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Is Reddit's Creepy '_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9' a Netflix Marketing Stunt?

Netflix's "Stranger Things" looks an awful lot like _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9.

by Sarah Emerson
Jul 18 2016, 10:27pm

"Stranger Things" trailer. Screenshot: YouTube/Netflix

Something strange is going on in one of Reddit's most cryptic subs.

You might remember _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9, the anonymous user who enchanted thousands of readers with his eerie, Lovecraftian vignettes that envisioned terrifying space portals, Nazis, LSD experiments gone wrong, flesh interfaces, and a ubiquitous entity called "Mother."

Like so many others, I was instantly hooked. Yet, when I first wrote about 9M9H9E9, I briefly wondered if his posts (the author has self-identified as a "30-something American male") weren't just pieces of an extremely elaborate marketing stunt. After all, Reddit is no stranger to these tactics, and it's wise to take most internet phenomena with a hefty dose of skepticism.

Now, some readers are questioning whether we've all been given the runaround. You see, on the surface, the narratives of 9M9H9E9 look an awful lot like the plot of "Stranger Things," a new Netflix series that debuted last week. Interdimensional travel? Check. References to MK-ULTRA, the CIA's illegal mind control program? Check. Flesh interfaces??? Shockingly, check.

And to make things even weirder, the person—or people—behind 9M9H9E9 announced their departure Sunday night, sharing one final post that brought their much-followed journey to an end.

"I stand and brush myself off. There is something at the end of the tunnel waiting for me. Good or evil, it will be an answer. A resolution. An end. I walk into the dark."

Flesh interface? Screenshot: YouTube/Netflix

Conspiracy theorist or not, the timing of 9M9H9E9's exit is undeniably curious. Why leave as soon as as "Stranger Things" begins?

Since April, the universe of 9M9H9E9 has expanded, and a growing legion of nearly 7,000 users now frequents a subreddit called "The Interface Series" to share theories, artwork, related texts, and their own fanfiction. Even Motherboard's science fiction hub Terraform joined in, publishing an original feature by 9M9H9E9 titled "The Flesh Interface."

For many, the subreddit isn't just an online forum—it's a community where people can be comfortably creative, psychotic, and creatively psychotic. The sub is civil and well-moderated, and it's clear that users have invested a lot of time and effort into making it a safe place for discourse and imagination. But as one user put it, if they were a mod, they'd "probably raze this place to the fucking ground" upon discovering it was all a marketing ploy.

"Yes, there are similarities, but it's only surface ones. Stranger Things even mentions Stephen King in Episode 6. By that reference they admit that it is not new literary territory. They seemed to have borrowed more from King & Spielberg in their story. They have the LSD and MKULTRA, telekinesis & telepathy," one of the subreddit's mods, GabbiKat, told me in a private message.

"MHE [9M9H9E9] and I even had a laugh about it, neither of us having watched or heard of the story until it came out. We'd been planning the ending for a few weeks, going back and forth on how to end it, and I enjoyed seeing my idea and his become the ending we now have."

Screenshot: YouTube/Netflix

Netflix's cerebral sci-fi drama stars cult weirdo icon Winona Ryder, and is set in 1980s Hawkins, Indiana—a fictional town invented by the show's directors, twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer. And while its parallels to 9M9H9E9 lore are enough to raise eyebrows and suspicions, the series unabashedly riffs off of other more famous narratives, such as Stephen King's Firestarter and It, and even the campy feel of E.T.. The directors have made no qualms about their heavy-handed homages, and told Vulture the mysterious government experiments of the Cold War era were their primary font of inspiration.

Where 9M9H9E9 forays into cosmic rifts and psychedelic epiphanies, the plotline of "Stranger Things" focuses of telekinesis and telepathy. "MHE wrote more along biblical lines, strange dimensions, segmentation, Nazi experiments, and Mother (who is not a weird monster, but instead some form of a demigod), and Q," GabbiKat added.

It's also important to note that production of "Stranger Things" began back in 2015, and if this were truly a viral marketing campaign, it failed to promote anything other than a lively, albeit niche, internet community.

However, in all fairness, here's an alternate theory: The author of 9M9H9E9 was, or still is, a writer for "Stranger Things," and the anonymous fiction is their secret side project. "The Interface Series" is the stuff that fell on the cutting room floor. (Probably not, but on the internet, do you ever really know?)

I reached out to Netflix regarding the show's connection to the Reddit posts, but had not heard back at the time of this story's publication.

Regardless, the haunting reign of 9M9H9E9 is over for now, and all that remains is some seriously great fiction. According to GabbiKat, the subreddit doesn't appear to be going anywhere, though some of its moderators have chosen to take a break from the community now that 9M9H9E9 has passed into the beyond.

"There is a knock on the door. I wait. The knob turns, and the door opens. This is it, the beginning," he wrote.

"I walk into the light."