You are probably all familiar with the animated television series on Cartoon Network, "Courage the Cowardly Dog", created by John Dilworth. It was about a pink dog named Courage, who lived with his two owners Muriel and Eustace. They lived in "the middle of nowhere", in a small cottage. The show's plot usually consisted of monsters or other creepy things kidnapping or disturbing the small family, and it was up to Courage to save everyone.
I absolutely LOVED that show when I was younger. It made up a huge chunk of my childhood. Although the show was funny and clever, there were many moments that actually deeply scared me. I can name at least three episodes that have given me nightmares. It ran for four seasons, and each season contained 13 episodes. It had been cancelled, for reasons you will conclude while reading. However, it still airs in re-runs. Nevertheless, Courage the Cowardly Dog was my favorite show, and it stayed that way. Well, up until about a month ago.
I was at a local thrift store up in Traverse City, Michigan, about thirty minutes away from my house. My little cousin was going to visit in a few days, so I was looking through their VCR tapes. I was hoping to find the old Disney movie "Aladdin", so we could watch it together. While nosing through the tape collection, struggling to find the movie I desired, I came across an old, dusty VCR tape without a case. On the front, it had a piece of tape and the words "CtCD S4 E14" scribbled on it rather hastily with black sharpie marker.
I immediately presumed that "CTCD" meant "Courage the Cowardly Dog", having heard it being abbreviated like that various times. Of what I knew, there were only 13 episodes in each season, so I thought that I might have missed this episode. Eager to watch it, I bought the tape for $2.99 and quickly left, forgetting to purchase the Disney movie that I had came there for.
Once I arrived at my small apartment, I quickly popped the tape into my VCR and sat in front of the television, just like I had when I was a kid. The screen jumped around for a second, then cut to the familiar intro like always. You know, with the nagging voice of the news reporter on the old-fashioned wooden television, and so forth.
Nostalgia hit me like a brick to the face, and I smiled. Memories of the old show flooded into my brain. Even so, something seemed... wrong. The tape's tint appeared to be darker than usual, the visual was choppy and bulky, and the sound was a little disoriented. I assumed that it was from the poor condition the tape was kept in, and shrugged it off. Once the intro ended, the title card appeared. Only, it seemed strange...disturbing... morbid. Even more than usual.
There was a poor quality oil-painting of what seemed to be Jason Voorhees, with his hockey-mask and chainsaw. On the chainsaw and his dark plaid shirt were spashes of blood. In what seemed to be in scarlet red handwritten crayon, were the words "Massacre Matt". This dumbfounded me. I knew that the show had a dark setting, but not this dark or gruesome. I wondered why I had not seen this episodes before, when I recalled factually that I had watched every episode in the series. I continued on watching, even though the back of my mind told me not to.
The scene hastily cut to the inside of Courage's home. Static interrupted the screen for a few moments, but it quickly returned. It was very poor quality and darker than the usual episode... as if it was meant to be like that. Muriel had visible wrinkles and looked very depressed, slowly rocking back in forth in her wooden rocking chair. Eustice had his traditional scowl sewn onto his face, reading the newspaper. Courage was on the floor of the house, looking very sad. He was shaking with red eyes, as if he was crying earlier. He seemed thinner than usual; his ribs were easily seen through his pink fur, as if he had not been fed in a while. An eerie silence laid upon the scene for about thirty seconds. The only sound heard was Muriel's chair rocking.
To break the stillness, Courage let out a small moan. Eustice rolled up his newspaper and smacked the dog, shouting "Stupid Dog!" His voice sounded concerningly different and disorientated, like his voice actor was upset, or not trying to pull off the character's voice. He violently smacked Courage continuously, and smacked him hard. Muriel just watched in silence, not jumping in as she would have done. Courage let out small yelps of pain, but appeared as if he was unable to move. Tears began to form around his eyes. Eustice eventually stopped and began to read the paper again.
I began to question this cartoon's legitimacy, as it was getting darker and darker in personality. Suddenly, there was a very loud knock on the door. It was almost hyper-realistic; for a moment I had thought that it came from my own apartment door. Muriel got up from her chair and opened the door, a lingering creak escaping the rusty hinges. Standing on the old wooden porch was a low-budget CGI of a tall man with a hockey mask, holding a large red chainsaw. He had red, bloodshot eyes, and wore an olive-green plaid shirt with torn up jeans. He was slowly swaying back and forth. The screen went out of focus and blurred, then cut to static for about ten seconds.
