As you may be aware, Spongebob Squarepants is a popular animated TV series that is broadcast on Nickelodeon. It began airing in 1999 and featured cartoon characters such as Spongebob and his friend with tentacles, Squidward. It is one of Nickelodeon’s highest-rated shows and is currently the longest-running series on the channel.
Despite being one of the best-loved cartoons on TV, few people are aware of a very disturbing incident that occurred in Nickelodeon’s animation studios, during the production of the series a few years ago.
In 2005, Nickelodeon’s animation studios had recently completed production on the SpongeBob movie and the entire staff was somewhat sapped of creativity so it took them longer to begin work on the new season of TV episodes. The delay lasted much longer than it should have due to a very upsetting problem with the first episode of Season 4.
The lead animators and sound editors were in the editing room to review the final cut of S04E01. They received a copy of the episode and gathered around the screen to watch. The title of the episode was supposed to be “Fear of a Krabby Patty”, but when the title card came up on the screen, it read, “Squidward’s Suicide”. Everyone in the room was more than a little confused.
The Spongebob Squarepants theme tune played as usual and the episode began with Squidward practicing on his clarinet, hitting a few sour notes. SpongeBob was laughing and Squidward stopped playing to yell at him to keep it down as he had a concert that night and needed to practice. SpongeBob said OK and went with Patrick to see Sandy. The bubbles splash screen came up, followed by the end of Squidward’s concert.
It was at this point that the episode began to get very strange. As Squidward’s concert ended, there was discontented murmuring in the crowd and they begin to boo him loudly and maliciously. Squidward looked visibly afraid. Spongebob was standing in front of the crowd and he, too, was booing. Even more odd was the fact that all of the characters had hyper-realistic eyes. They were very detailed and their pupils were glowing red.
The next scene showed Squidward sitting on the edge of his bed, looking very depressed and forlorn. Behind him, in his porthole window, a dreary night sky could be seen. The unsettling part was that there was absolutely no sound. Squidward just sat there in silence for about 30 seconds, then he started to sob softly. Then, he put his tentacle-hands over his eyes and cried quietly for a full minute. Gradually, the sound grew louder and a slight breeze could be heard in the background.
The camera slowly zoomed in on Squidward’s face and his sobbing grew louder and louder, full of hurt and anger. The sound of the wind became more severe, as if a storm was brewing. Very faintly, in the background, something that sounded like hollow laughter could be heard. It came at odd intervals and never lasted more than a second. After 30 seconds of this, the screen blurred and twitched violently and something flashed over the screen, as if a single frame had been replaced.
The lead animation editor paused the video and rewound it, frame by frame. Suddenly, something horrible flashed up on the screen. It was a still photo of a young boy. His face was mangled and bloody and one of his eyeballs was dangling out of its socket. His stomach had been sliced open and his intestines lay in a pile beside him.
The editors gathered around the screen couldn’t believe what they were seeing. They pressed play and continued to watch the video, hoping that it was all just some sick joke being played on them by the animators. On the screen, Squidward was still sobbing, but the sound was louder than before. There seemed to be blood coming from his eyes and running down his cheeks. The blood did not seem to be animated. It looked all too real. The wind sounded like a raging storm. The deep, unsettling laughter became more and more frequent.
Suddenly, the screen twitched again. One of the editors paused the video and rewound it. Another single frame photo flashed up on the screen. This time, it was a little girl. She was lying face-down in a pool of blood. Her left eyeball was hanging by a thread and her entrails were piled on top of her. There were deep cuts all over her back. One of the interns in the room said he felt sick and rushed out into the corridor.
The editor clicked a button and the episode resumed playing. Squidward was silent again and there was no sound at all. He put his tentacles down and his eyes were now done in hyper-realistic and detailed. They were bleeding, bloodshot and pulsating. He just stared at the camera, as if he was watching the viewer. Everyone in the room shifted uncomfortably. A few seconds later, he started sobbing again, but this time he didn’t cover his eyes. The sound was loud and piercing and screams rang out in the background. Bloody tears were dripping down his face as the wind began blowing again and the deep-voiced laughter returned.
Another still photo flashed up on the screen and the editor paused the video again. This time, the photo was of a different young boy. His right eyeball was hanging out of its socket and a large hand was reaching into his open stomach and pulling out his intestines. Everyone in the room gasped at this and one of the sound editors vomitted on the floor. Everybody was shaking and frightened. Someone rushed out to fetch a mop.
The editor stopped the video and said that he would call the producer and show him the horrifying photos contained in the video. Fifteen minutes later, the producer burst into the room and demanded to know why he had been called down to the studio. The editor didn’t answer him. He just pressed play and the episode continued on the screen.
Squidward was just staring at the camera, his face in close-up. The soundtrack became silent and a deep voice was heard whispering “Do it.” The camera pulled back, revealing that Squidward was holding a shotgun in his tentacle-hands. He suddenly raised the shotgun, placed the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
There was a huge explosion and realistic blood and brain matter splattered against the wall behind him. His head disintegrated and his body fell sideways and collapsed on the bed. The last five excrutiating seconds of the episode show his body on the bed, on his side, one eye dangling on what’s left of his head above the floor, staring blankly at it. Then the episode cut to black.
The producer was furious and demanded to know what the heck was going on. Most people left the room, feeling sick to their stomachs. Just a handful of people remained in the editing room, attempting to figure out what exactly had gone wrong with the episode.
The only explanation they could come up with was that, somewhere along the line in the production process, the video footage had been edited by someone. The logs were consulted and everyone who had worked on the video was accounted for. The editors attempted to analyse the video file, but there was no timestamp. All of the video equipment involved in the production line was examined for viruses, malware and other malicious files, but everything checked out fine.
Due to the nature of the photos, the footage was handed over to the police, but nothing came of it. None of the children in the photos was ever identified and the video files yielded no clues or physical evidence. To this day, nobody at Nickelodeon’s animation studios can explain what happened.