The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

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Cookie Sep 26, 2014 @ 10:18am
Ending discussion [WARNING: HEAVY SPOILERS]
Greetings! Could anyone please explain me the ending? Ty!
Last edited by AdrianChm; Sep 27, 2014 @ 6:40pm
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Daedalus Sep 25, 2014 @ 10:36pm 
Ending discussion (big spoilers so avoid if you haven't finished)
First off - fantastic work developers! A wonderfully created bite sized game that doesn't overstay its welcome and lingers in the mind like a good film.

Now onto my thoughts - the ending no doubt will have a lot of people on the fence as it doesn't end definitively but leaves much room for thought so below is my interpretation.

At the end it is revealed that Ethan has inadvertently trapped himself in his secret room whilst the house is burning down around him (accidentally caused) whilst his family is frantically trying to put it out. He meanwhile lies curled up sleeping (or passed out from smoke inhalation).

We also learn that the existence of the player, Paul Prospero, psychic detective, is a made up one - concocted in Ethan's mind as with all the other murders and stories. Why does this boy have all these nasty stories in his head? Both because he's highly imaginative and also his family doesn't treat him very well so it's a result of the pent-up anger and frustration which are undertones throughout the game.

And even though there is this sinister Cthulu-eque vibe going on it ties nicely with the theme of "sleeping" and "waking up". Ethan is the Sleeper.

It's a little bit bittersweet because a) his family really does care for him (trying to save his life)
b) he's going to die from carbon monoxide poisoning - the Sleeper doesn't awaken after all
c) alternatively if you're an optimist they will save him and he'll wake (thus his stories/ ideas of his family will change)


Anybody else have any other interesting thoughts? :)
Last edited by Daedalus; Sep 25, 2014 @ 10:39pm
Gary Dozer Sep 25, 2014 @ 10:54pm 
Well, certainly the game leaves some thoughts unfinished.

Definitely there is some meaning behing "Corvus" or crow. I guess it is a symbol of an approaching death repeated almost in every main-story puzzle.
I have a thought that Paul Prospero could represent death himself.
I didn't get much sense out of:
1. pictures of victims in the cellar.
2. letters and newspapers
I don't see how side-stories represent Ethan's experience.

I guess I have to play it all through again...
Dozeworthy Sep 26, 2014 @ 1:38am 
Is it just me or is "story with supernatural or fantasy elements turns out to take place in the imagination of a child" incredibly cliche?
Last edited by Dozeworthy; Sep 26, 2014 @ 1:38am
PARALYSIS Sep 26, 2014 @ 5:27am 
(SPOILERS) Just completed the game, although I'm confused about the story?
The game took me seven hours to complete. Atmospheric and aesthetically pleasing. Although, I can't seem to connect the dots (see what I did there?), and understand what the heck is going on besides we have to find Ethan Carter. I did put in the time to read all the notes and all newpaper articles and although this did fill in some information,I am still confused about a few things:

1. Who is the sleeper and what does (it?) do ?
2. What are the relationships like between each member of the family as seen within the last cutscene for example and how do these dysfunctional relationships result in the nefarious actions of murdering each other?
2. Why did Ethan's family not support him and what did they not support him about?
3. Why did that 'man' kill himself with scissors? (Sorry, dont' know who he is).
4. WHO WAS I? I know I was an investigator, but was I real!? At the end of the game Ethan said he created me or something like that and he will now continue writing another story. Does that mean he is still alive!?


Surely some others are confused as I am. No, I do not see some of these questions as 'common sense' If you want to go down that path (see what I did there once again? ;) ). We all learn and understand things in many different ways.
Last edited by PARALYSIS; Sep 26, 2014 @ 5:30am
daZZY Sep 26, 2014 @ 5:36am 
i cant seem to find ethan, ive done the mine cutscene where u move the shapes and u goto the monster at bottom and read the page and thats it, no where else to explore now.
PARALYSIS Sep 26, 2014 @ 5:37am 
Hey, feel free to add me, perhaps I can give you some hints, I don't mind helping out :)
Originally posted by daZZY:
i cant seem to find ethan, ive done the mine cutscene where u move the shapes and u goto the monster at bottom and read the page and thats it, no where else to explore now.
Lord Weh Sep 26, 2014 @ 5:48am 
SPOILERS! - I'll answer these questions as best I can, the thread is marked spoiler, the answers are spoilers, if you haven't finished the game or don't want spoilers, DON'T READ THIS!

1 - The sleeper is Ethan, it's him sleeping / dreaming from the toxic smoke from the fire at the end.

2 - Ethan is an introverted child interested in reading and writing fantastical stories. His family don't support his creativity, they sigh when he shows them his stories, and they put them aside and tell him they will read them later. His stories are escapist fantasies.

