The Crimson White

Enter The Marble Hornets' Nest

A circle with an “X” appear on the face of Marble Hornet’s “The Operator,” a similar myth to Slender Man. CW | Layton Dudley

Kasey Hullett

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Hazy, wispy tails of vapor condenses onto glassy eyes. A navy blue, striped sweatshirt gathers bits of bark and soil on the gray-lit trail. A burnt tree, a lonely chimney, an aluminum drainage pipe and a melted window – people trek there, but their minds stay behind. A camera is set up in the corner of the room. The student turns out the light. There is only the bed and the window. Both frames are filled.

A muffled squeal and skewed lines corrupt the footage. Smiles and laughs change pitch to a dull growl. A circle and an “X” appear over a face. Sprinting, a hooded figure leaps onto the wooden board, his mask wet with sweat. His knife drips with blood.

Darkness has reached the house. A shuffle of noise is heard on the porch. The student peers around the drapes. A tall, faceless man stands in a suit. His arms reach well below his knees. He glides across the windows, bending to stare inside. He circles the house. The hot floodlight spotlights his motions, showing an inhuman 
floating movement.

He is “The Operator.”

He lives in Alabama.

Joseph DeLage III and Troy Wagner first met in Mrs. Felix’s seventh period biology class in the sixth grade and have been friends ever since. They were in band in middle school and high school together, and both attended The University of Alabama. They both were a part of the telecommunications and film department, although at different times. Wagner called DeLage up about working on a little video project. Thus, the Marble Hornets YouTube series was born.

Together, they materialized their ideas for “The Operator”.

“With the exception of being inspired by the Slender Man’s physique, everything in regards to Marble Hornets’ ‘The Operator’ was entirely thought up by us,” DeLage said. “Because of how we tried to break the fourth wall as little as possible, that ended up bleeding into the Slender Man’s mythos as well in various communities. Teleportation, memory loss and video glitches were all Marble Hornets’ firsts, though.”

The Operator is a tall, faceless man in a suit. He can manipulate and interfere with camera and audio equipment. He can teleport in an instant. He has the power to control human minds by causing memory loss and can produce proxies (humans under the influence of him). He appears on film usually behind someone – but neither right behind nor far away. The fate of his victims is left vague. There is little known other than that many become pawns under his control. He also is connected to the symbol involving the circle with an “X” drawn on top of it. He is typically found in the woods and in ruined buildings, but can follow his 
victims anywhere.

During the Marble Hornets series, they chose parks and ruined buildings just across the Black Warrior River into Northport, in addition to other locations across 
the state.

“Alabama has no shortage of abandoned, rural locations, so it was really just a matter of walking around for a while until something struck our fancy,” DeLage said. “The one location that probably involved the most thought was the college in season three. That was actually part of the high school campus that Tim went to, which, oddly enough, was a college in the 1970s before it shut down briefly and reopened as a high school.”

With 419,429 subscribers and over 84.4 million views on YouTube, the Marble Hornets series continues to be a success. In 2013, Blue Isle Studios teamed up with the Marble Hornets team to write the story behind the popular video game, “Slender: The Arrival.” In April of this year, James Moran released a film written in part by DeLage and Wagner: “Always Watching: a Marble 
Hornets Story.”

Now they are working on a 
new project.

“Clear Lakes 44 is the next big, ambitious project,” DeLage said. “We have a lot of exciting ideas planned out for it, and so far it has gotten a fabulous reception. It’s a pretty big departure from conventional storytelling, even by our standards, but that has always been something we’ve been drawn to. As for connection, there is a little connective tissue, but CL44 is its own, self-contained series. Think same universe, 
different story.”

You can watch both the Marble Hornets and Clear Lakes 44 series 
at youtube.com/user/MarbleHornets.

In fall, dried leaves give off a particular kind of crunching noise.

Four University of Alabama students are hiking at night. They are searching for the filming locations that were used in the Marble Hornets series. Tonight, they are in Munny Sokol Park in Northport, Alabama. With nothing but phones and flashlights, they take the main trail.

There is a problem with some headlamps. If the light is too dull, one has to focus on looking at the ground rather than the surroundings. So, the guy in front walks looking down, as his headlamp’s light is blue-gray and fogged over. The second in line has an LED handheld light, but he cannot see over the guy in front of him. The third in line has a small flashlight, always looking around the sides of the trail. She has her hand on the back of the guy in front of her. The last in line also has a small flashlight, except hers always shines a bit farther back from the rest. She drags a little in her steel-toed boots.

“We don’t have a lot of local legends,” Brittany Gambee said, as her hand reaches onto Alec Rizzo’s shoulder. “It’s cool to have a creepy and exciting myth so close to campus.”

Brittany and Alec have both 
watched a portion of the Marble Hornets series and enjoy the unique scare factors. They also play “Slender: The Arrival” almost every weekend. They like to turn out all the lights and set up the game through an HDMI cord to the big TV. With a unique story of its own, the lore draws directly from the creative abilities of Wagner and DeLage. Above all, they love “The Operator.”

“He doesn’t run,” Rizzo says. “He moves slow or just stands there. It’s almost like he already knows he is going to get you.”

“He has this scary ‘you don’t hear him’ quality,” Gambee says. “He is just there. How long has he been there?”

The group continues down the winding path. A hole, three bodies deep, waits on the side of the path. It has a large opening with cracks extending from the edges. Spear-like roots have grown in a maze, allowing only a small opening. There is a shifting of leaves. An ominous feeling lurks in the haze.

Then they find it: the burnt tree.

It has fallen down, or maybe it was cut. The trunk is so dark it blends in with the night sky. The branches are like long daggers, reaching for life. In the series, it was 
still upright.

That’s the last thing in memory from that night.

“Mr. Tallman Noface with separation anxiety takes young adults to exotic locations,” DeLage said.

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