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The 13 Scariest Internet Memes of All Time

Looking for a meme that brings every irrational fear you've ever had while you're alone to life? You've found 13. These are a few of the most pervasive, creepiest, goriest memes that have made their way to your screens and inboxes over the years. Be prepared for the hair on the back of your neck stand up, freak out, and march off.

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  1. 1

    Slender Man

    *Update: In June of 2014, two 12-year-old girls from Wisconsin stabbed their 12-year-old friend nearly to death after they learned about Slender Man online. One of the girls told a detective that they were acting as "proxies" of the mythological character and that he told them to do it. 

    Slender Man is probably the most ubiquitous, successful, and well-known terrifying or scary internet meme. Until 2014, he was mostly a legend, a ghost story that kids of the Internet generation told each other. 

    Slender Man is a tall, thin figure that lurks in the shadows, taunting his victims in their waking and sleeping hours. According to the Internet myth, he has the ability to stretch and shorten his arms and has tentacles coming out of his back. The Slender Man can cause memory loss, insomnia, paranoia, coughing fits (“Slendersickness”), photograph/video distortions, and he can teleport at will, according to the myth surrounding this supernatural creature. 


    Tracing its origins back to a video game called "Chzo Mythos," a character called Cabadath or "Tall Man" lurked in the pixels of the amateur game and is thought to have provided some inspiration for the creation of Slender Man–something that actually scares people and can be really eerie because of how well-done it usually is. 

    Origin: I
    t all started in a 2009 Something Awful Photoshop contest to produce creepy, paranormal pictures, complete with accounts to make them sound more authentic. One of the more successful ones, a pair of pictures that depicted a slender, abnormally tall man lurking in the shadows, found its way to, along with an account of fourteen children who went missing the same day the photos were taken.


    There have been countless fake accounts, images and made of the Slender Man ever since the legend caught on. 


    There's a Slender Man song, a Slender Man documentary, and even a popular Slender Man video game. There is an ongoing web ARG (alternate reality game) called Marble Hornets that includes the Slender Man mythos. (Be sure to set aside time before you venture down that rabbit hole, though.) The popularity of Slender Man gave way to kids even dressing up as him for Halloween, taking pictures of themselves in shadows looking like him, and generally cosplaying as him and having fun: 

    There's also an Enderman, Everyman, and Trender Man. The Trenderman is the funniest.


  2. 2

    Dunrobin Class of 1924


    This is one of the most often-used photos when people are trying to freak each other out on the web. Notice something wrong with this picture? Look closely, it's not easy to spot. If you're having trouble, compare it to this class photo taken a couple years before. 

     Notice that any of the students look a little more "life-full" in 1922? Even for that time, in which photography was a budding art and pictures of people tended to include morose, dead-pan and often empty looks, one particular child looks remarkably absent. Something about the look in her eyes tells you that something is just off. It's the girl in the top row, all the way to the right.

     According to Internet legend, that girl was dead at the time the photo was taken.

    Apparently, according to the Internet legend, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was not unusual to put dead people in school and other portraits, you know, for the sake of continuity. That first class photo, where the plank girl can be seen in the top right-hand corner, was the stuff of creepy Internet discussions, which prompted reactions like the one above. People have researched this left and right, and some have written it off as a photo used specifically to troll people into thinking something is wrong, when really nothing is wrong with the picture. But if you look closely, the first theory is actually rather convincing. 

    To support the case of this being a norm in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, photos like the following ones are often cited as examples of dead children being photographed so that the parents have some reminder of their recently deceased loves.  

    These are examples of how twisted people could be before ubiquitous mass media, and how there are some kids that would just never get passed taking pictures with their recently dead family members.

    Up to you whether or not you believe the legend. 

  3. 3

    Ted the Caver

    Remember that creepy movie about the cave explorers who kept experiencing crazy paranormal activities as they went further into the recesses of an unexplored, underground area? Not The Cave, not The Descent... the other one. 

    The Living Dark, about Ted the Caver, is based on the caving journals of a man named Ted who started an Angelfire page in 2001 to chronicle the explorations of a new cave he and his friend Brad ("B") had found near Ted's house.

    The online entries are a combination of the accounts of the expedition from Ted's caving journal accompanied by his reflections of the happenings after the fact. 

    The entries are extensive and engrossing; so much so that after a three week period where Ted, Brad, and another friend had suffered hallucinations and nightmares since their last visit to the cave, a promise was made to return to the cave for one last time–armed with knives and a gun– to get closure on all the strangeness they have witnessed.

    This promise was made on May, 19th, 2001. A follow-up post has never been written.
    Click here to see the original post and to lose an hour of reading and wondering and checking back and forth to Ted's increasingly horrifying pictures of deep caves, caverns and mysterious findings. 

    This really scared the crap out of me when I first read it

    The Truth: 
    Ok, now that you're good and freaked out about what Ted et al might have found in that cave, it should be known that the cave mysteries were mostly debunked in 2005 when Ted challenged the authenticity of Thomas Lera's story "The Fear of Darkness," saying that parts had been taken from his own story. Ted admitted that the supernatural elements of his story were embellished, but that the caving routes and other experiences were real.

