Creepypasta: An Introduction to the Urban Legends of the Internet
Spawned on website forums and defunct blogs, today’s urban legends live online — and they’re more horrifying than you’d imagine.
According to the legend, Candle Cove was a children’s marionette show on local access TV during the ‘70s. In 2009, commenters on an internet forum got together to discuss their memories of the show, including one of the more disturbing characters named “Skin-Taker,” a skeleton who wore a cape made out of children’s skin, and an episode that only featured the characters screaming for 30 minutes. One of the participants also shared a disturbing revelation, that when he asked his mom about the show:
she said she was suprised i could remember that and i asked why, and she said ‘because i used to think it was so strange that you said ‘i’m gona go watch candle cove now mom’ and then you would tune the tv to static and juts watch dead air for 30 minutes. you had a big imagination with your little pirate show. [sic]
The legend of Candle Cove is part of a collection of Internet urban legends referred to as “creepypasta,” the name derived from Internet slang for something copied and pasted throughout the web, “copypasta.” Creepypastas are like urban legends in the traditional sense, but they aren’t told around a campfire; they’re shared through links. In the mythos of Candle Cove, the alleged original thread discussing the show is lost to the annals of time, but some Internet sleuth supposedly preserved that information by copying the content and pasting it elsewhere online.
This is also the case with “Normal Porn for Normal People,” which takes the form of a blog post. The author describes receiving a chain email from a stranger encouraging him to visit a website called normalpornfornormalpeople.com. By the time the author has decided to recount his experiences the website has long been taken down, but he does remember it was a plain homepage with the tagline: “Normal Porn for Normal People, a Website Dedicated to the Eradication of Abnormal Sexuality.” The rest of the site contained a long list of links, some leading to blank pages, some to videos. After spending the night tracking down the videos on a forum with others who had received the same email, the author (and co.) was able to compile a collection that ranged from strange, arthouse-like short films to a graphic snuff movie of a woman tied to a bedframe being mauled to death by a chimpanzee. Shortly after the videos were compiled, the website was removed and any forums containing links to the videos were deleted. The author claims that some of the videos can still be found on torrent websites, including the chimpanzee snuff movie, which is titled “useless.avi.”
One of the earliest examples of creepypasta (which appeared online before the term originated on the popular forum website 4Chan around 2007) is an Anglefire blog from 2001 called Ted’s Caving Page. The website is classic net nostalgia, with different colored texts, annoying slide pop-up ads and zero attention to design. Ostensibly, it’s a site created by a caving enthusiast to keep people updated on the progress he and his friend have been making breaking into a virgin tunnel. The blog is long and contains extremely descriptive details of technique and equipment, as well as photographs of Ted and his friends in the cave, and the progress they make as they slowly chisel open the passageway. When the story begins to take a sinister turn, the horror is heightened by these seemingly banal notes. The images, which do not contain anything scary, add a sense of intimacy because they match the narrative; they aren’t just random pictures of caves that someone could have pulled from Google. Ted’s Caving Page is, in many ways, the prime example of how adhering strictly to a balance of narration and form makes creepypasta so frightening. The blog’s last entry, now posted over 10 years ago, ends with Ted writing that he is going back to the cave to get to the bottom of the strange things he’s experienced. The last line is: “See all of you soon, with a lot of answers! Love, Ted.”
Form is what separates creepypasta from traditional urban legends — and, arguably, what makes it scarier. With Candle Cove, “Normal Porn for Normal People” and a similar legend called “1999,” which involves a blogger trying to get to the bottom of a disturbing public access channel he watched during his youth, there is no reliance on “a friend of a friend” or “a girl who lived here a long time ago.” Using a forum or blog post to tell these stories means they can be original sources themselves; the people whose words you are reading are — allegedly — the ones who experienced the trauma. Although none of the reporters of these legends appear to be in real danger anymore, they (and you) can still bear the psychological scars of going down the wrong Internet rabbit hole.