You’re standing on the edge of the woods and the sun is bleeding into the horizon. The trees around you are still dead and leafless from winter, and the forest is a black mass of thin trunks and branches, reaching out to a gray sky. When you see one of the jagged shapes lurch forward, you think, “It can’t be him. It can’t be Slenderman.”
Slenderman, the original character invented by “Creepypasta” authors posting stories online, became a hot topic in 2014 when young girls Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier attempted to stab their friend to death as a sacrifice to the fictional monster. Creepypasta, online horror stories about urban legends, written by multiple authors, had been a popular phenomenon for years before the “Slenderman stabbing,” but suddenly the mainstream media wanted to know what young kids were being exposed to. Mr. CreepyPasta, the king of these stories on YouTube, says the horror writing community had to set a few things straight when Geyser and Weier were arrested.
Speaking to Inverse over the phone, Mr. CreepyPasta emphasized the wide reach his videos have among people who understand that Slenderman and other Creepypasta characters are fictional, but still want to hear new stories about them.
How did you decide to call yourself Mr. CreepyPasta? Isn’t that kind of presumptuous? This genre is huge.
Ha, well, six years ago at this point, I used to work in tech support. In between taking calls, I’d go to Creepypasta.com and read the stories. The website was being sold, and writers were saying, “Oh no, my writing is going to be gone forever.” I’ve always been interested in radio dramas and shows from the ‘40s, so I wanted to put together a show, a YouTube channel, that preserved these stories as audio files. When I signed up, “CreepyPasta” was taken. YouTube bot just suggested “Mr. CreepyPasta,” so I took it.
So what is Creepypasta made up of?
Some stories are psychological horror, some are teenage-experience based stories, and some feel like classic old English mysteries.
The teenage character always does very well. “Jeff the Killer” is a popular one, though it’s not a great story, but it creates this archetype for a character that has inspired other stories. We did a story in volume one where he was a teenager that was bullied and eventually started killing people. Teenage readers are really into that storyline.
Yikes. Did the Slenderman stabbing make you pause at all?
I guess Creepypasta is dangerous to a degree if we’re talking about the Slenderman stabbing … There was a really big debate among writers about my channel, the Creepypasta Wikia, and Creepypasta.com [after that story came out.] We all had to include this disclaimer identifying everything as fiction. When you’re talking about entertainment, you have to understand that it’s fiction. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s real. The danger here is that Creepypasta is entertainment largely aimed at kids and teenagers.
Sometimes you have to remind kids that certain characters are the bad guys. We’re not meant to identify with characters like Slenderman. It’s not that there’s a problem in the story — it’s an understanding among readers.
Is Slenderman a good place to start, if you want to read Creepypasta, but you don’t know anything about it?
If you want to start with Creepypasta, you probably want to start with Slenderman. Creepypasta generally strives to feel meta and ambiguous enough that it could possibly be real. If not Slenderman, there’s one story, “Picture This,” in the first collection, that’s a great example of what I mean. You feel like you’re reading a story, and the twist at the end makes you question whether it’s fiction. It’s one of the best stories I’ve read.
What do you hope will happen with these books you’re releasing? Do you think you lose anything by switching mediums?
What [publishing books] does is reach a wider audience. I don’t think we lose too much from switching from YouTube. YouTube helps me reach a younger crowd, which is kind of strange … Younger kids don’t particularly like to read, they prefer to watch videos.
The first volume did fantastically well, and teens picked up copies to see their favorite horror writers in a bound book. We kind of battled the idea that kids don’t wanna read, and we gave them something they wanted to read based on what they had engaged with before. It lets teens hold onto this childhood thing; they’ll still have the same book even if their browsing history is gone.
So where does the Mr. CreepyPasta brand go from here?
There are a couple of projects I have on the side as far as films and other productions. Hopefully, those will evolve into doing work outside of YouTube, maybe other web series and games. I want to work in horror films one day, but I don’t have any directorial experience. At the end of the day, I’m really just a voice actor.
We’re working on the second issue of the comic book, and all the issues from our first Kickstarter have been sent out to the backers now.
See also: “Proxy” by Aaron Shotwell, a full selection from The Creepypasta Collection, Volume 2, run exclusively on Inverse.Photos via Gizmodo, NBC News, Flickr / Little Cat Photography, Flickr / Sơn Đào