I had never been on the deep web. Thought the whole thing sounded stupid. Some illicit part of the internet with unknown atrocities lurking in every corner, but I was working on my master's thesis (in sociology) and I thought a paper on internet subcultures sounded interesting. I got together with a friend and he talked to me about TOR and showed me different precautions I could take to protect my identity and my computer while browsing the deep web. I was ready to explore this bizarre hive I had heard so much about.
Needless to say for about two weeks I sifted through old websites that looked like they'd been developed during the nineties. Obscure internet relics floating out in the middle of nowhere. Derelict websites forgotten by time. Most of it was boring junk, lots of Nazi conspiracy theorists, drug traffickers, pedophiles—it was what I expected. I would've been content to do my paper on Nazi subcultures on the deep web, or maybe even pedophiles, but I ran across something that really interested me.
It was a forum awkwardly titled "Enthusiast of Suicide." The name led me to believe the forum wasn't of English speaking origin. The forum itself had a multinational array of boards for users from different countries. I saw boards in Spanish, French, Turkish, Chinese, a vast array of boards, but there was one common theme. Everyone on the boards was fanatically obsessed with suicide.
People in the English speaking boards would share different ideas about suicide: how to execute it, how to lessen the pain for people who were afraid of suffering, stories about friends who had committed suicide, suicide fetishists sharing explicit pictures with one another, people having philosophical discussions about suicide, it didn't seem to stop. Then on one of the boards I noticed some of the people talking about something called "The Suicide Show."
"It's on tonight, are you going to watch it?" one would say.
"No I can't, I have a big day tomorrow, I plan on going into work with my .38 and killing my boss, then I'm going to kill myself," the other would respond. I cringed at reading this.
"The Suicide Show?" If it was what it sounded like then it would be some kind of web cast with a bunch of people... committing suicide? I felt my stomach turn, and my palms were sweaty, but my mind was racing with curiosity. I had to find out what this "show" was all about. This suicide cult had already given me enough material for an exciting thesis, but this would be the coup de grâce.
I found out that the "show" came on at one in my area, and I fished around until I found a link to the "show." My throat had a huge knot sitting in it, and I know I must've been sweaty. But I couldn't let my nerves get in the way of my research... I was doing important work here.
The live feed came on with an eerie sounding MIDI playing in the background. The film quality was grainy, as if filmed using a cell phone or a cheap camera. A woman with a microphone held tightly in both hands stood with a forced smile on her face. I could see her mascara had run down her face as if she had been crying.
She looked like she may be in her forties, she was Asian, and she looked incredibly uncomfortable and afraid. I gripped the arm rest of my chair, my nails digging into it. She made me uneasy. The whole thing made me uneasy, but this was getting much more strange. She started speaking in a foreign language, so I quickly clicked a button that would display English subtitles on-screen.
"Welcome to the Suicide Show, I'll be your host for this evening," she said, her pitch shaky and unnerved.
Just the sound of her frightened voice made this so much more surreal, and slightly nauseating. "Let's start the show!" she shouted with uneasy and forced glee. She threw an arm up in the air, her teeth clenched tightly into a nervous smile, and a tear rolling down from one eye.
This had to be fake. It was weird, but there was no way I was honestly about to be privy to what I thought I was going to witness. They tried hard to convince me this was some illicit game show from hell. That this woman was being held against her will like Vanna White at gun point, but I wasn't biting. There's no way this was really happening.
"Our first contestant is from New York. His name is Robert Howard," she read from a cue card nervously. Looking up at the camera with wild eyes. She then lowered the card, I could see her hands shaking, and the compulsory toothy smile flash again as she lifted a hand to the air. A spot light highlighted the area around a man sitting in a chair. He had a shotgun in his hands. I felt my nails dig deeper into my arm rest. I clenched my teeth and watched on in horror.
He lifted the shotgun to his mouth, I saw tears running from his eyes, and he fired. I could see the inside of his mouth light up for a brief second as a shot rang out, startlingly loud. I jerked in my chair from the sound of the blast. I saw his head jerk back briefly as a discharge of brain and blood hit the wall behind him. His head then lurched forward, his upper body slumped ahead folding in on itself, his head dangling.
I could see the top of his head. I could see the blood, and the gore, and I could see smoke wafting from where the blast had penetrated. I had seen plenty of horror movies, and I had seen plenty of gore on the internet to know the difference. I placed a hand on my mouth. I felt the air vacate my lungs as I stared on in abject terror.
"Judges?" the woman cried out, throwing her arm as the cheap camera swung around to highlight three people sitting at a table.
They wore black masks with zippers that formed smiles for mouths, and white tape that formed x's over their eyes with small punctures in them so they could see the "show." One judge held up a 3.8, the other a 4.0, and the last judge held up a 3.5.
"Our next contestant is Carlos Riviera of Los Angeles!" she said, moving on to the next man. This man stood still, wearing no shirt, and a simple pair of jeans. He was holding something in his right hand, and his head was hanging low. He looked like he was... focusing... concentrating on something... trying to steel himself. He gritted his teeth, clenching them tightly, his body shaking, and suddenly started to yell furiously as he brought a butcher knife up to his neck and started slicing across his throat.
The knife cut coarsely through the skin, ripping through flesh, but he didn't get across his entire throat before he fell to his knees and grabbed his gullet with his hands. I saw blood spurting all over the floor, gushing outward from the open wound. His eyes were lit up with fear as he choked on his own blood. "Look at him gush!" The woman cried out, her voice a mixture of false enthusiasm, panic, and something akin to disgust. He collapsed into a pile on the floor, his legs kicking as he struggled to breathe.
"Judges?" the woman said again, the camera swinging around once more. The judges held up a 4.8, 4.9, and 4.7 respectively. There were two other contestants, but I couldn't watch anymore. I closed the window to the feed and walked over to my window. I had to catch my breath. My heart was racing. What had I just seen?
I didn't sleep that night. I could see the man who had slit his own throat. I could see his eyes as he struggled to breathe through a throat full of his own blood. I could see his bloody hands clasping at his neck in some mixture of instinctual reaction, or regretful horror. I could see him kicking on the floor, laying sideways in a pool of his own blood. Every time I closed my eyes its all I saw.
Needless to say I dropped the paper on the suicide enthusiasts.