The 13th Floor

In Search of the Lethal Banned Video SATAN’S SPHINX

Some of the most disturbing and mysterious viral tales involve alleged “lost” videos — the contents of which are often claimed to have harmful or even fatal effects on those unfortunate enough to view them.

Notable examples include a crude video collage nicknamed “The Grifter,” the origin of which is still the subject of intense debate, artist Man Ray’s literally nightmare-inducing experimental film Un Petit Cauchemar, (rumored to have screened only once before its apparent destruction), or the binaural video known as “Satan’s Song,” alleged to have a hypnotic influence over the viewer.

One of the most obscure examples of these lost, banned or destroyed films bears the similar (and equally ominous title) “Satan’s Sphinx”… and the only thing more chilling than its name is its now infamous reputation as a film so dangerous it was virtually eradicated from existence — perhaps by the US Government, or maybe by other agencies as yet unknown.

Image Credit: iStock/VeraPetruk

The video content of “Satan’s Sphinx” has never been fully revealed, but that hasn’t stopped numerous aspiring detectives determined to track down the authentic clip — which, as legend has it, is three minutes and forty-nine seconds in length, and contains a series of images and sounds so terrifying they can allegedly drive the watcher to commit suicide.

While the video itself has been widely dismissed as a hoax, or the stuff of viral metafiction, the bizarre “history” behind the film, which apparently dates back almost a decade, is equally mystifying… and if certain amateur researchers are to be believed, there may indeed be a grain of truth to the legend.

Image Credit: iStock/Grape_vein

Numerous users have come forward on a variety of message boards (including Reddit and 4chan) claiming to know the whereabouts of “Satan’s Sphinx,” or even asserting they themselves created the original video — but as of this writing, none of them have produced any credible evidence.

A few parties have uploaded what they claim to be excerpts or stills from the film, but these also could be easily fabricated, and there is no evidence these images had harmful effects on other users. One of the most popular “stills” is a vintage photo I discussed in an earlier column entry, about the well-known creepypasta known as “Danny Boy.”

The image, which appears to depict a pair of adults dressed in Krampus-like costumes terrorizing a young boy, has appeared in numerous posts, each one apparently claiming different origins — the hardcore metal band Hellhorse even appropriated it for the cover of their 2011 album DECADE OF DUST.

Most information regarding the alleged existence of “Satan’s Sphinx” comes in the form of exchanges on sites like Yahoo! Answers. One of the most frequently-shared examples is a question from user Jarhead S, who inquired about the existence of the legendary film.

They received a single response from a user who claimed to have heard about the video on 4chan’s paranormal /x/ board, where there were a few dubious but fascinating theories about it — not one of which has been substantiated — but we may never know the rest of the story, as this brief Q&A exchange has since been deleted.

Image Credit: Dieter Spears/inhauscreative

One widely-held theory is that the video documents a Satanic ceremony, containing subliminal images and sounds (one version of this account says a human sacrifice is depicted on camera); others claim the video was created and used by the US government, perhaps as part of the notorious (and very real) project MKULTRA, to extract information from prisoners by destroying their grip on reality.

Some have even asserted that “Satan’s Sphinx” is actually a snuff film originating in Italy — just one of many distributed by an underground network, perhaps accessible via the Deep Web — and this theory was hinted in Yahoo! Answers exchanges as well.

Image Credit: Dieter Spears/inhauscreative

Still, exhaustive searches for any scrap of legitimate footage from the film has turned up nothing but broken links and 404 errors, not to mention a mountain of obvious fakes. Some of these attempts to “recreate” the film are rather creepy in themselves… such as this creation by filmmakers Samuel and Harry Hartley:

There are still those who cling steadfastly to the idea that the broken links and conspicuous lack of genuine footage from “Satan’s Sphinx” is somehow proof that either the government or a Deep Web-based cabal of snuff collectors have effectively buried all evidence of the film in an attempt to cover their tracks.

This seems counter-intuitive, but leads me to a quote by the late, great Carl Sagan:

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”