Slenderman, Ben Drowned, Candle Cove and all that good stuff.
Creepypasta is a site where people post scary stories. It reached its height in 2010 and has spawned some famous stories, like 'Slenderman', which became a video game and then a (terrible) movie. Or 'The Russian Sleep Experiment' which has moved from fiction to urban legend. Or 'Candle Cove', a story based around a creepy fictional children's puppet show which eventually premiered on Syfy on October 11, 2016.
I'll quickly touch on why it's called Creepypasta, as it seems like a weird thing to call a website of spooky stories. The phrase is actually a bastardisation of a bastardisation. It derives from the phrase 'copy-paste' which refers to mass chunks of text which are copied over and over again to other websites.
Today, Creepypasta operates on a submission basis. If you want to try your hand at submitting spooky stories, you can find the details here!
That definition may sound a like a plagiarism charge. Actually it perfectly fits our historic relationship to scary stories.
From stories of hauntings and wendigos, to Homer’s narration of The Odyssey, which relished in descriptions of men being eaten by a cyclops and being turned into swine. To kids sitting around a campfire recounting the spooky death of an (as often as not) fictional camper.
We retell these stories to one another because we love scary stories. We can't help it. Humanity's greatest achievement is communication. Now we've moved beyond grunts and points, we're going to have as much fun with it as possible.
But it's not pointless; usually, these scary stories serve a purpose. They address a deep-seated anxiety of the teller and the listeners. Wendigos are a warning about cannibalism, about strangers and about the abuse of the natural world and its resources. And Circe’s transformation of men into swine is pretty self-explanatory.
What do these Creepypasta stories reveal?
They play on fears we've held as long as humanities been alive. Fear of the unknown and fear of death. They range from haunted toys, to dangerous cryptids, to the exploitation of our nostalgia. Stories like Ben Drowned used a beloved video game to create a dark and sinister story, creating a sense of cognitive dissonance. Even something so innocent cannot be trusted.
Some played on our more modern fears, written in a time when the internet was still new. Smile Dog is a great example - revolving around the circulation of a haunted image which it forces to email to other people. There was an incredible excitement back then, but also a lurking fear. After all, you never know who you could be talking to.
This has to be true, because of the number of times fiction is mistaken for fact.
Search the internet for any of the popular Creepypasta stories, and you'll find that fiction has swifty become urban legend. There are people who believe 'The Russian Sleep Experiment' it fact (no joke - someone once tried to tell me this story like it actually happened). And of course, the infamous case of the Slenderman attempted murder in Wisconsin.
I don't think this is because we're especially gullible in this day and age. Or that the internet as well and truly destroyed our sense of reality. After all, throughout history, we've believed in the supernatural or really just the improbable.
I think it's because some stories speak to us on a level which defies rationality. These stories aren't true - they did't happen, But on a deeper level, they're truer than reality. They're speaking to the monkey brain which is the very foundation of who we are as humans. The early humans who watched every shadow for predators. Our fear kept us alive.
How scary is Creepypasta?
Many target sites like Creepypasta as dangerous in the same way Victorian's blamed the Penny Dreadful for corrupting the youth. There's even a WikiHow on how to calm down after reading or watching a Creepypasta.
I can't say I've read every Creepypasta there is, at this point, there are likely thousands. And I discovered the site in my early twenties, well after the age concerned mothers would care. But I've never read a Creepypasta which freaked me out more than your average movie jump scare. In fact, I've had worse nightmares after reading the Goosebump books as a child. And they were traditionally published and approved for kids to read. I'm not kidding - Roald Dahls The Witches gave me so many nightmares.
Use your own judgement - if you know you're easily bothered, then don't read. If you're curious, maybe recognize that alone, late at night is a bad way to watch or read horror.
So, if you’d like me to look into some of the controversies surrounding Creepypasta, let me know. I’ve already written briefly about everyone’s favourite Slenderman, but there’s a lot more out there!