8 Creepy Internet Characters that Became Urban Legends
By Morris M, Urban Ghosts Media, 6 July 2015.
By Morris M, Urban Ghosts Media, 6 July 2015.
Twenty years ago, we used to sit around campfires to tell each other ghost stories. Today, those campfires still burn, though many of us simply load up our tablets. The internet is a breeding ground for tales of insanity, horror and supernatural terror. At their worst, these stories simply rip-off pre-existing material or try to shock us with senseless gore. At their best, they give us a wealth of creepy characters as scary as anything Stephen King ever dreamed up, implanting them into the annals of internet lore and urban legend, and blurring the lines between the online and offline worlds…
1. The Slenderman
A blank face. Two long, tentacle-like arms. A thin, long body that stretches 8ft into the air, hidden away inside a dark suit. Meet Slenderman (or Slender Man), the most mysterious killer on the internet.
Created on the Something Awful forums in 2009, Slenderman has since become a modern legend. His story is the very stuff of nightmares. Appearing across the world, his motivations are unknowable, his mission a mystery. All we can say for sure is that, wherever Slenderman goes, chaos and madness goes with him. And once he’s after you, there’s no escape.
Beyond that, the character is almost impossible to describe. Like his form, Slenderman’s legend is fluid, constantly metamorphosing to suit the tale. In some versions, he’s known to stalk and kill those who find out about him. In others, he’s simply a distant, unnerving presence: a shadowy figure watching the world from the edges of the daylight. He can disrupt electrical signals. He can turn unwitting people into his puppets. He can teleport and read minds. He can make you into a killer.
In 2014, he even wandered briefly out the darkness of the internet and into real life. Two girls in Wisconsin became convinced the Slenderman was real and wanted them to kill a friend. So, allegedly, they tried. Although their victim somehow survived their frenzied attack, it pushed Slenderman further into our collective subconscious, an internet villain no longer confined to the pages of Creepypasta.
2. Smile Dog
In the 1990s, a photo was posted to Usenet that you really don’t want to see. Called Smile.jpg, it featured a husky dog alone in a dimly-lit room, a terrifyingly human-like smile spread across its lips. A blood-red hand lurked in one far corner. For those that saw it, madness followed.
According to the story, anyone who witnessed the original file would become dangerously obsessed. Visions would haunt their dreams of the Smile Dog demanding they “spread the word” and show the picture to someone else. As the nightmares grew worse, people would descend into insomnia, insanity. For many, the only way to escape was through suicide.
Originally written as a short story, Smile Dog first appeared a few years ago. Since then, he’s spread into a minor internet phenomenon. There’s something about the picture’s dark and creepy smile that seems to get people’s spines collectively chilling; and a second more-demonic version only made the tale even more popular.
3. Robert the Doll
Unlike many we’ve covered, Robert the Doll is very real. His legend has been told in Florida for decades now, and supposedly inspired the movie Child’s Play. But it was the internet that really spread knowledge of him, turning him into a creepy cult icon.
The story goes that Robert was given to the son of Thomas Otto by a fired servant who practiced witchcraft. The boy named the doll after himself, and they soon became inseparable. Then things started to get weird. The boy changed his name to Gene, claiming Robert was the doll now. He began to spend his time locked away in his room with only Robert for company. Those who passed thought they heard two furtive voices: one scared and childlike, the other low and angry. One time, it’s said Thomas burst in to find his son cowering on the floor, Robert glaring across the room at him.
As time went on, things got even stranger. Other toys began to turn up mutilated, and giggling could be heard in distant parts of the house at night. Eventually, Robert began to appear at the foot of people’s beds long after Gene had gone to sleep, watching them with his silent smile. Eventually, the frightened family gave Robert away to a Key West Museum, where he still sits today, regarding visitors with his cold, blank eyes.
4. Mereana Mordegard Glesgorv
Image: screenshot via YouTube
In the early days of YouTube, a video was posted that violated just about every user agreement imaginable. Featuring a man supposedly known as Mereana Mordegard Glesgorv staring into camera before breaking into a demonic smile, it was strange, disconcerting and deeply uncomfortable. If you watched it through to the end, God help you.
It was later said no-one was able to get through 45 seconds of the video without screaming. Those who got to the end and saw Glesgorv smile inevitably went mad. Some couldn’t stop crying. Others hacked their arms with nearby knives. In the most-infamous tellings, a number of people tore their own eyes out to escape the sight.
