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Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 40: Laughing Jack

creepypastaSTEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA — PART 40: LAUGHING JACK

Pennywise. 100 Tears’ Gurdy. Killjoy. American Horror Story’s Twisty. The Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Long before scary clowns started terrifying members of the public on both sides of the Atlantic, the grease paint-wearing circus ‘funny men’ have enjoyed a nightmarish relationship with horror fans. The term Coulrophobia, while not a strictly recognised specific phobia, has been coined to describe a fear of clowns. Whether this is an officially recognised phobia or not, it is one of the most common fears. You almost certainly know somebody who will use the term ‘creepy’ to describe clowns. So it will come as no surprise to any of you to hear that Creepypastas have their very own diabolical clown.

The story of Laughing Jack was first posted on DeviantArtist Snuffbomb’s page back on 3 March 2013. You can read it here: http://snuffbomb.deviantart.com/art/Creepypasta-Laughing-Jack-357523173 It’s a haunting story about a single mother caring for her five-year-old son, James, who starts to talk to her about his imaginary friend. Dismissing the talk as merely childish exuberance, the boy’s mother laughs it off. However, that night her dreams are haunted by wounded, malevolent childish figures and the old nursery rhyme, Pop Goes The Weasel. From here James’s behaviour takes a bizarre turn, and a series of strange events around the house causes our narrator to start to worry. Each time she asks James about the source of these disturbances she receives the same ominous response: ‘Laughing Jack did it.’ Finally, one dark night, after witnessing a terrible atrocity, the poor mother discovers that Laughing Jack has one last trick in store for her and James…

The reasons Laughing Jack works are plentiful. Of course, there’s the obvious elements — the uncanny valley aspect of clown visages that causes discomfort in onlookers. Clown face paint offers a unique juxtaposition in that it presents an exaggerated expression, yet also hides the true face of the wearer. It is both overwhelmingly open and a mask all at once. It is a look certain to cause a degree of confusion due to its self-contradictory nature.mThe evil clown trope (and the Laughing Jack story in particular) also utilise that Creepypasta staple of subverting and warping childhood innocence to unsettle and unnerve the audience. I’ve covered this phenomenon at length here during the course of this series, so I shan’t go into too much depth once again. Suffice to say the imagery of Laughing Jack (the toys; the hard candies; and the nightmarish theme park) plus the recurring Pop Goes The Weasel motif, all use this storytelling device to fantastic effect.

rsz_ask_laughing_jack_by_felishaus-db030qtHowever, it’s not just the obvious elements in Snuffbomb’s tale that instill fear. It also touches on the very real fear we all nurse deep inside of losing touch with reality and sanity. The protagonist finds herself unable to trust her own senses, forced to accept the impossible situation in which she finds herself as true, and even at the end unsure as to which, if any, of the story’s events are real. We all rely on our senses, to comprehend the world and to keep ourselves safe from harm. But what happens if our senses and our minds lie? In that situation, the world becomes a very, very dangerous place indeed. The story also makes very clever use of the fear that all parents feel towards protecting their child, plus the general fear of protecting those closest to you. This fear is one used in plenty of horror movies in which adults struggle to protect their children (The Babadook and The Monster are recent high profile examples of this), and in this case (SPOILERS FOLLOW) the horror is worsened with the final reveal that not only does the mother fail to protect her child from harm, she’s actually the one to inflict it.

Whatever the reason, Laughing Jack has proved to be a VERY popular pasta. So much so, in fact, that Snuffbomb returned to his story to create an origin story, which you can read here: http://snuffbomb.deviantart.com/art/The-Origin-of-Laughing-Jack-419616829

It’s an interesting tale, one that starts back on the cobblestoned streets of Victorian London and introduces an abused young boy, Isaac Grossman, Laughing Jack’s first playmate. Originally an innocent and fun figure, Laughing Jack becomes corrupted by his conduct with the boy, who in turn was corrupted by the horrors of his own upbringing. As the young and naive Isaac becomes the worst kind of monster, Laughing Jack looks on, learning, until the day he once again faces his ‘old friend’…

This story is certainly more intense than the previous one, and includes some truly sickening sadistic moments, but then that’s entirely the point of their inclusion. It’s also startlingly original. So many ‘origin’ stories feature the monster as an all-too-human moping teen. They lose so much of their mystique (see Michael Myers in Rob Zombie’s Halloween), and it can often come across as a little bit ‘Mary Sue’-ish. This is certainly not the case with Laughing Jack who remains a mystical and decidedly monstrous otherworldly entity. In short, it’s a clever, well-written expansion to the mythos that enhances the story, rather than detracts from it in any way.

With this in mind it will come as no surprise to hear that the story has struck a chord with literally thousands of fans. The growing fandom has produced numerous works of art, many of which are excellent, while the demand for more of the character — from unofficial spin-offs and crossover stories with other popular pasta icons (some of which are surprisingly entertaining, others… ahem… less so), and the ubiquitous YouTube readings. It’s a testament to the popularity of the story that there are over…. Laughing Jack videos there, with readings by all the biggest names on the scene such as Mr Creepypasta, who has covered the first story (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZSvPU8HzY8) and the origin tale (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54XPnDaCtwo)

That’s not to say that all the additional Laughing Jack material is unofficial fan fiction — far from it, as the hands-on and hard-working Snuffbomb has continuously reimagined his creation in multiple formats. One of these was the popular Youtube web-comic, Creeps, which he created with deviantartist SabrinaNightmaren. Jack himself plays a major role in the comic, and displays a more playful side to his personality, complete with dark quips and decidedly off-colour jokes. You can find the first part of the comic here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cItO2pQ3kQs

It was in the pages of Creeps that a strange offshoot of the LJ mythos was introduced — Laughing Jill. With an eye-catching visual design, the chainsaw-wielding dark clown can almost be viewed as the Jane the Killer to Jack’s Jeff. While not ‘officially’ regarded as canon, Jill has captured the imagination of a segment of the fan base, and a host of (often contradictory) origin stories have cropped up online, such as this one: https://www.quotev.com/story/4647633/Creepypasta-Origins/14 , this: https://www.quotev.com/story/5633756/The-origin-of-laughing-Jill/1 and this: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10738044/1/The-Story-of-Laughing-Jill

Unlike the antagonistic relationship between Jeff and Jane, Jill is often romantically linked to Laughing Jack, and regularly portrayed as his spouse!
Laughing Jill does seem to have caused some conflict in the fandom, with some fans (often teens) using the character to romanticise a character that many fans prefer to keep as an inhuman monster. For the most part the fans tolerate each other, but sometimes heated arguments have been known to break out between the two camps, those who are Pro-Jill and those who Anti-Jill.

Either way, it’s pretty obvious that plenty of fans are very passionate about the Laughing Jack character and the mythos surrounding him.

rsz_b61aaf161063aea425eaf5d36eaa77bbHowever, this popularity has also been linked to tragedy. On 23 July 2015, in Indiana, a 12-year-old girl fatally stabbed her stepmother, Maria Torres, then set fire to her family’s home. Later, during questioning, she claimed that she had committed these terrible crimes because Laughing Jack told her too. Media reports have likened this incident to the infamous Slenderman stabbing, in which two teenage girls brutally attacked a classmate, the crime at the heart of the acclaimed HBO documentary Beware the Slenderman.

Of course the perpetrator of the crime is a deeply disturbed individual and her actions in no way reflect those of the huge majority of the Creepypasta community who are a creative, welcoming and passionate group, many of whom have been of tremendous assistance to me in the writing of these features.

One such individual is the imaginative, outspoken and very personable Snuffbomb himself, who was kind enough to speak with UK Horror Scene about Laughing Jack, Creepypastas and his exciting future projects.

Our interview follows below.

UK HORROR SCENE: Hi Snuffbomb, please allow me to extend my gratitude for agreeing to speak with me.

SNUFFBOMB: Thanks so much for this interview! I’ve never been interviewed before.

UKHS: The most obvious first — In your own words, tell us a little about Laughing Jack?

SB: Laughing Jack is what you get when you cherry-pick all the things kids like such as clowns, toys, laughter, fun, etc. then twist and pervert them into all the things that kids fear, such as clowns, creepy dolls, darkness, jagged crooked teeth, exaggerated features and so on. He is the bump in the night in your child’s bedroom sending them into a panicked dash to your room for comfort. The thing that tells your child to hurt the cat or to break mommy’s expensive china. At the end of the day however, I think Laughing Jack is simply what he is. A clown. He wants to make the world laugh, whether they are willing to or not. He sees human life like a joke and humans as props in his routine. He is much like a child himself in a way, mirroring the same (if not somewhat distorted) views of the world where most of what he sees is new to him.

UKHS: What served as your inspiration for the character and the story?

SB: I came across Creepypasta in early to mid 2011, back when Slenderman was but a haunting whisper on forums and blogs. This was a huge inspiration, the “grit” and overall obscurity added a great deal to the creep factor in those days. The most inspiring story for me was The Rake. In fact for a week or so Laughing Jack’s “in development” name actually was The Rake, almost as tribute of sorts. I liked how visceral the character was in leaving behind mostly entrails and broken families like sick reminders of loss and terror.

On a more visual level Laughing Jack was inspired by a little known marionette stage play called The Fortune Teller. One character in particular in fact. I think anyone who looks it up will know exactly which one I’m talking about as the two bear slight similarities in appearance. As for personality and even voice, I always pictured a cross between Beetlejuice and the Crypt Keeper with a dash of Freddy Krueger for good measure. Finally, as for his powers and abilities I just like to think of him as a homicidal genie. Once released from his box all hell breaks loose, a bit like Stephen King’s IT, but less spider-monster and more circus clown.

UKHS: Which idea came to you first, the image or the story?

SB: The image certainly came first, actually about a year prior to the story being written. I originally did a rough sketch of him on a piece of notebook paper, and although I was proud of it at the time, he honestly looked like the lost member of KISS and I knew this wasn’t what I was going for. He went through several design changes before he became the clown he is today and his design is still being tweaked and tinkered with, like a painting I just can’t leave be.

UKHS: Are you a fan of Creepypasta? If so, what is your favourite Creepypasta by a creator other than yourself?

SB: When it comes to my taste in Creepypasta I definitely prefer the classics, such as The Rake and Russian Sleep Experiment. The Tall Man was one that always stood out due to its bleak, dark ending which explains that the most horrific things can still happen to the most innocent and undeserving of people. I have a few guilty pleasure pastas though as well, like Happy Appy and NES Godzilla. With Creepypasta I feel it’s less about how much it scares me, and rather more about how much I enjoyed reading it.

UKHS: Why do you think Creepypastas in general, and especially Laughing Jack, have been so popular with the fans?

SB: The stories themselves have always been the heart of Creepypasta, but I believe that it’s the visuals that really pull people in. I think most people see a picture of Slenderman, Jeff the Killer, Laughing Jack and so on first then become intrigued, which leads them to the stories and other content. I think a lot of core creepypasta fans (those who write and read the stories) dislike this.

They want their stories to stick out on their own, rather than live in the shadow of Slenderman or Jeff the Killer. Honestly, I think more people are drawn to Laughing Jack because of his personality and character rather than the two semi-average stories I wrote about him. Laughing Jack himself has grown exponentially more popular than his stories, which is why I believe the stories are often called “overrated”. I agree in a sense. Laughing Jack evolved, almost growing up in a way. He went from being this pure simple horror character to a horror-comedy icon. No longer does he make fans afraid to sleep with their lights off, but rather makes them laugh at disgusting humor and grotesque acts, all of what dark comedy has to offer. This transformation is much like the ones of horror-comedy icons you see on the big screen, like Freddy Krueger and Chucky. Horror and comedy go hand in handy really, something jumps out at you, you scream, you realise you’re not in any danger and just shrieked like a banshee in front of all your friends, and everyone laughs about it. People wouldn’t like horror if it didn’t make them feel good in some way, and that mindset is one I keep when I’m making my content.

rsz_laughing_jack_by_shadowkisses91-d5yfa02UKHS: Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?

SB: This may sound cliche as all hell, but I really love the writing in the old Tim Burton movies. Most films and stories focus on a normal person going on a journey of some type. The old Burton movies focused on someone odd and eccentric trying to find some sort of normality in their life — Beetlejuice, Batman, Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands. If anyone reading this gets a chance, look up “Tim Burton Hansel and Gretel”. That short film was incredibly inspirational for me and my work.

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

SB: Obviously I’m most proud of creating Laughing Jack, I often joke that he’s like my child. Honestly though, I don’t think I could point to any work I’ve done and say: “I’m proud of that!”. I see everything I do as an improvement of what came before it. I always look at my work as a critic and figure out what I did well and what could have been improved, then I revise it all and use what I’m left with to do a better job next time. If I had to pick however, I’d choose The Origin of Laughing Jack. I think It succeeds the first story in just about every way, though it is still far from perfect.

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

SB: This is a hard one to answer because I think just about everything the fans do is pretty incredible. It was really amazing to see my stories translated and narrated into so many different languages, and seeing PinkStylist do his take on the Laughing Jack makeup (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dv3E8dqi3RE) was very flattering as well. I absolutely love what Mr. Betty Krueger does with Laughing Jack in his audio dramas, I think it’s hands down one of the best interpretations of the character (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0EzTotOGhE&feature=youtu.be). As for traditional art, I could fill a book naming all those who do absolutely stunning and even horrifying illustrations of Laughing Jack. To know that my character inspired thousands and thousands of illustrations from so many talented artists across every website on the internet is really indescribable.

UKHS: While looking at your DeviantArt page I noticed a comment from you in which you voiced displeasure at a segment of the fandom that seem to have twisted your creation into a friendly (and, in some cases, sexy) pin-up. This is something that other Pasta creators, such as sesseur and Jason the Toy Maker’s Kristantyl, have bemoaned in interviews with me. Would you care to elaborate on this point here, to give the comment a little more context?

