The Shadow Web is the side of the internet that can’t be found using typical search engines, but instead can only be accessed using downloaded programs that grant you anonymity. It contains some of the sickest filth you could ever (and not ever) imagine, and is the topic of this traumatic tale.
*The Hidden Wiki is a Shadow Web site that informs you of many of the different, sick sites the Shadow Web has to offer.
I explored the Shadow Web once.
Getting there was difficult. All the programs that let you run around on the web anonymously have rather convoluted installation instructions, and I’m not the tech-savviest type, so it was a struggle. But after a few frustrating hours, I managed to do it.
My first stop was, no doubt, the coveted Hidden Wiki*. You hear about it all the time, and it really makes you curious to see it for yourself. People talk about how sick it is- how you need to be extremely careful of what you click. They’re 100% right. I avoided so much, but still would wind up seeing an image or an article I really hadn’t wanted to see. Things that no one should see. Disgusting, pure evil things that shouldn’t exist. I’d been on the Shadow Web for ten minutes and was already expecting the FBI pounding on my door, and here my only crime was curiosity.
Weird comparison, I know, but the Shadow Web is sort of like doing drugs. You’re alarmingly paranoid at first, constantly questioning your actions. Hell, my friend called me while I was on it and I about had a heart attack I was so sure it was the police.
But after a while, you sort of relax a little. Feel a little more confident. After a few days of being the most cautious I’ve ever been in my life, I started feeling more… adventurous. Started clicking links and exploring the interesting-looking sites. Human experiments, killers-for-hire, black market sites… Seems weird to explore these sites, I know. But the sites are so cheesy half the time, it’s hard to believe they’re real. You can find half these websites on the normal web, too. They’re pretty much always fake.
I completely avoided porn links. There are so many sick, sick sites featuring minors- the Shadow Web is where pedophiles get their endless supply of child porn, after all. Even porn sites claiming to feature only people 18+, I simply didn’t risk. I didn’t risk most of the snuff film sites, either. Though I admit I did watch a video or two, purely out of curiosity. (Worst decision ever. Don’t watch them.)
It’s when several weeks of regular Shadow Web access had passed that I began feeling extremely confident. I’d gotten to a point where I could easily and automatically avoid links I knew led to bad things. I’d explored a few seriously gruesome sites, with no police visits. I was cocky. I was curious.
I joined a forum.
It was a pretty tame forum, compared to the others I’d stumbled across. This one was for, as they called themselves, “Underground Families.” Literally, it was a ton of people who lived underground or in completely isolated areas with their families, all over the world. And they weren’t like the backwoods inbred families you see in horror movies, or giant religious communities like the one discovered in Texas. Most of these families were pretty small in numbers, usually living in some warehouse or basement, or even a normal house, in some cases. What brought them together was that they never left their homes… ever. They were living completely secluded lives- only socializing with their own family and the people on this forum.
There was no talk of torture or human trafficking or kidnapping. No talk of murder or inbreeding. Seriously, they appeared to be totally normal families, who honest to God just wanted to live alone. Stay “off the grid” so to speak. Really not all that weird or uncommon, actually.
I’d joined the forum purely for access to the all the topics (you had to be a registered user to view them.) I wasn’t planning on talking to anyone.
But one user caught my eye. He seemed to be extremely popular on the site; he’d posted several threads, and had way more thread views and replies than most of the others. He replied to everyone- even silly remarks you’d think would have gotten lost in such heavily populated threads.
Not wanting to bring attention to myself (the community was actually a decent size, but I still felt like they’d easily sniff out a newbie like me and begin questioning my authenticity), I messaged him privately.
“Hi! Sorry to message you out of the blue like this, but I’m new to the forum and didn’t feel totally comfortable posting yet.
I’m trying to write an unbiased article for online publication about Underground Families, and was hoping you could tell me more about your life. I’m ultimately hoping to give public insight about family life in seclusion, compared to, say, one person who lives alone. I’m also interested in the reason behind your family’s decision to live underground. If you’re interested and willing to offer your views, I have several questions ready! There’s absolutely no obligation to answer any of the questions you don’t like or don’t feel comfortable answering, and none of them are personal towards you specifically or would take away your anonymity. Thank you!”
So I’d lied about the article thing, but I had a gut feeling that if I’d tried to talk to him pretending to be a member of an underground family myself, he’d call me out immediately. You can’t just read a couple posts about something you’ve never heard of before and then blend into their community seamlessly. Besides, this way, I could ask all the questions I wanted without fault. My motive was presented up front- he could either say yes or decline. No harm done either way.
Several days passed with no response, so I stopped lurking the forum as often. After a while, I only checked it once every couple of days. Eventually, a week passed, and I’d basically moved on altogether.
The second week after sending that message, I did get curious again, so I went back to the forum. But it was gone. The entire thing was gone. Did I have the right web address? Yeah, definitely the same. Where was it? The site wasn’t just taken down- the entire page was disabled. Just got an error message- this site doesn’t exist. What?
