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Creepypasta: 10 Weird Stories from The Dark Side of the Internet
By Debra Kelly,
Urban Ghosts Media, 6 October 2015.

There’s a part of all of us that likes to be scared, and it’s not surprising that with the advent of the internet came a whole new upgrade to the idea of sitting around a campfire telling spooky stories. Enter creepypasta, a term that grew out of the 4chan terminology ‘copypasta,’ for copy-and-paste text that goes viral. These modern-day ghost stories and urban legends often walk that fine line between internet fact and internet lore, and some are downright terrifying. They’re the stuff of nightmares, and we’re going to take a look at 10 intriguing examples.

1. Herobrine

Image: via Creepasta Wiki

Minecraft has enjoyed a run of unbelievable popularity among gamers of all ages. People have spent hours building mind-blowing creations, and according to the story told by one player, they’re not always alone when they’re doing it.

Upon starting a new, single-player game, the narrator goes about his building. Until, that is, he sees something in the fog seemingly just beyond what his computer is rendering. The default character disappears into the mist, and as he continues to expand his little world, he stumbles upon items that were clearly built by another player.

Hitting the forums, he finds that others had seen the mysterious player too, supposedly also while playing in single-player mode. Gradually, the name “Herobrine” is uncovered, and it’s been claimed that he was the character of the developer’s real-life brother. When the narrator reaches out to the developer to see if he has a brother who plays the game, the response is short.

“I did, but he is no longer with us. - Notch”

A single screenshot is included, supposedly one of the only pieces of evidence supporting the existence of the mysterious player with terrifyingly blank eyes.

According to the Minecraft Wiki, a lengthy disclaimer states that there isn’t - and never was - any kind of code written into the game to support the appearance of Herobrine or any other phenomena associated with him. There are stories of strange messages left on signs, trees that have had all their leaves cut off, and weird, glowing towers, which are all chalked up to features built by real players or glitches in the game.

2. Ted the Caver

Image: via Creepypasta Wiki

There are some places in this world that are just eerie, even without supernatural stories to go along with them. Cemeteries, ancient forests…and caves. Ted the Caver is an epic creepypasta dated from March 2001. Along with an associated webpage (now largely defunct), the narrator tells a story that he claims began in December of the previous year, and warns that he won’t be divulging where the photos were taken, nor where the cave itself is located.

On a trip to the so-called Mystery Cave, the narrator and his friend find a small hole, which they ominously dub “Floyd’s Tomb” after a turn-of-the-century caver. After months of chiselling away at the hole, it’s finally big enough for a little exploration, carried out by the dog of one of the cavers - which immediately acts as if Satan himself was sitting in the darkness just out of sight. It’s not long before they hear a scream coming from the other side of the mysterious, still-narrow hole, and re-double their efforts in spite of the very human-like sound from within.

Every trip, they get farther and farther into the hole, into the passage, with some absolutely bone-chilling pictures of incredibly tight spaces. Finally getting through, the narrator claims to have seen some oddly-shaped round rocks and hieroglyphics on the cave walls. But introducing another caver to the mix goes horribly wrong, when the terrified newcomer refuses to say anything about what he saw, and refuses to answer phone calls after swearing he would never return to the Mystery Cave.

The narrator isn’t so wise, however, and ventures back. With a smashed light, communications cut off, and the appearance of a mysterious passage that leads deeper and deeper into the cave, he flees what he describes as nothing less than Lucifer. It’s when he reaches the surface and tries to return to his everyday life that things get really weird - he starts to think that whatever was in the Mystery Cave came with him to the surface. The only way to find out what’s going on? Go back.

3. Stay in Bed

Image: StockSnap

This one preys upon another kind of fear, the nondescript sort of anxiety over traveling and the hassle of a hotel room in an unfamiliar (or even a familiar) city. (Related: The Vanishing Hotel Room Legend.)

Forced out of his regular hotel by an influx of attendees to a car show, the narrator books another room at another hostelry - the Stay Inn. Nothing’s really amiss when the cheerful clerk checks him in and gives him his room key - a room key described as the sort that all of us would be familiar with had we stayed in a certain type of motel. Nothing’s amiss, that is, until she warns him that he must stay in bed after midnight.

The room is nondescript but creepy, and then he hears a disturbing sound from outside. Curfew be damned, he decides to investigate. Looking through the peephole of his room, he sees a young woman - clearly in some kind of trouble - in the parking lot beyond. When he tries to open the door, something’s in the way. When he looks through again, he sees nothing but red.

Running to the lobby, he’s met by the same clerk, but she’s no longer so cheerful. She warns him that the curfew is out of necessity and that he must stay in bed, as the motel is still haunted by the terrifying ghost of a murder victim who roams the premises after midnight and drags away anyone she sees.

