Estimated reading time — 31 minutes
Many of these stories are about games that have gone out, been enjoyed by millions, and then some random person in the middle of nowhere has experienced something creepy. Haunted, hacked, or otherwise, the games have been said to torment their users with haunting imagery such as no eyes, bleeding from the eyes, and once-cherry characters doing awful things.
However, you would imagine someone would have spotted this a thousand times before? If someone was hidden deep within the code of a Pokemon game or a hidden secret in Half-Life, fans would have found it before the author even got their hands on the game. If there was truly a secret room where Gordan Freeman revealed that his HEV suit was drafted to his flesh and he couldn’t take it off, a fan would have found it by now. If there is a secret zombie Pokemon in Pokemon Red that only came about on a full moon and on the anniversary of the release of Night of The Living Dead, a fan would have found it by now.
It is inevitable that if there is something sinister, creepy, or evil in the game, someone will find it. There is always someone who finds it.
Then we have what I am talking about today; Kansas. If you’ve ever seen a video on top ten games in Development Hell, Kansas should have been top of the list, taking Duke Nukem forever off of its throne. There were only a few people who even know there was the announcement of Kansas and fewer than that who saw it.
Kansas started development as a Doom mod, back when Doom modding was difficult. It was announced on a Doom fan site to a fanfare of a few replies and that’s about it. That’s what General_1972 told me anyway, a person who claims to have seen the announcement with his own eyes in the late months of 1994.
Throughout this story, I will use tidbits and snippets from what I have heard and what people have told me. I’ve known these people for years and they are some of my friends, yet take what they say with a grain of salt as memory is a fickle thing.
He said that the game started life as what was a simple level mod and that was what was announced. It was a few custom levels and a few new weapon sprites, replacing the old ones. He remembers that the author of the post must have been one of the lead creators because the post read like it was an announcement that Jesus himself was coming back to high-five everyone.
The General revealed that he was actually excited for the modification, the few screenshots were that of a ruined street, church, and buildings and the story said, from what he could remember, a tornado ripped through a small Kansas town and you take control of Kaithy, a survivor of the tornado. She had to battle raiders, looters, and, strangely enough, cultists. The cultists threw him off a bit, said The General, but since there was a church, he reckoned that one of the designers was an edgy atheist and it just was referring to Christians. The General chuckled as he reminded me that, even in the infancy of the internet, there were still edgy atheists. He also mentioned that he remembered the story being far a lot longer but the short version he gave me was all he could give if he went further his imagination would still filling in the holes in his memory.
After that, the announcements were few. The General recalled them simply just being reminders that the project was still going and the last one coming just a week before the fan site shut down, the owner no longer capable of keeping up with the payments to keep the domain.
The site is now gone now, doorwaytohell.com has vanished into the ether as The General put it. I checked myself and it is basically what he described, a simple banner asking if you want to buy the domain and that’s about it.
He told me that it was impossible for him to follow the game after that point. Reminding himself, he told me that there was a mailing list mentioned in the last posted update but he had always kicked himself for never signing up. It was something special to me and you could hear it in his voice when we spoke and how he framed his messages when it was simpler just to message each other. I told him I would tell him anything else I find out and he thanked me for that.
The next person I spoke to about this was Sir Alabama, a peculiar person from, you guessed it, Alabama and with an impressive collection of European swords. I told him that if he had the same number of Japanese swords, I would think he watched too much anime. He laughed, saying he read too much about King Arthur as a kid and got hooked on European swords.
Although he did have his love of Europe, his car looked like it had been ripped out of an episode of the Dukes of Hazzard, the Confederate battle flag conveniently ripped off. Asking him about that, he told me that he visited family in California every once in a while and he didn’t really like having his car spray painted and having rocks thrown at it, so he left the flag off.
When I asked him about Kansas, his eyes went glassy for a second and he ran off. I know he ran off because he insisted we did this with webcams, which forced me to buy a cheap one from a flea market. I thought he had disappeared out the house but, no sooner had he disappeared, he came back with three frames pictures. He had framed the emails that the Kansas dev team had sent him.
Carefully, I asked him why he had framed the pictures, not wanting to tread on any toes. Although we had freely laughed at his swords, I don’t think it would have been wise to talk about his strange hobby in quite as humorous terms. He told me that he thought they would be valuable, so he printed them off and framed them. As the conversation slowly continued, he likened it to the idea of keeping toys in their mint condition, it was a guessing game which would become rare and a collector’s item but if you selected the right one, you could be filthy rich. Sir Alabama thought that the emails would have been worth their weight in gold if the game took off but since, as he said, it would be millennia before the game even has a teaser trailer out, he had thought wrong.
On the bottom of one of the emails, it looked like there was a link. I asked SA about it but he couldn’t remember what it really was. He said he couldn’t remember if he clicked it or not. When he printed off the e-mails, he simply sliced through it as he couldn’t remember, even at that time, if the link was important.
