Skull With A Santa Hat

The creepiest Christmas video

Some days ago, for the first time in my adult life, I saw the music video for a popular Christmas carol. It was…disturbing. It may have been an unreleased sequel to The Shining. For 33 years, I have successfully dodged this visual trip into the realm where happiness is just a mask you put on to pretend you haven’t gone mad.

So what scary Christmas carol am I talking about? “Satan’s Little Helper”? “All I Want For Christmas Is Kill Kill Kill”? No, I’m talking about “Merry Christmas Everyone,” by Shakin’ Stevens.

Sure, the song may be a family classic and a perfectly decent Christmas carol. But the video…man, the video. I can’t describe the creepiness of this video without going into detail, which is why I’m offering a scene-by-scene account.

Yup, I’m about to ruin “Merry Christmas Everyone” for you the same way I ruined The Sound Of Music for everybody.

In the opening shot, a girl enters an airport terminal through a door with a clearly marked “EXIT” sign. While not necessarily unusual—most doors are both exits and entrances—this creates the “something’s off” vibe for the rest of the video. The girl is pushing a luggage cart, the sound of its shoddy wheels echoing through an airport that’s eerily devoid of people. Is she the only one traveling this Christmas?

The girl is completely alone; nobody is there to see her off. Either she has the worst parents in the world, or her family and loved ones are all dead. I don’t know which is worse, but way to set the Christmas mood, video. After a brief flight in the cockpit with an unenthusiastic pilot randomly pointing at the barren landscape below, the girl arrives…somewhere.

She’s met by three people dressed in the exact same green-and-red elf uniform. She gets an awkward hug and two lukewarm handshakes. Each of the three “elves” chants “Welcome to Santa World,” which a keen geography student will notice is not a place that exists. They’re lying to you, child!

Welcoming Elves Small

The flight attendants wave goodbye, and we realize that the girl was the only passenger on that plane. What? This can’t possibly be a profitable venture for the airline. Is this a lavish Christmas miracle where some rich benefactor went all out to make a child’s wishes come true? If so, why the commercial airline instead of a private jet? What’s with the cheap, dollar-store uniforms on the three elves? Why does an old bus deliver the girl to her final destination in the very next scene?

The girl walks out of the bus in front of a seemingly abandoned wooden building with a giant “Tomteland” sign on it, which an astute English student will notice isn’t how you spell “Santa World.”

Tomteland

Pictured: not “Santa World”

When will all the lies stop?! Run away, child, this is your last chance! Ah, but too late: Shakin Stevens—the artist himself—leaves the bus behind the girl and ushers her inside the haunted Tomteland house. We’re now almost one full minute into the four-minute video, and the song hasn’t even started yet. All we’ve witnessed is what appears to be an expensive and elaborate kidnapping.

No time to think about that now—Shakin Stevens is singing alone in the snow, assuring us that the children are, in fact, “having fun.” There are other children out here? Did they all arrive on separate airplanes? Where are you getting all these children from, Stevens?

We can’t be sure where Stevens finds the children, but we do know what happens to them: Stevens appears on a horse-drawn carriage driven by a hollow husk of a human being—a biological automaton who’s unable to display any emotion but is forced to feign happiness. This former child clearly doesn’t want to be there.

Horse Carriage Small

At the entrance to Tomteland, Shakin Stevens is joined by what we’re supposed to believe is Santa Claus. He looks like this:

Creepy Santa Shakin Stevens

“I am become Death.”

Inside Tomteland, we’re treated to a scene from “Where’s Waldo” as envisioned by H.P. Lovecraft.

Inside Tomteland

If you don’t find Waldo, Waldo finds you!

It’s clearly a child labor camp supervised by sentient garden gnomes. Notice our creepy Santa in the top right corner—he doesn’t move through the entirety of the scene. Then…this happens:

Shakin Stevens Dancing Small

“I refer to this as ‘Shaking the Stevens.'”

Tell me that’s not an alien’s failed attempt to blend in among humans. On top of that, Stevens sure is quite affectionate with the children. But where do you draw the line between “friendly affection” and “invading a child’s personal space”? Shakin Stevens clearly doesn’t know the answer to that question, as he stumbles through moments like this:

Stevens And The Boy Small

And this:

Stevens And The Girl Small

But at least “Santa” and Stevens are teaching children things like hard work and the joy of making toys, aren’t they?

Okay, first of all, these…

Toys Small

…are not toys. Feel free to call them “deformed creatures from another dimension” or “faceless abominations,” but they’re clearly not like any toy I’ve ever known. Secondly, the only useful skill these children seem to pick up is how to bash solid objects against each other in maniacal rage:

Kids Smashing Toys Small

None of the children have built a single toy, yet they’re more than happy to follow the lead of the silent gnomes and learn how to destroy things:

Gnome Smash

“Stare deep into my eyes. Embrace the fury!”

