The internet has been full of horror-themed legends for years, copied and pasted in forums and on social media feeds with such tenacity that they occasionally get turned into a feature film (Slender Man). These Creepypastas (like the unhinged character Jeff the Killer) aren’t real but often based on real crimes, assembled by imaginative storytellers keen on entertaining teens.
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The stories range from the supernatural to the utterly gruesome, and can often focus on uncomfortable topics like suicide and murder. They seemed to reach their peak in 2018 when a film made out of their most famous monster “Slender Man” was released to little buzz. Was it the final nail in the coffin of the internet fandom? Does anyone care if Jeff The Killer is real anymore? Creepypastas just don’t seem to hold the same sick fascination they once did.
Updated on October 4th, 2021 by Kayleena Pierce-Bohen: As the fascination with the True Crime genre grows, fans want to know the real details behind the world’s most disturbing crimes. Podcasts devoted to real serial killers and unsolved mysteries have taken precedence, with the legend of Slender Man, the Jeff The Killer story, and several more Creepypastas fading into the shadows. These Creepypastas just can’t compete — the real world is scary enough.
Jeff The Killer
One of the most notorious Creepypastas to circulate around the internet was created by deviantart member Sessuer in 2011. Jeff The Killer was the given name of a 13-year-old boy who, after surviving a brutally disfiguring attack by bullies, had a mental break and slaughtered them in retribution.
The bully attack had left Jeff badly burned, and in order to keep his spirits up, he carved a garish smile into his face. When his parents became concerned about his spiraling behavior, he murdered them with a knife. The Jeff The Killer story might as well have been The Joker’s origins, and with the comparisons to the infamous Batman villain made in recent years, combined with his presentation, Jeff The Killer has lost all of his impact.
One of the most well-known Creepypastas in their canon, Slender Man was created by Eric Knudsen in 2009 on the Something Awful forum. He’s depicted as a tall, impossibly thin man with pale skin, most frequently seen wearing a black suit, who appears to children.
What supposedly makes Slender Man frightening is the fact that he has no face, and uses some sort of mind control to manipulate the victims -who stumble upon him wandering near abandoned buildings- into performing murder on his behalf. Slender Man himself isn’t nearly as terrifying as the real-life homicide he inspired in 2014 involving two girls stabbing a victim because the “Slender Man told them to”.
The Russian Sleep Experiment
The Russian Sleep Experiment refers to the Creepypasta legend created by user OrangeSoda, with enough details to make it seem like a real historical event in the Soviet Union. Five political prisoners were supposedly deprived of sleep for 30 consecutive days for a military-sanctioned experiment done at a testing facility, locked in a room where a specific chemical compound was distributed to keep them awake.
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They became more deranged as the days went on, tearing themselves apart in the process. The story was hailed upon its release for being an authentic account, despite the fact that no humans could survive what occurred in the facility. The inauthentic premise, use of the “Spazm” Halloween decoration as photographic “proof”, coupled with its blatant political fear-mongering made it lose its impact eventually.
One of the first chain letter Creepypasta legends to receive a long life on the internet, Smile Dog (also known as Smile.jpg) began as a Polaroid of a creepy canine appearing to smile with very human teeth. There is a hand near the dog seeming to beckon the viewer who, upon receiving the image, must pass it on to their friends.
If they don’t send the image on, their dreams will be infiltrated by the dog, who will take on more disturbing forms as they continue to procrastinate. The victims are normally driven to insanity and in some extreme cases, suicide. The legend, aside from showcasing readers’ gullibility, has lost its appeal for generally being regarded as nonthreatening and more amusing than anything else.
A more recent Creepypasta that first appeared on 4chan, The Backrooms refers to a simple photograph of a yellow-carpeted hallway with matching wallpaper, which a person may “enter” by noclipping (a cheat term used to describe moving through walls and other objects in first-person games).
By entering The Backrooms, an endless series of corridors and empty hallways, they will be trapped there forever in a world of monochromatic yellow, plagued by the sound of humming fluorescent lights, with the fear of malevolent entities around every corner. No one has been able to identify the origin of the photograph, and it remains one of the less frightening Creepypastas to date.
The Rake, a prominent Creepypasta going back to 2003, pertains to a bizarre humanoid/dog-like creature with pale skin, huge sharp claws, and a sunken face. It often visits victims in the night while they sleep and whispers strange things to them before savagely ripping them apart.
The Rake became an urban legend, picking up momentum in the mid-’00s when internet sleuths began adding information about sightings of the creature, in anecdotes from a mariner’s log in 1691, to personal accounts from the modern day. Eventually, it was made into a movie in 2018 that lacked any of the nuances of the original tales, and the legend passed into irrelevance.
NoEnd House began as David Williams’ fascinating journey through a haunted house with nine rooms, each new room more terrifying than the last. Told of a $500 reward by a friend, Williams went to make it through all nine rooms and claim his prize, only to find NoEnd House really had no end.
Creepypasta fans enjoyed the long story and descriptive detail of David Williams’ descent into madness but didn’t appreciate that the author ruined his own twist ending by making several sequels, eventually declaring the friend who originally put Williams up to the quest to be its mastermind.
