27 Spine-Tingling Internet-Era Urban Legends
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You’ve heard them all a million times. The story of the man with the hook for a hand who scratches at the couple’s car door. The tale of the killer who phones his unsuspecting victim from inside the house. The Bogeyman. But what about story of “Slender Man,” the lithe and faceless humanoid who stalks and kidnaps children late in the night? Or the harrowing tale of “Jeff the Killer,” the tormented youth who mutilated his own face and exacted gruesome revenge on his bullies? Or the legend of “Mr. Widemouth,” a creepy, crooked-eared creature who lures children into danger?
If the answer’s no, then consider yourself lucky. (You probably sleep way better at night.) But millions of readers are deeply familiar with these scary and relatively new urban legends that have proliferated online in the Internet Age. They’re so popular, in fact, that this exploding genre of horror story even has a name: “creepypastas” (a twist on “copypastas,” digital-world slang for cut-and-pasted memes).
So if you love nothing more than freaking yourself out, read on—because here we’ve compiled the scariest, most spine-tingliest, and utterly freakiest urban legends that have spread far and wide since the explosion of the information superhighway. And if these don’t send your body successfully in the fight-or-flight, then try your hand at these 30 Scary Games So Spine-Tingling They’re Addictive!
Meet the most infamous urban legend of the Internet era. Created by Something Awful user Eric Knudsen under the fictional name Victor Surge, this long-limbed, faceless man supposedly appears in photographs with young children right before they go missing, never to return again. The story, largely due to its vagueness, has simply exploded, with outsize influence and impact.
It has also and has led to some terrifying real-world events. In 2014, following a slumber party, two young girls in Wisconsin lured a friend into the woods, where one of the girls stabbed the victim 19 times as the other friend looked on and encouraged her. When questioned by the police, the girls claimed that they did it impress the so-called Slender Man. “The girls said they were compelled to kill to protect themselves and their families from the demon, and after the slaying planned to run away to the demon’s mansion, which they believed was in the Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin,” the Washington Post reported. Thankfully, the victim survived.
“In June 1972, a woman appeared in Cedar Sinai [sic] hospital in nothing but a white, blood-covered gown,” this urban legend begins.
As the story goes, the woman scared everyone she came in contact with, not because of her blood-smeared garments, but because “she resembled something close to a mannequin.” As you might imagine, things didn’t go well for the innocents who crossed paths with the so-called “Expressionless”—and if you’re curious to finish the fable for yourself, you can read it in full here.
Jeff the Killer
The legend of Jeff the Killer first emerged in 2008 when a YouTuber used a creepy image of a featureless, stark white face in a slideshow of spooky images.
Soon after, a Jeff the Killer backstory started to circulate in which a badly bullied boy named Jeffrey Woods mutilated his own face and got revenge on his tormenters, often whispering the phrase “just go to sleep” as he inflicted cruel punishment on those who wronged him. Yikes!
Mr. Bear is the bad guy in “1999,” one of the scariest and most well-known urban legends in the creepypasta circuit.
According to Elliot, the story’s fictional protagonist who explains about his experience with Mr. Bear via blog posts, Mr. Bear was the star of a show called Mr. Bear’s Cellar on a little-known local station in Canada, every episode of which concluded with children being led into a cellar to play hide-and-seek.
Though the show wasn’t particularly well done, Elliot continued to watch every day—and thanks to his fascination, he eventually found out just what Mr. Bear was up to in that cellar of his.
The Harbinger Experiment
“The Harbinger Experiment” tells of a scientist named Zimmerman whose attempt to house spirits in the bodies of human test subjects goes horrifically wrong—so wrong, in fact, that the people who come out of the experiment rooms are hardly people at all.
Instead, they’re hairless, black-eyed, screaming monsters intent upon murdering those who harmed them. As far as scary urban legends go, this one is particularly enthralling, thanks to a combination of good pacing, great writing, and an oh-so-gripping storyline.
In this terrifying tale, a five-year-old boy experiences vivid fever dreams and encounters a large-mouthed, crooked-eared creature who goes by the name of Mr. Widemouth. Though he seems harmless at first, the Furby-like creature soon tries to convince the young boy to partake in many a dangerous activity—and, well, let’s just say that Mr. Widemouth isn’t very good at taking no for an answer.
Robert the Doll
The only thing that makes the widely-circulated online tale of Robert the doll creepier is the fact that it’s based on a real doll. Evidently, the toy that the story is based off of was the property of a young Floridian resident named Robert Eugene Otto, or Gene, back in the early 1900s—and during that time, it has been said that Gene would often speak about Robert as if he were a living, breathing creature capable of making his own mischief.
Even after Otto died in 1974, residents of Key West continued to experience unexplainable encounters with Robert—he’d allegedly make faces, giggle, and move objects around the room. Currently, the potentially possessed doll is housed at the Key West Art & Historical Society, and paranormal enthusiasts are constantly making the trek to Florida just to visit the hollow boy.
