When The Mandela Catalogue emerged on Youtube in 2021, it quickly earned praise by many as the scariest and most unsettling analog horror series on Youtube. Combining found footage, informational videos, glitchy Biblical cartoons, and other media, the series tells the story of “alternates,” or evil doppelgangers, who seek to exterminate humanity by driving their victims to off themselves.
The series takes place in the 90s and 2000s, and is set in Wisconsin in the fictional Mandela County.
But The Mandela Catalogue creator Alex Kister, who was just 18 when he uploaded the first episode, is from the real town of Hubertus, WI. And if you know the area, you might even recognize a location or two, such as the eerie footage of Holy Hill (which has plenty of it’s own horrors) at night.
But before we dig too far into this unnerving series, let’s take a quick look at what exactly makes horror analog.
What is analog horror?
This unique subgenre is the latest evolution of Internet horror such as creepypasta stories like Slender Man and Candle Cove that feature “haunted” media from old analog electronics like VHS tapes, audio cassettes, and CRT televisions. It is characterized by grainy and glitchy VHS-style videos depicting public service announcements with disturbing messages, educational and informational videos, and found footage.
Paranoia, conspiracy, and alternative realities tend to be running themes.
Candle Cove, a 2009 creepypasta story by Kris Straub, was written as conversion in an online forum by users remembering a mysterious television broadcast they used to watch as children. Straub released a spinoff video series called Local 58 in 2015. Presented as a local public access channel, Local 58 is frequently hijacked by a series of increasingly disturbing broadcasts.
Local 58’s slogan, “ANALOG HORROR AT 476 MHz” is where the subgenre gets its name.
Other influential analog horror titles to check out include The Walten Files, No Through Road, Marble Hornets, The Monument Mythos, Gemini Home Entertainment, and The Backrooms.
“Alex Kister’s The Mandela Catalogue has spread rapidly as the supreme Exhibit A of what analog horror looks and sounds like,” Dread Central wrote.
Deeper into The Mandela Catalogue
“When I was young, I felt like the thing that would scare me the most was not a typical, bogeyman-style monster,” Kister told GQ in 2021. “But just coming home, coming to your room, and seeing yourself there instead.”
The series gets its name from the psychological phenomenon known as the Mandela Effect in which a large number of people share a false memory. Examples include Mr. Monopoly wearing a monocle (he does not, but Mr. Peanut does), The Berenstain Bears books that many remember as The Berenstein Bears, and a movie starring Sinbad as a genie that just doesn’t exist no matter how many people remember seeing it.
But the mythos of The Mandela Catalogue goes even deeper, gets right under your skin.
Remember the archangel Gabriel, the messenger of God in the Bible? What if he was actually one of these hostile doppelgangers, convincing the unwitting devotees of the Abrahamic deity to do his bidding under the guise of the Lord’s Word? And ever since then, they’ve been slowly eliminating humanity and replacing us.
Shaken by the COVID pandemic, Kister wanted to create something that expressed what happens when we lose our sense of security.
“The Mandela Catalogue originally began as a creative outlet for the existential crisis I was going through at the time, especially when it came to topics like religion,” Kister told F Newsmagazine. “During this time, I thought a lot about how history would play out if classic biblical tales had an evil ‘twist.’ This kind of thought process is what inspired ‘Overthrone,’ the first episode in the series.”
In an interview with Youtuber Wendigoon, Kister reveals that “Overthrone” began as a high school creative writing project he had done for English class just a few months earlier.
Kister creates The Mandela Catalogue almost exclusively by himself, in his home, though he sometimes enlists the help of friends for voiceovers.
His mom even stood in as an evil entity once.
Watch The Mandela Catalogue on Youtube right here.