Prologue

"When I unwrapped the first letter, I felt it. I heard it. Open. Open. Open. I want it out. I'm going to get it out."
- hidden text from the "What's Welcome Home?" page on the Welcome Home Restoration Project's old website.

The prologue of Welcome Home begins with its website, which also functions as the official website of the Welcome Home Restoration Project in-universe. It follows the Welcome Home Restoration Project's attempts to document and prove the existence of Welcome Home, a lost 1970s’ puppet show allegedly created and produced by Playfellow Workshop, as well as Wally Darling's attempts to reach out to you through the website.

Plot

The WHRP website first launches on February 14th, 2022, with a homepage and three major subpages * - “What's Welcome Home?”, “Your Neighborhood!”, and the “Guestbook.” Exploration of the site quickly reveals several oddities surrounding Welcome Home and the WHRP, especially where the character Wally is concerned. Many of these oddities stem from Wally's efforts to communicate with you, such as responding to guestbook signatures with drawings whose filenames are full responses, or secret pages that seem to be intended for your eyes only.

Wally staring at you very politely.

An image of Wally exclusive to iterations of the website prior to January 14th, 2023.*

On January 14th, 2023, three more pages are added to the site - "About Us," "News," and "Links."** It is revealed through "About Us" that all pieces of information available on the site first come to the WHRP heavily damaged, and sealed away in colorful envelopes. There is no mention of any possible sender. Hidden text on this page indicates that the WHRP's desire to uncover what's left of Welcome Home extends far beyond mere curiosity, and is instead something deeper and more instinctual, bordering on compulsion. The News page also implies that the WHRP are either unable or unwilling to acknowledge Wally's presence throughout the website. Meanwhile, Wally becomes more varied in his responses to you, resulting in new Guestbook messages, as well as the YXWVOE pages. Notably, one of these pages contains the first time we see Wally directly address a character who isn't you, and one who’s capable of answering back, no less - Home, Wally's sentient house.

On February 25th, 2023, the site updates again. No new pages are added, but a new character is introduced: the Question Answerer, a mysterious but successful museum curator who expresses interest in creating an in-person exhibition to showcase the WHRP’s findings. This comes to fruition in the following update on July 27th, 2023, in which a page detailing the exhibition is added to the site, along with the "Media" and "Merchandise" pages. In the News page, the WHRP reveals that they have uncovered a new lead through their latest findings: Marlo, Inc., a toy company with whom the Playfellow Workshop apparently worked to produce several pieces of merchandise. The WHRP is still unable/unwilling to perceive Wally, expressing dismay and frustration at seeing images in the guestbook that they don’t remember adding, as well as the amount of signatures that are trying to communicate. As a result, the decision is made to close the guestbook, with the given reason being that there are now too many signatures to post.

This update also sees the addition of a secret page that was not Wally’s doing, although his presence is felt there as well: “Staff Only,” in which the Question Answerer expresses confusion with the task they’ve been given. They have been having unsettling dreams involving Wally, and outside of what the WHRP has given them, they can find no records indicating that Welcome Home has ever existed. Beneath these writings are a series of photos of what appears to be the Question Answerer’s rather dilapidated workspace, as well as excerpts of correspondence between them and the WHRP. These excerpts raise more questions than they answer, containing mentions of a strange dark substance growing on some recovered WHRP materials that is capable of inducing nausea, dizziness, and fatigue if handled without gloves. There is also text that can only be seen via blacklight, apparently both from the WHRP and Wally; the former emphasizes the WHRP’s urge to continue their work as a rather distressing compulsion, while the latter appears to be more demands for a response.

Meanwhile, Wally becomes more desperate in his attempts to communicate with you, as evidenced by his drawings now appearing throughout the entire site, including secret pages. These drawings link to a series of hidden records, in which Wally attempts to make small talk with you before breaking down, becoming audibly distressed over having yet to receive a tangible response from you and begging to be “let in.” Various insects can also be seen in several pages throughout the site. These link to a series of videos, all following the same pattern: a still shot featuring an offscreen interaction between two of the show’s other characters, only for the footage to distort and end abruptly once one of them acknowledges Wally, revealing that he was part of the scene the entire time. It is unclear from what point in time these videos are from.

