The 13th Floor

The Clue to a Grisly Unsolved Murder is “The Face in the Middle of the Dark”

Today’s creepypasta is an old favorite, and by that I mean it’s been giving readers vivid nightmares for over a decade now (which, by Internet standards, is practically vintage).

This story is also shrouded in mystery — much more so than many of the most popular and long-since-debunked web legends — and while the tale itself allegedly dates back nearly thirty years, its origins remain completely unknown.

It began, as these things often do, with a horrific murder. The heinous crime took place in a small (unnamed) Russian village — just prior to the dissolution of the USSR — in which a woman named Amanda Branksnovitsch moved into a modest house.

Image Credit: iStock/Pro-Syanov
Image Credit: iStock/Pro-Syanov

According to most accounts, Amanda had obtained the residence far more easily than she had ever imagined (at the time, even the tiniest apartment was usually priced out of most people’s budgets). The previous occupant, an elderly woman, had moved out after being disturbed by strange noises on a nightly basis.

The noises — mostly deep groans and sharp creaks — were originally attributed to a settling foundation, and after sufficient repairs were made, they stopped. But after Amanda moved in, the noises began anew.

This time, in addition to the creaks and groans, Amanda began to hear a deep knocking sound.

At first, she was unable to trace the source, but finally she determined the knocking was loudest behind one wall of the bathroom. Nothing seemed unusual about the wall… until she looked closer, and saw a tiny crack in the bathroom ceiling.

After spending most of the evening trying to isolate the sound, she began to suspect that it was actually coming from the roof, in a spot directly above the crack in the bathroom wall. Now obsessed with solving the mystery, she began digging at the crack in an attempt to widen it for a better look.

Shining a light through the gap, she saw only darkness beyond it.

Image Credit: iStock/G Point Studio
Image Credit: iStock/G Point Studio

Using a stepladder, she tried looking on the low roof… and found a large opening leading into the space above the bathroom wall.

She climbed onto the roof, armed only with a flashlight and a small instamatic camera, determined to inspect the opening from above… but the rotting shingles gave way beneath her feet and she fell through and into the space behind the bathroom wall. The flashlight fell from her grasp and tumbled to the ground as she plummeted into the tiny crawlspace.

06 Image Credit: iStock/Jacus
Image Credit: iStock/Jacus

Panic immediately took hold as Amanda realized she was stuck. But as she struggled to find leverage within the tight space, her panic quickly turned to horror when she heard the laughter.

Faint, hoarse, and almost a whisper, the laugh seemed to be coming from directly behind Amanda’s head.

Without the flashlight, she had only the camera’s flash for illumination… so she struggled to turn around and face the source of the voice, snapping a picture in the process.

The image captured by the camera may have been the last thing Amanda Branksnovitsch saw before she died.

The charred, mangled corpse of Amanda Branksnovitsch was found by police after a neighbor reported a wisp of smoke emanating from the hole in the roof, accompanied by a horrendous stench — the stink of a slaughterhouse.

Image Credit: iStock/Dan Brandenburg
Image Credit: iStock/Dan Brandenburg

Police said the corpse’s face was contorted into a scream — not of pain, but of sheer terror — and that the apparent cause of death was a heart attack, which forensic experts attributed to severe panic. The fire was blamed on an electrical short, which seemingly occurred after Amanda became entangled in the faulty wiring within the wall.

But the police changed their minds after they developed the film in Amanda’s camera.

The only exposed image on the roll of film — which police subsequently hid from the press — only vaguely resembled a human female. The eyes were unnaturally large, the mouth impossibly elongated into a nightmarish grin, and the facial structure didn’t conform to that of a normal human skull.

Police officials ordered the entire house to be dismantled and examined in an effort to determine the identity of the “woman” in the photo. Despite the thoroughness of their investigation — which included interviews with neighbors and the previous tenant — they never found a single scrap of evidence indicating that anyone even close to that description ever lived there.

In 2004, nearly 13 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the police finally revealed the unexplained photo to the family of Amanda Branksnovitsch.

After seeing the picture, Amanda’s mother reportedly suffered a severe heart attack. She died two days later.

As of today, the Branksnovitsch case remains unsolved.

The surrounding rumors led to a now-infamous creepypasta that was first posted on the site Something Awful (home of the original “Slenderman” image), to which the poster attached a JPEG image they claimed to be the photograph in question:


But this dubious image was quickly and easily debunked as a fake, and generated more giggles than chills. It also bears a strong resemblance to another iconic creepypasta character: “Jeff the Killer.”

As of this writing, the actual photograph has not been revealed to anyone outside of Amanda’s family.