DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA – PART 31: JEFF THE KILLER 2015
Some Pasta icons are just too big to cover with one feature… or even two! This week, I’m returning to everybody’s favourite, hoodie-wearing, scarred, grinning Creepypasta psychopath — Jeff the Killer.
Sure, I’ve written about the character here in the past, both as an exploration of the myth and my recent exclusive interview with Jeff’s creator, Sesseur/KillerJeff. What more could I write about the character and his pretty threadbare story. In truth, not a lot… unless somebody else were to write more about the character first.
Of course, it is these musings that lead me to a source of Creepypasta that will be very familiar to long-time readers of this series (and Pasta fans) — the creepypasta wikia. As a place known for its extremely strict quality standards (some have argued overly so, but I do appreciate that the admins of the site are doing their best to ensure that no Crappypasta slips in), it should come as no surprise to learn that the most well-known and widespread version of the JtK story was not well liked at the site.
As a story chock full of grammatical errors, clunky phrasing, awful plot holes and some pretty laughable cliches, even with its cult-like popularity and significance to the spread of Creepypasta, the decision was made to delete the story from the Wiki. However, shortly thereafter user BanningK1979 posted a proposal to the site’s forum on 26 September 2015 — that Jeff be reincluded on the site BUT only after the story was rewritten, reworked and polished by the Creepypasta Wikia users to match the quality standards expected (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Thread:497975).
The idea was a hit, and soon a number of rival Jeff stories were submitted to the judges who were tasked with crowning one of these THE definitive Jeff the Killer post for the site. You can find a full list of entries at the contest’s page on the wiki here: (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/User_blog:Underscorre/Jeff_the_Killer_Rewrite_Contest)
Finally, on 6 December of last year, the judges reached their decision. In third place was the The Testimony of James Lamb by JZoidberg (http://pastebin.com/6aCu9JFt). The Pasta focused on the story as told by a retired Police detective (the titular Lamb). In JZoidberg’s version of the story, Jeff (here with the surname Keaton) is insinuated in a series of break-ins that escalate to murder. Desperate for a lead, Lamb interviews Keaton’s younger brother, Liu, an inmate at a juvenile detention facility. Through a series of interviews, Lamb gets to know the man he is hunting from the one person who knows Jeff best.
The second placed story was My Liu by Sirius Nightshade (http://pastebin.com/ExrnBui1). It makes quite a few changes to the traditional tale, and although it features Jeff and Liu once again, this time Jeff is the youngest brother, while the two siblings live apart following their parents’ divorce. Liu is stuck with their abusive father, while Jeff is racked with guilt over his inability to intervene. When Jeff sees local bully Randy displaying similar tendencies towards a girl as his violent father, Jeff steps in. This leads to Randy taking a vile revenge against Jeff, starting a domino effect that will lead to madness and murder.
The winner of the competition was Jeff the Killer 2015 by author K. Banning Kellum (pictured left), the very same individual who suggested the rewrite contest. You can read the story in full here: http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Jeff_the_Killer_2015 I do recommend that you check it out, but to summarise, it covers the story of Jeff and Liu Woods when they move to a new home and struggle to fit in, while their neglectful parents focus on how to be accepted by the local community.
Shortly after moving into their new home, the two brothers cross paths with local bullies Randy, Keith and Troy. The other kids give them a hard time but Jeff decides to walk away… right up until one of the boys assaults Liu.
Suddenly overcome with rage, Jeff administers a violent beating on their assailants before Liu is able to drag him away and the pair flee.
However, when local police arrive at the boys’ home, Jeff comes to realise that Randy’s family is well connected and Jeff is warned that the local authorities will be keeping a close eye on him. To compound matters, Liu is subsequently sent away to spend the summer with their aunt. When it emerges that Randy’s father is actually Mr Woods’ boss, Jeff’s mother suggests that her son try to make amends with Randy. She drives Jeff to Randy’s home and at first, it seems as if the two boys may be able to bury the hatchet.
However, it isn’t long before Randy’s true colours shine through, and the boy and his cronies try to threaten Jeff with a flare gun… with terrifying consequences. This ‘remake’ addresses a lot of the problems in the original story, more firmly grounding Jeff’s origin in reality while still maintaining a number of the key elements from the popular ‘bully’ origin. It is a far more polished piece of prose (Banning is a talented writer who has a number of quality pastas up at the Creepypasta wiki), and the story manages to combine this realism with a far more tragic horror than that of the original story.
