Estimated reading time — 15 minutes
I’ve recently been alerted to the horrific events that took place in Wisconsin.
I’ve received both messages of concern and blame, and while it seems that the Creepypasta Wiki is bearing the brunt of media attention and finger-pointing, I feel it’s necessary for me to make a statement.
First and most importantly, my condolences go out to all the families involved. I cannot even imagine how painful and confusing and awful this has to be for them. I don’t have children, but I can imagine how my mother would feel if something like this happened to me, and it absolutely breaks my heart to even consider her having to go through that. The families of the young ladies who committed this crime also have my heart going out to them – I know this can’t be easy for them as well, and I’m sure they’ll have to deal with mistargeted backlash and anger even while they try to get through such a trying time themselves. So when I say that I extend my deepest sympathies and my prayers to those affected, I hope that you understand that I mean it. I know that words can seem hollow or come off as mere lip-service to the cynical, but it’s the truth.
Of course, the next thing I want to talk about is this site and the creepypasta phenomenon at large as I’m sure that many people are here because they want to know precisely what is being blamed for this event.
I’m going to edit in this point since it seems to be a very common misconception held by many of the people coming here to express their outrage. SLENDERMAN IS NOT A REAL PERSON/ENTITY. As far as I’m aware, most news outlets have done their due diligence and thus no media personality is claiming that Slenderman actually exists, so I’m not exactly sure where people are getting this misinformation. However, I’m still seeing quite a lot of comments from people who believe that A) he is a real person and B) he owns and is responsible for every single Creepypasta-related website, tumblr, YouTube channel, Facebook group, forum, and wiki. This is simply not true. Slenderman is not, nor has he ever been, anything more than a fictional character created by SomethingAwful user Victor Surge. As is the case with many other fictional characters, he has fans who indulge themselves by creating videos, games, and fanfictions about him, but this does not make him real any more than such fandom would make The Walking Dead or Batman real.
I am not Slenderman. I did not create Slenderman. This website is not, as some people have claimed, a Slenderman fan site. To put it in perspective, out of the almost 1600 stories hosted on this website, only 29 even tangentially relate to Slenderman. That means that only 1.81% of the posts on this website are Slenderman-related, so when I say later on in this statement that I’m not very familiar with him and in fact tried to discourage/reject stories about him, I mean it and I believe the numbers back me up. I hope that helps alleviate some of the confusion! If you are actually interested in learning more about Slenderman, the best I can recommend is the Marble Hornets wiki. To my knowledge (which, admittedly, is limited when it comes to this specific topic), that is the closest thing to a repository of “accepted” Slenderman lore as it gets.
I hope that edit sufficiently addresses some of the concerns and questions that people were raising in the comments.
Okay, moving on, and getting back to the original text of this statement:
Creepypasta comes from the word copypasta, which itself is a play on the “copy and paste” function. They were short, creepy stories that people spread around the internet for fun. This website is one of the many Creepypasta communities that accept submissions; people write their paranormal stories, I read them and decide which ones I personally like enough to post, and visitors read them and post comments – usually from the perspective of how the author can improve as a writer. I think that, more than other Creepypasta websites, we focus more on being a writer’s community. We have a spin-off site dedicated to getting feedback (don’t use so many ellipses, please don’t write romance stories about serial killers, please remember to proofread – that sort of thing) for authors who ask for blunt community critique and I try to do community promos for writers who self-publish or work on other projects like movies, anthologies, comics, and so on.
Creepypasta is not solely dedicated to horror and murder or revenge fantasies, despite what some media outlets claim. They come up, of course – but so do ghosts, zombies, angels, mythology, urban legends, conspiracies, lost civilizations, aliens and sci-fi, vengeful deities, as well as real-world struggles, sorrows, and dangers. It’s a wide umbrella of inspiration, to be sure, but I’m sure that anyone who has ever browsed the horror or paranormal or sci-fi sections of a library or bookstore has noticed just how vast the possibilities are within those genres.
I think that most of you will understand when I say it’s hard to justify pinning blame on an entire genre of writing. Unless you’re okay with blaming the world’s ills on Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft, I don’t believe that it makes sense to say paranormal writing or an interest in the macabre should be blamed or even used as an indicator of a “sick” person (as a few emails have already felt the need to call both myself and all the authors here). The human race has long held and encouraged a fascination with things that go bump in the night.
