Horror and terror in a (fictional) Southern U.S. town

Missing Mile is a fictional town in North Carolina where some of the stories by Poppy Z. Brite – including two of his novels, Lost Souls and Drawing Blood – take place. And it’s also a virtual place in Second Life (which I’ve stumbled on thanks to my friend Tristan Treves). Inspired by Brite’s work, SL’s Missing Mile is dark, rural, sinister and somber. It homes some disturbing events and raises terror and horror in its visitors.

“Welcome to Missing Mile”, says the sign at the Terminal Station
Missin* Mile, the town sign
Missin* Mile, the town sign

In SL, Missing Mile occupies 2 neighbor sims, Soap and Paper. They are certainly different, but both have a weird atmosphere (this is not derogatory at all, “weird” here being a compliment, actually). And in some way, they display a fusion of many horror and terror elements evoked by Brite’s early novels.

Hotel Coral Essex
Hotel Coral Essex
At the movie theatre
At the movie theatre

It is not easy to build the atmosphere of Brite’s Missing Mile. If we consider only his novels, the town appears both in a vampire story (Lost Souls) and in a love and horror reassessment of the traditional haunted house fiction (Drawing Blood). In other words, it is home to some different styles of terror.

Trapped in a hidden place
Trapped: the possibilities of role-playing at Missing Mile

In SL, maybe one of the greatest trump cards of Missing Mile is the fact that the sims don’t seem to have been designed to a particular kind of terror and horror: vampire-based stories, psychological thrillers, ghost tales… And maybe this is why, although role-playing is a possibility at Missing Mile (and there are hidden places and traps to help the ones who want to follow that path), the sim owners do not determine in advance, as in other sims, what kind of role-playing is to be enacted there. It is only stated that Missing Mile is a “dark rural community”.

Tied to the railway
Tied to the railway: more role-playing

It doesn’t mean that Missing Mile lacks elements that draw a close tie not only to Poppy Z. Brite’s universe (even The Sacred Yew, where the Lost Souls? band used to play, is there), but also to a more general “Southern U.S. horror fiction” genre. Actually, this is what it is about: a Southern rural community in the U.S. with an atmosphere that evokes horror and terror. And if we take Ann Redcliffe’s definition of both words, maybe we can say that Soap is where horror takes place and Paper is more of a terror ambiance.

Singing at The Sacred Yew
Singing at The Sacred Yew

In Ann Redcliffe’s characterization, terror has to do with the sublime – which, for a number of philosophers since Edmund Burke, is related not to any particular object, but to the astonishment we can feel, to the greatness we can sense from things we cannot exactly “see”. In other words, terror is related to uncertainty, to the unknown, to obscurity. On the other hand, horror comes with atrocity, with unpleasant displays of cruelty, inhumanity, abomination. As Redcliffe writes in On the Supernatural in Poetry, “terror and horror are so far opposite, that the first expands the soul, and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them.”

The church at Missing Mile
“I’ll pray for you”
Mental patients area at the hospital, at Missing Mile
“The lunatic is in the hall”

It may seem here, by the descriptions that I resort to, that terror can be more powerful than horror – but the fact is that both can produce notably powerful experiences, just of different kinds. And this is more or less what I feel about Soap and Paper, as sims. At Soap, Missing Mile reveals its horrible, sometimes repulsive side. That’s what we see, for instance, in the town hospital – especially on the second floor.

A mental patient at the hospital at Missing Mile
“The lunatic is in my head” (at the hospital, at Missing Mile)
Murder scene at the hospital at Missing Mile
Murder scene at the hospital
Living at Paper, Missing Mile
Living at Paper, Missing Mile

Paper, on the other hand, is a sim where horror is in the air, is to be there at any moment, but not yet present. Its lake with a monster coming from its deep waters can even be romantic – as Missing Mile on Drawing Blood can also be a scenery for a love story.

A boat navigating towards the monster at Paper, Missing Mile
A boat to danger (Paper, Missing Mile)
Facing the monster at Missing Mile
Facing menace (Paper, Missing Mile)

As a final note, it’s interesting to observe how the U.S. Southern horror fiction genre is structured at Missing Mile in SL. Part of the appeal of the genre comes from the fact that the stories are set at smaller, rural communities where bonds between people are supposedly deeper and ties, more solid. Such a world is thought to be more stable, less changing if compared to urban areas. And also, more isolated, less connected to other places.

Resting: a character on the streets of Soap
Resting: a character on the streets of Soap
A view from the trees at Missing Mile
The atmosphere of isolation is remarkable at Missing Mile

Missing Mile is characterized by both the idea of isolation and the atmosphere of a smaller community. It is noticeable that, at Soap, there are characters on the streets – stressing that it is not a ghost town at all. It could be, but actually it is interesting that it is not. I mean, the visitor actually feels like being at a place where people live, do stuff, go to the movies and so on – and where horror takes place.

Another character doing errands at Missing Mile
Another character doing errands at Missing Mile
Waiting outside the bar
Waiting outside the bar

If you got curious, go and check it – but be prepared to both horror and terror. I can assure you that Missing Mile in SL has much more than the photos here show.

