I just want to start off by saying that if you want an answer at the end, prepare to be disappointed. There just isn't one.
I was an intern at Argosy Studios for a year in 2000 for my degree in animation. It wasn't paid of course, most internships aren't, but it did have some perks beyond education. To adults it might not seem like a big one, but most kids at the time would go crazy over it.
Now, since I worked directly with the editors and animators, I got to view the new episodes days before they aired. I'll get right to it without giving too many unnecessary details. They had very recently made the Aaron's Great Adventure movie and the entire staff was somewhat filled of creativity so it took them longer to start up the season. But the delay lasted longer for reasons that you will conclude while reading. There was something wrong with the series 8 premiere that set everyone and everything back for several months.
Me and two other interns were in the editing room along with the lead animators and sound editors for the final cut. We received the copy that was supposed to be "(TBA)" and gathered around the screen to watch. Now, given that it isn't final yet animators often put up a stupid title card, sort of an inside joke for us, with phony, often times lewd titles. Nothing particularly hilarious but work related laughs. So when we saw the title card "Salli's Suicide", we didn't find it more than a morbid joke.
One of the interns did a small throat laugh at it. The happy-go-lucky music plays as is normal. The story began with Salli in her room, reading s magazine. Soon, we hear Aaron laughing outside and Salli stops, yelling at him to keep it down as she has a band practice that night. Aaron says okay. The normal gradient splash screen comes up and we see the ending of Salli's band practice. This is when things began to seem odd.
While playing, a few frames repeat themselves, but the sound doesn't (at this point sound is synced up with animation, so before you ask, yes, that's not common at all) but when she stops playing, the sound finishes as if the skip never happened. There is slight murmuring in the crowd before they begin to boo him. Not normal cartoon booing that is common in the show, but you could very clearly hear malice in it. Salli is in full frame and looks visibly scared. The shot goes to the crowd, with Aaron in center frame, and he too is booing, very much unlike him, especially towards his girlfriend. That isn't the oddest thing, though. What is odd is everyone had hyper realistic eyes. Very detailed. Clearly they're not shots of real people's or cats' eyes, but something a little more real than CGI. The pupils were red. Some of us looked at each other, obviously confused, but since we're not the writers, we didn't question its appeal to children yet (excuse us for that).
The shot goes to Salli sitting on the edge of her bed, looking very forlorn. The view out of her window is of a night sky so it isn't very long after the practice. The unsettling part is at this point there is no sound. Literally no sound. Not even the feedback from the speakers in the room. It's as if the speakers were turned off, though their status showed them working perfectly. She just sat there, blinking, in this silence for about 30 seconds, then she started to sob softly. She put her hands (paws) over his eyes and cried quietly for a full minute more, all the while a sound in the background very slowly growing from nothing to barely audible. It sounded like a slight breeze through a forest.
The screen slowly begins to zoom in on her face. And by slow I mean it's only noticeable if you look at shots 10 seconds apart side by side. Her sobbing gets louder, more full of hurt and anger. The screen then twitches a bit, as if it twists in on itself, for a split second then back to normal. The wind-through-the-trees sound gets slowly louder and more severe, as if a storm is brewing somewhere. The eerie part is this sound, and Salli's sobbing, sounded real, as if the sound wasn't coming from the speakers but as if the speakers were holes the sound was coming through from the other side. As good as sound as the studio likes to have, they don't purchase the equipment to be that good to produce sound of that quality.
Below the sound of the wind and sobbing, very faint, something sounded like laughing. It came at odd intervals and never lasted more than a second so you can hardly pin it (we watched this show twice, so excuse me if things sound too specific but I've had time to think about them). After 30 seconds of this, the screen blurred and twitched violently and something flashed over the screen, as if a single frame was replaced.
The lead animation editor paused and rewound frame by frame. What we saw was horrible. It was a still photo of a dead kitten. It couldn't have been more than 6 months old. The face was mangled and bloodied, one eye dangling over its upturned face, popped. All its fur was shaved off, its stomach crudely cut open and its entrails laying beside it. It was laying on some pavement that was probably a road.
