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Creepypasta: The Internet's Answer to Urban Legends

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.

From the video game.

From the video game.

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.

However, these black-and-white pics contain something subtly, yet shockingly, present. The figure is tall and lanky, and dressed in a suit. But, the most jarring part about this figure is that he has no face. In addition, he looms above his subjects; they appear to be unaware of his macabre presence.

Slender Man is a name given to this terrifying being. The image itself tells a story of a omnipresent entity that seemingly lingers or hides in the open, possibly stalking his victims.

He is also the most prominent member of an emerging form of urban legends for the Internet age. While there's cryptid-like characters coming from this new medium, the stories and media that bring them alive are varied.

They emerge in places such as:

  • forums/chat rooms;
  • photo sharing sites;
  • alt.binaries;
  • social media;
  • gaming blogs; and
  • video sharing sites.

They are either told as urban legends, rumors, or presented as doctored pictorials or video snippets. In nearly every case, they are tales of terror that are best known as Creepypasta.

Online Urban Legends

Creepypasta is the electronic version of urban legends. Many are told as "rumors" passed from one person or another. However, instead being spread by word-of-mouth, they are shared throughout the Internet.

While some are obvious tongue-and-cheek stories, some are passed along as if they are true events (i.e. "heard it from a friend of a friend of a friend . . ."). In rare cases, they are based on real incidents.

In addition, many Creepypastas go beyond a written narrative. Many are based on doctored or suggestive photos and videos. Also, there is an emerging account influenced by the current gaming culture.

Creepypasta appeals to an Internet savvy audience, especially for those that congregate and socialize with others in chat-rooms and forums. As a result, producers of other mediums such as the games, movie, and TV formats have incorporated some aspects of this sub-genre.

In many respects, they are crude, amateur versions of TV spin-off of minor characters from popular shows placed in horror stories.

Another important component is fan fiction. As mentioned, some of the most popular Creepypastas are based on iconic characters; Sponge Bob Square Pants, Bart Simpson, and Pokémon are just a few.

In addition, fan fiction writers tend to take popular or minor literary, TV, comic, and movie characters and formulate stories around them. There are many blogs and videos dedicated to fan fiction. The same is true for Creepypasta.

Web Scares Emerge

YouTube is not immune. In fact, Slender Man and others popular Creepypasta characters have made their presence known there. This includes a new set of characters based on video games and/or iconic cinematic creatures (such as the video narrative nicknamed "Nintendo Godzilla").

Other popular Creepypasta videos include alternate versions of popular cartoon characters such as:

  • a suicidal Sponge Bob Square Pants;
  • a "lost and cursed" episode of The Simpsons.
  • a mouse known as Suicide Mouse (a doppelganger of Mickey Mouse).

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 sudden jump scare techniques and/or using techniques to build tension or foreboding terror. Among the most notables are entitled:

  • The Scariest Picture on the Internet (REAL)” and
  • Suicide Mouse.”

In some cases, these web scare videos use eerie music, glitch effects (akin to found footage movies). It will play with a viewers expectation that something terrifying will happen. But, the video never reaches this pay off. A good example of that is the long, meandering Suicide Mouse.

Copypasta Becomes Creepypasta

There are some debates about the origin of Creepypasta. Wikipedia states that the name came from a blog (creepypasta.com) that posted these stories. Another site claims the stories were originally posted on a popular and controversial 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.”

While the origin varies, most of the tales began to emerge in 2007.

The article explains that copypasta is a slang that describes “any piece of text that was endlessly ‘copy-pasted’ across the Internet (Considine, 2010).” In other words, ‘creepy’ was put in place of ‘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.

Creepypasta Is Fakelore

Creepypasta shares some qualities with folklore. At first glance, it appears that these stories are being passed along in the Internet version of the "oral tradition".

In truth, it shares qualities with another format, fakelore. The genre of fakelore has all the hallmarks of folklore; however, this particular format actually has a source, as well as a purpose.

The same can be said about Creepypasta. Often Creepypasta is passed off as being anonymous and emerging by "word of mouth"; however, many of these stories have authors—even if many of them use Internet handles, avatars, or aliases. In some cases, these stories have copyrights (this is important, considering that many original Creepypasta characters are being used in games and movies, lately).

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.

Its creator is a person going by the name of Victor Surge (real name, Eric Knudsen), and his original intent was to win a photo contest.