SB: This is a strange area for me. On one hand, I don’t tell anyone they can’t use my character for whatever they want, but on the other hand the weird fetish stuff makes me kind of uncomfortable. Canonically Laughing Jack is like a ragdoll and has no internal organs or genitals, so you might as well try to have sex with Woody from Toy Story. Honestly though, I just try to ignore it and let people do what they want. I don’t think the smut is shoved in other people’s faces or anything, so it’s really not a big deal.

UKHS: Sadly, this next question is a little uncomfortable, but I’d be a terrible journalist if I didn’t at least ask you about it. I was deeply shocked and saddened when I read about the Maria Torres stabbing in Indiana, especially when I read that the alleged perpetrator supposedly committed the crime ‘for Laughing Jack’. Obviously no creator should ever be held accountable for the actions of a seriously disturbed individual, so I don’t believe you have any duty to address the situation, but I just wondered if you would care to comment?

SB: It’s very unfortunate what happened to Maria Torres, and extremely unfortunate what happened to her step daughter. This case is often compared to the 2014 Slenderman Stabbing, however they couldn’t be more different.

The Slenderman incident was perpetrated by two misguided teens who knew full well the horrible crime they were committing, and the Torres incident was committed by a very mentally sick little girl who, according to the reports, begged for help days before the incident. This girl is the real victim, she was failed by everyone even after pleading to her parents and school for help. Her illness was reaching a destructive boiling point and that was going to happen whether or not Laughing Jack was a part of it. I’m very upset with the slant the media put on this incident with articles titled “Indiana girl killed stepmom to please Laughing Jack”. This is a story about a sick girl who was failed by the world and needs serious help, not one about a devoted fanatic who sacrificed her stepmother at the request of an evil internet clown. My heart goes out to all those involved in this incident.

UKHS: Can I get your thoughts on Laughing Jill?

SB: Laughing Jill was created as a spoof genderbend of Laughing Jack. She was created by me and the original artist of my old Creepypasta comic, Creeps. She was meant to be a joke, parodying the uncreative trend of making a romantic interest or sibling for a character simply by switching their gender. Laughing Jill was never meant to be anything more than a single drawing, however some of the fangirls felt differently. The original artist of Creeps wanted to develop Jill into her own character, however I strongly disagreed as I did not want Laughing Jack to have to share his spotlight with a cheap imitation.

rsz_laughing_jack_by_snuffbomb-d5wsy9wUKHS: Your artwork is incredible. Where did you learn to create such evocative images? How do you get inspiration for the creative process?

SB: First of all I would not describe my art as “incredible” but I’m glad someone out there would! In all seriousness though, I have always been a very artistic person. Art classes in middle school, creative writing and theatre in high school, film major in college, I’ve had my hand in art all throughout my life. One thing I always disagreed with all my teachers and professors about is that art has a set of rules — it has suggestions but not rules. The day that people say this one way is how all art/film needs to be made, is the day that the creative process dies. Where most desire to be a “professional artist” I desire to be an “unprofessional artist.”

I often do the opposite thing professional artists tell you to do. “Don’t write creepypastas in 3rd person” — I wrote Origin of Laughing Jack. “Use only the best makeup and materials” — I used hot glue and acrylic paint. “Make a clean convincing set and use good lighting” — I hold my set up with duct tape and use cheap $10 lights I got from Walmart. Art is about challenging rules, not coloring within the lines.

UKHS: Will you ever return to the story of LJ in the future? What else can your fans look forward to from you in the days ahead? And finally, are there any sites or projects that you’d like me to send my readers to for more of your work?

SB: I think the future is going to be bright for Laughing Jack. I want to drive him in a whole new direction and remove him from the Creepypasta scene to stand on his own as a horror-comedy icon alongside a cast of new characters I think my fans are going to love. I’ve completed production on the first episode of my new series, The Snuff Zone (You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1VDdersmGE ). It’s a comedy series starring a heavily distorted caricature of myself (Snuff Bomb) and his insanely lovably hateable, not-so-imaginary friend Laughing Jack, along with an assortment of colorful original characters.

It’s a buddy comedy series about a sociopath and a psychopath who seek fame online but can’t seem to stay out of trouble. It also features the talent of Mr. Betty Krueger as “The Producer” and BaptismOnFire as the clinically depressed and suicidal teddy bear “Spencer”. So far the first episode has puke, pee, satanic rituals, AIDS, an actual decapitated deer head, and enough subliminal messages to turn Mr. Rodgers into Charles Manson. This and a slew of new content including the controversial SnuffCast is coming real soon. I greatly encourage everyone to subscribe to me on my youtube, SnuffBomb (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClLWpLHAP-Hv-TRCgiKeEBQ) and follow me on twitter at @TheSnuffBomb to see all this great new content.

UKHS: Since the Snuffzone has going live and it seems to have found a very appreciative audience. What has the feedback been like? How does it feel to see your work finding new fans in a different medium?

SB: Well my favorite genre of horror is retro horror-comedy. The cheesy and often comedic practical effects and over the top monsters from the 80’s horror movies really inspired me in making The Snuff Zone and shaping the personality of everyone’s favorite killer clown. I’ve often said “Scaring people is fun, but making them laugh is a lot more satisfying. So why not do both?” Once The Snuff Zone went live, the fan reaction was immediate. Fans are finally seeing the Laughing Jack that they’ve been wanting to see since they first read the stories. One that can creep them out one minute, then make them smile the next.

With a refreshingly down-to-earth attitude and some very original ideas on how to build on his character’s success, SnuffBomb is ensuring that Laughing Jack will go down as one of the classic Creepypasta stories.

Be sure to check back next time when I’ll be covering another classic story — and one of the most acclaimed of all time.

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta Part 37: An Exclusive Interview With Creepypasta Wiki’s Mr Dupin

DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA

PART 37: AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE CREEPYPASTA WIKI’S MR DUPIN

creepypastaAlong with Creepypasta.com, Reddit and 4Chan, one of the best resources for quality Creepypasta stories is the Creepypasta Wiki. With strict quality guidelines that are rigorously enforced by a number of highly-respected admins, all of whom regularly write and contribute their own stories to the Wiki. One of the most esteemed of these is long-time contributor, MrDupin, a writer with a number of very, very good stories to his name. This week, rather than look at any one story, I thought I’d talk to a true expert in the field and, I’m so grateful that MrDupin was kind enough to talk to us.

UK HORROR SCENE: Thanks so much for agreeing to speak with me. First, can you tell my readers a little bit about yourself, the creepy pasta wiki and your role there?

MRDUPIN: I am MrDupin, I’m studying Computer Science and I love writing and reading stories (especially mystery and horror). I’m also an administrator on Creepypasta Wiki, a place where writers can contribute their own horror stories for others to read. As an admin, my main role is to make sure the stories posted on the wiki are of a certain quality. I’m also working on generally maintaining the wiki, editing stories, helping out users and stuff of that nature. All in all, my role is to make the wiki an enjoyable experience for readers and writers alike, helping people improve their writing and doing my best to get aspiring writers exposure.

UKHS: What is it that drew you to creepypastas?

MrD: I always loved writing, ever since I was very young. My problem was that there was no place where I could post stories for others to read. When I found out that people on the internet were writing and posting stories online, I wanted in. I wrote and posted a couple of stories on Creepypasta Wiki, gave some feedback to some other writers, edited some work and that’s when I decided this was a place worth spending my time on.

UKHS: Why do you think creepy pasta resonates with the fandom?

MrD: Horror in general appeals to a lot of people. For some reason, people like getting scared. Creepypasta managed to bring that horror in short, digestible bits. At first they started as really short stories you could easily share around the internet to scare your friends, but with time they evolved into a more serious form of literature. A lot of very good writers try their hand at the genre and that only elevates the material. So, people who come for the quick scare of the day stay for the quality of the stories.

UKHS: What are your personal favourites?

MrD: Oh, I have too many to list here. I’ve been reading stories for a very long time and I have compiled a whole list of my favourites. Currently the number of stories on my list sits at about 50. If anyone wants to read these stories, they can go at my profile page on Creepypasta wiki. They are some very good works that I highly recommend. (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/User:MrDupin) I will now try to give a quick overview of my absolute favourites.

Of the most well known stories, probably my favourite is Psychosis. The feeling of paranoia in the story was something very foreign to me when I first read the tale. A great writer that has contributed a lot to this wiki is Humboldt (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/User:HumboldtLycanthrope). He has written a ton of bone-chilling tales, but if I had to pick my favourite, it would be The Number of Darkness (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/The_Number_of_Darkness). That story, simply put, is hard hitting. It takes demonic possession to the next level.
Another phenomenal writer, who was also an admin on the wiki for a long while (and recently got his position back), is Empyre (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/User:EmpyrealInvective). He can write in a very wide range, from hair-raising horror to stories with melancholical undertones. Some of my favourites of his work are A Small Piece of Lead (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/A_Small_Piece_of_Lead), a very emotional piece, and It Breathes, It Bleeds, It Breeds, one of the greatest parasite stories on the internet (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/It_Breathes,_It_Bleeds,_It_Breeds).

For me though, the best writer on the wiki is WriterJosh (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/User:WriterJosh). I just can’t recommend his stories enough. His story, Shut That Damned Door (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Shut_That_Damned_Door) is, for me, the best story on the site. It took a concept so simple and familiar, shutting a door closed, and twisted it into something purely terrifying.

_thumb_51a1cd2e-69d3-4c50-9c9a-b20145b3f6d3UKHS: I’ve covered a lot of classic creepypasta stories for these Dark Web features. Can I ask your opinion on some of those that I have covered here before?

MrD: Before I begin, I want to say that most of these stories are stories that stain the image of the creepypasta genre. Currently we have stories that are far superior to most on the list. It is very unfortunate that the garbage came before the silk, so now we are stuck with people thinking “Jeff the Killer” is any good.

Jeff the Killer (all versions, including JtK 2015)
The original is a terrible pasta, that unfortunately became the face of the genre, with thousands of angsty teens and pre-teens flocking around it with fan-fiction and countless spinoffs. We tried to remedy that a little by running a contest for a remake, which produced the JtK 2015 story. The new version is vastly better, even though it is dragged down by the plot. Banning (the winner) did a fantastic job with the material.

BEN Drowned
I remember when I first read it, I couldn’t sleep for days. Maybe it’s because I was young, but the video was terrifying. The story, not so much, but the video was very good horror.

Polybius
This one is one of the first creepypastas, and it shows clearly how the genre started out. Myths and conspiracy theories with a tint of horror. It is the realism of this pasta that made it stand out.

Mereana Mordegard Glesgorv
I never understood what the fuss was all about. The video in particular is plain boring, could never get through it.

Suicide Mouse
I never liked this one. I am not particularly fond of “Lost Episode” stories and the like, so this didn’t get to me. It is basically Squidward’s Suicide in a different skin. I guess people like seeing the dark side of innocent cartoon artists.

1999
This was a good enough story. The problem I had with it is that it dragged on for way too long. For some reason, the author is still adding to it. This is a prime example of a work the creator shot dead by overdoing it.

rake01The Rake
Humans have long loved cryptozoology. That’s why myths like the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, Unicorns etc. exist. “The Rake”, in an age of technology, managed to capture the imagination of the crowds not because of the plot itself, which is nothing special, but because of all the images that surfaced around it and spread like wildfire. This pasta is an internet mythos through and through.

The Holders Series
The most interesting thing about the series is the way the stories are written. They all have a certain tone that holds for all the parts (at least those I’ve read). As they are all pretty much the same though, it was no wonder their popularity fizzled out.

Expressionless
This is the definition of a story using the uncanny to its advantage. As a plot it’s nothing special, and it is the image that carries the whole story. I would go as far as to say the plot severely drags the image down. A more experienced writer could have written a short story that, coupled with the image, would have been a masterpiece for the ages. Instead we get this, which is good enough, I guess.

Jane the Killer (both versions)
Have not read it, didn’t even know there were two versions. I understand it’s a Jeff spinoff. If I were to take a guess, I would say it is garbage.

PENPAL
Have not read it, but I’ve heard it’s very, very good.

The Smiling Man
This is a very good story. It balances right down the line of weird and realistic, and that’s what makes it so scary and unsettling.

Bedtime (and sequels)
The first Bedtime is a very good pasta. I remember when I first read it I had trouble sleeping. Even though I was pretty young at the time, I still believe it is a very good read. The rest of the entries were unnecessary in my opinion. To me, it felt like the writer was simply riding on its success and wanted more. They are not badly written, but they are a massive letdown. Sequels very rarely work, not in movies, not in books and not in creepypasta. Especially for a story that has been told.

UKHS: Now I’d like to talk to you about some sub-genres and trends in the Creepypasta community. One of the largest and most popular Creepypasta trends has been Slenderman tie-ins. What are your thoughts on the whole Slendermania thing?

MrD: Slenderman itself is creepy, especially the first images of him that originated from the SomethingAwful forums. The Slenderman myth grew in popularity as the years passed, and that growth unfortunately and inevitably gathered a fanbase that derailed the myth with fanfiction, sexy drawings and their absurd addiction with anything Slenderman. Among these pieces there are bound to be some gems, but overall said work is below average, to say the least. So, even though Slenderman is creepy, the stuff that came with its popularity is garbage and stains this icon of creepypasta.

UKHS: We’ve briefly touched on Lost Episode pastas. What are your thoughts on these? Are there any that you feel are successful?

