Gotta Fear ‘Em All: Our Top 10 Creepiest Pokémon

Pokémon; those cute, cuddly super-pets that we all grew up with. I can’t even begin to count the number of nights I spent gazing into the flickering light of my Gameboy Colour, desperately trying to paralyse a wild Abra or frantically chucking Ultra Ball after Ultra Ball at a Graveler. It was a video game and television series that took up a large chunk of my childhood, and I hazard a guess that many readers will be able to relate.

So, in honour of Pokémon’s 20th anniversary this year, I thought it only fitting to dedicate an entire post to the Top 10 Creepiest Pokémon in the canon. And trust me, there are a lot of them. After four solid hours of sorting through the online Pokédex, I can proudly say that the list is finished and I’ve successfully staved off adult responsibility for yet another day. Thank you Pokémon, you saviour of 90s kids who simply can’t face the crippling thought of mortgages, career options, and a life outside of their parents’ house.

  1. The Original Child Catcher: #425 Drifloon, The Balloon Pokémon

250px-425drifloonAt first glance, Drifloon looks harmless enough. It’s basically just a purple balloon with a mop of whipped cream on its head and some tape on its face. Its vacant stare and cute, little heart-shaped hands don’t exactly inspire one with a sense of impending dread. But they totally should.

First of all, Drifloon is a Ghost-type Pokémon, which immediately raises it in status from “incredibly dangerous children’s pet” to “soul-sucking emissary of the damned”. Ghost-type Pokémon are invariably evil and filled with a deep-seated hatred for mankind, mainly because they’re the souls of dead Pokémon who kicked the bucket solely because a bunch of kids decided it would be a fun idea to engage them in a fight to the death.

Yet in the Pokédex it specifies that Drifloon is not just made from the spirits of dead Pokémon, but also from the souls of people who have passed away. In other words, that balloon that just floated past you could contain the soul of your recently deceased grandma. And that’s not the end of it. Supposedly it “tugs on the hands of children to steal them away” and “children holding them sometimes vanish”. So yeah, not only is this balloon possessed by the angry souls of those who failed to pass on, but its sole purpose on this earth is to kidnap children. Nice Pokémon, nice.

  1. Welcome to the Twilight Zone: #487 Giratina, The Renegade Pokémon

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Giratina is a legendary Ghost/Dragon-type Pokémon that wields almost inimitable power. With its ragged black wings, piercing red eyes, and copious array of decorative spikes, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that it resembled the harbinger of death himself. It’s known as the “Renegade Pokémon” because supposedly it was so violent that it was banished to a place known as The Distortion World, where common sense and knowledge have been warped beyond all recognition.

If that wasn’t weird enough, it silently gazes at our world through a portal and can only manifest itself in an ancient cemetery. There’s something oddly tragic and disturbing about the image of some huge, heaving creature, with power beyond the realm of comprehension, staring at us through the void and waiting soundlessly for the chance to be released.

  1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Insects: #292 Shedinja, The Shed Pokémon

250px-292shedinjaShedinja was one of those bizarre Pokémon that you sort of acquired, rather than actually caught. The only way to get one was to evolve a Nincada into a Ninjask while having a spare space in your party, and suddenly a Shedinja would just…appear.

It looks kind of like a sad, little ladybug with an adorable halo floating over its head, but don’t let its appearance fool you. It’s another Ghost-type Pokémon and, as such, its primary purpose is to straight up ruin your day.

Shedinja is essentially the hollowed out shell of an insect that has, for whatever reason, come to life. According to the Pokédex, it apparently “flies without moving its wings” and “does not breathe”, which I can imagine is pretty unnerving for those of us who are used to seeing things fly with wings and breathe. You know, like everything else on earth.

And it seems Shedinja is pretty sensitive about the fact that it’s…well…kind of dead. If anyone peers into the crack of its back, it is said to “steal one’s spirit”. So, in this case, curiosity isn’t going to just kill the cat; it’s going to have its soul sucked out through its eyes. Lovely.

  1. The Candle that Burns the Brightest: #607 Litwick, The Candle Pokémon; #608 Lampent, The Lamp Pokémon; and #609 Chandelure, The Luring Pokémon
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Litwick wants to reduce its carbon foot-print, by burning your soul

This trio of terror may simply look like a bunch of household furnishings to you, but they’re more than just a stylish way for wealthy people to keep their homes lit. They form an evolutionary trio and all have two things in common: they are Fire/Ghost-type Pokémon and they all subsist off of the life force of mankind. I’m not even kidding.

