slenderman

Meet Creepypasta, A Genre Of Dark Folklore That Spreads Fast On The Web

Image courtesy of mdl70 via Flickr.

In the age of the Internet, phenomena range from light-hearted cat memes to the deepest depths of a dark and frightening web.

One such phenomena is creepypasta: a type of scary, shareable online folklore that has recently penetrated the real world in the form of some brutal attacks, rooted in the alleged belief of the undebatably fictional “Slender Man.”

As the Internet acts as wildfire, “pasta” spreads faster than ever in spite of its digital roots – not unlike the dreaded chainmail of Internet past. Here’s what you should know about it.

Where did creepypasta come from?

While the “creepy” half of “creepypasta” is intuitive, “pasta” as the more baffling latter half makes sense in context: it evolved from copypasta, which refers to shareable chunks of texts, copied and pasted (paste became pasta).

There are many websites devoted to the creation, curation, and sharing of creepypasta. One of such, the Creepypasta Wiki describes its subject as this: “internet horror stories, passed around on forums and other sites to disturb and frighten readers.”

KnowYourMeme suggests the term first entered vernacular on internet forum 4Chan in 2007. Google trends shows the term was first searched before 2009, with a recent spike in 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 8.10.26 PM

What types of creepypasta exist?

Pastas vary in length and are often multi-media, supplemented with frightening music, video, or images. Like chainmail, rumor often has it that the consumption of such content will somehow curse the viewer/reader.

Creepypastas tend to rely on several different formulas, such as:

  • Anecdotes, which remark on scary tales of the past
  • Rituals, which instruct readers to follow (or not follow) a set of actions for a terrifying result
  • The Lost Episode, which takes known TV shows (usually comedies or kids series) and distorts them with horrific visuals and audio

The Creepypasta wiki offers tips to creepypasta writers, suggesting stories start mid-climax, utilize subtlety and good grammar, and tackle subjects like the unknown, science, children, mirrors, and technology. But death, they insist, is overrated.

Crappypasta

Inevitably, creepypasta has also born not-so-creepy hybrids, which have found meaning not in horror, but humor. Some are intentionally obtuse; others are just badly written and thusly hilarious.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 9.49.23 PM
Image courtesy of KnowYourMeme.com.

(View a dramatic reading here.)

Who is Slender Man, and other famous creepypasta?

Starting with Slender man, here are the most infamous of creepypasta.

  • Slender Man: Slender man originated in 2009, when creator Victor Surge (real name Eric Knudson) submitted photos to a paranormal photoshop contest on the Something Awful forum. The pictures depicted a tall, thin man-shadow lurking behind old photos of children.

    He has retractable tentacles, is faceless, suited and stretchy, and has tendency to lurk in woods and prey on children.  Slender Man has inspired many stories, as well as a popular free game.

    In May 2014, two Wisconsin 12 year old girls stabbed another near-fatally in an attempt to please the character they thought was real. In June, a 13 year old girl attacked her mother in another Slender Man related incident.

  • Suicidemouse.avi: A pasta following “The Lost Episode” formula, and the forefather of the genre, tells a tale of deleted Disney footage of Mickey Mouse walking down a never-ending street, until the picture and sound are transformed horrifically.

    Others in the lost episode genre include Squidward’s Suicide, derived from Spongebob Squarepants, and Cupcakes, derived from My Little Pony.

  • Ben Drowned: Story of a Nintendo 64 game cartridge haunted by the ghost of a boy named Ben.

  • Smile Dog: Story of a writer that visits an old woman, who gives him a file named smile.jpg (or smile.dog) which haunts viewers until their death, demanding they spread the word.

    Click to view smile dog if you dare.
    Smiledog
  • Normal Porn For Normal People: Story of a website sent to people via email, the contents of which contain hyperlinks to disturbing videos, some banal, like a dog eating a peanut butter sandwich, and others graphic, like an abused chimpanzee mauling a tied up woman.

  • Candle Cove: Story written in message board form reminiscing about a local children’s show, which starred a girl that imagined herself friends with pirates. Looking back, sinister aspects of the show are unveiled – which may or may not have existed only in the minds of child viewers.

Remember, creepypasta isn’t real, and most can be traced to their online origins. Despite this, fear is a powerful force, sometimes convincing young and old alike that the stories are more than entertainment native only to a digital world.

We measure success by the amount of understanding we deliver. If you could express it as a percentage, how much fresh understanding did we provide?
Jennifer Markert