Thematically, it is a perfect fit with the familiar tale that has enchanted Jeff fans for years, without the vast majority of the tales flaws. In short, it does EXACTLY what it set out to do!
I was able to speak with K. Banning Kellum about his take on this most infamous of pastas, in which he was kind enough to talk me through his creative process.
You can read this conversation below:
UK HORROR SCENE: Hi, Thanks so much for agreeing to speak with me.
K BANNING KELLUM: Hi, Great to hear from you and I am glad that you took an interest in Jeff the Killer 2015. I certainly hope your week is off to a great start. So, let’s get down to these questions:
UKHS: OK, the most obvious first — in your own words, tell us a little about your version of Jeff the Killer?
KBK: Well, the big goal of the re-write contest was to try and fix all the issues with the original story. There were a lot of logical errors in the first Jeff story that couldn’t even be justified in the strictest of fictional sense. Issues like Jeff’s super powers that seemed to come from nowhere, the fact that the police officers not only drew their guns on a kid but apparently were able to decide his punishment and length of jail time, and most of all, the bleach and liquor turning his face white. So, I set out to draw Jeff as a real person. A young man that was going through some tough times, such as moving to a new town and trying to fit in with the local kids. I also focused on his parent’s lack of attention and their obsession with their professional lives over the emotional welfare of their children. I wasn’t trying to make Jeff an anti-hero or a tragic-hero. The goal wasn’t to to have the reader feel sorry for him at the end, but rather to paint a realistic map that could take a fairly well adjusted kid and turn him into a killer.
To create this, I decided to trigger Jeff with a series of small events leading into the catalyst at the end in order to push him over the edge in a believable manner. The parent’s neglectful attitudes provided that constant background agitation. The bully’s instigating Jeff and Liu and essentially getting away with it because of their status in the town was another. Liu being sent away for the rest of the summer and of course the big one, Jeff being disfigured and overhearing that his mother’s chief concern was how his appearance would affect their standing in the community.
So, I guess to summarize, my version of Jeff was a rather honest kid who was constantly placed in situations that he couldn’t control, even when he was in the right. It was about him losing control first over his life and then over his own mind. Jeff didn’t want to fight the bullies at the start of the story, but they forced him to. Jeff didn’t want to try and befriend Randy but his mother forced him to. Jeff surely didn’t want to become disfigured, but fate as it was forced him to.
My version of Jeff is a nice guy that is simply robbed of the most basic mechanics of control over and over again, until he can no longer control himself.
UKHS: What served as your inspiration for this story?
KBK: Two things really. First of all, let’s go back to 2012 or so. I was still in the US Army at the time, stationed at Fort Hood, TX. I’d just recently discovered Creepypastas while deployed in Iraq and then Kuwait. So, after returning to the States after the year-long deployment, I wanted to make as much time with my family as possible.
Now, my son, Tristan, is from my first marriage. My first wife still lives in New Orleans, and since I was stationed out in Texas, I couldn’t exactly go and pick up my son every single weekend. Due to the demands of the military, and the distance from Fort Hood to New Orleans, I generally could only go and get Tristan on long weekends or when my unit took some form of leave. This of course meant that my time with Tristan was that much more precious, since it could be up to a month before I’d be able to drive down and get him again.
So, during one of the block leave times, I want to say this was in the fall of 2012 or maybe early 2013, Tristan starts telling me all about the Creepypastas that he and his school friends have read. It was the normal ultra popular ones, like Jeff and Slenderman. At that time I had just gotten into Creepypastas, and honestly wasn’t too familiar with Jeff the Killer. So, Tristan convinces me to play the Mr. Creepypasta reading, and we sat there together and listened to it while Tristan continued to explain this and that. It was a special little bonding moment that sort of left me with a little bit of a soft spot for Jeff the Killer.
Anyway, a couple years later, I’m out of the Army, my wife and I are back living in New Orleans, and thankfully we can now pick up Tristan every weekend. During that time, I was still making a name for myself on Creepypasta Wikia. I’d written Secret Bar and The Demon in the Mirror Trick I believe, but that was it. Anyway, around this time, the big debate was about whether or not Jeff the Killer deserved to remain on Creepypasta Wikia. The site admins at the time had established some respectable quality standards, and the Jeff the Killer story on our site at the time didn’t meet any of the criteria. However, it was considered a classic and was essentially grandfathered into the community. However, it started to become more difficult to justify allowing it to remain.
