Fall is my favorite season for a lot of reasons. I love that it’s finally the right temperature for cozy sweaters and awesome boots; I love that everything is pumpkin-flavored; I love looking out my window and seeing flame-colored foliage adorning the trees… and I love that it’s the one time of year that one of my favorite hobbies is seasonally appropriate. Fall, you see, is the perfect time to lose yourself in all sorts of stories of the strange and unusual.
I have some really weird hobbies.
I write frequently elsewhere about ghost stories and other freaky things; but since Halloween is rapidly approaching, now seems like a good time to bring a taste of that weirdness here, too. The Internet has probably been one of the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) things to happen to urban legends — it allows them to spread further and wider than they ever could before, resulting in a whole web full of wonderful weirdness. So let’s take a look at some of the creepiest urban legends on the Internet, shall we?
I’m using the term “urban legend” a little loosely here; technology and the Internet have allowed the definition to evolve in some interesting ways, so we’re not just dealing with word-of-mouth tales that allegedly happened to “a friend of a friend” or “my cousin’s buddy” or what have you. Now we can augment them with carefully crafted videos, manipulated images, unusual forms, and all sorts of other tricks and tools available to the dedicated storyteller — which results in a whole lot of creepy things that seem real, even though they’re fiction.
So gather round. Grab a mug of mulled wine or spiced cider. And get ready to shiver.
1. Abandoned by Disney
You’re probably already familiar with the concept of creepypasta, but just in case you’re not, here’s the short version: A variation on “copypasta,” itself a bastardization of the words “copy paste,” they’re short stories originally known for being handed around via copy-paste action to email, forums, and so on. In recent years, it’s broadened out a little bit such that the definition is essentially, “any creepy story that began life on the Internet”… and with that broadening out came a lot of surprisingly good writing.
One of the finest creepypastas out there, “Abandoned by Disney” tells the story of a failed park and resort Disney supposedly built in North Carolina. Themed after The Jungle Book, it was called Mowgli’s Palace; and initially, it was a roaring success. But then it was shut down, suddenly and unexpectedly, and seemingly scrubbed from record. Naturally, then, that leads our storyteller to go and try to find it… only to discover that Disney had a very good reason for shuttering the place and locking it up tight.
Want more where that came from? “Abandoned by Disney’s” creator, Slimebeast, has plenty more up his/her sleeve. Read ‘em here.
2. The Midnight Game
One of my favorite weird-o urban legend genres is the one centered around games and rituals. You know the type — you probably played Bloody Mary as a kid. The Midnight Game, though? It's like Bloody Mary on steroids. I’m too chickenshit to play it myself, but it goes a little something like this: Just before midnight, write your full name on a piece of paper, prick your finger with a pin, and dot your blood onto the paper. Then turn off all the lights in your home, find a wooden door, close it, and place the piece of paper in front of it. Light a candle and place it on top of the paper. Knock on the door 22 times, with the 22nd knock occurring precisely at midnight. Open the door, blow out the candle, and close the door again. Relight the candle immediately; then begin the game proper.
That whole incantation supposedly invites an entity called the Midnight Man into your home. For the next several hours, you play a macabre sort of hide and seek, moving throughout your home while making sure you never, ever run into the Midnight Man. There are a few safeguards — if your candle blows out, lighting it within 10 seconds will keep him at bay; additionally, drawing a circle of salt and staying inside it will keep you safe — but be careful. The game is over at 3:33 a.m. If you managed to evade capture, congratulations! You win. If you didn’t… I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
Oh, and lastly? Don’t assume that the Midnight Man has left the building when the game is over.
3. The Black-Eyed Children
They look like children.
But they aren’t.
The stories of the Black-Eyed Children (also referred to as Black-Eyed Kids, or BEK) seem to have originated in the ‘90s on the message boards and forums that preceded MySpace and, later, Facebook. As far as I know, the first known appearance of them occurred in 1998, when journalist Brian Bethel posted a message to a ghost-hunting newsgroup detailing a run-in he had with a pair of peculiar children. While leaving a shopping center late at night, Bethel’s car was stopped by two kids — both boys, between the ages of 10 and 14, clad in hoodies — who knocked on his window. They wanted to go see a movie, they said through the window, but had forgotten their money. Would the kind man in his car help them out by driving them home to get it? Bethel almost agreed…
…Until he got a good look at their eyes. “They were coal black,” he recounted. “No pupil. No iris. Just two staring orbs reflecting the red and white light of the marquee.”
