|Author||Alexander D. "Jadusable" Hall|
|Genre||Psychological thriller web serial|
|Publication date||2010–2011 |
Haunted Majora's Mask Cartridge, later known as Ben Drowned (stylized as BEN Drowned and BEN DROWNED), is a self-published three-part multimedia alternate reality game (ARG) web serial and web series created by Alexander D. "Jadusable" Hall. Originating as a creepypasta based on the Japanese action-adventure video game The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask and published by Hall on 4chan forums and his YouTube channel in 2010, the series is known for subverting and playing with common tropes and themes of creepypasta and The Legend of Zelda series.
Serving as Hall's first novel, the first arc of the series, titled The Haunted Cartridge and released in 2010, follows college sophomore Jadusable, who after acquiring a haunted Nintendo 64 video game cartridge of Majora's Mask, is plagued over the course of a week by the presence of a seemingly omniscient being called BEN.
The second arc, titled The Moon Children and taking place from late 2005 to mid-2014, follows the public emergence of a mysterious cult worshipping the Moon, who sacrifice their members to the goddess Luna.
The third arc, titled The Awakening, began publication in March 2020, following new and returning characters after an unknown societal collapse taking place in 2018, as well as continuing storylines established in the previous arcs with the intent of tying them together.
Ben Drowned is set in a fictional, alternate universe closely following that of Earth prior to the emergence of a cult worshipping the Roman goddess of the Moon, Luna, known as the Moon Children. Two years after the release of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, a twelve-year-old boy named 'Ben' is among those to willingly drown themselves in an attempted Moon Children ritual called ascension. The resulting creation, named 'BEN', with the original 'Ben' as the dominant mindset, is sealed inside a copy of Majora's Mask and merged with the programs within, before being subsequently cared for by an old man for eight years, after which they are entrusted to a random college sophomore in honour of Luna to test the power of 'BEN', while several of the cult's members begin to enter the Internet, including the Moon Children's resurrected leader, known as "Kelbris, The Father", who online takes the form of the Happy Mask Salesman. Ultimately, upon entering the Internet themselves, 'BEN' chooses instead to escape from the cult's influence, where-from "The Father" pursues them.
The first and third arcs are set across the homes and universities of several college-age students in an unspecified part of St. Louis, Missouri, the United States, and within the Internet, while the second arc is solely set within the Internet.
The Haunted Cartridge
In September of 2010, Jadusable is a college student who is gifted a suspicious Nintendo 64 cartridge labelled "Majora" (indicating it to be a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask) by a disconcerting old man at a garage sale, with the save data of former owner "Ben" still on it. As Jadusable plays the game, little inconsistencies begin to pop up, turning to outright glitches, leading to Jadusable going to 4chan to post about his playing of the game as it unfolds, his name serving as a portmanteau of Judas and Abel. Playing as Link, Jadusable finds himself alone in Clock Town with all of the inhabitants gone, unable to advance the game by turning back time, while endlessly hearing the laugh of the Happy Mask Salesman's laugh. In an attempt to achieve a "Game Over" and return to the main menu, Jadusable allows Link to drown in a pond; when he does, Link clutches his head, screaming as in a mask animation, with the screen flashing to depict the Happy Mask Salesman, smiling and laughing. The game continues, and the Elegy of Emptiness appears, a statue of Link locked in a state of strange horror. It follows Jadusable's character, moving just outside of the camera's perspective, throughout the town. Jadusable tries to escape it, but nothing works. Futility would become a pervasive theme of the story. In desperation, Jadusable turns the camera to face the statue directly. After a while, the screen flashes back to the Happy Mask Salesman and Link, only the latter also turns this time. The Salesman, the statue, and Link all become locked in place, staring through the screen, directly at Jadusable.
