Night in the Woods’ thought-provoking narrative explores a wealth of themes, including mental health, classism, and friendship. Although Casey Hartley is a minor character, his disappearance is integral to the storyline involving a suspicious cult, which Mae and her friends investigate throughout the game.
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Casey’s death at the hands of the cult raises more moral issues than just the act of murder, as they claim to have sacrificed Casey due to his lack of “contribution” to Possum Springs, despite him being a young adult with his life ahead of him. The reveal of Casey’s death is one of the most gut-wrenching moments in the game as it exposes the sinister history of Possum Springs.
Casey Hartley was an old friend of Mae Borowski and Gregg Lee, growing up alongside them in Possum Springs. Casey also played the drums in the band he formed with Mae and Gregg, and they often partook in “crimes” together. In his chat away message, Casey describes himself as a skater, a drummer, and proud country trash.
While exploring Possum Springs, Mae can interact with a bulletin board that has a missing person poster of Casey pinned to it by his parents.
The poster says that Casey was last seen “walking westward along the tracks” that he often frequented. Despite not being seen since then, some of the townspeople believe that, rather than being missing, Casey simply left town, jumping on a train to leave Possum Springs.
What Happened To Casey?
After witnessing someone being kidnapped by a cloaked figure after HarFest, Mae is plagued by strange dreams, with her mental health declining as a result. Mae, Bea, Gregg, and Angus investigate the mysterious figure. They discover that the figure is part of a larger group; however, before they can garner any answers, Mae falls unconscious.
After waking, Mae and her friends convene at Gregg and Angus’ apartment. Mae, determined to seek out the truth, leaves the apartment alone to confront the people they saw previously. Mae’s friends follow her to the woods, where she finds the figure once again. Once Bea, Gregg, and Angus catch up, Gregg shoots the figure with a crossbow, causing them to run.
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Mae and her friends pursue the figure, coming to a deep hole in the mines with the mysterious group on the other side. Mae asks the group who they are, to which they explain the history of their group and the “Black Goat” lurking in the bottom of the mines whom they worship, giving the impression that they’re a cult.
After a short conversation, the cult admits to throwing Casey down the hole to appease the Black Goat, along with various other members of the town. With this new information, the group concludes that Casey, in fact, never skipped town and was taken by the cult to be used in their ritual.
Why Was Casey Killed By The Cult?
When the group accuses the cult of killing Casey, they balk at the idea, claiming that what they did was for the “good” of Possum Springs and its citizens.
The founder of the cult, Ed Skudder, worked in the mines with Jim Dorney, his co-worker, who unfortunately fell into a seemingly bottomless hole. While trying to communicate with Jim, Ed heard the voice of the Black Goat emanating from the hole. The Black Goat spoke to Ed, striking up a deal – in return for Ed sacrificing people to the Black Goat, the deity would ensure that Possum Springs prospered.
Ed commandeered the help of other citizens, resulting in the cult’s formation to carry on his work. The cult’s spokesperson claims that they do this to “protect their own and their neighbors,” leaving “contributors” to the town alone and only sacrificing those who, in their view, cause problems for Possum Springs.
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Although the cult’s actions are clearly abhorrent, they’re unable to take responsibility for their actions due to the seemingly positive effects it has on the town. As one of the members says, “Not only was the town holdin’ stable, but it was almost like we were getting younger, and money came too,” meaning they’re happy enough to sacrifice others as long as they thrive. However, as Mae witnesses in the town, not everyone reaps the benefits, as unemployment is still rife, and some of the townspeople live in poverty.
When the cult admits to these actions, you can choose for Mae to say, “Casey?” prompting the cult member to explain why Casey was chosen. The cult member claims that they did Casey a “favor” as all he had ahead in his life was “a bunch a kids growin up with no dad” and “a rap sheet a mile long,” suggesting they believe he was destined for a life of crime.
Although Casey did partake in misdemeanors alongside Mae and Gregg, the cult made assumptions about him based on his family and upbringing, despite him only being 19 years old with a life of possibilities available to him.
The cult member also makes allegations regarding Casey and his cousin, saying, “You know he was taking up business with his cousin, right?” and that Casey’s cousin’s “little trailer lab exploded,” suggesting that they were producing drugs, despite having little evidence to prove that Casey himself was involved.
While the cult members claim to be sacrificing people for the greater good of Possum Springs, they’re clearly acting on their own biases, targeting people who they see as inferior, usually due to their social status. In their final confrontation with the cult, Mae and her friends discover that Casey was sacrificed to the Black Goat because of their perceived idea of how he would turn out as an adult due to factors outside his control.
Casey’s murder and the cult’s actions, in general, parallel people’s attitudes toward those they deem less worthy. Rather than helping the people and making Possum Springs better for everyone, they remove the “problem” entirely. They choose to “better” the town for themselves, not for the people who are truly struggling.
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