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Fan art of Slender Man, one of the best-known creepypastas

A creepypasta is a horror-related legend which has been shared around the Internet.[1][2][3] The term creepypasta has since become a catch-all term for any horror content posted onto the Internet.[4] These entries are often brief, user-generated, paranormal stories that are intended to frighten readers. The subjects of creepypasta vary widely and can include topics such as ghosts, cryptids, murder, suicide, zombies, aliens, rituals to summon entities, haunted television shows, and video games.[1] Creepypastas range in length from a single paragraph to extended multi-part series that can span multiple media types, some lasting for years.[4]

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 was stabbed by two of her friends; the perpetrators claimed they "wanted to prove the Slender Man skeptics wrong".[1][5] After the murder attempt, some creepypasta website administrators made statements reminding readers of the "line between fiction and reality".[1] Other notable creepypasta stories include "Ben Drowned", "Jeff the Killer", "Ted the Caver", and "Sonic.exe".[1][6][7]


The word creepypasta first appeared on 4chan, an online imageboard, around 2007. It is a variant of copypasta (from "copy and paste"), another 4chan term which refers to blocks of text which become viral by being copied widely around the internet.[8][9] Unlike copypastas, creepypastas are all horror fiction and also encompass multimedia stories, with creators using videos, images, hyperlinks and GIFs alongside text.[9]


According to Sara Bimo, "there is debate over what exactly counts as the 'first' creepypasta".[9] Scholars and writers such as Time's Jessica Roy have seen similarities in the chain emails of the 1990s, which disseminated hoaxes and urban legends, for example, by promising a terrible fate for users who did not pass them along.[1][9] Horror stories such as the Rake, a fictional monster created by 4chan users in 2005, have been retroactively considered creepypastas.[10] Some consider the 2001 story "Ted the Caver" the first.[4][11]

The earliest creepypastas originate from 4chan, and the website's culture was influential in shaping the characteristics of the genre.[9] Major dedicated creepypasta websites started to appear from the late 2000s: Creepypasta.com was created in 2008, while the Creepypasta Wiki and Reddit's r/NoSleep were both created in 2010.[12][13] According to Time magazine, the genre had its peak audience in 2010 when it was covered by The New York Times.[1]

The definition of creepypasta has expanded over time to include most short horror fiction whose first publication is online.[14] Over time, authorship has become increasingly important: many creepypastas are written by named authors rather than by anonymous individuals.[14]

Cultural impact

The common depiction of the Backrooms, derived from one of the images that inspired the creepypasta

Numerous short films, games, feature-length films and merchandise have been produced based on creepypastas, such as Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story, Slender Man and Beware the Slenderman. In addition to merchandise and film adaptations, numerous amounts of fan content and independent settings/mythos have been established from creepypastas, such as with the SCP Foundation, the Backrooms and The Mandela Catalogue, with the prior serving as an example of the creepypasta descendant subgenre, analog horror.

Due to its online prevalence, a portion of creepypastas has been archived by American Folklife Center and added to their digital culture web archive under their initiative to document the development of web culture.[15][16] Some folklorist view creepypastas as the digital age manifestation of legend,[16][17] while others view the majority of creepypastas as anti-legends.[18] Anti-legends are similar to legends except that they seek to purposely subvert the legends of the era by challenging the audience's exceptions of what constitutes a contemporary legend.[19][20]

In May 2015, Machinima, Inc. announced plans for a live-action web series curated by Clive Barker, titled Clive Barker's Creepy Pasta, focusing on Slender Man and Ben Drowned;[21] although following the shutdown of Machinima, the series was never produced. Each season of the American television series Channel Zero is based on a different creepypasta. Filmmaker John Farrelly was set to release a film titled The Sleep Experiment, based on the Russian Sleep Experiment, in 2020,[22] but the project never materialized.


