My dear, late friend humdog wrote this in 1994. You may recognize the name as one of the people I dedicated the Ong’s Hat project to. Her name, in real life was Carmen, and while I did interact with her in real life from time to time, most of my interactions with her were online, so I will always remember her as humdog (lower case mandatory) or “hummy” as I sometimes affectionately called her. Carmen/humdog was a teacher who sometimes used some of my early on-line art stunts as examples in her classes about the then emerging on-line art scene and she was one of the people I chose to participate in my private Well forum, known as Kaos. Kaos was a invitation only forum where a few of the first on-line art projects were hatched and humdog was always there to give us constructive criticism and encouragement.
I read the following piece now and I wonder if hummy had some kind of inkling, some prescience of the coming age of the social network and the resultant commodification of the customer, that effectively rendered them the product. Then again, maybe it’s always been this way and I’m only now refreshing my view after wandering in the digital desert in a state of induced optimism. (Read denial)
Either way, I recently re-read this piece and was struck by it’s timelessness.
pandora’s vox: on community in cyberspace
by humdog (1994)
when i went into cyberspace i went into it thinking that it was a place like any other place and that it would be a human interaction like any other human interaction. i was wrong when i thought that. it was a terrible mistake.
Continue reading humdog on the future then, which is now
Dominique Angela M. Juntado, M.A.
Doctoral Candidate in Social & Cultural Anthropology
University of the Philippines Diliman
International Journal of Social Sciences
Having been written for fellow fans of video game creepypastas and students of media anthropology and folklore, this article inspects said form of online lore as well as its complementing interactive media in terms of how experimentation with playable content
can effectively deliver not only an understanding of what transpired in a narrative, but more of a meaningful experience of a narrative. In theory, an interactive approach has much to contribute for the breadth of legend complexes.
Keywords: Creepypasta, ROM Hacks, Lost Episodes, Haunted Gaming, Democratized Production, Nontraditional Storytelling, Slender
To talk about a known, existing
contribution which encourages the inspection of
netlore and possible variants, Michael Kinsella‟s
 work on internet-based folklore is worth
attention for having included guidelines on how
legends online could be assessed, the basics of
legend-tripping, as well as the importance of knowing how to go about ecologies of legends in
general. It is likewise memorable for its
ethnographic rumination on the Incunabula
papers and Ong‟s Hat which has previously
showcased the potential pertinence of alternate
reality games (ARGs) in both the reconstruction
as well as promotion of a legend. In his case
analysis, Kinsella  spoke more of those
participating in the imersion within the legend —
their framing, emotions, and perceptions, as well
as their role in the legend‟s mortality.
On the one end, this discourse is in pursuit
of a personal inclination. But to place it in the
academic backdrop of the studies of media, it
complements the work of Russel Frank 
and Michael Kinsella  on the subject of
understanding how online lore works and
branches out through bringing the subject of
video game modification and hacking into the
academic theoretical limelight in terms of their
potential role in the deepening of netlore.
There is then a development into how
success of a video gaming creepypasta could be
assessed. The treatise then proceeds with an
analysis of how video game creepypastas with
playables could classify as a legend trip. This
segment is guided by Kinsella‟s 
guidelines on understanding the structure of
legend trips, derived from the second chapter of
his book Legend-Tripping: Online Supernatural
Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat.
As a practical counterpart to the theoretical
ruminations, there is included a concise survey
of the existing forms of playable lore which
serve as the present genres. This is
complemented by a segment discussing classic
features to incorporate in the production of a
playable pasta as well as brief notes on avoiding
Sec. 1: MW 2-3:15 & T 6:30-9 (film screening) / Sec. 2: MW 4-5:15 & T 6:30-9 (film screening)
This course examines three major folklore genres – legend, rumor, and conspiracy theory – focusing especially on those that manifest in different forms of media (film, television, Internet, social media, newspapers). From AIDS aggression and cannibalism to aliens, ghosts, and zombies, this class explores a range of “belief complexes.” In doing so, the class seeks to answer key questions, including: How are legends related to rumor, conspiracy theory, and myth? How and why are legends transmitted and performed? How do they shape human behavior? All films, research assignments, and in-class activities are geared toward providing the content knowledge and skills necessary to identify variants of contemporary legend, rumor, and conspiracy theory in context, analyze different variants in light of the above questions, and engage in a process of critical discussion and debate about these important genres. Cross-listed as Anthro 3150 and Film Studies 3005.
