HORROR 101: Five Nights at Freddy’s and The Story of William Afton Explained (2024)

If my other articles were individual lectures, this? This is the whole seminar.

Welcome back toHorror 101, a series of articles where we explain horror movie legends and their lore. For beginners, the confused, or just those who need a refresher, these articles are for you.

It’s time you FNAF lovers. Time to rip apart the meaty animatronic lore all over again. Or, if any of this info is wrong, to put me inside a springlock suit for slandering Scott Cawthon’s child. Maybe I misplaced an event, maybe I’ll accidentally call a Toy suit a Funtime suit, who knows. Just don’t murder me yet.

In honor of the fast-approaching Blumhouse adaptation,Five Nights at Freddy’s, we’ll get down to the heart of horror gaming’s most popular franchise and find the man behind the slaughter. How are these animatronics killing people, and more importantly, why are they killing people? Who started it all?

Five Nights at Freddy’sis probably the most complicated series I’ve ever covered, as a lot of the fun of FNAF is deciphering its storytelling. As such, I need to establish some boundaries so this article doesn’t become a hot mess.

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I’m not going to be discussing any non-game materials, including graphic novels, guides, and books likeThe Silver Eyesbecause of their dubious canonicity.

  1. I’m also not including any speculation that isn’t given clear backing by the events of the games. I don’t have Mat Pat’s mental fortitude.
  2. I’m not covering any games past the sixth and seventh (Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator&Ultimate Custom Night) because, while Steel Wool’s games are connected to the original story, they don’t concern the main subject of this article.

All good? Wonderful! Let’s get started.

Without further ado, major spoilers for the first sevenFive Nights at Freddy’sgames.

HORROR 101: Five Nights at Freddy’s and The Story of William Afton Explained (1)

The story ofFive Nights at Freddy’sbegins with the unassuming William Afton, also known as Purple Guy because of how his sprite is presented in the games. Starting as an entrepreneur and mild-mannered family man, Afton would become one of the most notorious serial killers of his time.

He had a wife and three children: Michael, Elizabeth, and Michael’s unnamed younger brother (dubbed the Crying Child by fans).

Afton founded Fredbear’s Family Diner, a precursor to Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. Like the real-life Chuck E. Cheese and Showbiz Pizza restaurants, the main selling point of Fredbear’s was its costume mascots: Fredbear and Bonnie the Bunny. Despite Fredbear being the face of the company, Afton would later use the Bonnie suit most frequently in his murders and would suffer greatly for his fondness of the character.

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Matthew Lillard, known for portraying the unforgettable Stu Macher inScream, will play William Afton in the film. While it isn’t confirmed, a lot of fans suspect that Josh Hutcherson’s character Mike Schmidt (who you play as in the firstFive Nights at Freddy’sgame) is an alias of William’s eldest son, Michael Afton.

Afton came to collaborate with a man named Henry Emily. A robotics expert who taught Afton the trade, Emily took Afton’s suits and developed full-fledged animatronics from them that could even walk independently. Henry Emily doesn’t have a confirmed casting for the film, but actor Christian Stokes will be playing the role of “Hank”. Some fans suspect this could be Henry given the nickname.

Emily and Afton came up with multiple makes and models of animatronics, though their most remarkable versions were springlock suits: suits that could be converted into free-standing animatronics and back again. The springlocks were eventually revealed to have one glaring mechanical failure: sudden movements could cause the suits to lock up and seize around any person or thing inside them, often paralyzing and horribly injuring them. The glaring flaw would put springlock suits at the center of a tragedy known as the Bite of ’83.

I remember back in my day we all thought it was the Bite of ’87.

Man, I feel old.

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Sorry.

In 1983, Michael was forced to babysit his brother during a birthday party at Fredbear’s. As part of a mean-spirited prank, he and his friends pushed his younger brother’s head into the open mouth of the Fredbear animatronic. The springlock suit’s mechanisms seized up from the child’s panicked flailing, “biting” his skull. He would die days later after being haunted by nightmares of the animatronics, as shown inFive Nights at Freddy’s 4.

A grieving Afton succumbed to madness and committed his first murder: the daughter of his business partner Henry Emily, outside of the Fredbear’s Family Diner location. These two events resulted in the closure of Fredbear’s Family Diner and the retirement of both suits on stage at the time of the incident, the golden Fredbear and golden Bonnie springlock suits.

Afton and Emily tried to move on, pouring their resources into a new venue: Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, complete with a new cast of animatronics headlined by Freddy Fazbear, a new blue version of Bonnie the Bunny, Foxy the Pirate Fox, and Chica the Chicken. These are the mainstay suits we’ll be seeing in the movie, and the ones most of the other animatronics are based on.