Giving a silent sigh of defeat, I asked him if he could take pictures of the emails to send to me. I didn’t want to ask him to send the actual framed pieces of paper as I think he would defend them like a dragon defends its hoard of coins but even in that analogy, coins are worth something. He said he would and if I found anything else, to send it his way. I gave my word and he sent the e-mails through.
They really were stock standard mailing list emails.
The first came a week after the Doom Fansite (doorway to hell) went down and it was a simple thank you for joining the mailing list, how happy they were that people joined the mailing list, and how they were honored that people would join the mailing list to hear about their game. It was certainly brown nose behavior to the nth degree and it seemed pretty standard for people who were trying to sell a game. The link at the bottom was a shortened one, so it didn’t help me understand it and typing it in simply brought me to a dead site.
The second one was a reminder that the game was still being made and that no fan had to worry about it. Taking notice of the dates sent, they were almost six months apart. Although that would seem like a short time for people to start wondering if a game is still being made, I remembered how many trailers, interviews, and videos always flooded out after E3 until the game’s release. They are always almost daily reminders that such and such shooter was still alive, still kicking, and still available for pre-order. It really got me wondering what the Kansas dev team were planning all those years ago. My best guess was that they were trying to force a cult classic. They wanted their game to have cult appeal, to be loved by few and always recommended by them, they wanted a legacy and they were trying to artificially create it.
The third and last one was simply a reminder that the game was still being made, despite the cutbacks rumored. The game was fine, the email went, and everyone is still friends, then the email ended with a jokey smiley.
Rumored? I thought. The cogs in my head started churning as I thought of everything in tandem. This could mean that the first link was a link to a Kansas fan site, which made perfect sense. Why bother sending out hundreds of emails about what you thought your fans wanted, when you could simply have a fan site and answer any legitimate questions there. It even still worked within the cult classic theory as only those with the link could get in and the only ones that got it was a part of the mailing list. Leave the big announcements to the emails and let the fans talk casually on the fan forum. It was a happy little world and I imagined it would have worked well.
So, why two emails saying that the game was still being worked on? Couldn’t that have simply been said on the forums? What were they trying to do? Thoughts thundered through my mind and my memory tried to pick out familiar situations to where this has happened. The fact that only Duke Nukem Forever came to mind wasn’t a great help. That game was plagued with infighting, story changes, and everything else under the sun changing as the years went on but that was all there to see now.
The game is out now and you can even find all this information online with why it took so long. Kansas doesn’t have the same luxury. I thought of all this as I looked at the pictures and could hear the sounds of Alabama through Skype as if they were at my very door. I had to dig deeper.
I asked Sir Alabama if he knew anyone who was once a part of the mailing list. Carefully, he thought on it and told me that he once had a friend who was a part of it and they theorized and theorized until the wee hours of the morning. The friendship stopped though when Sir Alabama and he had a little falling out over George Washington apparently. I was about to ask what but, at finally seeing a small framed picture of a cherry tree behind Sir Alabama, I kept my mouth shut. He told me that his username was Doctor1945 and that they used to patrol old Doom fan sites together.
I thanked Sir Alabama and went looking for his long lost friend. Finding it odd that he emailed a random person on a mailing list, I shook it off as him being him.
Googling the name brought up nothing except a few Wikipedia pages about World War Two. I used some Doom sites Sir Alabama suggested and quickly found him.
His profile on that site had a link to another site, declaring the first to have lost its way. The other site’s profile had the same theatrics. Eventually, as I hopped through fifteen profiles, I found his current profile. It was made only a few months ago.
This website forced you to register an account before making threads and replying to an introduction thread after that. Groaning, I made the quickest account I could and gave a small chuckle at the fact it asked you to list your current mood from a long list of emoticons.
After I was done with all the busy work, I went back to Doctor1945 and looked around his profile. His current mood was angry and he was only forty, made me wonder about the year in his username. I sent him a message, detailing my experience and asking him if he had any more information about the game.
As I waited for him to reply, I looked around the site and, on most threads talking about Doom mods, I could see the Doctor’s handiwork. He commented, replied, and critiqued almost everything. He did do it politely but it was the kind of politeness that makes you want to punch someone.
He made it out like he was Stephen Speilberg or Stanley Kubrick talking to a teenager who just made their first short film. It didn’t make me hate him, it simply made me not want to talk to him. He just seemed like a polite asshole.
An e-mail popped up in my feed, declaring that someone had messaged me on the fansite. I groaned slightly as I couldn’t find where the messages were kept and it felt like I was virtually going through a labyrinth in order to try and pin down where in the world they were.
Eventually, I stumbled across the right button and, after bookmarking it, I clicked on the message and went in. The Doctor seemed to have the same air of politeness as he did when he replied and commented on other threads.