Was it because of my message? Did he report it, the owners get spooked, and the whole place got deleted?
There wasn’t even anything bad on that forum. Why would they react so seriously to one message? They were on the Shadow Web- all presumably browsing completely anonymously like I was. Surely I couldn’t have been the first curious person to find it and ask questions.
I started digging around the Shadow Web. A whole community wouldn’t just delete themselves- they’d create a new site, right? I did find a couple of websites describing the Underground Family lifestyle, but no forums. They seriously deleted the whole thing? Maybe a new one was being created as I searched. I decided I’d wait a week, and then search again. Give them some time to rebuild, if they even planned to.
As I waited, I grew bored. The Shadow Web is virtually endless, but to avoid any confrontations with the FBI, the sites you feel comfortable visiting are extremely limited. The normal web would never satisfy me again- I was able to tell that the first day I’d used the Shadow Web. But by now I’d gone through all the tamer websites I could find. I just wanted more interesting stuff. I was just curious. I wanted shock value.
So I began digging a little deeper. Visiting more “iffy” sites. Still avoided all the porn the best I could, but I did wind up on some seriously nasty pages. Found one site that sold small objects made of human skin. Actually seemed relatively legit, so I didn’t stay long on that one. Found another site that sold cyanide capsules and other drugs/guns.
I even came across a site called Suicide Voyeurs, where basically, people filmed their suicide live and users could pay to watch. It even went so far as to hold contests: a “suicidal” (the person planning to commit suicide) would, live on camera, present several options for killing themselves, and paying users could vote on which method was ultimately used. Of course, that information was all written in the site’s FAQ; I wasn’t going to pay to watch a suicide, so I have no idea if it was legit or not.
The week finally came and went, so I searched again for the Underground Families forum. Again, no luck finding a forum. Apparently they really had deleted it. Or hidden it way better.
I was about to give up the Shadow Web altogether when my eye spotted a site called “Road to Nowhere.” I’d actually seen this name when doing my original search for the underground families forum the week before, but hadn’t thought to click on it. So, I clicked on it this time.
It was a website, not a forum, but with a familiar theme. It showed some pictures of families hanging out in places that appeared to be furnished basements or rooms with cement floors. The pictures were usually a little dark, often kind of grainy, but the families seemed happy and close. Most of the people (and kids) in the pictures were smiling or talking- and not like cheesy stock photos, but like actual candid photos. Maybe some of them hadn’t even known their pictures were being taken.
I explored around, and it turned out that the site wasn’t quite like the forum (where users shared stories and experiences), but more like, a dating service of sorts. Except, instead of finding dates, you found families to join.
Families posted pages advertising themselves, anonymously of course. They’d describe their appearances, size of the family, how big their “home” was, their religion, goals, hobbies and interests, the works. Then they’d say exactly what they were looking for.
And when I say exactly, I mean exactly. Right down to things like, “You must have prominent cheek bones. We all have cheekbones.” And “You must be 5’10”.” Even things like “You must have a deep, soothing voice. Perfect for telling bedtime stories but also for effectively scolding.” These families meant business. Many said that if you didn’t meet every single aspect they were looking for, don’t bother replying. Others were more open to compromise, but even then not by much. It was pretty weird, to say the least.
I dug deeper into the site, even more intrigued. Then, literally by accident, I found a hidden link. It was the period at the end of the third sentence on one of the families’ listings. Why there, I don’t know. Maybe the link changed daily to a different random period somewhere else on the site. Either way I clicked it, and was taken to a new section of the site.
Except this forum wasn’t anything like the first one. This forum didn’t have happy, close-knit underground families joking and bonding with one another. This forum was serious… dark in tone, blunt in its cause.
The website was for families looking to welcome a new adult to their home.
The forum was for families looking to welcome new children.
There were only two sections in the forum: one for families seeking children, and one…
…for families advertising theirs.
One thread in the second section was titled “Third Was Fake.” It was by a woman, apparently single. She’d “already ‘taken in’ 2 kids” and had “mistakenly decided to ‘take in’ a third”, and it just “wasn’t working out.” She said she hadn’t realized the third, a 4 year old boy, had had his hair dyed black by his “previous family”, who I guess had given him up because he “cried more than their other child.” None of it made sense to me, but looking through her thread, it was filled mainly with sympathy posts.
I kept scrolling, each reply being worse than the last. People sympathized with her struggles, but she wasn’t getting any takers for the boy. One user commented saying how “difficult it is, finding families for children over 2.” From the other posts, I learned that crying children can rarely be “rehomed”, because apparently crying is one of the many “negative” child traits underground families don’t want. Others include “large feet”, “narrow mouths”, and “bony limbs.”
Between the website and the forum, it suddenly dawned on me why everyone had listed such meticulously strict traits and qualifications.
