author: Madeira Desouza
The Man Who Created Katharsis
In the late 1980s John Randall—not his real name—created Katharsis as a primitive (amateurish looking) collection of black-and-white printed-out and photocopied stories and images sent on paper to subscribers through the mails.
You can download a 1989 issue of the Katharsis Project Newsletter:
Eventually Katharsis became a website that John Randall kept producing for two decades. You can download two representative examples of illustrated stories that appeared on the Katharsis website:
John Randall gave me complete and unrestricted control over the content and distribution of Katharsis. Then he killed himself.
I could not find evidence he paid for or filed legally-binding documents to protect either the copyright or trademark so this all remains in the public domain.
The intended audience can best be identified as college-educated adult males—professionals in the fields of the military, religion, medicine, law, education, and business. The purpose of the Katharsis content was clear: To provide guilt-free therapeutic release for men brought on by viewing of fantasy-oriented fiction and images online. The unifying theme is an unbridled and joyful celebration of men in peril. This content never was about loving relationships between men. The fantasy situations depicted include a wide range of storytelling tropes from ancient Roman gladiators, Greek warriors, uniformed men (cops, firemen and soldiers), human slaves, torturing, castrating and dismembering men, and hangings, beheadings, prisoners of war, executions, and revenge or thrill killings to other even more extreme and highly controversial behaviors.
The Mystery Man
Just before Christmas 2008, I was in contact by email with a man who called himself John Randall. I believe that was his 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 communication I have ever received spanning many decades of adult life. Instead of sending the usual cheerful and uplifting sentiments for the festive season, 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.
Far Beyond Strange
He came to trust me. He started sending me emails which revealed aspects of his personal life—stuff I never wanted to know about. 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 or an episode of The X Files, 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 brilliantly advanced and addictive as the Apple Computer!? Perhaps that silvery object embedded in the Plexiglas was, indeed, a communications device that enabled communication with an extraterrestrial civilization.
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 …”
21st Century Katharsis Archives
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. There I found archives containing Katharsis material dating back in time to 2008. I felt the responsibility to preserve and distribute what John Randall had set in motion so many years ago.
The European underground artist Martin of Holland had emailed me during 2008 with a warning: Martin explained that John Randall was a former Roman Catholic priest, and, for that and other reasons was not someone to be trusted.
Also during this same period of time, I had seen comments from others posted within 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 without providing any credit to them. One writer who used the pseudonym Moses Philstein told me that John Randall demonstrated a lack of necessary skills to pay attention to the intellectual property of others. I did not experience this personally. While John Randall posted some of my original illustrations on the old Katharsis site, he never tried to claim that my work was his.
author and artist: Madeira Desouza
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, it is unfortunate that I had to shut down that site.
While the reborn Katharsis site lasted, I maintained a focus upon the original target audience: 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 men in peril.
The value of the original and relaunched Katharsis sites were that they 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.”
Here you can download memories of the relaunched Katharsis site:
Here are representatives images that appeared in the print version and the original website version of Katharsis: