INTERNET HORROR // Creepypasta

In my pre and early teen years, I was very into creepypasta. Creepypasta's are short internet horror stories, often with associated imagery and/or alternate reality games (ARGs). The term 'creepypasta' is derived from 'copypasta', which is a viral block of text that is often heavily referenced or circulated in online discourse by being repeatedly pasted whole and outright to different sites by internet users. Therefore, creepypasta stories are highly circulated spooky internet urban legends.

One of the most famous figures to come from the creepypasta sub-genre of internet horror is Slender Man, a faceless figure with eerie extended limbs and an unnatural hight, sometimes with tentacles protruding from his back, and often depicted in a suit and tie. The figure was created by Eric Knudsen, appearing in edited images he had created, but many other internet users have added to the mythos. I was never particularly scared by him, but was terrified by the YouTube web-series 'Marble Hornets', in which Slender Man is an antagonist named The Operator.

Marble Hornets (2009-2014) was created by Troy Wagner and follows Jay, who is going through the numerous tapes left to him by his friend Alex before he disappeared, supposedly containing the unfinished draft of Alex's student film 'Marble Hornets', but in reality, mostly comprised of footage Alex recorded of himself as he spiralled into paranoia and was stalked by The Operator.

First Sighting of Slender Man/ The Operator in 'Marble Hornets' (Entry #1).

In 'Marble Hornets', Slender Man has two 'proxies'- human followers that do his bidding, either because they worship him or because they are brainwashed. They are Hoodie, and Masky, named in fanon after the disguises they wear. It's been many years since I watched 'Marble Hornets' and though the identities of the pair were revealed in the series, I can't remember who they are. Their disguises are what stick with me.

Hoodie (above) and Masky (below)

The reason 'Marble Hornets' sticks with me is because it felt real. When I was young and impressionable, I truly believed that no one else in the whole wide world knew about Slender Man apart from me and a few close friends. He was my own. Slender Man, despite being a pop-culture icon nowadays, was still somewhat subcultural when I was a fan of 'Marble Hornets', so none of the adults in my life knew anything about him. When you're a kid, everything is possible, which means I was plagued by the possibility that 'Marble Hornets' was not, in fact, a work of fiction. Because Slender Man was my own, the fear of him being real was isolating: there was no one I could turn to, no adult that would help me, because none would understand or take me seriously. I watched the series unfold in terror, but also with a secret thrill that I was part of something bigger than myself. That I knew something that others didn't, and was possibly in danger because of it.

'Marble Hornets' is therefore responsible for my obsession with horror, as I feel I've been chasing the high that something could make me that scared ever since. But I'm not a kid anymore.

As you can probably ascertain, creepypasta (with its faceless Slender Man and his identity-obscured henchmen) is big on face-horror. Other creepypastas from around the same time, which I will go into less detail about, also use the idea of disturbing faces as sites of horror. For example, a photo commonly associated with the creepypasta 'The Russian Sleep Experiment' shows a grinning corpse-like figure with sagging skin. This image is actually an edited photograph of a Halloween decoration.

The Russian Sleep Experiment

The photo which I believe preceded and therefore inspired the creepypasta story 'Eyeless Jack' shows a figure with wide empty eye-sockets (it is ambiguous as to whether or not he is wearing a mask).

Eyeless Jack

Another famous creepypasta, 'Ben Drowned', differs slightly, though still draws upon the same fears that distorted facial imagery does. The story is, from what I remember, about a haunted 'The Legend of Zelda' game cartridge. Imagery and fanart associated with the story rely on the uncanny nature of older videogame graphics, as well as the cherished and familiar turned unfamiliar. Some imagery also frequently shows the 'Legend of Zelda' character Link with black sclera and/or red irises, sometimes dripping bloody tears. Eye horror is a trope that recurs in other creepypasta stories based on childhood media, such as 'Sonic.Exe' and 'Squidward Suicide'. If I was reading too deep into it, I would say that its about being unable to perceive the things you liked as a child the same way. The loss of a youthful outlook, or whatever.

Ben Drowned

As shown, many creepypasta stories have associated images- some that were made specifically for the stories, others borrowed from other sources. Some creepypasta stories merely provide 'backstories' for pre-existing images. When I was younger, I would watch YouTube 'storytelling' videos: a narrator reading a creepypasta over an associated image affixed to the screen. In the case of certain creepypastas, associated imagery is more notorious than the story itself, and while I forget the specific details of some of the stories I read, I can, with particular clarity, call to mind the images. Most creepypasta stories have not aged well- some of them were written by children not much older than I was when I read them- but the amateur-made images still have the capacity to spook me if I'm in a particular mood and I think about them late at night.

One notable creepypasta story that I was outright obsessed with, and would like to discuss in more detail, was 'Jeff the Killer'.