An embrace before the lake at Paper, Missing Mile
Hold me from danger (Paper, Missing Mile)

8 thoughts on “Horror and terror in a (fictional) Southern U.S. town

  1. Missing Mile sucks because it’s all set up for rp but nobody has the tits or the balls to enforce it. All of Lochs wierdo friends ruined the healthy rp environment and now you can’t even get anyone to walk a dog there. What a waste of a good build. If someone actually showcased it as a rp sim, it would, without a dout, be the most popular and most populated sim in SL since it has longevity and a lot of good memories for tons of folks. Loch is not only experienced in building a good sim, but unfortunately experienced in destroying top notch roleplay. If MM could just be a rural southern town rumored to be haunted, that’s one thing. But P.z.B is an acquired taste that most people simply can’t get their heads around. If there are more bad roleplayers than good, imagine folks in this sim trying to struggle through bringing the books to life through just plain bad roleplaying. It chased all the experienced rpers away.
    Missing Mile will always be just a grungy rental sim for noobs and wannabe trash, and that, my friends, is a huge tragedy for such an excellent looking sim.

    1. I approved your comment because I have an impression that there is something interesting that we can debate on there but, to be honest, I see no actual argumentation on it, as it is now. I mean, let’s take the excerpt “all of Loch’s weirdo friends ruined the healthy rp environment…”: why? How did they ruin the healthy rp environment there? What did people do to ruin it? Maybe if you could answer those questions, we could have an interesting talk about rp in Missing Mile and in SL as a whole – instead, what I saw was just you calling Loch’s friends “weirdos” and, frankly, insulting people is not the purpose of this blog or of the discussion here.

      Also, and this is not only directed at you, I think we, long-term SLers, have been a bit prejudicial towards newbies. Yes, newbie-like avs may suck, but that’s what LL gives to newbies and it’s interesting that they can build upon that – it doesn’t mean that newbies in general can’t differentiate between good and bad stuff in SL. It’s a bit ugly that when we want to say something derrogatory about a place or an item in SL we say it’s “for noobs”.

      Anyway, it could be interesting if you could develop on the idea of P.z.B. being an acquired taste and what would a good rp based on P.z.B. be, maybe we could have something there to discuss on. Maybe you think the sim does not translate P.z.B.’s universe in a good way… but why? For the way it’s built? Or maybe because rp there should have stricter rules? In this case, what would you suggest? That would be nice to read about.

      1. Well, your opening reply of “I approved your comment because …” let’s me know that you’re only going to approve comments that you feel are, in your own opinion, worthy; and that this really isn’t a site where one can comment freely. You didn’t ask the above posters why they loved it, but instead singled me out because I had something negative to say.
        If you see no argumentation on it as it is now, then there’s really no need for me to rebut since your mind is already made up.
        But I do have a question for you. Were you even around when MM was at the height of its glory? If you were, then perhaps you can shed some light on why all the rpers dumped it?

        The fact is that Missing Mile will never, ever obtain its former status as being one of the top contenders in the rp arena because the serious rpers avoid it like the plague. This refers to my comment about Poppy being an acquired taste. You can’t argue with the facts. Just show up in MM at any time of the day or night and see for yourself how Poppy’s imagination is working out there.
        The only positive MM has is its longevity, but that only means the place will be empty for a lot longer.
        I know Loch has to pay the bills and all, but with folks literally standing in line for the next best rp sim, it’s an knocking opportunity that continually eludes her.

      2. Hum, let me be clear about it: no, this is not a site where one can comment freely. I will do my best to approve all comments made here, but I won’t approve, for instance, Nazi or racist comments – no way. I’m not saying that it was the case of your previous comment. If it were, it wouldn’t have been approved at all. Anyway, yes, I didn’t ask people why they loved it – call it a double standard, but I wouldn’t have asked you why you don’t like Missing Mile either if you had just posted a comment saying “I don’t like Missing Mile” (or I would have, but just out of curiosity). The fact is that you gave a reason for you not liking Missing Mile and that particular reason seemed to me more like calling people weirdos than stating some substantial argumentation. Since I will try to avoid transforming this blog in a forum for people to call each other names, I asked you to give me more elements, sou we could get away from that calling-people-names argumentation. That’s it.

        About your question, no, I wasn’t there in the “heights of its glory”. I didn’t even know that the heights of its glory have passed, to be honest. I’m not a RP’er, myself. Actually, I don’t know how to act at all in RP sims, I feel kinda lost, displaced, always afraid of doing something against the rules, of misunderstanding stuff. I don’t generally feel like an outsider in SL, but I do in RP sims. What I noticed was that, once, being at Missing Mile to take pics, I did see some RP going on. But I confess, it’s hard for me to be in the RP world, even when I blog about it. Perhaps you could give me some tips and let me know of some interesting RP sim for a newbie in the RP world?

  2. I love this sim, I live there and love the Place, the People and everything. As for good RP – I’m not sure where you would find that in SL. In my experience RP was ten times better in the chatrooms once upon a time – because People had to use their imagination about everything. In SL everything is laid out so nicely but active RP is hard to find. But hey – I may not have looked well enough. For me my entire second life IS a RP. And MM is my home.

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