person
filming this never took off their heavy parka or the gunny sack they
wore over their head. Maybe it was sexism but the members of Theta
Upsilon Omega unanimously decided that this person must be a man.
Just as unanimously they all started referring to this individual as ‘Gunnyhead’.
Gunnyhead tapes were sometimes unwatchable because of the quality of
the recording and other times because of the subject matter. Most of the
tapes were of animal mutilations. Fish were left to drown on land, cats
and dogs were clumsily vivisected. All the while these animals suffered
and died Gunnyhead worked in silence. That was one of the worst parts,
if there had been just a touch of fiendish laughter or a few sentences
of schizophrenic rambling the audience could have dismissed all this as
an elaborate prank or a student film gone off the rails.
is not to say that Gunnyhead was completely silent. A few hours of
footage was devoted to him sitting in an easy chair, still masked and
dressed for winter. The angle of the camera showed he was watching his
favorite TV show and speaking the dialogue along with the main
characters. His voice was soft and strong, a librarian’s voice.
there were the tapes with long sequences of Gunnyhead stalking someone.
Always the viewer had the camera-eye view of the event as Gunnyhead
would choose an individual, seemingly at random, and shadow them for
hours. Each of these sequences would end with an abrupt cut to meat
being chopped up on a filthy-looking cutting board. The meat was pale,
raw and unidentifiable; it might have been just chicken or pork but
there was no frame of reference for the audience to be sure.
the members of Theta Upsilon Omega were certain the ‘meaty’ scenes had
been filmed in the kitchen of their house. But when? The layout of the
room was the same but the wallpaper and countertop were at least ten
years out of touch with modern aesthetics. It was three AM when they
loaded the last tape they would watch into the VCR. That was the tape
that would send them running to the police, setting in motion a chain of
events that would eventually involve yours truly.
tape began with a close up of a campfire. It wasn’t much of a campfire
really, more smoke than flames; probably because it was being fueled by a
cluster of twigs, pine needles and a few clumps of organic looking
matter. From there the camera swung around to show a hog. It was a huge
animal, the kind of pony sized livestock that wins blue ribbons at
county fairs. It lay on it’s side, not breathing, not moving at all. The
camera drew closer to reveal the hog had been split open from throat to
groin, then re-sewn closed again with lengths of metal wire.
let the camera linger on those ugly stitches then moved his attention
to the head of the animal. The mouth was stapled shut, the eyes gouged
A muffled sound broke the silence, something white fluttered behind the hog’s empty sockets, fluttered then widened.
Then the poor bastard sewn inside the carcass began to scream.
was almost five months ago now. The Theta Upsilon Omega frat house has
been shut down since winter break and now no one is really sure who owns
the place. No one is really sure of anything when it comes to this
situation. A real mystery.
why I broke into the building on that frosty February morning. It was
cold, too cold for snow but cold enough to keep potential witnesses in
their homes. I had everything I thought I might need- a crowbar, a
flashlight, my smartphone and some pepper spray. The back door was where
I decided to try make my entrance.
Mantillio and his frat brothers had wasted no time in packing up those
tapes and bringing them straight to the local police station. They were
pretty damn spooked and they didn’t feel much better when a Detective
Bradshaw played the tapes back and found... Nothing.
Nothing but Green Acres episodes
from beginning to end of them all. From what I’ve heard Detective
Bradshaw doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and he isn’t too keen on the rest
of humanity as well. He went ballistic on the boys of Theta Upsilon
Omega, accusing them of trying to play a Halloween prank.
took me very little effort to break the lock and get into the house.
Once I was in there I closed the door and jammed it shut with the
crowbar. I flicked on the flashlight and swept it across the room. Then I
took some pictures;
Click: The empty counter and sink. There is a thin layer of dust over everything.
Phil Mantillio disappeared three days later that visit to the police station.
Click: The cabinet doors hanging open, one still has cans of soup stacked in it.
A week after that one of his frat brothers went missing as well.
Click: The parlor is just as empty as the kitchen. Brown butcher paper has been taped over the windows.
the third vanishing in four weeks all the remaining members of the SUNY
chapter of Theta Upsilon Omega quit college and fled to the safety of
their parent’s homes; all except for the one guy that joined the army
and decided to take his chances in Afghanistan. That was Private Rodney
Shinn, and he was the one that told me about all this. He was something
of a fan.
Click: There is a single footprint near the front door, the brown imprint of a work boot.
week later after talking to me Private Rodney Shinn disappeared while
on a daylight patrol. The other members of his squad said he had been on
point. He went ahead of them around corner and then he was gone.
last room on the first floor was cramped and windowless. I wondered if
they’d used it as a bedroom, or an office or a maybe even a makeshift
hydroponics lab. It’s gotta be 4:20 someplace right?
