It’s 2021, and we don’t really understand why people are making such a big deal out of it. After all, each new year just brings everyone closer to death, right? Well, at least this one greeted us with a significant surprise. Raven, The Acid Bath Princess Of The Darkness finally emerged from her long-lasting shroud of anonymity last week to deliver an important message: We’ve all been trolled.
Raven, whose real name is Sarah, took to Instagram to clarify that her viral YouTube videos were indeed fake. Sarah spearheaded the comedic undertaking in the 2000s alongside her sister, who played Tara but prefers to remain anonymous. The pair were also joined by a family friend, Jo, who played Azer and now performs musically under Neutraloneder.
Though intended to satirize mall goth culture at the time, the videos were widely mistaken as genuine teenage chronicles. The series ultimately went viral in 2012 when viewers made an erroneous connection to the Harry Potter fan fiction, My Immortal. Unfortunately for the budding comedians, the notoriety was initially ill-received. After years of relentless bullying by way of the internet, they were hesitant to step back into the spotlight.
In fact, Sarah only came forward after being backed into a perceived corner. As a dominatrix working under the moniker of “Petra Hunter,” she worried about how circulating rumors might affect her professionally. As it turned out, though, her attempt at disaster control yielded remarkable reactions. With a platform backed by tens of thousands of followers, the self-described “adult emo” is now an internet sensation independent of her character.
Sarah spoke to Alternative Press regarding the video series, her eventual self-doxing and the potential of future Raven content. Rest assured, we’ve hardly seen the last of the Acid Bath Princess Of The Darkness.
It seems relatively easy to look back now and isolate the laughable aspects of 2000s alternative culture, but you were a step ahead in that, satirizing it effectively even at the time. What inspired the video series, and how did you develop the characters in a way that was so believable?
I created Raven and Tara because I wanted to be a comedian at the time. I spent a lot of my teenage years writing sketches, creating characters and memorizing SNL sketches. I had this notebook that I would pass between classes with my friends in high school, and we’d just write down all these sketch ideas. I learned about 4chan around 2006, and I wanted to troll people, basically.
Raven was based off myself. I went through my own cringe-y goth phase from [age] 12 to 14. Back then, emo kids were the butt of everyone’s jokes. It wasn’t cool to be emo and express your emotions so publicly and intensely. So when I was “goth,” I was definitely more of an emo kid, but I never wanted to fess up to it. No way, I was totally goth. So when it came to creating the characters, I already had so much psychology into what it was like to be cringy and terrible because that was me. [Laughs.]
I definitely didn’t share all of the same traits that Raven has, but she was built off what I knew. I knew that, in that subculture, Hot Topic is life because it was my life for that time period. If I got money for Christmas, I would sit down and calculate what I could buy including sales tax so I could make the most out of my 15-dollar Christmas cash from Grandma. So a few years later, at the age of 17, of course, I’m going to make fun of Hot Topic.
I think my mindset going into it was like, “What are all of the things I could do now that would really piss off little baby Sarah?” So that included not wearing black all the time and not wearing all black. I got deeply offended one time when I was in seventh grade. This kid had a crush on me, and I wasn’t having it, [so] he was trying to impress me by telling me that he was goth too. But he totally wasn’t, and I wrote a blog on BlogSpot about how he was not goth because he didn’t conform to what I believed a goth was.
A lot of it was just making fun of myself, taking my own cringe-y characteristics and turning it up to 11. I’ve always been really good at deadpan, and I think I just have this intensity… You mix those things together, and there you go.
So you were doing these videos at age 17 through 19, but everyone assumed you were so much younger. Was that intentional?
Yeah, for a few reasons. First of all, take a look at me. Nobody would have ever believed that I was 17. Also, I personally didn’t know anybody who was still in that phase of their life when they were that old. So it just made the most sense to play a character whose age I actually looked like and was accurate for [what] I was trying to mock.
At the time, did you anticipate that people would accept these videos as a genuine vlog, or did you think people were going to be in on the joke from the get-go?
I thought people were going to be in on the joke from the get-go! [Laughs.] There are so many things in those videos that [I wonder], “How can you think this is real?” But I have some theories about that. I think that people were more likely to believe that our videos were real and not a joke because we were young women. I think comedy as a whole is pretty misogynistic and male-dominated, so women being funny is a big deal. Also, nobody lets kids be funny. If kids are funny, it has to be comedy for kids. [They] aren’t allowed to be funny in an adult space. I think that people were more inclined to not see them as jokes because we were so young and looked even younger. I think that my deadpan and intensity probably played into that a little bit as well.
Former emo phase aside, were there any personal truths that pertained to you at the time that you were able to incorporate into Raven? Did you listen to any of the same music that you were referencing?
