Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 41: Normal Porn For Normal People

creepypastaDARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA – PART 41: NORMAL PORN FOR NORMAL PEOPLE

Hey Dark Web readers, sorry for the lengthy delay between features, but I’m glad to be back with a look at one of the most disturbingly believable web horror stories out there.  This story is Normal Porn For Normal People.

The story was first published on 7 June 2011 by DeviantArtist CosbyDaf, the same creator who gave Creepypasta fans NES Godzilla, as featured here at Dark Web before (http://www.ukhorrorscene.com/dark-web-steven-hickeys-essential-guide-to-creepypasta-part-36-nes-godzilla/).

For those unfamiliar with the story, it takes the form of a first-hand account of a casual web-browser who receives a strange unsolicited email. The email contains a simple message:

Hi there found this site

is very nice thought u might like

normalpornfornormalpeople.com

pass it on, for the good of mankind

rsz_npfnp1 Acting despite his better judgement, the narrator clicks on link and finds himself at a rather shoddy and decidedly basic web site. The page consists of a large block of text, headed by rather strange tagline (Normal Porn for Normal People, A Website Dedicated To The Eradication of Abnormal Sexuality) a rambling rant that at first seems a dead end.

However, on closer inspection each separate word of this text is revealed to be a hyperlink, each leading to a video. At first these appear to be bizarre but harmless, but as the storyteller and other web visitors begin to explore the site in more depth, these videos become increasingly unnerving, leading to a final shocking scene…

You can read the full story here: http://cosbydaf.deviantart.com/art/Normal-Porn-For-Normal-People-212168120

As most of you are reading this feature on the internet, I think it’s safe to say that you are pretty tech-savvy. Also, as web-browsers, I’m pretty sure that plenty of you will have previously disappeared down the rabbit warren of clicking on questionable links, following ‘click-baity’ heads until you inadvertently click on that one last link that takes you to a dark corner of the web that you really wish you could unsee.

I’m not just talking the more stomach-churning internet phenomena such as ‘2 Girls 1 Cup’ or goatse.cx, or even the more unsavoury gross-out sites. No, as it’s title might suggest, Normal Porn For Normal People brings to mind the more disturbing and extreme erotica sites out there. Arguably the biggest strength and greatest aspect of the internet is that it is free, easy to access and barely policed, allowing people to share art and ideas quickly and without fear of persecution. However, this comparative lawlessness is also the most dangerous aspect of the World Wide Web.

It’s no secret that a vast amount of illicit, illegal and immoral material is shared via the internet. From sites spewing bigoted and hateful rhetoric to terrorist guides on how to create explosives to the sickening images recorded by paedophile rings, it’s a sad fact that, as well as being a tremendous source of information, the internet also houses the very worst of humanity.

With this in mind, the site described by CosbyDaf in his story is chillingly realistic, and as such the tale itself becomes more believable. I’ve written about how much more frightening a story becomes when you are given reason to believe that it might be true, and that you might also find yourself falling victim to the horrors described within. Normal Porn For Normal People cleverly combines the bizarre and the grotesque, qualities that ‘extreme web surfers’ will be all too familiar with.

The imagery described in the videos is unsettling, moving from almost comically surreal to utterly repulsive with a slow and steady escalation of tension.
What’s more, CosbyDaf cleverly refrains from robbing the story of its mystery, of neatly explaining each and every part. Instead the creator of the site, its purpose and the mysterious forces that seem to be intent on keeping it hidden are never explored, never revealed. The author encourages the reader to use their imagination, a storytelling trick which has always proven to be one of the strongest tools available to horror writers.

NPFP3It doesn’t matter how great a writer is at describing and detailing atrocities — the reader will always imagine something far more upsetting, far scarier, because they will tailor the story to match (and manipulate) their own worst fears. In short, Normal Porn For Normal People is an exceptional creepypasta that is wonderfully written and works on multiple levels.

Fans have flocked to the story, and with good reason.

As Redditor TatchM wrote in a post about why Normal Porn For Normal People is so scary: It relies on less common tropes than a lot of other creepypastas and the ones it does use are done relatively subtly. It makes it seem less formulaic and thus more believable. What really makes the writing clever is that it does not leave clear answers. It provides a lot of evidence of what is going on with the site, but it does not draw conclusions because the narrator has limited perspective. This allows the reader’s imagination to try and fill in the blanks. The subtext might be lost on some people, but for others it will cause their minds to race and they start putting the pieces in place. I know I spent 10 or so minutes doing as much.

As an example of one way the subtext can be interpreted for those who may not have picked up on it: Let’s start with the title. Normal Porn for Normal People. The first thought when reading that is to assume “normal” means “common.” However, if you interpret “normal” as a group (normies if you will), like gay or trap is for gay porn and trap porn, then the title takes on a different meaning. It then implies that the site is a fetish and the filmier(s) are sharing their home movies as a cry for help. It basically can be seen as a collection of home fetish movies.

dianna.avi implies that the filmer or an associate of his gets off on the interviews. Stumps.avi implies that the filmier enjoys watching people do mundane or repetitive tasks. It puts peanuts.avi, and tonguetied.avi into perspective. privacy.avi, lickedclean.avi, and useless.avi also shows an interest in voyeuristic behaviour. Of course, the tagline “Normal porn for normal people, A Website Dedicated To The Eradication of Abnormal Sexuality” could be seen as a cry for help. The creator of the site uploaded it and sent a bunch of emails stating “pass it on, for the good of mankind” as a confession; a hope that he/they would be found and caught. The “eradication of abnormal sexuality” might mean their incarceration before they could hurt more people as is shown in useless.avi and implied in jimbo.avi and stumps.avi.

Well, that’s at least one interpretation of the subtext. Even if they do not pick up on the subtext, there are still enough off-putting events to creep people out. It’s a good balance.

This smart plotting and skilled writing saw the story’s popularity soar. In October 2011 it was posted at the very highly regarded Creepypasta Wiki (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Normal_Porn_for_Normal_People), where it undoubtedly found thousands more readers. Following that it spread to Reddit, first appearing at r/WTF (https://www.reddit.com/r/WTF/comments/oryk2/this_is_most_wtflike_story_youll_ever_read_its/?st=1Z141Z3&sh=81a033a5 ) on 22 January 2012. It subsequently appeared on the more traditional horror fiction/Creepypasta subreddits, including r/NoSleep on 19 March 2012 (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/r36yf/normal_porn_for_normal_people/?st=1Z141Z3&sh=81a033a5) and r/Creepypasta on 15 April of that same year (https://www.reddit.com/r/creepypasta/comments/sawr0/normal_porn_for_normal_people/?st=1Z141Z3&sh=81a033a5).
A sure sign that a pasta has hit the big time, the ubiquitous Mr Creepypasta reading was posted on YouTube on 22 April (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTucWL05zV0). It’s a particularly good one too.

rsz_npfnp2Bizarrely, on the very same day that the story was posted on r/WTF, the domain normalpornfornormalpeople.com was registered. The site has since gone live and very closely resembles that in the story. It is run by one ‘Dr Richard Van Buren’, who claims to be a part of ‘The Need for Normalcy Project’. ‘Van Buren’ claims to be the true creator of the site, claiming that the pasta is in fact a fictional/exaggerated account of his own true work. There has been quite a mystery about this ‘work’, revealing the site to actually be part of an ARG — an ARG that rather rudely piggybacks on the story created by CosbyDaf.

In many ways this is the ultimate compliment — Normal Porn For Normal People has become such a huge cultural phenomenon that people have become inspired to write and present their own version of the mythos.

But let us never forget where this story originated — CosbyDaf, the creator who has given creepypasta fandom two of its most enduring stories.

CosbyDaf was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to speak with UK Horror Scene about the phenomenon that is Normal Porn For Normal People. Our interview follows below.

UK HORROR SCENE: First, in your own words, can you tell my readers a little about Normal Porn For Normal People?
COSBYDAF: A url is sent to a guy by mistake, and he looks at a bunch of videos that he really shouldn’t have.