While not as widely-known as some creepy internet characters, Mereana Mordegard Glesgorv has nevertheless gained a cult following in some quarters. Maybe it’s the thought of a video that can drive you mad. Maybe it’s Bryan Cortez’s (who posed for Glesgorv) genuinely creepy expression. Or maybe it’s something else entirely.
5. The Kunekune
If you’re ever in a remote part of Japan, near the sea or wandering through a deserted rice field, you may just see what looks like a distant sheet, twisting in the wind. Thin, white and with two long, trailing arms, the Kunekune sways even when there’s no breeze. If you do ever stumble across this apparition, good luck. Those who see the Kunekune often go mad.
There are thousands of stories out there of people noticing something flickering across the fields, grabbing binoculars to see it and never speaking again. Hundreds more feature people who wander alone into woodland, or step into deserted parking lots to get a closer look, but never return. The only thing that can be said for sure is when you see a Kunekune, run.
Kunekune first surfaced on Japanese sites in 2003, and quickly grew to become the East Asian equivalent of Slenderman. Many have claimed to see one haunting their area, and alleged photographs abound. Although the Kunekune hasn’t properly made the transition to Western folklore yet, it’s been terrifying Japanese schoolchildren for over a decade now.
6. Mr Bear
For several months in 1999, you may have been unlucky enough to catch episodes of Mr Bear’s Cellar. Allegedly aired on Caledon Local 21 in Ontario, Canada, the show is said to have featured a giant bear who lived in a cellar, where he invited kids to visit him. We say “said to” because hardly anyone watched the program and details are sketchy. All that’s known is that Mr Bear was into some seriously dark things.
In one episode, viewers later said Mr Bear was caught swearing at one of the kids. In another, he grew angry and ran right at a child, causing them to scream. It was at this time that viewers began to notice Mr Bear’s cellar really did look like a cellar. It was dark. Dingy. Wet. The lighting was bad. And all the kids looked scared.
Things finally came to head in a segment of the show titled Booby. Featuring a man’s hand as the title character and a child’s hand as his sidekick, it involved Booby demonstrating how dangerous scissors were by slicing into his sidekick’s thumb. It’s said there was blood. Screaming. It’s also said Mr Bear vanished after that, his channel and the kids it featured never heard from again.
Thankfully, the show is fictitious and Mr Bear himself is no more real than the Slenderman. But the story of his diabolical cellar was so gruesome it earned him a place in internet lore.
7. Jeff the Killer
Image: via io9
It’s practically impossible to have a discussion of creepy internet characters and not mention Jeff the Killer. Dreamed up by a 4Chan user in what were possibly quite dark circumstances, Jeff is a near-featureless man with a bone white face and staring, corpse-like eyes.
Supposedly ‘created’ after a teenage boy had his face burned off in a brutal acid attack, Jeff went on to become a serial killer. His MO will undoubtedly give you the creeps. It’s said Jeff hides in your closet until you’ve gone to bed, then slides open the door and whispers through the darkness “go to sleep!”
In all honesty, the story is the least important part of Jeff the Killer. When images of him first began to surface, they were devoid of any narrative and created purely to freak people out. It was a similar impulse that first spread them across the web; with people inserting pictures of Jeff into random posts and articles, just to give readers the creeps. It was only later that a vague story was constructed around the image, making it perhaps the first example in internet history of a purely visual piece of folklore.
8. The Rake
Image: The Slender Man Wiki
In the summer of 2003, a flurry of reports came in from New York and Idaho about a strange, semi-human creature. Hunched over and hairless, with soulless black eyes and a loud, chattering voice, the Rake was terror personified.
It was said to creep into people’s houses and watch them as they slept, sometimes waking them with its cold and clammy touch. At other times, it might whisper someone’s name from the shadows, letting them know it would be back for them.
At its most-terrifying, the Rake was said to visit you in the nights, marking you out as its next victim. Its slender fingers brushing against your cheeks might wake you up one night, only for its cold dead eyes and heavy breathing to wake you up the next. Some committed suicide rather than find out what would happen when it woke them a third time.
Although it took on many different forms before becoming internet-famous, the Rake can be considered to have first appeared on 4Chan in 2005. Someone started a thread about making a new monster, and months of input eventually culminated in the Rake (at one point, it was even meant to have three eyes). Today, the creature is, arguably, second only to Slenderman as the creepiest character the internet ever spawned.
[Source: Urban Ghosts Media. Edited.]