He told me that he had been a friend of Sir Alabama and had been a fan of Kansas but he would hold this information for a price. It took The Doctor about five paragraphs to say what I condensed into a sentence.
I messaged him back, saying that I would honor his favor for information and I asked what it was.
He wanted me to play one of his Doom mods. Groaning, I rested my head in my hands and muttered painfully. I would have rather simply paid him than sat through his drivel, turned 3D. Gritting my teeth, I told him that I would do it.
Before he could send another message, I actually had to buy Doom for the first time. It came cheaply as well as it should have and I bought a retro bundle of them. Another email popped up as I was halfway through reading a simplistic kind of how to get doom mods to run.
As the modding program was downloading, I read his message. Earlier I compared him to Kubrick or Speilberg but his message was filled with an almost childish amount of thanks for him simply playing his mod, a long paragraph was dedicated to him asking for the truth and no sugar coated opinions. The Doctor seemed like a classic example of fake it till you make it. I told him I would message him back once I played the mod.
To cut a long story short, I played the mod and it was strange, to say the least. I had played Doom before and it was never this slow and trusting. Doom’s objective was quick paced action and it worked well in the nineties and still works today. Yet, the Doctor’s mod was… Anything but.
It started out on the top floor of a hotel and, despite the carpet and the ax my character held, it wasn’t The Shining. There was no snow outside but it was a day of thunder and lightning, the clouds circled maddeningly as if a tornado would soon be born from them. I stalked around the floor and there were no enemies, there was only the sound of wind and thunder. The textures were amazing and even the pay phones that hung on the walls were beautifully designed, I could even read the ‘free prayer’ number that was written on there. Every room looked identical, every room had the same view of the sky, the same bed, and the same layout. It was just like an actual cheap hotel.
Approaching the elevator and going down a floor, there was a pixelated cry of ‘Get him!’. A normal person, dressed head to toe in black clothing and a bandana around their mouth, stood in front of the elevator door with a revolver raised. My character swung his ax and the person went down like a sack of stones, a gaping wound in the side of his neck that turned his black clothes a muddy red.
Before I even looked around the corner, revolver fire danced at the elevator door. I rushed forward and picked up the revolver, seeing two other black clad people. One shouted ‘Fuck him up!’ as the other just repeated ‘Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit’. As I blew both of their heads off in a display that would make a sadist cringe, I noticed they all had the same voice actor. It had a grumbling English accent from a town no one knew as I tried it’s best to sound American.
Clearing out the rest of the rooms, I found nothing of importance. Simply more people and more rooms to check. It was all there was until the end where a door simply revealed I had finished the ‘demonstration’ and it told me to quit. I did just that.
Stealing cues from every game review on the planet, I gave The Doctor a review that was on his level of politeness and care. Ten paragraphs that boiled down to; ‘It looks pretty but there is no real substance’. Hitting send, I suddenly felt bad but not for The Doctor and presumed fragile ego. If I shot him full of offense and left him to wallow in his own sadness, I could lose the story.
As soon as I was planning an apology the length of a bible, the familiar ding of a message popped up and it was The Doctor screaming thank yous. It was As if my review was like cocaine and The Doctor had a nose like Henry Hoover. He thanked me for every little bit of it and told me he would do better in the future. As his message wound on, it slowly made me uncomfortable how much he seemed to love my review and I thought, jokingly, that the sadistic nature in which the “looters”, as he called those enemies, died was a Freudian projection of The Doctor himself.
As his message stopped it’s congratulations, he asked me what I wanted to know about the game and I chuckled at it. The way he worded it was as if he had snapped back from his strait jacket bound persona back into the snobbish movie director.
I asked him for a further timeline after the mailing list and, thinking it over for a minute if his mod was inspired by Kansas. It seemed that way; it had looters, an almost-tornado, and was set in the middle of nowhere.
His next message began like a dog caught chewing at his owner’s slipper, he seemed mournful to admit that he had been inspired and so riddled with guilt over the fact that I felt like picking up the phone and putting him on suicide watch. He spoke like a toddler, crying and sputtering his story through mucus and tears. Eventually, it just ended with that he had been inspired because he felt such a deep connection to the series.
Then he started to explain the rest of the history.
The link was actually to a website but the forums were barren except for only a few dedicated people that followed it. The Doctor explained that it was incredibly difficult to get to the forums as you had to jump through a lot of tabs and other segments simply to get in there first. The estimate was that it only had about five people but that wasn’t a great number as no one truly knew how many fans or admirers the game had.
There were a few updates on the website and that’s what the website seemed to mostly be, it was the team behind the game posting designs and images of the game. The Doctor mentioned how the images almost came daily and that everyone seemed pleased to see them, even the meager people in the forums seemed to love it.
Someone on the forum wondered where they got the ideas from, the looters seemed almost human as every looter sprite posted was different. Almost in an instant, one of the designers that went by Hedley (as The Doctor said) posted a large collage that showed where all the looters were from.
