The information presented here has been built up & pieced together through years of talking to people, forum posts, PMs, emails, articles, etc. bits may well be wrong, some details might be educated guesses, and some names have been deliberately left out. Do not take this information as hard fact!

How were the shorts first released/leaked?

The standard bootleg compilation of a number of the shorts is generally known as the 'Sam Raimi Super-8 Shorts', this isn't really a reflection on who directed or was involved with each short, but simply provides an easy moniker. Statistically a more accurate single name title would be the 'Scott Spiegel Super-8 Shorts'. Attack Of The Helping Hand, The Blind Waiter, Stryker's War, Torro, Torro, Torro!, & Cleveland Smith Bounty Hunter were actually directed by one, other or both Josh Becker & Scott Spiegel, and Six Months To Live by Sam Raimi & Scott Spiegel. Only Within The Woods and The Sappy Sap were directed solely by Sam Raimi.

A Sam Raimi Early Short Films & Trailers VHS tape bought from eBay by US fan DeusExMachina in 2002

Just to add a little context, over the last twenty or so years, there has been an increasing resurgence in the Evil Dead trilogy, with a plethora of media releases, merchandising, and progressively more cast & crew members from the trilogy appearing at conventions in the US and around the world. Pre-2000, the situation was quite different. The first DVD version of The Evil Dead was only released in March 1999, there weren't any documentaries devoted to the trilogy (apart from the odd Laserdisc featurette), and the first book on the subject; The Evil Dead Companion wasn't released until 2001. Beyond Sam Raimi & Bruce Campbell, the remaining cast & crew were far less well known than they are today, and some had been out of touch with others for years. Within The Woods had been mentioned here & there in passing in various magazines since the early 1980's, but was probably most heavily featured in Cinefantastique Magazine (Vol.23 No.1) in August 1992, with photos and a full page story. Beyond that there really wasn't much else out there, until Anchor Bay widely publicized Within The Woods inclusion on their forthcoming Book Of The Dead DVD in late 2001, and it became far more well known.

Back in the late 1990's, Tom Sullivan lent his Super-8 short films tape to Scott Spiegel. Scott was having a party and showed it to some friends, but his VCR started to eat the tape. The chewed tape had three screen 'drop-outs' all during Within The Woods; at the beginning, then when Bruce is found dead in the woods and when Ellen is searching for a weapon to attack Bruce. Every bootleg version out there comes via one route or another, from that source tape and has those three drop-outs.

In 2002, following the exclusion of Within The Woods from Anchor Bay's Book Of The Dead DVD, three forum users from the USA & Canada; DeusExMachina, RXFiend & Charliesheen, went on a hunt to try and track down their own copy. DeusExMachina managed to get in in touch with Tom Sullivan's assistant Patrick, who made a copy of Tom's tape behind his back for his help in re-connecting them with Ellen Sandweiss (thanks to Daniel; a fan in Brazil), along with some Evil Dead stills & copies of a few pages from the Book Of The Dead DVD. The tape was two hours long and was of good enough quality that you could see the film grain. By that copy it was 3rd/4th generation, but it still looked good. This is the running order of that VHS tape:

Within The Woods (00:30:39)
Cleveland Smith Bounty Hunter (00:09:04)
Torro, Torro, Torro! (00:06:46)
The Blind Waiter (00:18:21)
Book Of The Dead Trailer (00:03:36)
The Evil Dead Trailer (00:02:05)
Stryker's War (00:48:08)
PM Magazine Detroit (00:03:39)

DeusExMachina created & traded his own shorts VHS compilation using Patrick's tape, along with the clamshell case tape shown above, which was bought off eBay (eBay was like a bootleg paradise back then).
DeusExMachina's Super-8 Shorts VHS tape from Patrick

The Within The Woods' & 'Book Of The Dead' trailer DVD menu

His compilation tape was recorded from scratch each time using a list of timecodes to preserve the VHS generation. You can see the index listing for those two source tapes below. RXFiend used this copy to make VCDs of the shorts which he traded out, He also uploaded & shared a Within The Woods MPEG1 VCD encode to Kazaa, which has found it's way onto subsequent P2P & BitTorrent networks.

The running order of DeusExMachina's Super-8 Shorts VHS tape from Patrick
Sam Raimi Early Short Films & Trailers VHS

RXFiend also made a Within The Woods & Book Of The Dead trailer DVD later on, although the quality of this DVD is not the best generally available today. As an aside, RXFiend later traded away the sources tapes he'd got from DeusExMachina to US forum user eKent as he'd lost interest in Sam Raimi. I tracked down eKent in 2009 and got copies of his VHS to DVD transfers, but again, the quality is not the best now available.

