The words “conspiracy theory” may set off alarm bells in the minds of anyone following the news over the past few years, but the Wendigoon YouTube channel, run by a 22-year-old man named Isaiah, is shockingly wholesome.
Most of his videos are simple — it’s just him sitting in a chair in front of a camera, usually wearing a whimsically patterned shirt, discussing some of the wildest phrases ever uttered in the English language (such as “your skin is an alien parasite” and “300 years of world history were just made up”) in the same way someone’s father might share a ghost story in front of a campfire.
In fact, in an interview with In The Know, Isaiah said that he considers his videos to be “internet campfire stories.”
Some of the posts he’s best known for are from his “iceberg” series. An iceberg chart is a graphic used to break down elements of a certain topic in the same way we think of literal icebergs — a little visible on the surface, but a massive amount underneath. At the top are the best-known, simple topics. As the graphic goes deeper, so do the topics until they become less known (and often darker).
Isaiah’s 21-part video series breaking down a massive 10-level iceberg from 4chan has garnered more than 16.5 million views. It took more than a year to complete, but what is perhaps more impressive is the way his channel has skyrocketed to popularity now that it is finished.
In early videos, he celebrated a number of milestones — having his channel monetized, scoring a few hundred subscribers and so on. Now he’s just shy of a million fans and has an agent. The channel exceeded the expectations he set for himself as a college student studying biology and hoping to dabble in YouTube on the side.
“Someone pointed out to me … there was a video [from March] where I’m like, ‘I’m so thankful for 3,000 subscribers.’ And I still am … it has been insane to see, to the point where it’s kind of a system shock,” he said of his humble beginnings and newfound fame. In fact, over the course of the interview, Isaiah expressed gratitude (and disbelief) regarding his success half a dozen times.
He has cemented himself as one of the most authoritative forces In a corner of the internet dominated by spooky voiceovers and dramatic visuals from channels like Nick Crowley and Nexpo. There, his upbeat demeanor and southern Appalachian accent stand out. He seems more like a Sunday School teacher than a YouTuber who specializes in horror, but he is both.
In a way, that sets the tone for his posts. He’s just a guy telling stories who also happens to do so thoroughly and responsibly enough to become wildly popular, conveying the outrageous nature of the subject matter without encouraging people to mobilize around it.
Isaiah shares all sorts of content on his channel, like one-off horror explainers, film analyses, miscellaneous icebergs, gaming content and so on, but his conspiracy videos are his biggest claim to fame.
As critics warn against the potential dangers of even the most outlandish conspiracies, Isaiah handles them with care — or rather, he holds them at arm’s length, dispenses them while leaning back in his chair and speaking casually, and treats them like ridiculous little campfire tales.
Once he got below the surface of the iceberg and past well-known theories like the Denver airport and the moon landing, his mission to understand the topics within the iceberg required a lot more than a simple Google search. He does all of his own research and treats each conspiracy like a puzzle that he must solve.
“In research for one video, I had to find a link about a term that was mentioned on a 4chan thread in 2014, go to the Wayback Machine, copy that link, then translate the text from binary. Doing that stuff, I’m like … this is my stuff. This is what I love doing,” Isaiah said, dodging swear words not because his video might get demonetized, but because he’s a Christian.
He spends a lot of time on 4chan — a message board site that has been tied to so many negative events that one might assume it’s best to stay far away from it to keep conspiracies from “going real-life” — but Isaiah has found a surprisingly charming community there.
Like any other social media site, there are people posting in good faith and in bad faith. The worst of the worst are the ones who make headlines, and rightly so. 4chan has been justly criticized for its failure to moderate hateful rhetoric, but for those who are willing to navigate around that side of the site, there’s more there.
“‘Conspiracy theory’ is a bad word in normal conversation. And I understand why. I get it. But whenever [mainstream media] refers to anonymous conspiracy theory stuff, it’s always as a way to target and vilify [the people behind them],” Isaiah said. “So then I come along, and I’m like, ‘Isn’t this neat?’ And it’s like the first time an outsider has talked about these theories … without demonizing them. The general consensus [among 4chan users] is ‘this is the first time we’ve been mentioned in a non-negative light.’”
He told In The Know that he once encountered a photo of himself on a board along with a note instructing viewers not to attack him, which he found remarkably endearing. Since his original conspiracy iceberg material originated on 4chan’s /x/ board, he frequently browsed the posts in which people discussed some of the topics on the iceberg.
“What you have to understand about 4chan and sites like that is that it’s comedically vilified. Yeah, it’s an anonymous message board, and yeah, they can say some awful words. But it’s literally just an anonymous message board,” he explained.
Since 4chan is anonymous, people don’t always know who is asking what question. He said that one time after he inquired about a topic, some users assured him that “Wendigoon will cover that in the next episode.” But, of course, he is Wendigoon, so then he has to solve the mystery without 4chan’s help so he doesn’t let them down.
Isaiah is often asked why he doesn’t just find the creator of the original iceberg post to help him decode it. He has reached out, of course, and what happened was wild enough to be an entry in itself.
The creator ended up finding him and praising him via email for his good work. When Isaiah asked him for more information to help him complete the video series, the creator’s answer was complicated.
“He was like, ‘Yeah, I’m kind of hiding in Europe right now, and I’m having trouble getting back to the United States, and all of my information is on a hard drive in a safe deposit vault. But if I get back any time soon, I’ll be sure to send it.’ He never replied after that,” Isaiah explained.
Of course, with a couple of inconsequential misfires along the way, Isaiah explained the whole iceberg without the creator’s help. He said he’d be down to go full National Treasure 3 if the creator ever sends him any more information, though.
It’s that kind of mindset — the one that has a young man ready and willing go on a quest through the depths of the internet so he can accurately represent campfire stories with his nearly 1 million subscribers just for the fun of it — that makes indulging in conspiracy theories a little bit fun again.
He’s mindful of his presentation — the talking head format, the accent, the fun shirts — when it comes to sharing this information. He’s not, as he said, “screaming in the aisles of 7-Eleven” about conspiracies. He wants them to be enjoyed as works of fiction, and that means they have to be carefully done.
“I don’t like the majority of conspiracy theories. I understand that they’re political and stuff … but really, they’re a lot of fun too,” he explained. “If you go in with the idea that you’re there for entertainment and not to learn something of intrinsic value, I think you can open yourself up to a lot of really cool experiences.”
So, does Isaiah believe in any of these conspiracies, though? A few, and he promises they’re safe.
“I definitely unironically believe that giants exist,” he said. “It’s a meme on my channel, but … it’s super biblical. Every single nation and old-world empire has their stories about how they were killed off and what happened to their bones.”
Don’t get him started on Hollow Earth or what’s going on with Antarctica, though. Or do — you’ll just want to start with the first level of the iceberg.
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