Newspaper clippings were posted by their looter counterparts and, despite some wearing bandanas, The Doctor said it was an almost perfect match. Most of the pictures were those of nobodies and the clippings revealed they weren’t much of anybody either; mostly thieves and arsonists, The Doctor said one simply didn’t pay his parking ticket. Yet some of the looters had even stranger counterparts; looters with the faces of Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy. The Doctor also says he believes Albert Fish was a part of the bunch as well but he remembers the first three more clearly.
He didn’t really question it at the time, he thought it was peculiar and a little strange but he didn’t pay attention to it. In his mind, the development team couldn’t be older than late teens or their early twenties and he remembered doing a few things similar back then. He recalled, as an example, spray painting a large ‘STOP NUCLEAR WEAPONS’ mural on a police car in his hometown. It was in bad taste and it was too soon but it was what young people did so he didn’t question it.
What happened afterward was more strange. The team had been posting about their development with the cultists and it was clear that they looked similar to that of monks except their robes were dyed a traffic light red. People asked if the cultists faces were all unique as well. The team posted an update a day later.
This post was a little more sloppy and, instead of precise image editing, it was a singular photograph with the cultists’ faces edited over it. The Doctor had never seen the faces before but that isn’t what bothered him, what bothered him was where they came from.
The photograph was taken from a church leaflet and, while the name of the church was blacked out with a pen, the rest wasn’t. It read:
“[Blacked out] church,
These are the sinners that have broken the holy order and played with Satan and Satan’s temptations. Pray for their souls.”
Below that was simply the list of teenagers’ faces, their names, and their ages.
The Doctor found this less forgivable as it didn’t seem as if it was a joke. There were too many people of too many different ages for this to be a joke, not all of these people could be on the dev team. Even if it somehow was true and an eight-year-old was working on a Doom mod, why go to the trouble of calling themselves Satanists and printing off an elaborate joke? He shook his head and took it to be similar to the looters, just a joke that was played too soon but it felt off.
He went to the forums to see how other people were reacting and he remembered someone saying that they recognized the church, they lived in the area and got the same leaflet in their postbox. The person named the church as “The Priest of York church”.
That’s all The Doctor remembered and he apologized for his lack of information on the subject.
To try and skate around another possible sadomasochist apology fest, I quickly said it was fine and if there was any way I could repay him. He simply said to play the mod when it was finished and to tell him what happened to Kansas.
I bookmarked his profile page in a new folder called ‘tell them about Kansas’ and I threw The General and Sir Alabama in there as well. It was the least I can do.
The Priest of York church was in the middle of a nowhere town called Lyndon, Mississippi but the name changed just about every year so it might not be the same as it was before. It was London the year before and only God knows what it was in 1994.
It wasn’t easy finding their phone number, finding them on Google was hard enough. I called around the town, trying to find the number until I ended up talking to a former priest of the church in a post office.
We exchanged pleasantries but he told me that he was only dropping off a few books to post and he would be gone. He gave me a different number to call in ten minutes and told me he would be waiting for me to call. The phone call clunked to a stop a second later.
He didn’t sound like he was from Mississippi. He sounded like he was a California surfer before becoming bitter about three decades ago and giving it up. It was an odd accent but it felt oddly comforting and I imagined listening to him talk about a Satan snake would have been actually entertaining.
True to my word, I called him roughly ten minutes on the dot and found him in a bar. As I spoke of the bartender, she seemed angrily joyful that someone wanted to actually talk to him and, as she passed the phone, I could hear why.
He was going off at a patron’s ear about how the church kicked him out because he actually liked the little video games kids played, he couldn’t recall the name, and, before the phone reached his mouth, I think he had called the church ‘a cult’ more times than he had said the word ‘and’. As he grabbed the phone, he muttered a hello and I reminded him of who I was.
Happily, he greeted my company and asked me what I wished to know with a joyful drunkenness to his voice. I asked him about leaflets the church gave out of people around the mid-nineties.
He made a loud and knowledgeable “ah!” and slapped the bar with his palm, getting an audible groan from the other bar attendees.
The leaflets, to his knowledge, had only been given out a few times and it was when the town got the internet. Every teenager in town had read about a game called Doom in magazines and newspapers and now they finally had the ability to play it. Every teenager was hooked on it and a church goer saw her young son playing it at the young moment. The Priest laughed as he recounted she almost ripped his ear off all the way to the church.
He gave the mother a small speech about how the game affects youths but, behind closed doors, revealed that he didn’t care what they played. However, a few months later, two of the teenagers were excited for a game called ‘Kansas’, I wanted to correct him but kept my mouth shut as to not ruin the flow of his story.
One of the boys tried to show his mother, hoping she would let him donate to it. The Priest joked that his mother donated her son to church camp for a summer because of the word “cultist”. The small town was in a small uproar so the church, to slow the ‘religiously insane’ as the priest put it, made the leaflet to let the families pray for their supposed Satanists and hopefully turn them back to Christ.