Was Bethel’s tale a well-crafted fiction that gave rise to a now-classic urban legend? That, we don’t know. But since then, tales of these monstrous Black-Eyed Children have circulated the Internet regularly. The kids vary in age, although they usually appear no older than 16; they always wear dark clothing and hoodies; and like vampires, they seem to need to be invited inside before they can enter a home, a car, or any other privately owned space. There’s one story out there that describes what happens when you let them in…
…But I wouldn’t do that if I were you.
4. Candle Cove
There are a lot of “bizarre children’s television shows” creepypastas — and I do mean a lot. Some of them describe alleged “lost episodes” of shows we know and love, as is the case with the SpongeBob SquarePants-themed tale “Squidward’s Suicide”; but others? Oh boy. They open up a whole new can of worms.
Such is the case with “Candle Cove,” a story written by Kris Straub detailing the quest of a few nostalgia-driven adults as they attempt to piece together their memories of a much-loved (or was it?) television show: The titular Candle Cove. The real beauty of “Candle Cove” is in its form: Written as a thread from an online forum, it both plays the realism card and doles out new information piece by piece in a masterfully gripping fashion. I don’t want to give away too much, so head over here to read it — and if you feel brave, do a YouTube search for some of the fan-created Candle Cove “episodes”. Don’t forget to turn the volume up first.
5. The SCP Foundation
Where do you begin with the long, dark, and deeply weird rabbit hole that is the SCP Foundation? This fictional organization aims to do what its initials stand for — “Secure, Contain, Protect” — with varying degrees of success. Just what are they securing and containing in order to protect? Anything and everything you can possibly imagine. Taking the form of an almost endless collection of documents describing the various objects, entities, and phenomena, called SCPs for short, the Foundation’s site is unique in that it’s a wiki; this means that anyone can contribute, although submissions must reach some pretty high standards before they’re published.
Each SCP is assigned a number and a classification, and each entry details as much as the Foundation currently knows about them. These entries can be a little difficult to comprehend at first; the language is a combination of technobabble and technical manual, and large portions are frequently expunged. Once you get used to them, though… hoo boy. Prepare to lose a few days to this stuff, because it’s tough to stop reading once you start.
Some SCPs, classified as “Safe,” are strange, although not inherently dangerous; these include SCP-1981, a Betamix tape featuring a recording of Nixon giving a speech (although the speech may not be the same each time you watch it). Others, filed under “Euclid,” may or may not be dangerous; what defines them is the fact that they’re insufficiently understood and require further study. One of the most highly cited Euclid SCPs, SCP-173, definitely falls on the dangerous side; an odd-looking statue apparently made of concrete, rebar, and spray paint, it has a tasty tendency to attack when it’s not being watched (not unlike a certain type of angel I could name). Frankly, it should probably be identified as “Keter,” the most dangerous classification there is. SCPs filed under Keter could, y’know, destroy the world if they’re not properly contained, like SCP-231. The only thing more horrifying than SCP-231, by the way, is its method of containment. Procedure Montauk is as bad as your imagination thinks it is.
But know, too, that the SCPs aren’t the only dangerous things within the foundation. Certain personnel are not to be trusted.
Want to know more? Here’s a good place to start.
6. Ted the Caver
Ted’s Caving Page doesn’t look like much at first glance; a relic of the early 2000s, it’s hosted on Angelfire and consists mostly of grey text on a black background with photographs heavy on the flash scattered throughout. The goofy-looking veneer, though, is exactly what makes it so effective.
Here’s the deal. Back in 2001, Ted, a casual spelunker, started documenting his journeys into a cave he found not too far away from his home. Like the webpage itself, the cave didn’t strike Ted and his buddy, referred to only as B, as extraordinary; they did, however, find a hole towards the back of it that intrigued them, so they decided to make a project of widening it so they could venture further in.
But some things?
…Let’s just say they’re meant to be left in the dark. Click your way through it here — and then if you must, head here for a little more closure, although be warned: The second link kind of kills the mystery of the whole thing.
7. Ben Drowned
Often referred to as “The Haunted Majora’s Mask Cartridge” and associated with the phrase “you shouldn’t have done that,” “Ben Drowned” is probably the most well-known of the not inconsiderable list of video game legends. Like many, it targets the members of a particular fandom who grew up during a particular time — in this case, Zelda fans who played The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask right when it came out in 2000 (that would be me). Stories like this one are about the nostalgia factor; there’s nothing like a creepy tale that hits you right in the childhood. Additionally, Majora’s Mask is far and away the weirdest Zelda game, making it the perfect candidate for a tale of woe.
“Ben Drowned” made its initial appearance on 4chan in 2010. User Jadusable created a thread detailing his experiences with a used Majora’s Mask cartridge he purchased from a garage sale; it came with a file named “BEN” on it, but, like most of us would likely have done, he deleted it and started anew.