Litwick supposedly shines its light and pretends to be a guide to those who are lost, but this is a clever ruse. It leads its victim into a dark corner before absorbing their life energy and using it as fuel. Evidently the roasted souls of the damned are a more economic option than oil. Lampent takes this whole deathly charade a step further and hangs out around hospitals, waiting for the moment of death and then siphoning off the person’s spirit like a hillbilly sucking on a gas hose.

250px-609chandelureYet, unsurprisingly, it is the big bad Chandelure that takes the cake for “most horrifying ceiling ornament”. It hypnotises anyone it comes across and sucks out their souls, leaving the discarded husk of a body behind like a crumpled soda can.

When they burn up a person’s essence for fuel, it is believed that their spirit will “lose their way and wander this world forever”. So, while the rest of us are basking in the comforting and totally not ominous flickering of those skull-shaped flames, some poor sap is wandering through purgatory wondering why it seemed like a good idea to have sentient chandeliers.

  1. I Wanna Be a Real Boy: #064 Kadabra, The Psi Pokémon

064kadabra_os_anime_2Now Kadabra is a Psychic-type Pokémon, meaning it wields telepathic powers that allow it to bend spoons, solve difficult puzzles, and induce unexpected, splitting headaches in passers-by. Why a creature that possesses the ability to move a car with its mind would want to serve a bunch of preteens as their pet-slave is beyond me, but Kadabra’s undeniably spooky qualities are not.

Supposedly, when a Kadabra is close by, clocks will start running backwards and shadows will begin appearing on television screens. Looking at either of these phenomena will cause the viewer to experience extreme bad luck. Yet perhaps the weirdest feature of this spoon-wielding sage is its origin story.

According to the Pokédex in FireRed, it says: “It happened one morning – a boy with extrasensory powers awoke in bed transformed into Kadabra”. Basically Kadabra is like some freaky reverse-Pinocchio. So if you find that your kid has taken a sudden liking to your cutlery drawer, I’d say keep an eye out.

  1. Let’s Lickety-Split: #93 Haunter, The Gas Pokémon; and #94 Gengar, The Shadow Pokémon

250px-093haunterGastly, Haunter, and Gengar are essentially legends in the Pokémon canon. They were the first and only Ghost-type Pokémon to be made available to us Gen 1 hipsters, so they hold a special place in many of our hearts. Yet, while Gastly is merely a ball of all-consuming noxious gas, his evolutionary forms are far more sinister.

Haunter is said to be from another dimension and has the capacity to pass through objects, but has a penchant for hiding in walls and jumping out at unsuspecting victims. It lurks in the darkest corners of rooms, waiting for children to pounce on and lick with its mighty tongue.

250px-094gengarIn fact, it’s considered such a threat that its Pokédex entry even comes with this warning: “Haunter is a dangerous Pokémon. If one beckons you while floating in darkness, you must never approach it. This Pokémon will try to lick you with its tongue and steal your life away”. Hey kids, have fun playing this children’s game, but just don’t approach this one Pokémon or it’ll straight up murder you.

Yet, not content with simply being another brick in the wall, Gengar opts for a different tact. It pretends to be your shadow and hides behind you, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. And, even if it doesn’t decide to kill you or if you manage to ward it off, it’s still capable of casting a curse on you. Because life just wouldn’t be worth living without the constant, impending threat of being hexed by a chubby demon.

  1. The Roofie Twins: #096 Drowzee; and #097 Hypno, The Hypnosis Pokémon

250px-096drowzeeLooking like a cuddly baby tapir and a piece of anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda, Drowzee and Hypno seem like an odd couple to have made it onto this list. Heck, they don’t even feast off the souls of the living. The only thing these cheeky chappies really like to eat are…our dreams.

Yep, these Pokémon use their hypnotic powers to lull people to sleep before gorging on their innermost fantasies. As if that wasn’t creepy enough, apparently Drowzee prefers to eat children’s dreams because they are “tastier” and, if you sleep next to a Drowzee for long enough, it will eventually show you some of the dreams that it has sampled. Kind of like wine-tasting, only with LSD.

250px-097hypnoAccording to the Pokédex, “if your nose becomes itchy while you are sleeping, it’s a sure sign that one of these Pokémon is standing above your pillow and trying to eat your dream through your nostrils”. I don’t know about you, but I’m really not okay with that.

