The Real Phantom

NOTE: This is from an email that was sent to me detailing various things from Animal Jam's development. This is one of those stories.

I’m sure you all know of the Phantoms. Little creatures that try to attack Jamaa and any jammer they can find. The thing is, phantoms have a much darker past then you’d probably ever think.

How do I know this? Well, I’m lucky enough to be a family member of the founder of animal jam. I would be his cousin. But enough about me, this is about the phantoms.

Now, way back in 2009 when Animal Jam was still in development, my cousin was trying to think of an enemy for the game. He wanted an enemy that meant something, something that wouldn’t visually scare kids but still leave an impact. I mentioned to him that he should make an enemy off something that he truly hated. Only know do I wish I hadn’t said that. 

Jacob, (his name by the way), had a very deep-set hatred of his brother, Ethan. Ever since childhood they’d been enemies, and no one really knew why. Jacob got this cruel look in his eye and then went right back to development.

In just a week, he called in a group of developers to review his creation of the enemy. I was let in, as I had co-contributed to this. In the meeting, he still had that look. It made me quite nervous, I tell you.

The creature, he said, was to be a Phantom. The Phantom was a large black shadowy beast with very bright red eyes. This creature was supposed to chase around players at random intervals and special events, laughing and mocking them. Jacob mentioned other things, like how to get rid of it. This was the darkest part.

“In order to destroy the beast,” He said with a small laugh, “Players must destroy the most vital part of him: his mind. They must make this creature go mad; they must drive him to the brink! Only then will he be ended.” At this, I stood up.

“That’s sick!” I had shouted. Others stood up too, agreeing with me. I could see the frustration in Jacob’s face. He sighed, and asked if anyone else had an idea. Another developer went up and decided to fix his idea and calm everyone down.

After the incident at the meeting, I became more curious about Jacob’s Phantom. I looked at it closely, and with some research and questions, I learned the truth.

The first interesting thing I found was in the name itself. Besides “Phantom” being a term for an evil ghost or shadow, Phantom was also an anagram. When you re-arrange the word, it spells “Hampton.” This was his and Ethan’s last name. Realizing this, I saw that the phantom was indeed based off of Ethan. 

The next thing that I looked at was the method of killing the creature. Jacob mentioned that they would make him go “mad”. It was at this time that I found out Jacob had a mental disorder that made him hear voices. He was trying to do the same to him for revenge.

Apparently this was caused when he was a child, when Ethan and Jacob were about 3. They had been playing outside when Ethan accidentally knocked Jacob against a large metal pole, giving him some brain damage. He and his parents had kept this a secret for his sake. All the parts were together. 

So now you realize that the very early phantom was far different than what is in the game now. I hope that perhaps you’ll look at these little creatures with a different idea in mind.

Thank you,

                         Amelia Smith


The Real Phantom

Original Phantom Concept Art.

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