They all wanted their families to appear biologically related. Right down to temperament and personality.
Maybe for some other, much sicker reasons, too.
I went back to reading the replies. I was getting to the more recent posts, like in the last week or so. It was obvious the woman was growing increasingly frustrated with her lack of luck. Finally, she posted a time limit.
“If no one takes him by August 3rd, I’m going to dispose of him.”
Today was August 1st.
A few people replied with things like, “Aw, poor little guy. But, you have to do what you have to do.” No one seemed concerned for the boy. Only sympathetic towards the “mom.” So I did something I never, ever should have done.
I messaged her. Privately, as with the man on the last forum.
I said I’d take the boy.
I wasn’t expecting a reply. Hell, I half expected the site to suddenly shut down like before. So imagine my shock when, not even fifteen minutes later, I get a message back.
“Thank God. Disposing is such a mess, and my other kids haven’t witnessed one yet. Tell me about your family.”
Short and to the point. It seemed most of the posts were written like this- short, precise, and to the point. I tried my best to reply in the same manner, making up a family on the spot and praying she didn’t ask too many more questions.
“I’m a married mother of one. Our daughter is six. The boy looks like he could be her twin. We’ve discussed, and are willing to try and appease his crying habit.”
I’d seen the word “appease” thrown around on both this forum and the last one, and I had a feeling it referred to something a lot more sinister than it sounded.
The woman responded back with an email address I could reach her at (an anonymous one, of course), to discuss the finer details and eventually an “exchange location.” I agreed and promised her a prompt email.
Then I sat at my desk for a moment, thinking what on Earth I had just done.
Do I call the police? If I show them all of this, will they forgive the fact that I’ve been browsing sick and twisted sites on the Shadow Web for the past month and a half? Or will trying to be a hero for this little boy wind me up in prison?
I was scared. Extremely scared. Terrified of being exposed. This would definitely make national headlines- maybe even international ones. Everyone in the world would say “Yeah, she saved a boy, but what was she doing on all those other sites?” My friends and family would know I watched that 2 minute video of some Indian man being beheaded with a hunting knife. They’d know about that live torture site I’d hung out on for 2 hours. I hadn’t watched any of the videos- they were pay-to-watch anyway, and even if they weren’t I still wouldn’t have. Right? No… maybe I would have.
My curiosity had landed me in hot, unforgiving waters, and given me a black and white choice as punishment.
Save the boy but face public humiliation and possible prison time for my sick curiosities…
…or delete anonymous browsing altogether, never look back, and convince myself the boy’s fate was out of my hands.
Top Story: 4 Year Old Found Dead After Anonymous Call to Police.
“A woman’s anonymous phone call to police headquarters around 4:30pm last Friday may have resulted in the death of a young boy thought to be a victim of a large-scale underground child trafficking trade. Tom has the story.”
“Thank you Beth. An investigation of a 4 year old’s discovered body now shows that the boy is the same child who was kidnapped from a daycare three years ago- a crime that had left such mystery and sorrow in its wake that the daycare had been forced to shut down just weeks after the incident occurred. Hope of locating the boy was slim, until an anonymous phone call to the Rosendale Police Department came in late last Friday afternoon.
Here’s the call…”
911 Operator: “911, what’s your emergency?”
Caller: “I think a boy is about to be killed.”
911 Operator: “What? Tell me where you are.”
Caller: “N-No, no I can’t. Okay so, I was… I was on this website-“
911 Operator: “What website?”
Caller: “A website for families. Underground families. Where they kidnap children and, and look, I-I think-“
911 Operator: “M’am, please slow down. What’s this website’s URL address? Where are you?”
Caller: “Look! A woman is taking a boy to the corner of *blurred* and *blurred*. He was kidnapped. She had kidnapped him. If you don’t go get him, she’s going to kill him. She’s going to kill him at 5 o’clock if you don’t go get him!”
911 Operator: “M’am-! M’am!”
*beep* *dial tone*
911 Operator: “M’am-! ….Hello?”
“Upon further investigation, it is believed the boy was being traded through an underground child trafficking ring, but the details are still being worked out. The name and whereabouts of the anonymous caller are currently unknown, but police believe the call was made from a payphone just down the street from where the body was found. The police are unsure if the caller was part of the trade.
An alert was called and responding officers were immediately sent to the location provided. They arrived a little before 5pm and waited, but no woman or child showed.
The next day, on August 3rd, they returned to the spot for a follow-up and discovered the deceased body of the 4 year old left in a nearby dumpster. Cause of death has not been officially released, but investigators suspect it to have been by strangulation. The boy otherwise showed no signs of trauma or abuse. No clues to his killer were left, and investigators are still working to determine where he’s been over the past three years since his disappearance. Back to you, Beth.”
“Thanks Tom. Absolutely tragic.”
“Yes it is.”
“In other news…”
Credit To – inubasket