Then US fan Demonovation posted on a forum in January 2008 that he had been sent two VHS tapes of material via a different route to the above, following an interview he did over AOL instant messenger for 'Ash's Evil Dead Page' (to later become Deadites.net) back in late 1999. His two tapes ran as follows;

Tape 1
Within the Woods (00:30:38)
Book of the Dead Trailer (00:03:37)
Strykers War (00:48:05)
Cleveland Smith Bounty Hunter (00:09:02)
Torro, Torro, Torro! (00:06:45)
The Blind Waiter (00:18:22)

Tape 2
The Evil Dead Trailer (00:02:02)
PM Magazine Detroit (00:07:29)
William Shakespeare - The Movie (00:01:51)
Attack of the Helping Hand! (00:05:56)
Holding It (00:18:05)
Shemp Eats the Moon (00:45:26)
Evil Dead on Siskle & Ebert (00:02:32)
Another Evil Dead review (00:01:02)
Tom Sullivan Interview (00:05:52)
Evil Dead II trailer (00:01:31)
Evil Dead II - Behind the Screams (00:26:57)
Demonovation's source tapes, borrowed & transferred to DVD personally

A friend of mine; DJSmokingJam, was contacted out of the blue by Demonovation in September 2009 regarding an Evil Dead DVD project he was working on. He arranged for me to borrow and transfer both VHS tapes to DVD personally. Then in January of 2018, I borrowed those tapes for a second time, to re-transfer them on better equipment. As of 2018 those DVD transfers of PM Magazine Detroit, Shemp Eats the Moon, and the Evil Dead reviews from Demonovation's source tapes, are still the best quality transfers in my personal collection. That's not to say they're actually good quality, just the best available.

In March 2018, I borrowed & transferred DeusExMachina's source VHS tape. He got in touch after seeing his name on this specific page. It was from this tape that my current best quality versions of Within The Woods & Book of the Dead Trailer were transferred. My VHS capture rig has evolved over the years, via some steep learning curves. This tape was digitised using my most recent and best setup; a US NTSC JVC HR-S9500U VCR (powered by a Goldsource ST-1500 1500w 240v/110v voltage converter), through a DataVideo TBC-1000 Time Base Corrector using S-Video cables, to a PC with a Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro PCIe Capture Card. Adobe Premiere & Encore were used to create the final DVD, along with doing a little restoration work to the VHS breakups in the opening credits. All the screenshots on the Within The Woods - Stills page page are taken from this transfer.

A US NTSC JVC HR-S9500U VCR (powered by a Goldsource ST-1500 1500w 240v/110v voltage converter), through a DataVideo
TBC-1000 Time Base Corrector using S-Video cables, to a PC with a Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro PCIe Capture Card.

Demonovation recalls seeing a Sam Raimi Short Films VHS tape even before he received the two above tapes in 1999, so at least some of the shorts were available on VHS bootlegs as early as the late 1990's. I personally bought a Sam Raimi Short Films VHS tape from a US website in January 2000, which as memory serves, was pretty much the same as the copy DeusExMachina bought from eBay in 2002.

An alternate PAL Super-8 Shorts compilation tape became available though trading websites in the UK in the early 1990s, then seemed to disappear within a few years. British Filmmaker Keith Robinson (Other Dimension Films) first read about the Shorts in 1994 through a British fanzine called Ohh my brain hurts (issue 11). The shorts reviewed included Six Months to live, Attack Of The Helping Hand, The Sappy Sap, Cleveland Smith Bounty Hunter, & Torro, Torro, Torro!. Interestingly, the reviews also included Clockwork & It's Murder, but no mention was made of Within The Woods. Dan Auty; the editor of that fanzine recalls "That Raimi stuff was on a bootleg VHS that my pal Ben borrowed from a guy called Steve around 1993. Steve used to get bootleg stuff - all the nasties. We didn't even have that tape for long, it was just to watch for the zine piece". As an aside, Ohh my brain hurts wasn't the only British fanzine to review the shorts; Killing Moon #1 (September 1991) gave a full page review to Cleveland Smith Bounty Hunter, Killing Moon #2 (Spring 1992) covered Torro, Torro, Torro!, and Killing Moon #3 (Summer 1992) had short sections on The Blind Waiter & Attack Of The Helping Hand.

