At 10:26 p.m. on April 22, two people using the moniker Butcher Cult went live on Facebook with horror-film-inspired obscenity. At the height of the night, they attracted around 4,000 simultaneous viewers.
The performers licked, ate and wielded a butcher knife. One got off on a pickaxe. They shrieked and giggled and convulsed in terror for more than an hour, the whole time inviting people to join the Butcher Cult.
The spectacle drew in more than 200,000 viewers and collected more than 27,000 comments before midnight Mountain Daylight Time.
According to the cynical adage, if it bleeds, it leads. And these two men dominated Facebook — a medium that has banned hate groups and punishes self-promotion, but somehow let this shrieking, bloody act of narcissism continue live for an hour, as some viewers pledged to report it to the company and others to the police and the FBI.
Some in the audience were baffled, others repulsed, and many played along with the monstrous antics of the performers. The broadcast first appeared in my Facebook feed in the Denver Music Scene Facebook group, where somebody had shared it. It quickly spread well beyond Denver.
As thousands watched, a man wearing white spandex over his body and face, all coated in splattered blood, dominated the static, vertical image, walking in and out of a closet, convulsing, saying in a creepy voice, “My name is Nick. My father’s name is David.” He described incest and masturbated the pickaxe handle, rubbing himself and even mock sodomizing himself with it.
Again and again, he would throw himself on the floor in front of the closet, occasionally walk into the closet, hide for a bit, make orgasmic noises, fondle the closet door and come back out, only to roll around and talk more about the cult and how we are watching him and he is watching us.
Every now and then, another performer, slightly less in control and wearing black and white full-body spandex, would enter the frame — sometimes with a terrifying jester puppet — and invite the viewers to join the Butcher Cult and to follow the group on Instagram.
The whole show was reminiscent of something that ’60s rebel Otto Muehl and his avant-garde performance troupe the Viennese Material Aktionists might have concocted had they been around during the age of Facebook. With a constant stream of viewers weighing in, the punishing spectacle became a community event, where strangers joked together and basked in the horror — and definite awkwardness — of what they were bearing witness to.
Immediately after the broadcast, I reached out to the two performers, and they promptly wrote back, declining to give their names. “We would rather keep our identities safe. But we are Denver based we are internet entertainers and are on the verge of something HUGE. Yes would love to do an interview,” they wrote.
So I sent them my number, and they called me around midnight from an unidentified number, never breaking cackling, creepy character as I awkwardly asked them questions. They were hardly forthcoming. Between the maniacal laughter, the whispers and screams, I could hardly tell their voices apart — but did my best to distinguish them in the transcript below.
[My phone rings.]
Westword: Kyle here.
Nick: Hello, Kyle.
Eric: Hello. Hi, Kyle.
Nick: So what do you want?
Tell me what's going on? What's this project?
Eric: It's for the world to find out.
Nick: Were you watching, Kyle?
I watched all but the first three minutes of it.
Nick: I was watching. I was watching you.
Eric: So you want to do an interview on us, Kyle?
Nick: When and where?
Right now, if that works. On the phone, if possible.
Nick and Eric [making pouty noises]: Ohhhhhhh... Ummmm... Ohhhhh... Ummmm...
Nick: Like a place and time?
Eric: Don't you want to see us on FaceTime or something?
Um...I can make that work, I think...
Eric: Oh...you have a Galaxy S9, Kyle.
Nick: You have an iPhone. You can FaceTime us.
Nick: Nothing, Kyle.
Eric: Nothing, Kyle. Don't worry about it.
Is this project new?
Nick: It started today.
Eric: What time did we do that live at?
Eric: It started at 10:26, Kyle.
10:26! There you go.
Nick: Good job, Kyle.
Talk about the outfits...
Nick: What outfits?
Nick: What are you talking about, Kyle? Do you think this is a joke, Kyle?
I don't know. Is it?
Eric: Do you think this is a goddamned joke?
Nick: Kyle, a costume? Is a suit a costume? Does a businessman wear a costume?
Eric: Let me ask you a goddamned question: If a firefighter runs into a burning building, is he wearing a costume?
Nick: Does he have a goddamned costume?
Eric: Kyle, what were you saying?
Nick: He's got a lot to learn. He's got a goddamned lot to learn.
Talk about what's coming up next for you all.
Nick: What's coming up? Well, you follow our Instagram. We're accepting 78,000 people to join the Butcher Cult.
Eric: Yeah, but no more. Don't tell too many people, you idiot.
Nick: No. But enough. You've got to tell just enough. What's your next question?
You say you have something big coming up. Can you talk about that?
Nick: Oh, it's huge, Kyle. Huge. There's gonna be an announcement tomorrow night. A big one, Kyle. It's going to be huge.
And how did you feel it went tonight?
Nick: The view? It went great.
Were you expecting such a big response?
Nick: I got off. I got off.
Eric: He came, and I watched.
Nick: It was a success, Kyle.
Do you have names?
Eric: Yes. My name is Eric, and my accomplice's name is Nick.
Nick: My name is Nick, and my father's name is David.
And who's David?
Nick [screaming]: My father! His name is David!
And what's your relationship with David like?
Nick: Confusing. Very confusing.
Eric: They're cool now. They've been kicking it back very recently.
Nick: We play Madden every now and again.
Eric: Did you follow us on the ’gram?
Yes. I did.
Eric: Welcome to the cult.
[They cackle, hang up and call back in a few minutes.]
Eric: Did you have time to think about our offer?
Eric: Are you in or not?
I'm following along.
Nick: That's what I like to hear, Kyle. That one's complete.
Can you talk about your attitude toward social media?
Nick: I don't know what that means. Are you talking about how we get off? My favorite social-media site is Pornhub.
Eric: That ain't bad. I read the comments.
And how old are you?
Eric: Old enough.
Is your background in art or something else?
Nick: We've always been entertaining.
Eric: Oh, and we went to the L.A. Stunt School, too, kid.
Nick: We will tell you we have a big purpose and something huge coming.
Nick: Nobody was going to get hurt. Nobody is going to get hurt in this. But it's gonna draw a lot of eyes.
How long do you imagine this going on for?
Eric: The cult lives forever.
Eric: Forever and ever.
Nick: And ever.
Eric: And one more.
Nick: Did you get every one? Are you in or not?
I don't join anything, but I do follow. Have you done other projects before this one?
Nick: Maybe. Maybe not.
Eric: Maybe this is our first rodeo. Maybe it's not.
What part of Denver are you based out of?
Nick: We run the city.
Anything else you want to say about the project?
Eric: Stay tuned.
Nick: Stay tuned.
Eric: Will this be featured anywhere? What are you doing with this conversation?
I'll do something with the whole thing, probably in the morning, at Westword.
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Eric: Okay. Hope you have sweet dreams, Kyle [cackles].
[They hang up.]
...I'll do my best.