And, while Drowzee’s just a fan of children’s dreams, there was supposedly an “incident” in which a Hypno actually hypnotised and kidnapped a child. Breaking-and-entering, stealing, and child abduction; all healthy ingredients for a successful children’s game.

  1. Ask Not For Whom The Bell Tolls: #355 Duskull, The Requiem Pokémon; #356 Dusclops, The Beckon Pokémon; and #477 Dusknoir, The Gripper Pokémon

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This is the second evolutionary trio to make it onto our list, and what a trinity of torment these guys are. With very little euphemism or sense of delicacy, it’s basically implied that these three Ghost-type Pokémon are essentially the Grim Reapers of the Poké-World. Duskull spends most of its time wandering around in darkness, using its one, beady red eye to strike fear into anyone who dares look at it. When it fixates on a target, it “will doggedly pursue the intended victim until the break of dawn” and it is rumoured that children who don’t listen to their parents will be spirited away by this skull-faced scamp. Oh, and let’s not forget that it “loves the crying of children”.

Dusclops, on the other hand, has a little less substance. Quite literally, since it’s effectively just a black hole with some bandages floating around it. As such, Dusclops is able to absorb anything into its body, but “nothing will ever come back out”. Its favourite pastime is to steal the soul of anyone who dares peer into its hollow body. Kind of a recurring pattern with these Ghost-types, don’t you think?

As the most powerful and most thinly-veiled euphemism of the three, Dusknoir has an “antenna on its head [that] captures radio waves from the world of spirits”, which it apparently uses to determine whose living soul it should harvest and drag back to the underworld. See what I meant about the whole “Grim Reaper” thing?

  1. All My Friends are Dead: #562 Yamask, The Spirit Pokémon; and #563 Cofagrigus, The Coffin Pokémon

250px-562yamaskIt would be almost pointless for me to try and explain why Yamask is so unbearably upsetting, since the Pokédex appears to have done the job perfectly already. This is the genuine, no word of a lie description of this “fun” friend and companion from a children’s game: “Each of them carries a mask that used to be its face when it was human. Sometimes they look at it and cry”.

These are the souls of dead people, who are doomed to wander the earth carrying a mask of their human face and serve any hapless child who happens to trap them inside of a Pokéball. Imagine spending the rest of eternity as a slave to some snot-nosed child, and you’ll understand why I find this particular Pokémon so horrifying.

250px-563cofagrigusAnd, when it comes to its evolutionary form, things only go from dark to darker. To be honest, I’m not sure whether it’s appropriate to have a coffin-themed anything in a children’s game, but I guess that’s why I’m not the one with the billion dollar game franchise.

Cofagrigus is an animated coffin that loves nothing more than to “swallow those who get too close and turn them into mummies”. That’s right kids. If you’re lucky enough to capture the wandering soul of someone doomed to weep at their lost humanity, be sure to train it up and you’ll be treated to a man-eating casket!

  1. It’s More Than Just Child’s Play: #353 Shuppet, The Puppet Pokémon; and #354 Banette, The Marionette Pokémon

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When it comes to the stuff of Poké-Nightmares, this dastardly duo has pulled the strings and scraped their way to the top of our list. They’re an unholy combination of perhaps the two most terrifying types in the Pokémon Universe, Ghost and Dark, so it comes as no surprise that they’d have a befittingly unsettling backstory. Shuppet is basically just an animated puppet who feeds off dark emotions, such as jealousy or vindictiveness. Like a murder of crows, gatherings of Shuppets can supposedly be seen under the eaves of houses where people harbour these ill-feelings. So if you thought that was just mould under your gutters, think again.

Banette, on the other hand, is a whole other kettle of rotten fish. According to its origin story, it was supposedly a child’s doll that was abandoned and thrown in the trash. Its desire for vengeance was so strong that it eventually came to life and it is fuelled by an unquenchable hatred. It can be found roaming dark alleys and garbage dumps, searching for the child that threw it away so that it can finally exact its revenge. It generates powerful dark energy by sticking pins into its own body and it can never open its mouth, otherwise its soul would escape. In short, maybe next time you should consider putting your children’s old toys into the garage, and hope they don’t achieve sentience.