The site updates again on October 13th, 2023, with the WHRP having discovered several pieces of Halloween-themed merchandise. On the "News" page, the WHRP expresses thinly-veiled frustration with the scarcity of their findings, suspecting that their source may be holding out on them, but not knowing why. One of the pieces of merchandise, a storybook record titled "Happy Haunting to Boo and Yours!", suffers from a major discrepancy between its transcript and the contents of its audio: a section that the WHRP claims is inaudible is actually the rest of Sally's story, in which she speaks of a mysterious presence that lurks around Home at night. She claims that it is looking for neighbors to eat, hence why Home's population remains so small, and why the neighbors stay indoors at night. Next to the transcript is a spider resembling a piece of candy. Clicking on it leads to a video in which Wally demonstrates a curious ability: taking a bite out of an apple with his eyes alone. No one else at the party seems to notice this.

On Nobember 20th, 2023, the WHRP leaves out a series of instructions for Wally while cleaning up the site's Halloween decorations from the previous update. These instructions are found in seemingly random locations throughout the site, and are relatively straightforward, most often instructing Wally to write a certain phrase or move a certain image. The URLs for the YWXVOE pages also have the word "delete" appended to each of them (ex. "/voywex" automatically redirects "/voywexdelete.") Regardless, Wally's response comes through on December 25th, 2023. He attempts to follow the WHRP's instructions to the best of his ability, although he occasionally expresses confusion or takes creative liberties when doing so. The YWXVOE URLs are also altered once more, with the appended phrase now being "nodelete."

Instructions: Write 'OK.' Result: Several stickers have been arranged to form the word 'OK,' with the rest being haphazardly shoved aside. A smiley face is drawn in the center of the 'O,' its alt text reading as follows: 'I did not write it. I did something else. I know who these neighbors are. Do you like them too?'

A screenshot of the Stickers page after December 25th, 2023, displaying Wally's response to the instruction "Write 'OK.'"

On February 1st, 2024, the WHRP website disappears. A little over a month later, on March 9th, its second iteration is established, with nearly every oddity from the previous website removed. The WHRP explains their reasoning for doing so in the "About Us" and "News" pages, claiming these oddities to be "mocking, unpleasant, and disruptive in their presentation," and promising a higher level of security in order to prevent similar incidents in the future. The re-establishment of the WHRP Website also brings an array of Christmas-themed merchandise, with one character - resident mailman Eddie Dear - being conspicuously absent from all but one of the newly discovered audio recordings. The discrepancy between the theme of these findings and the date of the site's relaunch is noted in the "News" section, with the writer admitting that they were under the impression that it was still December, and that whoever posted their notice announcing these findings "must not have been paying proper attention."

Despite the WHRP's best efforts, a new secret finds its way into the site, albeit not by Wally's hand. Through a series of drawings scattered throughout the site, corresponding to a decoder found in the section of the "Merchandise" page advertising Crispy Sweets-brand frosted cereal, the visitor is taken to the url www.awayfrompryingeyes.net. The site is run by an individual calling themselves W, who claims to be a rogue member of the WHRP. Unable to bring themselves to completely destroy the oddities they have found, W claims to have created awayfrompryingeyes.net as a means of documenting these oddities without interfering with the WHRP website, or attracting the attention of their "contributor." Only two discoveries from W have been documented so far: a phone call from Wally that W reports having received on March 9th, and a 22-minute television transmission consisting of various advertisements intercut with footage from Welcome Home itself.

In the phone call, Wally wishes W a Happy Homewarming (despite it being March) and performs a cover of "Toyland," notable for being part of the WHRP's findings in that same update. Although he appears more composed than in past updates, he still expresses disappointment over an apparent lack of response, as well as a reluctance to end the call. He eventually brings himself to do so, citing the fact that he must get ready for the holiday. The show footage itself features Eddie helping Poppy set up the last of her Homewarming decorations before returning to his office, where he waits for the other neighbors to ask him to deliver their gifts. After what is implied to be several hours of waiting, he grows anxious over a lack of work to do, then irritated. When he steps outside for a walk to calm his nerves, Sally is waiting for him atop the Homewarming tree. She explains that the rest of the neighbors have delivered each other's presents already, and invites him to the Homewarming party taking place inside Home, to which he accepts. Once there, he sits down and closes his eyes to try and relax, but upon opening them again, finds himself alone in a dark void. Home, the only other entity present in the void, stares down at him, their eyes bloodshot and unblinking. The only sounds that can be heard in the dark are Eddie's breathing, and a heartbeat that grows faster and more erratic as the scene continues. Suddenly, Eddie finds himself back in the living room, still frozen in shock as Sally and Frank converse idly in front of him. Frank attempts to banter with Eddie, but becomes alarmed upon noticing his acute distress and demands to know what's wrong. In response, Eddie can only mumble the words, "I think I need to go home."

Characters

Footnotes

* This image was originally used to direct visitors to the "About Welcome Home" page on ClownIllustrations' actual portfolio website.

** Later renamed to "Stickers."