Aliens, Ghosts & Cults: Legends We Live (Ellis 2001); Bodies: Sex, Violence, Disease & Death in Contemporary Legend (Bennett 2005); Film, Folklore & Urban Legends (Koven 2008); I Heard It through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture (Turner 1993); Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat ( Kinsella 2011).
Precursor: Ong’s Hat
In the 1980s transmedia artist Joseph Matheny launched the Ong’s Hat game, inspired by play-by-mail multiplayer games run by Flying Buffalo. Though Ong’s Hat may not have set out to be an ARG, the methods by which the author interacted with participants and used different platforms to build and spread its legend has been reflected in later games. Also known as The Incunabula Papers, the game incorporated the practice of “legend tripping” in which a group of people visit sites known in folklore for horrific or supernatural events. Matheny built a mythos around a supposed ghost town in New Jersey throughout the 1980s through works disguised as research shared on bulletin boards and physical zines. One of the earliest archived theories about the alleged legend appeared in the October 1993 issue of Boing Boing and was posted online as early as February 11th, 1994.
Between 1994 and 2000, posts about Ong’s Hat were planted on a number of different Usenet groups to spark discussion, including sci.math, alt.illuminati, alt.conspiracy and alt.society.paradigms, among others. In 2001, Matheny stopped the project and went on to publish two books about it, as well as archiving all the materials on the Incunabula website.
Game magazine: Issue 135, available now at newsstands, print or digital. The article runs about 6 pages, with citations to Incunabula/Ong’s Hat and myself throughout.
Complete article here: The Rise Of The ARG: games™ investigates alternate reality games and what the future has in store for the curious experiment.
Here is a small excerpt (used with permission) from that article:
“But what exactly is an ARG? For the community, that definition is largely rooted in the ‘this is not a game’ aesthetic. ARGs are games that do not acknowledge that they are games; they pose as alternate realities hidden away in streams of dormant internet code. Their stories exist not in unified narrative, but are spread across phone lines, email addresses, websites and any other forms of media that the puppetmasters – that is, the game’s creators – deem to be useful. ARG’s exist in real-time as constantly evolving, potentially boundless storytelling experiences.
Continue reading The Rise Of The ARG: games™ investigates alternate reality games and what the future has in store for the curious experiment.
Óli Gneisti Sóleyjarson Technilcal College of fHafnarfjordur, Iceland
Folklore Volume 124, Issue 2, 2013
A very interesting article/review of Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat.
From The Chronicle of Higher Education: Now, from the you-can-learn-something-new-every-day files, comes Michael Kinsella’s Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat.
Read it here: http://chronicle.com/blogs/pageview/the-surprising-online-life-of-legends/29221
From the article:
The response of Joseph Matheny to Legend-Tripping Online suggests the success of Kinsella’s read on the Incunabula Papers. On his Web site, Matheny wrote that Kinsella “did an excellent job and only missed the mark with two or three of his conclusions,” which Matheny said he would clear up by writing a complementary account.
Continue reading The Surprising Online Life of Legends – Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat
Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat
My review: I was expecting to hate this book, but I didn’t. Michael Kinsella did an excellent job and only missed the mark with two or three of his conclusions. Of course, this is forgivable since he wasn’t in possession of all of the facts from behind the scenes. As a remedy to those few slight errors, and in interest of keeping the record straight I will issue a free companion guide to this book in a few weeks. Since the book is primarily about myself, my friends, my project and my methods, I do admit to being somewhat close to the subject. However,what colors my decision to release the guide is simply that I’d like the record to be as clear as possible if this is to become a subject of “study” by academia.
