Welcome to the town of hell
The town of Silent Hill is known foremost by reputation as a popular tourist resort, a quiet little lakeside resort town as a brochure found in SH3 and information in SH2 describes in writting. Yet this is made perfectly clear in SH1 when Harry Mason's daughter Cheryl feels compelled to visit. For James Sunderland in SH2 as well as his wife Mary, it is a 'special' place of found memories where he spent time with his wife at the Lakeside Hotel. Indeed, it is Toluca Lake which is the town's main tourist attraction, imbuing a sense of tranquillity and peacefulness, as well as relaxation to the welcomed visitor. Silent Hill is described by the tourist board as having row after row of quaint old houses, and a gorgeous mountain landscape as just many of its surroundings. Yet this superficial facade is nothing more than a shield from its dark history and the underbelly of evil that still pervaded right up to the time of Harry Mason's arrival. The earliest date for the town's founding is noted to be sometime in the year of 1820. A painting in SH2 at the History Society in town entitled 'Waterfront Landscape' by Allen Smith serves as the best primary evidence so far. It depicts few people, and a handful of buildings as expected. Silent Hill's prison is also of the same age period, with a prisoner note giving a more concrete date of September 11, 1820.
The town was transformed into a prison camp during the American Civil War period, prisoners were given the choice of how to be executed. Hung or skewered? The sadistic executioners (physically manifestated as Pyramid Heads in SH2) still roam the town, and were specifically summoned to torture and deliver justice against James Sunderland for the sins against his dead wife, Mary Sunderland. However, Silent Hill's earliest origins are discussed in an article entitled 'Lost Memories', the name coming from a legend of the people whose land was stolen from them. The land was originally called "The Place of the Silenced Spirits", a clear indication of how Silent Hill's name was eventually borne. "Spirits" were said to be those of dead relatives, as well as the actual trees, rocks and the surrounding lake. According to legend, the holiest ceremonies took place here by its Native Americans and is clearly of very significant spiritual founding. Yet it was not the ancestors of those that reside in the town present day that 'stole' the land away from the natives, simply for some unknown reason its first residents abandoned their home, or vanished from existence. In 1880 Silent Hill's Brookhaven Hospital was built, in response to a great plague that followed a wave of immigration to the area. Originally little more than a shack for the injured and those dying from the plague, over time it gradually expanded. Immigration played a huge part in Silent Hill's evolution, developing it into a multi-cultural region where new visitors and tourists would be welcome, as well as the town's features making it particularly inviting.
One particular focal point is Toluca Lake and the infamous legend that has developed alongside it (most probably created and emphasised to further tourism trade). On a fogbound day in November 1918 (most probably the First World War had just reached its conclusion), the ship the 'Little Baroness' filled with tourists failed to return to port. An extensive police report and search found nothing, no trace of the ship nor its fourteen passengers and crew to this day. In 1939 an even stranger incident occurred, yet it is never revealed in the game. Suffice to say, most likely many more 'strange' unaccountable incidents have taken place at sporadic intervals of years gaining its reputation for tragedy. As the article in SH2 puts eloquently: 'Many corpses rest at the bottom of this lake. Their bony hands reach up towards the boats that pass overhead. Perhaps they reach for their comrades.' In the town's more modern history, at some point the cult of Silent Hill (seemingly led and orchestrated by Dahlia Gillespie) took its hold. This was accomplished by the manufacturing of a herbal plant indigenous to selected areas of Silent Hill. It appears that Dr. Kauffman who worked in the Alchemilla Hospital in Old Silent Hill was the person responsible for its manufacture and distribution.
The herbal plant, 'White Claudia' as it was known served purposes as an hallucinogenic drug that was extrememly addictive and which could control and manipulate the town's folk into submitting to the cult's plans. Ancient records showed that this 'White Claudia' was used in ancient religious ceremonies, the hallucinogen in the seeds being key. There is no more devastating example of its addictive power than the evidence shown by Lisa Garland's diary, a nurse who worked in the Alchemilla hospital and took care of the injured and comatose Alessa. A police investigation was being conducted by the resident department, yet the identity of the manufacturer which could lead them straight to the dealer proved fruitless. Soon after, suspicious deaths started to occur, a narcotics officer and most high profile, the mayor of Silent Hill who unsurprisingly held an anti-drug stance. All deaths however were concluded by the medical examiner as being of 'natural causes', typically sudden heart failure although no victims had a history of heart problems or had complained of such before their untimely deaths.
During this time, Dahlia Gillespie had her child Alessa Gillespie, the human vessel for Sammael's (the cult's God) soul. When the child reached 7yrs old, her mother (or at least by her order) burnt down the house they lived in while leaving her daughter trapped inside. The surviving comatose Alessa lay in her nightmare, and divided her dark soul in half which manifestated into a child. Harry Mason and his wife picked up this child, and for seven years the town remained in its relatively superficial 'normal' state. It was the return of the child, now called Cheryl that tore the fabric of reality in Silent Hill, awakening the old spiritual area and the Gods that lay forgotten. The town now existing in three alternate states of reality/dimensions, Silent Hill is a place that seems very much outside the spectrum of time, a town lost and forgotten where the power of the awakened Gods is all powerful. Powerful enough it seems, to call to people like James Sunderland who live outside the town yet is still in the sphere of its influence. By visiting Silent Hill just once or being in its proximity, a person is susceptible to it. In SH1, Cheryl feels compelled to visit. In SH2 James receives 'a letter' from his dead wife of 3yrs, yet the letter does not exist and the time passed since his wife died was in fact just barely a week. In SH3, Heather is drawn to visit by Claudia's malicious deeds, although it does appear that she is 'reliving' her father's past and the need to finish what he started.
The town is a receptacle for human pain and suffering, illustrated by its dark and foreboding history. Yet it is also a place of significant power and the possibility of life after death, of rebirth although at what price is unclear. Like all evil demonstrated in the games so far, nothing is ever just black and white, outrightly evil or good. It seems very much as if it is the human element that decides its fate and use....