Thursday, October 31, 2013

Stranger Nightmare XIII: Creepypasta Favorites

At long last, the end is in sight. Lucky number thirteen, indeed. And the final Stranger Nightmare of the season is... a delectable serving of creepypasta. Is it a trick, or a treat? Now in five fearsome flavors!

1. The Dare

Arguably the least terrifying of the bunch, creepypasta "dares" are, by my own definition, anything that reads like an instruction manual from hell. Often referred to as "ritual pastas," most of these don't really scare me, since (a) they tend to be rather lacking in the story department, and (b) they tend not to work. But my favorite thing (about the well-written ones, anyway) is the way the writers tease the audience, like that one jerk kid daring you to go into the haunted house right after telling you all about how an entire family was murdered there last week. Now, while there is a creepypasta called "The Dare" (which is actually pretty decent, as far as creepypasta goes), it doesn't actually fall under this category. At all. But if you're looking for a quick test of courage, try "The Code of Mirrors" and its sequel, "The Mirror." While the first one doesn't actually qualify on its own, the second one definitely does, and they're much better read together.

2. The Childhood-Ruiner

Though prone to rather silly extremes, childhood-ruining creepypasta (like the Garfield one I mentioned in Stranger Nightmare #7) can be devastating when done right. The trick of it lies in taking that safe, happy place in our memories and turning it into a landscape of atrocities, twisting our inner comfort zones into something dark and deeply disconcerting. "Squidward's Suicide" is considered a classic, though for me, I find it pales in comparison to "The Rugrats Theory" (be sure to scroll down to the tweaked version), "Dead Bart," and the aforementioned "Garfield is a Lie." For the full personal effect, however, be sure to look up your own childhood favorites and see if anyone has ruined them for you yet.

3. The Lovecraftian Brainscrew

Generally, these have the best writing of the bunch, both grammatically and narrative-wise. Unlike most creepypasta, Lovecraftian brainscrews rely less on zingers and more on a buildup of slow, creeping dread, which is often left open-ended. They also tend to be among the longest, which is unfortunate for my short internet attention span. Somewhat like the childhood ruiners, these tales take the familiar and transform it into something disturbing or grotesque -- but whereas the former works its magic on fiction, these very special stories warp the reality around us, making us question the very fabric of our existence. Of the ones that I have read, "The Kaleidoscope" is by far the most Lovecraftian of all, with some of the prettiest writing I've yet to see in creepypasta. "String Theory" is longer -- and even weirder. Or, if you're craving something with a bit more bite, try "The Guardian Angel," which never fails to make me do the look-over-your-shoulder double-take every time I read it.

4. The Parody

If you can't beat 'em, point and laugh at 'em. Creepypasta parodies are a nice break from the authors' usual doom-and-gloom attempts at terrorizing the audience, and nothing breaks the tension like a real heartfelt guffaw. Of course, timing is everything, and all too often these parodypastas miss their mark, but now and again you'll come across a gem like "The Vacation" or "The Boy Who Loved to Read."

5. The "Gotcha"

The undying king of zingers, the "gotcha" story hinges on the last lines, which are usually a big twist and always, always induce a serious case of chills. The set-up can be trash or gory gold, doesn't really matter which, but if the ending doesn't get you, it's a failure. The best tend to be the briefest, since in essence these are campfire stories by electronic light. "Lightning" and "The Man in the Snow" are urban legendary classics, but if you want a real shocker of a finish line, check out "The Girl in the Picture," "The Message," or (the shortest but the sweetest) "In The Kitchen."

Did I mention these are all true stories?


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