UKHS: What served as your inspiration for the story?
COSBYDAF: It used to be fairly common (and still is to an extent but more regarding the deep web) of clicking suspicious links and seeing something that the person really wishes they hadn’t seen. I liked the idea of it starting out non-criminal, yet unsettling at first, and then the content escalates.

UKHS: Are you a fan of Creepypasta? If so, what are some of your favourites?
COSBYDAF: Yes, though lately I’ve gained more of a fondness for listening to stories about people’s (supposedly) real experiences with incidents of high strangeness. Tied into that subject is my new favorite Creepypasta. Get some popcorn, it’s a long one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhkgXOUDetc

UKHS: Why do you think Creepypasta, and especially Normal Porn For No People, is so popular with readers?
COSBYDAF: Normal Porn, unlike NGC, is fairly close to something people can experience in real life. I’ve definitely had experiences where I clicked a link to watch something, only to wish later that I could unsee it. Unfortunately, you can’t delete events from your memory like you can with an internet browser. As I mentioned before, there’s a concern about stumbling into hidden evil on the internet.

Also I saw this mentioned a while afterwards, people would ask if the website was real on places like Yahoo Answers, only for their question to be deleted. The actual reason being because it’s pertaining to a porn site, but this happened to coincide with how the story ends, and this led to a lot of people thinking it was a real thing. I can’t take credit for this, it was completely unintentional, but it gave me a good laugh when I heard about it.

UKHS: The fans are very passionate about the story. Are there any examples of fan art, such as images, films or readings, in particular that have impressed you?
COSBYDAF: Not really, I hadn’t been searching around for fan content as much. I might be missing out.

UKHS: While doing my research on your story I discovered the ‘real’ NPFNP site. I can see it was opened significantly after the publishing of your story. Can I please get your thoughts on the site?
COSBYDAF: I’m not a fan of it. Nobody asked my permission to make the site. And from looking it over, it seems to be some mad scientist roleplay thing that discounts the original story as an “inaccurate telling”. Meh.

UKHS: And finally, will you ever return to the story in the future?
COSBYDAF: I did have ideas for a sequel, particularly another disturbing ending video. Though I kept thinking that it would be uninspired to write basically the same thing over again, and the “I’ve seen disturbing videos” type story has gotten a bit stale since the original came out. And I’m sure the majority of the audience would prefer that I put the effort into completing Godzilla: Replay, rather than starting something else!

Of course Normal Porn For Normal People isn’t the only pasta to inspire readers to adapt and embellish on the story in their own way. If anything, this ‘communal’ quality is one of the best qualities that the scene has, it means that these stories belong to each of us, especially when dealing with older pastas where the original author might be unknown or no longer active.

Come back next time when I’ll be looking at another creepypasta that has provoked much thought and adaptation from artists — one which is widely regarded as one of the greatest pastas ever written.

Dark Web: An Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 26: Jane The Killer Revisited

DARK WEB: AN ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA

PART 26: JANE THE KILLER REVISITED – AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MRANGRY DOG

creepypasta

Last week I returned to a Creepypasta story I’ve covered before here at UK Horror Scene, the tale of the infamous Jeff the Killer. I was able to look at the tale with fresh eyes after managing to secure an interview with the creator of Jeff, Sesseur AKA KillerJeff.

This week I return to another classic Creepypasta character — Jeff’s sworn arch-nemesis, the vengeful Jane the Killer.

Regular Dark Web readers may recall that I have mentioned Jane the Killer here before, and spoke up on what I felt was rather harsh criticism from the Creepypasta community. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, the first appearance of Jane online came back in 2012 when DeviantArt user MrAngryDog posted an image and short story that has come to be known as Jane’s Letter (http://mrangrydog.deviantart.com/art/Jane-the-Killer-283722710). In it MrAngryDog tells of a twisted character who is hunting the psychotic Jeff to gain revenge for an untold wrong, so driven in her desire to punish him that she is even prepared to kill his prospective victims before he can through sheer spite.

In time, MrAngryDog published further updates as to what made Jane the character she was. These included references to a covert Government experiment that utilised a mysterious drug known only as Liquid Hate, which gave Jane tremendous abilities.

However, shortly after the publishing of Jane’s Letter, another author, PastaStalker64 wrote a story entitled Jane the Killer: The Truth, piggybacking on the success of Mr AngryDog’s own tale. You can read it at the Jeff the Killer wikia here: http://jtk.wikia.com/wiki/Jane_the_Killer:_The_Real_Story

This caused some confusion among fans of the character as the story of this Jane directed contradicted that of MrAngryDog. This confusion then led to conflict among the fandom, as different groups pledged their support to either MAD’s Jane Richardson or PS64’s Jane Arkensaw A.K.A. Everlasting. The rivalry between each camp became somewhat heated, while Creepypasta readers who took exception to either story would regularly vent their frustrations on the wrong creator.

janetk1Furthermore, a particular hardcore group of Jeff fans also took exception to a character so opposed to their posterboy and proceeded to vent their own displeasure into an already pretty toxic situation. In time MrAngryDog had enough of PastaStalker64 using his original creation without his permission and contacted her over it. Unlike the vast majority of Internet communication, this was a conversation that was resolved in a surprisingly cordial manner — PS64 apologised to MAD and the pair agreed that both characters could exist separately in the loose Jeff ‘canon’. You can read the whole exchange at MrAngryDog’s Tumblr here: http://themrangrydog.tumblr.com/post/97000399066/surprise

However, even now Jane is a polarising character — drawing adoration from fans and pretty scathing scorn from opposition. As I’ve said before, I have tremendous respect for any artist who is brave enough to put their work out there, and while appreciation of art is certainly a subjective experience, all artists (especially those who blaze new trails) deserve to be commended for exposing themselves to the criticism of an audience.

Mr AngryDog created Jane, there can be no denial of this fact. Whether you love or loathe the character, Jane has inspired a strong emotional reaction among the Creepypasta community, and for that reason Jane and her creator deserve to be celebrated.

I wanted to give Mr AngryDog the opportunity to address his fans, his detractors and you, my readers, so I was delighted when he so generously agreed to discuss Jane with me.
Our interview follows:

UK HORROR SCENE: First, would you consider yourself a fan of Creepypasta?

MRANGRYDOG: Yes and no. As far as being a fan of creepypastas themselves, I am a fan of Lost Episode and Ritual creepypastas (i.e. Rugrats Lost Episode “Chuckie’s Mom”, Midnight Man, etc.) On top of that, Theory pastas have always piqued my interest. Those dealing with such things as true stories, crime, science, and space have always been my favorites. I am a fan of those such pastas. I consider Eyeless Jack, The Rake, Sonic.exe, The Red-Eyed Spirit, Mr Widermouth, and The Uninvited Stranger legendary favorites because they are the cornerstones of Pastas.
As far as me not being a die-hard fan is concerned, that was the result of some fans being either unhinged, downright obnoxious, not differentiating fantasy from reality, Bad [Insert name of fandom here] Groups, the need to psychoanalyze everything right down to the very little detail, starting Kill [Insert name of author here] Clubs online, and sending death threats and threats of suicide to other users and creators old and new, myself included.

I’ve been bombarded with so much hatred and death threats for over the last few years, it has just become laughable.
Back then, it would just take a toll on my mental and physical health, and that’s what caused me to go through alcohol abuse during that time. I may be an active voice in the community and know there are fans with big hearts out there, so there is a little glimmering light at the end of the tunnel.

UKHS: Why do you think Creepypasta resonates so much with the fandom?

MAD: I think the reason why Creepypasta resonates so much with the fandom is because of the fans that are absolutely passionate and cheerful about their favorite Pastas, that drawings and fanfics just started popping up over night. Those fans are having fun, enjoying themselves. While there are really passionate fans who have fun and enjoy their favorite pastas, there are some fans who fuck up the fandom, acting like they know everything, and treat a well-written story like it’s the biggest atrocity ever created by mankind, while some who look at a very badly-written Pasta — loaded with errors and anachronisms out the ass, and treat it like it’s a pulitzer prize winner. The passionate and cheerful fans are basically the life blood of the fandom. 🙂

UKHS: What is your favourite Creepypasta by an author other than yourself?

