PBS takes a look at Siren Head, an eldritch folk monster for the internet age

Originally published at: PBS takes a look at Siren Head, an eldritch folk monster for the internet age | Boing Boing


I really love Monstrum. Such a good series!


I think Sirenhead is about technology, but more about abandoned tech, science that most people, including current users, barely understand anymore. Ghost hunter TV shows frequently fall back on Morse Code whenever they encounter tapping, static, or beeping noises, yet, if they are able to translate the patterns later at (if at all), they inevitably come up with only a single word or two (usually mis-spelled, because , of course, people weren’t educated in the past \s), chosen because they matched the episode’s pre-conceived plot line for that hastily researched “ghost”.

At first glance, I suspected the beast was English, inspired by air raid sirens and abandoned WWII military equipment, but hearing that it came from the Pacific Northwest, I think it’s rooted more in a contemporary take on the “wailing winds” myths and other Native American hunting legends.


Many forest have fire monitoring systems, like fire watch posts. My understanding is that some areas have warning sirens for campers to alert them that a fire has been sighted. Where I live in the Midwest the sounds of an air raid siren are linked to tornado warnings.

I think at least part of what makes Siren Head a frightening monster is that it takes tools that are meant for safety and protection and subverts them into something that betrays your trust. Those sirens regardless of what they mean in an area, or emergency alert tones, are something we have been told to implicitly trust and take head of. The idea that these would be used against us should be deeply unsettling.


Honestly peeved I’ve never heard of this series before. Gonna have to figure out how to binge the rest of the episodes while I’m still craving an early fall and Halloween…

Monstrum is pretty ace. If you want something similar-ish as far as informational YT channels go i also recommend Animalogic


Siren Head is such a wonderful idea.

There’s something so captivating about the notion of a monster whose cries are noises humanity invented to scare itself.

Totally nerding out to this (and yeah, how did I not know about Monstrum dammit!?!).

I’ve always seen Siren-Head as incorporating the fear of there being ‘something in the message’; something supernatural (perhaps); something from us used against us.

Communing with the proverbial other side (seances, Ouija boards, channeling, etc.) existed prior to wireless communication devices. However, once wireless came to be the idea that something else - something malevolent - was hidden within it wasn’t far behind (in this way a manifestation of the fears of technology; of the unknown, etc.).

When I think of what’s rather unique (and very creepy and cool) about Siren-Head I think of its distorted messages as our own messages decayed and lost and then corrupted and used to taunt us.

Horror is confronting the thing that goes bump in the night; but, terror is realizing that, in a moment, we will cease to be.

Thinking here of the communications idea of signal: noise ratio can be seen as a stand-in for good (signal, control, coherence, etc.) vs evil (noise, chaos, incoherence).

From Stephen King’s The Cell to Peter Gabriel’s ‘Signal to Noise’ to Pontypool (among many other examples) there’s additionally that sense of decay: the message decays, we decay, death as decay.

And, perhaps, the connection between intentional message miscommunication (propaganda, gaslighting, Orwell’s ‘doublethink’ and ‘newspeak’, etc.) as corruption and manipulation: what we intended to say as being corrupted, twisted, turned against us.

In this way I think Siren-Head really does fit the bill as an example of digital folklore.


Went even further down the rabbit hole on this one into… ‘numbers stations’

Found this comment from Trevor Henderson about how numbers stations were an influence on his development of Siren-Head…so, I wasn’t completely out to lunch on the connection here :slight_smile:

There are several radio dramas and such that use numbers stations that are really kinda cool.

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