The Song and Dance Man
The Song and Dance Man isn’t your run-of-the-mill murderer. As one purported survivor of his attacks recalls in this tall tale, the “tall and gangling” man puts his victims in a trance, forcing them to dance until their bodies can no longer handle it.
The Black-Eyed Children
The first story to ever circulate about the black-eyed children—spooky, dead-eyed kids who menacingly stare at adults and try to get invited into homes and cars to commit acts of mass murder—was a supposed eyewitness account written by a journalist named Brian Bethel.
According to Bethel, during his travels in Abilene, Texas, two children with “coal black” eyes had approached his car and asked for a ride home—but when he started to show fear, the older of the two boys started shouting, “WE CAN’T COME IN UNLESS YOU TELL US IT’S OK,” and Bethel got out of there before it was too late.
To this day, Bethel insists that his interaction with the black-eyed children actually happened—a claim he’s repeated on TV and in a local Abilene paper—but people are more than hesitant to believe in these creepy children.
While the black-eyed children have been around for decades, it wasn’t until the internet that stories about them became as commonplace as your average bogeyman. Since these children are so well-known in the creepypasta community, Reddit and 4Chan users love to use them as antagonists in some of their most dreadful scary stories.
The Blind Maiden
Be careful should you choose to visit the website www.blindmaiden.com. Most of the time the URL just leads to an empty page, but should you happen to visit it under the right circumstances—perhaps during a new moon, when all of the lights in your room are out—then you might just find yourself looking at “a whole new level of horror.”
Supposedly, people who manage to actually find the website when it’s live encounter a blind woman who then comes out from inside their computer to gouge their eyes out and add images of their horrified reactions to her collection of spine-tingling screenshots. Gulp!
Polybius is the world’s most dangerous fictional video game. In 1981, the game was allegedly the main attraction in a select few arcades in Portland, Oregon—but it was only after the machine vanished mysteriously that the townspeople began to suspect that there might have been something sinister behind its screen.
Apparently, men in black suits would come collect data from Polybius every week, and people now believe that the government was using the arcade game to test “behavior modification algorithms.” While it was still set up, the game would cause unpleasant side effects like nausea, dizziness, stress, and even suicidal thoughts.
Though nobody actually knows what the original Polybius game was like, gamers have created—and continue to create—simulations of what they image the game would have been, perhaps in the hope that one day the original will resurface. In 2012, an arcade-themed bar in Brooklyn called Barcade even jokingly put up a Polybius cabinet for Halloween—much to the delight (and horror) of the story’s believers.
No urban legend will ruin your childhood memories quite like “Squidward’s Suicide.” This story, spoken from the perspective of a former Nickelodeon intern, tells of a lost, unaired episode of the children’s show Spongebob Squarepants, in which main character Squidward gets depressed and kills himself with a shotgun.
Though “Squidward’s Suicide” was first posted on 7chan in 2010, the story didn’t start picking up serious internet traction until the summer of 2011. It was then that a YouTuber by the name of MrCreepyPasta decided to upload of a reading of the urban legend—a reading which currently has more than 1.3 million views on YouTube. A few months afterward, YouTuber Bolero uploaded a similar narration, and to date his has more than 1.1 million views.
As a child just shy of high school, figure skater Annora Petrova happened upon her own Wikipedia page. While the page’s existence was perplexing enough on its own, considering that she hadn’t created it herself, what eventually made it a source of such fear was the fact that it could seemingly predict the future.
Initially, Annora enjoyed that the page would detail her countless victories as an ice skater—but when she didn’t like her fate one day and tried to edit it, the force controlling the page became much less amicable, to say the least.
Annie96 is Typing…
Though simple in style and execution, “Annie96 is Typing…” makes our list of scary urban legends thanks to its ambiguity. The story, told entirely as a text conversation between a girl named Annie and her friend David, begins innocently enough, but things start to get weird when Annie notices someone lurking outside her house who happens to look exactly like David.
When the story of Annie96 was first published in 2014, it spread amongst internet users so quickly that the hashtag #Annie96 even started to trend on Twitter. The story once again entered limelight in early 2017 when YouTubers started to use it for scary reaction videos.
The Rake, as this fictional creature is known, came to be after a horde of 4chan users decided to get together and “make a new monster.” After a bunch of ideas were passed around, the group eventually decided on some characteristics—six feet tall, humanoid, pale, greyish skin, etc.—and a story was subsequently created in which suburbanites perilously encountered the beast during the summer of 2003.
Sometimes, the scariest monsters of all are hidden in plain sight. Or at least, that’s probably what you’ll find yourself thinking after reading Teeth.jpg, a tale about an art student who takes his obsession with teeth to deadly extremes. This urban tale is so horridly realistic that it recently earned itself a place in the “Pasta of the Month” section on the creepypasta wiki, and users who ended up on the story’s page were quick to comment that it was “the most creepiest pasta I ever read.”
The Story of Lisa
Children’s drawings are supposed to be fun and sweet, right? Well, that’s far from the case when it comes to “The Story of Lisa.” These drawings depict a little girl’s adventures with her supposedly imaginary friend named Lisa—but, as you can see from the blood all over her face and clothes, Lisa isn’t exactly your typical BFF.
