Internet Arcade Review: Hangman: The Video Game

Hangman Internet Arcade

The year was 1984. All throughout the summer, the nation was rocked by a slew of gruesome murders. People were gripped with fear and glued to their television sets in the hopes of hearing those sweet, magical words of relief: “The Hangman Choker has been apprehended.” But sweet relief seemed to be in short reserve in 1984, just as George Orwell predicted.

For five long, grisly months, the nation had no choice but to watch helplessly as case after case stacked up with few leads and no respite in sight. That was, of course, until the night of August 27, 1984, when a young man was out on an evening bike ride, coming home from his local arcade. Let’s call this young man Arnold (his name was never revealed to the public).

Arnold had no intention of becoming the hero this nation so desperately needed, but a hero he would become.

It was approximately 10:25 p.m. when he was taking his usual route home from the arcade — north on Elm, then making a left at Raceda before reaching the final stretch down Coghany Lane (that’s where we lose track of our hero Arnold, as his address was never made public).

It was while turning from Elm onto Raceda that Arnold heard what he would later describe as an odd kerfuffle off in the brush just beyond the curb. He immediately went to investigate, later admitting that his intentions and hopes were to witness his classmate Brandy Taylor making out with Roy Stevens, the high-school lothario.

Hangman Internet Arcade

Those hopes would be dashed as poor Arnold became the only known witness to one of The Hangman Choker’s murders. And if not for his quick thinking, Arnold would’ve perhaps become the 16th victim, instead of ending The Hangman Choker’s reign of terror at 15 poor, lost souls.

Arnold would spin a yarn about getting into a tussle with the Hangman Choker, one that involved all manner of Karate and Kung-Fu, with curse words aplenty. This is the version of the tale that most ordinary folks remember. As entertaining as it is, it’s not what actually happened.

In reality, as Arnold would later confess, the Hangman Choker was caught off guard by Arnold appearing there in the brush, peepers wide and a-peepin’. When the Hangman Choker moved to apprehend the young arcade enthusiast, the Choker wound up tripping over an untied shoelace, falling onto a nearby rock that rendered him unconscious until the police arrived 36 minutes later to take him into custody. He would subsequently be identified as Balsam Cleveland from Baltimore, Maryland.

Balsam eventually confessed that his horrendous acts were simply crimes of passion — a passion for word search games. It was eventually revealed, as unlikely as it may seem, that it was within these word search puzzles that Balsam’s choice of victims would somehow materialize.

Hangman Internet Arcade

Arnold would go on to live a meager life, we presume (his later life was never officially revealed to the public).

That same year, 1984, a video game cabinet would be made to commemorate those who lost their lives to the Hangman Choker, while also channeling the compulsion that drove Balsam Cleveland to commit such heinous acts. The hope was that others with Balsam’s compulsion would find solace in the act of strangling a digital human being instead of a real one.

Hangman: The Video Game would go on to sell hundreds of millions of copies. In 1986, the rights would be bought by Harmony Schmarnony Films Ltd., with the intention of turning the whole sordid affair into a Lifetime made-for-TV movie starring Charleston Philmore, Gladis MacArthurson, and Donovan J. Albernatty. The film has been in pre-production for more than three decades.

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