And that’s when the weird shit started happening.
Jadusable wrote of odd and unsettling glitches occurring as he played — everything from the sudden, inexplicable, and fiery death of hero Link to the disappearance of his save file and its replacement with a succession of others: “YOURTURN,” “BEN” again, and “DROWNED.”
What puts "Ben Drowned" a cut above the rest? The gameplay videos Jadusable posted on YouTube along with his experiences. Video game glitches are creepy enough in and of themselves — but when you see them in the context of a story like this one, they reach a whole new level of “WTF.” Even more impressive is that as far as I know, the videos were accomplished with in-game cartridge trick — no fancy editing or special effects thrown in afterwards. Now that’s dedication.
Eventually, the story grew into a huge alternate reality game, or ARG; but I still think the original arc is the most successful. The Jadusable Wiki has both a timeline of the events of the “Ben Drowned” arc, as well as links to where you can read the original 4chan posts yourself.
8. The Dionaea House
If you’re a fan of the book House of Leaves, you’re going to love "The Dionaea House."
It begins at the end: Mark Condry has gone missing, and no one knows where he’s gone. All they know is that when he found a strange item in his mailbox — a newspaper article detailing a former friend’s shooting rampage and subsequent death in Boise — he decided to dig deeper. The friend in question, Drew, had previously started behaving a little oddly after spending 10 days housesitting for his stepfather; as such, Mark begins his investigation at the house.
Or, perhaps more accurately, The House.
The creation of screenwriter Eric Heisserer, "The Dionaea House" weaves together a maze of blogs and websites which, when pieced together, reveal a sum much greater than their parts. In fact, it’s the work that jumpstarted his career in Hollywood: He’s penned the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street, Final Destination 5, the 2011 prequel to The Thing, and Hours (which he also directed). He’s currently working on Story of Your Life.
Start here to begin your descent into The Dionaea House.
9. The Three Kings
Like The Midnight Game, the Three Kings is another ritual-type legend; unlike it, though, there isn’t some sort of supernatural monster stalking you as you go. There’s still something, however… and it’s weirder. Much, much weirder.
The ritual is a little complicated, so I suggest heading on over to the Reddit NoSleep thread in which it originated to read about it; it involves setting up three chairs, two of which hold mirrors, putting yourself in a somewhat hypnotic state, and then seeing what happens when you ask some questions. If you’ve done it correctly, you might receive answers to your questions — which will come from the direction of the mirrors. One of the mirrors is the queen and the other is the fool, which makes you the king in this particular set up; you may not know which is which, though, and it’s also worth noting that from the mirrors’ perspectives, you’re their queen or fool.
It sounds a little convoluted, but it’s still chill-worthy. If you feel like tempting fate, find the instructions here.
Play at your own risk.
10. Slender Man
I debate about whether or not to include Slender Man on this list. Prior to June, obviously it would have been a no-brainer; but when two 12-year-old girls were charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide in a crime they said was intended to appease the mythological figure, and with a similar crime following in its wake… out of respect for the victims, it seemed like maybe it would be a good idea to leave him off of it. But at the same time, I don’t think we can ignore Slender Man, and maybe learning about him will give a better context for figuring out what was going through the minds of these kids, and understanding the terrifying power such myths can have.
Slender Man, also referred to as Slenderman, The Slender Man, and other variations, began life on a Something Awful thread in 2009 called “Create Paranormal Images.” A user going by the name Victor Surge — real name Eric Knudsen — took two black and white photographs of children playing, and Photoshopped a figure into the background. Tall, lean, and clad in a black suit, the figure was subtle — almost unnoticeable unless you were looking for it. The photographs were captioned:
“'We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time…' – 1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead.”
“One of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze. Notable for being taken the day which fourteen children vanished and for what is referred to as ‘The Slender Man.’ Deformities cited as film defects by officials. Fire at library occurred one week later. Actual photograph confiscated as evidence. 1986, photographer: Mary Thomas, missing since June 13th, 1986.”
Since then, Slender Man has taken on a life of his own. Personally, I think his mythology has gotten a little bloated over time; at the beginning, though, his simplicity was what made him so freaky. He looked almost, but not quite human — just off enough to put you on edge — and he didn’t necessarily kill people — he just made them vanish. What we don’t see is almost always scarier than what we do see.
And let this entry serve as a reminder, as well: The believability of Slender Man and all the other weird and wacky stories like it is what makes them fun… but at the end of the day, they’re just stories. Try not to lose sight of that, OK?