Admins were deleting stories that were clearly better than Jeff, yet Jeff was allowed to remain due to his popularity. In the end, it came down to a vote. I actually supported removing the original Jeff, as I agreed that it didn’t meet the quality minimums to remain on the site. However, as I was helping in the story’s deletion votes, I also began to wonder if I could do better. I became really curious as to how I could improve on the Jeff formula, without actually making an entirely new story. I was interested in doing a re-telling, not so much a re-make. And like I said above, I still had a soft spot for Jeff the Killer because my son and I spent some quality time listening to Mr. Creepypasta take us through the original Jeff story.
Fast forward another year and it became apparent that a lot of people out there wanted Jeff back. They argued that it was a classic, and honestly, I agree. Like it or not, the original Jeff the Killer was to Creepypasta as Hulk Hogan is to professional wrestling. That’s when I got the idea for a contest. Give the people, myself included, a chance to retell the story and fix the original issues. The vote passed in a majority landslide of support to retell the story. Since I was participating, and was also an admin, I passed all the technical ends of the the contest over to the other admins. Voting was done off site and moderated by another member of staff, and in the end, my story was selected.
Now, as far as specific inspirations, I used a lot of settings that I enjoyed when I was Jeff’s age. Obviously setting it in and around New Orleans. Mandeville, the town where Jeff’s family moved, is a real place, although I never lived there.
The Friendly Video store was also a real chain down here that only recently went out of business in 2015. Jeff’s incident with the three bullies messing with his bike was based off of some of the neighborhood antics that bullies did to us when I was a kid. There used to be these three brothers that lived down the street, and if they saw you ride your bike past, they’d all mount on their own and chase you. They caught me once the oldest brother kept twisting the seat on my bike until it finally broke. So, I sort of had an understanding of how Jeff and Liu felt when they walked out of the video store and say Randy and his pals messing with their bikes.
UKHS: Seeing your activity over at the Creepypasta Wikia it’s pretty obvious that you’re a fan of Creepypasta. What is your favourite Creepypasta by a creator other than yourself?
KBK: Well, it’s hard to actually cite a specific favorite, because I love quite a few of them. The Disappearance of Ashley Kansas was one of the first that I read and was blown away. Another short one called Piggyback was chilling. As far as specific writers on the site go, Blacknumber1 is a great long pasta writer. Humboldt Lycanthrope is a master of the NSFW stories. Empyrealinvective has a massive library of impressive stories. GreyOwl is one of my favorites, as she consistently brings high quality stories to the Wiki. The Tale of Robert Elm is a masterpiece in my opinion. There are simply so many great stories and great writers that it’s difficult to ever just say one name.
UKHS: Why do you think Creepypasta resonates so well with the fandom?
KBK: I think the main reason for Creepypasta’s popularity with the internet in general is because it is for the fans, by the fans. All you need to do to write a great pasta is to have an idea and some basic writing skills, and before you know it you can possibly be creating the next Jeff or Slenderman. You don’t need money, an editor or a book deal in order to pursue a love of writing.
And since Creepypastas are open-source for the most part, it appeals to all reaches of artists. Writers, sketch artists, poets and musicians alike can find something within the realm of Creepypasta to sink their teeth into. Plus, at least as far as Creepypasta Wikia is concerned, we are a very supportive community. If someone needs a critique or writing advice, there are always tons of people more than happy to do so.
UKHS: What do you think the appeal of Jeff the Killer is to fans?
KBK: That is a tough question in a lot of ways. Keep in mind I was one of the people that supported deleting the original. I would say with the original Jeff story, the popularity was all about timing. Jeff came around when Creepypastas were a fairly new thing. It was also marketed well, since it started as a Youtube video and then evolved to a story.
The famous white faced Jeff picture that is associated with the original work no doubt played a huge role in the story’s success as well. There was an undeniable unnerving quality to that picture. The aesthetics were so off that it was difficult to really look at. Couple that with the overall mood that horror stories can create, and you have a recipe for success.
Artists also did a lot to push Jeff forward. There are tons of Jeff the Killer drawings all over the internet. With indie games dedicated to him and lots of other Youtube videos and cos-players keeping the legacy of Jeff going, it’s clear why he’s so well received by his fans.
UKHS: Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?
