Twelve years ago, science fiction author and podcast fiction phenomenon JC Hutchins received an envelope in the mail, sealed with a red wax stamp bearing the letters “tb”, and containing a message written in a long-dead language. Over the next few days, more and more people reported receiving similar envelopes. Eventually, players decrypted the message and discovered Blood Copy, an alternate reality game teasing the launch of True Blood on HBO, based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Over the years, Hutchins received a number of ARG trailheads…but his most recent mail call might also be the creepiest.
Earlier today, Hutchins uploaded a video to his YouTube channel and posted a link to it on Facebook, noting:
I don’t know who sent me this, and I don’t know why. It might be a rabbit-hole for an ARG or a movie/TV promo. It might be someone messing with me. Probably the former, not ruling out the latter.
What you see is not scripted in any way. I’m not “acting.” Every reaction is legit. Every word I’m saying is true.
The shipping label claimed the package originated from Ray Stantz, at an address matching that of Ghostbusters actor Dan Aykroyd’s former residence, a house infamously rumored to be haunted itself. And the mailer’s contents? Well, that’s where things get weird.
Back in early December, Hutchins shared a link to a creepy doll he found on his local Facebook Marketplace, along with a single word summing up his thoughts on the item: “nope.”
I’ve included a screencap of that post along with a reaction I added today to confirm yes this post was real, and yes the doll is exceptionally creepy. Well, after seeing Hutchins’ reaction to Dotty the doll, someone purchased her, wrapped her up in a mock-up of a October 3, 1938 editions of the Minneapolis Star and St Paul Dispatch, and sent it to the poor fellow.
It’s entirely possible this can be written off as a grim prank from a friend with a twisted sense of humor…but given Hutchins’ history in the ARG community and his penchant for filming epic unboxing videos, it’s also quite possible this is the launch of an alternate reality game. The newspapers used to wrap the doll seem particularly suspicious. While the newspapers themselves appear to be real, someone took the time to write out ominous messages in red: on the crossword puzzle, the words “THERE IS NO SECRET ONLY SORROW” crisscross the grid. “LOOK AFTER THIS CHILD” covers up the bulk of the advertisements page, and a number of articles documenting extreme misfortune are circled or underlined, including one titled “Girl Pedestrian Walks Into Car”.
Perhaps most suspiciously, a number of stamps of varying denominations decorate an issue of the St Louis Dispatch, with a series of even creepier vintage photographs of masked figures inside. Are either the stamps or scrawled messages clues to why Hutchins would receive this mailing?
At this point, it is important to reassure readers that JC Hutchins has assured me he received this package in the mail, that he is not involved in its creation, and that he is just as perplexed about what is going on here as I am. This is not his first time receiving ARG trailheads as mailings, and has a reputation for filming unboxing videos when he does receive them. While everything about this situation strains the imagination, the best available theory at the moment is that an acquaintance noticed him posting about a creepy doll, purchased it from the seller, and wrapped it up in mystery for an exceptionally unnerving launch of…something.
Little enough is known about this project that it’s hard to say if this is a case of someone pranking a friend in a fiendishly evil fashion, or the launch of something bigger. There is one thing I do know, however.
…ARG or not, please don’t send me creepy dolls.