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Creepypastas are horror-related legends or images that have been copy-and-pasted around the Internet.[1][2][3] These Internet entries are often brief, user-generated, paranormal stories intended to scare readers. They include gruesome tales of murder, suicide, and otherworldly occurrences. According to Time magazine, the genre had its peak audience in 2010 when it was covered by The New York Times.[1]

In the mainstream media, creepypastas relating to the fictitious Slender Man character came to public attention after the 2014 "Slender Man stabbing", in which a 12-year-old girl from Waukesha, Wisconsin, was stabbed by two of her friends; the perpetrators claimed they "wanted to prove the Slender Man skeptics" wrong.[1][4][5] After the murder attempt, some creepypasta website administrators made statements reminding readers of the "line between fiction and reality".[1]

Other notable creepypasta characters and stories include Jeff the Killer, Ted the Caver, and Psychosis.[1][6][7] In May 2015, Machinima Inc. announced plans for a live action web series curated by Clive Barker, titled Clive Barker's Creepy Pasta.[8]

The term is a portmanteau of the words "creepy" and "copypasta", a word used on 4chan in 2006 to describe viral copy-and-pasted text.[1]


The exact origins of creepypasta are unknown. Early creepypastas were usually written anonymously and routinely re-posted, making the history of the genre difficult to study. [9] Jessica Roy, writing for Time Magazine, argued that creepypastas emerged in the 1990s when the text of chain emails was reposted on Internet Forums and Usenet groups. [1] Aja Romano, writing for the Daily Dot, stated that Ted the Caver was arguable the earliest example of creepypasta. The story, posted on Angelfire in 2001, was written in the first person from the perspective of Ted as he and several friends explored an increasingly frightening cave system.[10]

Many early creepypastas consisted of rituals, personal anecdotes and urban legends such as Polybius and Bunny Man.[9] Darcie Nadel, writing for TurboNews, argued that these early creepypastas had to be somewhat believable and realistic to be re-posted.[9] Many of the earliest creepypastas were created on the /x/ board of 4chan, which focused on the paranormal.[9][11]

Major dedicated creepypasta websites started to emerge in the late 2000s to early 2010s: was created in 2008,[9] while the Creepypasta Wiki and r/NoSleep (a Reddit forum, or subreddit) were both created in 2010.[12][13] The websites created a permanent archive of creepypasta, which profoundly impacted the genre. Many authors started using creepypasta characters in their own stories, which resulted in the development of continuities encompassing numerous works.[9]

The definition of creepypasta has expanded over time to include most horror stories written on the internet[14]. Over time, authorship has become increasingly important: many creepypastas are written by named authors rather than by anonymous individuals.[14] Many of these authors attempt to achieve notice through their creepypasta.[9] The copying and pasting of creepypastas has become less common over time; doing so is seen as intellectual theft by many members of the creepypasta community.[14][9]

Examples of creepypastas

Slender Man

Slender Man is a thin, tall man with no distinguishable facial features who wears a black suit, and is said to stalk, and traumatize people. The character originated in a 2009 SomethingAwful Photoshop competition, and creepypastas were written shortly afterward. According to most stories, he targets children. The legend also caused a controversy with the Slender Man stabbing in 2014.

Jeff the Killer

A typical image of Jeff the Killer

Jeff the Killer is a story accompanied by an image of the character. The story says that a teenager named Jeff was severely injured in an incident of bullying that caused his face to become bleached. Following the incident and having his bandages removed, Jeff realized he liked to harm people, went insane, and cut a smile into his cheeks and burned off his eyelids after returning home from the hospital. After murdering his parents and brother, he is now a serial killer who sneaks into houses at night and whispers "go to sleep" before murdering his victims.[15] In 2013, posters at the imageboard website 4chan stated that the Jeff the Killer image was an extensively edited picture of a girl who committed suicide in the fall of 2008.[6] A different version exists on the Creepypasta Wiki.

