A “creepypasta” is a horror story that’s been added to, copied, and pasted across online platforms by multiple users. Essentially, they’re digitized oral histories, shared organically by independent users online. Like urban legends, they often change between versions, and it’s hard to nail down which one was first.
Channel Zero, a dramatic series on Syfy, adapts creepypastas into extended narratives, choosing from the many versions of each story that appear online. The first six episodes of the series focus on “Candle Cove”, and the rest of season one will focus on “The No-End House.” While both stories are inarguably chilling, we’re going to omit them from this list in the interest of digging deeper. Which creepypastas are worth your time, despite not having TV adaptations in the works? We’ve ranked the Top 7.
7. SCP Foundation
In 2007, a user posted the above image to 4chan, describing the figure depicted as a haunted statue. According to that user, the statue was a part of a “Standard Containment Procedure” enacted by a foundation that studies unexplainable, dangerous objects. The SCP Foundation grew throughout many creepypastas from there; all over the internet, people posted creepy out-of-context images and called them documents from SCP, which was trying to figure out how to destroy or reason with some of the creatures and objects in containment. The SCP Foundation became so popular in creepypastas that someone erected a wiki solely for the categorization of these fictional objects.
6. Where Bad Kids Go
“Where Bad Kids Go,” according to one internet user, was a Lebanese children’s program which aired daily, with new examples of kids behaving badly.
The thing that stuck with me the most, however, was the closing scene. It remained much the same in every episode. The camera would zoom in on an old, rusted, closed door. As it got closer to the door, strange and sometimes even agonizing screams would become more audible. It was extremely frightening, especially for children’s programming. Then a text would appear on the screen in Arabic reading: “That’s where bad kids go.” Eventually, both the image and the sound would fade out, and that would be the end of the episode.
After one user posted a description of the television show, another post surfaced online, possibly from someone else pretending to be the initial narrator (as is common in creepypastas). That writer said they had tracked down the studio which had once produced the TV program, and had found, in a back room, remnants of small skeletons (assumedly children) and a single microphone hanging in the center of the room.
5. The Russian Sleep Experiment
This creepypasta capitalizes on stories of the very real, disturbing experiments conducted during the 1940s on prisoners by Nazis. The fictional “experiment,” enacted by a group of Russian scientists, involved keeping sleep deprived prisoners in a central room, where they were kept awake constantly with a “stimulant gas.”
According to the creepypasta, the stages of sleep deprivation escalated in severity until the prisoners no longer looked human, and instead changed to look something like the photo we’ve included above. From a creepypasta post:
The scientists announced: “We are opening the chamber to test the microphones; step away from the door and lie flat on the floor or you will be shot. Compliance will earn one of you your immediate freedom.” To their surprise they heard a single response in a calm voice: “We no longer want to be freed.”
Activities witnessed among the prisoners include: a hunger strike, cannibalism, removal of one’s own skin, unwillingness to sleep or be removed from the test chamber, and addiction to the state of being awake.
4. This Man
The gist of this creepypasta is simply the face above, which allegedly has appeared in thousands of people’s dreams in the last ten years. Stories range from personal accounts of dreams featuring the man, who doesn’t appear as a threatening presence, but instead as a neutral visitor.
Whether the Dream Man is technically a “creepypasta” is unclear, because his story is built on collected drawings from people who claim to have seen him in their dreams, and the term “creepypasta” typically refers to a body of text written by several anonymous authors working in tandem. What ranks Dream Man high on this list is the persistent believability of his story. ThisMan.org gives a certain gravity to the phenomenon, and the page which catalogues instances in which dreamers have posted flyers asking others for an explanation is especially arresting.
3. Normal Porn for Normal People
The Normal Porn for Normal People creepypasta begins like this: One user posted to 4chan describing a website, normalpornfornormalpeople.com, which hosted a catalogue of disturbing yet uneventful videos.
As one creepypasta fan site describes:
The user was about to give up when he was presented with a link to download a video file entitled “peanut.avi.” The user clicked the link, and was presented with a video of a woman in a kitchen making peanut butter sandwiches, which she would repeatedly feed to a waiting dog, all the while blandly chatting with a man nearby. Nothing shocking, pornographic or salacious; just a dog eating sandwiches.
Shortly after the Normal Porn story was posted online, someone made an actual website which compiles short videos from around the internet. The actual website doesn’t follow the rules of the original story, so it’s nowhere near as creepy as the text that inspired it.
From here on out, the staged sequences not only become more surreal, but there is a distinctly threatening tone to them, and the onscreen “performances” become decidedly more perverse: “stumps.avi” shows a man with no legs frantically attempting to breakdance, while an offscreen male voice screams at him to continue.
According to the original creepypasta, the videos on the site led to increasingly more disturbing clips, playing in succession until the site visitor was horrified enough to click away. The best of the creepypasta, probably written by multiple users, includes descriptions of these videos.
Like the “lost episodes” genre of creepypasta, another popular trope involves a user being contacted by a dead relative or friend through social media. It’s not clear where the original idea came from, but an especially scary post of this sort was published on Reddit in 2014. It has since rocketed to the top of the charts on /r/nosleep, a subreddit dedicated to original horror fiction, though the rules of the subreddit decry that all writers and commenters play along with each story being “100% true.”
Nate begins receiving messages from his dead girlfriend’s Facebook account, and though he initially assumes someone is trolling him, he starts to worry when Emily’s messages become more specific. She recycles details from offline conversations, and after several weeks messages Nate, “FRE EZIN G”, which Nate tells his captive Reddit audience is her first “original” word.
1. Search and Rescue
The strange tales of a Search and Rescue officer were originally posted on /r/nosleep, and each continuation of the story has only increased in readership. The first Search and Rescue post occupies the top spot on /r/nosleep, perhaps because the details of the story feel so original.
Though there are many c-pastas written under the guise of a Search and Rescue officer working in a large forest, the one story that’s captivated most online readers is the tale of the random staircase in the middle of a clearing. The definitive version, on Reddit, includes this detail:
I don’t know if this is true in every SAR unit, but in mine, it’s sort of an unspoken, regular thing we run into. You can try asking about it with other SAR officers, but even if they know what you’re talking about, they probably won’t say anything about it. We’ve been told not to talk about it by our superiors, and at this point we’ve all gotten so used to it that it doesn’t even seem weird anymore. On just about every case where we’re really far into the wilderness, I’m talking 30 or 40 miles, at some point we’ll find a staircase in the middle of the woods. It’s almost like if you took the stairs in your house, cut them out, and put them in the forest. I asked about it the first time I saw some, and the other officer just told me not to worry about it, that it was normal. Everyone I asked said the same thing. I wanted to go check them out, but I was told, very emphatically, that I should never go near any of them. I just sort of ignore them now when I run into them because it happens so frequently.
Many creepypastas fail at the same thing, because of the way they’re written: They include too many cliche points — creepy children singing, descriptions of screams in the dark, serial killers with superhuman abilities — because the least common denominator for a group of online writers who don’t know each other is, usually, something they’ve all seen before in horror fiction. Because the original Search and Rescue story set the tone for later iterations, this made it easier for follow-up creepypastas to add details that feel linked in strangeness to the stairs: These images aren’t scary on their own, but it’s their lack of explanation that follows the reader, even after they’ve gone offline.
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