I told the priest that, supposedly, the leaflet had been used to model the faces of the cultists in the game. The Priest laughed and said that at least someone used it creatively.
I asked him if he remembered the two teenagers who had gotten in trouble for their love of Kansas. The Priest paused but it wasn’t a thoughtful pause, it felt more as if he was wondering if she should give out their names. The Priest seemed to still be stuck in his ‘protect the flock’ mode even when he no longer had one.
He muttered something about no harm coming of it and he recalled the two names; John Clay and Jordan Thompson. He told me that Clay had moved to California for an Arts and Design degree for college and that Jordan Thompson had gone away in a classic Dodge Charger his dad had given him, telling everyone he was going to be a famous actor. The Priest gave a sad chuckle.
I thanked him and asked if I could do anything for him. He told me that, if I ever found out the full story, to tell him it. Just as I was about to ask him how he blurted out a short email address and I noted it down in my ‘tell them about Kansas’ folders. I told him I would do just that and, before he could do it to me, I pushed down on the hang-up button, smiling a bit as I knew I got there first.
Searching for the two former teenagers was harder than it first looked, there was around a few thousand of each of them in their respective areas. Jordan Thompson was the name of about a few thousand in the United States alone and John Clay was the name of about a hundred graduates from Californian colleges. Eventually, however, John Clay came up on my radar by complete luck and accident.
An advert popped up, wondering if anyone needed a concept artist and the name listed alongside it was the name of John Clay. He had, seemingly desperately, listed his past jobs as to gain some extra credit. Everything from stage plays to company logos to, holy of all, video games themselves.
Pulling a small metaphorical lever on the internet slot machine, I responded to the ad and my immediate questions were about the church and if he had lived there. I apologized for not being a paying customer but offered to pay for his information.
He responded with a quick e-mail, a singular picture attachment and it was the leaflet from the church. It was held in an expensive, wooden frame and a small metallic plaque read: ‘honorary Satanist – 1994.’
A longer email came a few minutes later and it was John Clay happily telling his story. It seemed odd to have someone so pleased about Kansas, where others simply seemed to remember it in the milky river of almost forgetting.
He told me that he had, yes, run away from the small town of (as of this moment) Lyndon. Recalling quite fondly that, it was quite hard to shop, learn, or even live in a town where every adult thinks of you as a Satanist. The story went that, fueled by the neutrally uncaring priest, the town forced his parents (who were hopped up on the religious drug as well) to strip his room until it looked like it was a prison cell.
He told me that all his posters were gone, all his board games, all his note books, and notepads were burned in the yard, and all that was left was a cold bed that felt uncomfortably shallow in a gray room. It was like living in your own shallow grave, he said, you just saw yourself dying as you stared at the gray walls.
Almost as if he knew that the last paragraph was too much, he toned it down with a joke. Mentioning quickly how one of the notebooks contained lewd pictures of his imaginary girlfriend gave me a laugh and I think he knew it. Elaborating, he told me that’s how he realized, after a week or two, how he could escape his small town; he could ride on the back of his art and sail all the way to college.
That’s exactly what he did. As he was in high school, he quickly grew friends in California through pen pal programs and secret letters sent to the post office. A particular California girl had stolen one of the letters off of John’s friends and, on seeing a picture of him, started to write to him herself. Having never seen John myself, I did wonder what kind of person he looked like back in the day to be able to catch a girl’s attention like that.
She wrote and he wrote back, this exchange lasting all the way until they were eighteen and preparing to go to college. He asked an important question of if she would let him run away with her and she said yes. He packed his bags (taking one of the church leaflets with him), left the small town behind in 1996, and the rest, as he said, was history.
He noted that I wasn’t there to listen to his life story but he mentioned how it was slightly important. It helped shape what happened later on.
In college, he posted around that he was doing freelance work on concept art for company logos or video games or anything anyone could imagine needed to be drawn. He remembered he posted the first advert in the early months of 1997 because that was when he put actual effort into his advert, taking him a night and a half to design the poster.
Eventually, a letter dropped through into his dorm and it was a request for some concept art. He read it and read it and, as he reached the bottom, John realized who had written to him; it was the Kansas dev team. They wanted concept art of a number of cultists and they would pay top price if it was John quality.
I asked him what exactly was their criteria. John said was weapons, robes, characters, and all. They wanted everything a cultist would need in a video game.
So, at hearing the word cultist, he dug the old leaflet out of his back and draw a group of cultists, all cultists bearing the same faces as those mug shots on that church leaflet. He photocopied his favorite drawings before sending the finished product to the address. He got a small stack of five dollar bills, totaling a hundred dollars, pushed through his letter box a day later and a small post-it note telling him that he did a good job.
