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Digital illustration from the "Bloody Painter" creepypasta, purporting to show a CCTV image that was shared on social media

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 intended to scare readers. The subject of creepypasta varies widely and can include topics such as ghosts, murder, suicide, zombies, rituals to summon paranormal entities and 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.[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][6] 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][7][8]


Creepypasta is a portmanteau of the words creepy and copypasta; the term was coined on the imageboard 4chan around 2007.[1] Copypasta denotes viral, copied and pasted text; this term was coined on 4chan around 2006.[1]


Jessica Roy, writing for Time, said 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 arguably 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.[4]

Many of the earliest creepypastas were created on the /x/ board of 4chan, which focused on the paranormal.[9][10] Major dedicated creepypasta websites started to emerge in the late 2000s to early 2010s: was created in 2008, while the Creepypasta Wiki and r/NoSleep (a Reddit forum, or subreddit) were both created in 2010.[11][12] 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 horror stories written on the Internet.[13] Over time, authorship has become increasingly important: many creepypastas are written by named authors rather than by anonymous individuals.[13]

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 off 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.[14][15] Some folklorist view creepypastas as the digital age manifestation of legend,[15][16] while others view the majority of creepypastas as anti-legends.[17] 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.[18][19]

Examples of creepypasta

Slender Man

Slender Man is a thin, tall humanoid with no distinguishable facial features, who wears a trademark black suit. The character originated in a 2009 Something Awful Photoshop competition, before later being featured as a main antagonist in the Marble Hornets alternate reality game. According to most stories, he targets children. The legend also caused a controversy with the Slender Man stabbing in 2014.

Jeff the Killer

Jeff the Killer is a story accompanied by an image of the title character. In the story, a teenager named Jeff is on his way to school with his younger brother when they are attacked by a group of bullies. Jeff defends himself and his brother and leaves the assailants lying in the street beaten, their hands and arms broken. After his brother claims he injured the bullies and is arrested, Jeff spends several days distraught, before going to a birthday party in the neighborhood where he is attacked by the bullies again. Although he manages to kill all of the assailants, he is severely burned during the confrontation after being set on fire. During a stay at the hospital, Jeff realizes that he enjoys harming people, and goes insane. The night after he is discharged, he slices his face, leaving a scar in the shape of a smile, and cuts off his eyelids, so that he will never sleep. He then murders his parents and brother, whispering "go to sleep" while killing his sibling. He becomes a serial killer who sneaks into houses at night and whispers "go to sleep" to his victims before killing them.[20]

The legend of Jeff the Killer can be traced as far back as 2007 to a YouTube video posted by DarkYKnighT.[21]

11 miles ritual

In the 11 miles ritual creepypasta, a person who wishes to fulfill one's wish follows 11 miles of an unknown road with a frightening obstacle at each mile. In the case that the ritual doer reaches the 11th mile, then the ritual is said to have been completed, leading to the fulfillment of the wish.[22]

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.[4]

In 2013, an independent film adaptation of the story was released, called Living Dark: the Story of Ted the Caver.[23]

Ben Drowned

Created by Internet user Alex Hall (a.k.a. "Jadusable"), Ben Drowned tells a story of a college student named Matt who buys a used copy of the video game The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask from an elderly man at a yard sale. Matt finds that the cartridge is haunted by the ghost of a boy named Ben, who drowned. After deleting Ben's savefile, Matt encounters disturbing glitches and scary messages such as "You shouldn't have done that..." and "You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?".[24]

In May 2015, Variety reported that Clive Barker was developing a television series adaptation of Ben Drowned in partnership with Warner Brothers, but Hall later confirmed that the project was no longer in development.[25]

Mereana Mordegard Glesgorv

Created by an anonymous user, this story is about a mysterious YouTube video of a man in a dark red room who stares at the camera. The video has no audio; those who view it either go insane and gouge their eyes out or commit suicide; some victims somehow and inexplicably mailed their ripped eyes to YouTube's headquarters. The video in the story was re-created many times on YouTube.[26][27]

