Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 7 - Creepypasta

     Creepypasta is a site that began by collecting spooky short stories from around the internet and now is driven by user submissions. Think of it as the digital version of the scary stories collections someone would always bring out during a sleepover. The stories range from long, slow burners to quick gut punchers to tiny "horror couplets" that manage to pack a fright into a few words. It's hard to peg down exactly what a "creepypasta story" is, there aren't hard and fast rules that dictate what belongs on the site and what might not. Often though, the stories take the form of, "I heard this from a friend..." or "One night when I was...", something informally told from personal, or a degree or two away, experience, like a campfire ghost story. Some stories take full advantage of the internet and are told in modern epistolary format, existing in blogs written "in character" as the writer investigates or deals with whatever eerie impetus began the chronicle.

      A few creepypasta entities have escaped the site and gained notoriety in many corners of the internet, probably most notably the myth of the Slenderman, a supernatural entity recognized by his tall, thin frame and white, featureless face. Other popular stories are "Dead Bart" and "Squidward's Suicide", similar stories about "lost episodes" of The Simpsons and Spongebob Squarepants, respectively. Naturally, they are told from the perspective of, "I was an intern at the studio..." or "I heard from a writer...". Both stories discuss an episode being never aired or in some rough, early state of production, maybe storyboarded or animatics. An episode wildly dark and macabre in tone compared to the rest of their series, involving frank depictions of death and depression. Maybe the most gripping part, the aspect that makes the stories stick with you, is their eerie supernatural effect on those who created and even watch them, almost akin to the video tape in The Ring. Writers and executives become nauseous or deeply depressed, the passed around digital file even affects computers negatively! So not only are they a horrifying difference in what the series are known for, but the episodes seem to have tapped into some awful, dark magic force unbeknownst to those involved while writing and making them.

     What has probably helped make these stories more infamous is how readers have taken the stories as written and ran with them, giving them extra life. The latter two examples have been realized by video editors following the descriptions in the original stories and piecing together genuine clips from their series into an approximation of what the lost episodes supposedly looked like. And the Slenderman has become a full blown paranormal character in its own right through fan art and additional stories, YouTube series and even video games.

     I think this aspect is what makes Creepypasta most intriguing to me. The stories themselves are often told very casually and are hardly ever stellar examples of prose, they might be derivative of older folk stories or urban legends or tread on territory other creepypastas have covered, but they could be viewed as "open source" stories. The contributors of Creepypasta aren't trying to make money, just make you scared, so other readers can expand and build on the original works in exciting ways that the original writers might not have imagined. I doubt the creator of Slenderman could have envisioned the pages and pages of art featuring the character or the You Tube channel MarbleHornets which is a long form story told in "found footage" style.

    So if you find yourself with some free time and you don't mind the possibility of a couple sleepless hours, peruse Creepypasta a little. The amount of stories and variety of subjects is impressive, anyone should be able to find more than a couple that grips them and sends shivers down their spine.

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