MAD: Well, I have no favorite in particular, but if I had a choice, I would say Laughing Jack by Snuff Bomb. I wasn’t reading a story, I was reading cinematic visuals, basically.

UKHS: Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?

MAD: I’ve always been a big fan of Michael Crichton, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, R.L. Stine (yes, R.L. Stine), and Anne Rice. Michael Crichton, especially, since his books always have to come with a soda and hot buttered popcorn while you read. They’re THAT cinematic! 😀

janetk3UKHS: In your own words, can you explain the story of Jane, her relationship to Jeff, Liquid Hate etc?

MAD: Jane Richardson started as your typical girl, the talk of the town who’s got it all — a hot girlfriend, a job she enjoys, excellent friends, a loving family, and a great future. But in 2006, her world changed when both of her parents, Paula and Bruce Richardson were murdered by Jeffrey Woods Keaton (Jeff the Killer). Her relationship to Jeff — hate/hate. She wanted him dead and in the grave for what he did!

As for Liquid Hate, here’s how it came to be… The L.A.P.D were in pursuit of Jeff The Killer, but remained unsuccessful in their manhunt. They enlisted the aid of the FBI, who had Jeff on their most wanted list, they [the FBI] turned to the CIA. The CIA, searching for a way to create an anti-killer unit, needed a test subject. The Department of Justice became involved with the CIA in the creation of Liquid Hate, funded by the American Science Association.

The fundings for Liquid Hate were a total of $6.9 million dollars. Subjects will experience for the first minute and thirty seconds, violent episodes and homicidal tendencies, but will act and appear normal once the episodes cease.
Over twenty-five test subjects died because of the effects of the serum that was codenamed “Liquid Hate”. There is an increase in strength, stamina, health, speed, and agility. Other results included increased alcohol, drug, and tobacco tolerance, running faster than a track athlete on steroids, taking on human appearances, accelerated healing, limb regeneration, and increased metabolism. Jane Richardson is the one who survived.

UKHS: What served as your inspiration for the story?

MAD: Jane really began as an idea and a CGI avatar made on the chat program IMVU (Instant Messaging Virtual Universe), as SaucyJaney (that was my avatar’s name). Saucy Janey was the female version of Saucy Jack, or the infamous Jack the Ripper. Saucy Janey began as Jane the Ripper, basically. After reading the story of Jeff the Killer, and the other stories in the Jeff mythos, Jeff needed someone to kick his ass. Who? Jane.

After finding out that Jeff the Killer’s picture may have actually been a touched up version of an overweight goth girl who took her life after being mercilessly bullied on 4Chan for her weight problem, I later made Jane the Killer — Jane Richardson, to eradicate Jeff, and to have people leave the memory of the deceased goth alone. So, in a way, Jane is the poor girl’s avenging angel. 🙂

UKHS: What do you think the appeal of Jane and her story is?

MAD: The appeal of Jane Richardson and her story is, for one — she is very popular among the guys and girls, and is the most talked-about character ever. Ranging from fanfics, to other works of art, and even fan-made movies, people see Jane as a woman with potential, plenty of sex appeal, and a frequent favorite of cosplayers everywhere.
As far as her story goes, many claim the “Born of Science” story was better than Jeff the Killer’s story. I also think this is mainly because of the cinematic style I put into creating it.

UKHS: The fans are very passionate about the story. Are there any examples of fan art, such as films or readings, in particular that have impressed you?

MAD: Yes, Jeff the Killer vs. Jane the Killer by YouTube user Movieunleashers is my favorite fan-made film (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5jaC8nNXTs). As far as art works are concerned, there are some that have caught my eye and made me go: “OMFG, THAT IS AWESOME!”

Some of the art works I’ve seen were pretty shoddy, but I didn’t care. It was the uniqueness and style of the artist that I was captivated by. Every piece of art by the artist themselves, their own style is unique. That’s what makes them unique. 🙂

UKHS: I feel the character of Jane is wrongfully maligned by some segments of Creepypasta fandom. Have you read any of these negative comments? How do you feel about them? Have the fans been as vocal in their support as the dissenters?

MAD: Read them? Yes, I have. Some of the negative comments are sometimes playful banter, some are humorous, and others are just downright abhorrent, obnoxious, and pretty damn horrid. I’ve had a few ask me: “Are you the creator of Jane the Killer? If you are, go die in a hole.”

I’ve had others make idle threats, and spew death threats — some have even gone so far as threatening to slit my throat, hoping that I go kill myself, suffer anal rape, you name it. Do I lose sleep at night because someone in the fandom threatens to kill me or hopes that I go and off myself? Hell no, I sleep like a fucking baby. It’s all horseshit from those who fail to do research and suffer from severe jealousy that something I made has become quite popular and went viral, to be quite honest.

Those who have made false assumptions that I created Jane Arkensaw without failing to realize PastaStalker64 did, I usually have to correct them. Most of the time, I’m really nice about it. For some who prefer to not listen and get their facts straight, then that really pisses me off, you know? So, all the comments and death threats I receive, it’s a combination of comedy and tragedy. Why tragedy? Because those who waste their time typing out death threats are a tragedy, and the tears I cry from the tragedy are not tears of sadness, but tears of laughter because of how full of shit one is making said threats.

Yes, the fans have been vocal in their support as the dissenters and it is spreading like wildfire everyday! 😀 Their support for me is highly extolled and very much appreciated.

UKHS: You mention PastaStalker64, who famously created her own version of Jane the Killer after you created the original. It seems things were soon sorted out between you both and now you’re friendly. How did that come to happen? Have you had much interaction with PastaStalker64?

MAD: Well, at first, I wanted to confront PastaStalker64 for allegedly plagiarizing Jane the Killer in the first place because I got so sick and tired of the confusion. Many who speculate that I made Jane Arkensaw and made false assumptions. I made Jane Richardson, not Jane Arkensaw. When I went to talk to PastaStalker64, I had no response for quite some time. After telling her that I was the original creator of Jane the Killer, she didn’t expect me to be kind and pleasant in my greeting. But I was. :3

We both had a good talk, and she said she made Jane Arkensaw just for fun and because she was bored. She didn’t intend for her version to become popular and have poor reviews. PastaStalker removed her story from the CP Wiki and that was that. But somehow, on the JTK Wiki, her copy still exists, and I’m surprised that nobody removed it…?
She liked my version of Jane the Killer very much, and after things got sorted out between us, we became sort of like, acquaintances. I haven’t spoken to her much lately because of so much going on, but we’re still on good terms and there is no animosity between us.

UKHS: Do you have any other Creepypasta creations either in the pipeline or already out there that you’d like to share with our audience? And do you intend to return to/expand upon Jane’s story in the future?

MAD: Yes, I do, as a matter of fact: The Elysian Theater and The Doctor Is Out… TO GET YOU!
As for my intention to expand upon Jane’s story, yes. That’s already happening. Me and a friend of mine are working around the clock to expand upon the story even further, even including a backstory and stuff that was left out. Part one is already finished, but part two is now underway!

UKHS: Can you tell me a little more about your other projects?

MAD: The Elysian Theater focuses primarily on what happens when an aspiring celebrity never gets her dreams of being famous realized and takes her anger out on everyone by killing, and imprisoning herself in the theater where she is under the dellusion that she is still a star.

The Doctor Is Out… revolves around a woman who becomes too amorously infatuated with her doctor to the point of where she has to pay her medical bill with her life. Moral of that story is — stay out of doctors’ offices and hospitals if you are horny.

http://mrangrydog.deviantart.com/art/The-Elysian-Theater-430163225
http://mrangrydog.deviantart.com/art/Creepypasta-The-Doctor-Is-Out-To-Get-You-453902502

UKHS: And finally, where is the best place for my readers to check out your work, especially regarding the expanded Jane story?

MAD: Well, as far as the expanded Jane story is concerned, I will be more than happy to send it to their email boxes in PDF format. As far as other stories are concerned, they are in storage on my deviantART page. If they want to look at them, I will be honored to note it to them. 🙂

Mr AngryDog is clearly a passionate, creative man and it’s genuinely uplifting to see such an individual taking pride in his work and continuing to create new and exciting stories for the Creepypasta community.
Who knows, themaybe his next work will contain the next Jane the Killer?

