Most of us probably already know that most creepypasta stories aren't actually real — but are there any creepypastas based on real-life events or phenomena? In a word, yes. Yes there are, and they're wonderfully effective stories because of it. In fact, we've already seen the “based-on-reality” thing at work in a few of the other creepypasta we've looked at in depth: Although Mr. Bear's Cellar doesn't exist, predators like the unknown man behind it do, and although Mowgli's Palace was never built, Disney has abandoned a number of attractions on their properties. Personally, I always think freaky stories are even more freaky if there's an element of truth to them; it lends them an air of authenticity that makes them all the better. That's why I'm such a fan of the eight stories rounded up here.
Now, it's worth noting that the similarities between some of these real-life events and their fictional counterparts don't necessarily mean that the authors of the stories themselves — whether known or anonymous — did, in fact, gain their inspiration directly from them. But even bearing this in mind has a notable effect on the stories themselves: It all becomes a big question of whether art is imitating life, whether life is imitating art, or whether we're all just sort of sitting in this stew of strange, mysterious, and frightening occurrences going on right beneath our noses. Or, y'know, in the corners of the room where the light doesn't quite reach.
The world can be a wonderful place; however, it can also be a pretty scary one. These stories, with their roots in reality, tap into some of the more terrifying aspects of the world in which we actually live.
Sleep? Who needs sleep?
Capgras delusion is a rare psychological condition in which sufferers become convinced that the people around them have been replaced by exact copies. It's a trope we see in stories time and time again — as NPR pointed out back in 2010, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is probably the most well-known example — but the scariest thing about it is that it's absolutely, 100 percent real.
The creepypasta that bears the condition's name is short, but that's part of what makes it so dang good. It tells the story of a woman who, after suffering an aneurysm, began believing her younger brother over whom she had custody had been replaced by… someone else. “Nolan's gone, Charlie,” she told her husband the night before she went in for surgery. “That's someone else. I don't know who he is, but it's not him. I'm so sorry.” The woman didn't survive the operation… but that's just the beginning. It's what happens to the two remaining family members that matters in the end.
2. “Come Follow Me” and Other Lavender Town Syndrome Tales
There are huge amount of video game-related creepypastas, many of which focus on Pokemon. Why are there so many of them? I'm not entirely sure, but I suspect it has something to do with the generation in which both things — Pokemon and creepypasta — came to the fore. Horror fiction likes to hit us right in the childhood a lot (hi there, It!); for those of us in the Millennial generation, Pokemon factored prominently into our youths, and creepypasta kicked up during the beginning of the online nostalgia push that's facilitated things like Throwback Thursday.
Tons of stories exist specifically about a fictional phenomenon called “Lavender Town Syndrome,” but I would argue that “Come Follow Me” — thought to be the original Lavender Town Syndrome tale — is the most effective. Written in a style that resembles a news report more than anything else, it tells of an investigation surrounding a number of children in Japan who took their own lives after playing the newly-released games Pokemon Red and Pokemon Green. According to the story, a strange tone was present in the music that played during the Lavender Town portions of the two games — or at least, the original versions of them released in 1996; the stories asks whether the tone could have had something to do with the deaths of the children. Hence: Lavender Town Syndrome.
And it turns out that the story, while not necessarily based on true events, did likely gain its inspiration from something that actually happened. When the episode “Denno Senshi Porygon” of the Pokemon anime aired in 1997, 685 Japanese children and teens ended up in the hospital after a scene with flashing lights triggered epileptic seizures. Furthermore, a number of fan sites and videos on the web also claim that “Come Follow Me” may have been inspired by a spike in suicides committed by children in Japan during the '90s. While it's true that depression and suicide rates are so high in Japan as to make it an alarming national problem, I haven't been able to find any exact figures here that support the claim — but the rumor persists anyway.
Another video game story, “Polybius” straddles the line between creepypasta and urban legend. Generally there isn't much actual copying and pasting going on of any particular telling of the tale, so it's not exactly “creepypasta” in the truest sense; it's more the plot points that get shared, putting it more in the realm of an urban legend. However, this sharing has happened mostly on the Internet, hence its frequent inclusion under the genre of creepypasta.
According the legend, Polybius was an arcade game released for only a month in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon in 1981. Anyone who played it was said to suffer from everything from epilepsy to night terrors; it allegedly vanished as quickly as it appeared, with rumors claiming that the whole debacle has something to do with the government: It was a test; it was a coverup; and so on and so forth.
But although there are plenty of fan-made ROMS claiming to recreate the “lost” game, there's no evidence that Polybius itself ever existed. You know what did exist, though? Tempest, an ATARI game released in 1981 with which Polybius' gameplay descriptions bear remarkable similarities. It's suspected that the Polybius legend may have grown out of an encounter with a faulty Tempest cabinet, becoming distorted with time until it became a literal horror show. Of course, there's not much to back up this claim, either — but most of the fan-created versions of the game take their cues from Tempest, so there's clearly some kind of feedback loop going on here.