Other than a few forgivable gaffs (and I do mean a very few), this book is quite enjoyable, insightful and entertaining. I’m glad someone in academia was able to decipher many of the the objectives and methodologies of this project and I highly recommend it (with the soon to be released companion guide, of course). If you choke at the price of $55 USD, you may want to wait for the paperback (if they publish one) or the inevitable ePub that’s sure to show up in the wild. (added 8-12-11: Looks like it showed up on Google Books.)
Continue reading Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat
As is the custom with “conspiracy/paranormal” types, this article tells you to dismiss the “Ong’s Hat” project (the subject of the book) as “a post modern art project” and a “prank”. I was thinking the other day about this kind of attitude and recalled someone once expressing disappointment that Incunabula: Ong’s Hat was JUST ART, which was pronounced with a dismissive sneer. Are you as puzzled and even slightly disturbed as I am by the statement and/or attitude that something is MERELY ART ? Well, each to his/her own I guess.
Anyway, here’s the review, for what it’s worth. It’s the first “sort of negative” review of “Legend Tripping” I’ve seen to date and mostly the reviewer just wants to snark on Ong’s Hat.
Of course, this is a review from a non-academic source, by a non-academic conspiranoia type, about an academic subject, so the expectation bar should be low to begin with. 😀
I remember the days when Fortean Times was a publication with a healthy skeptical bent, but like so many other institutions, it seems to have been overrun by “believers”, who of course will expend a lot of energy and spittle protesting such an accusation.
Fortean-Times – June-2012-Ongs-Hat
From The Journal of Folklore Research
Reviewed by David J. Puglia, The Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg
In a day and age when legends are as likely to be transmitted online as they are face-to-face, folklorists have begun assessing how our established concepts apply to the digital realm. The convergence of different forms of media has increasingly diminished the traditional boundaries between folk and popular culture and the digital and analog world. If the legend continues to thrive under these new conditions, folklorists will want to determine how the closely related legend-trip has similarly transitioned to the online environment.
Continue reading Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat Reviewed by The Journal of Folklore Research
On the Internet, seekers investigate anonymous manifestos that focus on the findings of brilliant scientists said to have discovered pathways into alternate realities. Gathering on web forums, researchers not only share their observations, but also report having anomalous experiences, which they believe come from their online involvement with these veiled documents. Seeming logic combines with wild twists of lost Moorish science and pseudo-string theory. Enthusiasts insist any obstacle to revelation is a sure sign of great and wide-reaching efforts by consensus powers wishing to suppress all the liberating truths in the Incunabula Papers (included here in complete form).
In Legend-Tripping Online, Michael Kinsella explores these and other extraordinary pursuits. This is one of the first books dedicated to legend-tripping, ritual quests in which people strive to explore and find manifest the very events described by supernatural legends. Through collective performances, legend-trippers harness the interpretive frameworks these stories provide and often claim incredible, out-of-this-world experiences that in turn perpetuate supernatural legends.
Legends and legend-tripping are assuming tremendous prominence in a world confronting new speeds of diversification, connection, and increasing cognitive load. As guardians of tradition as well as agents of change, legends and the ordeals they inspire contextualize ancient and emergent ideas, behaviors, and technologies that challenge familiar realities. This book analyzes supernatural legends and the ways in which the sharing spirit of the Internet collectivizes, codifies, and makes folklore of fantastic speculation.
Publisher University Press of Mississippi, 2011
ISBN 1604739843, 9781604739848
- review (Peter Monaghan, Chronicle of Higher Education)
- review (David J. Puglia, Journal of Folklore Research)
- review (Óli Gneisti Sóleyjarson, Folklore)
- Legend tripping at Wikipedia
Download (alt link)