Members of the site were trying to create “the scariest paranormal photo” on the Internet. Victor took black-and-white images (some over a century old) and injected slender man in the background. The photos became a hit, and eventually, went beyond its original intent.

creepypasta-the-internets-answer-to-urban-legends

Since his inception, anonymous writers have expanded on the mythology behind Slender Man. Photos and illustration purported to be the faceless specter have been “unearthed”. These creation gave more life to Slender Man and built the myth that he had been haunting the planet for eons.

Interestingly, Slender Man's emergence seemingly coincided with the emergence of selfies and photo-bombs. Whether intentionally created as a commentary to this self-indulgence or just as a gag, there's no doubt that Slender Man has become the creepiest photo-bomber, ever.

Lately, Slender Man has stepped out onto 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 (not bad for a gag!)

A Dark Side to Creepypasta

Despite the intent to entertain through horror stories, the creators of popular Creepypastas are now being faced by an unintended consequence.

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 schoolmate. The girls were obsessed fans of Slender Man. Reports indicate that they thought Slender Man was real, and chose a peer from the middle school 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 and the two girls responsible for the attack were arrested..

The two suspects pleaded guilty to attempted murder. One was sentence to 40 years in a mental health unit. The other was committed to a psychiatric ward for 25 years.

Such events are rare, and is more of an indictment of the mindset of the girls. Still, Slender Man and its creator became the unfortunate focus of numerous news report that included one segment on CNN and an HBO documentary.

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 produce stories using urban legend characters such as Slender Man.

Still, it seems that a few derange people are taking it to a whole new level. As of this writing, another story of a teen killing her mother for the “sake” of Slender Man is circulating on social media.

The Legacy of Creepypasta

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 their 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…who read it in a chat-room forum?

Lurking in the woods.

Lurking in the woods.

Work Cited

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Dean Traylor

Comments

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on February 11, 2021:

"sima traylor

I agree with you and I love your ideas"

Thanks Mom.

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on February 02, 2018:

To C.H. Wolf. Admittedly, I haven't paid a lot of attention to the website since writing this article. I'm not surprised to find out this happened. A lot of people are buying old sites and turning them into click-bait type sites. I guess that's where the easy money is at.

C.H. Wolf on February 02, 2018:

Creepypasta.com was recently sold to a new owner. Unfortunately, he has a history of get-rich scams and has been attacking anyone who talks about it. I wouldn't suggest supporting this site.

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on March 08, 2017:

Just letting you know, there was a documentary made on Slender Man. I mentioned in the article that two girls nearly killed a friend of theirs in order to satisfy this figure. It's a very disturbing documentary (it's on HBO). I think the title is Fear the Slender Man (?)

Bev G from Wales, UK on March 08, 2017:

My daughter would enjoy this article. Sending her the link.

sima traylor on December 07, 2016:

I agree with you and I love your ideas .

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on August 20, 2016:

Sometimes, these creepy pasta stuff can strike unexpectedly. I was watching a YouTube video on a topic I was researching for an article. It sounded legit until it took a horrific turn. Next thing I know the story was about a death video or something like that...believe it or not much of this started as a contest to scare people. Many are getting very sophisticated. It won't be long before a book or movie within the horror genre starts to capitalize. Scary, yes. But it will be interesting to see how this evolves over the years.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on August 20, 2016:

This stuff gives me the creeps, which I guess is exactly what it is meant to do. I wouldn't even watch your video, because it would probably keep me up nights. Of course I doubt the validity of this stuff, it is simply a product of amazingly good Photo Shop, but it is a self-perpetuating part of modern folklore and is fascinating to read about. Great hub.

angelwolfchild on June 23, 2014:

This is a wonderful discussion of creepypasta and the effect it has had on the internet community. I discovered creepypasta just over a year ago and I've never looked back, it's absolutely fascinating the stories people come up with and it really creates a source of stories and literature for the increasingly technology-driven generations. It definitely feels like urban legends or Tales from the Crypt and things like that. Great job on this mate.

Ausseye on April 21, 2013:

Hi Dean,

Love the hub and had a dream that all comic characters are equal in the sight of the internet and:

A slender chef dressed in black rather than white

Making Creepypasta a very Italian story

I know, I know, Italian cooking is bland at best

And you know you can’t insult the Mafia without consequences

So you let a cartoon character do the job

And have a laugh at the same time

Sound like a super link to me

Almost Mafia bashing

How good can it get???

Oh I forgot a mouse in the food and all

Give it to boss man mafia

And then let the rats have him…

Dean Traylor (author) from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on March 27, 2013:

Creepypasta is a fairly new term. I stumbled upon it when I was writing an article about Dead Bart. It's an example of how technology may change but the need for stories don't.

Sueswan on March 15, 2013:

Never heard of creepypasta but I found this hub entertaining.

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