Silent Hill designer clarifies that it’s snow, not ash, in Silent Hill

Silent Hill

Masahiro Ito clears up a Silent Hill misconception

Few horror series in games are as talked about or discussed as Silent Hill. And while there’s plenty of fascinating material in them, Masahiro Ito would like to clarify one point in particular: that’s snow, not ash, in Silent Hill.

Ito worked as a monster and background designer on the first Silent Hill, before going on to be art director for Silent Hill 2 and 3. You might wonder why, of all things, this clarification is important. Or maybe why it has to be clarified at all. For that, we’ll need to take a trip through Silent Hill history.

In the original 1999 game, white dots pepper the sky outside. There is a clear moment in game where, in dialogue, the characters address that it’s snowing outside. Ito posted the exact screenshot, saying he’s “tired of saying that tbh.” Which is understandable, as he’s had to clear this up before now, too.

Movie magic

So why is there a misconception at all? Well, Silent Hill would later be adapted into a film. This movie, which premiered in 2006, took some liberties with the source material. It combined pieces of several Silent Hill games, including Silent Hill 2‘s notorious Pyramid Head.

The film also took inspiration from real life. Reports from the time indicate screenwriter Roger Avary took inspiration from the real-life town of Centralia, Pennsylvania. A fire lit up an underground coal vein in Centralia, creating a danger zone and leaving a ghost town behind.

All this is to say, the town in the Silent Hill film was affected by smoke and ash due to a coal seam fire. And somehow this inspiration trickled downstream into the public knowledge subconscious and became a repeated misconception that Ito is clearing up.

“Many people still claim that the town of the SH1 (not the film but the original game) was inspired by Centralia and they boast the headcanon is the canon,” Ito writes. “They persistently question me as to the inspiration. This is the reason for this tweet. I just tweeted the truth.”

The real Silent Hill

ResetEra user Darkknight2149 compiled an exhaustive topic on this, diving into the refutations, and not just from Ito. There are additional screenshots confirming it’s snow in Silent Hill, and even quotes from Silent Hill creator Keiichiro Toyama about the game’s inspiration.

In an archived version of a 1999 interview with Toyama from PSM #19, he actively refutes it being based on a real U.S. town.

PSM: Why did you choose a small US town for the setting of the game? Is there a real Silent Hill?

Toyama: If you like modern horror novels, it would be easy to understand, but it’s the situation that you can’t miss. In this game, the modern horror novel atmosphere was the hook, so we decided to choose a small U.S. town for the setting. Of course, Silent Hill really does not exist, and we have not allocated a certain place or time in the game. We deliberately did not use an actual place, since it might cause inconsistency with the real thing. However, with the name Silent Hill, we got a hint from a real place in Japan.

So, please listen to the designer and artist that worked on the project, and please remember: it’s snow, not ash.

Eric Van Allen