Starting in 1969, the Playfellow Workshop filmed a children’s television program called Welcome Home, following the antics of eight colorful puppet neighbors who lived in a town called “Home”. After the show’s abrupt end in 1974 the production company shuttered its doors, and all show footage and ancillary materials from Welcome Home was presumed lost. And that remained true for fifty years, until the Welcome Home Restoration Project (“WHRP”, for short) stumbled across troves of documents, the paint and ink-stained documents wrapped up in brightly colored envelopes. After compiling those documents and augmenting them with fan recreations, the Welcome Home website was born.
Over the past few months, the WHRP reclaimed more and more artifacts from the show: branded children’s toys, vinyl records, advertorial standees, animation cels, and even audio from a live television interview recorded early on in the show’s run. Many of these items were shipped out to be featured as part of a public exhibition in partnership with a museum curator. Curiously, despite mounting piles of evidence, no one associated with the museum curation team had ever heard of Welcome Home prior to the WHRP team’s efforts at resurrecting the lost media.
More concerning, something seems to be amiss with anything touching on Welcome Home, if you scrape beneath the surface. Cryptic messages hidden on the website tell a much more chilling tale than the bright and cheerful kid’s show Welcome Home should have been, people who come close to the project complain about the incessant noise of phones ringing, and the Playfellow Exhibition itself seems to have been infected by some mysterious substance after the display.
Welcome to Welcome Home
Welcome Home is an alternate reality game and experimental multi-media horror project created by an artist who goes by the pseudonym “Clown”. And while the Welcome Home page serves as the in-game entry point to the project, an out-of-game page also exists to warn fans of the game’s themes, as well as to credit the cast.
Every few months, the Welcome Home page updates with new content allowing fans to delve deeper into the Playfellow Workshop’s long-forgotten children’s show. On the surface, everything is sunshine and rainbows and players get to learn more about the show’s vibrant personalities of the show’s puppet cast. The first update focused on providing character descriptions and art, while the most recent update in July brought the characters to life with audio excerpts from archival shows and ancillary materials that celebrated their jovial interactions with each other.
However, elements of the website train players into how to explore more deeply into the darker side of Welcome Home. For instance, offset letters provided a hint to visitors Welcome Home fans that the website’s text might contain hidden messages in transparent text – and by signaling that messages might be hidden in that fashion, players are given a window into the WHRP team’s inner remorse and terror over their involvement with the project.
Similarly, the homepage for Welcome Home prominently features an interactive crayon drawing of a house that draws itself on pageload. The house (and subsequent drawings scattered across the website) direct listeners to audio messages from Wally that feel vaguely threatening, when voiced in Wally’s monotone drawl. These drawings are Wally’s window into communicating with the players, both through the audio clips themselves as well as the file names of pictures Wally drew in response to comments left on the site’s Guestbook.
Eagle-eyed visitors might also notice that a similar sketchy image can be seen just at the corner of the browser, however: zooming the browser out reveals a giant pair of eyes staring back at players.
The final recurring site element left for players to discover are a series of bugs that will pop into the frame after players linger on a page for long enough: clicking on those bugs leads to a series of “behind the scenes” videos that seems to depict Wally’s silent interactions with the Welcome Home cast on a particular day, shot from his first-person perspective, with the page title of “answer”.
This puzzle structure makes Welcome Home an experience that can be explored solo, hunting across the site’s pages for secrets that might help unveil the dark secret behind the show that may not have ever even existed in the first place. By making specific instances of how to interact with the site overt, players are trained on what methods to employ to dig further and uncover the site’s more hidden gems.Continue reading