MrD: The main issue I have with said pastas is that they are focused too much on the cartoon/show itself. Usually what they do is take a cartoon, add a crazy/disgruntled artist, add gore/macabre/grotesque art by said artist and that’s it. That’s the formula for pretty much any Lost Episode pasta out there. Personally, I don’t find this format enjoyable. It is boring and stale, so I can’t say I have seen any that creeped me out or entertained me in any way.

What I would like to see in the genre is a new take, where the focus isn’t on the cartoon, with the gore and stuff, but on something else. An idea I had for a story in the genre is this: Somehow someone finds a taping of an episode that didn’t air. Watching the episode, the viewer finds something out of place. Maybe a message, or even spots something happening on the background. The viewer, who has their curiosity piqued, starts investigating and the spotlight shifts away from the episode and onto the investigation. This direction hasn’t been explored much in the genre and that’s a shame, since I believe it holds a lot of potential.

UKHS: The bane of most serious pasta fans is the still ongoing trend for videogame-pastas. Once again, can I ask for your thoughts on these? And are there any that you feel tell a compelling story?

MrD: Videogame-pastas are very similar to Lost Episodes. It’s just the medium that changes. One story that I enjoyed was the ever-so-popular BEN Drowned. I don’t know if it’s because I was younger, but the video and music were really creepy.

UKHS: It seems that (on DeviantArt) in particular, lots of creators are keen on producing a cool, iconic character. Some have become very popular among fans (Laughing Jack, Eyeless Jack, Jason the Toymaker, The Puppetmaster, BloodyPainter etc). What are your thoughts on this trend?

MrD: The lack of creativity in that area of the internet is astounding. Everything is a carbon copy of Jeff the Killer with only a few tweaks here and there. The creators of this kind of stories are usually very young and they want to express their angsty self on paper, but they can’t find a better way than coming up with an ultra-violent character. I don’t have much more to say on this. It’s a shame that the image of creepypasta has been spoiled by works like these.

UKHS: It seems to me that the latest recognisable trend is that of rituals or games, such as the Midnight Man, 11 Miles and Three Kings. It’s arguable that these could well have seen their genesis in the Holders series. Can I ask your opinion on that, plus the current resurgence in ritual/game pastas? Are there any that you enjoy?

MrD: I believe ritual pastas has been around since the beginning of the genre. It can even be traced back to the ‘share-this-message-100-times-or-Bloody-Mary-will-visit-you’ messages. Someone took this silly idea and turned it into a proper ritual guideline. Somehow they caught on. Probably because they are easy to read, with bulletpoints and instructions and stuff. The Holders series certainly played a part in shaping this genre. Especially the ritual pastas that are location centric. The problem with all the Holders-inspired stories though is that the series has a distinct “voice”. Most of them have a unique narration style which is what made them so popular. Other ritual pastas have tried to replicate that success, but it’s next to impossible to do without an identity. I can’t remember any ritual pasta that I enjoyed.

UKHS: What do you feel makes a good creepypasta?

MrD: It isn’t easy to define what makes a story good. What is undisputable, is that a creepypasta needs to scare/unsettle/creep out the reader. In some occasions, a creepypasta can be sad, but it has to have some unsettling element for it to be good as a creepypasta. The way for a story to be creepy differs from story to story. There is the horror of the unknown, the horror of the uncanny, suspense, mystery, madness and the list goes on.

Any route the writer goes, one way to enhance the horror is the characters in the story. Fleshing out the characters is very important and oftentimes a flat character can bring down a horrifying plot. The location is key too. Sometimes the setting alone can carry an otherwise mediocre story. All in all, reading about interesting characters and locations/scenery is a very important support to horror. Language and vocabulary is also extremely important. The right word at the right place can work wonders for a story, while a story with bland use of the language oftentimes falls flat. There are a ton of things that factor in the excellence of a creepypasta. It is the job of the writer to build his idea into a proper story that will hopefully be good.

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

MrD: From horror, I love Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft and Ambrose Bierce. One of my favourite writers is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sherlock Holmes tales have to be my absolute favourites. Recently I have taken a liking to Maurice Leblanc too, who wrote a series of short stories about an ingenious thief, who basically is Sherlock Holmes on the other side of the law.

When I was younger I loved the works of Valerio Massimo Manfredi, who has written some amazingly suspenseful work. From the wiki, I love the works of Humboldt (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/User:HumboldtLycanthrope), Banning (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/User:Banningk1979), Empyre (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/User:EmpyrealInvective) and WriterJosh (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/User:WriterJosh), to name a few. Outside of literature, I love the work of Michael Sipser in Computer Science and Gaston Bachelard in Science Philosophy.

Wiki-wordmarkUKHS: You’re very active at the Creepypasta Wikia. What is it like being a part of that community? What advice would you offer to other people who want to get involved over there?

MrD: The community of the Creepypasta Wiki is very dear to me. I love hanging around and having a laugh with the guys and gals. Also, because we are mainly a literature community, the advice and opinion sharing on horror and all things literature is a nice change in a world that doesn’t seem to stop anymore for the writing arts. If you want to get involved, just hop over and have fun. Engage in discussions, joke around and be yourself. You’d be surprised by how open we are to newcomers. People can slot right in, our common interest and love for horror making for a smooth entrance to the community. Also, as the place is a wikia where a lot relies on community help via volunteer work, you are more than welcome to help around by fixing mistakes in stories and stuff like that.

UKHS: You’ve also written some fantastic stories over at the wiki. Which stories of your own are you most proud of? What advice would you offer to other writers?

MrD: I love reading and writing micropastas, so basically I’m proud of any (barring a couple very bad stories) work of mine that is shorter than 500 words, even the ones I haven’t posted on the wiki. If I had to pick a single one, it would have to be Twitching and Convulsing (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Twitching_and_Convulsing). For some reason I am very creeped out by people twitching and twisting their bodies in weird angles, and this story plays on exactly that fear. Granted, the whole story is one single scene, but I think for what it is it works very well.
The main advice I would give to new writers is be patient, read stories and practise. If you love reading and writing and you are willing to put in the work, you will improve in no time. We even have a Writer’s Workshop (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Board:Writer%27s_Workshop) where you can post your work to receive feedback and we also have some blogs on Writing Advice (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Creepypasta_Wiki:Writing_Advice). Basically if you want to become good, read and write as much as you can and eventually you’ll get there.

UKHS: Finally, with the likes of Channel Zero and the recent proposed Machinima Clive Barker’s Creepypasta show, it seems that Creepypasta is really becoming mainstream. What do you think the future holds for Creepypasta?

MrD: I believe the quality of the stories in the genre will continue improving and it will eventually become a proper part of mainstream literature, commanding more respect than it does now. More than anything, creepypasta is storytelling for and from the common folk and coupled with the increase in quality, creepypastas will be reaching more and more people as time goes on. I’m very thrilled for the future of this novel art form.

Come back next time when I’ll be speaking to another respected creator from another breeding ground for Creepypastas — DeviantArt.

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta Part 35: An Exclusive Interview With Vincent Vena Cava

creepypastaDARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA
PART 35: AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH VINCENT VENA CAVA

Usually these Dark Web features focus on a single story, or a connected series, but this week I’m going to do something a little different. Instead I’m going to focus on the work of a single author, one of the most successful and popular writers of Creepypasta the genre has produced — Vincent Vena Cava.

With a wealth of work to his name, including iconic pastas such as The Pastel Man, A Favor For a Favor, Picture This and the ongoing (and fantastic) Wendall Lane Diaries, the LA-based author has caused quite a stir with his fiction, gaining recognition and approaches from several huge media companies, including 20th Century Fox (when he wrote The Eye of Ra, which was part of a viral marketing campaign for the movie The Pyramid) and Starz. He has also been published multiple times, including the inclusion of his stories Right On Time and Picture This in a new short story anthology, The Creepypasta Collection: Modern Urban Legends You Can’t Unread, that hit the shelves at Barnes & Noble (the last remaining major book franchise in the US) last month. (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-creepypasta-collection-mr-creepypasta/1123556473)
All of this in just four short years since he first started publishing work on the web under the Vincent Cava name.

Recently he saw a project successfully funded on Kickstarter that combined his talents with those of genre YouTube heavyweight Mr Creepypasta and top artists Chris Oz Fulton, Maja Cornvall and Teo Gonzalez. The resulting Creepypasta Comicbook (of which I’m a backer) is a fantastic debut effort and fans are eagerly anticipating subsequent issues from the team.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had the tremendous pleasure of conversing with the amiable, humble and supremely talented Cava, asking him about his influences, storytelling processes, several of his most notable stories and what the future holds.
Our interview follows below.

vvc1

Vincent Vena Cava

UK HORROR SCENE: Hi Vincent, and thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me. First, I’d like to ask you some general questions about your influences, before asking specific questions about some of your stories, including The Pastel Man, Right On Time and your Wendall Lane Diaries series. I hope that’s OK?

VINCENT VENA CAVA: No problem, I’d be happy to answer your questions — and btw, you just named two of my worst stories! Haha! Is that what people know me for? Good God.

UKHS: Oh dear, you are too harsh on yourself, they’re all fine stories! May I ask which two you’re least happy with? As an aside, some of my favourites include The Hall Monitor, The Job, Selfie, The Ocean’s Cool Air and Little Black Bugs. I expect a few of those will be the subject of future features should you be happy to speak with me about them!

VVC: Thanks! The Pastel Man is the first thing people really noticed me for and I’m sure I’ll be tied to it forever, haha. I believe the story has weak stakes and the prose is pretty amateur. I’ve been working for years to hone my craft since I decided this was something I wanted to make money doing and I feel like I’ve gotten better since then. Right on Time is just fan service and if you aren’t familiar with Jeff The Killer then, in my opinion, the story is sort of weak (maybe even confusing?), but it is what it’s supposed to be. I am fond of Wendall Lane though.

UKHS: Here are my first few questions, they’re non-story specific, but should give my readers more of an idea about you as a writer. Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?

VVC: I’m a fan of so many authors! Some of my biggest influences are Vonnegut, Lovecraft, King, Heinlein, and Philip K. Dick.

UKHS: Do you consider yourself a fan of Creepypasta?

VVC: I’m a fan of anything that has to do with horror, but I’m not entirely sure what Creepypasta even is. It’s such a fluid word. It seems like everyone has their own definition of “creepypasta”. What makes something creepypasta? Is it only stories featuring certain characters? Is it only scary stories? Who says what’s scary? Does a story have to appear on specific websites like r/NoSleep or creepypasta.com to make the cut?

Last I checked, the author of The Martian, Andy Weir’s, short story The Egg is featured on creepypasta.com. I don’t think he posted it there, nor would I call it horror, but is it a creepypasta nonetheless? To me, are you a fan of creepypasta is a difficult question to answer because I don’t even know how to go about defining it.

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

VVC: I’m really happy how people reacted to A Favor for a Favor. I’ve since given it a little rewrite and I think it’s a better story now. Picture This was a really therapeutic story to write so I was happy when people responded well to it. I’m also pretty proud of the graphic novel I just took to Kickstarter.

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

VVC: Hard to answer that question, so I’ll stick to writers who are generally known for online horror. Anything by Matt Dymerski, T.W. Grim, Michael Whitehouse, and IPostAtMidnight is usually great. I think they’re all really polished writers. Anything by them won’t disappoint.

vvc2UKHS: 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?

VVC: Keeping the creative juices flowing isn’t a problem. I have more stories in my head than I can write. The slowest part of my process comes from crafting my prose and trying to develop a unique and interesting narrative that will fit with what I’m writing. Writing isn’t just about telling people a story. It’s about HOW you tell them a story. A lot of young writers don’t realize that. When you do it correctly, your prose can be poetry.
And most importantly…
Read. Read. Read.

You have to read if you want to be a good writer. And you have to read great writers. I get people asking me what to read. Don’t just read horror. Read Hemingway, read Melville, read James Joyce, and Asimov, and Clarke. Read Oscar Wilde, read Doyle, and London. Read non-fiction too! Read, read, read. Great stories can inspire you….you get the picture.

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

VVC: I think a lot of the fans of these online, user generated horror stories are younger or at least became fans when they were younger. This…trend is like a gateway for a lot of young people. It can introduce them to the world of literature and I think that’s wonderful. Many times, these stories are not written for children so of course there’s always intrigue for kids when it comes to taboo subjects.

UKHS: These fans have flocked to some characters, who really have become iconic to the community, such as The Rake and Jeff the Killer, a character you incorporated into your story Right On Time (you can hear Mr Creepypasta’s narration of the story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu9NvCTJbHs ) What inspired you to write a story that contributes to the Jeff the killer mythos?

VVC: I just wanted to pay a little fan service. Jeff is a popular character and people are usually excited to hear a new Jeff story. I figured why not try my hand at a little fan-fiction. I don’t know if I’m actually contributing to the “Jeff mythos”. I don’t really consider any Jeff story to be canon. There are so many tales written by so many people. But that’s cool. It makes the character and his personality somewhat amorphous. He isn’t really defined by any set of rules and whoever is writing him can put their own spin on it.

UKHS: What drew you to the character?

VVC: The character’s popularity is what drew me to him. Haha!
People like reading Jeff stories, I like writing stories, so why not try writing a Jeff story?

UKHS: Your Jeff is less sympathetic than the version traditionally portrayed, he’s almost a force of remorseless destruction than a human, a lot like John Carpenter’s original idea for Michael Myers in Halloween. What inspired you to portray the character in this way?

VVC: To be honest, I never found the character to be very interesting and the broken emo kid thing isn’t all that scary. That’s the problem a lot of people have with Jeff, which is why I decided to write around him. He couldn’t be the protagonist in Right On Time. Protagonists don’t give you nightmares. I believe the character can be frightening, so long as you move away from the “woe is me” stuff. If you want him to be scary, don’t let the audience into his head. You have to strip away anything that makes him human. Make him a monster. That’s why Michael Myers works. And let’s face it, the Jeff character is basically an amalgam of slasher movie clichés. I just followed the trend.