Of course, Afton’s bloodlust wouldn’t stop there. He slowly began to give in to his sad*stic cravings, killing five more victims and hiding their bodies inside each of the animatronic suits (including the retired Golden Freddy suit). He used the springlock Bonnie suit when committing these murders, and while Afton was among the suspects, the missing cases were never solved. Emily still suspected his business partner of the crimes and ousted Afton from the company.

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HORROR 101: Five Nights at Freddy’s and The Story of William Afton Explained (2)

Though nobody knew at the time, the agony of the victims allowed their souls to be bonded to the metal, creating a substance known as “Remnant”. This process caused the confused and tortured souls to become vengeful and murderous, targeting the night security of the restaurant (who you play as in the firstFive Nights at Freddy’s).

Remnant could even trap souls in their original bodies. A grown Michael Afton would later discover his father’s machines, only to be killed and briefly worn as a “suit” by another animatronic. The Remnant injected in him during this event allowed Michael’s broken body to rise from the dead, clinging to life from an obsession with finding and stopping his father.

Both Afton and Emily would continue making animatronics, all of which met the same fate. Afton created a rival mascot with more advanced technology called Circus Baby, which would malfunction and kill his daughter Elizabeth, causing her to haunt the suit. Henry Emily would then go on to reopen Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria years later in 1987, with new “Toy Animatronics”: updated versions of the old cast wired to protect children and detect predators with facial recognition.

Afton’s second spree began in 1987 with the sabotage of the pizzeria’s grand reopening. Tainting the new Toy Animatronics with another series of killings, they became especially aggressive towards adults (as seen inFive Nights at Freddy’s 2, for those of you keeping track at home). This resulted in another shutdown, and the toy animatronics being decommissioned.

Eventually, Afton came across the original animatronics he had used to hide the bodies moving without being activated. After dismantling them one by one, in either an attempt to hide his crimes or understand their inner workings, he discovered the secret of Remnant.

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On one of his many returns to the crime scene, Afton was cornered by the children’s spirits in a hidden backroom of the original pizzeria. Hoping the springlock Bonnie suit would instill the same fear in them in death as it had in life, he donned the worn-down costume. A total springlock failure from his frantic movements caused the suit to clamp down around him, crushing him to death.

When Emily discovered his old business partner’s body, he sealed the room off and left Afton’s remains to rot. Like the children before him, Afton’s spirit became tangled with the metal of the Bonnie suit, creating Remnant and tying him to the material world. This transformation would see Afton reborn in the monster known as Springtrap.

The rotted-out Springtrap would be unearthed years later during the events ofFive Nights at Freddy’s 3. The pizzeria was repurposed for a horror attraction called Fazbear’s Fright; a sort of extreme haunt focused on the “urban legends” surrounding the murders. When Michael Afton took a job as the attraction’s security and discovered his father was still alive through the suit, he burned down Fazbear’s Fright in a failed effort to kill Springtrap.

One of the featured suits in the film’s trailer was a tattered Golden Bonnie suit, the same one that Afton died in around the events ofFive Nights at Freddy’s 2. Whether Afton is already dead in the film is uncertain, but I would be surprised if he was since the suit in the game is much more decayed than what we’ve seen. They’ll probably save his resurrection for the second and third movies.

Neither of which have been confirmed, but… come on. We both know they’re happening.

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HORROR 101: Five Nights at Freddy’s and The Story of William Afton Explained (3)

Emily and Afton became embroiled in a game of cat and mouse following the burning of Fazbear’s Fright. Through Emily’s research on Remnant, he found it could be destroyed by melting; he then constructed a labyrinth, a mock restaurant that would draw any remaining animatronics that hadn’t been scrapped. Finally, he hired a security guard as bait: an undead Michael Afton, looking to stop his father.

Henry Emily, Michael Afton, and William Afton would perish alongside each other with all the other animatronics brought to the maze. The fire set this time would destroy nearly every trace of the murders and their culprit; with their killer vanquished and their animatronic vessels destroyed, the children’s spirits were freed. In the gameUltimate Custom Night, Afton’s soul is shown condemned to a hell that repeats the events of the games forever and forces him to face his most violent creations on a loop, screaming for Michael’s help.

Afton’s creations would live on though, with Fazbear Entertainment being bought up and revived by a third party… which I’m not talking about today! But almost definitely in a future article, dear reader.

FNAF comes back. It always comes back.

***

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And that will be it for today’s Horror 101 lesson. See you in the next class and stay tuned to Horror Press’s social media feeds for more content on horror movies, television, and everything in between!

HORROR 101: Five Nights at Freddy’s and The Story of William Afton Explained (2024)
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