Want to spook yourself silly when you're meant to be sleeping tonight? Welcome to the world of creepypasta - first person horror stories that live on the internet and are just realistic enough to scare the crap out of you. As with all forms of horror the quality of creepypasta varies wildly, but we've collected ten of the best right here.
What Is Creepypasta?
Creepypasta is a pretty unique phenomenon of the internet, comprising of scary stories that are generally presented as true accounts. Some of them stick to this pseudo-documentary format more strictly, while others can be more literary or end with twists worthy of M. Night Shyamalan.
With creepypasta first being popularised on 4chan, its odd name also came from the imageboard - a spin-off of the slang word 'copypasta'. Copypasta referred to stories or sections of text that were copied again and again by various anonymous users, and soon got a cousin in creepypasta, solely referring to texts of this nature that had a horror bent to them.
So, are you committed to a sleepless night tonight? Here are our top ten scariest creepypastas.
Something about Anansi's Goatman Story has stuck with me since I first read it, and occasionally it just pops into my head unbidden whenever I hear an odd noise outside on a quiet night. The Goatman creepypasta plays on our very human fear of things that almost seem human but aren't quite. Bonus points if you read it on a camping trip in front of the fire.
A story that was originally told on 4chan's paranormal board, it's hard to preview here - so you'll just have to go read the whole story in its full glory.
"Russian researchers in the late 1940s kept five people awake for fifteen days using an experimental gas based stimulant. They were kept in a sealed environment to carefully monitor their oxygen intake so the gas didn’t kill them, since it was toxic in high concentrations. This was before closed circuit cameras so they had only microphones and 5 inch thick glass porthole sized windows into the chamber to monitor them. The chamber was stocked with books, cots to sleep on but no bedding, running water and toilet, and enough dried food to last all five for over a month."
The Russian Sleep Experiment is one of the best-known creepypastas (nominated by Lifehacker editor Chris Jager as 'the only good creepypasta') and has been shared around the internet so much that I have no doubt a bunch of people think its true. It even has its own Snopes page. The chilling story of a wartime science experiment gone wrong is only boosted by the single terrifying image you can view at the link above.
"Skyshale033 Subject: Candle Cove local kid's show? Does anyone remember this kid's show? It was called Candle Cove and I must have been 6 or 7. I never found reference to it anywhere so I think it was on a local station around 1971 or 1972. I lived in Ironton at the time. I don't remember which station, but I do remember it was on at a weird time, like 4:00 PM."
Another oldie but a goodie, Candle Cove plays on those weird, messed up memories you have from when you were a child that you're never quite sure if they're memories or dreams. The beauty of Candle Cove is in its subtlety, and the lingering feeling of unease that builds throughout the story. In true creepypasta style it's framed as an archived version of a series of posts on a "NetNostalgia" discussion board.
Candle Cove even got a television adaptation recently, as the first season of horror anthology show Channel Zero, but I recommend reading the text version first.
"I wasn't sure where else to post these stories, so I figured I'd share them here. I've been an SAR officer for a few years now, and along the way I've seen some things that I think you guys will be interested in."
Another story that I like for its subtlety, Search And Rescue is a series of Reddit posts on r/nosleep that confirm what we all know instinctively - that the great outdoors is really damn spooky. The creepypasta is less a single story than a collection of terrifying anecdotes, but it's still worth reading through before your next big hiking trip.
Like Candle Cove, this creepypasta was also used as the basis for a season of Channel Zero, though the adaptation was only loosely based on the stories you can read above.
"Tonight’s kind of a catalyst for this post. I just received another message, and it’s worse than any of the others.
"My girlfriend died on the 7th of August, 2012. She was involved in a three car collision driving home from work when someone ran a red light. She passed away within minutes on the scene."
One of the particular real-life horrors of our connected world is the fact that Facebook accounts don't disappear when their owners pass away. Anyone who has had a Facebook friend pass away will know the gut wrench of getting a birthday notification for someone who's no longer around to celebrate it, and this creepypasta takes that pain to a whole new level, adding in paralysing fear along with that intense grief. We won't blame you if you spend less time on Facebook after reading this one.
