What exactly is this thing called creepypasta? Is it that lasagna atrocity your vegan roommate tried to force on you last week? Nope… unless, perhaps, you found a human finger in it, and when you showed her the grisly evidence, she just stared at you, unblinking… and slowly began to smile.
For the uninitiated, creepypasta is an internet phenomenon, but its origins began long, long ago… with the first scary stories told by our ancestors, huddled around the fire, constantly looking over their shoulders for unknown predators. Myths and legends permeate virtually every culture on earth, and the rise of 24/7 instantaneous information exchange didn’t chase those shadows away… in fact, it gave them new, twisted shapes our ancestors couldn’t possibly imagine.
With that said, let’s get down to the basics: taking its name from “copypasta” – web slang for a copied-pasted piece of text or image that has gone viral, eventually overshadowing its origins – a creepypasta is an article, story, image or video (some are crafty internet hoaxes, others simply short fiction or artwork) with a distinctly horrific subject, which then takes on new life through repeated dissemination on the web – be it 4chan, Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube or just about any social platform.
While many early examples stem from campfire tales going back generations (e.g. “The Hook,” “Bloody Mary,” or “Poodle in the Microwave”), many popular horror memes begin life in the digital realm, often growing in scope until it becomes difficult to determine the original source… and that mystery is part of what makes them so scary. A quick trip to fact-checking site Snopes.com will usually result in a thorough debunking of most creepypasta tales – often revealing their origins in urban legends, clever pranks, or even extracts from published works (including the nightmare-inducing children’s book series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) given a real-world spin.
Even those who spend very little time on social media have probably heard of the most notorious of creepypasta subjects: the supernatural figure commonly known as “Slender Man.” The character himself – typically depicted as a tall, thin, white-skinned figure in a suit, with no hair or facial features – reportedly originated in 2009 via Something Awful, a comedy-themed site whose forum users often post inventively altered images. The faceless figure was inserted into a set of vintage photographs via Photoshop, with captions suggesting the photographer(s) went missing shortly after the photos were taken.
The character has since inspired a subculture in itself, appearing in fan fiction, art, cosplay, video games and more. He most notably appears as the villain in popular found-footage horror webseries MARBLE HORNETS, where he goes by the nickname “The Operator.” His legend crossed over into reality in the worst possible way last year, when a pair of deeply disturbed 12-year-old fans in Wisconsin confessed to stabbing one of their friends 19 times, claiming to be under Slender’s supernatural influence. Fortunately their victim survived the attack, but the case dragged the phenomenon out of the shadows of horror web-culture and into the public spotlight.
Sorry, have I made you a bit uncomfortable? Well, you might rest a little easier knowing that the following list of ten more famously spooky creepypastas is probably no threat to your personal safety. However, I can’t say the same for your sanity… or your sleep tonight. You could try checking Snopes to see if these stories have been thoroughly debunked, but you may find many of them tagged as “undetermined” or “unclassifiable.” I guess you’ll have to find out some other way…