There once was a website called Katharsis. That word comes from ancient Greek. It means purging or cleansing.
The original Katharsis was started in 1987 in print form as a mail order product created by John Randall—not his real name. What began as a primitive homemade collection of stories and images sent on paper to subscribers by way of the United States Postal Service became a website that John Randall kept producing for about 20 years.
The intended audience was college-educated adult males--professionals in the fields of the military, religion, medicine, law, education, and business. As this animated image from the original website demonstrates, the purpose of the site was to provide the audience with guilt-free therapeutic release of emotional or psychological and physical tensions through viewing of fantasy-oriented fiction and images online. The unifying theme was an unbridled and joyful celebration of male victim fantasies. The fantasy situations depicted included a wide range from ancient Roman gladiators, Greek soldiers, human slavery, torture and castration, dismemberment, hangings, beheadings, prisoners of war, executions, revenge or thrill killings, to other extreme and highly controversial behaviors.
The Man Who Created Katharsis: John Randall
Just before Christmas 2008, I was in contact by email with a man who called himself John Randall. It was a pen name. I never learned his true identity of this man who cloaked himself in mystery.
The emails that I received from this mysterious man stand out as the single most unforgettable holiday season email I have ever received over some 60+ years of life. Instead of sending the usual holiday cheer, this odd man confided to me in his email that he was about to commit suicide.
He seemed to me to be a very bizarre person. Why would I believe anything that he told me in his emails?
If a writer had created John Randall as a fictional character, they would have given him a home in an isolated area far away from most people. They would have written about his life living in a trailer in a remote Mojave Desert town called Pahrump, Nevada. Even the name of that town sounds fabricated, doesn't it?
Of course, Google Maps can validate that there truly is location in the state of Nevada called Pahrump. Wikipedia can provide additional details about this odd-sounding town, including one famous resident—a third co-founder of Apple Computers (Ronald Gerald Wayne). Wayne is known to have dropped off the grid while two other guys behind Apple Computers went on to become extraordinarily rich and famous.
John Randall told me Ronald Gerald Wayne was his rommate in a trailer in Pahrump, Nevada. I never could verify whether this was true or false, but at one point in time, the name R. Gerald Wayne was listed on the Katharsis website.
When I dug a little deeper to learn more about Pahrump, Nevada I was able to discover a tantalizing tale about a large amount of silver buried in Pahrump, Nevada by the legendary Las Vegas casino owner, Ted Binion, who died mysteriously in 1998. There is a twisted story behind the buried treasure and Binion's death unrelated to John Randall or Katharsis.
At first I was merely someone who paid for John Randall's primitive printed product that was mailed to me. I eventually convinced John Randall to post some of my digital illustrations on the Katharsis website.
He came to trust me. He started sending me emails which revealed aspects of his personal life. During 2003, I received several digital photographs in email from John Randall purporting to show a Plexiglas window of the Pahrump trailer in which a mysterious object had become embedded. He wrote with certain conviction in emails sent to me about his fear that the embedded object (yes, it was silvery in color and had a slender, futuristic look) might just be of extraterrestrial origin or from the future.
If this had been a science fiction story, perhaps the true identity of the co-founder of Apple Computers was at the core of John Randall's misfortunes. Perhaps the co-founder of Apple Computers was actually from the future or from another world. How could any mere mortal from this small blue planet ever have helped invent something as advanced as the Apple Computer!? Perhaps that silvery object embedded in the Plexiglas was, indeed, a communications device that enabled communication with an extraterrestrial civilization.
The man who claimed to me to be John Randall admitted that he had been abruptly kicked out of that Pahrump, Nevada trailer by his roommate following the arrival of that futuristic technology stuck in the trailer window. After John Randall relocated from Nevada to Florida, he wrote this to me: "...my eyesight has returned but other problems have conspired to make today possibly the day ... if you do not hear from me by Christmas, assume I have died..."
That was that last I ever heard from him.
In his final email to me from 2008, John Randall wrote this: "...my situation is this, I have not been able to find a place to stay, Florida is dragging its feet getting me food stamps and Medicaid ... I'm staying with my uncle but he wants me out ASAP, no later than Christmas day... he wants me out today ... since I have no place to go, and I'm deaf and intermittently blind, I would be beaten up and starve on the street, so I choose to take an overdose of my diabetes medicine ... that will put me into a non-recoverable coma ..."
John Randall provided me with an FTP log-in that enabled me to access a server in the state of Nevada that he claimed had been the web host for the original Kartharsis site. I half expected to find the secret missing files of Daniel Ellsberg.
I remember Martin of Holland had emailed me during 2008 with what seemed to be a very wise warning: Martin explained that John Randall was a former Roman Catholic priest, and, for that and other valid reasons was not someone to be believed or trusted.
Also at that same time, I remember reading comments from others posted on Google Groups about their experience of having been burned by John Randall usually connected to an artist or writer being ripped off. Apparently, in his pursuit to publish extreme content about castration, impalement, secret military executions, and other brutalities, John Randall felt he could do whatever he wanted with other people's intellectual property. While he posted some of my original illustrations years ago on the old Katharsis site, he never tried to claim that my work was his.
*** See a gallery of images from the John Randall Katharsis site which was also posted online under the domain names of ballscutoff.com and johnrandall.com.
I produced and operated a reimagined second-coming of Katharsis starting in January 2015. The total number of visitors from 2015 to 2016 was disappointingly low. The reimagined site which was named Katharsis.xxx could not be sustained as a business due to the very low audience participation. After one full year of operation, I had to shut down that site. However, you can see a representative collection of images I posted on the reimagined Katharsis site:
I maintained a focus upon the original target audience for Katharsis: College-educated adult males—professionals around the world in the fields of the military, religion, medicine, law, education, and business. The unifying theme was an unbridled and joyful celebration of male victim fantasies.
The value of the relaunched Katharsis was that it continued to provide the target audience with guilt-free therapeutic release of emotional or psychological and physical tensions through viewing of fantasy-oriented fiction and images online. How I depict highly masculine men online today directly descends from the storytelling and imagery that I observed on the original Katharsis site during the 1990s. I'm convinced that the low audience numbers in the second decade of the 21st century proved that there is no longer a need for the Katharsis site nowadays. My creative works in the present day certainly have surpassed what was once considered distasteful and offensive on Katharsis during the 20th century.
The fantasy situations depicted within all versions of Katharsis included a wide range from ancient Roman gladiators, Greek soldiers, human slavery, torture and castration, dismemberment, hangings, beheadings, prisoners of war, executions, revenge or thrill killings, to other extreme and highly controversial behaviors.
One visitor to Katharsis.xxx wrote: "Katharsis not only titillated gay men for whom executions and execution fantasies are erotic. It also let us know that we are not alone and that we are not mentally ill."