Sub-genres of creepypasta

Lost episode creepypasta

Lost episode creepypasta describes supposed television episodes, typically kids' shows, that were either never aired or removed from syndication due to their violent and grotesque content. These supposedly lost 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, Dead Bart, and Max and Ruby 0004. There are, however, actual instances of cartoon episodes being pulled off or banned from broadcast due to the episode's content being inappropriate for kids; for example, a Dexter's Laboratory episode, titled "Rude Removal", was never aired due to the episode featuring severe swearing.[28] 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.[16][29][30]

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.[16][28][30]

Psychotic killers

These creepypastas tell of people, usually a teenager, becoming a psychopath or killer, often involving a trademark disfigurement due to the effects of a bad childhood, accident, bullying, experiment gone wrong, or supernatural menace.[30] Similar in content to slasher films and splatter films.

Supernatural monsters

These creepypastas involve either supernatural beings or actual legendary, mythical, and folkloristic monsters.

Rituals and rites

These creepypastas typically contain instructions on how to perform various entity-summoning rituals, including their do's and don'ts. The main aim of these rituals is to have the ritual doer's wishes realised upon successful completion. Other types of rituals which do not have the effect of granting wishes are often performed for recreation.[16]


  • 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;[31] 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,[32] but the project never materialized.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i 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 d Romano, Aja (31 October 2012). "The definitive guide to creepypasta—the Internet's urban legends". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  5. ^ Alfonso III, Fernando (August 2, 2013). "4chan hunts down the origins of an Internet horror legend". Daily Dot. Archived from the original on July 6, 2016.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Newitz, Analee (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.
  8. ^ Roncero-Menendez, Sara; Piedra, Xavier (September 18, 2018). "17 terrifying creepypastas guaranteed to keep you up at night". Mashable. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  9. ^ Shira Chess (14 October 2016). Sinister Clown Sightings Are a Manifestation of Fear. New York Times. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  10. ^ Chess, Shira (October 14, 2016). "Sinister Clown Sightings Are a Manifestation of Fear". New York Times. Archived from the original on June 24, 2017. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
  11. ^ "'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.
  12. ^ Bojalad, Alec (22 January 2017). "Beware the Creepypasta: Scary Storytelling in the Internet Age". Den of Geek. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "About this Collection | Web Cultures Web Archive | Digital Collections | Library of Congress". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2023-10-18.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ a b c d Ramirez, Makayla (2022). The Case for Creepypasta: Defining the Genre and Finding the Horror (Report). Arizona State University.
  17. ^ Koven, Mikel J. (2015-12-31). "Slender Man: A Dissenting View". Contemporary Legend. 5: 105–111. ISSN 0963-8334.
  18. ^ Jolles, André; Schwartz, Peter J. (2013). "Legend: From "Einfache Formen" ("Simple Forms")". PMLA. 128 (3): 728–743. ISSN 0030-8129.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Sesseur (12 August 2012). "Jeff the Killer". Creepypasta. Archived from the original on 2012-08-15.
  21. ^ NNN臨時放送, retrieved 2023-07-02
  22. ^ "11 Miles – Creepypasta Wiki". 2013-10-09. Archived from the original on 2013-10-09. Retrieved 2022-10-26.
  23. ^ Bencic, Sandra. "Living Dark: The Story of Ted the Caver (2013)". AllMovie. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  24. ^ Hill, Mark (25 February 2016). "The lingering appeal of Pokémon's greatest ghost story". Kill Screen. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016.
  25. ^ Spangler, Todd (2015-05-04). "NewFronts 2015: Machinima Announces 'RoboCop', Clive Barker and Other Series". Variety. Retrieved 2019-10-24.
  26. ^ Lilith (2015-12-07). "Mereana Mordegard Glesgorv - do not watch this video!". Emadion. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  27. ^ "The Mereana Mordegard Glesgorv Urban Legend". 2015-11-21. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  28. ^ a b Grippo, p. 176.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ a b c "What is a Creepypasta?". Tales by Travel. 2022-03-01. Retrieved 2023-10-18.
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ 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.


  • Grippo, Marisa C. (26 September 2016). "Internet Ghosts". In Pulliam, June; et al. (eds.). Ghosts in Popular Culture and Legend. ABC-CLIO, LLC. pp. 174–176. ISBN 9781440834905.