Some of the best (and, it must be said, worst) horror stories that I’ve read in recent years have come from the Internet. They have a way of floating around on forums and message boards, spreading from user to user like the digital equivalent of campfire stories, primed to deliver a short gust of terror running down your back.
Creepypasta (so called because they are creepy copy-pastes) touches on the fear of the unknown and delights in perverting innocence. Since a lot of the work is anonymous (or at least pseudonymous), there’s a lot of ambiguity to them, a blurring between fiction and reality that adds to the fear. The best stories plant a seed of doubt, nurturing the possibility that they could be true after all. Like the stories of MR James, there’s a sense that these stories could happen to the reader if they were unlucky enough.
There’s an awful lot of material out there of uneven quality, so I’ve pulled together some of my favourites here. A word of advice, though: read them with the lights on…
“You shouldn’t have done that.”
There’s a lot (a LOT) of stories based on the idea of a haunted video game since they’re such a common generational touchstone, and because the Internet loves to pervert innocent pastimes, but I can’t think of any as notorious or effective as “Ben Drowned”.
Ben Drowned follows the narrator comes across a second-hand copy of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask for the N64, only to discover that there is *something* lurking on the cartridge that wants him to suffer. There’s also a much more extensive alternate reality game following up on the original story if you’re going to follow up on that. Naturally, the story works best if you’re familiar with Majora’s Mask (an excellent game to play for Halloween in its own right), but the original story is accompanied by videos of modded gameplay (at least, I hope it’s modded!) as “proof” that something strange is going on, so it doesn’t leave unfamiliar readers in the dark.
“We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time…”
You might have heard of this one…
For some time now, the Internet has been haunted by a mysterious figure: an unnaturally thin figure with no face, often seen in the background of photographs or at the edges of an online video. No one knows what it is, or where it came from, or what it wants, but it traumatises anyone unfortunate enough to see it, and more than a few people who go looking for it have never come back…
The Slender Man mythos is pretty much ingrained into Internet folklore at this point. The creature has appeared in what seems like hundreds of online stories, vlogs and video games, and has been implicated in at least one real-life stabbing. While it’s probably appropriate that Slender Man has become an ungainly, many-tentacled monster, it does make it hard to pick a single place to start. Marble Hornets on Youtube is probably the best of the original “canon” that everyone can agree on, and there’s a couple of video games (Slender: The Eight Pages and Slender: The Arrival) that get the feel down pretty well.
“Do you like___?”
This one isn’t so much a creepypasta as a persistent urban legend from Japan. The story goes that there is as a pop-up that won’t go away, always asking the user “do you like__?” No matter how often you click away, the voice keeps asking, until it finally asks “do you like the Red Room?“ At that point, the unfortunate victim’s fate is sealed.
“Hell is wrapped in darkness and even the flowers don’t bloom”
This one beat me.
The story goes that there is a poem that when read aloud causes an unspecified disaster to befall the reader. No one knows where the poem came from, or who wrote it, but much like the legend that saying “Bloody Mary” into a mirror will summon a ghost, this one seems like a dare, the sort of thing that someone will wheel out at a party while drunk to show how brave they are. Maybe I’m just a cowardly custard, or perhaps I’ve seen too many horror movies that start this way, but I just can’t bring myself to read the poem, even silently, just in case.
But, if you’re feeling brave…
“Em had been dead for approaching 13 months when she first messaged me.”
This story is pretty self-explanatory: the narrator is haunted by his dead girlfriend, who uses social media to make her presence felt. It’s worth a look if you want to get paranoid about what you get up to on social media.