Halloween isn’t just a holiday-it’s our entire October mood. So celebrate the best time of year with a month’s worth of stories that will keep you up all night long. (Binge-watching and eating candy, probably. Same, tbh.) Cheers, witches!
If you’ve heard of Slender Man, chances are you’re familiar with the online treasure trove of creepypastas, aka scary stories and media that are shared over and over again. That, or you accidentally watched the film Slender Man earlier this year and still have no idea what it was about.
Creepypastas sound, feel, and behave a lot like chain letters, but the stories are essentially “born” on the internet, usually written in the first-person, and shared with as many eyes as possible. (Think campfire stories but with the magic of high speed internet!) Often, the scarier part of a creepypasta isn’t how believable it is (most creepypastas are believed to be fiction), it’s watching how fast it spreads online through all that forwarding, re-telling, and re-sharing on communities like Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr, and yes, 4chan.
The creepypasta phenomenon reached a peak in 2010 when The New York Times took notice. At the time, creepypasta was described as “bite-sized bits of scariness that have joined the unending list of things-to-do-when-you’re-bored-at-work.” Per the NYT, creepypasta (derived from “copypasta,” a 4Chan term describing the act of copying and pasting text) likely originated in 2007, even though the art of telling scary stories has been around for centuries.
Below, in no particular order, the 10 most disturbing creepypastas out there. Good luck to all of us.
1. Candle Cove
Told via a forum format, Candle Cove is revealed to be the name of a children’s TV show from the 1970s about a young girl who had imaginary pirate friends. Before long, multiple forum “users” reminisce about the show’s disturbing content, including an episode that consisted of just screaming and another with a marionette villain called the “Skin Taker,” whose jaw slid back and forth and warned viewers directly (ie. looking into the camera) that he would “grind” their skin.
The discussion ends abruptly when one user reveals that his mother, who now lives in a nursing home, remembers Candle Cove as all the times he would spend watching static on TV, 30 minutes at a time. The story is the basis of season one of Channel Zero, a Syfy anthology series that draws inspiration from popular creepypastas. (The above trailer is courtesy of Syfy.) Stream It
2. Smile Dog
Dog lovers might want to skip this story entirely. According to this creepypasta, an image from the early ‘90s labelled “smile.jpg” caused those who saw it to die or vanish. The only way to avoid the curse was by forwarding the file, which first popped up on a floppy disk (remember these?!). Sounds pretty straight forward, no? If you read the actual creepypasta, which includes a detailed encounter between the narrator and a woman named Mary E, who “survived” the curse, you will likely avoid all photos of dogs starting today.
3. Slender Man
Courtesy of Eric Knudsen on the Something Awful forums, the thin, tall, and suited creature was the center of multiple stories that had him traumatizing and preying on children, some of whom in turn become wildly obsessed with him. Slender Man, who is faceless, BTW, has since been featured in video games (Minecraft, anyone?) and movies (2015’s Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story, based on the YouTube series of the same name, and 2018’s Slender Man). Stream It
In 2014, Slender Man made national headlines when two 12-year-old girls in Wisconsin stabbed a fellow 12-year-old girl 19 times, citing that the alleged murder attempt was their way of pleasing the figure. Per a 2015 New York Magazine story, the girls-Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier-tried to carry out the murder in an effort to save their own families from Slender Man. Weier was sentenced to 25 years in a mental institution in 2017; in 2018, Geyser began her 40-year sentence in a mental hospital.
4. NoEnd House
This creepypasta, written by Brian Russell, centers around a haunted house like no other. Through the eyes of a young man named David, the house challenges its visitors to go through nine rooms-each scarier and more disturbing than the last-for a $500 reward. Among the things he encounters: a constant hum; complete darkness; a little girl in a soft, white dress; David’s parents “mutilated to near-unidentifiable states”; a second version of himself that he must “kill” to advance to the next room.
Channel Zero adapted elements of Russell’s creepypasta for season two, changing David to a young woman who’s joined by a group of friends at a haunted house following the death of her father. Stream It
5. The Rake
Straight from the bowels of 4chan’s /b/ board (via a thread about making a new monster), The Rake has been referred to as Slender Man’s relative, sharing the same thin, pale, hairless features. That, and an appetite for people. Since its online “birth,” The Rake has been referenced in photos, YouTube videos, LiveJournal entries, and other forms documenting various “sightings.”
Forget short and sweet. Have you ever read anything as short and scary as The Bad Dream, a creepypasta that starts with a child telling the father about well, a bad dream? Good luck going to bed without thinking about any of the following tonight: the dark; your covers (which may or may not be moving); “the thing wearing Mommy’s skin.”
In 2014, Reddit user “natesw” shared a detailed story about how he was receiving Facebook messages from his girlfriend who died in a car crash two years before. Through the art of a timeline and more importantly, screenshots, the story goes from zero to horrifying, with the final update coming through in the comments, live from the writer’s garage. And yes, you should absolutely click on that final image.
You know that feeling you sometimes get that someone-or something-is watching you or is near you, and you just can’t shake it? That’s nothing compared to what this narrator, his cousins, and their friends go through while camping in the woods in Alabama. The creepypasta, which first appeared on 4chan’s /x/ paranormal board, goes on to document all the terror, paranoia, and mind-bending shit this mysterious creature (aka the Goatman) sets forth as soon as it comes into contact with the group. You might never want to go camping-or go to sleep-ever again.
Creepy dolls are nothing new, and neither is Robert, who’s at least 114 years old. Per Atlas Obscura, Robert is 100 percent haunted, has allegedly caused accidents (car accidents, broken bones), and even divorce. These days, you can find Robert (who’s dressed in a sailor suit) and his own dog toy at a museum in Key West, where patrons are known to “ask” the doll for permission before taking a photo of him. You know, because of all the accidents he allegedly caused.
If dolls and skinny figures in the woods don’t make you twitch, perhaps the horror of not knowing what’s real and what’s imagined will keep you up at night. This creepypasta follows John, whose only form of communication with his friends is through his cellphone and e-mail. It doesn’t take long for John’s paranoia to amp up to the point where (1) he’s afraid to leave his house, (2) he’s certain something is waiting for him on the other side, (3) he’s convinced he’s running out of time. One of the longer reads (out of this list), Psychosis is best enjoyed in the dark, with a circle of friends, and the sound of your own fear.
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