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I’m coming for your soul, kids

Honourable Mentions

When compiling this list, there were so many worthy Pokémon who just didn’t make the cut, so here are a few of our honourable mentions: Cubone, the Pokémon who wears the skull of its dead mother and perpetually cries over her loss; Cacturne, known as the Scarecrow Pokémon because it stays perfectly still during the day and only moves at night, chasing its victims down until they can no longer move; Phantump, a rotten tree stump that was possessed by the spirit of a child who got lost in the forest and died; Gourgeist, a gigantic pumpkin-like Pokémon that sings joyfully when it observes the suffering of its prey; and last but not least Yveltal, a legendary Pokémon that has the power to absorb the life force of all living creatures and essentially summon the apocalypse.

What did you think of our list? And which Pokémon do you think deserved a place on it? Please let us know in the comments!

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Gotta Fear ‘Em All: Our Top 10 Creepiest Pokémon

Last Year in Fear: Our Top Picks for Horror Media in 2015

Even without the stellar horror releases that littered the media landscape, 2015 was a pretty terrifying year in of itself. France suffered the Paris Attacks; the US was subject to nearly 300 mass shootings; and large parts of England appear to currently be underwater. The outlook for the planet isn’t great and, since North Korea apparently decided to ring in the New Year by setting off a nuclear bomb, the fate of the world is hanging by an ever thinner thread. So why, in light of all these real dangers, should you be excited about media that was designed to scare us? Because it gives us an outlet, a way to release all of that pent up fear in one hour-long frenzy of pillow-hugging, squealing, and violent popcorn throwing. So, as 2016 gets underway, take the time to indulge in a few of last year’s horror titles and feel the terror slip away. Let’s just call it Shock Therapy.

Film

Although a lot of critics would disagree with me, I personally thought that 2015 was a strong year for horror in film. On the one hand, you had the numerous tacky sequels, reboots, and remakes like Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (yes, I really hate Paranormal Activity, thanks for noticing), Poltergeist, and Sinister 2. But, on the other hand, we were treated to some top quality horror titles reminiscent of 2014’s The Babadook and Oculus. Without further ado, here are my top film picks for 2015:

  1. It’s Behind You – It Follows

8385_poster_iphoneIt Follows was one of the most intelligent and impressive horror films that I’ve seen in decades. It combined an original story-line with a winning cast, stunning cinematography, and a soundtrack so provocative that I still get shivers down my spine when I listen to it. That being said, it tends to be one of those films that divides opinion. Some people, myself included, were willing to accept the film’s slow-pace and ambiguous ending because the journey was ultimately more important than the destination, while others were disappointed at the lack of closure and what they perceived as lazy “filler” scenes. For that reason alone, it’s definitely worth watching since, whether you like it or not, it’s sure to create a debate. For a broad perspective (and some spoilers!), we recommend reading Slash Film’s review, which you can find here, and Variety’s review, which you can find here. Alternatively you can read our review (with no spoilers) here.

  1. Who Needs the Summer of Love – Spring

9af64d532c3cdfe6304e627e2d210dfeSpring is a romantic sci-fi horror which, if anything, makes it reasonably unique in the horror community. Like It Follows, Spring tackles an unusual story-line and its success in doing so, or lack thereof, has similarly divided public opinion. The score is beautifully simplistic, the cinematography is undeniably opulent and visually nourishing, the acting is superb, but the strangeness of the story and the use of that age-old, hackneyed “scientific” explanation has disappointed many viewers. As such, it makes for another fantastic watch since it’s sure to stimulate your brain cells and leave you wanting more. We recommend reading The Missing Reel’s review here, or alternatively check out our review here.

  1. You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry – Krampus

krampus-2015-horror-movie-posterKrampus is one of those films that puts a smile on my face every time I think of it. And that’s a relative miracle, considering I despise comedy horrors. My major bone of contention with this subgenre is that they’re often just comedies. If you can just bung a few scary moments or horror tropes into an otherwise non-scary film and call it a “comedy horror” or a “fantasy horror” or (dare I say it) a “Disney horror”, then Scary Movie, A Nightmare Before Christmas, and Pan’s Labyrinth would all be considered horror movies. Where Krampus ultimately succeeds as an actual comedy horror is that the horror and comedy elements are perfectly balanced. The film is funny and scary in equal measure, leading to several moments where my brain became desperately confused as to whether I should laugh or cry (or wet my pants). Like Gremlins and Poltergeist, it’s the perfect gateway horror film for the younger generation and one that people of all ages are sure to enjoy. We recommend watching Red Letter Media’s video review here, or you can check out our written review here.

