It was a night like any other. My husband and I settled in to watch our weekly episode of Supernatural, a series about two squabbling brothers who fight the forces of evil. Imagine my surprise when my husband looked up and announced that the monster-of-the week had come from the Internet. The faceless man hacking up helpless victims was based on the Slender Man, a mysterious creature created by a member of the Something Awful message boards in 2009.
This isn’t the first time that Supernatural has relied on popular culture for an episode’s theme. When they aren’t fighting ancient demons or renegade angels, the Winchester brothers show up with Felicia Day at cosplay gatherings and gatecrash their own fan conventions- inadvertently, of course. Their lives run parallel to a set of serialized novels based on themselve,s and they have been trapped inside of other cliché TV shows by the trickster-god, Loki.
Supernatural isn’t afraid to take its cues from what’s going on in the real world, and it has a soft spot for what’s freaking out the kids. America has a vast, rich history of creepiness – here’s my Top Five List of American Spooky Things for Sam and Dean to visit.
5. The Haunted Soda Machine
The haunted soda machine is located on a corner of Capitol Hill in Seattle. Covered in graffiti and scratches, it’s seen some rough days, including the Coke II fiasco. Flickering yellow buttons offer the normal Coke and Dew selections. But two buttons, in strange multicolored lettering, spell out “Mystery.” It’s anyone’s guess what “Mystery” will yield but it always delivers something unexpected: purple Fantas, raspberry flavored Iced Teas, Vanilla Cokes, or Hawaiian Punches. Despite its popularity, no one has ever seen the machine being filled or serviced.
It’s just the kind of mystery Sam and Dean might stumble onto during a long road trip, and it’s time for them to figure the mystery out. The machine could be a demonic conspiracy to overtake the world by lulling people into a false sense of delight through the vending of random sodas. You never know.
4. Area 51
Area 51 is a conspiracy that hits close to the American heart. Fenced off and restricted by the military in 1955, it became a byword for the government’s secrets and lies. The CIA’s refusal to acknowledge the base’s existence only fanned the conspiracy flames, and Area 51 evolved into a hot-spot for UFO enthusiasts.
By the 1990’s, UFO-ologists believed the military had moved its extraterrestrial operations away from Area 51 to a new location, Area 52. Its location is unknown with opinion wavering between two military candidates, the Toponah Test Range and the Dugway Proving Ground. Area 52 may be the wacky lesser-known cousin of Area 51, but pop culture celebrates both in movies, games, songs, and shows.
But last August, the CIA finally acknowledged Area 51. Documents were released, detailing decades of military aircraft and surveillance programs. The failure to mention UFOs was a letdown but it’ll take more than a pile of papers to unravel the mysteries of Areas 51 and 52. Sam and Dean would need a full season’s story arc to unravel the decades of paranormal sightings and questionable government activity going over in Groom’s Lake, Nevada. It could happen in Season Ten.
3. Robert the Doll
Given to Robert Eugene Otto in 1906 by a discontented servant who practiced voodoo, Robert the Doll swiftly began calling the shots. At first, Eugene’s parents believed the new voice they heard from the playroom was Eugene changing his voice to answer in Robert’s replies. Later on, they admitted it wasn’t Eugene’s voice; they knew it had been the doll’s voice all along. Robert also regularly ransacked Eugene’s room. The parents would arrive to find a terrified Eugene huddled in bed, claiming that Robert had thrown the furniture and was trying to kill him. Visitors routinely saw the doll watching them from different windows of the house and Robert is still seen from various windows of the Old Post Office and Custom’s House, despite his residence in a closed glass cabinet.
Robert has the dubious honor of being the inspiration for Charles Lee Ray, aka Chucky the Doll. There is no adequate reason why the brothers haven’t figured out or finished off Robert as of yet.
2. Munger Road
Not far from my house is a railroad crossing rumored to be the site of a terrible accident involving a train hitting a bus full of children. Legend says if you park your car in neutral on the railroad tracks, ghostly little hands will push it out of harm’s way.
This local legend inspired the horror movie Munger Road. But sweet little ghost children, saving idiots idling on railroad tracks, do not a horror movie make. In Munger Road, there’s a killer on the loose instead, dragging off teenagers who park their cars in neutral on the railroad tracks. The movie was filmed in the town just next to mine, in cafes and at landmarks I regularly visit. I was assaulted by the eerie realization that I live in the setting of a horror film–something I may have already dimly known.
The movie is available on Netflix instant, but don’t get your hopes up. It concludes on a “to be continued…” note and the sequel has yet to be filmed due to money issues. This is a perfect case for Sam and Dean Winchester to rumble over in the Impala (or drive on over?) and solve. It’s got ghosts, underground tunnels, abandoned farmhouses and disappearing teenagers. The gun wielding brothers would make a good conclusion to a languishing sequel set in my very own neighborhood.
1.Winchester Mystery House
Construction of the House was kicked off in 1884 by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester gun fortune. She believed that if she started building a house and never stopped, she could elude the spirits of those killed by Winchester guns. Adding fake doors, windows and staircases only furthered confusion in the vengeful spirits. Construction continued for 38 years, ceasing on the day Sarah died. No one knows if she was successful in escaping angry spirits, but she was successful in dumping millions of dollars into a crazy house.
The creator of Supernatural, Eric Kripke, named the Winchester brothers after the Mystery House. It would be fitting and appropriately “meta” if the brothers solved a case in their namesake. The mansion’s location, in San Jose, is an earthquake hot-spot and no doubt a connection between angry gunned down spirits and earthquakes could easily be cooked up.
Of course, America’s small towns and dusty roads have more to offer but this list is a start. Wherever pop culture and horror intersect, the Winchester brothers can be found.