Anyone that she sees with her bloody red eye.

A newspaper clipping in the lobby offers the narrator another glimpse into the true nature of the Stay Inn. A fourth killing is reported, and it’s only then that he realizes the legs of the cheerful clerk are not entirely where they should be.

4. Penpal

Image: via Amazon

At six-years-old, the narrator had a penpal. It’s something many of us did in our youth - at least, if we’re of a certain age, and most of the time it’s harmless enough. But obviously not in this case.

It starts with the recounting of an episode where the narrator woke up not in his bed, but in the woods. Cold and alone, he makes it back to his house, where he finds that his mother has already called the police, who have arrived. Grateful he’s home, his mother says she hopes he’ll never run away again. He’s baffled, but then she shows him the note he left on his pillow. The note that he didn’t write…

The story of his childhood - and of his penpal - unfolds over the next several chapters. This story’s a long one, most accurately described as a novel in six parts. And since the author did, in fact, turn it into a novel, we won’t spoil it.

What we will say, though, is that the book is an exploration into a question that we can all ask ourselves: how much do we really remember from our childhood? Bits and pieces, probably, ideas and feelings, strange occurrences that seem just a bit out of place…and things that we’d be hard-pressed to remember, despite the fact that they shaped not just our childhoods, but our adult lives too. When this narrator starts asking questions of his mother, he finds out way more than he bargained for.

5. Polybius

Image: Newsilver95

This one straddles the line between creepypasta and urban legend, but as it has had a strange sort of persistence in popular culture, we’re including it.

According to the story, an arcade game called Polybius appeared in a handful of suburbs around Portland, Oregon in 1981. It was made by a German company with the unnerving name Sinnesloschen (meaning Sense Deletion), and it wasn’t long before the people who played it began to get sick. Some only suffered from headaches, while others had blackouts, hallucinations and amnesia. Some even committed suicide.

Eventually, all the games disappeared - but not before men in black suits were seen downloading the data it had collected, whatever that was. While Skeptoid debunked the idea of there being an real Polybius (no one had ever actually seen one, and there was no mention of them in any reputable sources), there’s a disturbing factual basis for the story.

In 1981 Portland, a boy did end up getting sick from playing a video game. It was Asteroids, and he was trying to break a record by playing for more than 28 hours straight. On the same day, another local boy was hit by a migraine after playing Tempest, later collapsing. It was the start of a rare phenomenon due to which we still see warnings on video games today; the two cases were followed by several more instances of what’s now known as photosensitive epilepsy.

Factor in the idea that the government was also using video games (one of the earliest military simulators, Battlezone, was modified to mimic a real M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle and was actually used in training as far back as 1980) and you have the makings of one of the earliest creepypastas out there.

Polybius isn’t going away, either. Only recently there was a (failed) Kickstarter campaign attempting to raise money for more investigation into what they called “The Polybius Conspiracy.”

6. Anomaly

Image: Creepypasta Wiki

The narrator of Anomaly is an everyday kind of guy, working at a small publishing company, holding down an office job that’s likable enough. The projects he gets are pretty run-of-the-mill, turning out the sorts of books that people buy for gifts and coffee tables, and nothing much else.

That’s until he gets a pitch from someone with a series of photos he wants compiled into a rather non-traditional volume. All of the photos are ‘anomalies,’ showing something otherworldly or unexplained. The photos are so valuable, in fact, that rather than sending them to be processed all at once, the client insists on sending them one at a time. When one comes back, he sends the next.

When he gets a better offer from someone wanting to buy all the photos, the publishing project is terminated. Lawyers get involved, copies are seized, and most of the photos are wiped from their computers - with the exception of a few, which the narrator says just need to be seen.

The photographs and their stories are spine-tingling. There’s a blurry photo of children, taken before a 1908 fire that killed them all. There’s a hooded woman (who might not have been a woman at all) with a snarling dog on a lead, and a photo that was recovered from a man’s camera after his mysterious disappearance. A possible image of the Axeman of New Orleans, evidence of shadowy, cave-dwelling cryptids, and a photo of a Danish family later killed in a terrible accident…and all hacked to pieces in the same places the photo was flawed.

There are 14 photos in all and it’s not immediately obvious what’s out of the ordinary - which makes Anomaly all the more creepy.

7. The Smiling Man

The story of the Smiling Man is one that’s brilliant in its simplicity. It preys on the terror of walking home late at night, and coming across something completely terrifying and inexplicable against the familiar backdrop of Everytown, USA.

