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Video Game Atlas: Silent Hill

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Once a week Art Attack will offer you a handy little travel guide to the fictional worlds of video games.

Name: Silent Hill, Silent Hill Series

Population: 30,000

Government: Democracy

Located on the mist-shrouded shores of Toluca Lake in Maine, Silent Hill is in many ways a typical New England tourist town... typical if you read a lot of Steven King and H. P. Lovecraft that is. Still, its picturesque setting among the pine woods and presence on both the north and south shores of the water make it a popular destination for boaters and fishermen.

The town may at first appear to be dismal, but it is home to some wonderful picnic areas. Be sure to visit the observation deck off of Nathan Avenue for an amazing panoramic view of the town and lake that will knock your socks off. Restrooms and ample parking are available.

Not all the entertainments in town are so thoroughly quaint, though. In the South Vale district you can take your date out for pizza at Pete's Bowl-O-Rama or join Robbie the Rabbit at the Lakeside Amusement park for a spin on the death defying Mountain Coaster. A less heart pounding ride can be found in the natural wonder that is the gorge called Devil's Pit, so deep the Empire State Building would only reach halfway to the top. A former mining train has been converted to a combination coaster/educational adventure and is open to the public. Truly a marvel of whimsical engineering.

If you prefer more earthly amusements, you can take a walk down Carroll St to the Heaven's Night gentlemen's club. The impressive three-story den of decadence is host to many of the comeliest looking peelers in all of the Northeast, including the mysterious and sensual Lady Maria. Inquire beforehand about the night's line-up. Not wheelchair accessible.

But let's be honest. You didn't make it out to Silent Hill to quietly fish, bowl, or even to see a little skin. You came because the town is apparently cursed and you wanted to see for yourself just what all the legends are about. Well, brave and fearless traveler, head straight to the Silent Hill Historical Society on Nathan Ave to begin your look into the dark and violent past of Silent Hill.

On display there will be many photographs and historical documents showing or eluding to strange happenings such as the sightings of the uncanny, sword-wielding specter Pyramid Head, or past rumored atrocities like cult executions. Pyramid Head himself is a predominant local legend. A massive muscled man wearing an implausibly large pointed helmet and wielding a giant knife, he is said to be the incarnation of all guilt and hate that stalks the night in Silent Hill.

The truly fearless, or foolish, will want to see the sites of the many legends first hand. Right from the Historical Society building is a tunnel leading to the defunct Toluca Prison. Originally built to house Civil War POWs, it was converted to a state prison in 1866. Capital punishment was common at the time, and the gallows still stands in the courtyard. Rumor has it some particularly violent criminals were drawn and quartered. Explorers in the cell blocks report mysterious voices of men whispering about rituals, or women screaming.

You could also visit the Church of the Holy Way on Wilson Street, allegedly the home base of a chaotic cult called the Halo of the Sun. Though patterned after a typical Roman Catholic cathedral, the walls and floor of the building are adorned with many symbols not associated with Christianity. The cult, if it exists, in whispered about in legend for their blood sacrifices and connection to a dark mirror world that exists parallel to reality.

Such tales, including the massive Pyramid Head bogeyman are almost certainly mere smoke and mirrors designed to help increase the tourist trade of Silent Hill. Tourism is the town's main industry since the Wiltse Coal Mine ran dry, and what better way to capitalize on the haunted reputation of small town New England than with a few ghosts and goblins. Don't worry. There's absolutely nothing mysterious of dangerous about Silent Hill.

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