He said that was the last he heard of the dev team as they never contacted him again.
I asked him if he kept any of the concept art and he said of course he did. He sent more framed drawings a few minutes later.
The one I could see plainly was the one that The Doctor said looked eight. It was easy to see as he looked like the classic red-cheeked, all-American boy you would see if you accidentally flipped to a 50s sitcom.
The drawing was like a sketch but looked like good concept art should. The robes had strange symbols looping around the hood and trailing along the spine like the bone daggers of a dinosaur. I asked John if these were a part of the criteria and he noted that they were very particular about those symbols. I made a note to talk to someone about the symbols.
The All American cultist was the only one that didn’t carry a ceremonial dagger (as all others were drawn with them thrusting them forwards as if to stab an invisible man in the gut), he held a baseball bat which was ready to swing and bounce off of someone’s skull. The bat itself has another marking; ‘the New Orlean Nutters’ was burned into like the usual Louisville sluggers. With very new discovery I asked and the answer was always the same, yes they wanted that marking in. This time it was because it was a band the dev team liked.
Then there was the Thompson machine gun. The cultist was drawn (like the others) yanking back on the trigger and letting slip a hail of bullets from the iconic sub machine gun. It had a drum mag, it has the wooden furniture, it was the classic Thompson everyone loved. The answer to why this was included was peculiar; John simply said that it was because Blood came out. Blood being a horror themed FPS with cultists and ghouls. John, at the time, wondered why they would bring such an unhealthy connection upon themselves, being the clone of a popular game could be suicide in the nineties as he recalled. He laughed when he remembered being worried, more so for the fact he had thought Kansas was going to be released soon.
The last drawing of the All American cultist was posted and John captioned it, saying that he had done this for his own amusement. The drawing was of the cultist’s robe opened, revealing that the cultist was really triplets stacked on top of each other. The lower wielded a pistol, the second held a shotgun, and the third aimed the infamous Tommy gun. A scrawled note by it read; “the most difficult enemy in the game!”.
I thanked him and asked him if he knew anything about the Kansas raiders, seeing as no one had mentioned them. He verbally shrugged his shoulders, telling me he didn’t know a thing. He guessed that raiders and looters were the same enemy type and better to say they were actually two.
Thanking him again, I tried to peel away from the chat to get ready to other people. Before I could, he asked me if I would tell him the full story behind Kansas, I told him I would and added his name to the folder.
I never found Jordan Thompson.
It was surprisingly easy to find people interested in the occult and who knew their way around symbols. I found a few people from the college circuit and, for a small fee, they seemed eager to spill their knowledge out onto the table.
Feeling a little cheated after only needing pleasantries to get the other information, I reminded myself that college students needed food too and I shouldn’t come off as an old man, barking like a rabid dog at the young people.
There were three of them; Alice Artell who was studying religion, Martin Anemona who was studying philosophy, and Lawrence Mattson who was studying engineering. All in all, they cost me about forty dollars; Martin and Lawrence were ten bucks each and Alice would only do it for twenty. I didn’t want to try and find someone else, so I simply gave her the twenty.
At seeing one of the symbols, Martin told me that it was crudely drawn Golden Ratios and Lawrence immediately said that every angle seemed to be thirteen degrees each. Before I could ask what either of that actually meant, Alice popped up and gave us all a small lecture about the connection that the Golden Ratio had to God and how it is associated with beauty as well. Thirteen was simply thirteen because of the thirteen people at the last supper, Jesus and his twelve followers. I chuckled slightly as I remembered The General’s comment about edgy atheists.
They pointed to another symbol and quickly solved that as well. It was a rectangle with Germanic symbols in it, all the angles were the same. That pointed to the original Martin Luther and how he separated from the church by nailing a paper of protest onto a church door. The symbols were all said to be about keeping away demons or heretics, Alice said the meaning was fuzzy. Martin mentioned how the angles being all the same could mean they are all equal in the cult Lawrence cracked wise about ‘communist cultists’.
There were more images yet most simply wound up meaning the same thing as the rest, all were about equality and all were about being one God. The last symbol they really took note and begged me to mention was peculiar. Lawrence didn’t help with this as it was simple religious imagery. Alice identified that, in the symbol, an icon from every major religion was placed in a group and inside a small drawn sphere. Martin went on and on about meaning after meaning but eventually landed on the idea that it means that all other religions are trapped in a bubble and that only the cult was the true faith. This made me a little shaken as it seemed very of place for such a game, even one being programmed by edgy atheists. It was just strange and why would such intricate detail be placed into something that would be pixelated to the point where you couldn’t make out the symbols and why on an enemy you would slaughter on mass?
Shaking the burning questions from my mind, I thanked them all and they said goodbyes, quickly disappearing offline. For a minute, I just played some calming music to lighten the mood that I had made in my mind. Classic music filled my small room as I opened up Facebook.