UKHS: What do you think the attraction is to Jeff for Creepypasta fans?

VVC: I think most Jeff fans are pretty young. He’s an antihero, he’s counterculture. He plays by his own set of rules. If someone upsets him, he stabs them. I see why teenage girls and boys are into him.

vvc3-pngUKHS: Do you have any further plans to feature Jeff in your stories?

VVC: Not right now. I’d rather not write a ton of Jeff stuff, but maybe in a future comic book.

UKHS: Are you happy with Right On Time?

VVC: I think Right On Time is good fan-fiction. The problem with it is that you need to know who Jeff The Killer is for it to make a whole lot of sense. Otherwise, it’s just an interesting story with an “out of nowhere” twist. If you don’t know what Jeff The Killer is, you might read it and wonder what the hell just happened. What did he mean by “go to sleep”?

UKHS: Do you have any plans to write stories featuring any other existing Creepypasta characters? (Excluding the Rake — who Vincent covered as part of his Wendall Lane Diaries series AND for the Creepypasta comicbook)

VVC: Yeah sure. I’d love to write more stories based off some of the Internet’s more popular characters. It’s fun for me. I have no plans at this moment, but if it’s something people would be interested in then I’m game for it.

UKHS: I mentioned the Creepypasta comicbook just now. I recently received my PDF copy of the comic and I wanted to extend my most heartfelt congratulations on what is a really great read. You must be very, very proud of it! Any news on whether there’ll be an issue 2? I’d certainly be onboard if so!

VVC: Thanks for backing the comic! Glad you’re enjoying it. Unfortunately our distributor (backerkit) had some trouble with ios mobile devices, but I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it. We definitely want to put out a second comic, but first and foremost we want to focus on getting out all the rewards first. We’ll probably have a second comic up next year, hopefully twice as long.

UKHS: The Rake plays a major role in one of the stories in the Creepypasta comic that you have created with MrCreepypasta. I understand you spoke with Bryan Somerville (who I’ve interviewed for this Dark Web series before: http://www.ukhorrorscene.com/dark-web-steven-hickeys-essential-guide-to-creepypasta-part-28-the-rake-re-visited/) about adapting the character for the comic. How was it working with him?

VVC: I didn’t really work with Somerville on the comic. I just asked him for the OK and gave him a short summary of the story, then he signed a contract giving me permission.

UKHS: The Rake is one of the more recognisable Creepypasta beasties, and you created one of your own with monstrous Pastel Man. (Read the story here:  http://www.creepypasta.com/pastel-man/) His story is one that feels very much like an old-fashioned morality play. Was that your intention?

VVC: The Pastel Man is most definitely a morality play. All of my work fits those themes.
I very rarely write about good vs Evil . It is my belief that we all exist on a moral spectrum —  No black and white, just shades of grey. That’s why most of my characters are inherently flawed. I also believe that an antagonist with a more sympathetic reason for doing bad is much more compelling than one who just wants to eradicate all humanity or kill a protagonist  because he’s a bad guy. My protagonists also usually only act out of self-preservation rather than altruism. They aren’t heroes. But they are more relatable… in my opinion at least.

UKHS: It’s one of your earlier stories and earlier you stated that you weren’t entirely happy with it. Would you ever consider re-visiting the story either with a sequel or rewrite?

VVC: As for my dislike for the story, I believe that it’s prose is lacking compared to what I can do now and the protagonist could probably use a bit more motivation. He is, in my opinion, almost too ‘guilty’. I am heavily considering giving the story a rewrite. I am also considering revisiting The Pastel Man in the second Creepypasta comic.

UKHS: Speaking of comics, you have a great descriptive writing style that really lends itself to visuals. Do you have any more plans to explore graphic novels/comicbooks?

VVC: As for other comics, I’m working with an artist on a project called Nightmare Sketchbook that is supposed to be out first quarter 2017

vvc4UKHS: One of your more recent projects to draw considerable recognition from the fans was the Wendall Lane Diaries. In your own words, how would you describe the series?

VVC: The Wendall Lane Diaries are centred around a house where reality is broken. It’s a paranormal hot spot much in the same way the Bermuda Triangle is. One might encounter ghosts, monsters, reality warping paradoxes if they stay there long enough.  The occurrences are random. The only thing they have in common is that they’re confined to the house and the property it sits on. I recently worked with the cast of Ash Vs The Evil Dead to put out five new stories in the series, narrated by Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Ted Raimi and others.

UKHS: I’ve heard the stories via MrCreepypasta’s YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3vq3HFjqkVkZabGSM02I8G960DBHu9xh) and just wanted to compliment you on how awesome they were. Bravo! I just wondered if you could give my readers a little insight into how the collaboration with Starz came about?

VVC: Starz was interested in promoting their show Ash Vs The Evil Dead so they contacted YouTube creator Mr. Creepypasta to read original stories. They wanted the stories to be loosely connected. Since he’s not a writer, he asked me if I’d be interested in writing them. The whole thing was really intense, I had about two weeks to crank out five stories for the series. In the end it was a fun opportunity to meet the great actors of the show and to speak with horror icons like Bruce Campbell.

UKHS: And finally, where is the best place for me to send my readers to get more news on your work? Are there any preferred links for me to send my readers to read your literature?

VVC: I’m so stupid, I don’t have a landing page haha. But I’m all over social media. Twitter, Facebook, youtube, snapchat, tumblr, Instagram, ect. Every account is @vincentvenacava . Hope that answers your questions!

UKHS: It really does, thanks so much.

As one of the more senior and respected members of the community, Vincent Vena Cava’s story shows that, if you’ve got the talent, Creepypasta really can lead to great things. Come back next time when I speak with another creative talent who’s been on the scene for a long time about one of the oldest, yet most recognisable and complex pastas ever.

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 34: Channel Zero – An Exclusive Interview With Nick Antosca

creepypastaDARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA
PART 34: CHANNEL ZERO – AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH NICK ANTOSCA

In my last Dark Web feature I wrote about how Creepypasta is fast becoming a recognised sub-genre that, rather than cater to a fervent and enthusiastic minority, is starting to branch out into the mainstream. Since the runaway success of The Walking Dead blew open the doors for horror genre television, television producers have sought a ready supply of recognisable brands of dark fiction. Comics such as Outcast and Preacher have yielded results, but there is no denying that web publishing is a veritable goldmine for horror stories.

One of the first shows to recognise this fact is the superb Channel Zero. Having just wrapped up its first critically acclaimed season on Syfy, with a second confirmed for late 2017, the show is the brainchild of gifted author and screenwriter, Nick Antosca. In 2015 the station announced that it had greenlit two six episode seasons, both of which were to be based on popular creepypastas. The first would focus on Kris Straub’s excellent Candle Cove, a story I covered here back in February.

The second would cover Brian Russell’s equally popular NoEnd House. ‘We love the idea of doing seasons of TV like rich, character-driven horror novels, and for Channel Zero: Candle Cove we’ve expanded this great short story Candle Cove into something really nightmarish and haunting and surreal,’ Antosca and fellow executive producer Max Landis said in a joint statement. ‘We can’t wait to dig in deeper and bring this to life with Syfy and Universal Cable Productions.’

cz-paul-schneider-and-fiona-shaw

Paul Schneider and Fiona Shaw

Casting notices followed, an on 20 June this year a Variety exclusive article announced that Paul Schneider and Fiona Shaw would star in the first season. This was followed by the reveal that Craig William Macneill (director of The Boy) would be behind the camera for all six episodes of the season. This was quite the coup for the show and interest intensified massively.

As the hype machine gathered more momentum, we finally started to learn more about the show’s storyline. It was revealed that Schneider would play Mike Painter, a child psychologist who returns to his childhood hometown of Iron Hill to investigate the mysterious disappearance of several children back in the 1980s, including his twin brother, Eddie (with child actor Luca Villacis portraying both of the young Painter boys). He has reason to believe that these unsolved crimes could be related to a mysterious and creepy children’s television show, the titular Candle Cove, but his return to the town kickstarts a new and terrifying chain of events. Aided by his reluctant mother, Marla (Shaw) and childhood sweetheart Jessica (Natalie Brown), Mike must solve the mystery before a new generation of children succumb to the evil that devastated his life 30 years ago.

Of course, using a well-known short story for inspiration is one thing — using it well is quite another. What works in literature does not always translate as well to the screen, while stretching a few hundred words to fill six hours of screen time is obviously a huge challenge. Luckily, it was one in which Macneill, Antosca, Landis and their crew were more than up to the task.

What he did was use the Candle Cove story as a jumping on point for a massively expanded tale which took in a large cast of characters and an even richer mythology. Yes, Kris Straub’s fictional nightmarish children’s show is present and depicted very faithfully indeed, but some of the show’s most chilling creations (such as the deeply disturbing Tooth Child) are brand new, original creations for Antosca’s story. The show gives Candle Cove’s fans everything they want, but it also gives the viewer new, compelling characters and situations optimised for visual storytelling.

Finally the show debuted on 11 October and, over the following five weeks it told a deeply compelling and legitimately unsettling story that won plenty of fans. Proving a resounding success with critics (the show boasts a solid 75/100 rating at Metacritic — http://www.metacritic.com/tv/channel-zero — and a whopping 92% at Rotten Tomatoes — https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/channel_zero/s01/ ) and with much buzz already surrounding a second season which is still nearly a full year away, Channel Zero proves what Creepypasta fans have known for years — the next wave of classic horror fiction is already here, just waiting to be discovered in the darkest recesses of the internet.

Of course, the show would never have proven such a triumph in the hands of a less talented show-runner, and it is for precisely this reason that we all owe Nick Antosca a debt of gratitude.

So what is next for Nick and his groundbreaking creation? Well, I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with him about Channel Zero and it gives me tremendous pleasure to present our interview below.

UK HORROR SCENE: Hi Nick, and thank you so much for agreeing to speak to UK Horror Scene about Channel Zero. First, why creepypasta? Translating bite-sized literature into serialised visual media isn’t the most obvious of steps, so what inspired you to do so?

NICK ANTOSCA: Great ideas can come from anywhere. Candle Cove was such an exciting story to adapt, and I just thought why not do more? I love that the best of these stories are a strong, terrifying concept that you can build on. They leave room for creativity.

UKHS: Why do you think Creepypasta has resonated so well with the fandom?

NA: There’s something about the “true story” quality of the best ones. Great creepypasta stories tend to capture a feeling of familiarity. You feel like they’re describing something that happened to a friend of yours one time.

UKHS: How did it feel to see the tremendous reception that Channel Zero received from critics and viewers alike? Why do you think it was so well-received by audiences?

NA: You don’t necessarily get a lot of chances to make a TV show, so I feel like if you get to do it, make sure it’s something you’d want to do watch and that you’ll be proud of later. Craig and I were really just trying to make the kind of horror we wanted to watch. So it was really gratifying that viewers and critics seemed to respond to it.

cz1UKHS: The choices of creepypasta of the first two seasons of the show suggest that the Channel Zero team are fans of the genre. It would have been easy to adapt more well-known and ‘trendy’ stories such as Slenderman, Jeff the Killer or the Rake, but instead with Candle Cove and NoEnd House, you’ve picked stories with serious fan cred. Are you guys pasta fans? If so, what are some of your favourites?

NA: Of course we’re fans!  Some other favorites (and this does not mean we’ll necessarily adapt any of these if we get another season, just that I personally like these stories) are Goatman, Search and Rescue Woods (aka “the staircase one”), Abandoned by Disney, Ted the Caver, and Psychosis.

UKHS: Why did you pick Candle Cove? And why NoEnd House?

NA: Those two stories are perfect examples of the kind of story we want to adapt — distinctive, iconic concepts that we can build worlds around. A mysterious kids’ TV show.  A sinister horror house. Plus a great sense of atmosphere and dread.

UKHS: What challenges came with adapting such well-loved stories?

NA: It was important to preserve the sense of eerie dread that’s baked into the stories.  We wanted to build worlds and mythologies out of these very short stories, but we had to make sure the spirit of the originals didn’t get lost. It’s easy to do jump scares but it’s harder to create six hours of slow-building nightmare.

UKHS: One of the first season’s biggest strengths was the manner in which you faithfully adapted a relatively small-scale story but built on this mythos to tell a bigger, yet more personal story. Is this the route you plan to go with subsequent seasons, taking a strong core premise and giving it your own unique spin?

NA: Yes, that’s a good way of putting it. That’s pretty much exactly what I hope to do.  Each season will have a different visual style and cinematic voice, though.

UKHS: I was fortunate enough to interview Kris Straub earlier this year and he was very excited about your vision for Candle Cove. What was it like working with him? And how were things with NoEnd House’s Brian Russell?

NA: I love Kris’s story and I’m really glad he’s into the show. I sent him the pilot script to approve before we got greenlit and we kept in touch throughout, but the actual writing process was pretty separate. Brian is actually working on The Exorcist on Fox right now, so we had lunch early in the NEH process and he’s read the first couple scripts.  Both writers are awesome and I’m grateful to them for letting us create elaborate fanfiction based on their stories.

UKHS: Channel Zero has assembled a tremendous cast for both seasons. How important was it to find the right actors rather than ‘flavour of the month’ names? Can we expect to see you work with any of the season one cast again?

NA: I can’t overstate the importance. Cast distinguishes something like this.  One of the advantages of being kind of an under-the-radar, low profile show when we were in production is that we were able to go after actors based purely on talent, rather than the casting department’s idea of a “get” or someone with a big social media following.