Honourable Mentions – Goodnight Mommy and Bone Tomahawk, both of which I have yet to watch but have been phenomenally well-reviewed.

Television

Unlike the horror film scene, which has gone from strength to strength, it seems that horror television has really let the side down. There were very few fresh or new series’, leaving us only with stale continuations of franchises that are doomed to (hopefully) burn out in the near future. Don’t get me wrong, I love American Horror Story and The Walking Dead as much as the next person, but sometimes it really does feel like they’re flogging an undead horse. I’ve caught myself yawning my way through whole episodes or, in one instance, falling asleep in an almost upright position. At this stage, if I fall and crack my head open while watching, I’m going to consider suing these guys for “risk of criminal boredom”.

  1. Let’s Get Groovy – Ash vs Evil Dead: Season 1

ash-vs-evil-dead-posterIn amongst horror television behemoths like TWD and AHS, Ash vs Evil Dead stood its ground as one of the most anticipated horror series to grace our television screens. The show sees the return of notorious horror hero Ash, played by the ever enigmatic Bruce Campbell, as he forgoes a much deserved retirement and returns to his one true passion: fighting off evil Deadites. As a comedy horror, the show mixes fun and fear in equal measure, with enough hilariously over-the-top gore to give any of the Evil Dead films a run for their money. What started off as an unexpectedly popular and incredibly low budget festival film has spawned into one of horror’s greatest legacies; and this latest edition proves to be one of the best yet. We strongly recommend you read The Missing Reel’s reviews, as they’ve been following the series episode by episode. You can find their summary review here.

  1. You Can Count on the Countess – American Horror Story: Hotel

8d2a54303c3a74432a9b91af4b1b142fAfter the crushing disappointment of Freak Show and the looming threat of Wes Bentley’s soul-suckingly dull return, my hopes for Hotel and for American Horror Story in general were all but dashed. In many ways, my misgivings were well-founded. Wes Bentley did in fact prove to be one of the worst leading men that the series has ever championed and, like Freak Show, it seemed that the season would largely depend on a sequence of unconnected, exploitative scenes that were designed to shock rather than create a coherent and interesting story-line. That being said, thanks to the superlative acting of Denis O’Hare, Evan Peters, and Kathy Bates, coupled with the intriguing character of the Countess (Lady Gaga) and the eventual development of a solid and stimulating storyline, the season seems to have turned its luck around. It’s certainly not one of their best, but it’s probably not their worst. Probably. We recommend you read Nouse’s episode by episode reviews here, but be forewarned that they are full of spoilers.

  1. A Netflix Unoriginal – Scream: Season 1

tumblr_ngjisf4r8v1u4whbwo1_500Let me be candid here, just because Scream has made it onto my top 3 list does by no means indicate that the series is good or that I liked it. It was simply the lesser of several evils. Scream is one of my all-time favourite movie franchises, and the thought of watching an abortive televised attempt to bleed it dry troubled me deeply. Particularly since beloved horror director Wes Craven tragically died last year, leaving behind an illustrious legacy that could be deeply marred by such an unnecessary reboot. Yet marred it was not. To me, this Netflix original series (which was actually and unsurprisingly produced by MTV) was kind of like a well-choreographed train wreck; it was awful, but I somehow felt compelled to keep watching. In fact, I watched the entire first season in less than two days. It essentially copies several major story elements from the original films, but the key to its success is that it never takes itself too seriously. It makes no claim to be as good as its predecessors; it’s just grade-A TV schlock for teenagers. And, as such, it’s ultimately entertaining, so long as you take it with a pinch of salt. We recommend you read Bloody Disgusting’s incredibly well-balanced episode reviews here, which are chock full of delicious spoilers.

Honourable Mentions – The Walking Dead: Season 6 and Penny Dreadful: Season 2

Video Gaming

2015 may not have been the most prolific year for horror gaming, but lack of quantity was definitely made up for by superb quality. Although the Top 3 games I’ve chosen for 2015 may have been some of the only ones to come out, they certainly made an impression on me and are worthy of any top list, regardless of their release dates.

