Horror as a Universal Power: The Function of a Creepypasta

So in my previous Blog entry, “Horror as a Universal Power,” I talked about how I believe horror is a slow-growing epiphany or realization of just how beautiful and terrifying the seemingly normal reality around us truly is: how it is a feeling we are both repulsed by and attracted to in a kind of feedback loop. It’s this kind of perverse fascination with something very strange and uncanny right in front of us.

After something of a Blogging dry-spell, I was watching a few horror movies such as Insidious and Don’t be Afraid of the Dark: you can, in part, blame these films for today’s horror craze on “Mythic Bios,” but it was also due to finding a unique “creepypasta” that I also began this.

When I first saw the term “creepypasta,” I had no idea what the hell it even meant. What first came to mind was a strange of twisted pasta with a pale hollow-eyed doll’s face on the end of it, or a malignant white spiral-worm with a single blood-shot eye. So after I really read a definition of what a creepypasta is, I realized it is derived from a term called “copypasta”  in which someone supposedly copy and pastes a body of text over and over again onto different websites and message-boards. So basically, the pasta is taken from the word “paste,” while the “creepy” part is pretty self-explanatory.

The link I provided above pretty much lists different kinds of formulas or tropes that creepypastas fall under, but that is not why I want to write this article about. I want to look at just how the creepypasta is such an effective medium of communicating the essence of the horror genre.

My first experience with a creepypasta was when I was sent the “message-board transcript” Candle Cove. I actually didn’t know that this was a work of fiction because the person who created it, Kris Straub, did a superb job in crafting the narrative aesthetic. It actually looked like a message board conversation would: complete with screen names and typos in discussion. He also tapped into that place of barely recalled memory and nostalgia–into the zeitgeist or spirit–of 70s children shows to great effect: along with an incredibly effective sense of pacing and different voices for each “poster.” The element of television static and white noise within the story was even more inspired because it plays on the depths of the imagination and just how far someone–particularly a child–can fall into it.

I really liked “Candle Cove” because you don’t know that it is a story and it is written that way. It is also written in a way which taps hard on that collective unconsciousness we all have and actually in some ways made it real. And that is the thing right there. Candle Cove, though fiction, made itself real.

This is what I really want to talk about. Other creepypastas have managed to do something similar based on the characteristics I listed above from “Candle Cove.” The thing that actually influenced me to write these two recent Blog entries was a creepypasta called Ben (or the Haunted Majora’s Mask Game). I came across an account of it on Youtube purely by coincidence. You can read a very long written account of it here or watch the video “footage” that the creator made to complement it here. What we have here is a mixed-media story: a combination of message board posts, a text file, a Nintendo 64 game-hack and video recordings by a user named Jadusable. But look at what he does here.

First, he turns a game made twelve years ago–a Nintendo work firmly entrenched into this generation’s or at least this gaming generation’s collective unconscious–into a medium for his story. He purposefully glitches parts of this hacked game and uses elements of the game itself to add to this story. Bear in mind, Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is a very unsettling but wonderful game to begin with taking place in an alternate dimension from the usual world of Hyrule with various characters and elements to work with: not the least of which being the graphics, soundtrack and some of the dialogue.

Some parts of this creepypasta are, however, somewhat stereotypical and cliche: such as the protagonist and creator Jadusable buying “a haunted bootleg” from a “creepy old man” but that is a trope part and parcel with urban legends in general. Most people would have a lot of trouble suspending disbelief for this–especially gamers–but it does have some very creepy moments: especially for me given that one of the text messages on one of the videos associated with the piece referred directly to a person named “Matt.”

I think the reason I find this creepypasta fascinating is because it uses elements of our generation–specifically video games and the medium of the Internet–to attempt to relate to us in a way might not have affected other generations. Other creepypastas that have utilized Nintendo such as Pokemon Black and Pokemon Lost Silver really tap into that shared popular cultural consciousness, but they do more than that. You’ll find that if you Google or even click on the above links (pardon the unintentional pun), that after these stories became memes–cultural information that spreads to different people–people started creating works based on these pastas to make them more real. Candle Cove now has surviving televised scenes on Youtube. The haunted Majora’s Mask game has many imitators and parodies. Even the Pokemon games I mentioned have been made into actual bootleg games by readers of the things. Basically, they are not only Internet memes, but they become living stories. They become alive inside the people that want them, and I think that is an incredibly bad-ass concept.

It makes me really want to create a creepypasta of my own. I’ve had ideas for some, but I never really followed through with them. You have to get that mixture of intentional typos that look unintentional, a compelling and readable but realistic-looking narrative aesthetic and revealing the horror but not revealing the full origin of the horror down pat because not only do you have to contend with a reader’s disbelief, but also the myriad of other creepypastas out there that share so many–and in some ways too many–characteristics to make yours unique. I tend to get very elaborate in my works and that would definitely count against me in creating such a potent literary hoax.

Still, I know I can’t help thinking about it. It is no coincidence that a loved one chose to give me the strange and wonderful gift of an old newspaper article talking about the effects of the legendary War of the Worlds radio broadcast on its audience at the time.

A creepypasta functions as a horror story pretending to be real and yet even when revealed as fiction, readers make it real by believing in it and paying homage to it. In other words, we make our nightmares real and we actually seem to enjoy doing so which leads me back to my original question of why?

The Internet allows creepypastas to exist: to replicate and spread across not merely servers, message boards, and chat-rooms but imaginations as well. Where is that line between the machine and the human mind these days? What happens when we interact with an increasing body of knowledge that we can manipulate and shape to our whims (technology permitting)? I believe that, in the end, creepypastas exist for three reasons: the first being entertainment, the second being that they are a form of oral storytelling around a pixelated campfire, and the third because we want to believe and make real and manifest the idea that the wondrous and the terrifying can exist in a world where we all live: where something like the Internet exists and not only contains the growing sum of all knowledge and information of what we think exists in our supposed certainty, but also human experience and its less concrete intuitions as well.

I also believe that in light of all of this creepypastas–along with their verbal and written urban legend and folktale predecessors–demonstrate that horror is not only the fear of the unknown. Rather, horror is the love for the unknown–for an unknown–and the sheer limits of human understanding.

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