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 24: Bedtime

creepypastaDARK WEB : STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA – PART 24: BEDTIME

As children there are few times in which we’re as likely to feel the icy suffocating grip of panic as those moments in which we wake in the middle of the night, our familiar room transformed into something unrecognisable by the cloak of darkness.

The imagination of a child is more than capable of filling the murky gloom and eerie silence with any number of otherworldly monsters, pushing them over the edge to tears and hysteria.

But what if these monsters were to be more than a figment of the imagination?

This week’s feature covers a story, plus a series of sequels, that examines this exact scenario — and has become one of the most popular and highly-regarded Creepypastas for the skilful manner in which it does so. This story is Michael Whitehouse’s Bedtime.

Unlike a lot of the stories I’ve covered in this series, there’s very little doubt as to where this Creepypasta originated. On 8 August 2012, prolific author Michael Whitehouse (under his Redditor name Mike_Rants) published Bedtime to the nosleep subreddit.
You can read the story here: https://m.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/xuw8k/bedtime/

In the story, Michael describes a series of incidents that occurred in his childhood home. When he was eight years old, Michael writes, he and his brother were each given their own bedrooms. Michael’s room was an odd, narrow shape, and he was given the bunk beds that he and his brother had shared prior to the move. Like any young boy would, he promptly claimed the top bunk as his own.

That first night, the young lad wakes having been disturbed by a noise. Still groggy, it takes him a little while to realise that he can hear movement… and it’s coming from his bottom bunk. Disturbed, he gives away his position, which causes the mysterious presence in the lower bunk to become agitated, wheezing angrily and thrashing about, prompting Michael to cry out for help. When his mother checks on the boy there is no sign of any intruder, but the feeling of fear continues into the next day.

BedtimeThe following night he is visited once again by the mysterious entity and it becomes quite clear that the thing in the bottom bunk wants one thing and one thing only — our young protagonist. These events continue night after night, until one day the boy makes a terrible mistake and fills the bottom bunk with obstacles — which prompts the nightmarish visitor to come to his bunk instead…

The story is pretty simple but it works incredibly well. Whitehouse’s writing style echoes that of the classic Victorian ghost story writer, the likes of the James’ (Henry and M.R.) or Blackwood. It’s highly descriptive and focuses a great deal on evoking a sense of dread, something which becomes palpable by the time the story reaches its spine-chilling climax.

It plays on our natural fear of the dark (something that, when it reaches a severe enough level has been called achluophobia, lygophobia, nyctophobia or scotophobia), a fear that is especially common in children. By featuring a young protagonist, Whitehouse’s story works on two levels: first, it inspires more sympathy as children are smaller, weaker and less capable of coping with such horrors than an adult character; and second, it transports us back to our own youth and encourages us to remember the days when the dark, or rather the imagined threats concealed within, were so haunting and terrifying to us.

The creature in the story, complete with the twisting, wringing sheets, is reminiscent of the nightly visitor in M.R. James’ iconic Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come To You, My Lad and the phenomenal 1968 BBC adaptation directed by Jonathan Miller. Later descriptions of it as otherworldly, almost arachnid presence also tap into one of the most widespread phobias, all while imbuing it with a predatory aspect. In short, the whole thing is impeccably crafted to terrify the reader.

And terrify a huge audience it did, with pretty much universal acclaim from the NoSleep community. So imagine that same community’s joy when Whitehouse rewarded their support with a sequel, Bedtime: The Aftermath, a mere two days later. You can read the story here: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/xzyzc/bedtime_part_2/

In this chapter, Michael goes on to describe another childhood incident, this time in his new room. He writes of a series of encounters with an otherworldly intruder who appears to him each evening sat in a battered old armchair at the end of his bed. Much like the first part of Whitehouse’s story, these visits soon take a decidedly threatening turn. Some readers reacted with displeasure towards the sequel as they felt that Michael’s superb first story had such a wonderful conclusion, but for the most part, the vast majority of Michael’s fans were delighted to see the story continue.

And this was not yet the final chapter of Bedtime, with another sequel, Bedtime: My Fears Realised, published to NoSleep on 17 August 2012. You can read that chapter here: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/ycx71/bedtime_my_fears_realised/

Whitehouse’s third chapter outlines his decision to return to his childhood home to confront and banish his fears once and for all. Needless to say, the visit does not go well, and what is worse, this chapter concludes with the startling revelation that something may have followed Michael home. This is another wonderful chapter in the story and finishes on an exquisitely crafted double chill that had readers clamouring for more.

Thankfully for those readers, they had but one week to wait before a fourth chapter was published, this one entitled Bedtime: Something Wicked This Way Comes. Check it out here: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/yqdw8/bedtime_something_wicked_this_way_comes/

Bedtime readingAs if the events of the first three parts of Whitehouse’s story weren’t bad enough, it is in this fourth chapter that the incidents with the monstrous entity really escalate. In this part Michael reveals that the nightly haunter has turned its attentions not just to our narrator, but also those close to him. It describes a truly nightmarish scenario that leaves our protagonist at rock bottom and with only one option available to him — to put an end to his torment.

It’s another fantastic story and really pulls on the heartstrings, ensuring that the reader roots for Michael and feels his anguish at the loss of his beloved Mary. The altercation described in the story is terrifying and surprisingly graphic, but it needs to be, because it is this chapter that finally spurs our hero on to stop playing the victim and take the role of aggressor in the game of cat and mouse between he and the wheezing thing. By now the fans were gripped and eagerly awaited the concluding part of Whitehouse’s story.

They had to wait a mere five days before the fifth and final chapter, Bedtime: Sleep Tight, made its way to NoSleep. Read it here: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/z1lq6/bedtime_sleep_tight/

In this thrilling conclusion to the series, Michael takes the battle to the thing in a series of life-threatening clashes. I shan’t spoil the conclusion here, but rest assured it matches up to the quality of the preceding chapters.

As is so often the case when a Creepypasta becomes a smash, Bedtime was soon shared and uploaded to all the usual web sites, including the Creepypasta wikia (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Bedtime) and Creepypasta.com (http://www.creepypasta.com/bedtime/), where Whitehouse himself posted the story. It proved to be just as popular here, drawing even more admiring eyes to Whitehouse’s work.

This in turn translated into the usual examples of fanart, including some fantastic readings on YouTube, arguably the finest of which is by the always excellent Otis Jiry for the good folks over at Chilling Tales For Dark Nights. I thoroughly recommend checking it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjwhdWovvmM .

Yet as brilliant as some of these adaptations are, none of them could have existed without the work of one man: Michael Whitehouse.

The charming, articulate Michael was kind enough to agree to speak to UK Horror Scene about the creation of Bedtime, and you can read his words right here.

UK HORROR SCENE: Hi Michael, thanks so much for agreeing to speak with UK Horror Scene. The most obvious question first — what served as your inspiration for the story?

MICHAEL WHITEHOUSE: It happened to me. When I tell people that they usually look at me with an expression which says this man is quite mad. I imagine your readers doing the same. It would be truer to say it’s a memory I have. I’m pretty skeptical about these things. I always say seeing is not believing because the human mind is so easily tricked. For that reason I tend to think that it was some sort of sleep disturbance, perhaps sleep paralysis. That being said, the memory is so strong that it does make me wonder occasionally, and not in a good way. Some people might think I say this to be dramatic or promote the story, but that’s the truth of it.
I would like to say that I changed a couple of details of course for dramatic effect, the last line of the story for example, but for the most part it’s what I remember. People often refer to Bedtime as a creepypasta, but it actually appeared first as a story on the subreddit No Sleep. For those who have never visited it, NoSleep is a subreddit where people share first person horror stories which “are real”. NoSleep was quite small at that time, but I received enough encouragement that I went on to write four sequel stories. I had been reading a few posts there, as well as acquainting myself with creepypasta, and decided to share a story or two. It was the first one I shared, and after appearing on the website creepypasta.com it was embraced by the horror community in a big way. It changed my life, and without getting too maudlin about it, I owe that to everyone who has read, narrated, shared, and listened to Bedtime and its sequel stories. Most of all to those who come back for more.