  1. The Butterfly Effect – Until Dawn

ce3aa35b3dac605f3b543700356c89f8Although it only represented about 8 hours of solid gameplay, Until Dawn was one of the best horror games I’ve ever played. Within the first few weeks of owning it, I had already played it through three times, which goes to show just how little I value my free time. The key to the game’s brilliance is in its Butterfly Effect dynamic. The choices you make in-game will drastically affect the outcome of the story, so much so that certain characters will either live or die. What I loved about Until Dawn was that it inverts your expectations, toying with the behaviours that you will have learnt from other games. When a character dies, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve “failed”; just because the game is telling you to do something, doesn’t mean you should automatically do it; and sometimes exploring the whole area for clues and opening that cellar door simply because “it’s there” isn’t always a good idea. For an ultimately negative but still well-rounded view, we recommend reading Polygon’s review here. If you want something a little more positive, check out our review here.

  1. Let’s Get Digital – Soma

150922094246490097From the makers of the outstanding horror titles Penumbra and Amnesia comes Soma, a sci-fi survival horror about the ramifications of developing AI (Artificial Intelligence). It’s been far too long since we’ve seen a good sci-fi horror game and, in 2015, it seems horror fans were in for a real treat. And what a treat Soma was. As character Stephen Garrett, you find yourself trapped in a submerged research station known as PATHOS-II. The game’s underwater vibe is reminiscent of Bioshock, a game that didn’t exploit its horrific elements nearly as much as it could have done, and its futuristic facility setting evokes scenes from Dead Space. However, like the Amnesia series, the point of Soma is not to fight, but to hide. What follows is a subtle yet disturbing exploration into humanity, providing deep and probing layers of fear that go far beyond what you experience at face-value. We recommend you read Game Rant’s review here.

  1. It’s Like I Have ESPN or Something – The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

eathan-carterFor all of you citizens of the PC master race, I realise that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter technically came out in 2014, but for console plebs like myself it wasn’t playable until 2015. The game follows paranormal investigator Paul Prospero, who receives a worrisome fan-letter from 12-year-old Ethan Carter and is prompted to visit Ethan’s home in Red Creek Valley. The game’s graphics are stunning and the world that surrounds you evokes imagery of the New England countryside, making you feel as though you’ve just been dropped into a Stephen King novel. And the similarities to King’s work don’t end there. Like the fictional town of Derry, Red Creek Valley is a beautiful place with a dark secret. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter might not be the scariest horror game in the canon, but the intrigue it produces in the player is undeniable. As you become more wrapped up in the fate of Ethan, you feel yourself slowly disappearing down a rabbit-hole that may have no end. Playstation Lifestyle’s review, which you can find here, describes these elements in far more detail.

 

Last Year in Fear: Our Top Picks for Horror Media in 2015

Malicious Myths: The Churel (चुडैल)

The churel may sound like a delicious (hopefully cinnamon-flavoured) pastry, or perhaps some colourful bird of paradise, but we can assure you it is not. Churels are the vengeful spirits of women who return to earth in order to drain the blood, virility, and even the semen of male victims, transforming them from sperm-filled youths to dusty old men. They go by numerous alternate names, including the churail, chudail, jakhin, mukai, and nagulai, and originate from South Asian folklore, enjoying enduring popularity throughout North India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

They will typically target their own relatives, specifically male members of their family, and will usually attack them in order from youngest to oldest, or from most-loved to least-loved. So, for once, being a young, attractive, well-liked man is not a good thing. Go figure. They are commonly found in places associated with death and filth, such as graveyards, abandoned battlefields, crossroads, toilets, and the male changing rooms of any gym. Once they have sated their blood-lust with their own family members, they can often be found trawling the darkened highways, seducing lone travelling men to accompany them before sucking them dry. Innuendo totally intended.

In some legends, the churel will keep the young man captive until he grows too old, or repeatedly boinks him until he withers, dies, and joins the spirit in her sexy vengeance (essentially death by snoo-snoo). In other accounts, if a young man is seduced by a churel and simply eats food she has offered to him, he will return to his village at dawn an elderly man. Basically if you get attacked by a churel you have two options: death by a crushed pelvis or instant retirement. In Hindu folklore, churels may transform into dakinis, horrifying god-like creatures that serve the goddess Kali and join her in feasting on human flesh and blood. Because, after subsisting off a diet made up almost entirely of sperm for however long, human flesh probably starts to look quite appealing.