They DON'T murder each other, in reality. The whole game is a toxic fantasy constructed in Ethan's mind and through the stories he wrote. He felt his family hated him, he built up a fantasy whereby his family are acting this way because of an alien, outside force.

At the end, his family are alive, trying to help put out the fire to save Ethan. They just were abusive and non-supportive to him, making Ethan seek out his escapist fantasies.

3 - The man was Ethan's father, Dale, he killed himself to be free of 'The Sleeper' (Ethan's dream). He felt that this would stop 'feeding the sleeper', but your character, Paul Prospero, mentioned that it failed, the sleeper still feeds off the anger and agony. Again, the sleeper is Ethan, it's his unconscious self creating a dark world fueled by the abuse / lack of support / passive aggressiveness members of his family direct at him.

4 - The character you play, Paul Prospero, is a fictional creation of Ethan's. The game is Ethan's dreamworld, reflecting the reality he lived in through his science fiction and fantasy writing. You never existed, only in Ethan's mind and stories. Ethan may or may not be alive, he is trapped in the burning building, falling into unconsciousness through the smoke. His family are trying to put out the flames.
sinφ Sep 26, 2014 @ 5:50am 
Originally posted by Lord Weh:
SPOILERS! - I'll answer these questions as best I can, the thread is marked spoiler, the answers are spoilers, if you haven't finished the game or don't want spoilers, DON'T READ THIS!

Very clear and well said!
Last edited by sinφ; Sep 26, 2014 @ 5:51am
PARALYSIS Sep 26, 2014 @ 5:58am 
Woah, thank you kindly, Lord Weh. This has cleared things up for me thoroughly and I do hope it helps many others. Although, I fear that some people may be curious and try to test their luck by hovering over our spoilers (I hope I don't unintentioanlly spoil the game for these people). How do you know all this? Have you read a third party source or are these your own thoughts? Either way, very clever.

I do have just one more question that has arose that perhaps you may know: when you are within the mine, you can read a letter about a patent...do you know the contextual background of such a letter and what was going on within it?

Thank you once again.
Originally posted by Lord Weh:
SPOILERS! - I'll answer these questions as best I can, the thread is marked spoiler, the answers are spoilers, if you haven't finished the game or don't want spoilers, DON'T READ THIS!

1 - The sleeper is Ethan, it's him sleeping / dreaming from the toxic smoke from the fire at the end.

2 - Ethan is an introverted child interested in reading and writing fantastical stories. His family don't support his creativity, they sigh when he shows them his stories, and they put them aside and tell him they will read them later. His stories are escapist fantasies.

They DON'T murder each other, in reality. The whole game is a toxic fantasy constructed in Ethan's mind and through the stories he wrote. He felt his family hated him, he built up a fantasy whereby his family are acting this way because of an alien, outside force.

At the end, his family are alive, trying to help put out the fire to save Ethan. They just were abusive and non-supportive to him, making Ethan seek out his escapist fantasies.

3 - The man was Ethan's father, Dale, he killed himself to be free of 'The Sleeper' (Ethan's dream). He felt that this would stop 'feeding the sleeper', but your character, Paul Prospero, mentioned that it failed, the sleeper still feeds off the anger and agony. Again, the sleeper is Ethan, it's his unconscious self creating a dark world fueled by the abuse / lack of support / passive aggressiveness members of his family direct at him.

4 - The character you play, Paul Prospero, is a fictional creation of Ethan's. The game is Ethan's dreamworld, reflecting the reality he lived in through his science fiction and fantasy writing. You never existed, only in Ethan's mind and stories. Ethan may or may not be alive, he is trapped in the burning building, falling into unconsciousness through the smoke. His family are trying to put out the flames.
Lord Weh Sep 26, 2014 @ 6:16am 
Thanks! No worries, I love games that explore interesting stories like this.

These are my own thoughts as I was exploring the game. I first thought the 'alien ship' was really weird near the start... then when you get to the attic of the house across the dam, there's a load of books in the attic... H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, H.P. Lovecraft... These are clearly books that Ethan must have read whilst in the attic of the house. The stories he writes are all inspired by these authors, each unconnected other than by 'The Sleeper' (Ethan).

The mines section and the rituals are inspired by Lovecraft, the spaceship by H.G. Wells, the paranormal detective (the player character) is a pulp genre staple.

As for the patent letter... I'm not 100% sure on that, but my take on it was that one of Ethan's family was trying to patent lots of things in an attempt to make money off of selling the rights to certain inventions / ideas, and the patent office sent basically a cease and desist as he'd tried so many times with ideas they refused to patent and then he challenged each one, wasting their time. I suspect this is another cog in the machine of Ethan's family's frustration, not specific to Ethan himself, but just another reason for them to be bitter and to take it out on Ethan, a young and inventive mind. Perhaps part of their annoyance at Ethan is jealousy at the fact he's creative and curious, whilst they struggle with their own lot in life.


