Looking for a meme that brings every irrational fear you've ever had while you're alone to life? Welcome. 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 to stand up, freak out, and march off.
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.
It 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 4chan.com, 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.
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 of 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.
Ted The Caver
Remember that creepy movie about the cave explorers who kept experiencing paranormal activity 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.
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.
Scary Prank Reaction Videos
Some jerk 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 crap out of you.
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.
So go ahead and take part in classic internet culture by sending a commercial, 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.