A Dakini about to straight up murder this unfortunate guy

According to most legends, there are three different types of churel: soshi churels, poshi churels, and toshi churels. Soshi, Poshi, and Toshi may sound like members of the Spice Girls but don’t let that fool you, these are hideous, blood-sucking monsters we’re talking about. Oh wait.

The Soshi Churels are the most common and return to seek vengeance on their family for having neglected or abused them in life, focusing entirely on draining the lifeblood of all their male family members. They sometimes wait besides fields and call out to their relatives as they return home from work. If you answer the churel’s call, she will haunt you until your eventual death, but ignore her and she’ll…well…just keep shouting at you. Maybe just buy a pair of earplugs?

The Poshi Churels were women who had no real sexual desire in life and so focus their sexual deviancy and bloodlust on children. They can only be brought to heel by the man they once loved in life, to whom they are still subservient. The Toshi Churels are the rarest of all and represent women who were closely bonded with their husbands. They will return to their capacity as dutiful wives and, in a bizarre twist, serve only to protect their family.

Appearance

The churel is often depicted as a grotesque and emaciated creature, with long sagging breasts, unkempt hair, a pot belly, and claw-like hands. They sometimes roam around completely naked with their matted pubic hair visibly exposed, kind of like Courtney Love on an average Saturday night.

They have unnaturally long, thick black tongues surrounded by broad, rough lips, although in some accounts they are said to have no mouth at all. In rare cases, they are reported to have pig-like faces with large fangs or human faces with sharp tusks. Yet the most common and unique feature of the churels are their feet, which face the wrong way round with the heel at the front and the toes at the back.

In this form their sex appeal is doubtful at best, so they conveniently transform into beautiful young women in order to seduce their prey. In this guise, they carry a lantern, partially cover their face, and usually wear a long red or white sari that covers their legs. Although in this state they appear almost exactly like a human woman, their feet are still pointed backwards and so they take great pains to hide them. Once they have ensnared a lusty lothario, they will reveal their true form and engage in the freakiest, nastiest sex you could possibly imagine.

Origins

When a woman dies either during childbirth, while pregnant, or while menstruating, there is a strong possibility that she will become a churel. Normally she will rise from the grave because she wants vengeance for her deceased child, because her family treated her badly in life or because they did not care for her properly during her pregnancy. So, when in India, be really nice to pregnant women or risk facing death by semen extraction.

When a pregnant woman dies during the five-day Hindu festival of Diwali, it is believed she will come back as a particularly powerful churel, while in Western India they believe that any woman who died an unnatural death will become a churel. Originally it was believed that only low-caste women could turn into churels, although it seems bloodthirsty revenge is a dish best served to people of any class background. In short, all churels are created equal, and are all equally as terrible.

The only way to completely avoid a churel is to prevent her creation in the first place, so extra special care must be taken when dealing with pregnant women. Should they, through some awful circumstance, die anyway, there are a handful of things the family can do to hopefully prevent their return and thus protect their precious nads. Forgoing the Hindu tradition of cremation, a potential churel should be buried face down. Songs and prayers in remembrance of her should be sung at her funeral, while all rites and rituals must be performed with the utmost care.

During the funerary procession, the corpse should be carried out of the house through a side door rather than the front door, so that hopefully the churel does not find her way back into the house. Because, after all, it’s not like she lived there for an extended period of time and probably knows the layout of the house or anything. Sometimes family members will sprinkle mustard or millet seeds around the grave and even the whole village, because it is believed that the churel must count every single seed before returning home. This isn’t a sure-fire way to stop her, but it’ll certainly slow her down and make that second mortgage you took out on your house to buy mustard seeds worthwhile.

In order to tie the churel to the burial site, four nails are normally fixed to the four corners of the grave and red flowers are planted upon it. In extreme cases, the corpse may even be bound so that the churel’s movement is restricted when they finally rise from the grave. In Punjab, they take this restriction to a whole new level by nailing the hands and feet of the corpse to the coffin, shackling its feet in chains, and smearing red pepper in its eyes to hopefully blind the waking churel. In some cases, they will even break the deceased’s legs, chain the big toes together, or turn the feet backwards.

Hindu priests are regularly called to perform exorcisms, pray, burn incense, or make offerings to the deceased’s burial site in an attempt to ward the churel off, but this is not a permanent solution. In spite of all these precautions, churels are known to return home months or even years after their death. So if you thought your family get togethers were bad, at least old Auntie Sue isn’t trying to drag you away to her sex dungeon.

