The core art of storytelling has always remained the same, even though it's constantly refined through modern media. Even before cave drawings, we told stories around campfires. People have retold these stories time and time again, and they slowly evolved, becoming more fantastic with each telling due to the “Chinese Whispers“ effect. While authors have become more inventive and systematic over time, it was this earliest form of storytelling that widened mankind’s imagination and began the tradition. The methods have changed, but word of mouth has given rise to rumors, ghost stories, urban legends, and even the basis for religion. All fantastic stories, all inspiring belief. This practice is still very much alive.
The creepypasta: a bastardization of the term “copypasta,” derived from "copy/paste" and referring to a message copied and pasted en masse. The creepypasta began the same way: short horror stories of varying length, posted on various websites and forums throughout the internet, and often passed off as fact to spark up a scare. You’ve likely seen them before; most people have. “DON’T READ THIS.” Sound familiar? Posts like this plague the internet every day, especially the comments sections of video streaming sites.
Creepypastas started as a minor annoyance with the superstitious backing of old-fashioned chain mail. They have been largely ignored, disregarded as trolling, or spammed and hidden, but they certainly haven’t gone unheard. In fact, they’ve become quite the popular phenomenon over the years. As any Facebook friend of mine would know, these stories have been my personal fascination for some time now. They‘re addicting, and a lot like pizza: good or bad, it’s still creepypasta, and I still love it.
A large part of any urban legend’s mystique is that the origin and author of the story tends to fade into obscurity over time. After a while, it comes into question whether or not there was ever an original author. Some even begin to entertain the idea that the story is true, and that is when the story reaches the height of its art. That is how we ended up with tales like Bloody Mary, La Llarona, and The Amityville Horror. This remains true of the creepypasta, and it has spawned such stories as “smile.dog,” “Pokemon Black,” and “Ben drowned.” These tales of cursed image files and haunted video games strike fear at the very heart of modern media.
After so many of these stories came into circulation, Youtube has hosted several channels by enthusiastic readers, and the best of them bring these stories to life. One of the channels that introduced me to the fascination belongs to MrCreepyPasta. His channel is updated regularly and has built a respectable following. I would recommend it as a starting point for any curious readers. He takes requests, and he has touched on some of the most popular, and chilling, to be found so far.
Perhaps the most notorious of all creepypasta stories began with a single image:
This image was a contest entry at SomethingAwful.com, a contest for doctored photographs depicting supernatural phenomena, eventually used to stage hoaxes on paranormal message boards. This image made its rounds, and it quickly spawned stories of a “slender man” who haunts and abducts children. Inspired by these stories, independent film director Troy Wagner created a long running and still active independent film series known as “Marble Hornets,” told through two separate channels on Youtube. These films fleshed out the Slender Man myth in graphic and immersive detail, and they gave the myth more dimension and momentum than ever before.
Since its debut on June 20th, 2009, Marble Hornets has gained a massive cult following and inspired many fan-made spin-offs. Series of particular interest have been Youtube channels TribeTwelve, EverymanHYBID and CompileTRUTH. Popular blogs have included “Dreams in Darkness,” “Watch This City Burn,” and “Just Another Fool.” All of these fan-created works, among many others, have added to the Slender Man mythos in many ways. They have all masqueraded as reality, and all promoted its popularity until it eventually became a common meme all its own.
The mythos reached its true potential when these stories started to meld and cooperate. Channels began to reference one another, frequently cameo each others’ key characters and concepts, and actively drive each others’ plots all while maintaining their realistic facades. This trend continues even now, and while it may not be the first instance of such a thing, it has become part of a new and revolutionary form of storytelling: the ARG.
The ARG (Alternate Reality Game) allows an engrossing experience that was not possible until the internet united the world. It is a large, collaborative effort forming a web that spans far and wide. The reader (or audience, if you like) is no longer bound by a fourth wall and limited to a vicarious experience. The story is happening now, all around you, and you are placed at the eye of storm. You are encouraged to follow the detective trail. The more you investigate, the more you find. The more you find, the more connections you make for yourself, the more theories you form. You begin to find yourself personally involved with the story even if you choose not to participate.
Beyond the Slender Man mythos, I have heard of few others that have taken this approach. However, I hope this method grows and becomes a modern standard. Not only is it interesting to follow, but it is inspiring in many ways. It reminds us of just how creative people can really be, and what great things can be accomplished through cooperation and common interest.
Writers, especially, can learn from these stories. We know that life experience and empathy for our characters is the key to everything. In these stories, the experience is brought right to your doorstep, inviting you to step inside. As I am still an amateur myself, far be it from me to give advice for success. Even still, I can tell you that my fascination with these stories has done wonders for my personal inspiration and drive. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
The Creepypasta Wiki -- creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Creepypasta_Wiki
The Creepypasta Index -- www.creepypastaindex.com
MrCreepyPasta -- www.youtube.com/user/MrCreepyPasta
Marble Hornets - www.youtube.com/user/MarbleHornets
Tribe Twelve - www.youtube.com/user/TribeTwelve
Everyman HYBRID - www.youtube.com/user/EverymanHYBRID
Compile TRUTH - www.youtube.com/user/compileTRUTH