Creepypasta is an emerged genre of storytelling centered around easily copied content which is then shared online and often collaboratively adapted or extended, sometimes anonymously, to create a group mythos around a particular idea or creepypasta characters.
Essentially, one user will post a scary story, image or idea onto a message board and if it inspires others it will then be reposted elsewhere, often with new details that build upon the original. A number of folklorists have identified ‘creepypasta’ as a unique and entirely new and potentially complex literary style, with some of the more famous examples embracing numerous storytelling modalities into a single narrative, with one story arc traversing a variety of different forms such as message board posts, photographs, videos, hidden links to blog posts, audio files and various other storytelling techniques to allow the story to unfold.
Folklorists have also praised the form as being a return to more traditional mythmaking on account of its ability to change from teller to teller, a feature of folklore that was reduced with the invention of the printing press and more fixed or ‘official canon’ versions of stories being regarded as canonical. This feature of the form is aided by the fact that it deemphasises notions of ‘authorship’ and ideas around intellectual property and copyright on stories and individual creepypasta characters.
‘Creepypasta’, the name for this type of online urban legend building, is thought to have derived from the terms ‘copy/paste’ or ‘creepy-paste’ referring to the ease with which the initial story can be spread on other message boards and forums using the copy paste function.
In a pattern similar to the evolution of urban legends where stories like the alligators in the sewers, the malevolent and hook wielding hitch hiker or the razor blade laden Halloween candy have become so widespread as to become exemplars of how the genre works, so the creepypasta form has given birth to a number of central creepypasta characters or widely popular myths that are considered to be key examples of how the form works and which have on occasion crossed over both into mainstream media and in some cases to real world events.
Table of Contents
Popular Creepypasta Characters
Below is a brief overview of some of the most widely recognised and popular examples of Creepypasta characters, who or what they are supposed to be and where they came from. More detailed information on the evolution and history of these individual creepypasta characters can be found at Creepypasta.com
Undoubtedly one of the creepypasta characters that has crossed most easily and pervasively into the mainstream imagination, Slenderman has been referenced in countless pop culture television shows and books and was even the subject of his own major movie. Not bad for a character created on a whim from a stimulus piece on a message board.
Depicted as a giant human being wearing a suit but with a face that lacks any discernible features and is instead completely white like that of a styrofoam mannequin head, the Slenderman is also sometimes shown with tentacles emerging from behind or from the sleeves of his suit.
Initially depicted as a malevolent creature capable of enticing children into wooded areas never to be seen again or influencing them to commit horrific acts of violence, with increased popularity the character’s MO eventually began to change so that his motives became more benevolent and he was seen as a protector of the innocent or a figure who would intervene on their behalf.
Like a number of the leading characters to have emerged from the creepypasta genre, Slenderman was originally created as a reaction to an image. In this case the image itself was a response to a call on the Something Awful thread, for disturbing images, from which posters could then develop a story.
The original poster Eric Knudsen, writing under the name Victor Surge, added an image that at first seemed entirely innocuous but upon closer inspection showed a strange otherworldly being stalking the children in the foreground. Within days the backstory for Slenderman had been expanded by another user calling himself Leechcode and within ten days of the initial post on Something Awful there was a Youtube video dedicated to Slenderman. This jump onto multiple platforms assisted the spread of the myth and the characters popularity allowing the faceless monster to move from being a text, image and forum based phenomenon to being an ARG, with the character now being referred to, discussed and modified across a number of different platforms and modalities by an ever growing number of contributors.
The Slenderman, the most iconic of creepypasta characters has been the subject of study for a number of serious folklorists who have highlighted links to older traditions within folklore and fairytales, such as the characters tendency to be seen in or close to forest or woodland, the fact that the characters lack of features allows for the reader to project their own fears onto it and how the character’s ability to seemingly lure or entice children into the woods to be ‘made away with’ links back to older traditions of ‘The Fae, Changelings, Will o the Wisp and The Erl King.
An often overlooked influence on the development of The Slenderman character is the DC character ‘The Question’. A superhero detective character, this pre-existing figure bears a striking resemblance to the later depictions of The Slenderman, such as wearing a suit and having a white, blank and entirely featureless face.
Whilst this may be just a coincidence, it is worth noting that The Question’s secret identity is ‘Victor Sage’ a name that is strikingly similar to Victor Surge the pen name of Knudson, Slenderman’s original creator.
Jeff the Killer
Almost as popular as the Slenderman though not quite as marketable in terms of crossover to mainstream media, is ‘Jeff the Killer’. Much of this creepypasta characters spread seems to have resulted from its use at the end of screamer videos alongside Jeff’s catchphrase, spoken before he kills of “Go to Sleep”.
In appearance Jeff the Killer is a noseless, white-skinned human being with an abnormally wide maniacal grin, wild staring eyes that lack eyelids. According to the mythology that has built up around the character, his appearance is due to a combination of injuries inflicted by bullies (his skin color and scarring due to an attack with alcohol and bleach) and self inflicted injuries (Jeff is said to have widened his own grin with either a knife or a razorblade and burnt off his own eyelids). The murderous character is said to appear in his victim’s bedrooms at night, before speaking his catchphrase and stabbing them to death.
Much like Slenderman, Jeff the Killer is closely linked to a disturbing image, and indeed the original story seems to have been written in response to an image that already existed. That image is a heavily edited portrait photo that first appeared on Youtube in a video labeled NNN臨時放送”, in which it appears only momentarily.