UKHS: While I understand that from a contract standpoint it’s very difficult to discuss future plans for Channel Zero, do you feel at liberty to tell us any more about plans you might have for the show? Are there any stories you’d be keen to cover in future seasons?

NA: I know what story I want to do if we get a third season. I can’t say what it is yet, though.

cznick-antosca-200x200

Nick Antosca

UKHS: And finally, something a little more fun here, I’ve seen some wonderful examples of fan art on the web (including some awesome Toothchild images). Are there any pieces of art that have impressed you or the Channel Zero cast and crew?

NA: Fan art? Yeah, I’m impressed whenever anyone creates Channel Zero fan art, for sure.  I like everything I’ve seen!

If you want to find out more about Nick, Channel Zero and his other upcoming projects, be sure to follow him over at twitter: @NickAntosca

With touted movie adaptations of multiple Creepypasta properties, plus the second season of Channel Zero and Machinima’s proposed series of short films, Clive Barker’s Creepy Pasta on the way, now, more than ever, is an exciting fan to be a creepypasta fan.

Come back next time when I’ll sit down to talk to another of the genre’s most prestigious, recognised and lauded authors over his substantial body of work within the community.

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 32: Sonic.Exe

creepypastaDARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA – PART 32: SONIC.EXE

I’d actually planned to cover a different Creepypasta for Dark Web this week, but when I secured an interview with the creator of one of the most infamous pastas of all time, I knew I couldn’t pass it up.

Long-term readers of this series will be familiar with the various videogame pastas that have found an audience with the fandom. One of my earliest Dark Web features covered Jadusable’s phenomenal BEN Drowned, which is still chilling readers to this very day. Of course, the posting of the Majora’s Mask pasta to 4chan in 2010 prompted a flurry of game pastas. One of the most influential of these is undoubtedly JC-The-Hyena’s Sonic.exe, which was originally posted at the Creepypasta Wiki on 9 August 2011.

You can read the full story over at: http://trollpasta.wikia.com/wiki/Sonic.exe?page=8

sonic-exe-titleFor those of you who haven’t read the story, it is about a young Sonic the Hedgehog fan who receives a mysterious CD-R disc which contains a supposedly hacked version of a Sonic game. It also contains a hastily scrawled and desperate sounding message from his best-friend, Kyle, who pleads with the protagonist to destroy the disc. Needless to say, the narrator foolishly ignores this request and instead opts to play the bootleg game.

He immediately notices that the game is darker and more menacing, featuring a nightmarish image of the title character with bleeding, black eyes and red pupils, flashing a horrifying smile, against a sea of hyper-realistic blood. The game itself continues with this unsettling tone, featuring a number of disturbing sounds and visuals. In it, Sonic’s loveable sidekick Tails finds himself relentlessly pursued by the diabolical alternate Sonic. When the monstrous character catches Tails (complete with a distorted screeching sound), the game starts to communicate directly with the player, warning him that he is ‘too slow’. As the game goes on these messages become even scarier, talking about souls and directly naming Kyle and even our protagonist.

As the horrifying images and messages escalate in intensity, the game and the title are revealed to have a very real influence in the world beyond the computer screen…

It’s an interesting pasta and, while the prose can be a little amateur at times and some of the character decisions are decidedly patchy (choosing to continue to play the game after some truly frightening events occur seems a tad unrealistic), it’s imaginative and manages to evoke some genuinely unsettling imagery. As such, it proved immensely popular and soon spread throughout the web, including DeviantArt and other Creepypasta sites. In fact, a search of DeviantArt this week for work with the Sonic.exe tag yields more than 10,000 results!

In fact, the pasta was such a popular title that, in August the following year, Gamejolt user MY5TCrimson (AKA Crimson the Bat) actually released a playable version of the game: http://gamejolt.com/games/sonic-exe-the-game/16239 . It’s a truly astonishing piece of work that remains HUGELY faithful to the source material and, somehow, actually makes Sega’s mascot pretty creepy.

sonic_exe_by_pyc

sonic_exe_by_pyc

Shortly after the game was released, JC-The-Hyena returned to his creation and elaborated on what exactly the titular entity was with a post to his FurAffinity page The truth about Sonic.exe (http://www.furaffinity.net/journal/3947977/). Posted on 21 October 2012, the text explains that Sonic.exe is actually a formless entity composed of dark matter that adopted the guise of a demonic Sonic. It doesn’t truly exist in our reality, but the game acts as a bridge, allowing it to influence anybody with darkness in their heart. With this post it soon became clear that the author had plans for the character and its surrounding mythos.

In November of that same year the original pasta was also read by the always popular Mr Creepypasta over at his YouTube Channel. You can find part one here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qxYzu7X0ec and part two here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bl_WZks4TWU . Mr Creepypasta has an exceptional YouTube following and his reading has been viewed more than 400,000 times.

Rapidly gathering momentum as it spread through the Creepypasta community, the game (and pasta) received a real surge in popularity when well-known YouTuber PewDiePie posted a Let’s Play walkthrough video to his channel on 5 May 2013, itself viewed nearly 9,000,000 times. (You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36smb94HGNo). This is an astonishing figure and demonstrates the formidable popularity of both the pasta and PewDiePie himself.

It was in that same year that JC-The-Hyena finally followed up on his original pasta with the official sequel, Round 2: The Sonic.exe Sequel. You can read the story here: http://sonic-exe-stories.deviantart.com/art/Round-2-the-Sonic-exe-Sequel-629625508

In this narrative the author expands on the story significantly, introducing an ongoing police investigation into a series of crimes dubbed ‘The Sonic.exe Murders’. Told from the point of view of a detective investigating the crimes, it also introduces the sinister Cult of X, a deranged group of individuals who worship Exe, plus looks more closely at the monster’s influence. This includes a reference to seven mysterious guardians in Exe’s realm and a human agent for Exe, one Shannon Goldman, his most devout follower. It’s certainly an ambitious piece and really hints that there is much much more of the Exe tail to come from JC-The-Hyena. Again, there are a couple of rough patches of prose, but it’s a fun read and had many readers eagerly anticipating the next chapter in the saga.

However, even as the pasta was finding new readers (and fans), JC-The-Hyena suffered a blow when, on 14 January 2014, the administrators over at the Creepypasta Wiki deleted the original post due to ‘quality standards’, claiming that it was “badly written” and “had too many cliches” and “was a bad example of what should be a creepypasta”.
This caused JC-The-Hyena some considerable upset, and he wrote a lengthy response to the news (http://archive.is/QmP5q#selection-351.120-351.218) in which he berated the Wiki’s admins for their decision and encouraged fans of his pasta to rally behind it. Sadly his efforts were for nought and the pasta remains on the trollpasta wiki, a site on which poor or deliberately sub-standard web horror stories are posted.

Be this as it may, Sonic.exe remains one of the most well-known and popular video game pastas, all thanks to the creative efforts of one person — JC-The-Hyena.

JC was kind enough to agree to speak with UK Horror Scene about his story and to answer my questions about the pasta. The full interview follows below.

UK HORROR SCENE: Thank you for talking to me. The most obvious question first – what served as your inspiration for the story?

JC-THE-HYENA: Well, I guess what inspired me to make Sonic.exe would be how I saw everyone else’s Creepypastas. They were all really good and really, well, creepy, to say the least, and I felt I should try my hand at making my own Creepypasta. It wasn’t really easy honestly.

It started out as a simple edited PNG image of the title screen from the first Sonic the Hedgehog game. But then I decided to take it a step further. I then wanted to try turning it into a .avi file, but I decided .exe was a better idea.
I know I was being a little unoriginal with the pasta — the hyper-realistic blood, the Sega 666 bit, and all that. But you gotta understand where I was coming from. This was my first creepypasta so I was kinda learning. I wanted to make something different. And when I made the story, I made the titular monster something that had no explanation on exactly what he is or where exactly he came from.

When the story became a hit, I decided to flesh him out and TRY to add some background to him. I actually never expected how popular my story became when I posted it, though I also never expected how many people would come to dislike it, Sonic.exe is pretty much split down the middle in the internet but I’m not COMPLETELY complaining about that, I’m just glad I’m getting some recognition for trying something out. XD

UKHS: In your own words, can you tell my readers about the story of Sonic.exe

JCTH: The story of Sonic.exe is a little hard to explain without like, trying to explain plot of the Creepypasta itself.
Basically this guy gets this game disc in the mail, he plays it, turns out it’s cursed, and that the monster haunting it is something mankind has never seen before. And in the sequel it turns out that this monster has a whole religion behind him and the cult that worships the monster is trying to help him take over the world, and this disgruntled detective explains, in his diary, that he’s coming close to cracking the conspiracy before the story ends with him becoming another one of the monster’s many many slaves.

That’s pretty much the whole gist of Sonic.exe rly. As for WHAT he is, I can tell you this. He’s not Satan. He’s not God (even though he says he is.), he’s actually this extra-dimensional being that can bend reality to his will… and is coincidentally a passionate fanboy for Sonic the Hedgehog. XDDD

sonic_exe_by_shadowninja

sonic_exe_by_shadowninja

UKHS: Why do you think Sonic.exe has resonated with readers?

JCTH: Well, for the reason why Sonic.exe is split down the middle, the answer is kinda obvious; It’s the internet, there’s always gonna be a buncha people that like something, and there’s gonna be a buncha people that don’t like something. That’s kinda how it works.

But as for how it affected readers. I think it’s one of two things: first is the idea of Sonic being this sadistic, all-powerful monster being quite the face-heel turn surprise for Sonic fans. Like, I remember watching reaction videos and let’s plays of people playing the fan game and them actually saying that Sonic would never do this or he wouldn’t do that. It always cracked me up. XD

As for reason two, it’s the common fear of the unknown. Sonic.exe (or “X” as I call him) is literally a creature that nobody has any idea on what he is or where he came from. And he has all this power to do whatever he wants and what he wants to do is torment and enslave humanity for his own sick amusement.
Try to imagine that in a real world perspective. It’s a pretty scary thought when you actually think about it right?

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

JCTH: I guess I was always into the works of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft, their works on supernatural entities much larger and much more outside our understanding of the universe for the most part helped with the creation and fleshing out of the creature that is named “X”.

X is this nameless alien monstrosity in the form of everyone’s favorite blue blur, and he gets off on using his dimensional powers to torment his human slaves to the point of insanity. I personally think he and Pennywise should hang out together. XD

UKHS: Are you a fan of Creepypasta? If so what is your favourite Creepypasta by an author other than yourself?

JCTH: Yeah, I’m still a fan. I like many of the other Creepypastas that are still around today: Abandoned by Disney, Smile.Dog, BEN Drowned, Squidward’s Suicide (That one was the first Creepypasta I ever read), but if I hafta choose a number 1 favorite, iiiiiit’d be Suicidemouse.avi.

UKHS: Why do you think Creepypasta is so popular with the fandom?

JCTH: Well, alotta reasons actually, the first two being the ones I mentioned earlier, but other reasons I think it’s cuz the fans like seeing Sonic as a darker more edgier version of himself, you know like the Werehog or Dark Sonic from Sonic X.

Dark Sonic also kinda helped with the inspiration of Sonic.exe but not completely. I guess you could say I took the dark and edgy factor and tried cranking it up to 11. XD I like to think I succeeded. Other reasons I think for SOME fans that like Sonic.exe is how attractive he looks as a character. I think it’s his smile that wins them over in all honesty but I’m still debating.

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?

JCTH: Yeah, alotta fans have impressed me with some of their work. The Sonic.exe fan game and all it’s versions by Crimson the bat, all the “.Exe” Fan characters, even the Sunky.mpeg parody game (http://gamejolt.com/games/sunky-mpeg/78243) got several laughs out of me. XD

I’ve even allowed some fans to try their hand on making their own version of the Sonic.exe story, y’know, just to see what they can do.

UKHS: I feel the story has been 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?

JCTH: Ehh, I’m not exactly happy with some people hating on Sonic.exe, but I TRY to keep a positive outlook on it. I mean everyone’s entitled to their opinions. I don’t even really look at the comments as HATE comments per se, they’re really more or less just criticism and opinions. I just read them, consider what they say and then move on.

Though if anybody’s being critical and is only doing so cuz they wanna help me in improving Sonic.exe, I’ll take it. After all Sonic.exe WAS my first story, I was still learning. I guess you could say I’m still learning now. As for the fans that support me, yes they’ve been vocal about their help and support, and I deeply value their concern for me.

Sonic-J.C.avatar.

Sonic-J.C.avatar.

UKHS: You were very outspoken about your disappointment at the decision of the mods at the Creepypasta wiki to delete Sonic.exe from the site. What happened there? How is your relationship with the Creepypasta Wikia team now?

JCTH: Yeeeeah, not gonna lie, my little outburst on the Admins deleting my Creepypasta off their wiki was quite stand-offish. I wasn’t in the best kinda moods that day and I deeply apologize for ever doing it. It wasn’t the smart way to go about with the situation and I wish I handled the news more carefully.

Though I still stand firm that the admins were being a little unreasonable about deleting it. I mean let’s not kid ourselves, originality doesn’t exactly EXIST in the internet nowadays. XD;

However, ONE admin who’s still a fan of my story and is still a good friend of mine backed me up during the feud… though she had to quit being an Admin when she saw how stubborn the others were being. And I respect her very much for sticking up for me. Furbearingbrick, if yer still out there on the Net: Thanx for helping me out when Exe got deleted. You’re an awesome friend. X3

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 the Sonic.exe story in the future?

JCTH: Well, I made one other story. It’s called the Horror of Montyburg (you can read it here: http://someordinarygamers.wikia.com/wiki/The_Horror_of_Montyburg), and I kinda based it off of The Blair Witch Project.