So while I understand and accept that some people will blame us as a way to channel their anger and grief, I simply cannot agree. While I cannot speak for the owners and operators of the hundreds of wikis, websites, and YouTube channels that exist in the Creepypasta fandom, I believe that the community members here are aware that as the admin of this specific website, I truly care about the people who visit this website. It’s for that reason that I’ve tried to take steps to keep this from becoming a mere shock site and turn it into a place where we could foster the interest of reading and writing. Obviously, we cater to people who find interest in the paranormal and all the weird and creepy things that exist in the universe, but I believe placing blame solely on an interest in reading/writing about horror, paranormal, myths, urban legends, etc for a tragedy would be off the mark. Hundreds of thousands of people read scary stories, play horror video games, watch TV shows about ghost-hunting and all other varieties of the macabre and creepy (Hannibal and Dexter come to mind as recent wildly-popular shows that one could argue romanticized killing far more than this site ever could) and if we could truly blame any violent crimes solely on one specific form of entertainment as the trigger – well, I suppose it would be a relief as we’d be able to expunge said cause and clear the world of such awful happenings.
However, the fact of the matter is it can’t be that simple. Most people don’t watch Hannibal and turn into serial killers. The popularity of the Paranormal Activity franchise did not cause a spike in violent crimes. I play Skyrim as a pickpocketing rogue, but I’ve never so much as stolen a pack of gum, nor have I murdered anyone. You can insert countless examples here of people enjoying popular culture without acting it out in real life, so I hope that you see my point.
This isn’t to say that I believe that anything goes with regards to entertainment. I’ve mentioned it quite often in the comments here, as well as in the FAQ and on our writing review sister site, but I do draw the line with what I’m willing to accept and post as entertainment on my website. I’ve tried to contact writers who sent in things that troubled me – particularly teens who were clearly writing out their own unhealthy, violent revenge fantasies – and tried to direct them to websites or hotlines where they could find someone to talk to if they were having trouble. For the sake of both my own sanity and that of my readers, I have policies about flat-out rejecting things that I believed glorified abuse or suicide. I know that we live in a culture where, for example, sexual violence is considered so entertaining that one of the top-rate TV shows is entirely dedicated to a new assault every week (Law & Order SVU) and I believe it would be dishonest to say that things like that don’t contribute to people becoming desensitized. We recently had a conversation in the comments about “fridging” women in stories – the tendency for authors to violently kill off a woman in order to give a male character a backstory or motivation – and I absolutely believe that such a phenomenon, for example, does betray the internalized misogyny that tends to be prevalent in entertainment. I know that I’ve derailed a bit, but I suppose my point here is that I do believe any entertainment creators do have a responsibility to look at their work and decide what attitudes they’re normalizing or even promoting. So please don’t take what I’m saying here as my dismissing entirely any concerns about the premise of this website!
In this specific scenario, I’ll be honest: I have tried to keep Slenderman stories limited here. I’m aware that he and Jeff the Killer have become absurdly popular recently, with fans expanding upon their origins (in Slenderman’s case, he was created on the SomethingAwful web forums many years ago in an attempt to cooperatively create new folklore – an experiment that has apparently been quite successful). Stories about Slenderman and his proxies are not the central focus of this website. I am not intimately familiar with all the various additions and expansions to his “legend” that have cropped up all over the internet – to be frank, I did not find him particularly interesting and as such I’m really not going to be very helpful with explaining the details of his popularity and stories to all the people who most certainly have questions. I know that might seem ridiculous given that I run a website dedicated to a meme that’s become – for some – synonymous with Slenderman, but it’s the truth. I’ve been trying to encourage writers here to break out from the serial killers and Slenderman cliches that tend to overrun the Creepypasta fandom, though my motivation was less that I believed Slenderman was harmful (the Jeff the Killer fangirls and spin-offs, I did find somewhat troubling – I’ve mentioned before that I feel romanticizing serial killers is not really something I feel comfortable with promoting via publishing all the Jeff love stories and self-inserts that people tried to submit; the only Jeff spin-off I did let through was one that I felt had a decidedly non-romantic view) but more because I view this website as a place for people to become better writers and readers. You can visit the post where I talked about wanting to start an ‘inspiration’ book club to spur originality and creativity in our writers (via reading stories about things like the women who successfully climbed K2 and what that sort of experience both required from them as people as well as giving the readers exposure to the fascinating world of mountaineering), or maybe some of the comments where I’ve scolded kids for not wanting to improve their vocabularies. I’ll admit it: I have an agenda here, and that agenda is to get people to read and write!
