“Squidward’s Suicide” and “Dead Bart” are considered the founding fathers of the crappy lost episode genre, and because of that people tend to think they’re basically the same thing but use different franchises. On the surface, it makes sense. Both are supposed lost episodes of well known and beloved TV shows that have the lost episodes being described. The lost episode is darker and scarier than normal episodes, and the animation style on the episodes is described as at times ranging from low quality to “hyper realistic.”
However, upon rereading both of those stories, I noticed something: outside of a similar basic premise, these two stories are actually pretty different. In fact, “Dead Bart” seems closer to a different well known lost episode story. More on that in a bit.
First, let me explain how these episodes are different. Let’s start with the meat of these stories: the actual lost episodes and how they’re described.
“Squidward’s Suicide” describes its titular lost episode in great detail, going through every beat of the plot and telling you exactly what is happening in the episode. The content of the episode is infamous for its excessive blood and gore, and the story spends a lot of time describing the various gory scenes in the episode, including the footage of dead children. It also gave the world the “hyper realistic eyes” and bleeding eyes trope. The story also describes how long things take in surprisingly specific detail. The excuse for this is that the narrator saw the episode twice, imprinting it on his memory, which is stupid for reasons too numerous to get to here.
“Dead Bart,” by contrast, is actually a lot more subtle. It’s not really bloody or gory at all; hell, the word “blood” isn’t even in the story. The episode itself isn’t as fully described as the one in “Squidward’s Suicide;” we know what happens in the episode, but it isn’t a shot by shot or line by line description. While both of the episodes do have instances of weird animation glitches and more realistic shots, “Dead Bart” uses the phrase “photo-realistic” and only uses it once. “Squidward’s Suicide” mention “hyper realistic” about three times. The two episode descriptions also have different tones to them. “Squidward’s Suicide” has a tone of disgust and shock, while “Dead Bart’s” is more somber and melancholy.
The two stories also have vastly different ending scares. By that, I mean the thing the story ends with that’s supposed to make the story linger in the reader’s head. “Squidward’s Suicide” ends with the mysteries of who made the episode, who killed the kids, who were the kids, how did the episode get to Nick, and why was any of it done? It doesn’t really imply or keep things vague enough to allow readers to draw their own terrifying conclusions, but still. “Dead Bart,” by contrast, ends with the somewhat unsettling idea that a lot of celebrities died at the same time, which one could infer to mean that all of humanity died at the same time.
I should note that I originally did a bit on the set up and backstories of the two stories here, but it doesn’t really contribute to my point and was just me complaining about some bad stories for about 300 words. So if you’re wondering why I’m not talking about them, that’s why.
Anyway, to get back to my point, “Squidward’s Suicide” and “Dead Bart” are alike in general concept, but are very different in terms of actual content. “Squidward’s Suicide” feels closer to “Sonic.exe” (yes, I know “Sonic.exe” was written after “Squidward’s Suicide,” but still) while “Dead Bart” feels closer to, of all things, “Candle Cove.”
Yes, “Candle Cove.” The lost episode story a decent amount of people read and reacted with, “Hey, that’s not bad.” The same story that the Syfy channel saw and said, “Hey, we could make a show out of this.” Let me explain.
“Candle Cove” is a pretty bloodless story, with its scares coming more from a general sense of increasing dread as the story progresses and its unsettling reveal of what the show was. The show itself wasn’t too well described, with the only descriptions being of general memorable aspects of the show. The vagueness, lack of any big gory in-your-face scares, and more subdued tone with more of a reliance on dread feel a bit close to “Dead Bart.” Also, the way the ending scare is written is in a similar way to “Dead Bart’s”: it was basically the last line. The ending scare from “Squidward’s Suicide” was kind of muddled, as the story doesn’t really end on a scare, but instead kind of wraps up what happened and has the narrator say, “Boy, that was sure weird and disturbing. Wish I knew what the hell happened or why.”
So, why am I bringing all of this up? Well, it all comes from a video I saw by YouTuber Jenny Nicholson called “Why Does Creepypasta Suck?” Basically, she explains that Creepypasta started off as more of a down-to-earth genre of storytelling. It was basically the Internet equivalent of campfire stories, with people telling stories that may be real and are kind of spooky. You know, it was a story your cousin might’ve told you a while ago about that spooky experience he had, which you retell online. That sort of thing.
But, with the rise of characters like Slender Man and the increasing popularity of the genre, people had to find ways to stand out, and they did this by abandoning the subtle believability aspects of it and going a bit over the top.
I don’t agree with everything she says in the video, as I believe Creepypasta can just be online horror stories that are just stories, nor do I agree with her assessment of “Candle Cove” as an example of a more over the top story. However, I think her general point still stands and these three stories kind of prove it.
“Candle Cove” is a pretty good story revolving around a lost episode that relies heavily on dread that ends with a pretty good ending scare. Seeking to do something similar, the write of “Dead Bart” crafts a story with the basic idea of a lost episode, except making it an episode of a popular TV show that doesn’t end with the episode just being static. The content is different from “Candle Cove” but the basic concept, tone, and vibe are pretty similar. Upon seeing the success of “Dead Bart,” “Squidward’s Suicide” is created. It borrows more from “Dead Bart” than “Dead Bart” borrowed from “Candle Cove,” but makes a couple of changes to distinguish itself from “Dead Bart.” First, a different TV property, specifically one for kids that most people grew up watching or aware of. Second, much more blood and gore and lot more description of the episode. Third, expand on some aspects of “Dead Bart.” That story mentioned a photo-realistic image once? Well, use that idea, but change it to hyper realistic to distinguish yourself, and use that phrase a lot more. Fourth, change the basic scare from the possible death of humanity to some dead kids and a child killer on the loose, and add some mystery to the scare.
Basically, “Dead Bart” took the basic lost episode idea of “Candle Cove” but changed it up to a more recognizable franchise with a different scare, and “Squidward’s Suicide” took the basic premise of “Dead Bart” and added a lot more blood and gore. These were all attempts to stand out by ramping things up.
And, to be frank, it kind of worked. We still remember “Dead Bart” and “Squidward’s Suicide.” So what if we remember them as bad stories? They still got attention and were able to stand out.
I think this is also why so many bad lost episode stories seem to borrow heavily from “Squidward’s Suicide” more than “Candle Cove” or even “Dead Bart.” “Squidward’s Suicide” was the farthest a lost episode story went, so you have to go farther than that. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to do that and make a good story, hence why most lost episode stories that copy “Squidward’s Suicide” suck.
That’s my two cents on this, anyway. I’ve had lost episodes on my mind a lot, and needed to get out something on the subject before I burst.
If I got something wrong here, feel free to let me know. I actually have no idea when any of these stories were written or when they got popular, and am just going by a theory that seems to fit the evidence I have.