You can see the appeal, guy in Mississippi gets burned for witchcraft long time ago, comes back in modern time as a goat-headed demon that kidnaps people and uses their body parts to make crude voodoo dolls designed to resemble the people he’s killed. It’s a neat story told like a campfire tale, I think it’s still somewhere on the internet but I don’t remember.

As for Sonic.exe I DO hope to add more to the universe of the story, get more sequels in, or maybe do a remake. Haven’t really decided. But I can promise you this, I’m still gonna be doing stuff with Sonic.exe for a really long time.

UKHS: And finally, where is the best place for my readers to check out your work?

JCTH: Well, if you ever want to check out more of my work, go on either Furaffinity.net or Deviantart.com, my fans have posted both the original Sonic.exe story and it’s sequel in both, so you don’t gotta worry about finding either one. However, if you ever want me to write or draw something for you, I do art commissions. If you wanna contact me about a purchase, my Furaffinity is JC-the-Hyena and my Skype is sirjc231.

What JC-The-Hyena and Sonic.exe show is that, even if the more traditional sources of Creepypasta don’t appreciate your work, there are still plenty of places on the worldwide web on which it is possible to post and share your output with a similar, like-minded community.

Come back next time when I’ll be covering another pasta which found a home at DeviantArt.

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 31: Jeff The Killer 2015

creepypastaDARK 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.

Hmmmm…

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.

jtk2015-k-banning-kellumThe 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.

jtk2015-1UKHS: 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.

jtk2015-2UKHS: 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.

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 29: I Was Not A Bad Kid

wbkg1DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA – PART 29: I WAS NOT A BAD KID

There are few things as legitimately horrifying as the mistreatment of children. As normal, well-adjusted people we are hard-wired to want to protect the most defenceless, vulnerable members of society. That there are monsters out there who might prey on youngsters is truly disturbing, so it’s probably no surprise to hear that a number of Creepypasta stories deal with precisely this subject matter.

Back in March I covered two of the most infamous of these — 1999 and Where Bad Kids Go. These not only address the abuse of children, but they also feature that always popular Pasta trope ‘the sinister TV show’.

1999 is the more well-known of the two and dates back to 2011 when author Giant Engineer posted the story to the Creepypasta Wikia (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/1999). It’s the story of a young man named Elliot who, through a series of blog posts, recounts his experiences with a strange TV station, Caledon Local 21, and the shows that it screened including the now infamous Mr Bear’s Cellar.

Where Bad Kids Go is a much shorter pasta about an old Lebanese children’s show that served as a serious warning against misbehaviour. The exact origin of this story remains unknown, but you can read it here: http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Where_Bad_Kids_Go

So why am I mentioning them both now?

Well, one of the greatest things about Creepypasta is that it is created for the fans, by the fans. Plagiarism is frowned upon, sure, but the fact is that, for the most part, these stories are given to the community to evolve and adapt as they see fit. ‘Unauthorised’ sequels and spin-offs are common place… but (aside from the obvious and often creatively bankrupt ‘versus’ stories) it’s quite rare to see a writer attempt to merge two separate pastas.

It was this that Redditor Nico Wonderdust recently achieved with the story I Was Not A Bad Kid.
Posted to that bastion of quality spooky stories, r/creepypasta on 4 August, (http://creepypastatoo.wikia.com/wiki/I_Was_Not_A_Bad_Kid) Nico’s story brings together 1999 and Where Bad Kids Go with haunting results.

I don’t want to spoil the plot here, but suffice it to say that the story opens in 1985 in Lebanon when our narrator was just a child and details a terrifying ordeal that he experiences at the hands of a family friend. Lucky to escape with his life, years later he moves to Canada… where his own young son makes a chilling discovery.

I Was Not A Bad Kid isn’t the greatest Creepypasta I’ve ever read, but it is very, very good. When you consider that this is the author’s very first pasta, it’s quite astonishing. The real thing that stands out for me with this story is the seamless manner in which Nico Wonderdust blends two separate, established mythos. It’s a perfect example of what I often call the fluid nature of creepypastas — always changing and evolving as they are adapted and spread by the same fans who consume them. Not only is he an author of Creepypasta, Nico Wonderdust is clearly a fan of web horror as well.

It takes a lot of care and attention, not to mention bravery, to adapt a well-loved property (something film-maker Adam Wingard recently discovered with his sequel Blair Witch), and it is very, very difficult to get it right. I Was Not A Bad Kid is a fine example of how good the result can be when it does. Nico Wonderdust was kind enough to take some time to speak with UK Horror Scene about his story and the creative process through which he created it.

UK HORROR SCENE: Hi Nico, thanks so much for talking to us. In your own words, tell us a little about I Was Not A Bad Kid?

NICO WONDERDUST: I Was Not A Bad Kid is a story joining two otherwise unrelated CreepyPasta that, in my opinion, work really well together if you use a little imagination and do a bit of research. The story revolves around a child (who I mistakenly didn’t give a name) who stays over at their friend’s house and is kidnapped by Mr Bear, then taken to the building from Where Bad Kids Go, in the end he manages to escape from the building, move to Canada, then start a family. Later his son sees Mr Bear on TV, which is where the story ends.

I get asked a lot of questions from readers regarding the story, about things that I thought were obvious, but maybe they’re only obvious to me as I wrote the story and fully understood the idea behind it and what’s really going on the whole time. I’d like to take this opportunity to clear a few things up based on questions I have been asked. Anthony’s father is Mr Bear, this is how the main character was kidnapped so easily, Anthony had also been subjected to the same kind of treatment as the rest of the “bad kids”, however, being Mr Bear’s only son, and the only child who was successfully brainwashed, Anthony was released, he does occasionally slip up, like at the dinner table, but soon “falls in line” with a slight push in the right direction from his father.

When the building was burnt down, this is when Anthony’s father moved to Canada and set up a TV station. Shortly after this is when the unknown person broke into the room when the main character was kept prisoner — this unknown person is actually the journalist from Where Bad Kids Go. The last line of my story is a direct quote from the original 1999 story.

UKHS: What served as your inspiration for the story?

NW: The two original stories themselves were what inspired me to write this story, I’d always wanted to write CreepyPastas but I never knew where to start or what to write about, until I got the idea of somehow tying together two otherwise unrelated CreepyPasta. Believe it or not, this is actually the first CreepyPasta I’ve ever written.

wbkg2UKHS: Why did you choose to tackle not just one but two of the most popular Creepypastas?

NW: It wasn’t so much about taking on two popular CreepyPastas, but just joining together two CreepyPastas which I felt worked together. If I could find a way to make it work, I could have joined together two CreepyPastas such as Desmond’s Journal and I Met Robin Hood, but that wouldn’t have worked. I felt this did work though, because both of the stories revolve around TV shows aimed at children, from there I did a little research and found the timeline worked very well.

In Where Bad Kids Go the main character talks about “The Big War” ending, which I found to be The Lebanon War, which ended in June 1985, this is when my story starts, just before the end of the war. From then on, my story crosses over with this one, gave 14 years for my character to move to Canada, grow up, start a family and then I Was Not A Bad Kid crosses over with 1999.

UKHS: Were you at all nervous tackling two such beloved pastas?

NW: Sure I was nervous, partly because I was taking on two huge stories that are already well established within the community and I didn’t know how people would feel about me taking what they already know and changing it. I didn’t want them to think I was doing this just to use big named stories in my story. I wrote this purely for the idea behind it, the coming together of two stories that people wouldn’t usually associate with each other, aside from them both containing a TV show. But I was also really nervous because, as I said before, this is the first time I’d written a CreepyPasta, it would have been the first story I’d ever written had I not done the “Escape From Kraznir” assignment in my first year of high school.

I don’t remember much about the assignment other than having to write three parts, each part was set on one day. There was a three-headed dragon-type thing I believe was called a Margatroth, maybe, and the teacher pulled me up about my writing ability, which was literally something along the lines of: “They were stuck on top of a high pillar, a dragon flying around them, and at the bottom of a 100-foot drop was a lake of lava, but one of them had a magic ring and teleported them all to safety”

My teacher wasn’t impressed, and rightly so, I could have written out an epic battle, a near-death scene, I could have done a lot with that kind of situation but I opted for a magic ring? I was so unimaginative at 11 years old!

UKHS: You say you don’t mind talking about Creepypasta? Would you say you’re a fan? If so, what is your favourite Creepypasta by a creator other than yourself?

NW: No, I don’t mind talking about CreepyPasta at all, I could literally sit and talk all day, or night, given that it’s currently 2:14am right now! Yes definitely, I’m a huge fan of CreepyPasta! Now this is a really difficult question, I couldn’t really say which single CreepyPasta is my favourite as there are so many amazing ones out there, but I do have a couple that spring to mind right now.

Dear Abby is one of my favourites not for how well-written it is or anything like that, but this is the first CreepyPasta I ever read. I was streaming on YouNow and was asked to read a CreepyPasta for about the 100th time that week, so I gave in and the user suggested Dear Abby. I started reading and I was so freaked out by the way the letters develop I actually stopped reading mid-stream.

The Russian Sleep Experiment really got me too and I was one of the many people who thought it was a really experiment! I also love a lot of Slimebeast’s work, aside from the obvious, Abandoned by Disney, I really love Afterpeople”and Denialist, Slimebeast is a genius and his stories are so clever and so well-written.

When God Blinks is another new favourite, I thought that was a really clever idea and that got me really thinking.
I also love Waking Up, The Black Pill, Absolute Hell, anything about afterlife experiences gets my heart racing! The Fairdale Kids Stay Inside was great too. There’s far too many to name.

Then there’re less known CreepyPastas such as Desmond’s Journal, I Met Robin Hood and Johnny Really Goes Missing… I’m going to have to stop there, I could go on all night.

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

NW: I believe it’s all about love. I believe that for readers, myself included, that love is for the feeling of being lost in a story that really plays with your mind, whether that’s to put the fear of God into you, trip you out or make you think “this could be real”. For writers, I believe it’s the love of writing and the love of causing those feelings for the readers or making them really think.

Because of how passionate the people who read or write CreepyPasta are it has a snowball effect and other people find themselves getting pulled in too, only to share stories, or become a writer themselves and before you know it their friends get pulled in too. At least, that’s what I believe.

UKHS: What do you think the appeal of 1999 is to fans?

NW: I personally think that the story is so well-written and is so realistic that many people have fallen in love with this story. I mean, it’s not very difficult at all to set up a home studio to broadcast on the old analog channels that are no longer used, all you need is the internet and to know what to look for. 1999 is a very simple story, written to the highest of standards and the fact that Giant Engineer took on the role of the character, frequently updating the original story, adding new parts such as messages from Mr Bear since his escape played a big part.

UKHS: And what do you think is the appeal of Where Bad Kids Go?

NW: See now this one is harder to answer, for me personally. I think it still contains some aspects of realism — a lot of messed up TV shows were made in the Seventies and Eighties — and a lot of these TV shows make it into CreepyPastas, such as Candle Cove, so why not this one? I think that any CreepyPasta about a messed up TV show, over time, will do well and appeal to the community.

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

NW: Other than CreepyPasta, I don’t actually read various stories by individual authors very much. I love a lot of Stephen King and personally have a couple of his books, Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole stories (well, diaries) were absolutely amazing too. Other than that, I mainly read CreepyPasta. I absolutely love Slimebeast, C.K. Walker’s wrote many great stories, and CreepsMcPasta has written a number of really good stories too. I’m also a huge fan of writers who are not so well known, such as WanderingRiverdog, Pokerf1st and Huck Shuck.

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

NW: With this being my first CreepyPasta, and seemingly being well received by approximately 90+ percent of people who have read it, I’m very proud of this story. But there’s one other thing, that since starting writing (and relating to) CreepyPasta that I’m very proud of, and that’s a Wiki I set up about a month ago.

The idea behind it is that any writer, no matter how small or how well-known, can come along and post whatever stories they wish, without ridiculously high expectations and unrealistic requirements (at least for new writers). On a certain website, they don’t allow you to write spin-offs, your posts will be deleted because of errors, the staff put writers down — it’s just awful. How is a new writer supposed to flourish with that kind of treatment?

So I set up a Wiki where these writers can post whatever they like, and I have some great moderators who are there to help these writers develop their skills and potentially become amazing at something they love! We also have narrators in our team who are looking for original stories to read instead of the same stories as every other narrator, and because of this, the community just works so well.

We’re currently a very small community, but we’re a community of like-minded people with a passion for CreepyPasta, we’re there to help each other grow and to support each other, we work together as a team and welcome newcomers with open arms, and that is what I’m most proud of.

UKHS: The fans are very passionate about these stories. Are than any examples of fan art for either story that really impresses you?

NW: To be totally honest, I haven’t really seen that much fan art of either story, a couple of cartoons of Mr Bear here and there, I believe I saw him with a gun once? I also saw a short movie of Where The Bad Kids Go, but personally preferred reading the story to seeing it acted out. If anybody’s made a genuinely good movie of 1999 I’d love to see that, however!

UKHS: Will you ever return to the story of I Was Not A Bad Kid in the future? And what else can your fans look forward to from you in the days ahead?

NW: Until you asked that question I actually never intended to return to the story, but after thinking about it, I do believe there are a couple of things could do with it, so who knows? It’s too early to tell just yet, but you’ve certainly planted the seed.

I am actually working on another story right now toying with the idea of alternate dimensions and I’ve got another couple of ideas I’ve been playing around with and making notes, so more stories are definitely on the cards. Aside from that, I’m working on the Wiki daily, getting in touch with new authors to ask permission to post their stories (and for our narrators to read them if they wish), adding help pages here and there and bringing in new writers and narrators.