But if I may be so bold, I don’t believe that it’s the fault of Slenderman or horror writing in general that this happened. I remember reading scary stories and watching slasher movies when I was a child and young teenager and while they certainly gave me nightmares, they did not instill within me a desire to murder my friends. For someone to make the jump from reading a creepy story that is – at least on this website, once again, I can’t speak for all creepypasta websites – being presented as 100% fiction into actually using it as a motive to plot and murder another human being – something else has to be going on there.
We live in a culture with a very unhealthy relationship with mental illness. People with mental health issues are frequently dismissed (people who deal with anxiety, depression, etc have almost certainly experienced people telling them that their problems don’t exist and that they should “bootstrap” and just “get over it”), shamed and bullied (consider Miley Cyrus’ tweets where she mocked Sinead O’Conner for acknowledging her own struggle with mental illness and asking for help), and often ignored or denied necessary treatment because people either choose to look the other way when they see symptoms or their attempts to help are met with resistance because the sufferer has internalized all the negative cultural messages about having and admitting to mental illness.
I’m not going to make any judgement here about the culprit’s families, teachers, etc. I am obviously not privy to their daily lives and interactions and I don’t believe that the suffering families should have their privacy violated in order for the rest of the world to write pithy Facebook statuses about what the families should have/could have/would have done in their place.
My point here is just this: if you are finding yourself suffering from any sort of mental health issues – depressing, extreme apathy, anxiety, etc – and/or having trouble dealing with anger, violent/destructive impulses, self-harm, the desire to hurt others, and so on – please know that there is no shame in admitting this to people and asking for help. It’s not fun to deal with issues like that, and you don’t have to go it alone. There are so many people out there who won’t judge you or hate you for having problems and will do their best to help you find the treatment that will help you feel better! Sometimes it’s enough just to have someone who cares enough to listen so that you don’t have to bottle everything up. Some issues are caused by simple chemical imbalances – nothing you could possibly be blamed for – and finding the right medication and/or therapy under the guiding hand of a trained professional will help so much that you find yourself feeling like the weight of the world has lifted from your shoulders. Disordered thinking can be terrifying and stressful and I just want to reiterate: if you think you might be suffering from any sort of mental health issue, know that you are not alone and that you can find help. I encourage you to take that step and talk to your parents, a guidance counselor, your favorite teacher, your doctor, a friend that you trust, family members, even a friend’s parent if you don’t feel comfortable talking to your own – reach out and do your best to find the right solution for YOU. Don’t worry about the people who think mental illness is a joke or not real; they’re not the ones who matter in this situation – YOU DO. Your mental health is of higher importantance than the other people’s ignorance!
If you’re worried that someone you know may be suffering from such issues, please talk to them. Many mental illness sufferers do so in silence because they feel too suffocated by the cultural stigma surrounding therapy or counseling to take the step on their own. If you’re a parent, pay attention to and listen to your child. I know that, as adults, it’s so easy for us to write things off as “silly teenage issues” or “phases” that will pass, but it’s important to remember that kids and teenagers are people too and not exempt from all the issues, problems and emotions that come with it. Make sure they know that they can come to you about anything – I remember having friends that were afraid to go to their parents when they were depressed because they thought they’d get in trouble! If you believe that your child is having problems and is unwilling to talk to you, consider asking a trustworthy friend or theirs or a teacher that they trust to help look out for them. Basically, build a support network and make sure that it’s functional so that people don’t fall through the cracks when they’re having problems.
For all the readers who are school-age, please do the same for your friends. If you have a friend who you feel might be suffering from disordered thinking – whether it’s the extreme anger, racism and misogyny that the UCSB shooter displayed on YouTube or some friends that are so obsessed with Slenderman that they start talking about killing for him – please tell someone that you trust about it.
I suppose my overall message is this – look out for one another, and please don’t partake in behaviors like shaming people for admitting to their problems or trying to get help. I also want to say that if I phrased anything here in a way that is offensive to people who suffer from mental illness, I apologize as that was not my intention – I am just struggling to clearly express how badly I want people who are hurting to get help and feel better.
Lastly, I’ll admit that my intention for this website was not to cater to young teenagers. I discovered Creepypasta right after highschool myself, and sort of assumed (and was backed up via Google analytics) that the audience here was generally highschool, college, and above. To me, I feel that’s an age range where reading creepy stories shouldn’t really pose a problem – moreover, it seemed pretty normal as I remember lots of nights in highschool with a group of people watching scary movies together, or going camping and telling each other ghost stories. For me, that produced a lot of fun memories.