Wikipedia has been a reliable source of information for over a decade, and in the case of Creepypasta Annora Petrova, the source of a scary legend. The tale begins with Annora Petrova’s Wikipedia page, which features in the story about Petrova, a fictional figure skater who makes a “Help Me” (a Creepypasta template) appeal to readers about her circumstances.
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She explains that an unknown entity began adding nefarious things to her public Wikipedia page, and each time it did, the events eventually came true. From the death of her parents to spelling out her own demise, it seemed to be eerily prescient. The story loses steam when it ends on a cliffhanger, and rather than make readers excited to find out the fate of Petrova, they’re left bored and confused.
What began as a YouTube video in 2009 after the death of Michael Jackson, the Ayuwoki by Thomas Rengstorff is a legend that arose from the writer’s promotion of an animatronic robot wearing a strange mask based on superstar Michael Jackson.
Supposedly, a reader could invite Ayuwoki by reciting its name at three in the morning, after which time it would appear to them while they sleep and say, “Hee hee” after Jackson’s unique laugh. With time it’s become seen as a mimic of the popular Momo meme that has a similar mythos.
Have You Seen This Man
The Have You Seen This Man story arose from an image circulating around the internet of an incredibly nondescript man who, according to a young man, paralyzed him with his stare and then killed his dog in front of him. The man’s image was shared in the manner of a wanted poster, asking users if they’d seen him, inspiring anxiety precisely because the man looks so unremarkable he could be anywhere.
While the story remains mildly disturbing, at its heart it’s a societal experiment to see how many people will say they’ve both seen the man and share the image. Readers claim they’ve seen him everywhere because his picture, which resembles a criminal sketch, looks so ordinary. An exercise in the futility of eyewitness statements is hardly terrifying.
According to his story, Eyeless Jack appears to a young boy for days, a thin figure standing over his bed in a blue hoodie with no eyes, merely large black holes. Jack cuts out and consumes the organs of his victim, before moving on to another one’s bedroom to watch and wait while they sleep.
In 2009, an image began circulating the internet featuring a photograph from the point of view of someone lying in bed, with a hooded figure standing over them with two gaping holes where eyes should be. While mildly unsettling at first, it’s no longer the “nightmare fuel” it used to be while being shared on sites like 4chan.
1999/Mr. Bear’s Cellar
1999 or Mr. Bear’s Cellar, as the Creepypasta is also known, focuses on the titular children’s television series on a public access channel performed by a mysterious man in a moth-bitten old bear suit. Any children that are featured on the series eventually go missing, and their burnt bodies turn up later in the forest outside the basement where “Mr. Bear” films his series.
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Camden Lamont’s story, which is one of the lengthier Creepypastas that was made popular in 2009, pretends to be a real account, with Lamont peppering it with the sort of minor details that make it believable. But the details designed to give it authenticity only weigh it down, sucking all of the terror out of it.
Much like Mr. Bear’s Cellar, Candle Cove also concerns a fictitious children’s series, only this time it isn’t written by just one author, but contributed to by several forum participants that claim to all have memories of the children’s shows dark moments. Each of them contributes a portion of the tale, featuring more and more disturbing characters, including Horace Horrible, Pirate Percy, and Skin-Taker.
While Candle Cove certainly has a unique approach, the problem inherent to its mechanics lies in the fact that each contributing author has a chance to make the subject matter more terrifying or a lot less. After reading a lot of the forums where Candle Cove emerged from, it’s clear that eventually, it devolved into self-parody.
(He Comes) Zalgo
Zalgo, or Lord Zalgo as he’s often referred to, comes from a supernatural Creepypasta involving a crimson and black demonic entity that tortures a man with its foreshadowed presence while he’s in the midst of focusing on his wife’s pregnancy. Eventually, the baby’s life is threatened, and the man’s sanity slowly devolves.
The story was written by Chris Phoenix, and while it comes across as ominous and threatening as Rosemary’s Baby involving the sudden appearance of a Satan-like being, its climax fails to instill the sort of existential fear that comes with the inevitability of unleashing the end of the world.
Mr. Widemouth, a creature who resembles a Furby toy with a wide grin full of sharp teeth, is featured in the Creepypasta of the same name, in which he tries to lure a young boy into playing increasingly dangerous games. The boy refuses once he realizes that Mr. Widemouth isn’t his friend, and may in fact be trying to get him to do violent things for his own sick amusement.
What begins as a novel premise is too long (with odd pacing) to be truly effective, while short enough to lack enough details to make Mr. Widemouth very frightening. The story concludes with the boy getting away from Mr. Widemouth without any real climax, meaning he doesn’t succeed in any of his gruesome plans, robbing the story of its tension.
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About The Author
(1211 Articles Published)
Kayleena has been raised on Star Wars and Indiana Jones from the crib. A film buff, she has a Western collection of 250+ titles and counting that she’s particularly proud of. When she isn’t writing for ScreenRant, CBR, or The Gamer, she’s working on her fiction novel, lifting weights, going to synthwave concerts, or cosplaying. With degrees in anthropology and archaeology, she plans to continue pretending to be Lara Croft as long as she can.
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