"So, my apartment is currently being haunted by the ghost of a dead child and he's trying to kill me. (thread)"
The newest on this list, and perhaps one of the first creepypastas to play out live on Twitter, is cartoonist Adam Ellis's chilling story of a number of encounters with a creepy ghost child inhabiting his apartment. If you weren't following along live when it happened last year, you can read the whole thing at the link above.
Our most recent news on Dear David is that he is, of course, getting his own horror movie soon - though Ellis still swears the haunting was real.
"Okay, /x/, I need your help with this. This is not copypasta, this is a long read, but I feel like my safety or well-being could very well depend on this. This is video game related, specifically Majora's Mask, and this is the creepiest shit that has ever happened to me in my entire life."
One particular 'genre' of creepypasta involves the concept of 'haunted' or 'evil' video games, often with the power to make whoever plays it kill themselves, or at least drive them mad. BEN Drowned is one of the creepiest and most well-known of these, telling the story of a haunted copy of Majora's Mask. It probably doesn't hurt that as a kid I had a pre-owned copy of Majora's Mask that had a half-complete save file with a stranger's name on it. BEN Drowned was later turned into a full-scale ARG that has unfortunately lapsed in recent years.
"I first met in person with Mary E. in the summer of 2007. I had arranged with her husband of fifteen years, Terence, to see her for an interview. Mary had initially agreed, since I was not a newsman but rather an amateur writer gathering information for a few early college assignments and, if all went according to plan, some pieces of fiction. We scheduled the interview for a particular weekend when I was in Chicago on unrelated business, but at the last moment Mary changed her mind and locked herself in the couple's bedroom, refusing to meet with me. For half an hour I sat with Terence as we camped outside the bedroom door, I listening and taking notes while he attempted fruitlessly to calm his wife."
I almost forgot about Smile Dog, and as soon as I remembered it I wished I could forget it again. Smile Dog is a creepypasta based around an oddly disturbing doctored image of a dog. The story itself is a familiar one in the world of urban legend and creepypasta, but the image circulated with it has always added to its legitimacy - I still avoid looking at it, even though I was much younger when it first scared the crap out of me. Interestingly there seems to be two different versions of the 'smile dog' image - the one at the link above is different to the one I remember, which can be found with a Google search.
"It started when I was six years old.
I was in school, it was the middle of a reading lesson, and I needed to pee, badly. At that age, actually, a fair few kids still wet themselves, and I always got paranoid about embarrassing myself in public like that. I stuck my hand up and told Mrs. Zebby that I needed to use the bathroom. After the usual speech about how I “should have gone at break”, she gave me the key to the Disabled-Access toilet. (As it was the closest one to my classroom.)
Anyway, as I sat on my porcelain throne, there came a knocking at the door."
Written in a more traditional microfiction style than most of the stories here, Knocking develops such a cool and terrifying concept that I can never forget it. It's a horror story for anyone who stares at the back of the toilet door in the middle of the night and freaks themselves out imagining what kind of horrors might be waiting on the other side...
"Due to the overwhelming number of requests I have received to tell about my discoveries and bizarre experiences in a cave not far from my home, I have created this web page. I will outline the events that happened to me during the past few months. Beginning with my journey into a familiar cave in December 2000 and ending... well, it hasn't actually ended yet. I will use my caving journal as the text to tell about my recent experience. I will give them to you as I experienced them, in chronological order."
This story, framed as the blog of a caving enthusiast and originally posted to Angelfire (of all places) was the first creepypasta I ever read, and still holds a special place in my heart. In case the idea of squeezing your body into tiny, cramped, dark places wasn't already horrifying enough, Ted's caving story adds to that fear with a building sense of supernatural dread. You can read the original Angelfire site above in all its glory, or check out the wiki version here for a more mobile-friendly experience.
Have any spine-chilling creepypastas not mentioned here? Link your favourites in the comments!