The Phenomenon of Creepypasta
Human fear remains to be one of the oldest and most powerful emotions since the ancient times. Over time, the industry of horror has become a separate and independent entertainment, taking forms of cinematography, literature, videogames, etc. Modern communication technologies, including the Internet, essentially contributed to evolution of horror mythology, resulting in a unique cultural phenomenon known as creepypasta. Despite mass recognition of the subject, creepypasta is quite an unexplored field of human horror folklore. For this reason, creepypasta should be examined from socio-cultural perspective to learn of its value, popularity, its relation to reality and impact.
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In fact, one of the most significant qualities of creepypastas is blurring the thin line between reality and fiction. Historically, creepypastas emerged in the early 2000s and spread through private online forums and emails in a form of horror anecdotes, short stories, and urban legends. The mass popularity started with development of specialized websites, such as Creepypasta.com, Creepypasta Wiki, and Reddit subforum titled NoSleep. All major platforms began to cultivate a huge archive of creepypasta content, whereas every user of the Internet could be an author of a new scary story. That is how classic creepypastas were born and published, including Slender Man, Candle Cove, Jeff The Killer, Ted The Caver, and others. In light of unique nature of creepypastas, the art of writing and reading ghost stories has been associated with development of subcultural rules and requirements: for example, no criticism, debunking efforts, or disbelief are welcome while learning some creepypasta content. These inherent rules have been definitely designed to wipe out the line between fantasy and reality in horror stories and bring the sense of authenticity.
In my personal opinion, creepypasta is nothing more than just an online analog of night campfire stories, yet without a fire and dried marshmallow. Instead of macabre shadows and flashes of fire, there is a strong emphasis on power of readers imagination enhanced by the effect of communication technologies. Technological aspect is quite significant in improving the authentic image of horror stories, as many recognized creepypastas are usually accompanied by violent images, scary videos, and dark music setting. In this sense, it is evident that creepypasta intends to be mostly sincere in its storytelling.
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Sincerity of narration and shortage of irony in creepypasta content is what makes this Internet art popular and impressive for the mass audience. The goal of making violent and similar-to-reality stories is to arouse a sense of belonging due to realism of description. The efficacy of this writing method has been so palpable that famous creepypasta websites had to add sort of a disclaimer and FAQs, indicating that creepypastas are fictional stories. Nevertheless, it is also underlined that no one can tell or prove these stories were not inspired by some true events. The power of secrecy, mysticism, and incompleteness are components that still support life in popular creepypasta stories to date. In this sense, it is important for the creepypasta subculture to stay in the shadow of terrifying uncertainty, yet keeping this tone of authenticity and sincerity to make readers truly believe in what is written.
Indeed, the factor of human faith is one of the key aspects proving that creepypasta works well and will continue to do that in the future. I suppose that creepypasta is so powerful in affecting human minds because of high suspension of disbelief, which creates a secondary belief, putting the reader in a temporary state of enchantment. Creepypasta stories usually presume that they took place in reality, even though they often contain elements of supernatural. For this purpose, authors of creepypasta refer to amplifying literature techniques that enhance the sense of realism and submersion: for example, by describing real locations or introducing simple and understandable characters facing the terrifying thing. The aim of such literature approach is to eventually increase readers suspension of disbelief by offering some genuine story that could happen in any common place of the world.
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Consequences of popularization of creepypasta are also quite predictable. The viral nature of creepypasta means that stories cultivated within the Internet are spreading as some mental infection. Moreover, every act of copying and retelling will expand the original story and add some valuable details. Unfortunately, the Internet folklore may also be extremely dangerous for sensitive and young kids who are unable to distinguish between fiction and reality. The infamous case of the Slender Man stabbing is an example of how two teenagers, Morgan and Anissa, have believed in reality of a fictional creature who supposedly told them to stab Payton Leutner (Beware the Slenderm (Beware the an).
According to documentary Beware the Slenderman, girls tried to impress the Slender Man by making this sacrifice and saving their families from death (Beware the Slenderman). Nevertheless, the documentary indicates about a vivid case of early-life schizophrenia, which can be actually triggered by any violent content, including videogames or movies. However, the Slender Man has ultimately turned into a symbol of all subconscious human fears, a new boogeyman, and acceptance of this fictional character strongly depends on peoples perception. Thus, people with low socialization status are more affected by creepypastas. In other words, if people lack real friends, they imagine and accept them in their mind, while creepypasta here becomes a strong avenue of avoiding reality.
The culture of the Slender Man and other creepypastas clearly shows that people may face cognitive difficulties in defining both fiction and reality. It happens because of different factors. For example, the writing style of creepypasta reminds a casual journal or diary notes. Creepypasta includes a high amount of details that increase acceptance of creepy narration. Being well-told in most cases, creepypasta addresses fundamental ideas of fear, such as the unknown, unclearness, abandonment and hopelessness. Moreover, it is a feeling of familiarity that makes creepypasta hardly distinguished from truth. Sometimes, stories refer to scientific details to improve authenticity (How to Write Creepypasta). Topical events and realistic characters also complicate the differentiation. Still, I think that creepypasta is directly engaged with this large facet in our culture. Thus, successful stories become sort of a cultural franchise, transforming into videogames and movies, for example. Additionally, availability of creepypasta leads to activity of researchers and debunkers, even though subculture condemns any attempts of finding proofs.
In the meantime, it is possible to think about redemptive qualities of creepypasta. Technically, creepypasta is a new form of subcultural entertainment, which is an opposite to the urban legends and myths. While legends serve to moralize and educate readers through mysticism and fear, creepypastas are designed to stir up strong emotions and generate adrenaline. In addition, creepypastas are effective preconditions to show creativity for any individual who can take a temporal role of Stephen King and/or H.P. Lovecraft. Eventually, promotion of creepypastas is about opening a new dimension in the horror industry, which brings life to this field of entertainment.
Overall, creepypasta is an exclusive cultural phenomenon of today. It is facilitated by the power of modern communication technologies and becomes a multinational creative art of scaring people. Given the value of realism and sincerity of narration, creepypasta serves as an online folklore aimed at entertaining people. As long as people are encouraged to feel fear, creepypasta will be a popular subculture of the Internet age.