Over the course of several sessions over a series of days, Jadusable writes in painstaking detail about each bizarre scenario he finds himself in, including spontaneously bursting into flames and lying unconscious (or dead) as the Majora-possessed Skull Kid looks on in silence. After identifying the background of the cartridge, Jadusable comes to the conclusion that it is possessed by the spirit of its previous owner, a 12-year-old boy named Ben who had drowned eight years prior; subsequently, a figure calling themselves "BEN" seemingly begins contacting him in and beyond the game itself, including changing his computer screen wallpaper to depict the Elegy of Emptiness and speaking through the online artificial intelligence Cleverbot. Identifying the Elegy as its physical form, BEN seems to take pride in being able to manipulate Jadusable, who subsequently describes a series of dreams about the Moon Children depicted in the game's finale, of himself physically transforming into the Elegy. Eventually, BEN is revealed to have been hijacking Jadusable's computer and providing a false account of the story's narrative and resolution. A secret note from Jadusable after an apparent epilogue from his roommate offers the "true" telling of events and references videos that were never published, seemingly because BEN had deleted them. After publishing his final account of the past week's events, called TheTruth.rtf, Jadusable is never seen again. A final message is left, seemingly from BEN in response to the note, warning "Matt" that "You shouldn't have done that".
The Moon Children
Two days after BEN's escape from the cartridge, a cult calling themselves the Moon Children reveal their existence to the world. An unnamed follower of Jadusable's story discovers a cipher on his YouTube channel that leads them to the cult's official website, in which three moderators discuss the upcoming "ascension" of one of their members. A post by a fourth user, named DROWNED, appears to speak directly to the follower. By exploring the various links, the follower discovers various details about the cult, including that the original Ben was apparently a member who had willingly sacrificed himself alongside several other children under the pretense of achieving ascension, that another member named Alex has recently betrayed them, and that they have their own prophecy of end times revolving around the Moon destroying the Earth (à la Majora's Mask) and the 2012 phenomenon, provided to them by their deceased prophet Kelbris in 1998, who similarly died under uncertain circumstances now seen within the cult as evidence of his own, successful 'ascension'. The next day, the follower is able to contact the moderator Ifrit, revealed to be "Matt Hubris", who answers several questions before disappearing. Coinciding with the end of a countdown on a hidden page, a video of the Song of Time is uploaded as a video response to one of Jadusable's videos. Shortly afterward, their website collapses.
The following day, the website is reestablished in an unfinished glitching state, with posts from the previous incarnation were being posted again with current dates, revealing that in-game actions from Majora's Mask have effects on the website. Over the following day, the follower use in-game actions to advance the story, establishing contact with Rosa, the sister of Ifrit, whom she says has disappeared. However, as a result of the follower's actions, Rosa is apparently killed by a resurrected Kelbris, and time is reset again; time is subsequently revealed to reset every three days, as in Majora's Mask.
On October 6, the website undergoes several drastic design changes, signaling the return of the story. Through clever URL changes, the follower discovers several hidden files ranging from used assets to cryptic documents aimed directly at them. Their biggest discovery is found to be the 59th file, mhftt.txt, a final message left by Ifrit before his disappearance. This file names a fellow reader to the follower, Kayd Hendricks, who had been in contact with Rosa prior to her death, as having been warned by him as to be in danger. Over the next two days, Kayd uploads a series of videos indicating that his life is indeed at stake.
On November 8, another video uploaded on Jadusable's channel by BEN signals the beginning of the arc's epilogue, with the coming months seeing small changes made to the Moon Children website. On February 17, 2011, a new forum called Within Hubris is launched as a central hub for the follower and others like them during the next portion of the story. Shortly after its discovery, a hidden section of the forum was revealed to contain the spirits of former members of the Moon Children, including Rosa. Within a week of the site's discovery, the follower begins receiving newspaper clippings in their mail that detail an apparent murder-suicide that took place "three months [ago]" in New York, and including an apparent message from BEN. On February 26, another video is uploaded to Jadusable's channel, predicting the final warning for the following day. On February 27, a video is uploaded featuring the interior of the house shown in the newspaper.
Two years after an unknown societal collapse in 2018, and eight years after the 2012 phenomenon, in March 2020, the YouTube channel formerly controlled by Jadusable and BEN is taken over by a resurgent "Jadus", who recounts the alternate history to have occurred in the time since the final ascension of "The Father", revealed to be Kelbris, who had killed Jadusable moments after the ending of The Haunted Cartridge arc, before escaping in pursuit of BEN. An as-of-yet unexplained event which occurred in 2012 linked to the Moon Children apparently had global repercussions, leading to a modern-day Great Depression resulting in a total breakdown of American society by 2018. Addressing the follower, now named as Sarah and dubbed "The Second Player", Jadus claims a partial cause of this collapse as being a mysterious ailment known as "HEROES", of which they are a survivor, alongside their occupational partner Denton, Sarah subsequently encounters the seemingly benevolent spirit of Ben within the original cartridge.