UKHS: Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?

MW: Most of my influences come from the late 19th and early 20th century ghost story writers. M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood, W. W. Jacobs, Sheridan LeFanu, E.F. Benson, Oliver Onions, Edith Nesbit – the list goes on, and so could I; I’ll stop there. Needless to say I write often in the ghost story genre, and it’s a genre I love dearly.
Then there are the weird fiction writers like Ambrose Bierce, H. P. Lovecraft (despite his racist ways), Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, etc.

It goes without saying that I’m a huge fan of Poe (both his poems and prose), but I also love more modern writers like Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Neil Gaiman. Outside of horror I admire Hemingway and Orwell, although I don’t write like them and they’d probably consider my work overly descriptive.

I love Tolkien, The Hobbit was the first full novel I ever read, and I go back to Stoker’s Dracula every few years. I also love a bunch of comic, radio, and film script writers, but I won’t bore you with another list. Okay, I’ll stop there, but there are so many wonderful writers past and present that it’s easy to be overwhelmed by who to read next!

UKHS: What work of your own are you most proud of?

MW: I wrote a story called Forgotten Valentine (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/zmel4/forgotten_valentine/), which, if not the best thing I’ve written, it’s certainly the most important to me. It was the story which got me writing again after a few years away from it, even before I shared Bedtime, and it’s the first story I ever wrote that was more. Not just filled with bones which rattle in the night or an unseen breath by the reader’s ear; it was about life. I’m reminded of when Bradbury said he first knew he’d written something moving, and that was a big moment for him. Forgotten Valentine was, and is, that moment for me.

UKHS: What is your favourite Creepypasta by an author other than yourself?

MW: You’ll get me into trouble with this one! I’m lucky to count many of the great creepypasta writers as friends. It’s very difficult to boil it down to any one single story. Needless to say you can’t go wrong with anything written by Vincent Vena Cava or Milos Bogetic. Leon Chan is excellent and underappreciated. William Dalphin, M. J. Pack, Slimebeast, Bloodworth, Matt Dymerski, Anton Lesch, T.W. Grimm… Again, the list could go on.

If I had to pick one story though, I’m going to have to be boring and predictable and say Dathan Auerbach’s Penpal (UKHS: Read our feature on Auerbach’s story here: http://www.ukhorrorscene.com/dark-web-steven-hickeys-essential-guide-to-creepypasta-part-17-penpal/). It’s a rip-roaring read, and while it initially started off as a NoSleep story, I think most would consider it to be a creepypasta classic, certainly the first ever creepypasta novel. It has all of the ingredients: first person narrative, childhood fears, adult insecurities, and heart as well. It’s written in a very matter of fact style, but that only heightens the feeling that it could have happened.

UKHS: The fans are very passionate about the story. Are there any examples of fan art, such as films or readings, in particular that have impressed you?

MW: A lot of people have adapted Bedtime in different ways. It was adapted into a play in London for a short time, and I was even in negotiations at one point to have it turned into a pilot for an anthology TV show, but unfortunately that fell through, I even wrote a script.

In any case, there are some great narrators out there who have read the story. I’d have to highlight CreepypastaJr (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b44NwWbG_Ks&list=PL1MLZ4b1GlomMPrE1AmufZ05P7cSJVkh-) as he was the first high profile narrator to do the entire Bedtime series, which brought me a lot of new readers early on, and he did an amazing job. I’d also give special praise to David Cummings and the Nosleep Podcast who did a brilliant version and have always been so supportive of my work.

Michael Whitehouse

Michael Whitehouse

UKHS: I’ve heard an excellent reading of the story by Otis Jiry over at Chilling Tales for Dark Nights. What were your thoughts on the adaptation?

MW: I’m a big fan of both Chilling Tales for Dark Nights and Otis Jiry. Otis lends a level of gravitas to every story he reads, and his adaptation was no different. He has such a wonderful voice, you can hear a character moment in every nook and cranny of each word. I’m actually producing my own anthology horror series podcast called Near Midnight at the moment, with Otis lending his talents to episode 3 of the first series.

UKHS: You have a few stories up at CTFDN, what encouraged you to work with them? Is this an ongoing partnership and what else can we expect to see the guys there cover in the future?

MW: CTFDN has always been really welcoming to me which I put down to Craig Groshek, the founder, and Jeff Clement who used to be a producer there. The production value is always so high. I’ve signed a bunch of stories over to them so that they can do their own narrations. I’d love to write some exclusive stories for their podcast at some point, we’ve talked about it, so fingers crossed down the line that’s something which can be hammered out.

UKHS: You’re a prolific writer, regularly releasing stories to the web. How do you keep the creative juices flowing? Is writing a process that you enjoy or is it more about getting your stories out there to an audience?

MW: I love writing, so much so that it’s my full time job. Not that it says anything about the quality of my work, but I’ve probably released more stories than any other writer in the online community. I’m not exactly sure why that is, I think it’s because I try my best to finish projects and write every day. That’s the biggest challenge as a writer. The tale goes stale, and you want to move onto something else. Staying the course is the hardest thing to do, but the most rewarding.

Continually putting out material is difficult. While I write full time, most of that is as a freelance writer, even a ghost writer. I write other people’s stories or articles for their websites to pay the bills, and then when it comes to writing my own stuff sometimes the tank is empty. It’s incredibly frustrating. Hopefully in the next couple of years I’ll be able to write fiction full time if my book sales keep up, then it’ll have been all worthwhile and I can focus on what I love.

UKHS: Finally will you ever return to the story of Bedtime in the future? And what else can your fans look forward to from you in the days ahead?

MW: After writing Bedtime, I wrote four sequel stories. Then I started tidying up the stories so I could publish them. Writing is strange sometimes, it takes you places you didn’t even know you were going. Now, those stories have grown legs, wings, and tentacles, and I’m sitting here with a finished draft of a novel called Bedtime: A Ghost Story. I’m nervous about putting it out because the original story has so many fans, but I’m really excited to be releasing it in the next few months. Can’t wait to see what people think. Hopefully, they’ll like it.

I also have two horror novellas which really just need edits – The Mermaid of Porthleven which I’d describe as The Goonies meets Lovecraft, and The Sins of Abigail Flesh, which is a supernatural detective story. On top of that I have about 30 short stories, some of them released others gathering dust, so I’ll probably put them together as a couple of short story collections at some point. I’ve already released a horror novella called On A Hill and two short story collections, The Face of Fear, and The Horrors of Christmas, but it’s been some time since I’ve published anything else other than the free stories I release regularly. The next six months are going to be pretty crazy with three books coming out.

As for other projects, I run a Youtube channel called Ghastly Tales (http://www.youtube.com/ghastlytales) and a podcast of the same name http://ghastlytales.libsyn.com. It started off as a solo project, now we have a great team of people there and I love it! We make horror narrations, plays, and films. It’s a blast, and something I hope can grow and grow into the future.

Thanks for the interview, Steven, it’s been a pleasure.

To read more of Michael’s work, do check out his official site: www.michael-whitehouse.com plus his social media accounts at https://twitter.com/HorrorOfMike and www.facebook.com/Michael.Whitehouse.Author

Much like those names of accomplished and talented authors that Whitehouse was kind enough to list, he is one of the finest talents exhibiting his skills in the genre. It is the discovery of horror gems by the likes of Michael and his contemporaries that has fuelled the growth of Creepypasta into something as popular and enjoyable as it has become. In the hands of writers such as these, that growth won’t be slowing any time soon.

Join me again next time for another exclusive interview with one of the fathers of Creepypasta — the creator of one of the most iconic and popular characters in the genre.

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 18: Search And Rescue Woods

DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA PART 18: SEARCH AND RESCUE WOODS

creepypasta

In my last Creepypasta feature, I wrote about the critically acclaimed Penpal, a novel born out of a series of connected posts over on Reddit’s r/nosleep board.

This week we look at a similar success story, a number of posts that was met with plenty of recognition from the notoriously discerning readers of one of the internet’s top breeding grounds for fantastic Creepypastas.