    Click here to check out Ted's original Angelfire page.

  4. 4

    Scary Prank Reaction Videos

    Some assh*le sent you one of these if you were on the web in the late 90s/early 2000s. They were huge. 
    It all starts innocently enough: click here to play some fun game or watch an amusing video. You click and start watching, guard lowered, when out of nowhere some scary image appears to freak the ever-loving piss out of you.

    One of the originals is thought to be this "IQ test" that challenges your brain and bladder functions.
    The Original: 


    Another great example of the Prank Video is the Scary Maze Game, which similarly coaxes the viewer into a concentration state and then hits them with horror. If you want to scare someone born in the mid-90s, you can play the game here.

    The videos were circulated through email, IM and chat boards and spawned their own reaction phenomenon where videos of people being pranked were recorded and distributed.

    The trend got so huge, in fact, that even some commercials of that era followed suit. Here, for example, is a commercial for  German soda brand that took the style of one of the early internet memes and actually made it marketable:


    So go ahead and take part in classic internet culture by sending this commercial, this maze, or any of the million other jump-scares that people made and then gave each other over a decade ago on the web. We're all getting old. 

  5. 5

    Creepypasta Scary Stories

    Creepypasta is an offshoot of Copypasta (which would be read Copy Paste-y if anyone were so concerned with etymology that they'd risk sounding like a jerk) which was the practice of copying and pasting stories for redistribution through email and message boards, much like spam, but with meaning.
    The Creepypasta is the slightly more ghoulish version of the copying and pasting email chains that made their way from inbox to inbox starting in the 1990s. Much of what was passed around was in the vein of chain letters with threats of death if the receiver didn't continue to forward the scary stories on to others. 
    These are some of the more popular Creepypasta stories that have been passed around.

    In The Russian Sleep Experiment, five prisoners of war are "volunteered" for a 30-day sleep deprivation study which will lead to their freedom if they complete the 30 days without sleep. What happens in the chamber? Click here to read the whole story. 
    The Old Lady is a creepy manifestation of every horror story your mom ever told you in an attempt to get you to not talk to strangers. Here's the whole story.  
    Perhaps meant to make moms and dads feel just as uncomfortable as their kids in the middle of the night, The Bad Dream will make you want to sleep alone. Forever. Read it here
    The kids' television show Candle Cove was said to have originally aired in 1971-72 and centered around the bumbling Pirate Percy and his ship The Laughingstock. This show was no Spongebob Squarepants, though, and had some seriously creepy themes for its young viewers. This is the whole story surrounding the show.

  6. 6



    This dog will eat your soul.

    Or so the Creepypasta story would have you believe.

    While the exact origins of the smile.jpg picture are unknown, the story surrounding it is slightly more available. 
    The Myth:Said to have been unearthed by a college student researching a story for his college assignments, the picture is said to contain certain powers. He scheduled an interview with a woman named Mary. And in 1992 she was on a Chicago-based bulletin board system where she encountered Smile.jpg. At that moment, according to her, her life changed forever. 
    Mary was just one of over 400 people who'd experienced the image. Mary was the only one to have spoken out about the image, as the other 400 people have remained either anonymous or dead up until today. Smile.jpg, otherwise known as, is known to have the power to, once downloaded, cause epileptic seizures during sleep, acute anxiety and the intense desire to share the image with others. 
    This desire drove the woman insane, which is what at first caught the attention of the college student. 
    Purportedly, the image caused the death of the woman at her own hand. After fighting it throughout his entire article, to raise awareness of the properties of the photo, the student attached the photo to his article to “spread the word” because "only then will the dog leave your dreams alone".
    Common Use:Often used as a starter pic on image boards such as 4chan's paranormal-based sectioned /x/, this image is now known throughout the web as Smile.jpg and no other reports have ever been filed as to its powers. 

  7. 7

    The Holders

    This is the critical number one dare not reach while collecting magical objects, lest the holder will be cursed forever and his or her act will bring a horrible imminent peril to the world.


    The Holders emerged as "The Holder of the End", a part of a series of Creepypastas in 2007. Those who were looking to be part of the collection of the 538 magical items were called "the seekers" and were provided with a text that instructed them on the proper ways to deal with "the holders" of the items. 
    This is the original story: 
    In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution or halfway house in you can get yourself to. When you reach the front desk, ask to visit someone who calls himself “The Holder of the End”. Should a look of child-like fear come over the workers face, you will then be taken to a cell in the building. It will be in a deep hidden section of the building. All you will hear is the sound of someone talking to themselves echo the halls. It is in a language that you will not understand, but your very soul will feel unspeakable fear.
    Should the talking stop at any time, STOP and QUICKLY say aloud “I’m just passing through, I wish to talk.” If you still hear silence, flee. Leave, do not stop for anything, do not go home, don’t stay at an inn, just keep moving, sleep where your body drops. You will know in the morning if you’ve escaped successfully
    If the voice in the hall comes back after you utter those words continue on. Upon reaching the cell all you will see is a windowless room with a person in the corner, speaking an unknown language, and cradling something. The person will only respond to one question. “What happens when they all come together?”
    The person will then stare into your eyes and answer your question in horrifying detail. Many go mad in that very cell, some disappear soon after the meeting, a few end their lives. But most do the worst thing, and look upon the object in the person’s hands. You will want to as well. Be warned that if you do, your death will be one of cruelty and unrelenting horror.
    Your death will be in that room, by that person’s hands.
    That object is 1 of 538. They must never come together.

