True Story, Issue #23

"The Sixteenth Tape" by Sean Madigan Hoen

True Story, Issue #23

A self-proclaimed collector of strange media comes into possession of a home video that was never meant to be viewed and wonders what—if anything—is too private to be shared in the digital age.

From "The Sixteenth Tape" by Sean Madigan Hoen

The meeting took place at an apartment in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. This guy—I’ll call him Hank Fruscat—had invited six friends, young men in their midtwenties, selected for their prurient sympathies and loose scruples. This criterion was a measure of caution. No prudes should be present, no people of faith. “You need to be there, I have something to show you,” was all Hank told them. Once all six men were gathered in his living room, Hank explained that he’d found a video, that he’d had nothing to do with its creation but felt compelled to share it. He held up a VHS cassette. The men sat on Hank’s couch or on chairs pulled in from the kitchen, sensing unease in the air, in Hank’s nervous laughter as he inserted the cassette into the VCR and pressed play. It’s also my impression, based on what I was told, that by the end of the screening three of Hank’s oldest friends were in serious doubt about his moral fortitude while two were giddy with shock, and one, my best friend Will, was already angling to get ahold of the tape for the purposes of repeat viewing.

This was the summer of 2005.

I didn’t know Hank well. Certainly not well enough to be invited to the screening. He was a bro with a backward baseball cap, but a bro who liked Hüsker Dü and the Pixies. He’d recently graduated from college with a business degree and was applying what he’d learned to his house-painting company while expanding into other ventures, mainly buying up cheap Detroit real estate. A young entrepreneur. That’s the extent of what I knew about Hank Fruscat. The first I learned of the videotape was when Will phoned me the day after Hank’s gathering and told me to prepare to have my psychology rearranged.

“This is no joke,” he said. “I’ve got something you need to see.”

BONUS! Listen to our "The Sixteenth Tape" Spotify playlist while you read! Or, browse our other True Story playlists.