At the time, no. It was stuff that I’d listened to in the past. I had totally listened to Evanescence, which is one of the bands that I don’t listen to anymore. [Laughs.] If somebody’s like, “Hey Sarah, have you listened to this AFI album lately?” I’ll be like, “Hell yeah!” But, at the time, I wasn’t listening to those bands. I honestly had grown out of my emo phase whenever My Chemical Romance had started to get a little bit bigger. So, I missed that boat and didn’t really become interested in [them] until I was older. The funny thing is that I made all these videos making fun of emos, and now I’m shamelessly an adult emo.
What was your reaction when you started hearing about the My Immortal theories connected to you?
We did an interview about it in 2014, and we said, “Look, we didn’t write this.” But nobody believed us. I have so many weird thoughts about that because there are so many differences between My Immortal and our videos. I don’t think we even referenced Harry Potter or fan fiction once. And the character Raven in the fan fiction [has a] nickname different than my character’s. So many things didn’t line up. The only thing was that, for some weird reason, the names that I thought we should go with happened to be [in the fan fic] too. They were also the names of characters from Teen Titans, which I didn’t even know was a thing until 2016.
It’s been argued on Reddit that you might just be denying it because you’re embarrassed to be involved. What would you say to that theory?
First and foremost, I only came out because I’m a sex worker. The “Raven is Petra Hunter” rumors were getting to the point where everything was starting to escape out of my control. Because of all of the harassment and vitriol that Tara, Azer and I had faced on YouTube on a daily basis, I was worried that all of this hatred would carry into my career. And because there was such a mystery around who wrote My Immortal, [I was worried that] somebody wanting to get the pat on the back for solving it would totally dox me in ways that were way more dangerous than just coming forward myself.
I came forward because I felt like I fucking had to. So, the one thing that I would say is that I doxed myself as a sex worker just to prevent other people from doing it first. I’d have no reason to not take credit for My Immortal if I wrote it. It’s fucking hilarious, and I wish I wrote it. I created Tara and Raven as troll characters because I wanted to be in comedy. I was hoping this would lead to something bigger for me. If I had written My Immortal, I sure as hell would have had enough sense to cross-promote the two. If I wrote this fanfiction that was getting so many hits, I absolutely would have taken that and put it in my videos. I would have promoted the channel on the dotnet page or wherever it was posted.
I didn’t want these people to know that my real name was out there and then come on my work account. As a sex worker anyway, I’m already an easy target. I didn’t want them to start spamming my profile with theories about who I was as a person. Realistically, it’s not hard to find information about me if you know where to look. For example, I owned an ice cream shop before I became a dominatrix. So, as Sarah, I was in various newspapers and local magazines with my pictures, and I have some of the same tattoos that I had then. It wouldn’t take very much to put together.
At the time, Tara and I didn’t know how beloved our videos were or that people actually liked us. We stopped paying attention to the comments years ago because it was too scary and painful. We just assumed that if we came out about it, people were going to react the same way. I thought that I was going to have to lock down my work social media and lay low for a while until everything blew over. I haven’t had to do that at all, which is really a mindfuck for me.
What has surprised you the most about the response?
That people actually liked our videos. I lived for 12 years thinking that I was the only person who thought I was funny. I just realized yesterday that I’m looking at 12 years of lost potential. It’s one thing for people to not think that you’re funny. But for people to be so aggressively violent and hateful about it really turns it into something different than, “Oh, they just don’t like my jokes.”
It’s been really amazing because it’s so validating. I had no idea that I was actually doing something that people liked. I woke up this morning to a message in my DMs from a trans person who said that they named themselves after my character. It just means so much.
It’s really painful in a lot of ways too. Now that I’m older, I can look back on this and say, “What would have happened if I was more aware of the misogyny that existed in comedy? What would have happened if I was more aware that I was being a woman—a young woman—in a space for men?” I only put the pieces together yesterday, so I haven’t had enough time to process. But it’s been wonderful, touching, humbling and also sad in a lot of ways for baby Sarah.
You’ve said previously that most of the videos were improvised. What was the extent of your planning for them?
I’ve had goth characters before Raven. So, by that point, I knew that I wanted a name that was dark and a 13-year-old mall goth would choose as a nickname but was also normal enough to feasibly be somebody’s real name. “Raven” seemed like the only name that really fit the specifications. Then, I knew that I wanted this really ridiculous moniker, so I just threw a bunch of words together. I don’t remember thinking about “Acid Bath Princess Of The Darkness.” I honestly think it just rolled out because what the fuck is an “Acid Bath Princess Of The Darkness”? That doesn’t make any sense.