Furthermore, as Skeptoid reports, two people fell ill from playing arcade games at an arcade in a Portland suburb on the same day in 1981: While attempting to break a record, Brian Mauro played Asteroids for over 28 hours, eventually giving up the attempt due to some stomach issues; meanwhile Michael Lopez, playing Tempest at the exact same arcade as Mauro on the exact same day, developed a migraine and collapsed on someone's lawn afterward. It's a coincidence, to be sure — but it's also a weird one, and one that may have helped “Polybius” find its legs.
Oh, and for the curious, the name of the studio that allegedly developed Polybius — Sinneslochen — translates from German to “sense-deletion”; additionally, the game itself shares a name with the ancient Greek historian Polybius, who asserted that historians should never report what cannot be verified through interviews with eyewitnesses — essentially, that seeing is believing. Has anyone here actually seen Polybius in action?
...I thought not.
There's no way any rational human being would mistake “The Well for Hell” as being real; we know what's at the center of the Earth, and it's definitely not hell. It still makes for a pretty classic trope, though: In 1989, the story claims, scientists drilling a giant borehole in Siberia were shocked to find some extremely unsettling sounds coming from the depths of the Earth — noises that sounded so much like the screams of tortured souls that the researchers abruptly closed up shop and left. That video up there supposedly contains audio recorded by the researchers; it's pretty weird, so consider yourselves warned before you click “play.”
The tale of the Well to Hell has been spread mostly through tabloids and newsletters, which isn't exactly surprising when you consider how out-there the whole thing is. But fun fact: Boreholes probing what's under the Earth's surface are real things. Drilling on the Kola Superdeep Borehole, for example (and yes, “superdeep borehole” is a technical term), began in 1970; as of 1989, it had reached a depth of 12,262 meters, making it the deepest artificial point on Earth. It's located on the Kola Peninsula, bordering Russia, Finland, and Norway — just, y'know, in case you want to see if there are any demons living down there.
I'm not totally clear why so may creepypasta tales take place in Japan — maybe it says something about the world's fascination with Japanese culture — but “The Alice Killings” is one of the most memorable. Focusing on a supposed series of murders that took place in Japan between 1999 and 2005, “The Alice Killings” details the oddities found at the scene of each crime — specifically the presence of a playing card as a calling card and the name “Alice” written in blood.
But although the Alice Killings themselves never actually happened, there was a real-life serial killer who followed a similar MO. He was Spanish, not Japanese; born on April 5, 1978 as Alfredo Galán Sotillo, he became known as the Playing Card Killer after killing six people and wounding three in 2003. The reason for the name, of course, should be obvious: He left playing cards on the bodies of his victims. Eventually the Playing Card Killer surrendered himself to the police; he's now serving 142 years for his crimes.
6. “Suicidemouse.avi,” “Dead Bart,” Squidward's Suicide,” and Other Lost Episodes
I'm cheating a little here by including three stories in one entry — but it's a biggie, so I don't feel that bad about it. Lost episode stories are the bedrock upon which creepypasta is built, so it's perhaps unsurprising that there's some truth to the subgenre. I mean, no, there isn't an actual scrapped Mickey Mouse cartoon floating around under the file name "suicidemouse.avi" (although there are, of course, videos of the supposed file on YouTube, like the one seen here); no, Bart never got sucked out of an airplane window and died on The Simpsons; and Squidward has never done anything other than… well, be Squidward. That said, though, it's far from unheard of for cartoons to face censorship over questionable content.
One of the most well-known sets of banned cartoons is what's often referred to as the “Censored 11” — 11 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts that have been banned since 1968 for their use of offensive racial stereotypes. Beyond those, though — which, to be honest, probably should remain retired, because perpetuating offensive stereotypes is definitely not OK — there are plenty of other examples that have occurred in more recent years, and some of them are … kind of weird.
Spongebob actually has dealt with some pushback from a particular episode; “Sailor Mouth,” which originally aired on September 21, 2001, has been accused of encouraging children to use profanity, although its creators maintain that it's meant to poke fun at what happens when kids learn words they don't really understand. Personally, I think it's more likely one of those episodes that's meant to appeal to both kids and adults, because let's face it: Bleeping out bad language with dolphin noises is hilarious.
The Cartoon Network show Dexter's Laboratory also found itself in some hot water regarding a segment that was originally intended to air as part of the second season in 1997. Called “Rude Removal,” the segment saw Dee Dee and Dexter each getting split into two — a polite version of themselves, and a rude version. Rude Dee Dee and Dexter cursed a blue streak (bleeped out, of course), which resulted in the “Rude Removal” getting yanked before it could ever be aired. Eventually it saw some screen time on Adult Swim's YouTube channel.
And then there's “Man's Best Friend,” a segment from the already-controversial Nickelodeon show Ren and Stimpy. “Man's Best Friend” was considered far too violent to air on the fledgling network — which, given the violence level of Ren and Stimpy as it was, is pretty impressive. I wonder how much of the pushback on this particular segment was caused by the growing rift between Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi and Nickelodeon, or whether the segment was just one more nail in the proverbial coffin that was their working relationship… but either way, “Man's Best Friend” didn't see the light of day until the cartoon was briefly revived as “Adult Party Cartoon” on Spike in 2013.
Given all these real-life incidents and more, it's no wonder that so many “lost episode” stories have proliferated, is it?