On 26 August 2015, user searchandrescuewoods posted a story to r/nosleep entitled ‘I’m a Search and Rescue Officer for the US Forest Service, I have some stories to tell’ (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3iex1h/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/).

sarw1It comprised of a number of anecdotes from the narrator’s career as a Search and Rescue officer in an unnamed heavily wooded area of the United States. The narrator lists several cases — some heart-wrenching, some head-scratching, and some legitimately disturbing — before wrapping up. Among these stories are tales of children mysteriously snatched away then recovered dead in places in which they had no right to be and, bizarrely, stories of strange but dangerous staircases standing in the woods.

At first glance this seemed like a fairly scattergun approach to telling spooky stories, but then the following day a second batch of stories was posted to Reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3ijnt6/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/). These also seemed rather haphazard, but on closer inspection certain elements from the first story were expanded upon.

Then came a third entry (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3iocju/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/); followed by a fourth (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3jadum/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/); a fifth (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3kd90k/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/); a sixth (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3ppq81/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/); a seventh (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3sktwj/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/) and a ‘final’ eighth post (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3ydj67/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/).

Over the course of these posts a rich ‘mythology’ is laid out, from the aforementioned stairs to the ‘fuzzy’ man and faceless people. We are given no answers, no cast-iron solutions or detailed exposition, instead we receive details of a series of incidents that encourage us to think about the links and draw our own conclusions. That element of mystery really adds to the storytelling process, causing the reader to engage with the subject material on a personal level.
But it isn’t just the format that draws the reader in. Searchandrescuewoods is an accomplished writer. The stories and subject matter are written with authority and include enough subtle details to help convince the reader that they are really hearing from an experienced and qualified US Forest Service agent.

sarw3They are so convincing that plenty of readers have linked the stories with the work of David Paulides.

For those who don’t know, Paulides is a writer/investigative journalist who once served as a police officer in San Jose. He has carved out quite the niche by writing bookss on both Bigfoot and unexplained disappearances (especially those in the US’s national parks).

Paulides founded a research group, North American Bigfoot Search (http://www.nabigfootsearch.com/home.html), while his extensively researched books on the subject — Tribal Bigfoot (http://amzn.to/1qZI1er) and The Hoopa Project: Bigfoot Encounters in California (http://amzn.to/1qZIg95) — are widely regarded as THE authority on Sasquatch sightings in North America.

Paulides’ Missing 411 project, which has been the subject of several nonfiction books he has penned, focuses on unexplained disappearances and deaths and was allegedly instigated by a conversation with an off-duty park ranger who recognised Paulides’ considerable investigative talents and asked him to look at a number of baffling cases. Since then Paulides has discovered a huge number of utterly bewildering cases around the world that very much match the stories told by SARwoods.

In fact, the events in Paulides’ books and the Search and Rescue Woods series are so similar that he has been asked, multiple times, about stairs in the woods and other SARwoods stories at public speaking engagements.
It became such a problem that SARwoods has had to include a disclaimer at their Tumblr blog and recently commented:

‘It is with great regret that I think back to the initial impact that my stories had on Paulides’ work. I have, of course, apologized, but unfortunately I suspect that irreparable damage has been done as far as our potential friendship goes. I hope this isn’t the case. I also hope that in the future my fans will express my feelings on this to him. He is my greatest inspiration; without him these stories would not exist. ‘

I think it’s actually a testament to SARwoods’ writing talent that people read these stories and feel compelled to check them out with the real world’s most esteemed expert in the field. But this should come as no shock. SARwoods’ own blog reveals that the author has studied writing at length, a study that has yielded real dividends. The r/nosleep audience is clearly enamoured with the stories — it received a staggering level of support which saw the series scoop one of NoSleep’s coveted Best Monthly awards.

And perhaps most excitingly, SARwoods has suggested there is more to come, stating that work has started on a manuscript of a novel that will collect and expand on these stories. Like the legions of fans SARwoods has cultivated, I for one cannot wait to see what other macabre wonders this talented storyteller has in store for us.
It was my pleasure to converse with the very friendly, charming SARwoods while researching this piece, and the author was kind enough to answer some questions for UK Horror Scene.

UK Horror Scene: Hi, thanks so much for agreeing to speak with UK Horror Scene. I’ll ask the most obvious question first — what served as your inspiration for the story?

SearchAndRescueWoods:  I’ve always really enjoyed the woods as a setting for both horror and fiction. I think that there is a very ancient kind of fear in us of the trees that can be incredibly powerful when used in the right way. As for the stairs, they were inspired by some of the themes and imagery in House of Leaves.

UKHS: Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?

SARwoods: I have too many favorite authors to count. I enjoy an incredibly broad range of material, and there’s very little I won’t try. In particular, I enjoy Ann Beattie, Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, Brett Easton Ellis, and J. D. Salinger.

UKHS: The stories use a very interesting structure — a series of anecdotes that when read together hint at several larger plot lines. Why did you choose this format for storytelling? And what challenges did the format give you?

SARwoods: I enjoy writing from the close first person because it is a very intimate form of storytelling. We get the impression that the narrator is speaking directly to us, and in horror this is critical in order to maintain tension. I think the casual tone also makes the story more approachable, and a bit easier to understand. When we aren’t caught up trying to understand the material itself, it frees us up to imagine more. The challenge, of course, is that you are working so closely with the character. In a horror setting especially, everything that happens to the narrator has a consequence, and this has to be dealt with in a realistic manner.

sarw2UKHS: How does it feel to know that people are still posting questions to the web wondering if the events of your Search and Rescue stories are real? Do you feel proud that your work was so well written that it’s often mistaken for fact?

SARwoods: It makes me incredibly proud and flattered that people are still mistaking my stories for fact. In fiction, belief is the highest form of flattery!

UKHS: The fans are very passionate about the story. I’ve seen plenty of very atmospheric creepy images of stairs in the woods over at your Tumblr page (searchandrescuewoods.tumblr.com) Are there any examples of fan art, such as films, images or readings, in particular that have impressed you?

SARwoods: I am amazed with and am incredibly grateful for every piece of fanart I receive. I have incredibly talented fans!

UKHS: At the end of the eighth and final Nosleep post you mention assembling and expanding on these tales in a book in the future. Is that something that you are still pursuing? If so, how is it coming along? I’m sure I’m not the only fan who wants to know when we might be able to buy a copy!

SARwoods: I will be releasing more details on that at a future date.

UKHS: Congratulations on the stories’ tremendous success over at Nosleep. What was it like to receive that level of positive feedback and recognition from the Reddit community?

SARwoods: It’s been incredible to see how much Reddit, and NoSleep, have embraced my work. I am the top rated story of all time on NoSleep, and hold numerous other positions, which is absolutely mind-blowing. I would never have imagined that there would be so much interest in my work!

UKHS: Finally what else can your fans look forward to from you in the days ahead?

SARwoods: My fans can continue to look forward to, and receive, more work from me. I am switching gears from learning mode to application, so I will be producing much more content in the coming months.

Ultimately, the reasons that SARwoods’ stories resonate are twofold.

First, they tap into the natural fear of nature in modern man. We’re a civilised bunch and we have shaped the world to our own will, but there are still those places in the world, older than our society, that maintain their original primal form. Places that are dangerous, without the artificial safety we have built into our own habitat.

In the depths of the woods it is easy to feel both alone and completely surrounded. It’s a place devoid of human contact, utterly isolated, yet still teeming with life. It’s just that this life is the savage, instinctive kind, the sort that thrives in the kill or be killed environment of the wild.

The question is, are you?

The second reason the tale hits the mark is it’s engaging and unique method of story-telling. It matters not a jot how strong a plot is, if the story is poorly told it will not find an audience. And it is here that the talented SARwoods is a resounding success.

Come back next week when I’ll look at another unique and original story-telling method for a Creepypasta guaranteed to chill.

Until then, stay safe… and avoid the stairs.

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 15: Liars

DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA – PART 15: LIARS

creepypasta

One of the earliest Creepypasta stories I looked at in this ongoing series was that of the iconic Jeff the Killer. For my last Creepypasta feature I looked at The Expressionless, a story written by one Tom Lever aka Ivysir. This week we continue with Ivysir’s prose as he gives us a story that shares several themes with Jeff’s: Liars.