However, for the really young kids… while I don’t believe that creepy stories will cause them to become evil or sick, I do think it could scare them and/or make them very anxious! And if your child has issues with violent or destructive or depressive issues, it’s really important to make sure that they’re not interacting with things that will exacerbate that. I’ll quote the Chief involved with this case here, because I think he is completely right:
“Parents should not be allowing their children to have unrestricted or unmonitored internet usage –whether it be on their computer on their smart phone on their PlayStation. All of those accesses to the outside world,” Chief Jack said.
I grew up when the internet was still pretty new, and I had safe browsing and not giving out information and all that hammered into my head from the time I was allowed to start logging on. My mother was also very vigilant about my internet use and paid a lot of attention to what I was doing online, who I was talking to, etc. I know that nowadays it’s probably more difficult as so many more devices can connect to the internet beyond just computers, but it’s still really important to pay attention to what your kid is doing online. I’m sure that I’ll have some community members calling me a traitor for this, but I’ve talked to quite a few of your concerned parents who found the site in their kid’s browser history and, upon hearing their concern, I helped walk them through blocking this website. I don’t take offense to a parent deciding that this website is inappropriate for their kid in any way – you know your children far better than I do, after all.
I know that a lot of parents aren’t nearly as technology-adept as their kids, but here are some ways to make sure your kid doesn’t visit specific sites that trouble you and/or how to check up on what your kids are doing on their phones/computer:
Of course, technology is always changing and if your kids are creative or savvy, they may find ways to get around the tactics outline in the above links. They are not magic bullets by any means; the best thing you can do is stay involved and pay attention.
Out of respect to the victim and so that this statement can stay at the top of the page, I will take a break from posting new stories for awhile. People who had their stories scheduled for the next few days will be contacted and alerted of the situation; they will be first in the posting queue when things have calmed down.
To answer some questions that I’ve received: I do not plan to shut down this website as I completely believe that we as a community aren’t to blame here; further, I’ve received too many messages from readers, parents, and teachers who felt that this was a great place for age-appropriate reading and writing development to feel okay with stopping. For this reason, I do still plan to go ahead with the book club project this summer. If you plan on taking part in the book club aspect and you’re under 18, please do check with your parents to make sure they’re okay with the various selections. So far the line-up consists of Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (with Savage Summits by Jennifer Jordan as secondary choice for people who have already read Into Thin Air or people who want to read multiple books on the topic), The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel (secondary option TBA), and Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies by Arthur Goldwag (secondary book to be TBA). I put these out there so that any concerned parents can look into them before deciding whether to allow their kids to take part in a summer book club/discussion with these books at the forefront. I think that most of these books should be okay for older teens on, but obviously that decision is really for the individual parents to make.
Additionally, I will be keeping comments closed on this post as well as taking the contact form offline for awhile. While I appreciate the supportive and concerned messages I’ve received so far, I hope that you will direct your positive thoughts, prayers and energies to the families involved in the actual incident. They deserve your empathy and support far more than I do. And please, please, please do not do anything that will increase their suffering via trolling or nasty comments – this is not an us against them battle. Even if you feel loyalty to this website or the creepypasta genre overall, keep things civil and respectful wherever you discuss this awful situation and don’t lash out at the victims because you feel that something you love is under fire. I’ve tried my best to keep the comments here a bullying-free zone and I hope you all know how much I would disapprove if any of you treated this event like a joke or an excuse to troll/harass people who are just trying to figure out why such a terrible thing happened. People will disagree and believe that this website did absolutely cause the attack, but just because you disagree with someone it doesn’t make it okay to troll them. I know I sound preachy here, but given some of the attempted comments that I’ve seen already, clearly some of you need a reminder that it’s not okay to behave like that.
The website may experience outages due to the higher traffic caused by the media reports, as to be frank we were already operating on the very edge of what our hosting plan allows for even before the increased attention. Please know that I’m not trying to pull a PUAHate-style scrub-and-deny if this happens; I think it’s important that people are able to see that Creepypasta isn’t actually a group of murder-promoting serial killer fetishists or a Slenderman cult in the hopes that, for once, people will pay attention to the actual issues surrounding this tragedy (given how much misogyny/rape culture has been downplayed in media coverage of the Elliott Rodger case or rock music and video games frequently became hot topics in the wake of school shootings rather than mental health and gun accessibility, such misdirection is unfortunately something that will almost certainly happen) rather than finding something else to blame so that they can bury their heads about the larger societal issues that these ever-increasing occurrences imply.
Once again, the families of those affected have my thoughts and prayers, and I hope that you will all join me in extending your sympathy, empathy and respect to them in their time of need and beyond.