I quickly searched for the New Orleans Nutters and found the band already broken into pieces. From what I learned, the vocalist was too busy writing songs to notice that the lead guitarist was in bed with his girlfriend and when he finally did notice, he chuckled, the vocalist tried to kill me.
The lead guitarist, going by the name Lie-Low, was on tour with his other hand and landed in a city near to mine. After making us quick friends over Facebook, I offered him drinks in a bar for what he knew about the game, Kansas. He told me I was one.
I arrived at the seedy place and, despite the only sounds being the jukebox and human misery, Lie-Low stood up and shouted at me to join him. Rushing over as to not offend those keeping their misery down with cheap beer, I sat by him and he smiled with a grin only the devil could love.
The phrase ‘young soul’ didn’t fit Lie-Low as he didn’t always act young and neither did ‘old soul’ for a similar reason. He seemed to have the best of both worlds that counter acted the cons of each. He wasn’t depressing, he was fun; he wasn’t annoying, he knew when to be serious. His clothes reflected this as well, he wore an old leather jacket, yet underneath there was the vibrant colours of a graphic t-shirt.
He reminded me of when I saw an elderly man near the Golden Gate bridge. The man looked like he could have been a world war two veteran but he wore a shirt with ‘Federal Booty Inspector’ slapped across the front and, by his small grin, you could tell he had put it on purposely.
Lie-Low, as I sat down on the rickety bar stool, had already ordered enough drinks to have two separate bartenders serving him at the same time; one to give him drinks and one to take away empty glasses. He greeted me with a hearty slap on the back and boomed with a voice made for narration, he asked what it is I wanted to know.
As he slipped a mysterious shot of peppermint liqueur and Jagermeister down his gullet, I asked if he ever did music for video games. His eyes went wide and it was hard to tell if it was from the shot or from my question. I learned a second later that it was because of me.
However, he was happy I asked and he said that he hadn’t heard that question in years. Quickly, he went through the wonderful things about working with a game studio and he told me that, if I got the chance, I should do it. Although I could barely play a note on any instrument, I buttoned that secret inside and asked him how many games he had recorded music for.
Happily, he held up two fingers as a strained mixture of red bull and Jagermeister disappeared into his stomach. One was for mobile mystery game where you pretended to find a phone on the side of the road and the other was, of course, Kansas. His band was paid in cash and it was the most money they had gotten out of a gig in ages.
After chugging a cheap beer to wash down the other stuff, Lie-Low said that they were told to record two songs, one for a church and one for a catacomb level. Afterwards, they would listen to some audio that the group had recorded already and give their thoughts on it. I made a mental note to start finding information about the catacombs.
He told me how the songs weren’t anything special, it was just the usual stuff that the band played. Seeing the dullness in my eyes, he went into explain that New Orleans Nutters was mostly happy metal, lot of bass and a lot of noise but nothing that would offend granddad and grandma. They did sing about the occult however and how Jesus was coming back to destroy everything, so they still offended some people, he laughed as he choked down another beer.
Oddly enough, he mused, was that the Kansas dev team had told him clearly that they wanted full songs with lyrics. Lie-Low wasn’t a computer expert as he admitted himself but he knew that Doom and Blood only played instrumentals. The band, however, decided that cash was better than just being told to get out, so they wrote and recorded two songs.
Lie-Low recalled the two songs cheerily, the ‘Church Song’ was about the armor of God (a metaphor for belief in God) being , as he said, ‘like a fucking Iron Man suit’ and being used to kill all the priests, as Lie-Low put it, fiddled with kids and the ‘Catacomb song’ was about Satan digging tunnels into praying away the gay camps and “the rest is for imagination to fill in” He said with a dirty smirk.
The band went back to the Kansas team and played the songs, Lie-Low described their reaction as if you threw a banana in a cage of starved monkeys. They were wild for it and immediately wanted both the instrumentals and the real songs. It only hit him in that moment that the Kansas team were fans of their music and weren’t just looking for a cheap rock band. Gladly, the vocalist handed over a copies of each to them all.
Lie-Low jokingly muttered that they must have played those tapes until they caught fire.
Carefully, I asked him about the other job that they had to do. His grin turned to a frown and his face went leather to white. Lie-Low strangely admitted that he wasn’t a good person to watch horror films with, he couldn’t handle the screaming for some reason. Slowly, it dawned on me why and the event was solidified when he finally explained it.
The crew members had gathered around a small walkman and told them to listen carefully.
The band gathered around the Walkman and, as Lie-Low told, one of the crew members smiled almost sadistically as he pushed down on the play button.
Screaming. Lie-Low had gone pale simply at his own utterance of the word. Dragging another mystery shot down like a nervous drunk, he elaborated that his brain couldn’t tell the difference between real screams and fake screams, saying it was too hard for his mind to tell the difference.