The most upsetting part was that there was a shadow of the photographer. There was no crime tape, no evidence tags or markers, and the angle was completely off for a shot designed to be evidence. It would seem the photographer was the person responsible for the kitten's death. We were of course mortified, but pressed on, hoping that it was just a sick joke.
The screen flipped back to Salli, still sobbing, louder than before, and half body in frame. There was now what appeared to be blood running down her face from her eyes. The blood was also done in a hyper realistic style, looking as if you touched it you'd get blood on your fingers. The wind sounded now as if it were that of a gale blowing through the forest; there were even snapping sounds of branches. The laughing, a deep baritone, lasting at longer intervals and coming more frequently. After about 20 seconds, the screen again twisted and showed a single frame photo.
The editor was reluctant to go back, we all were, but he knew he had to. This time the photo was that of what appeared to be another kitten, no older than the first one. It was laying on its stomach, its fur in a pool of blood next to it. Its left eye was too popped out, and it had also been shaved. Its entrails were piled on top of it above another crude cut along its back. Again the body was on the street and the photographer's shadow was visible, very similar in size and shape to the first. I had to choke back vomit and one intern, the only female in the room, ran out. The show resumed.
About 5 seconds after this second photo played, Salli went silent, as did all sound, like it was when this scene started. She put her paws down and her eyes were now done in hyper realism like the others were in the beginning of this episode. They were bleeding, bloodshot, and pulsating. She just stared at the screen, as if watching the viewer. After about 10 seconds, she started crying. However, this time she was not covering her eyes. The sound was piercing and loud, and the most fear inducing of all was that her sobbing was mixed with screams.
Tears and blood were dripping down her face at a heavy rate. The wind sound came back, and so did the deep voiced laughing, and this time the still photo lasted for a good 5 frames.
The animator was able to stop it on the 4th and backed up. This time the photo was of another kitten, but this time the scene was different. The entrails were just being pulled out from a stomach wound by a large hand, the right eye popped and dangling, blood trickling down it. The animator proceeded. It was hard to believe, but the next one was different but we couldn't tell what. He went on to the next, same thing. He want back to the first and played them quicker and I lost it. I vomited on the floor, the animating and sound editors gasping at the screen. The 5 frames were not as if they were 5 different photos, they were played out as if they were frames from a video. We saw the hand slowly lift out the guts, we saw the cat's eyes focus on it, we even saw two frames of the cat beginning to meow.
The lead sound editor told us to stop, he had to call in the creator to see this. Mrs. Peck arrived 15 minutes later. She was confused about why she was called down there, so the editor just continued the episode. Once the few frames were shown, all screaming, all sound again stopped. Salli was just staring at the viewer, full frame of the face, for about 3 seconds. The shot quickly panned out and that deep voice said "DO IT" and we see in Salli's hands a shotgun. She immediately puts the gun in her mouth and pulls the trigger. Realistic blood and brain matter splatters the wall behind her, and her bed, and she flies back with the force. The final 5 seconds of the episode show her body on the bed, on her side, with one eye dangling on what's left of her head above the floor, staring blankly at it. Then the episode ends.
Mrs. Peck is obviously mad at this. She wanted to know what the hell was going on. Most people left the room at this point, so it was just a handful of us to watch it again. Viewing the episode twice only served to imprint the entirety of it in my mind and cause me horrible nightmares. I'm sorry that I stayed.
The only theory we could think of was the file was edited by someone in the chain from the drawing studio to here. The CTO was called in to analyze when it happened. The analysis of the file did show it was edited over by new material. However, the timestamp of it was a mere 24 seconds before we began viewing it. All equipment involved was examined for foreign software and hardware as well as glitches, as if the time stamp may have glitched and showed the wrong time, but everything checked out fine. We don't know what happened and to this day nobody does.
There was an investigation due to the nature of the photos, but nothing came of it. None of the owners of the cats seen were identified and no clues were gathered from the data involved nor physical clues in the photos. I never believed in unexplainable phenomena before, but now that I have something happen and can't prove anything about it beyond anecdotal evidence, I think twice about things.