When Sunny Schreiner, the author of “The Story of Lisa,” originally wrote this creepy children’s tale, he “didn’t intend for it to be seen by anyone else.” However, the writer ended up uploading his story to the paranormal board of 4chan, and a few years later, the urban legend was on every scary site imaginable. Currently, Schreiner says that he is working with a production company to turn the story into a feature film, but further details on the flick are still TBD.
The Russian Sleep Experiment
In the late 1940s, Russian researchers supposedly used a special gas on five test subjects to see what happens when humans are kept awake for 15 days straight. When they headed into the chamber to retrieve the subjects on that fifteenth day, though, what they found were no longer humans at all, but something horrific and unimaginable—you know, something like the fan fiction depiction above. However, for anyone worried that this tall tale might be real, fret not—the image used to spread this story is just a picture of a Photoshopped Halloween decoration.
In “Correspondence,” things are already freaky enough when protagonist Shaun starts to notice an old woman following him around and watching him from outside of his home. However, the situation only gets even more insane when terrifying threats and Latin phrases start to magically appear in his emails—text that he claims he didn’t write or send.
Where Bad Kids Go
Growing up in Lebanon, the narrator of “Where Bad Kids Go” recalls watching a “very, very strange show” in which scare tactics were used to keep kids out of trouble. At the end of every episode, the camera would zoom in on an old door, and loud, piercing screams would narrate the closing scene.
Still curious about what this show was all about, the author goes back to Lebanon some 16 years later to visit the studio where the show was filmed—and though the building is now just rubble and ash, there’s just enough left of what once was there to paint a deeply disturbing picture of what was really happening behind the scenes.
Though the story has been around for a while, users continue to leave ratings and comments on its creepypasta wiki page. In 2015, writer and director Alex D’Avolio even slightly expanded on the plot of “Where Bad Kids Go” to turn it into a seven-minute short.
In “Elevator Incident,” a businessperson describes a past trip to Taiwan during which he experienced some frightening paranormal activity. While visiting a building with just five floors—1, 2, 3, 5, and 6—the author steps out of the elevator only to find himself on a dark abandoned floor where someone—or something—is residing. Upon further investigation, the narrator finds out that he had somehow ended up on the 4th floor—even though it had been boarded up decades ago after a deadly incident left people spooked.
As a six-year-old boy living with his mom, the writer of “Footsteps” distinctly remembers hearing footsteps with no discernible origin. Naturally, the boy’s mom told him that he was “just imagining things” and that there was nothing to worry about—but to this day, he still can’t explain how he got from his bed to the middle of the woods one night, or where the mysterious “running away” note on his pillow came from.
Because this story blew up so quickly when Reddit user 1000Vultures first posted it in October 2011, it eventually turned into a multi-part series with dozens of eerie entries. Though not all of the stories are directly related, all of them pertain to the same protagonist—and each one is just slightly more chilling than the last. The author of all of the stories claims that they are true, but whether or not you want to believe him is entirely up to you.
Lydia and Becca are both excited to start their freshman year of college—that is, until they find out that the dorm room they’re assigned to is right next to the “Suicide Room” where countless kids have taken their own lives. Every night, both Lydia and Becca hear strange and unexplainable noises coming from the abandoned room next door, but unfortunately their search for answers doesn’t begin until it’s already too late.
“Room 733” was penned by well-known creepypasta writer C.K. Walker a few years back—and since then, the story has gained such a following that it even earned itself four gold awards and a platinum award on Reddit. The story even has its own page on Goodreads, where it currently sits at 4.26 stars out of 5.
The Clown Statue
Though variations of this urban tale have been circulating for years, the general storyline goes something like this: While babysitting two young kids, a girl becomes freaked out by a clown statue and calls up the parents asking if she can cover it up. The problem? The parents have no idea what statue she’s talking about.
This urban legend first began as a chain letter that circulated via email in 2006. If you didn’t “repost to 10 peeps within 5 minutes,” the email threatened, “the clown will be standing next 2 your bed at 3:00am with a knife in his hand.” (Talk about a creative way to spread a scary story.)
The Vanishing Hitchhiker
On their way to their honeymoon, newlyweds Nathan and Heather pass by a young hitchhiker whom Heather insists they give a ride to. By the time they reach her destination, though, the girl has vanished. As if her vanishing wasn’t spooky enough, the couple discovered something even more frightening about their erstwhile passenger—that she’d died years earlier.
The Choking Doberman
When a woman comes home to find her Doberman choking to death, she immediately rushes him to the vet. Luckily the dog is fine, but when the veterinarian finds out what the dog is choking on—human fingers—she realizes that the woman is in grave danger. To read the full story for yourself, check out “The Choking Doberman” here.
A little bit of hide-and-seek on your wedding day sounds like fun, right? Well, it certainly is—just so long as the bride doesn’t go missing, like she does in Bride-and-Seek. (And if the bride does go missing, just make sure that you find her before she’s run out of oxygen and suffocated to death.)
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