Liars was first posted Creepypasta.com in July 2012. You can read the story in it’s entirety here (http://www.creepypasta.com/liars/), but to summarise it tells the story of High School student Jimmy, a smart Alec kid whose mouth often sees him become a target for bullying.

Jimmy always claims that honesty is the best policy, and by saying what he does to the bullies and their violent responses, both are being transparent with one another. However, one day Jimmy antagonises the wrong boy, the psychotic Brett, who rounds up a gang of boys with an axe to grind with Jimmy. Between them they plot to teach Jimmy a lesson he’ll never forget.

LiarsFencedBonesStillLater they corner their helpless victim in a science room at school, then mercilessly pour a bottle of floric acid over Jimmy’s head. He suffers catastrophic burns then render him mute, so when a teacher arrives on the scene he is unable to contradict the bullies’ story that it was some sort of accident. Jimmy is taken away to hospital while Brett and his gang remain unpunished.

However, in hospital Jimmy broods. No longer a witty, carefree individual, something snaps inside him and he plots a savage revenge. Throughout this time he regains some semblance of speech, however, all he rasps is one word: ‘Liars’.

Later Brett is home alone when he receives a parcel. Inside is a videotape. When Brett watches the tape he sees poorly shot footage in a basement. However, he then spots the naked, battered and bloody form of one of his gang, begging for his life. In the background the lifeless bodies of his fellow bullies can be seen. As Brett’s friend pleads for mercy, it is revealed that somebody has carved the word ‘LIAR’ into the flesh on his back.Suddenly the camera cuts to a snowy exterior shot. It is revealed that Brett’s helpless friend is holding the camera, before he turns to face his assailant: the hideously mutilated Jimmy.

As he does so there is a sudden shocking blare of noise and the word LIARS appears on screen before the video abruptly cuts to black. Frantic, the terrified Brett dashes to the bolt the door to his home, but it is too late. The tape was found still inside the player, beside Brett’s corpse. His injuries were synonymous with being doused in acid.

The way in which Liars riffs on the Jeff the Killer story (which you can read here, if you haven’t yet: http://www.creepypasta.com/jeff-the-killer/) is pretty obvious. A young man left mutilated extracts bloody revenge on the bullies who tormented him. It even comes with a trademark image (which is arguably the strongest part of the story) featuring the inhuman face of its monstrous anti-hero.

Liars-mainHowever, inspired by JtK or not, it’s unfair to dismiss Liars as a simple rip-off. First, it’s a far-better written story than any of Jeff’s stories. Not just in terms of technique, but also in terms of character and story. Lever uses a pretty expansive vocabulary and doesn’t rely on the overused standard phrases that so many Creepypasta stories lean on. OK, it’s not exactly Stephen King, but for a young, amateur writer, this is pretty encouraging stuff.

While the dialogue clangs now and then, the real strength of Liars compared to Jeff is that each character is given a motive, a reason for them to act the way they do. It’s not the most complex of motives, but at least it’s a motive. Much like Lever’s The Expressionless, this is a simple story that delivers some basic scares in an efficient, if not spectacular way.

With elements of Jack Nicholson’s Joker in his origin, the single raspy word a la Resident Evil’s Nemesis, the Saw-esque sadistic torture and mutilation of his victims and the use of a creepy videotape calling card a la Ring’s Samara, Liars’ Jimmy is a potent creation that combines plenty of elements from some of pop culture’s scariest monsters. Teens in particular, the main consumers of Creepypasta, will pick up on these elements and be able to visualise them.

However, even if the reader lacks the knowledge or imagination to formulate a disturbing image in their mind’s eye, the attached picture drives it home excellently. Clearly this is a heavily doctored image, but that doesn’t stop it from being genuinely unsettling. The grainy quality of the picture only adds to its disturbing nature, giving it the appearance of a real frame of video footage (and with that upping the realism), while also adding an otherworldly feel to the picture AND masking any deficiencies in photoshop skill. It’s decidedly gory and packs a real punch coming at the end of Lever’s story.

What many readers may not realise is that the image was not actually created specifically for this story. It’s actually the front cover of a single, 2004’s We Fenced Other Gardens With the Bones of Our Own (http://amzn.to/1qi5Nlk) by British alternative band Liars.

liarsDrownedAlbumCoverThe single is from the album They Were Wrong, So We Drowned (http://amzn.to/1qi5Xt6), and the image is actually a doctored still from the video for the track (which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaMbPbFz8h0).

As writer Lever is a Brit and his story first appeared on the web a full eight years after the release of We Fenced Other Gardens With the Bones of Our Own, it’s probably pretty safe to assume that he took inspiration from the single’s artwork. From Lord Snowdon’s photograph that accompanied The Expressionless, to this image alongside Liars, it seems one of Lever’s biggest strengths is hunting out legitimately disturbing imagery to accompany his prose.

As I wrote in my feature on Jeff the Killer, the bullying victim pushed too far has become a real cause of concern, especially in American schools. Bullies tend to pick on outcasts, those that are different. Somebody with an existing social or psychological disorder, would struggle to fit in, which could certainly cause opportunistic bullies to single them out. These same disorders make them far more likely to snap when provoked. It’s a cruel cycle, in which violence begets violence, and with a notable number of incidents of school shootings appearing in news headlines, the vengeful misfit is a horror archetype that is sure to resonate with young, High School-age readers, the primary audience for Creepypasta.

And resonate it certainly has.

liarsfanartAt Creepypasta.com, Liars holds a very high rating of 8.8/10, with over 1100 votes cast. What’s more, it’s inspired all the usual fanart, including YouTube entries that both attempt to create the VHS from the story, or the always fun Creepypasta readings, such as this one by the prolific Mr Creepypasta (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDpLMfRDo-Q).

The best horror takes our real world fears and gives us a cathartic release for them by presenting them with a fabricated face. We address the very real anxieties we have, but as they are still only fiction we can deal with them in a safe way.

Liars, like Jeff the Killer before it, embodies teenage anxiety over bullying. Sure, it’s in a rather frivolous and sensational manner, but if this story encourages school kids to look at the impacts of bullying, maybe it’s serving a purpose as well?

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide to Creepypasta – Part 13: The Holders

DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA
PART 13: THE HOLDERS

creepypasta

In my last feature on Creepypastas, I looked at the mysterious, otherworldly entity Zalgo, a web horror adopted by thousands of Internet users around the world.

This week we turn our attention to an equally mysterious and unsettling series of tales about a number of diabolical artefacts with hidden but devastating properties.
This week, I look at The Holders.

The exact origin of The Holders series is difficult to ascertain, although the (somewhat damning) Encycyclopedia Dramatica entry on the series claims the posts originated on the /x/board at 7chan ( https://encyclopediadramatica.se/The_Holders ). However, the wiki for the Protectors of the Plot Continuum (PPC) states that the initial 13 stories were ‘Originally conceived by someone on 4chan’s /x/ board (or possibly /b/, or /tg/, no-one really remembers exactly),’ ( http://ppc.wikia.com/wiki/The_Holders )

Either way the oldest post I’ve found online is one on the 4chanarchive that was originally submitted to the /b/ board on 1 January 2007.

But what are The Holders?

Much can be discerned from the first story of the series, as it introduced numerous elements that would become a mainstay in the series.

holders.org logoThat story, The Holder of the End, follows in its entirety below.

In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution or halfway house you can get yourself in to. When you reach the front desk, ask to visit someone who calls himself “The Holder of the End”. Should a look of child-like fear come over the workers face, you will then be taken to a cell in the building. It will be in a deep hidden section of the building. All you will hear is the sound of someone talking to themselves echo the halls. It is in a language that you will not understand, but your very soul will feel unspeakable fear.

Should the talking stop at any time, STOP and QUICKLY say aloud “I’m just passing through, I wish to talk.” If you still hear silence, flee. Leave, do not stop for anything, do not go home, don’t stay at an inn, just keep moving, and sleep where your body drops. You will know in the morning if you’ve escaped.

If the voice in the hall comes back after you utter those words continue on. Upon reaching the cell all you will see is a windowless room with a person in the corner, speaking an unknown language, and cradling something. The person will only respond to one question. “What happens when they all come together?”