Again, these are just my thoughts I've put together whilst playing, if anyone has a different take on the events, I'm certainly open to hearing it!
PARALYSIS Sep 26, 2014 @ 6:20am 
You studied Literature or something didn't you? :P As the game grows older, hopefully more theories will arise. I would have loved to hear what you would've said about the ending of Bioshock Infinite, ha!
Originally posted by Lord Weh:
Thanks! No worries, I love games that explore interesting stories like this.

These are my own thoughts as I was exploring the game. I first thought the 'alien ship' was really weird near the start... then when you get to the attic of the house across the dam, there's a load of books in the attic... H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, H.P. Lovecraft... These are clearly books that Ethan must have read whilst in the attic of the house. The stories he writes are all inspired by these authors, each unconnected other than by 'The Sleeper' (Ethan).

The mines section and the rituals are inspired by Lovecraft, the spaceship by H.G. Wells, the paranormal detective (the player character) is a pulp genre staple.

As for the patent letter... I'm not 100% sure on that, but my take on it was that one of Ethan's family was trying to patent lots of things in an attempt to make money off of selling the rights to certain inventions / ideas, and the patent office sent basically a cease and desist as he'd tried so many times with ideas they refused to patent and then he challenged each one, wasting their time. I suspect this is another cog in the machine of Ethan's family's frustration, not specific to Ethan himself, but just another reason for them to be bitter and to take it out on Ethan, a young and inventive mind. Perhaps part of their annoyance at Ethan is jealousy at the fact he's creative and curious, whilst they struggle with their own lot in life.


Again, these are just my thoughts I've put together whilst playing, if anyone has a different take on the events, I'm certainly open to hearing it!
Lord Weh Sep 26, 2014 @ 6:29am 
Originally posted by BigBoobyBarbara:
You studied Literature or something didn't you? :P As the game grows older, hopefully more theories will arise. I would have loved to hear what you would've said about the ending of Bioshock Infinite, ha!

Haha, I'm studying a BA in English Language and Literature, guilty as charged ^^
I have a number of thoughts on Bioshock Infinite... Although I wouldn't want to derail the thread, I've sent you a friend invite, so we can discuss it elsewhere if you like =)
I've got a blog too (although I really need to get around to actually writing pieces for it).

PARALYSIS Sep 26, 2014 @ 6:32am 
I read some comments on your profile...had a squizz through your blog. Yes, I studied Literature too although at a secondary education level, ha.
Originally posted by Lord Weh:
Originally posted by BigBoobyBarbara:
You studied Literature or something didn't you? :P As the game grows older, hopefully more theories will arise. I would have loved to hear what you would've said about the ending of Bioshock Infinite, ha!

Haha, I'm studying a BA in English Language and Literature, guilty as charged ^^
I have a number of thoughts on Bioshock Infinite... Although I wouldn't want to derail the thread, I've sent you a friend invite, so we can discuss it elsewhere if you like =)
I've got a blog too (although I really need to get around to actually writing pieces for it).
Lord Weh Sep 26, 2014 @ 10:38am 
Hi, I'm working on a longer post going into more details about the ending and the games meaning, but... (BIG SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T FINISHED)...

Ethan is a child who enjoys reading and writing, but feels ignored and unwanted by his family. They argue a lot, and some of them are abusive to him. He writes stories to escape, stories in the vein of those he reads and admires... HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, HG Wells and so on.

As you saw in the final scene, Ethan's family are arguing (and being abusive to him), then his mother accidentally breaks a lantern and starts a fire. Ethan is trapped in the room with toxic smoke and he begins to fall unconscious. The game is set within Ethan's unconscious mind, you as the main character are a fictional paranormal detective that Ethan invented.

The 'murders' that occured around the town didn't ACTUALLY occur, they are Ethan's attempts to justify why his family would behave so horribly to him (because of 'The Sleeper'). None of them died (you see them trying to put the fire out at the end), but they are his way of rationalising his family's attitude towards him. His stories are escapist fantasies, and you are living out these stories in his 'dream'.


I hope that helped, do ask if you have any further questions, or if you have any other theories of your own. =)
Last edited by Lord Weh; Sep 26, 2014 @ 10:39am
economicBanana Sep 26, 2014 @ 10:46am 
Perfectly explained, one thing I would like to add:
In my opinion Ethan is still awake and is fighting to stay awake. The "Sleeper" is his urge to sleep, with every murder and suffering you, discover the urge gets stronger as Ethan struggles to stay concious. In the end Ethan is calmed by the presence of his fictional detective and drifts into sleep, peacefully.
Last edited by economicBanana; Sep 26, 2014 @ 10:47am
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