Creepy Things That Seem Real But Aren’t is a series that explores modern urban legends, bringing you a new tale each week.
The author of the play is unknown. It first appeared in print in 1640 in quarto form, a publication format issued in 1452 and used to great extent during the golden age of Renaissance drama. Its publisher, a William Cooke, disappeared from historical record shortly after the quarto’s appearance. The play does not appear in the Stationer’s Register, the official record book that documented publication copyrights in the 16th and 17th centuries; nor does it have an entry in the records of the Master of the Revels, which logged performance dates and information.
There is something very, very wrong with this play.
It is called THE HANGED KING’S TRAGEDY.
The Hanged King’s Tragedy is, at first glance, a standard five-act Carolinian revenge tragedy. It bears many similarities to other popular revenge tragedies of the time, including Shakespeare’s earlier plays Hamlet and Titus Andronicus. The Hanged King’s Tragedy is set in the Kingdom of Trinculo, which may either be a reference to a buffoonish character from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, or else a misspelling of Trinacria, another name for Sicily. Like Hamlet, the play opens after the death of a king; in this case, it is Sforza, the king of Trinculo. It is believed that Sforza died from natural causes while away from court. His younger brother Gonzalo is crowned and marries Sforza’s widow, Queen Isabella, again drawing similarities to Hamlet.
36.78 percent of recorded performances of the play end in Event 701.
Occurrences of Event 701 generally follow the same pattern.
7 to 14 days prior to Event: During the technical rehearsal and dress rehearsal periods, cast will begin to deviate from published text of play. Deviations will be orderly and consistent, as if they are following a new version of the script. Cast and crew will be unaware of any change. If the deviations are brought to their attention, they will say that the play has always been that way.
1 to 2 hours before Event: The figure designated as Anomaly 701-1 will begin to make appearances onstage in the final scene of Act I. It appears in the background or off to the side. The cast do not acknowledge Anomaly 701-1.
The Event: Anomaly 701-1 manifests onstage during the Act V banquet scene. It will watch as the cast either murders each other or commits suicide. Rioting breaks out in the audience.
Following the Event: Surviving audience members exit performance space and continue to engage in random violence. Sedation and/or restraint will be required. Survivors’ personalities will begin to appear approximately 24 hours after the Event. Survivors will exhibit the symptoms of trauma victims. Many will have no memory of the Event. Others may be permanent comatose or psychotic.