The person will then stare into your eyes and answer your question in horrifying detail. Many go mad in that very cell, some disappear soon after the meeting, and a few end their lives. But most do the worst thing, and look upon the object in the person’s hands. You will want to as well. Be warned that if you do, your death will be one of cruelty and unrelenting horror.

Your death will be in that room, by that person’s hands.
That object is 1 of 538. They must never come together. Never.

This story, the original (and what I feel is one of the best) sets up much of what is to follow. Each story in The Holders series focuses on one of a number of items (at first 538, although in later entries that figure increases to 2538, albeit with the caveat that 2000 are lost). It details the manner in which you are to locate one of the Objects.

To this end it details a specific location (often: In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution or halfway house you can get yourself in to). A key phrase is then uttered to gain access to a hidden part of the institution, whereupon the seeker will face a test of their bravery, wits, sanity or any combination of the above. This often involves direct contact with the Object’s guardian (the Holders), a mystical and dangerous entity. The encounter inevitably involves asking an important question, just the asking of which sheds light on the Objects themselves.

Holdersreading1The final line reveals a key detail about the Objects, furthering the mythos.

It’s a nice take on the growing modern genre of urban fantasy, a la Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, in that it establishes the framework for a pretty epic series of tales (at least 538!), yet it doesn’t bog the reader down with much in the way of intricately plotted characters and history.

No, The Holder of the End is so clever because it shows just enough creativity to capture the attention but remains vague and mysterious enough to spark the imagination of the reader. It works by mentioning that most terrifying of intangibles — the unknown — and encouraging us to think about the horrors that the story simply hints at. It’s a tried and tested technique in creating strong fiction and it works. Our own imagination is far more powerful in evoking a mood than even the strongest prose.

And spark the imagination it has, for the first few Holders stories were soon spread throughout the web, with fans penning their own entries in the series. The Holder of the End can be found on the usual big Creepypasta sites, while there are numerous Holders story readings on YouTube, in multiple languages to boot. It even turned up on various message boards with people asking whether the story could possibly be real! (http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=103120).

Eventually The Holders became so popular that on 22 December 2007 the website theholders.org was created, to collect and catalogue each of the Holder’s stories.

Not only does it include a tale for each and every one of the Holders Objects (yep, that’s over 500 stories of varying quality. And yes, I read every single one as research for this feature. Every. Single. One.), it even includes spinoff stories about the Seekers (http://theholders.org/?Category:Those_Who_Seek), those brave or foolish individuals who have made it their life’s work to track down and collect these infamous Objects, whether it be to see that they are reunited, to prevent this reunion or for personal gain.

As some of the items impart special powers and skills to those who collect them (such as the Cloak yielded by the Holder of Hate or a newfound agility that comes from besting the Holder of the Speed), this means that accomplished Seekers themselves can become extremely powerful. They can also become corrupted and something more, or possibly less, than human. There are a series of stories about the monstrous Jack Empty, something somewhere between a Seeker and a Holder (http://theholders.org/?Jack), the hateful Mr Filth (http://theholders.org/?Mr._Filth) or even worse abominations such as Edo Edi Essum, a demonic entity that features in a series of tales (http://theholders.org/?Ieiunitas,_Infectus,_Talius) based in the Holders universe.

However, it is key elements suggested from the original Holders mythos that has led to the creation of some of its most enduring sublegends. Chief among these is Legion. As early as the story of the Holder of Deception, it is stated that the number of Objects is not as it seems. It was from this that the idea of more Objects beyond the 538 exist, which leads us to the now widely accepted figure of 2538.

holdersreading2This story comes from that of Legion. He was said to be a fantastic seeker, one who sought and confronted Holders for fun and accumulated no fewer than 2000 of the Objects. However, he has since disappeared and with him, so have those Objects. But stories persist that Legion is not truly gone, nor are his accumulated Objects… (http://theholders.org/?Category:Legion’s_Objects).

The other great mystery of the series is that of Him. A demonic entity (perhaps Legion, probably Satan but possibly even God himself), He ruled and (as is stated in the story The Holder of the Past), when the Objects are reunited, He will reign again. It is His blood in the vessel mentioned in The Holder of the Grail, while The Holder of Cruelty claims that it is Him that you will be guided to when all has Blackened (itself a reference to the disease that serves as the Object in The Holder of the Afterlife). Perhaps most terrifying of all, it is stated that, eventually, He will triumph (unsurprisingly in The Holder of Triumph).

This is some pretty deep and rich material here, right?

Of course, the primary mystery, THE one thing all readers will end up wondering is WHAT exactly are the Objects?
Having read through the entire Holders series (Every. Single. One.), that question still remains unanswered.
The nature of the objects is intangible — some are actual physical items that can be held and touched, some are without physical form and others don’t even exist until the very act of Seeking brings about their creation. We are also able to piece together some key facts about their history and eventual destiny. It seems they were once alive and together, possibly in a single form. They were once peaceful and benevolent, but something happened, causing them to become corrupted. It seems this something is certainly the work of Him. Even now they are tied to Him, some still seem loyal to Him, while some of the Holders are certainly His servants.

When this happened a terrible atrocity ripped through existence, leading to the slaughter and obliteration of thousands of innocents. Following this cataclysm the Objects suffered, having been burnt, tortured and frozen. Now they are beginning to thaw, but they have missed the predestined date at which they were to be reunited so now they yearn to be together again. What’s more they have become angry and full of hate, so, even though many of them will bequeath fantastic powers to Seekers who gather them, they are not to be trusted and many require a cruel sacrifice.

As for the gathering, the series contradicts itself somewhat with this. At different times the stories state that this reunion is inevitable, that the Seekers will determine if they ever come together AND is destined to be thwarted by somebody, possibly a special child created of the objects. One thing that is certainly a lot clearer, however, what will happen should the Objects be together once again. In this case we face to complete and utter destruction of all existence. The End of Days.

Reading between the lines it’s easy to formulate theories about the series. My favourite addresses the decidedly biblical nature of the stories (especially the various references to demons surrounding the Objects), claiming that the Objects are fallen angels, He is Lucifer, their corrupter, the cataclysm was the war in Heaven that saw them cast out and stating that when the Fallen are gathered together under His leadership we shall see the final battle that will end it all. That the birth of a special Saviour shall play a major role in these events only strengthens this claim.

This is certainly as sound a theory as any, but even this has its faults. The references to Them throughout the series seems to be about the collective consciousness of the Objects, but could just as easily be referring to something else. If so, what are They and what role do they play?

What’s more, this theory ignores the Lovecraftian Edo Edi Essum and his allies and servants. It also ignores some of his sworn enemies, including the powerful entity Balance, an individual tasked with maintaining order and preventing the chaos that would allow the Objects to reunite. It also forgets the references to the Black King, the White King, Yochanan and, well, the scores of other characters introduced in the various spin-off stories. Of course, the main reason that it’s so tough to come up with any definitive coherent theory for the series is because there is no one individual guiding it or creating it. Much like the story of the Rake, this is a collaborative endeavour, with each individual adding their own mark to the story, layering on new and exciting pieces of the mythos.

THIS is the true strength of the Holders. It’s an imaginative tale of a mythical quest about heroic but flawed characters, corrupted villains and mystical, unknowable powerful artefacts… and it belongs to us all. Anybody can contribute, anybody can adapt the mythos for their own ends and anybody can play a part in continuing to spread the story.

The Holders allows the writer a deal of creativity, whether it be in spinning off a complex story arc of your own or even in the way that a Holder’s tale can be told. Not all are told using the traditional format, with some being told from the point of view of the Holder, the Seeker or even the Object itself. They can be relatively self contained or include multiple references to other stories, whether it be an Object that requires a Seeker to hold other Objects to obtain it or one that requires direct contact with one of the expanding cast of characters on the fringes of the mythology. There have even been a number of parodies of the series (such as the hilarious Holder of Dick: Simple. Put your hand on the dick. You are now Holder of the dick.). The only limit is the storyteller’s imagination.

Ultimately, these stories are OUR stories, the stories of the fans.

Every. Single. One.