Ted the Caver

Ted the Caver began as an Angelfire website in early 2001 that documented the adventures of a man and his friends as they explored a local cave. The story is in the format of a series of blog posts. As the explorers move further into the cave, strange hieroglyphs and winds are encountered. In a final blog post, Ted writes that he and his companions would be bringing a gun into the cave after experiencing a series of nightmares and hallucinations. The blog has not been updated since the final post.[10] In 2005, the author of Ted the Caver revealed that it was an original work of fiction partially inspired by true events.[citation needed]

In 2013, an independent film adaptation of the story was released, called Living Dark: the Story of Ted the Caver.[16]


Penpal is a six-part creepypasta novel by Dathan Auerbach. The original stories were published on reddit, and were collected as a self-published paperback in 2012.[17] The story's protagonist is targeted by a stalker after releasing a balloon carrying a letter with his address on it, as part of a school penpal project.


"_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9" is the screen name of an anonymous writer of science fiction horror short fiction on the social news website Reddit. The work attracted media attention following its publication beginning in April 2016.[18]

Television and lost episode creepypastas

Candle Cove

Candle Cove is a story by Kris Straub written in the format of an online forum thread where people reminisce about a half-remembered children's television series from the 1970s. After sharing memories of the creepy puppets from the series, and discussing nightmares from watching the show (such as a villain called the Skin-Taker and an episode that had no dialogue other than screaming), one poster asks their mother about the series and is told that they just used to tune the TV to static and watch it for thirty minutes. Syfy announced a television drama based on the story in 2015, adapted by Max Landis.[19] The story makes up the first season of Channel Zero which first aired on October 11, 2016.[20]

Squidward's Suicide

Squidward's Suicide is a video posted to YouTube that depicts the SpongeBob Squarepants character Squidward Tentacles shooting himself with a shotgun after being booed mercilessly at a clarinet recital, even by SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star. The episode allegedly depicts scenes of nothing but Squidward sitting on his bed sobbing, as well as single-frame flashes of dead children and other disturbing imagery. A story that provides background for the video states that the episode was created in 2005 and was viewed by a select test screening at Nickelodeon (including the narrator, an editing intern), intended to be the Season 4 premiere "Fear of the Krabby Patty" but was edited over.[21] Show writer Casey Alexander debunked the legend, saying that it was "100% hoax".[22] It is likely based around the departure of show creator Stephen Hillenburg as the show's executive producer.

Video game creepypastas

Ben Drowned

Created by Internet user Alex Hall, or "Jadusable", the story tells of a college student named Matt who bought a used copy of the video game The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask from an elderly man at a yard sale, only to find out that the cartridge is haunted by the ghost of a boy named Ben, who drowned. After deleting Ben's save file, Matt has been presented with disturbing glitches and scary messages usually saying "You shouldn't have done that..." or "You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?" [23] The creepypasta is also accompanied by various machinima videos posted on YouTube, detailing the story's events.

Lavender Town Syndrome

This legend purports that, shortly after the original Japanese release of the video games Pokémon Red and Green in 1996, there was an increase in the death rate amongst children aged 10–15. These children, who played the games, behaved erratically before reportedly committing suicide through methods such as hanging, jumping from heights, and creatively severe self-mutilation.[24] Showing them either of the video games inserted into the Game Boy handheld console would cause them to scream in terror. The legend connects the cause of their suicides to the eerie background music played in the games when players are in the fictional location of Lavender Town. In the game's canon, Lavender Town is also the site of the haunted Pokémon Tower, where numerous graves of Pokémon can be found.[25]

The theory alleges that children were most susceptible to the Lavender Town music as, aside from being the target audience for the games, the theme supposedly contains a high-pitched tone that adults cannot hear.[26] It has been speculated that the legend was inspired by conclusively true events occurring in Japan in 1997, wherein after the airing of an episode of the Pokémon anime entitled "Dennō Senshi Porygon", hundreds of viewers experienced epileptic seizures from the episode's visuals.[24][27]


This urban legend, often regarded as a creepypasta[citation needed] due to its subsequent popularization online, concerns an alleged 1981 arcade game. The game is said to be similar to Tempest, except that it contains seizure-inducing flashes and subliminal messages that would lead to players' suicide, before men in black collected the data to use it on others. Different versions of the story claim that the game was part of MK Ultra, or simply a glitchy early version of Tempest that was later renamed Polybius.