  8. 8

    Jeff the Killer

    Jeff the Killer wasn't always a creepy, white-faced maniac; according to legend he started as a ladies man, a playful brother, and a fun guy to be around.


    It was an unfortunate incident involving the transport of a gallon of acid to clean his bathtub that rendered Jeff a noseless, white-faced killer with a ghastly smile. 

    Jeff is now a popular pop-up image and is often accompanied by "Go to sleep" in red text whenever one of those threads is brought up on an image board. This is the origin of this picture which you've seen and ignored in various places online. It has an origin...

  9. 9

    Obedece a La Morsa (Obey the Walrus)

    Obedece a La Morsa (Obey the Walrus, when translated to English) is a video of drag queen Johnnie Baima tap dancing. On the surface this doesn't seem so bad, but the scary, perturbing nature of the video had led to countless remixes, parodies, and reaction videos.

    The music, animations, and pervasive way Baima stares at you from under his parasol prompt repeat viewings just to try and discern what one thing about the video sets the viewer so on edge. The problem is, there's no one thing; the video is a perfect creep storm.

  10. 10

    Bong Chong Dong Ghost (Mystery Sketch 2011)


    This is only a meme, technically, in the "viral" sense that it went huge in 2011, scaring the pants of unknowing people who thought they were just reading a web comic. It became a meme, along with Rule 34s (not enclosed) and photo manipulations because of how quickly and widely it spread. 
    If you want to go into it without any context, like most people did, then click here and scroll down and read the web comic like you would any other web comic. 
    The story of a girl returning to her apartment alone at night, the creep factor of the tale (written and illustrated by Horang) is elevated by the fact that it claims to have a basis in real events.  
    While walking one night, a girl spots a twisted woman walking ahead of her in bloodied pajamas. She is approached and questioned by the gnarled figure, attempts to flee, and remembers nothing until a neighbor finds her and alerts the police. 
    SPOILER: Make sure to have the volume up or your headphones on when you read this one

  11. 11

    The Rake


    Although fact can often be scarier than fiction, there's something to be said about getting a community of horror-loving individuals together to create a mythology meant to scare the bejeesus out of people. Such was the impetus for The Rake.
    A not-so-distant relative of Slenderman, the Rake was conceived to have the following attributes:

    Approximately 6’ tall, but seen crouching
    Pale, greyish skin
    2 slightly larger than human eyes
    No nose
    Mouth that is smaller than human, but when provoked or attacked, opens freely on a hinge down to the neckline, showing hundreds of dull, but not blunt teeth
    Unknown origin
    Unknown Diet
    Seen in suburban areas
    Opens it’s mouth and widens its eyes when provoked, attacks when approached
    If not provoked or approached, just stares

    The character first appeared in 2006 when Something Awful user Brian Somerville uploaded an installment of his series "Horror Theatre" that appeared to be about the mysterious creature. The post indicated that The Rake had been described in writings as early as the 12th century, though most records of its existence have "mysteriously disappeared".

  12. 12

    Lavender Town Suicides


    Also known as the Lavender Town Syndrome, the story centers around the suicides of at least 200 children after the release of the Pokemon Red and Green video games in Japan in 1996. Affecting children between the ages of 7-12, the lavender level in both games had a high-pitched soundtrack that only children without fully-formed ears could hear. The result of repeated exposure to the music caused the young players to experience severe headaches, irritable moods, and suicidal tendencies.

    Rumor has it that the "Lavender Tone" prompted as many as 200 children who played the game to take their own life by hanging themselves or throwing themselves from great heights. 

    You can hear the song by playing the above video. The song, which was remarkably creepy (mostly because it was supposed to take place in a graveyard), is what was supposed to have driven kids to their deaths. 
    While "factual" reports vary as to the veracity of the story, the tones were changed in the second editions of the game and in the versions released in the US.
    Click here for the full text of the Creepypasta that started it all

  13. 13

    Then Who Was Phone?

    You're about to get intimate with your girlfriend. It's hot, it's heavy; she's not stopping you. Suddenly, the phone rings. It's her father delivering a message asking what you're doing with his daughter. The biggest problem: her father is dead.
    Then who was phone?

    The first of the poorly worded phone stories (the bad grammar is intentional) appeared on 4chan in 2008 among other scary stories. 

    The poor grammar actually helped it gain traction as an ending to a scary story. As in "I went to door. No one there. Still scary noises. It was phone". 

    Usually used in creepypasta threads, this particular creepypasta is used the most often to troll the rest of the people trying to freak each other out with a poorly executed, mundane and simple story. 

    It's pretty funny. 

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