In the future, I also plan on narrating my own stories too, but I’m going to need a decent amount of stories before that idea takes off.

UKHS: Would you consider adapting any other popular pastas?

NW: One of the ideas I’ve been playing around with recently involved Slenderman, but it would be difficult to write a really good Slenderman CreepyPasta with it being so overdone. I may try my hand at joining two other CreepyPasta at some point in the future too, I had fun writing I Was Not A Bad Kid and would like to do something similar again. I did also want to write The Russian Sleep Experiment 3 (Following CreepsMcPasta’s number 2) but at this minute in time I believe taking on something like that is way out of my league, and if I ever got round to it, there’s a chance it may have already been done by then.

wbkg3UKHS: Finally, are there any links to which you’d like me to send my readers to see more of your work?

NW: Any stories I post in the future will all be posted on my Wiki which is http://CreepyPastaToo.wikia.com and I encourage everyone of all writing abilities to come along and share their stories too!

And for those who want to keep updated on when I post a story, I’ll put out a message on Facebook and a Tweet via http://facebook.com/NicoWonderdust and @NicoWonderdust . As I said earlier, in the future I do want to narrate, so if anybody wants to hear that just search for “Nico Wonderdust” on Youtube from time to time.

It’s always good to see talented young writers such as Nico emerging in the Creepypasta community, it suggest that the genre is in good hands for the future.

However, next week I’ll be speaking to somebody who can be considered a veteran author as we discuss one of the greatest Creepypastas of all time.

It’s one you won’t want to miss.

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 28 The Rake Re-Visited

DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’s ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA
PART 28: THE RAKE REVISITED – AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH BRYAN SOMERVILLE

creepypastaThere are some truly unspeakable monsters in the Creepypasta universe. As terrifying as the human faces of evil such as Jeff the Killer are, it is the otherworldly creatures that have always best captured my attention. From the monstrous wheezing thing in Michael Whitehouse’s Bedtime to the ubiquitous Slender Man, it seems to me that some of Creepypasta’s greatest creations are its supernatural entities.

This week I’m going to return to one of the most notorious of these beasties — The Rake.

For those of you unfamiliar with The Rake, it is a fascinating example of creation by committee. Back toward the tail-end of 2005, an anonymous user posted a message to 4chan’s /b/ board that simply read: hey /b/ lets make a new monster.

From here lots of users put forward their own ideas about the most vile creatures they could imagine and, over time, some ideas started to stick. This led another user to start a new thread based on what was the most popular idea, with a post that read: Alright, this is for the people who like the three-eyes, no apparent mouth, pale skin one. Here’s what we’ve got so far: Humanoid, about six feet tall when standing, but usually crouches and walks on all fours. It has very pale skin. The face is blank. As in, no nose, no mouth. However, it has three solid green eyes, one in the middle of its forehead, and the other two on either side of its head, towards the back. Usually seen in front yards in suburban areas. Usually just watches the observer, but will stand up and attack if approached. When it attacks, a mouth opens up, as if a hinged skull that opens at the chin. Reveals many tiny, but dull teeth. This eventually became Operation Crawler, although that name was later discarded in favour of The Rake.

The creature has its genesis from dozens, if not hundreds of contributors, but arguably one of the most important of those was a backstory written on the personal Something Awful blog by Bryan Somerville. Taking the form of a number of historical accounts of encounters with the pale-skinned monster, it gave us an insight into a being’s terrible, mysterious motives.

You can read it at the Creepypasta Wiki here: http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/The_Rake

It’s a VERY strong story, and unlike the multiple (and often conflicting) origins that I’ve covered here for the likes of Jeff the Killer or Jane the Killer, this one seems to have been widely accepted as canon for the mysterious being. It’s probably the fact that the story is so well-written that has caused the fan community to embrace it, but from Somerville’s tale The Rake has become one of THE iconic creepypasta characters, appearing in hundreds of examples of fanart and even spin-off tales. The Rake is even included in the first issue of the recently successfully crowd-funded Creepypasta comic book, as written by prolific Pasta author Vincent Vena Cava and arguably the most highly regarded Creepypasta YouTube reader, Mr Creepypasta.

rake01But never forget that it was Somerville who truly breathed malevolent life in the diabolical frame first created by the users of 4Chan. For that, the Creepypasta community owes the very humble Somerville a debt of gratitude.

I’m delighted to say that Bryan agreed to speak with UK Horror Scene about his role in the creation of one of the web’s most popular monsters.

The interview follows below.

UK HORROR SCENE: Thank you for answering my questions. First, in your own words, tell us a little about the Rake?

BRYAN SOMERVILLE: The Rake is a human. He was born into a small exiled group forced from the community into the wilderness. As the small group rapidly collapsed, the remaining few were forced to eat the dead. During this period, he matured rapidly and eventually moved on as the only survivor. He is not immortal. I’d like to keep the mystery there, but there is a backstory that fills in the “why” and “how” of the character.

UKHS: What served as your inspiration for the story?

BS: A simple question – what would a wild animal that was as smart as a human be like? One who was chased away by scared people with torches and guns for hundreds of years, with no hint of humanity remaining. This is the kind of thing I think of while lying in bed, so naturally it evolved into a bit of a recurring nightmare.

UKHS: Are you a fan of Creepypasta? If so, what is your favourite Creepypasta by a creator other than yourself?

BS: Huge fan. One of the stories I’ll always remember was actually a photo essay about urban exploration. The author slipped small hints and silhouettes into the pictures and put together a story about a camera found in the woods while exploring an empty building. Another is the classic Ted the Caver story. So disturbing without ever explaining a single thing. I love the mystery up to and including the lack of an ending.

I don’t know who actually created these — and I’m sure I could find that out in a half second — but I don’t want to. I like that they just exist.

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

BS: Good Creepypasta is something you read and move on from, maybe even forget. Then one night when you’re alone, all the little bits in the back of your mind form some ridiculous, uncanny image and you can’t get it out. I suspect it’s the resonance that draws people in, and the little gaps you fill in with your own mind that connect it to things in your life.

UKHS: What do you think the appeal of the Rake is to fans?

BS: I honestly don’t know — I rarely show it to people directly, I prefer they just find it as-is somewhere so it comes with an air of legitimacy. But I do know that people remember the imagery of “something” sitting on the end of their bed, and coming toward them to whisper into their ear. It’s probably the lack of detail that allows people to make it their own. People scare themselves better than anyone else.

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

BS: My favorite author is Paul Auster, which I got into through the “New York Trilogy”. He has a sometimes weird way of describing the world, such that you don’t know if the narrator is joking, making fun of you, or just unreliable. It adds this feeling of being slightly lost, or slightly behind the story, which is the perfect atmosphere for a very strange crime drama.

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

BS: No answer. Most of my writing is short form horror or comedy, most of it absorbed by long-dead wordpress blogs or sites like MySpace. It’s really a stroke of luck The Rake survived, mainly because I posted it on one extra web site back in 2007, but then felt bad for self promoting, and never tried again.

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

BS: There’s a sketchy drawing that I have always liked. It’s not exactly what I imagined in my head, but it’s pretty close. I like that one a lot.
(http://vignette4.wikia.nocookie.net/theslenderman/images/b/b1/Rake01.jpg/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/250?cb=20110318235905)
There are also the fake camera pictures from what looks like one of those deer cameras people put up in the woods. I have always been a fan of the found footage style.
(http://vignette4.wikia.nocookie.net/creepypasta/images/0/04/The_Rake.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130731220054)
As far as readings, Chilling Tales for Dark Nights has done a few readings, and they have been really good. The guy who runs that channel reached out to me for permission, which is extremely rare, so I might be a bit biased.

UKHS: By the same token, are there any unauthorised attempts to cash in on the popularity of the character that have upset you?

BS: Yes, that has happened a lot. I didn’t even realize the story was “out there” until I came across it myself. My dad actually commented on a YouTube video and tagged me in it, saying basically “isn’t this yours?”. I always find them after the fact, and have never asked anyone to take anything down. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been upset about it. I would always prefer people approach me for permission of course, but in fairness, it’s not usually easy for people to figure out where exactly the story came from.

rake02UKHS: The Rake is appearing in the upcoming Creepypasta comic book by Vincent Vena Cava and Mr Creepypasta. Have you discussed the project much with them? Have you had much creative input? How was it working/speaking with them?

BS: Vincent and I have spoken several times. I have provided some basic input, although I am anxious to see what he comes up with. We still have some open communications so I won’t go too much further here.

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

BS: The Rake has a very long and detailed backstory that I’d like to explore. There is always the problem with revealing too much and ruining what makes it creepy, so I’m taking my time on it. I usually try to have an explanation that avoids supernatural explanations, which makes it creepier to me because it could exist in reality. However I don’t want to ruin what your mind added to the story, you know?

UKHS: Finally, are there any links to which you’d like me to send my readers to see more of your work?

BS: Actually, I’m not super happy with this story, but I just found it “anonymously” submitted on a creepypasta site — http://ghostsstory.com/Blog/26/the-woman-behind-the-door
I don’t even remember where I posted this one, probably MySpace or something many years ago. There are a few more out there, but they’re never credited to me (almost always “anonymous”) so I just occasionally run across them. I have something I’m kind of excited about but it’s not quite ready yet. 😉

UKHS: Thanks again for agreeing to speak with us

BS: Thanks!

The Rake is one of the most recognisable Creepypasta creations for one major reason — it taps into some of our worst fears and it’s incredibly well told.

Come back next time when I will write about another fantastic tale that revisits not one but two pastas that feature the very worst kind of human monster.

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta Part 27- Jane The Killer Re-Revisited

creepypastaDARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA

PART 27: JANE THE KILLER RE-REVISITED – AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH PASTASTALKER64

Last week’s Dark Web feature saw me return to the polarising Creepypasta creation of MrAngryDog (MAD), Jane the Killer AKA Jane Richardson.

Loved and loathed in equal measure by Pasta aficionados, Jane is among the most well-known Creepypasta icons and has garnered a lot of attention from the fanbase since MAD’s first post to DeviantArt back in 2012 (http://mrangrydog.deviantart.com/art/Jane-the-Killer-283722710), a post that has since come to be known as Jane’s Letter. However, there’s still some debate as to WHICH Jane is these fans’ favourite.

You see, Jane Richardson is not the only Jane the Killer out there. Shortly after Jane’s Letter hit the internet, another web user, PastaStalker64, posted her own story to the web, this one titled Jane the Killer: The Real Story.
You can read it over at the Jeff the Killer Wikia here: http://jtk.wikia.com/wiki/Jane_the_Killer:_The_Real_Story

deviant-art-by-tsnophaljakaraxUnlike MAD’s story, in which Jane is described simply as a relentless, remorseless enemy of Jeff with little explained motivation (until the author’s subsequent updates in which it is revealed that Ms Richardson was once a popular, normal girl in a happy relationship with her girlfriend Mary, Jeff slaughtered her family, prompting Jane to volunteer for a government experiment of a drug codenamed ‘Liquid Hate’ which gave Jane near superhuman strength and stamina, at the sacrifice or her mental stability), PastaStalker64’s Jane Arkensaw is revealed to have been a part of Jeff’s life since before that fateful day in which Jeff was left disfigured by bullies. The story weaves key plotpoints from the well-known Jeff origin tale into a fresh narrative about a seemingly normal and caring young girl.

However, soon Arkensaw’s proximity to the deranged Jeff sees her fall under his malevolent gaze. Jane is subjected to a terrifying ordeal, during which Jeff sets her alight, planning to burn her skin so she will become ‘beautiful, like him’. The story finishes after Jane wakes in hospital, having received a mask from Jeff as a part of their twisted ‘courtship’ — a mask which she dons before heading out into the night to hunt her nemesis under her new name: Jane Everlasting.

In my first Jane the Killer feature I admitted that of the two origin stories, I might actually prefer this one because it feels a more natural part of the Jeff the Killer mythos. Sure, there are definitely some clunky moments, but as a Creepypasta and (especially) as a spin-off, I think it’s actually a pretty successful attempt at storytelling. PastaStalker64 was just a teenager when she penned the story, and while some of her inexperience shines through at times, she shows tremendous potential as a fiction writer.

Despite this decent effort, some elements of the Creepypasta fan community were rather hard on PS64 for her story, especially those who felt she had plagiarised MrAngryDog. MAD himself was pretty put out and made contact with PastaStalker64. Luckily the pair were able to resolve the issue amicably, agreeing that both Jane Richardson and Jane Arkensaw would be different, separate entities operating within the larger Jeff the Killer Universe.
From here Jane has gone from strength to strength and, minor disagreements between pro-Richardson and pro-Arkensaw fans aside, PS64’s Everlasting has built a large following, at least if the number of examples of fanart on DeviantArt, YouTube and other sites are anything to go by.

The character is even a regular in stories by other authors, including numerous takes on Jeff vs Jane (some of which are actually pretty good).

But of course, whether you adore or abhor Jane Arkensaw AKA Everlasting, she could never have existed without that first story by PastaStalker64. For this, PS64 is well deserving of praise.

I reached out to PastaStalker64 to ask if she’d be prepared to answer some questions about her role in the creation of one of Creepypasta’s most iconic characters, and she kindly agreed. The interview follows below.

deviantart-by-claudyhe2UK HORROR SCENE: Hi and thanks so much for agreeing to answer my questions. The most obvious first — what served as your inspiration for the story?

PASTASTALKER64: Well some of the inspiration came from the original Jane the Killer, or rather the chaotic information surrounding her. I found out about her when I was about 14 years old, and didn’t really know how to traverse the Internet. So when I couldn’t find anything concrete enough for my liking  I thought, “Why not write my own backstory and spare others this headache?” The rest of the inspiration came from my own source of constant rage, and feelings of vengeance against someone who bullied me as a child. Then I just built up my Jane based on those feelings. Actually ever since I wrote Jane’s story my rage has ebbed considerably.