The narrator is walking home at 2 a.m. when he sees the man, looking up at the sky, doing a strange sort of waltz. And smiling.

The narrator crosses the street as the man dances closer…and then follows. The narrator runs…and so does the Smiling Man. He doesn’t look drunk or high, the narrator notes. He looks insane, and it’s absolutely terrifying. The malevolent individual stalks nearer, dancing on his toes, looking every inch a giant and he gets closer and closer…and still he smiles.

Originally posted on the subreddit r/LetsNotMeet, it was eventually made into a short film that’s every bit as chilling as the original creepypasta.

8. Candle Cove

Image: Candle Cove Wiki

At first, Candle Cove seems to be a handful of users on an online forum sharing stories about - and trying to recall - a television show that was once screened when they were younger. Gradually, they all share details about the show.

Shown in 1971 or 1972, it had the limited audience of a local TV network. It was about Janice, a little girl who befriended a group of pirates. One of those pirates, Pirate Percy, wasn’t much use because the smallest thing would scare him. There was the ship, Laughingstock, that seemed to almost devour the ocean in front of it, and a villain with a handlebar moustache. The characters were marionettes - poorly crafted, pieced together puppets.

The forum posters recall details, like the ship’s ominous order to the terrified pirate: YOU HAVE TO GO INSIDE. Then, there’s the villain - the Skin-Taker, a skeleton with a jaw that only moved sideways, for better grinding the skin of the children he’d killed.

Candle Cove gets darker and darker with the shared memories of frightened children, walking a line between TV show and nightmare. The last entry comes from a user who asked his mother if she remembered the show. According to the user, his mother simply thought he had an active imagination because he would - bizarrely - go to watch his pirate show, then turn on the TV to a station broadcasting nothing but white noise and watch for half an hour.

9. Abandoned by Disney

Image: davebloggs007; aband0ned Disneyland.

According to the urban explorer who narrates “Abandoned by Disney,” there were once grand plans to build Mowgli’s Palace on an island off the coast of North Carolina. After a significant challenge from the local community, Mowgli’s Palace was up and running, but only for a short time. A handful of people stayed, promotional materials were sent out, and then it mysteriously shut down. Rumours circulated that wild animals shipped in to add to the jungle atmosphere had been released, that the place had fallen into ruin and even been destroyed by angry locals.

The intrepid explorer ventures out to see what’s there, and finds Mowgli’s Palace as trashed as the reports suggest. The words “Abandoned by Disney” have been painted over signs, and when he finds an 80-foot-long python, the rumours that they’d just released the animals seem to have been proven.

Eventually, though, he finds what used to be the backstage prep area for mascots. Attempting to stage a photo with one of the rotting mascot heads, he takes it from the body…and a skull falls out. Others - most notably an unusually odd Mickey Mouse costume - begin to move. Here, the sign says, “Abandoned by God.”

Like other great creepypastas, this one has a bit of truth to it. A number of locations genuinely have been abandoned by Disney, and while we haven’t heard any reputable reports of mascots still controlled by the corpses of the people rotting away inside them, the actual places are nevertheless eerie.

According to io9, the original ImageWorks: The What-If Labs, marketed as the playground of Epcot, was closed in 1998 and remained abandoned at the time of writing. Meanwhile, Discovery Island in Florida has been abandoned since 1999, while the Pop Century Resort was never even finished. The New Global Neighbourhood of Epcot was abandoned in 2004, and Disney’s River County closed down in 2001.

10. Satellite Images

We’re particularly fond of this one, because it’s something we’ve been known to do. Google Earth and Google Street View reveal some incredible things, from herds of elephants roaming across Africa to the world’s greatest monuments and even the house you grew up in. But this one’s particularly eerie, and we probably won’t be able to take a virtual tour of the Taj Mahal ever again without thinking of it.

The narrator does exactly what we do - gets online, and looks to see what’s interesting. He checks out the streets of London and Paris, tours Japan, peeks into Dracula’s Castle and explores the Great Barrier Reef.

That is until he sees someone in particular - a brown-haired woman with a grey bag and red sneakers. He sees her in Tokyo first, then in Paris, then Berlin.

The narrator sees the mysterious woman again in Sydney, Zurich and Hong Kong. He can’t find out much about her - aside from what she’s wearing - as faces are, as we know, always blurred. Terrified by the strange, seemingly ever-present woman, he exits out of Google Maps altogether, vowing never to use the tool again.

That’s when the knock at his door comes, and the security camera shows a woman with a grey bag and red sneakers. And a blurred face…

Top image: The Collinwood Fire by Anomaly. Credit: Creepypasta Wiki.

[Source: Urban Ghosts Media. Edited.]