"For the first time we have risen, and I see we are being consumed. I see circles that are not circles. Billions of dead souls inside containment. Unravellers have eaten country's moral fabric, turning hearts into filth. I'm from a kingdom level above human. What does that yield? A hokey smile that damns an entire nation. There is no hope."
This is what happens when bizarre phrases, Non Sequiturs
, and random successions of words are used and arranged either to be frightening on their own or to imply that something sinister is going on behind the scenes. The Word Salad
might result from some supernatural alteration of local reality, a Nightmare Sequence
, a drug-induced hallucination, an Eldritch Abomination
oblivious to the fact that this is not
how those Puny Earthlings
actually talk, and many other myriad causes.
The opposite of Word Salad Humor
. Compare and contrast Cryptic Conversation
, with which this trope frequently overlaps. Subtrope of Surreal Horror
- Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol was full of this, either people ranting crazy things, or monstrosities themselves spewing crazy words.
- Also from Grant Morrison is Professor Pyg, a villain introduced during his run on Batman. He's a somewhat more realistic depiction of insanity than most of Batman's foes in that most of what he says is complete gibberish.
- The Fog (1980). While Stevie Wayne is playing station promos on a tape recorder, supernatural things start to happen and the tape recorder plays a bizarre message.
Something that one lives with like an albatross round the neck. No, more like a millstone. A plumbing stone, by God. Damn them all.
- Played with at the end of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. We, the audience, know exactly what Francis' deranged shouting means, but to everyone else, it comes across as this.
- In the original short story, Mike's recordings becomes this ("My brother was actually eaten by wolves one winter on the Connecticut Turnpike") though it sometimes makes sense in context.note
- The room's 'conversation' with Mike Enslin is made of random sentences and series of numbers that add up to 13.
"Five. This is five. Ignore the sirens. Even if you leave this room, you can NEVER leave this room. Eight. This is eight. We have killed your friends. Every friend is now dead. Six. This is six."
- Naked Lunch. So, so much.
I was standing outside myself trying to stop those hangings with ghost fingers... I am a ghost wanting what every ghost wants-a body-after the Long Time moving through odorless alleys of space where no life is, only the colorless no smell of death...Nobody can breathe and smell it through pink convolutions of gristle laced with crystal snot, time shit and black blood filters of flesh.
- In Arthur C. Clarke's short story "Playback", the protagonist is a disembodied intelligence recorded by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens when his ship blew up. The aliens offer to reconstruct a body for him, but the protagonist's attempt to describe what he looks like dissolves into incoherent babble as the imperfect recording breaks down.
- In The Man Who Was Thursday, Sunday begins sending inexplicable messages that terrify the members of the council:
“Fly at once. The truth about your trouser-stretchers is known.—A FRIEND.”
- Any scene in Twin Peaks that takes place in the Black Lodge turns into this. While there's usually some meaning behind what's being said, it's done in a very obfuscating manner.
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty features this as part of its memorable ending, with the Colonel suddenly spouting off bizarre nonsense over the codec to Raiden. This is the first indication that it's a fake AI Colonel.
Colonel: I hear it's amazing when the famous purple stuffed worm in flap-jaw space with the tuning fork does a raw blink on Hari Kiri Rock. I need scissors! 61!
- Max Payne:
- When Max is tripping on Valkyr in the first game (the prologue to part 3), he receives a "prank call" (in his dream), wherein the caller just spouts creepy nonsense at him, until Max puts the phone back down. For extra creepiness, just a bit later, Max receives another call, wherein the caller tries to explain to him that he has been drugged. Max proceeds to call it nonsense in exactly the same words as before and put the phone down.
"...bartender shiny stuff and dreams are made of stooped necromancers. He sings like a banana wrist having strayed too close to the constellations on their shaved skulls. The rain of frogs ended and the rain of blood comes down. Doing their lips and then I'll be gone! The city was an image, riding the bar. He yearns to get a taste of those tentacles..."
- The Twin Peaks-esque Show Within a Show "Address Unknown", whose episodes are scattered throughout games one and two, is all about this.
- The "Taken" enemies in Alan Wake spout this constantly. The words usually seem to have something to do with the possessed individual's former life, but they do not appear to comprehend the sense behind their words. Sometimes skirts the line between horror and Narm.
Fisherman: Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your heart!
- Tsukihime has several pages of this while Shiki is bedridden in Hisui's route.
- SCP Foundation has several:
- Happens all the time on Welcome To Night Vale, particularly when Cecil reads advertisements, notices, or whatever else he is handed by others in the studio. A Running Gag is for Cecil to announce "a word from our sponsors," and then read an "advertisement" consisting of an extremely surreal Word Salad Horror passage, followed by the name and slogan of a real-world company such as Audible.com or Home Depot. For bonus creepy points, sometimes the real slogan is followed by a nightmarish variation on the same phrase.
As their slogan famously says, "A thousand ways in, no way out. Subway. Eat fresh. Eat so terribly, terribly fresh. Terribly, awesomely, gruesomely, terrifyingly fresh."
- The Slender Man Mythos features this frequently, particularly when dealing with totheark. For instance, his name comes from the phrase "lead me to the ark" from his videos in the Marble Hornets series. No indication is given as to what "ark" is being referenced, nor why he wishes to be taken there.