Creepypasta, the Internet's Answer to Urban Legends
What is Creepypasta?
At first glance, a series of photos posted on a blog seem mundane. Some show children playing in a park, others capture a family posing in front of a house, while another set of images are filled with trees, landscapes, and buildings.
But, there’s something insidious about them. A closer look reveals the reason. Someone -- or something eerie -- is present, “hiding” in plain view in the background: a tall faceless being dressed in black that’s better known as Slender Man.
YouTube is not immune, Slender Man and Suicide Mouse (a doppelganger of Mickey Mouse) have made their presence known there, too. So have horrific, alternate versions of popular cartoon characters such as a suicidal Sponge Bob Square Pants and Bart Simpson (better known as Dead Bart).
And if that was not enough, there are rumors circulating throughout Internet chat rooms that Slender Man and the stories behind the other characters are real! At least, that’s according to a “friend of a friend of a friend.”
But, before one starts believing what’s posted on the Internet, one must realize that Slender Man, Suicide Mouse, and Dead Bart are merely members of an Internet urban legend universe. Welcome to the world of Creepypasta.
Creepypastas are short horror stories, films or fakelores created anonymously and posted to various chat-rooms and blogs. Most are written in the same style as an urban legend while others are short gimmicky video clips with surprise endings.
Lately, the most popular medium for creepypastas are blogs that collect and post the stories and YouTube.
In the tradition of urban legends and folklore, creepypasta stories are often told and re-told by word-of-mouth. Unlike the other formats, creepypasta relies on the Internet. As a result, many retelling have very few variations from the original.
Also, there are other influences on these stories. Fan fiction plays a critical role; especially for iconic characters such as Sponge Bob Square Pants, Bart or Pokémon. Fan fiction writers tends to take popular or minor literary, TV, comic, and movie characters and formulate stories around them. In many respects, they are crude, amateur versions of TV spinoff of minor characters from popular shows.
Lately, the most popular medium for creepypastas are blogs that collect and post the stories and YouTube. These videos belong to a sub genre of creepypasta sometimes known as web scares. The goals of these extremely short films are to frighten the viewers with surprise endings. Among the most notables are entitled: “The Scariest Picture on the Internet (REAL)” and the bizarre “Suicide Mouse.”
A Brief History
There are some debates about the origin of creepypasta. Wikipedia states that the name came from a blog that posted these stories. Another site claims the stories were originally posted to a popular (some say infamous) forum site called 4chan.
According to a November 2010 New York Times article, creepypasta is a play on a common Internet vernacular.
“Like other food-based techie terms, it has its own geek etymology,” wrote Austin Considine of the New York Time. “Mike Rugnetta, who is a researcher for KnowYourMeme.com, a Manhattan-based project devoted to tracking [memes], explained that creepypasta derives from a term called copypasta.”
The article explains that copypasta described “any piece of text that was endlessly ‘copy-pasted’ across the Internet (Considine, 2010).” In other words, ‘creepy’ was put in place to ‘copy’ to describe the type of stories that were spreading throughout the Internet.
While the origin varies, most of the tales began to emerge in 2007. Immediately, creepypasta spread across numerous message boards, chat-rooms, and newsgroups.
It wasn’t long before blogs -- such as one aptly named creepypasta.com -- started showcasing many of these stories on its site. Also, it didn’t take long for some of these stories to reach mainstream audiences in different media.
Since his inception, anonymous writers have expanded on the mythology behind Slender Man.
Of all the creepypasta legends to emerge, Slender Man has been the most prominent. His first appearance can be traced to several digitally manipulated photos posted on the forum site “Something Awful” in 2009.
Unlike many these legends, Slender Man has a known source; a person going by the name of Victor Surge (whether this is a real name or a screen alias is still uncertain). Also, there was an apparent reason for his “birth”. Members of the site were trying to create “the scariest paranormal photo” on the Internet.
Since his inception, anonymous writers have expanded on the mythology behind Slender Man. Photos and illustration purported to be the faceless have been “unearthed”, indicating that he had been around since medieval times, showing up and sometimes appearing in the background of major historical events.
Lately, Slender Man has stepped out the Internet and onto other forms of mass media. A Low budget movie was recently produced about him. Also, he became a character in a video game.
Creepypasta is a reflection of the times. It is a high-tech version of an age old tradition of storytelling. In many respects, it reflects people’s growing dependence on technology as well their ever-growing paranoia about its dominance in our lives.
It also attacks, in some respect our fascination with iconic characters. Many of the well known creepypasta legends are actually known characters from TV, movies and other mediums.
Still, its real legacy is to produce cheap thrills. After all, who doesn’t like a good scare from time to time? Especially when it is coming from a friend of a friend of a friend…
Update: The Dark Side of Creepypasta
Slender Man made the news in late May 2014. But it wasn’t for all the right reasons. Two Wisconsin girls were suspected in a horrific attack against a school-mate. The twelve-year-olds were obsessed fans of Slender Man. Reports indicate that they thought Slender Man was real, and chose a school-mate as a sacrifice to appease him.
The victim was lured to a wooded area during a sleepover and was stabbed 19 times. Fortunately, the victim survived her attack, but was in critical condition at the time of this writing.
Although such events are rare, and is more of an indictment of the mindset of the girls, Slender Man and its creator became the unfortunate focus of numerous news report that included one segment on CNN.
Slender was the product of a contest and was done for fun. Sites such as Creepypasta.Wiki merely gave a few creative people an outlet to create stories using urban legend characters such as Slender Man.
Still, it seems that a few derange people are taking it to a whole level. As this writing, another story of a teen killing her mother for the “sake” of Slender Man is circulating on social media sites such as Google+ and Facebook.
"Vintage" Slender Man
© 2013 Dean Traylor