DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA – PART 20: FUNNYMOUTH
In my last feature I touched on the shrewd manner in which writers of Creepypasta incorporate common web/communications experiences into their stories to tailor their scares to the CP audience. There are a number of Creepypasta authors who, quite deservedly, have cultivated a real reputation for producing high-quality work. One of my favourites is the prolific Slimebeast, creator of the fantastic Abandoned By Disney series, which I have covered here before.
This week I return to his work for a story that utilises its web origin flawlessly: Funnymouth.
The story first appeared online at Slimebeast’s website on 1 January 2013 (http://slimebeast.com/forum/slimy-stories/funnymouth/). It opens with a very realistic transcript of an exchange between three users of the #ReferSales forum: lemonlimeskull; GhostJorge; and funnymouth.
The bizarre funnymouth dives into the channel, spouts a load of gibberish, then promptly disappears, drawing the curiosity of lemonlimeskull, whose real name is then revealed to be Charles Watts as he takes over narrator duties. After attempting to chat with the increasingly weird funnymouth, Charles moves on. However, he soon finds himself cyber-stalked by the mysterious web-user, bombarded with emails to his private account. Funnymouth’s actions become increasingly intense, including somehow bringing down ReferSales.com causing it to redirect to bludd.com, a site which seems to consist simply of a large bitmapped image of a face with a long, distended tongue lolling out.
Charles also finds himself cracking under the pressure and haunted by grim nightmares.
Finally a frightening truth is revealed about who or what funnymouth is…
There’s no denying that Funnymouth manages to pack a lot of frights into its comparatively brief length. That the story starts with such a realistic chat transcription really draws the reader in, echoing an online setting with which many Creepypasta consumers will be familiar. By engaging a reader in this way early on, Slimebeast builds a natural suspension of disbelief, before heading into his trademark, personable and likeable narration as the ill-fated Charles Watts. Watts is something of a horror fiction archetype, a flawed protagonist who proceeds along a path to damnation by allowing his natural disposition to cause him to wander into the sights of something deadly. Think the stuffy disbelieving sceptics of M.R. James’s ghost stories, or in more modern terms, the blindly driven Ellison Oswalt as played by Ethan Hawke in 2012’s Sinister.
In this case it is curiosity in the face of what he knows to be wrong — lemonlimeskull says as much himself when describing his initial encounters with funnymouth. With online stalkers and trolls a very real threat to web users, the slowly building intensity of funnymouth’s attentions is decidedly unsettling, long before the story reveals the terrifying imagery of Charles’s nightmares and THAT haunting climax.
The bludd.com image is also disturbing, a devilish ‘face’ to place to the name funnymouth. The long tongue is reminiscent of several depictions of Satan, while the intense glare is definitely a spine chiller.
In August of that same year the story appeared over on the Creepypasta Wikia (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Funnymouth) where it was a massive hit with readers. The story took on an even more legendary reputation when it emerged that the sites and email addresses within the story were all genuine. ReferSales.com is still live, although bludd.com has since gone done.
What really got people buzzing though, was that they would receive replies if they wrote to any of the email addresses listed in the story (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Thread:110971?useskin=oasis). This really was a fantastic display of commitment to his craft from Slimebeast, one that has seen the usual questions regarding whether the story is truly based on fact (https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20130603230322AAqaTuz).
Of course, we all know that Slimebeast is a well-known and talented creator of fiction, but as the story spread throughout the Internet (copied and pasted, like all truly great Creepypastas) some readers lost track of where the story originated. The waters were muddied even further on 18 July 2014 when a sequel to the story, titled Funnymouths appeared at Slimebeast’s site (http://slimebeast.com/stories/funnymouths.php).
The story really toys with the reader, taking a more meta approach and directly referencing the spread of the original story online and even the author himself. This story follows a sceptical protagonist who accidentally stumbles across the original Funnymouth story online, then starts to research the tale. It leads him to the YouTube channel of a user called Tormental, who it seems may have crossed paths with the dangerous funnymouth while playing an online game. Another video is then described which tells us about the fate that befell poor Charles Watts — and it is chilling.
Suitably creeped out by the video, that evening our poor narrator goes on to have a vivid nightmare. Waking in a state of real terror, he tries to get over the shock by posting to a web forum, pointing out that the story is clearly a well-worked hoax and that a broken jaw isn’t THAT scary.
Then he receives a private message from a familiar name…
Funnymouths is a good follow-up and the clever manner in which it incorporates elements of real-life into its narrative really adds to the suspension of disbelief, while the large cast of (mostly online) characters and subtle changes in writing style for each by Slimebeast really adds to the experience. Arguably the biggest scare comes from the description of the “Watts-01_10_13” video.
This touches on the very real fear of insanity, Dementophobia, a phobia that is actually pretty common. We all fear the thought that one day our mind will betray us — that our perception of reality could become inherently flawed, not through external stimulus, but through the very processes we use to make sense of the world around us. With madness comes the very real threat that we could harm ourselves, or others, without reason, and this is truly horrifying.
Factor in the historical cruelty or mistreatment of those with mental disorders and it’s all too clear why the thought of suffering some kind of mental break could cause deep anxiety. That this sequence culminates in some startlingly gory imagery really drives home the horror of that moment.