Rich's advert (Dark Side #58 - July 1996)
The contents label of Keith's Super-8 Shorts VHS tape from Rich

Around 1996, Keith managed to track down a copy of that VHS shorts compilation tape. He ordered it from a UK bootleg tape trader in York called Rich, advertising in the classified section in Dark Side Magazine though that same year. He also got a copy of Cronenberg's 1996 film Crash (with Japanese subtitles) included on the same tape. Rich stopped trading tapes after a later police raid, he was fined £1200, and became the first person in the UK to be prosecuted for having a copy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). He also no longer has his source tape for this. The shorts section of the tape ran just over two hours. In April 2019, I borrowed & transferred Keith's source VHS tape. The running order was as follows:

Six Months to live (00:13:58)
Attack Of The Helping Hand (00:06:07)
Channel 6 - Six O'Clock News (00:02:04)
Clockwork (00:07:04)
It's Murder (01:07:09)
Evil Dead II Trailer (00:01:39)
Nightcrew Trailer (00:01:45)
Intruder Trailer (00:02:51)
The Sappy Sap (00:04:38)
Cleveland Smith Bounty Hunter (00:09:13)
Torro, Torro, Torro! (00:06:53)
Breakdancing Stooges (00:02:50)
Channel 4 LA News Report - The Rookie (00:01:08)

The picture quality varies wildly from short to short, but is generally on the poorer side. The Six Months to live transfer here, is better quality than the almost unwatchable copy on the standard US Sam Raimi Short Films VHS, whereas Torro, Torro, Torro! is far worse.
Keith's source tape, borrowed & transferred to DVD personally

One other interesting note, the copy of The Sappy Sap here is terrible quality, but it does have sound. This compilation was likewise missing Within The Woods (among other generally available shorts). Keith did eventually manage to track down a copy of Within The Woods via LimeWire (early file sharing software), around 2002, Using dial-up to download a huge file which even back then was "the size of a postage stamp".

The ultimate origin for the British bootleg tape is unconfirmed, but it's likely the source for It's Murder & Clockwork PAL VCDs which I got through a friend; Sean from New York in 2006, who in turn bought them from a guy called Andrew from Long Island. Andrew originally bought them off eBay in 2000, but can't recall any further details. The VCDs look to be taken from a VHS tape one or two generations better/higher than Keith's tape.

If you're able to provide any more information on the origins of the original pre-1999 Sam Raimi Super-8 Shorts Tape VHS, or anything else above, then please get in touch at .

Ok, so which versions are out there & how do they compare?

Here is a quick line up of the bootleg Within The Woods versions personally owned. Below are nine screenshots of the same frame from each version to compare. They have all been reduced in size, click on them for 1:1 images, which haven't been compressed, so any artifacting was present on the original picture. They are listed in order of quality, from worst to best. There are more than just these specific versions of Within The Woods out there, but basically anything else will you'll find will likely be the same as one of the following transfers.

1 - Within The Woods &
'Book Of The Dead' Trailer DVD

2 - Peer To Peer 368.27mb
AVI internet version

3 - Peer To Peer 308.41mb
MPEG VCD internet version

4 - Sam Raimi Short Films DVD
(standard widespread version)

5 - Sam Raimi Short Films DVD
(bought at New York comic fair)

6 - Tansferred personally from
Demonovation's tape in 2008

7 - Tansferred personally from
Demonovation's tape in 2018

8 - Transferred via DVD-rec by
US fan eKent in 2008

9 - Tansferred personally from
DeusExMachina's tape in 2018

The best quality version is number 9, which was transferred personally in May 2018 from a tape loaned from US fan DeusExMachina. The tape was digitised using a US NTSC JVC HR-S9500U VCR, through a DataVideo TBC-1000 Time Base Corrector using S-Video cables, to a PC with a Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro PCIe Capture Card. All the screenshots on the Within The Woods - Stills page page are taken from this transfer. The only better copy of Within The Woods out there to be found could be the Anchor Bay restored copy, should that ever see the light of day, or a future DVD/Blu-Ray release.

Wasn't it released on a German DVD at some point?

The German distributor T.U.T. (The Union Television) released Evil Dead with a poor quality version of the short as an extra, in 2004. The transfer was virtually identical to screenshot number 4 above. Many of the other extras are the same as the Anchor Bay Evil Dead trilogy UK boxset. This version has been re-packaged a number of times since then with various covers, but the actual disc content is the same.

T.U.T. is one of a handful of German distributors notorious for releasing official-looking bootlegs of films they havenít actually licensed, and it's highly unlikely they would have been given permission to include the short, if Anchor Bay couldn't in the USA or UK, giving this release a semi-bootleg status even though it can be legally bought online and in stores.

I remember seeing some high quality stills posted on a forum somewhere?

Don May Jr (president of DVD company Synapse) posted these 24 stills from his copy of Within The Woods on the MHVF forum on 1st January 2002, hinting that he'd got it directly from Sam. The text with them said "Well, I figured if ABE can't put it on the disc, I'd at least treat y'all to some pix!", so it seems likely that these are screenshots from the unreleased restored Anchor Bay DVD version. They certainly look much better than any of the bootleg VHS versions. When contacted Don said he'd made a promise to the renaissance guys that when he got the copy, that he would never give it to anyone else. He still works with the guys on and off and considers them good friends and wouldn't betray that promise. You can read an archived version of that forum thread Here.