I always loved the contrast of something very dark and intense with something light and not intense at all. So I knew that I wanted Tara’s name to be bland, vanilla and even pseudo preppy. That’s why we filmed in Tara’s room because it looks so innocent and not goth. There were blue polka dots on the wall. We filmed in front of a peace sign poster at some point. Even those weren’t things that I remember thinking about very hard. They made the most sense so we went with them. It just seemed so instinctual. We planned what songs we wanted to do, and sometimes we’d have gags where we started playing the wrong song. We had one where we played Soulja Boy instead so obviously that was on purpose. But in terms of dialogue, most of it was straight-up improvised.
How did you manage to go almost entirely unidentified for 13 years? Typically when something goes viral, people are all over it and sharing high school yearbook photos, where they used to live, etc.? You and Tara have flown relatively under the radar.
First and foremost, neither of us have personal social media. I only have it for work. If I didn’t, I think the mystery would still be out there. When you think about it, so much of our anonymity was fueled by cyberbullying and me being a sex worker and afraid of getting harassed for that. And then we were characters and not everybody realized that. So whenever they were looking for us, they were looking for people named Tara and Raven.
I found this “Where are they now?” video the other night that is so funny to me. It starts out with an excerpt from an interview that straight-up says, “Raven’s name is Sarah.” Then this man goes on for another 10 to 12 minutes listing three potential people who might be Raven, but none of them are named Sarah. They’re all named Raven. Even when we came out with that interview, people would copy and paste the link in the comment section of our videos, and [others] would be like, “Seems fishy to me. I don’t think these girls are real. They’re trying to take credit for something they didn’t do.”
While me coming out was a direct result of my trying to regain control of the situation and protect myself as a sex worker, I had also learned a few days prior that there were people pretending to be grown-up Raven on TikTok. That really started to piss me off. At first, I didn’t really care. I thought it was funny and weird. I was like, “OK, why would you want to do that?” But clearly these people who were doing it had no idea what kind of shit we went through for that. The more I thought about it, the more upset I got because they didn’t go through what we went through. How dare you bypass 10-plus years of daily harassment and claim that you created my character?
You’ve noted on social media that Tara wants to maintain anonymity. Where do her privacy concerns stem from?
They relate a lot to how we were treated as young women on the internet, which I have a lot of thoughts about. First and foremost, I did make these videos as a teenager to troll people. But when we started getting backlash, it definitely wasn’t the backlash that I’d expected. I was looking for people to be like, “Oh my God, you are not goth. You’re a poser.” But instead, we got all of these comments talking about how we should kill ourselves and how fat, ugly and worthless we were. If we weren’t gonna kill ourselves, they’d do it for us. They hoped our family got cancer and died. We found a comment left like three years ago from somebody who basically insinuated they were going to rape and murder me.
One of the main reasons Tara wants to be private right now is that she just had a kid. And after experiencing firsthand the cruelty of the internet, she doesn’t want that to be a thing that her kid’s going to be exposed to. Also, when we made the videos, we all struggled with depression, anxiety and body image issues. Tara had a complicated pregnancy and gained a lot of weight as a result. She doesn’t want to come forward because, when she was a younger teenager, people were so fucking brutal to her about the weight that she had gained from antidepressants.
She just can’t take and it pisses me off. I’m her older sister so of course, I’m going to be really protective of her. But I also know without a doubt that one of the reasons why this reception is going over so well for me is because I’m conventionally attractive. And I know that if I weren’t conventionally attractive, a good chunk of this love and excitement that I’m on the receiving end of right now just wouldn’t exist.
You’ve already announced upcoming content such as behind-the-scenes footage and an explanation of the story behind the series, but do you anticipate ever bringing the character back in the future? I’m sure viewers would love to see what Raven, The Acid Bath Princess Of Darkness is up to nowadays.
Yeah. I’m a little nervous about bringing her back as a character because it’s been so long since I’ve been her or purposefully performed comedy. That sense of rejection that built up inside of me is still so raw that I’m really afraid to bring it back and be shut down again. There’s so much pressure. I’m worried that I’m going to release a True Detective season 2. I don’t want to do that.
In the interim, until I really figure out what exactly I’m doing, I do want to continue making videos. Not only that, but talk about the old videos and the history behind them and the channel. I finally have a platform where I don’t have to worry about being unprofessional if I talk about how much I love this Taking Back Sunday album. So I’d love to make some videos about my own journey in coming to accept myself as an adult emo. Maybe [I’ll cover] some of my favorite albums or do some sort of review thing. I’m still figuring it out, but I do know that I have a lot of possibilities right now. I think it’s so exciting, and I want to see where it goes.