The Haunted Cartridge
- Jadusable: The main protagonist of The Haunted Cartridge and a college sophomore. After coming into possession of the Majora's Mask cartridge containing 'BEN', he played the game while documenting his findings in written form and in videos, uploaded to 4chan and YouTube. He was killed shortly after his final video was uploaded after being confronted by The Father.
- BEN: An entity formerly contained within the Majora's Mask cartridge. They are a malevolent series of spirits ruled by the dominant consciousness of a child, also named Ben, who died eight years prior. They proved capable of manipulating electronic devices beyond the cartridge after having been transferred to Jadusable's computer, before escaping onto the Internet. Within and without the cartridge, 'BEN' takes the physical form of a statue of Link created by the Ocarina melody "Elegy of Emptiness" in Majora's Mask.
- Ben: The chief consciousness of 'BEN' and a young, long-deceased former member of the Moon Children, self-sacrificed on April 23, 2002 via drowning.
- Old Man: An unnamed elderly gentleman and member of the Moon Children who gave Jadusable the Majora's Mask cartridge. Immediately afterward, he moved away and was unable to be tracked by Jadusable due to having no known relatives. Shortly before his death, Jadusable saw the old man looking into his window.
- Tyler Lawman: Jadusable's friend and Ben's relative, who accompanied Jadusable to the old man's former house after the first time he played the game. He committed suicide after the 2018 societal collapse in The Awakening.
- The Father: The leader of the Moon Children, also known as represented in the Majora's Mask cartridge by the Happy Mask Salesman. In The Awakening, he is revealed to be a prophetic Moon Child known as Kelbris, who, like BEN, escapes to the Internet.
- The Neighbor: The neighbor of the absent old man, who informs Jadusable about the night Ben's "accident" happened, on which he refuses to elaborate.
The Moon Children
- DROWNED: (possibly the same individual as Mr. D), serving as the sole administrator of the Moon Children's website, youshouldnthavedonethat.net. DROWNED's profile picture on the forum was a man wearing a gas mask, leading some to connect him with the Jailer character in the Awakening arc, who also wear a gas mask and has a similar role overseeing the player-character and others apparently imprisoned alongside them.
- Ifrit: A member of the Moon Children and moderator of their website. His true identity was initially kept secret from the Moon Children, being listed on the website as Rodney R., but he disappears after his real name is revealed to the follower as Matt Hubris when they began emailing him.
- Alex: A former member of the Moon Children and physical embodiment of the "link" between The Follower's actions and BEN during The Moon Children, also known as TheLinkMissing, after resetting time he is initially killed; however, upon being revived, he disappears.
- Rosa: Ifrit's sister, who gains access to his email account after his disappearance. She was killed shortly afterward, though her spirit was later found inside the Within Hubris forum.
- Ryukaki: Kayd Hendricks, a secondary protagonist called to action by Jadusable. As odd events start happening around him, he realizes that he is being hunted.
- Nekko: Christopher, a young member of the Moon Children and moderator of the website who undergoes a ritual called "ascension" and whose spirit was later found inside the Within Hubris forum.
- Duskworld23: Spencer L., a member of the Moon Children and moderator of the website who undergoes a ritual called "ascension" and whose spirit was later found inside the Within Hubris forum and the Methods of Revolution website. His avatar is that of Tesseract from the Skulduggery Pleasant series.
- Insidiae: Kevin F., a mysterious member of the Moon Children and moderator of the website.
- Jadus: A survivor of an unnamed societal collapse that took place in 2018 and Denton's occupational partner.
- Denton: A survivor of an unnamed societal collapse that took place in 2018 and Jadus' occupational partner.
- Abel: A survivor of an unnamed societal collapse that took place in 2018 and radio presence who admonishes the MC.
- The Follower: A title referring to the player-character, being any given follower of Jadusable's story who finds their way to the website. In The Awakening, there are two 'Followers', the first one being a man who was killed shortly after attempting to escape his imprisonment. The second and current Follower is a girl, her name is revealed to be Sarah, though more often she is simply known as The Second Player and The Main Character (or MC).