My nerves were creeping up my spine, telling me to turn off the television. However, my dumb curiosity kept me sitting there. The screen jumped around, and when it returned, it was in worse quality then before. It was fuzzy and difficult to make out the character's faces, or tell what they were doing. With some effort, I was able to decipher the strange man entering the family's house. Muriel stepped aside to allow him to do so. Courage sat up, shaking.
The screen jumped again, and it returned to the better quality. The screen closed in on the man, presumably Massacre Matt. He stared at the screen intensely. The camera eerily zoomed in on his face, and you could see his crazed blood-shot eyes. What disturbed me the most was that they were hyper-realistic eyes. He stayed there for about three minutes, just staring at the screen. Absolute silence hovered in the air.
My heart began to pound, but I stood my ground. Finally, it cut back to Courage. He screamed his traditional scream, although it was much louder than normal. Matt pulled the string of his chainsaw and it started up with a roar. He lifted it up into the air, ready to slice the little pink dog. The screen cut to a Scooby-Doo style chase scene. I think this part was supposed to be funny. I did not find it the least bit humorous. It was done in dead silence, as if there was supposed to be some sort of music or screaming, or any noise whatsoever, but the animators forgot to put it in.
This scene on for about thirty seconds, until they ran back into the living room. Matt kicked Courage into the wall, holding him down with his boot. Slowly, almost tortuously, Matt lowered the chainsaw to the dog's flesh. Courage hysterically cried for help, struggling to flee from being pinned to the floor. Eustice just stood there, his arms crossed, as he smiled a very creepy grin. Muriel was nowhere to be seen.
I began to inch away from the television, my eyes opened wide. What the hell was going on? Finally, the sharp, silver blades of the chainsaw reached the poor, sobbing dog's flesh, gruesomely cutting into his skin. Blood splattered everywhere. Courage let out a blood-curdling scream; however, it was cut short to static as the sound quality decreased. Even so, the visual still stayed. The chainsaw eventually cut the dog in half. The two parts of his blood-stained body fell to the floor. My mind raced, my breathing became heavier, and tears began to form in my eyes. How was this real? This had to be fake, right? But how would someone be able to exactly copy the animator's style? It was so skillfully and realistically drawn, with the blood and gore scattered everywhere.
I could make out Courage's internal organs, as they slowly seeped out of his decapitated lower body. His eyes were rolled back into his head; a small stream of blood trickled out of his mouth. The camera stayed focused on the dead dog for nearly two minutes. All of my instincts told me to turn it off, to look away from the disgusting image, but my eyes were glued to the television. The camera switched to Matt, now splattered with blood. He stood up and turned to Eustice.
Eustice grinned, and handed Matt a wad of cash. Matt took the money and left the house. Eustice chuckled silently as he looked out of the open door, saying something that I could not make out due to static. It then cut silently to the credits, something that would not normally happen. It had jumped shortly after beginning, and cut to static about seven seconds into the credits.
I sat there on the carpet in my apartment, tears streaming down my eyes. What the fuck did I just watch? Why would the animators make something like this? I stayed there, deeply shocked, for maybe ten minutes after it had ended, lost in thought. Shaking my head, I ejected the tape from the VCR, hastily chucking it at the wall in a sudden burst of anger and fear. Surprisingly it did not break, or appear to have any scratches on it whatsoever. I left it there on the floor and went to my laptop, very frightened of what I just saw. Was that even real?
I searched everywhere on the Internet for someone with a similar experience with this episode, but to no avail. After a couple of days, I recuperated from what I had seen. I decided to set up my camera in front of the television, and pop the tape in again. I wanted proof of this demented monstrosity. I closed my eyes and awaited the massacre to begin. But... there was nothing.
It was just static.
I have tried everything, from re-winding, re-taping, cleaning the tape, replacing the VCR, and even replacing the television, but it will not play. I do not know how, or why, it will not. I plan on keeping the tape with me, in case I ever find a procedure that will make it play again, so I can show the public.
I cannot even look at the tape anymore though; I keep it in a shoebox in my basement. I have tried contacting Cartoon Network, previous animators and crew members on the show, and even John Dilworth himself, yet none of them will give me an answer. John and the crew members sounded nervous on the phone however, but they insisted that they did not know what I was talking about.
To this day, this unaired episode haunts my dreams. I can never watch the show again, let alone look or think about any of its characters, without becoming deeply terrified again.
Please, if any of you have ever seen this episode, if you have heard of it, if you know about the thrift store or how the tape ended up there, or if you have a working copy of it, PLEASE contact me. This is real, and I need to find out more about this.
Thank you, and best regards.