Lost episode creepypasta

Some creepypastas exploit childhood nostalgia and distort it into something more horrific, unfamiliar. Creepypasta.com describes purported lost episodes of television shows as one of the most popular tropes.[23][24] These episodes often focus on suicide or imply the viewer will suffer great harm. Some lost episode creepypastas focus on local public access shows rather than nationally syndicated shows. Notable examples include Squidward's Suicide, Suicidemouse.avi and Dead Bart.[25] Another example is the original version of the Teletubbies episode "The Bear and the Lion", which was pulled off from further broadcast due to criticism for its unsettling cinematography, character design, and music. A SpongeBob SquarePants episode, titled "SpongeBob in RandomLand", had to re-edit a scene that referred to the Squidward's Suicide creepypasta.[17][26][27]

Video games

Video game creepypasta focuses on video games containing grotesque or violent content; this content may spill over into the real world and cause the player to harm themselves or others. Many video game creepypastas reveal the conflict to be caused by malevolent entities such as ghosts or artificial intelligence.[28]


  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. S2CID 191466919.
  4. ^ a b c Romano, Aja (31 October 2012). "The definitive guide to creepypasta—the Internet's urban legends". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  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. ^ Newitz, Annalee (August 5, 2013). "Who is "Jeff the Killer"? And is his picture haunted by a real death?". Gizmodo. io9. Archived from the original on December 19, 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  7. ^ Roncero-Menendez, Sara; Piedra, Xavier (September 18, 2018). "17 terrifying creepypastas guaranteed to keep you up at night". Mashable. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  8. ^ Blank & McNeill 2018, p. 6.
  9. ^ a b c d e Bimo 2023, p. 82.
  10. ^ Taylor 2020, p. 986.
  11. ^ H.C., Luiz (2018-03-17). "Before Slender Man and CreepyPastas There Was 'Ted the Caver'!". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 2023-11-19.
  12. ^ "'Slender Man' Cited in Stabbing Is a Ghoul for the Internet Age". NBC News. June 3, 2014. Archived from the original on June 7, 2014. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
  13. ^ Bojalad, Alec (22 January 2017). "Beware the Creepypasta: Scary Storytelling in the Internet Age". Den of Geek. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  14. ^ a b Peters, Lucia (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. ^ "About this Collection | Web Cultures Web Archive | Digital Collections | Library of Congress". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2023-10-18.
  16. ^ a b Saylor, Nicole (2014-09-26). "Creepypastas, Memes, Lolspeak & Boards: The Scope of a Digital Culture Web Archive | Folklife Today". The Library of Congress. Retrieved 2023-10-18.
  17. ^ a b Ramirez, Makayla (2022). The Case for Creepypasta: Defining the Genre and Finding the Horror (Report). Arizona State University.
  18. ^ Koven, Mikel J. (2015-12-31). "Slender Man: A Dissenting View". Contemporary Legend. 5: 105–111. ISSN 0963-8334.
  19. ^ Jolles, André; Schwartz, Peter J. (2013). "Legend: From "Einfache Formen" ("Simple Forms")". PMLA. 128 (3): 728–743. doi:10.1632/pmla.2013.128.3.728. ISSN 0030-8129. JSTOR 23489318. S2CID 161186978.
  20. ^ Mould, Tom (2022-10-01). "Counter Memes and Anti-Legends in Online Welfare Discourse". Journal of American Folklore. 135 (538): 441–465. doi:10.5406/15351882.135.538.03. ISSN 0021-8715. S2CID 252763522.
  21. ^ Rife, Katie (5 May 2015). "Machinima announces web series from Clive Barker, Bruce Timm, RoboCop, and more". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  22. ^ Lynch, Richard (February 22, 2019). "John Farrelly Set to Release Debut Feature Film The Sleep Experiment". I Love Limerick. RichardKnows. Archived from the original on December 15, 2019.
  23. ^ Stoeber, Jenna (July 12, 2018). "Creepypasta and the psychology of negative nostalgia". Polygon. Retrieved April 14, 2024.
  24. ^ Bimo 2023, pp. 86–87.
  25. ^ Grippo 2016, p. 176.
  26. ^ William Hughes (September 21, 2019). "Yep, SpongeBob just directly referenced a classic creepypasta about Squidward killing himself". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 21, 2023.
  27. ^ "What is a Creepypasta?". Tales by Travel. 2022-03-01. Retrieved 2023-10-18.
  28. ^ Grippo, p. 176.