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

PS64: I don’t really keep track of the authors I read. But the ones that immediately spring to mind are Scott Lynch and Stephen Jay Gould.

UKHS: Are you a Creepypasta fan? If so what is your favourite Creepypasta by an author other than yourself?

PS64: I’m not that much of a creepypasta fan anymore, but I still admire the way the authors blur the line between fact and fiction so easily. My favourite is Mr. Widemouth. The writing style is nice, and it’s about a furby that tries to kill children, what’s not to like?

UKHS: Some Jane 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?

PS64: My favourite reading definitely has to be by YouTuber AmneFar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGMF1UmI_5s). She has the exact voice I imagined Jane would have and brings her to life perfectly.
There’s actually a small comic adaptation by AyameKuzomi on DeviantArt of the climax for Jane Everlasting’s story. (http://ayamekuzomi.deviantart.com/art/Jane-Everlasting-Comic-first-attempt-page-1-371755843).

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?

PS64: I’ve read a few of the negative comments, and some of them are true. The writing is a little unclear at times, and some plot points are unneeded, I’ll be the first to admit it. But most of the negative comments actually seem to come from MrAngryDog’s side of the fandom. It’s mostly just “the original Jane was better” or something along those lines, which is more annoying to me than anything.

I know there are also “fans” of my story that fling insults and non-constructive criticism of MrAngryDog’s story as well. Let it be known I do not support mud-slinging from either side of the fandom. Creepypasta fans are already in a dark enough light without infighting; I trust I don’t need to explain why. Criticism is fine, but you need evidence to back it up too. If you’re a fan of either story please think before you type. Discussions, not detriments.

Fans have definitely been vocal in defence of this alternative version of Jane, and I doubt she would still exist if it wasn’t for them. From outside the fandom it seems like things have calmed down and both sides of this fandom coexist peacefully.

UKHS: Mr AngryDog famously created the first version of Jane the Killer. He seemed a little upset at first over your version of Jane but 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 Mr AngryDog?

PS64: He actually contacted me a couple years after I wrote the story, probably expecting a fight of some kind. Instead I immediately apologized for plagiarizing his character, and we came to an agreement that both characters would exist separately as individual characters. We’ve only spoken the one time, but he seems to come across as a relatively level-headed individual.

deviantart-by-dorothygeorgeUKHS: Do you have any other Creepypasta creations either in the pipeline or already out there that you’d like to share with our audience?

PS64: I only posted the one story, but I have tried creating other stories. None of them were up to my standards, or just seemed like knock-offs of stories that had better execution than mine, so I never finished or posted them.

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

PS64: I have tried writing a sequel at least five times, with three different narrators, different settings, and I didn’t like a single one. I have a definite ending for Jane that I think fans would be satisfied with, but it’s the middle I have trouble with and really getting inside character’s heads (other than Jane). I might post a story sometime, but definitely not in the near future. I don’t think fans should expect much from me otherwise.

UKHS: Thank you for speaking with us.

With Jeff as popular as ever, it seems that his nemesis, Jane, won’t be going anywhere either. It’s great to talk to the creative minds behind some of our beloved genre’s biggest characters and stories, and for the next feature in this series I’ll be speaking with one of the creators of a creepypasta A-Lister.

You will know who He Is…

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 17: Penpal

DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA – PART 17: PENPAL

creepypastaOne of the key tools in creating unease that Creepypasta authors employ is subverting the innocence of childhood.
Whether it be creating monstrous warped reflections of familiar childhood memories (such as the multiple ‘Dark Disney’ creations I’ve covered in this series), addressing very real childhood concerns (such as bullying in the story of Jeff the Killer or last week’s Liars) or even the creation of new bogeymen (such as 1999’s Mr Bear and the faceless government officials who run the institute Where Bad Kids Go), childhood offers plenty of fuel for horror. While I’ve been vaguely familiar with the Creepypasta scene for some time, it was four years ago that I truly became a fan.
I praise a handful of masterfully written Creepypasta stories for inspiring this fandom (many of which have yet to appear in these features, so do stay tuned), but arguably the best of these was a series of Creepypasta stories published to the r/nosleep Reddit by user 1000Vultures. This series would later come to be known as PENPAL.

PenpalPosterIn March 2010 the story Footsteps was published to nosleep. You can read the post in full here: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/k8ktr/footsteps . It details a childhood memory of the author about a curious incident in which he woke up alone in nearby woodland. The story plays on the manner in which the gentle thump of your own heartbeat in your ears could easily be mistaken for footsteps. The story builds to a truly frightening conclusion.

The story was extremely well-received by the users of nosleep. 1000Vultures replied to the comments, remaining in character throughout (the first rule of nosleep is that everybody must treat each story as if it is a true account of events from the reader), and, spurred on by this positive feedback, decided to return to the story to answer any questions with a follow up post, Balloons.

Read the story here: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/kcl8q/balloons/
In this story, set prior to the events of Footsteps, the author talks about a school project in which the class each attached letters to helium balloons and released them, waiting for replies to come back from whoever discovers the balloon.

In this story we are introduced to the author’s best friend Josh, and soon discover that the recipient of our author’s letter may well have found its way to the wrong person. Equally popular with readers, Balloons was followed by Boxes (https://www.reddit.com/comments/kg0jf/boxes/); Maps (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/kl1cd/maps); and Screens (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/krdm0/screens/); before the story concluded in Friends (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/kyshm/friends/).

Each chapter introduces new elements to the tale, expanding the cast of characters to include elderly neighbours suffering with dementia, a love interest and people with a number of dark secrets. The subsequent entries escalate the intensity of the story’s horrors, and the whole thing is, to this day, ESSENTIAL reading for Creepypasta aficionados.

Penpal_cover_AuerbachThe story is an intricately assembled puzzle box, each segment coming out of chronological order but both setting the scene for future chapters and providing additional meaning and perspective to those that precede it. The beautifully crafted plotting on display is leaps and bounds above that of the vast majority of Creepypasta authors, while the use of language rivals that of any published writer.

It uses the hazy, dreamlike quality of childhood memories, plus the naivety that comes with youth to tell us a far darker story than the narrator originally realises. By using this technique, in which we understand the grimness of a tale far more than those characters within it, we are set in a position of uncomfortable tension, seeing the inevitable horrifying conclusion long before the other foot drops and the characters realise what they have stumbled into. It’s a technique used in horror films (a slip in an unseen puddle of liquid that later turns out to be blood, flies and an unpleasant smell, the now legendary lines: ‘Is this some kind of joke?’ or ‘Stop goofing around!’) and it works every bit as well in prose.

Which explains how and why the demand for this story saw it take that next logical step.

Buoyed by the positive feedback, 1000Vultures decided to combine the story into one long tale, rewriting it in places and expanding it, and to self publish the complete work under the title PENPAL. To this end, 1000Vultures, under his real name of Dathan Auerbach, launched a Kickstarter campaign on 2 April 2012, looking to raise $1500 to cover his publication costs (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1153987072/penpal/description).

He raised more than 10 times that amount.

The book is still available in print, and honestly, it’s one of the finest horror novels of the new millennium. I’ve bought a copy not just for myself, but as gifts for friends. You can order your own copy from Amazon here: http://amzn.to/1srnjWn  .  I THOROUGHLY recommend you do.

It’s hard to explain why PENPAL resonates so well with the reader. I think the most obvious strength that Auerbach’s story has is that rather than inspire straightforward fear, it engages us and gets us to respond to the characters on an emotional level. In a way, it’s a sentimental piece, the story one of realisation and of relationships torn apart. It is a deeply personal story and, by setting the events over the time in which the narrator transitions from childhood to adulthood, it accurately the reflects the melancholy of the time in our lives in which we bid farewell to innocence. It works because it’s good enough to make us care.

Obviously I’m not the only person to have spotted the quality in philosophy teacher Auerbach’s work — Academy Award winning producer Rich Middlemas (who scooped an Oscar for documentary Undefeated) optioned the film rights for PENPAL back in 2012 before the book was even on sale through Amazon.com. The film has yet to appear on the big screen, but developments are continuing. It’s a story that I genuinely believe will translate well to celluloid, so I await its arrival with baited breath.

penpalvultures_logo3Yet exciting as this news is, PENPAL would not exist were it not for one man, original author Dathan Auerbach.
Dathan’s work can be seen over at http://1000vultures.com and he was kind enough to speak with UK Horror Scene about his fantastic creation.

UK Horror Scene: Hi Dathan, thank you so much for agreeing to answer my questions. I’ll start with the most obvious one — what served as your inspiration for the story?

Dathan Auerbach: When it comes to the story itself, I guess there are two things.

1) I had dreams of being kidnapped when I was a kid. There were a bunch of different versions, but in almost all of them I was carried away while I cried for help and no one seemed to mind at all. For some reason, that left a pretty unshakable impression on me.

2) I went to sleep in my bed and woke up on my porch. My Mom will deny it to this day, but facts are facts, Mom. I think the most likely explanation was that she was trying to get rid of me, but she’s a small lady and couldn’t carry me all that far.

When it comes to posting the story: it was the r/nosleep forum on reddit. I’d read a bunch of stories – gobbled them up, really. I loved the premise: that everything was true even if it wasn’t. I wanted to give something back, to contribute to the community. I posted one story, people wanted to know more, so I kept going. That community inspired me with its work and then with its warm reception.

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

DA: I read lots of different stuff, I guess. I tend to gravitate toward people who find the menace the world as we know it. Whether it’s unapologetically terrestrial horror/suspense or supernatural stuff that’s allegorical. Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury do the latter really well. Dennis Lehane and Thomas Harris are great at the former.
Sometimes you just need something brutal and out there; Clive Barker and Stephen King and Lovecraft are great for that. I’ve been on a big Erik Larson kick lately. Obviously, there’s lots of other stuff. This question shouldn’t be so hard.

UKHS: Congratulations on the successful Kickstarter campaign that allowed you to publish PENPAL. What inspired you to do this? What were the biggest challenges with self-publishing?

DA: Thanks! It’s funny, but I was initially pretty averse to any kind of crowdfunding. The story (the six parts that eventually comprised PENPAL) were all on reddit for free. The book was an expansion on those stories, but I didn’t feel quite right charging for it before it was even out for sale.

It was actually at the behest of some of my readers that I began to seriously explore Kickstarter. I just wanted to raise enough money to cover the ISBN, art, and formatting costs. I had to bump the number up a bit to cover the costs of the extras I offered on the Kickstarter. I never thought I’d hit the goal; the fact that my fans flew past it as far as they did still blows my mind.

One of the biggest challenges was having pretty much complete control. There was never a point where I could turn something over and just be done with it. Don’t get me wrong, I had some really talented people taking care of things that were outside my skillset, but making executive decisions about cover art and layout was all new to me. It’s hard to know when something’s done, especially when it’s your first time doing it.

And that was probably the biggest challenge: finishing PENPAL – knowing/deciding when it was done. Trying to expand upon the existing material without taking it so far away that fans of the original stories would think I’d messed it up. I went back and forth on a lot of stuff. Finally, I just decided that this was something I was doing for myself and for however many fans would want to check it out. If they didn’t dig it, they’d always have the original stories to go back to. I found a middle ground I was comfortable with and let it loose.

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

DA: Feels crazy. The comment section of the original reddit post Footsteps was the crucible of the whole series. They were asking whether the police ever found anything. If anything more ever came of the events. I gave some short answers and then decided to write another story to give something a bit more substantive. It took off from there. After that, I had at least one (alleged) psychologist reach out to me and offer an ear if I felt I needed help. I got a lot of messages from people who didn’t know quite what to say. They’d congratulate me on a good story with the caveat that, if it was actually true, they meant no offense and offered me their condolences.

I still get emails to this day about it. I never say whether it’s true or not. To me, it’s not so much a testament to the quality of the writing (though thank you for saying so); I think it’s more to do with the environment where it was born.

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?

DA: To be honest, I’m impressed and enthralled by any fan-generated material. I wrote PENPAL to participate in something that I thought was great – r/nosleep. The fact that my contribution has inspired others to create things is moving, and I don’t say that lightly. The collector cards that shipped with my Kickstarter were done by a great artist named Carolyn Nowak; originally, she wanted to work on a comicbook adaptation with me, but it evolved into something different. A filmmaker named Brooks Reynolds reached out to me really early on to adapt Footsteps (https://vimeo.com/60045409). The camera-work is terrific, and it was so wild to see people acting out something that I had written. YouTuber MrCreepyPasta did an audio narration of my stories that turned out to be really fantastic (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEF956950B0367A0A).

My biggest hope was that a handful of people would read the stories; I never imagined that they would inspire people to create things of their own. Someone even reached out to me recently to show me a Super Mario Maker level she had made that (unbelievably) had elements of one of my stories in it. It’s really all pretty incredible.

UKHS: I see that a deal was signed to bring PENPAL to the big screen some time ago. Are you able to share any updates on that? Will you have a role in the adaptation?

DA: There’s really not much I can say here, other than I’m excited.

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

DA: The story of the narrator and his penpal is over, but that’s not to say that world is complete. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw it again. I’m almost done with a new book. It’s very similar to PENPAL in tone. I’m excited to get it out there and see what people think.

In my last feature I covered the dubious ground of Crappypasta, those attempts at Creepypasta that are dismissed by the vast majority of readers as amateurish, poorly structured and inadequately composed. There are plenty of stories that are quickly and easily cast aside under this banner.

So why do readers keep coming back?

Because nestled in among these stories are genuine works of astounding quality.

PENPAL is one of the very best.

Come back next week for an introduction to another.