Once again there’s a nice real-world reference, YouTube user Tormental is actually one of the author’s YouTube channels (https://www.youtube.com/user/tormentalist) — there’s no Charles Watts video there, but the story directly addresses this. It’s another dedicated, clever and artful piece of work from a Creepypasta icon who consistently excels at this kind of thing.
This author Slimebeast (Christopher Howard Wolf) was kind enough to speak with me again about his very successful, yet very different creepypasta double act.
UK HORROR SCENE: Thank you for agreeing to speak with me. First, what served as your inspiration for the story?
SLIMEBEAST: It’s basically the classic “something is after you” story, with an “internet troll” twist thrown in. It’s basically inspired by all the lolrandom trolls out there.
UKHS: It cleverly utilises a real website to contribute to the story telling process. What inspired you to do that? And what challenges did that present?
SB: I’ve made a few websites in the past, just to see if I could convince people they were real. For example, before The Dark Knight Rises finished production, I made a fake viral site for Poison Ivy’s high-class escort service. It hit about 400,000 views in a day or two before people started picking up that it wasn’t an actual part of the marketing campaign. I guess it’s just something I like to challenge myself with — can I create a false reality and convince someone of it — even for a short time? As for challenges, I suppose the only real challenge is paying the domain name fee every year. XD
UKHS: I’ve noticed that Bludd.com has closed, but you can still access the site if you know how to through ReferSales. What happened to Bludd.com?
SB: Before I used Bluud.com in the story, I had it up for sale along with a bunch of other names. I forgot to remove it from the sales website because I hadn’t used it in a year or more. Needless to say, once it started getting traffic, someone bought it. I regret forgetting it was on the market, but really the fact that it went down kind of adds to the story a little bit, eh? I actually used to respond to email at bluud.com as Funnymouth before it got overwhelming.
UKHS: The character Funnymouth writes in a very distinctive manner. Is it based on anybody real you’ve encountered online?
SB: Yes, some of his style of speech is based on a forumgoer I used to see on a comic book message board. There was more than one discussion on the site about whether he was legit or a troll. He would post comic scripts and say stuff like: “tom cruise can star in the movie. I hope he can like it.”
UKHS: The opening section of the story takes place as a transcript in an Internet chat room and is frighteningly believable. Was that difficult to do? Would you consider writing a full story in that manner?
SB: It’s not all that difficult. Most of the aggravation just comes in the form of typing the usernames out every time, and making sure I didn’t misspell them somewhere. Copy/paste doesn’t really help when you have two or even three names to use over and over again in a quick-fire discussion. I don’t really know if I’d write a non-Funnymouth story in this exact format, because then it’d basically just be borrowing from this story.
UKHS: The sequel, Funnymouths is very self-referential (I like to refer to it as the Wes Craven’s New Nightmare of creepypastas) and takes a decidedly different tone than the original story. Why did you choose to try a different tack with the sequel?
SB: I tackle sequels, prequels, etc. with a sort of “meta” approach. I want them to actually seem like a movie or book sequel in some regards, like using various tropes or behaviors associated with sequels. For example, “Lost Episodes” ends on a very final note. However, the follow-up story, “Sid’s Video”, takes that ending and basically undoes it. People get aggravated at that, but that’s the point. It’s a story about movies and TV shows, so the second story is like a movie sequel that doesn’t respect the source. I probably get too far into my own head on these things, but yeah. Funnymouths does this by attempting to sound like someone else is writing their own spin-off of Funnymouth. Like a second author decided “this looks popular, I think I’ll write an unofficial sequel!” I don’t know if any of that carries across, but you can hopefully see it in little touches here and there.
UKHS: Funnymouths in particular really blurs the lines between fact and fiction. Was this hard to do? And have you heard of many people who have actually mistaken either of the stories for fact?
SB: It’s not all that hard to blur the line. I think most of my stories have some connection to real-life events I’ve experienced. Even if it’s just “One time I fell down the stairs and hurt my foot… but imagine if I had somehow kept falling for hours!” or something dumb and mundane like that. People have definitely mistaken the stories for reality, unless they’re all shining me on. People still email Charles at ReferSales.com and ask if he’s okay.
UKHS: Both stories leave quite a lot of mysteries unanswered. Do you think you might return to the story in the future? Or do you prefer this element of mystery?
SB: I like to leave things open to interpretation. Hopefully I can do this in a way that doesn’t frustrate people so much as inspire them to imagine their own meaning. I want to set up a situation where the reader can walk away thinking rather than just being done with the story and moving on. Whether or not I accomplished it depends on who’s reading, I suppose.
You can read more of Slimebeast’s work over at his web site http://slimebeast.com/forum/index.php or check out more creepypasta writing at Slimebeast’s other site, toospooky.com.
It’s clear that Slimebeast’s stories work so well because they are frightening realistic in their descriptions of, thankfully, fictitious horror. For creepypasta to work, most of the time it needs to convince the reader that it is based on fact… so what happens when a viral horror tale really is based on true events?
Check out my next feature for one of the internet’s most enduring viral horror stories that just so happens to be based on a genuine heart-stopping encounter the author experienced.
Prepare for nightmares…