The room is empty, the walls bare and thick with shadows. There is a
tripod in the middle of the room, a digital camcorder sits atop it.
pocketed my smart phone and approached the camcorder. The feeling of
being watched didn’t kick in until I crossed from the hallway into that
miserable little room. The urge to run became sickening as I passed
around to look into the camera’s viewscreen. It was on, it showed an
open doorway and walls that obscenities and nonsense verses had been
carved into. There was a human figure slumped at the edge of the screen.
There was no audio, and it was too dark to make out what the human
shape looked like but I was sure it was either shuddering or sobbing.
was no doubt in my mind this was more of Gunnyhead’s work. I paused to
consider that video technology had become so ubiquitous that even the
drooling psychopaths of the world were using it.
of drooling psychopaths the star of the show wandered into frame. A
stooped figure wearing a dirty parka and a burlap hood. He peered in the
doorway and stared right into the camera. The slumped figure went mad
at his presence, squirming and throwing itself back and forth against
the wall. Whoever they were they must have been secured expertly to that
part of the room. I wondered how, then I thought of the description of
the ‘luau video’ and of Gunnyhead’s expert use of wire and staples.
the time it took me to consider these things Gunnyhead had stepped back
out of the doorway, leaving nothing more on screen than the miserable
figure in the corner and the defaced walls. I switched off the camcorder
and unfastened it from the tripod. I wondered why I was bothering, the
tapes had been useless as evidence so why would this thing be any
Still though, I had to try, even though if all I got for my troubles was a Green Acres marathon or worse yet the Beverly Hillbillies reunion special.
floorboard creaked somewhere upstairs. The sound was so loud and sudden
that I caught my breath and clutched the camcorder close to my chest.
There was another creak, then another. It was footsteps, slow and deliberate. I decided it was time to retreat.
Unfortunately I retreated right into the damn tripod. It hit the bare floor with a dull thud.
The footsteps stopped. I remember thinking to myself, Gee it sure would be nice to have that crowbar right now.
racing I made my way back to the main hallway of the house, then paused
at the bottom of the stairway. It was too dark to see more than halfway
up the steps. Someone could have been standing at the top of the
landing and I would never know.
loud scraping noise made me jump. It made me think of spring cleaning
and chests of drawers being shifted to find lost keys or pens.
footsteps, then another thick wooden scraping sound. A moment of
silence hung in the air before I heard the keen and crash of something
heavy being pushed over.
voice roared from upstairs, the sound of a madman’s rage. Something
else crashed to the floor. Glass shattered. A jabbering howl
reverberated through the house.
something small and metallic hit the landing. It bounced once and
plunked down at my feet. I recognized them for what they were, I picked
up the dog tags up and examined them.
They belonged to Rodney Shin.
nearly knocked myself out trying to get out the back door. It took me
the longest five seconds of my life to remember that I had jammed it
shut. I whipped out the crowbar throwing it carelessly behind me. Then I
was running out of the house, leaving the door hanging open behind me. I
ran until my legs ached and my vision started getting gray at the
No doubt about it. Things could have gone better.
never did find out who lived in that house before the Theta Upsilon
Omega boys moved in. There was talk of lawsuits and squatters but
nothing concrete. Did anyone ever see a man matching Gunnyhead’s
description wandering around sometime in the last couple of decades?
Nobody came forward to say so.
should also be noted for the record that I have no idea who burned that
house down a few nights ago. My cousin Roy can account for my
whereabouts all week. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
There is a lot of talk on the Internet about something called a
‘tulpa’. The legends say that the Tulpa is an imaginary being willed
into existence. Think of a dream, or a nightmare, given form, think of
imaginary friends brought to life, think of Calvin and Hobbes and Fight Club.
Is it a load of bullshit?
who hid those tapes in the walls? And how did all that Gunnyhead
footage disappear between the fraternity house and the police station?
Had it ever been there at all?
No trace has ever been found of the missing members of Theta Upsilon
Omega. There are six of them left and they aren’t granting interviews to
the likes of me. From what I was able to find out many of these once
promising honor students have all become shut-ins and a few of them are
hospitalized and receiving the best psychiatric care their parents
insurance can buy.
When I got back to the relative safety of the apartment I tried to play
back the footage from the camcorder. Except, there was no memory card
and this particular model of video camera doesn’t have any kind of
Meaning that what I saw playing out on the little screen in that house was a live feed.