Once they’re done practicing on inanimate objects, it’s time to move on to live target practice outside:

Snowball Fight Small

Creepy Santa clearly approves:

Santa With Horse

“Violence is your friend, human pods.”

And what would a snowball fight be without an abominable anthropomorphic snowman?

Scary Snowman Small

After yet another shot of Stevens taking the horse to Tomteland, we’re back inside. Here, a hypnosis session is ongoing to brainwash the remaining, mentally resilient children.

Hypnotized Children

“We. Are. Legion. The Leader is great!”

By the end of the video, the children are successfully transformed into a wild lynch mob with torches.

Children With Torches

Stevens is content. His job is complete. He says goodbye, leaving the zombified children in the care of the humanoid snowman and “Santa”:

Stevens Says Goodbye Small

So there you have it, folks: “Merry Christmas Everyone” is about a sinister sect of humanoid aliens kidnapping orphans and converting them into mindless weapons of mass destruction. Or it could just be an innocent Christmas video about a bunch of children having fun at Santa World…but that’s what they’d want you to think, isn’t it?

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Pen Orange

No “thank you” gifts, please

My third Cracked article, about gift giving, ran a few days ago.

While not gathering over a million views, it did reach a modest 10th most viral Cracked spot for a while.

Everybody loved the article.

Well, almost everybody:

Christmas Troll 1

Christmas Troll 2

  Other than that, everyone really liked the–:

Christmass Troll 3

Right. So a few self-proclaimed “men’s rights activists” took issue with some “anti-men” jokes in the article (that weren’t even mine to begin with), and decided that the best use of their Christmas holidays was to post personal insluts on my social media accounts. Yeah, keep fighting the good fight, guys. The oppressed men of the world need your help to survive the tyrannical reign of modern women.

As mentioned, one of my entries didn’t make it into the final article. Now, just as I have done in the past, I share that cut entry with you. Happy holidays.

“Thank you” gifts make people less altruistic

What we think

Say you run a charity, collecting donations for homeless people, war veterans, or your upcoming wicked block party. How do you get people to donate more money? Sure, you can appeal to their sense of compassion, but let’s face it: Most people are selfish. Plus there are countless other charities out there, and some of them even arrange better block parties.

You need something to elevate yourself above the rest. So you announce that everyone who donates will get a free pen (because you’ve forgotten that you live in an age where computers exist). People like free stuff, so surely they will be more likely to give you money if they get something in return.

At the very least it can’t hurt, right?

The truth

It can hurt. Two Yale researchers put the practice of offering thank-you gifts to the test. They ran no fewer than six separate experiments, because why stop after the first one like a quitter?

The result? People who were promised a thank-you gift in return for their donation were actually likely to give a smaller amount than those expecting no such gift. This result was unaffected by factors such as familiarity with the charity, desirability of the gift, or the sexiness of the researchers’ outfits (I’m reading between the lines on that last one). People would always donate less when expecting a thank-you gift.

So what the hell is going on? Do people hate free pens?

The researchers believe this behavior is due to a so-called “crowding out” effect. Put simply: thank-you gifts mess with people’s feelings of altruism. Donors become uncertain about their motivation for donating—are they doing it because they’re good people, or just to get that coveted pen? Yes, the human mind is that easily confused.

This research also found that the effect can be diminished by re-framing the gifts to appeal to people’s sense of altruism. For example, you could put your charity’s logo on the gift and tell people that them using it will help spread awareness of your cause.

Or, you could just be a cheapskate and keep all those precious free pens to yourself. You know you want to!

Red Creepy Santa

WTF Report: “AAAAAAAAAH All The Way”

The holidays are upon us. It’s time for people to exchange gifts, eat lots of unhealthy food, and for Fox News to dial up their yearly “War On Christmas” paranoia.

If there’s one thing everyone unanimously loves about Christmas, it’s hearing the same few beloved songs play on repeat for months on end. Seriously, radio stations, please play more Christmas songs—it’s never too much.

And then there are those for whom traditional songs just don’t cut it. These people find creative ways to “spice up” the old classics. I like to think that the following exchange took place between the creators of the song I’m about to share:

“How about a ‘Jingle Bells’ remix, where–”

“Sold! Love it!”

“Wait, I didn’t finish. So it’s a ‘Jingle Bells’ remix, but instead of words–”

“Excellent! Let’s do it!”

“Just…just hold on, okay? Instead of words, it’s—wait for it—literally just laughing. All the way. Laughing. All. The. Way.”

“Hysterical! Make it happen!”

And make it happen they did, here:

What starts out as an innocent laugh attack, soon transforms into a nonstop, surreal audio diary of Santa’s mind unraveling in real time. There is no way that one and a half solid minutes of incessant laughter are a sign of a healthy psyche. This Santa is clearly suffering from severe PTSD, manifesting itself in unnatural, eerie guffaws.