The image was linked to a story written by a user named Sesseur that was first posted online on October third 2008. In it Jeff’s origins are explained as being insanity as a result of bullying after which the injured Jeff killed his brother and parents before going on a wider killing spree.
Sesseur has expressed his dissatisfaction with some of the latter adaptations and additions made by users to the Jeff the Killer lore and has particularly disputed the characters real name which is presented either as Jeff Allan Woods or Jeff Hodek.
In terms of influences, Jeff the Killer, clearly draws inspiration from the DC character of the Joker, with similar tropes of scarring through contact with chemicals, self mutilation resulting in a scarred smile and bleached white skin all being found much earlier with that character.
Another less discussed influence is the Japanese revenge movie Ichi the Killer, which along with having a similar name, features a character with a scarred mouth and extra wide smile.
Another popular one of the most popular Creepypasta characters is, Eyeless Jack again a character created as a response to a creepy image posted online. Appearing as an almost featureless face wearing a dark hoodie, Eyeless Jack is said to appear in the bedroom of his victims standing at the foot of the bed. He is a malevolent entity and is said to eat the livers and other organs of his victims.
The image used to depict Eyeless Jack and from which the story was originally developed was created on November 19th 2009 by two Deviantart users nickteezy408 and Pirate-Cashoo. It was posted on 4 chan, with no related narrative in 2010 but does not seem to have been linked to a story of any kind until Feb 2012 at the earliest.
Eventually the image was linked to a backstory or ‘creepypasta’ tale, written by Azelf5000, this story and consequently the associated image then gained popularity by being posted on the Mr Creepypasta Youtube channel in 2012.
The possible influences upon the appearance and story of Eyeless Jack are many. From the hoods and cowls worn by characters such as the Grim Reaper, said to appear at the moment of death and El Cucuy/ Coco, the Latin American variant on the bogeyman myth to the notorious Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper, with whom the character shares a name and a propensity for stealing organs.
There are also striking similarities between the appearance of Eyeless Jack and the masks worn by the Court of Owls in DCs Batman. In those depictions the mask is white with the large dark and oval eyes similar to the original image posted on Deviantart.
Another one of the immensely popular Creepypasta characters and one credited with elevating the entire genre as a whole is Ben Drowned.
This particular creepypasta characters appearance is not hugely remarkable, with the image being taken from a creepy statue of the link character from the legend of Zelda games but with cavernous empty eye sockets or empty eye sockets that bleed. This motif, of modifying an existing character into popular creepypasta characters by removing the eyes or making the eyes bleed is a very common one with examples ranging from popular versions like the Sonic.exe character which is just Sonic with bloody eyes to modifications of Simpsons or Spongebob characters all in a similar vein.
Where Ben Drowned has gained the most praise however is in the manner of its storytelling, with its creator a poster user the name ‘Jadusable’ moving from a single platform such as message boards to Youtube channels, comments on those videos, modified computer games, sites and hidden messages and link to tell the story in a range of modalities and across a variety of platforms.
This move which then potentially allowed the entire internet to be used as a canvas for the unraveling of the story changed the way in which Creepypasta stories were disseminated and how the narratives themselves were collaboratively constructed.
In terms of influences, Ben Drowned relies heavily upon the ‘haunted object’ trope that has a long history within horror literature with such notable authors as M.R. James employing the idea to great effect. More recently, the story owes a great deal to the Japanese movie series Ringu which was remade in the United States as The Ring, in which a haunted videotape leads those who watch it to destruction.
The Rake is a cryptid creepypasta characters that allegedly stalks the woodlands and has been accidentally captured numerous times on camera, most famously on a motion capture camera set up to observe nocturnal animals. The most famous image of The Rake shows a hairless pale skinned creature approaching in a hunched or squatted position. Humanoid in appearance, the creature had wide, orb-like glowing eyes and a gaping mouth.
The story of the rake was actually the result of a suggestion on a message board that users attempt to come up with a ‘new monster’ with the original story having appeared on the personal blog of a writer named Brain Somerville in 2006. Though it is commonly accepted that The Rake story and descriptions of this creepypasta characters appearance were responses to an image commonly referred to as the ‘Berwick monster’, (a photograph that was actually picked up by mainstream media and reported as possibly being a genuine cryptid sighting but which was in fact a still from a game and circulated by the manufacturers as a publicity stunt) the timeline actually indicates that in this case the story came first and the image only linked to story later.
In actual fact the appearance of the creature does have a number of antecedents in popular culture, in particular the monster in the X-files episode ‘Fukeman’ released in the late 1990s and the creature nicknamed Lizzie and created by special effects wizard Tom Savinni for the television series Tales from the Darkside.
A New but Important Genre
These are but a few of the myriad characters that fit into the Creepypasta genre, which by its very nature is an ever expanding and constantly reconstructed form.
The egalitarian nature of the format means that anyone can add, change or contribute to the mythology and folklore over time. Interestingly, the digital format of this development also means that the subtle changes in this creepypasta characters details and attributes that develop into stronger traits or new imaginings can be mapped and documented in real time.
Whereas in oral transmission of folklore these idiosyncrasies were harder to keep track of, they can now be examined and documented, allowing new insights into how and why certain elements of s mythos persist whilst others die away. Creepypasta is a new and emerging genre, but also one with great potential to tell us a lot, not only about the processes by which we construct myths today, but also about how they may have been assembled and adapted in the past.
Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on Creepypasta.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed under any circumstance.