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London's Hellraiser VHS mystery has been solved

An anonymous radio caller admits to maintaining the ‘exhibition’ that appeared mysteriously on bus shelters

Remember back in June when we reported on the curious case of Hellraiser VHS cassettes appearing atop South London bus stops? Commuters travelling along Old Kent Road on the top deck of buses first noticed a Hellraiser cassette on top of a shelter back in 2012. It was joined by two more last year, and one even appeared on top of a bus stop in Newington Green. Who was doing it? Was it Pinhead? Were the portals to Hell opening in SE1?

Today Radio 4 got in touch with us to give us a heads up: someone has come forward to shed a little light on the mystery, although the confessor has chosen to remain anonymous. On the Short Cuts show, during an episode called Rabbit Holes, dedicated to curious city monuments maintained by strangers, a nameless caller revealed why he or she became fascinated by the first Hellraiser VHS and adding more casettes to bus shelters all over south London.

"I started seeing it up there on my way to work," they explained. "That's if I got a seat on the top deck, in the left front side of the bus. I usually rode the 21 down the Old Kent Road. Hellraiser appeared more gruesome or evil looking then all the others to me as a child. I distinctly remember those VHS covers on the rack in the rental store staring me down. When I saw him glaring back up at me from this bus stop there was an unexpected scent of recognition or fear."

Describing themselves as a visual artist who wanted to create something outdoors, they picked December 21 (the same day as the supposed Mayan Apocalypse) as the start date for their "21 on 21" project. The concept is simple: 21 copies of the Hellraiser VHS to be made visible on the 21 bus route.

In an interesting piece of coincidence, Clive Barker spent $21,000 writing and making the first Hellraiser film. According to Bible Study, "Twenty-one symbolizes the great wickedness of rebellion and sin. After the children of Israel left Egyptian bondage they had 21 major rebellious events as they travelled and wandered the wilderness." So, the number seems to have a little history.

Recently, copies of other films such as Toy Story and Jack have also appeared on the Old Kent Road, but the creator of the "21 on 21" wants it to stop. "These others increase the chance of the top being cleared off so I'm not a fan. However, I did the same thing myself, so complaining at this point is futile. I just hope they stop."

However, not every mystery has been solved – namely, who was behind the initial Hellraiser tape.  "I don't know how or why that first Hellraiser appeared," said the caller. "There's a council estate right above this particular stop and maybe a kid or someone living there threw it off their flat. How do these odds-and-ends find themselves on bus stops?"

Good question. Cenobites?