I don’t know about you, but if this particular Santa showed up at my doorstep, I’d be calling the cops and trying to frantically recall exorcism spells. Thanks, but no thanks, Santa—you goddamn lunatic.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Have fun with your families and share a laugh or two…but never three, for that way lies madness.

“Happy holidays, have some pills”

I have just returned from my holiday escapade to Ukraine. A good time was had by all and lots of great food and alcohol were consumed, without any casualties (that I know of). Speaking of which – this was the third year in a row I took note of the same disturbing tendency. The period leading up to Christmas and New Year brings with it a spike in the amount of TV commercials for products that help you deal with side effects of too much food and alcohol.

Some of these commercials follow a relatively reasonable format of “Did you make the mistake of eating/drinking way too much? Here’s a pill to help you deal with it!”. However, a few ads take the leap into “WTF?!” realm and target a more insane category of people who apparently participate in some obscure competitive sport of “Eating Too Fucking Much While Still Staying Alive”. Here’s an example (sorry for the quality, the only one I could find on Youtube):

[youtube.com/watch?v=f_dAeAS-itI]
For those of you who don’t speak Ukrainian and are also sane, allow me to recap the intricate “plot” of this commercial. An older couple are visiting their daughter and son-in-law. They sit down to eat. The father is just about to stuff his face with a food item, when his wife turns to him and, in a panicked whisper, says: “Vasya, we’ve forgotten the most important thing!”. Hmmm…what is it? Did they miss their insurance payment or forget to bring presents? Have they left their other kids inside a running dishwasher at home?

No, it’s worse than that! Vasya was about to eat without first taking an anti-crapping pill (I’m pretty sure that’s the proper scientific term). How else is he supposed to out-eat that skinny smartass son-in-law of his?! Vasya slides some pills across the table with a smug “your move, skinny smartass” expression. But wait, the skinny smartass takes out some pills of his own…and they are the enhanced version! Well played, four-eyes! The father-in-law is so impressed with this move that he immediately pours praise on the son-in-law and admits his own defeat. Everyone laughs because taking pills is quite obviously hilarious. The…end (?!)

Something tells me this commercial won’t be taking home an Oscar

If the above does not accurately describe every New Year’s family dinner you’ve ever had, then you’re clearly not a basket-case marketing person who came up with this abomination of a commercial. This ad isn’t about someone who got a bit carried away at a dinner party and in the heat of the moment ate too much or consumed something they shouldn’t have. This ad is about people who are so shitty at making life decisions that they already know they’ll eat way more than they can naturally handle. Drugs are their only hope for a night that doesn’t end in an emergency Gastric lavage.

Thankfully, this commercial is thoroughly made fun of by TV shows and people in general. Less thankfully, there are many other commercials of this type, including one for magical water that eliminates the bad effects of alcohol and meals on your stomach and saves you from constipation and diarrhoea alike.

I don’t know about you, but I take pills as an absolutely last resort, and most definitely not in anticipation of an out-of-control dinner. To those who do find yourselves in a situation where taking pre-meal pills becomes a habit, here’s a thought: try the well-tested technique of “stopping to eat when feeling full” and “not being freaking crazy”. Or, you know, have some magical stomach-saving water…

Merry Xmas & All That Good Stuff

Dear all,

If you’re reading this, by now I’m already dea…ling out gifts to my family back in Kharkov, Ukraine. A neat “schedule” feature allows me to post completed stuff at a later date, which is exactly the phenomenon you’re currently observing.

Christmas and the brand new 2012 year are upon us, so it’s time for some of that well deserved family time! While I enjoy some days with my family and unhealthy amounts of food and alcohol, there’ll be a silent period on my blog. But fear not, for I am back with a vengeance in early January 2012.

Many exciting things have happened since I’ve started this blog in September: guest blogging, feature posts, growing readership and death threats from people who find my stuff offensive  (I’m looking at you, “NestHater4501”). OK, so I don’t actually have any dedicated haters yet, but I promise to try really hard next year and get at least a few of them. Every self-respecting blogger knows that’s the key to success.

I may even add a “thumbs down smiley” at the end of every post to encourage this hatred…

Here’s what I hope to bring to you next year:

  • More fun guest posts from fellow bloggers
  • More blogger collaborations and featured articles
  • Continuation and eventual completion of The Vietnam Diaries 2011
  • More fiction
  • More stuff that makes you laugh

I also have an ambition to get an article (or more) featured on one of my favourite humour sites – Cracked.com. Keep those fingers crossed for me!

If you like my stuff, please share and invite your friends! It’s a Christmas gift to me that will only cost you a few mouse clicks and a piece of your soul (I have this pact with the Devil…don’t ask).

Thanks for a fun ride this year, I really appreciate your comments, shares and participation. Enjoy the time with your family and loved ones and try to stay sober enough to remember where you’ve spent the holidays.

Have an awesome Christmas and a kick-ass New Year!

Freezingly Yours (I’m in Ukraine, remember?),

Daniel Nest