KBK: Well, I am a huge Stephen King fanatic. I have been reading his work since I was a kid, and continue to buy all of his new books to this day. The Dark Tower was such a powerful story, it had me locked in for years, and I still dip into it from time to time. H.P. Lovecraft has also inspired me on many occasions, as has Clive Barker. But in the end, Stephen King remains my all time favorite.
UKHS: What work of your own are you most proud of?
KBK: My Hyraaq Tobit series is my all time favorite product of my own making. I’ve been grinding away at that series for around 2 years now and I am thrilled to announce that I am nearing completion of the last story in the series.
UKHS: The fans are very passionate about Jeff. Are there any examples of fan art, such as images, films or readings, in particular that have impressed you?
KBK: Passion impresses me. So, anything that someone has taken the time to sit down and develop out of a love for the source material gets my respect. There are some outstanding images of Jeff as well as other Creepypasta icons all over Deviantart and the internet as a whole. Anytime I see that someone has taken to time to sit down and create something drawn and fueled by their passion, that will impress me.
UKHS: Jeff the Killer 2015 was voted to be THE official Jeff the Killer entry by the users of Creepypasta Wiki. How did it feel to get that recognition from your peers? What does the support of the Creepypasta community mean to you?
KBK: The recognition from peers was incredible, and I’ve said it once and will continue to say that their support is everything. When I sat down and wrote Jeff the Killer 2015, I knew that I was throwing my name into a hat that would be filled with many other talented writers. Initially the story I wrote was a massive 20,000 work novella, and I loved it.
However, I later learned that the contest rules stated no entries over 10,000 words. So, I had to really cut my story up in order to make the cut off. Honestly the edited down version didn’t feel as complete as my first draft, so I gave myself 50/50 odds that I’d win. When I was informed that I won the contest, I was just filled with tons of gratitude and admiration towards this incredible community. Their support is paramount to my success, and I am beyond grateful each and every day that people out there are getting behind my work and helping me advance as a writer.
UKHS: Will you ever return to the story of Jeff in the future? And what else can your fans look forward to from you in the days ahead?
KBK: As for future Jeff stories, I doubt that will happen. I set out to create a better Jeff the Killer and I feel that I accomplished that. Jeff the Killer is a true Creepypasta icon, and for that reason he belongs to the entire community. I am confident that with the huge bank of talented writers out there, Jeff will have many more adventures to look forward to. As far as the days ahead, as I mentioned above, my final entry into the Hyraaq Tobit series should be showing up this week. I’m almost there and cannot wait to finally complete that story.
UKHS: Finally, are there any links to which you’d like me to send my readers to see more of your work?
KBK: Most certainly. If anyone wants to get into the Hyraaq Tobit series, please start with the first story: The Demon Tobit of Delphia (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/The_Demon_Tobit_of_Delphia)
Just keep clicking the “next” button at the bottom of each story to read them all in order.
If you’d like to hear some amazing Creepypasta readings, including quite a few of mine, please check out Creeparoni’s Youtube Channel. She is an incredible talent and is actually in the process of reading all of my Tobit stories in order, which is a massive undertaking. Check her out here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK3i6JixKgwP6emDIX4tKB
You can also follow me on Twitter: @banningk1979
And if you’d like to check out all of my horror stories, here is the link to my Creepypasta Wikia user page, which contains like to all my stories, links to some awesome Youtube readings of my work, and lots of other fun stuff: http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/User:Banningk1979
UKHS: Thanks for the interview.
The reason I’ve included Jeff the Killer 2015 in this series, aside from the fact that it’s an excellent story in its own right, is that it really showcases two major trends in the Creepypasta community as a whole.
First, it highlights the increased quality and standards expected as the genre evolves and expands. The slapdash, poorly told stories of yesterday are very much a thing of the past and simply won’t be tolerated by the more discerning audience of today. With writers such as K. Banning Kellum and the admins of the creepypasta wikia keeping a watchful eye over the latest efforts, the future of Creepypasta is in good hands.
Second, this story is an excellent example of the way in which the creepypasta community adopt and reshape different characters and stories. K. Banning Kellum is far from the first author to write about Jeff the Killer and, I can state with confidence, that he won’t be the last either. But he has crafted the tale, added his own unique take and, most importantly, contributed to mythos as a whole. It’s precisely this ‘open-source’ nature, as K. Banning Kellum describes it, that makes the community the lively, imaginative and innovative collective that it is.
Come back next week when I’ll look at another fresh continuation and reimagining of one of Creepypasta’s most disturbing tales.