★★★★ out of ★★★★★
The rise of the podcast generation paired with a nation’s emerging fascination with rampant conspiracy theories is the perfect backdrop for a horrifying and mercurial folk tale. In both the case of podcasts and conspiracies people don’t stop until they’ve reached the ever-loving bottom of the barrel. The problem is these barrels have no bottoms.
Originally released in 2018, Shudder’s hyper-clever and obsessively compelling podcast of the same name, Video Palace, tells the story of Mark Cambria and his girlfriend on a search for weirdly rare white video tapes. These aren’t just video tapes casually thrown to the bottom of the quarter bin at Goodwill, these kooky pieces of analog ephemera contain images so dark and dank that the viewer has the very real possibility of going off the deep end after a single viewing.
Podcaster Mark Cambria’s search for a complete set of the “white tapes” takes he and his girlfriend, Tamra Wulff on a Scooby-Doo-like search as they attempt to unmask the unmaskable and peel back the cosmic nature of the Eyeless Man and his association with the “white tapes.” Film nerds are obsessive. VHS collectors are even worse. Pair these things together with a true and shadowy figure and Mark’s obsessiveness reaches paranormal heights.
Video Palace: In Search of the Eyeless Man: Collected Stories takes Mark Cambria’s search for the Eyeless Man further in to the analog with the 2020’s written companion. Video Palace the book picks up the ghostly hot potato and hands it from Mark and Tamra’s podcast over to Dr. Maynard Wills the Associate Professor of Folklore at the New School in New York City. Dr. Wills sees truth in Mark’s search and takes it upon himself and his scholarly folkloric knowhow to determining if there is any truth to Mark’s truth.
Not one to fear the unknown, insanity, or even possible death, Dr. Wills develops a crowdsourced approach to this faux-fictionalized account of the destructive history behind the Eyeless Man. Is this a cult? Are the tapes a Lovecraftian key to other dimensions? Is the Eyeless Man behind it all? Or are these merely the ramblings of analog-obsessed VHS collectors with an already questionable grasp on reality?
As Dr. Wills dives in to his spook-filled research the accounts of the Eyeless Man start to arrive. Message boards, emails, anonymous packages — all weird, all off-putting, and all riveting.
Video Palace: In Search of the Eyeless Man, seemlessly employs a simple device that simultaneously weaves together the terrifying but vague crowd-sourced history of the Eyeless Man with Dr. Wills’ growing madness brought on by his bedeviled search to fill an unifiable void.
The stories that Dr. Wills collects cover the gamut. There’s satanism, technological plight, tween bullying, cult-like malfeasance, and even a fascinating, but chilling, interview with podcaster Mark Cambira’s girlfriend, Tamra. The stories are a dark and nasty bit of horror story telling with varied time periods, characters, outcomes, and madness. The reach of the Eyeless Man isn’t consistent across all that encounter him, but the sadness and fiendishness he inflicts on those that touch the tapes is ubiquitous.
Video Palace: In Search of the Eyeless Man is a wonderful compendium of stories that figuratively take you down the rabbit hole of the mind of collectors and conspiracy theorists. There’s vague hints at answers to the “white tape” mystery, but there’s also equal obfuscation about the true and possibly immortal nature of the Eyeless Man. The book and podcast perfectly compliment each other and playfully toy with the tormented need to collect information, the truth, and, most importantly, video cassettes.
Video Palace: In Search of the Eyeless Man is available in hardcover and is 384 pages.
Ed. Note: If you’re wondering about reading the book or listening to the podcast first, the answer is simple. Listen to the podcast on Shudder then head to your local book store and pick up a copy of the book. Just don’t watch any white VHS tapes from your neighborhood video store.
Check out the podcast here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/video-palace/id1439247558