"Sonic.exe" is a creepypasta surrounding a teenager named Tom, who suffers from a series of supernatural delusions after playing a haunted ROM hack of Sonic the Hedgehog. The story describes the details and contents of the hack, which purportedly features gory and disturbing content, which includes Sonic the Hedgehog brutally murdering his companions, accompanied by the phrase "I AM GOD".[28]


Shira Chess, an assistant professor of mass media arts at the University of Georgia, has compared the phenomenon of creepypasta to folklore. However, she notes that instead of being passed down orally over a timespan of generations, creepypasta is created online within hours or days.[29]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Roy, Jessica (3 June 2014). "Behind Creepypasta, the Internet Community That Allegedly Spread a Killer Meme". Time. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Considine, Austin (12 November 2010). "Bored at Work? Try Creepypasta, or Web Scares". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 September 2015. 
  3. ^ Henriksen, Line (17 Dec 2013). "Here be monsters: a choreomaniac's companion to the danse macabre". Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory. 23 (3): 414–423. doi:10.1080/0740770X.2013.857082. Retrieved 18 April 2015. 
  4. ^ Fernando Alfonso III (August 2, 2013). "4chan hunts down the origins of an Internet horror legend". Daily Dot. 
  5. ^ Dewey, Caitlin (6 June 2014). "The complete, terrifying history of 'Slender Man', the Internet meme that compelled two 12-year-olds to stab their friend". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Who is "Jeff the Killer"? And is his picture haunted by a real death?". io9. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "13 Frighteningly Shareable Creepypastas". Mashable. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "Machinima announces web series from Clive Barker, Bruce Timm, RoboCop, and more". The A.V. Club. 5 May 2015. Retrieved 14 September 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Darcie Nadel (1 November 2016). A Brief History of Creepypasta TurboFuture. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  10. ^ a b Romano, Aja (31 October 2012). "The definitive guide to creepypasta—the Internet's urban legends". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  11. ^ Shira Chess (14 October 2016). Sinister Clown Sightings Are a Manifestation of Fear. New York Times. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  12. ^ ‘Slender Man’ Cited in Stabbing Is a Ghoul for the Internet Age. NBC News. 5 June 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  13. ^ Alec Bojalad (22 January 2017). Beware the Creepypasta: Scary Storytelling in the Internet Age. Den of Geek. Retrieved 24 June 2017
  14. ^ a b c Lucia Peters (25 December 2015). What Is Creepypasta? Here's Everything You Need To Know About The Internet's Spookiest Stories. Bustle. Retrieved 24 June 2017
  15. ^ "Creepypasta – Jeff the Killer". 
  16. ^ Bencic, Sandra. "The Living Dark: The Story of Ted the Caver (2013)". AllMovie. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  17. ^ Matt Barone (22 February 2013). ""Penpal" Author Dathan Auerbach: From Anonymous Reddit Poster to Published Novelist". Complex. 
  18. ^ Alexander, Leigh (5 May 2016). "_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9: the mysterious tale terrifying Reddit". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2016. 
  19. ^ Hughes, William (30 June 2015). "Max Landis to adapt popular creepypasta Candle Cove for Syfy". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  20. ^ Alex Logan (15 September 2016). "How SyFy Farmed ‘Creepypasta’ for New Horror Series ‘Channel Zero’". Yahoo! TV. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  21. ^ "The 4 scariest, most believable stories on the internet - News -". @geekdotcom. 
  22. ^ Alexander, Casey (March 28, 2014). "Twitter / _dolza_: @Tannerm0rse 100% hoax". Twitter. Archived from the original on April 26, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
  23. ^ "The lingering appeal of Pokémon’s greatest ghost story". Kill Screen. 
  24. ^ a b Patricia Hernandez (31 October 2016). "Pokémon's Creepy Lavender Town Myth, Explained". Kotaku. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  25. ^ Sars Roncero-Menendez (12 October 2013). "The 10 Most Bizarre Pokémon Fan Theories". Mashable. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  26. ^ Nadia Oxford (1 November 2016). "What is Pokemon's Lavender Town Syndrome?". Lifewire. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  27. ^ Wudunn, Sheryl (18 December 1997). "TV Cartoon's Flashes Send 700 Japanese Into Seizures". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  28. ^ "Gamesradar Plays: Sonic.exe". Gamesradar. Retrieved 18 February 2017. 
  29. ^ Manjoo, Farhad (July 10, 2014). "Urban Legends Told Online". Section B; Column 0; Business/Financial Desk; Pg. 1: The New York TImes. 

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