"I was so shocked that I stood there for some time, staring at him. And then he started moving toward me again. He took giant, exaggerated tip-toed steps, as if he were a cartoon character sneaking up on someone. Except he was moving very, very quickly. I'd like to say at this point I ran away or pulled out my pepper spray or my cellphone or anything at all, but I didn't. I just stood there, completely frozen as the smiling man crept toward me."
Creepypasta (like "Smiling Man," excerpted above—and, unless you're headed out for a solo walk at night, you should read the whole thing and then watch the video interpretation) is a Twilight Zone-like genre of online art and storytelling—scary tales that got passed along via message boards and email. Surreal, dread-soaked stories like Psychosis, about a man seemingly slipping into insanity and The Russian Sleep Experiment, about the titular experiment that descends into horror blossomed on sites like 4Chan and Reddit (and the Creepypasta wiki). Now, you don't have to go searching in the digital depths for a scare. Artists Jensine Eckwall and Peter Schmidt are compiling the best of the creepypasta genre into a book titled /creepythread.
"A lot of the images are meant to be pondered and lingered on, rather than give you a classic scare," says Eckwall. "The tangibility of print media helps with that." She adds that "the same image used in an alarming "screamer" comic, game, or video, can have much less impact if you expect to scroll by it."
/creepythread will feature the artwork of 31 artists, including Rebekka Dunlap’s piece for "The Lavender Tone," an urban legend explanation about real-life suicides among Japanese children. "It was supposedly caused by a certain sound frequency in one of the Pokemon games," says Eckwall.
Schmidt says that creepypasta is more terrifying than other kinds of horror media because of how it's pasted from message board to message board. "That whole process feels like a continuation of oral storytelling," he says. "It gives the creepypasta a rawness that makes them feel more honest than your average polished piece of horror fiction. At the best of times this process translates into a tangible sense of desperation—like the author is being chased by something and needs to tell us about it before it finally, inevitably catches up."
If you're brave enough, it will now catch up with you. Thanks to Eckwall and Schmidt, you can keep the creepiest creepypastas on your nightstand. Here's to a glorious night of bad dreams.