An illustrated guide to the Internet’s nightmares

By Fernando Alfonso III on March 24th, 2014

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Tails, Sonic’s happy go lucky sidekick from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, raced down an endless path. This was the Green Hill Zone, the iconic Sonic level known for its bright blue sky, oversized flowers, and tiny woodland creatures. Only something was different about this level, something was off.

As Tails ran, he came across piles of small birds bleeding. The farther he went, the more carcasses he found. Then he found Sonic standing with his back to him, eyes closed. As Tails approached, Sonic’s eye opened to reveal black with red glowing dots.

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The screen cut to black.

This is “Sonic.exe.” The story was the inspiration for /creepythread, a collaborative art book of illustrated scary stories from the Internet best known as creepypastas.

The book is the brainchild of Jensine Eckwall and Peter Schmidt, two artists who felt putting pen to paper was the ideal way to pay tribute to their favorite Internet obsession.

“[Sonic.exe is] one of the worst creepypastas I’ve ever read, yet it manages to tap the 8-year-old in me that was obsessed with a super fast, blue hedgehog, and somehow that creates this horrible, nostalgic feeling,” Schmidt told me. “Like looking how no one wants to look at the car crash they’re staring at, except the car crash is Sonic and 8-year-old me.”

/creepythread couldn’t have come at a more popular time for creepypasta, a 7-year-old Internet institution started on 4chan’s paranormal board /x/.

Creepypastas were a variation of the copypasta, a “block of text that gets copied and pasted over and over again,” Know Your Meme explains. The term copypasta was coined by 4chan but the concept existed during the early days of the Internet when chain emails and AIM buddy icons were all the rage. The purpose of both was essentially the same: A bait-and-switch scheme to fool people into wasting time reading something made up.

One of the first and most detailed creepypastas to date revolves around the SCP Foundation, a mysterious wiki featuring reports of supernatural occurrences. One of the most notable reports is SCP-231 which tells the story of an impregnated young girl rescued from a sex cult. The only way to terminate the pregnancy is through Procedure 110-Montauk, which has the “possibility of accidental fatality.” It’s a story that Eckwall is illustrating for /creepythread.

“I think the omission of certain elements is what makes it so spooky,” Eckwall said. “I think any creepypasta can make a compelling image, as long as the core idea behind it is strong. I think some of the meandering atmospheric ones make for great conceptual pieces based on tone, and the more direct ones make for great narrative or literal illustrations.”

Photo by gusstorms

Photo by gusstorms

In 2010, creepypastas hit a milestone after the New York Times reported how these scary stories are a fun, even creative new option for wasting time online. Today, creepypastas are inspiring video games and full-length films.

Eckwall and Schmidt will release the book in April at MoCCAfest, Toronto Comics Art Festival, and Small Press Expo (SPX). It will feature the work, and nightmares, of 31 different artists.

“I think that the way the Internet affects horror media is pretty striking,” Eckwall said. “We’re in a culture of shared content, so we have a superficial understanding (like in GIF sets) of so much horror media, whether it’s manga, movies, or stories. It’s so easy to have one’s content become a meme, and easy for what once were classics or mainstays to become lost… The art we’re getting for /creepythread comes from both a contemporary self-referential and a classically illustrative place. The work may be based on recycled content but the application is not derivative at all.”

Photo by ofishel

Photo by ofishel