The dev team played the tape for a few minutes before shutting it off. The screams were short bursts of painful yells with a second interval of silence between each scream. The dev team said that they were trying their best to make bodily damage to the enemies be in different sections, a shot to the leg caused a different scream and a different effect on the enemy as Lie-Low said. They, the screams, all sounded like they were coming from the same person.
Tapping his head with a cold drink before drinking it down, he said he had never gotten that screaming out of his head. It felt too real, even to his mind and, chuckling sadly, he recalled the next song the band produced being a mockery of the Kansas team.
“They probably just wanked off to that one,” he shuddered with a sincere disturbance to his soul.
He mentioned how, since that small day in late 1997, he had never seen or heard of Kansas again. Jokingly, he told me thanks and told me to have a good life. I imagined that was my cue to leave, so I got up from the bar stool and left him to swallow down his sorrows.
Outside the bar, a man was waiting for me and I didn’t remember order one to. He asked me if I was looking off information about Kansas and, for a moment, I thought he had mistaken me for a drug user. Before I could utter a word, he rolled his eyes and said he meant the game.
The man, who never gave his name, looked like the kind of person who would roll his eyes a lot. His unassuming and average brown eyes were pushed back into a large head that looked like it was made of fatty dough and poor facial hair. I had to stand away from him as he had a stomach made for whale yet stuffed inside of a human. I feared, childishly, that he would eat me.
Even without my verbal input, he went on to tell me that he had a friend who had to do a guided tour to those, as he put it, “gamer weirdos”. From his style of hat and poor beard hair, I felt that the only games he congratulated were those from Asia. The guided tour was in a small town in Kansas, meant to scare tourists into buying merchandise and key rings. The man who hadn’t given his name stood rather proudly over me as he related the boring information back to me.
I asked him if he had his friend’s phone number and he, after rolling his eyes on his fat head again, handed me a leaflet with a phone number scribbled across in red felt tip. It was the ghost walk of Lindsborg, Kansas and I can’t say I had ever heard of the town before that point.
I thanked the man, stuffing the leaflet into my pocket. I had ever intention to throw it in the bin, thinking it was some marketing trap, but I forgot and continued home.
Calling the number the next day, I got a strange accent on the other line. It reminded me of history class and learning about Swedish confederate soldiers, the entire class imagining what kind of accent that would be like. She sounded a more culturally sensitive Swedish chef and a racist southerner. Her name was Kaithy and the man I spoke to was her stalker ex.
Kaithy did the polite thing and spoke about the relationship in a voice so quick it would give the micro machine man a run for his money and then continued with the real story.
She told me how that Linsborg on its own had no real ghosts. The town was so small that there wasn’t enough people to make a ghost between themsleves and, as Kaithy put it, there wasn’t enough intelligence between them all to make one up either. So, every single spook and spectre has been made up by Kaithy herself and was mostly old legends she had heard from her friends dotted all over the United States and the world.
Giving a southern snorting laugh, she told me about the time she made Bloody Mary into a civil war soldier and almost scared a young couple to death with imagery of a grey coat clad man impaling them with a bayonet through the mirror. She told me that was the highlight of her real job (a small time post office worker), just making up ghost stories to spook visitors and locals alike.
She told me that the Kansas ‘lads’, as she motheringly called them, had been acting rather strangely and were always scribbling down ideas in notepads. Kaithy thought they might have been a little thick because they kept confusing the word ‘raider’ and ‘ghost’. I had to keep my jaw from hitting the phone as she carried on.
Casually, she described wandering around the town at near dusk and describing every horrible ghost story she could but all the ‘lads’ did, to her dismay, was enjoy it more and more and ask more questions, smiling like sadists.
The story of old couple that had been killed by a drunk driver and haunted the roads together, scaring drunk drivers off the road? That one got laughs and scribbles on the notepad. The story of the hunter left in the woods, only to come out three decades later as tall as the trees and as wild as a rabid dog? Questions about what happened after and quiet chuckles, followed with rapid scribbles. The story of the baby who had died at less than a year old, having choked to death on spiders, and who now haunted homes as the baby crawls all the walls like a spider and screams like a tortured child? Questions about what the baby did to people and the answers wrote down eagerly.
Every story was a comedy show to them and nothing was off limits with how gruesome their questions were. They seem to have heard it all before and it made Kaithy nervous as she pulled out the big guns and all they did was chuckle with louder giggles.
However, when she had had enough, she turned and asked them how they could find it all so funny? She had described the death knells of babies and the tortured souls of the elderly and all they did was giggled. What they said chilled her to the bone and they all said it in supposed unison, they had heard it all before and heard it for real before. She cancelled the tour and told the gentlemen to get the hell out of her town.
They left willingly but their faces still haunt dreams. Apparently their eyes were filled with glints of golden happiness and that made it even worse.
She told me that was in 2002. So many years of lost time.
Can you help me find out any more about Kansas? This is all I can find and the story feels so undercooked.
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