Modern-day Usage

Outside of South Asia, the churel isn’t a particularly well-known creature and thus rarely makes an appearance in pop culture. That being said, we’ve managed to scratch together a scant few references to our horny hag:

  • The Indian B-movie Chudail: The Witch (1997) directed by P. Chandrakumar is about a woman who develops supernatural powers by draining the life-force from male victims.
  • The novel Vampire Wives Tales – India: The Churail by Douglas Werner is about an Indian woman who dies in an airplane crash and becomes a churel.
  • The Churel features several times in the video game series Shin Megami Tensei.
  • There is a Chudail Trail in the Indian village of Kuldharanear Jaisalmar, where visitors can walk through this supposedly haunted place and learn about the legend of a woman named Nandini.
Malicious Myths: The Churel (चुडैल)

Float Like a Butterfly: A Review of Until Dawn

Release Date: August 25th 2015

Developer: Supermassive Games

Platform(s): PS4 exclusive

Playtime: Approximately 10 to 15 hours, but with great replay value

In the style of games like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls comes that slasher film you never wanted to be a part of (but secretly kind of did), Until Dawn. This interactive survival horror game follows eight hapless protagonists, who have made the trek to their friend’s mountain lodge for a weekend of sex, booze, and horrifying violence. The game utilises a Butterfly Effect dynamic, whereby all of the choices you make directly affect whether any given character lives or dies. These choices can be anything from slapping an angry wolf to backing a friend in an argument, so be wary. As the great, albeit completely fictional, Andrew Ryan of Bioshock once said: “We all make choices. But in the end, our choices make us”.

I have to say, I approached Until Dawn with not just a little trepidation. Although I absolutely loved Heavy Rain, it sometimes felt as though I was playing one long cut-scene rather than a fully formed video game. The experience was undoubtedly fulfilling, and the positive critical response the game garnered was well-deserved, but it inevitably felt like something was missing. I worried that Until Dawn would fall into the same trap, dooming the player to a series of QTEs (Quick Time Events) and a handful of choices that only marginally affected the outcome of the story. Having started my third playthrough of the game this week, I can happily say that I was horribly wrong.

In many ways, Until Dawn masterfully surpasses its predecessors. For one thing, the game involves you taking the helm far more often than you may like. It practically inundates you with choices, making it hard to tell which ones will affect the outcome and which ones won’t. What felt like major decisions in the game turned out to be inconsequential, while certain smaller choices led to pivotal events. Should I hide or should I run? What happens if I take that pair of scissors? Will anyone notice if I make out with this ice sculpture? In Until Dawn, the possibilities are as endless as they are endlessly horrifying.

Yet this alone isn’t enough to make the Butterfly Effect dynamic work. Sure it’s clever, and it made me think a lot about my actions, but I wouldn’t have cared quite so much about my choices if I’d been put in charge of, let’s say, the members of One Direction. While I’d happily watch Harry Styles be chased by a knife-wielding maniac, I came to care about several of the characters in Until Dawn that I was charged to protect. And this is where the game ultimately succeeds, not just as a survival horror game but as a video game in general. The eight main characters felt incredibly real and fleshed out, causing me to love some of them and abjectly hate others.

This meant that, regardless of how scary the game actually was, I felt terrified simply because I didn’t want my reckless decision-making to endanger the people I’d come to care about. It induced in me a sort of trembling paranoia that caused me to nearly snap my controller in half more than once. On top of this, the game is visually stunning and many of the scenes are incredibly well-realised, looking as though they’ve just been cropped from a big budget blockbuster. This, coupled with the effective use of music, combined to create an effectively oppressive atmosphere.

So, as with all survival horror video games, here’s the rub; is it scary? The game is like a bizarre amalgamation of every horror movie you’ve ever seen and ever horror game you’ve ever played. There’s a sprinkling of Saw, a dollop of Friday the 13th, some hints of Silent Hill, and a huge steaming helping of meta-commentary à la Scream. You’d think stuffing a game full of so many horror clichés would be a bad idea, but Until Dawn somehow manages to make it work.

My greatest criticism of The Evil Within, another survival horror game to have recently graced next-gen consoles, was that it relied far too heavily on clichés without having a substantial storyline to justify them. Until Dawn does just the opposite and uses these horror tropes to great effect while still maintaining a level of self-awareness. At certain points the game even directly confronts you, asking why you are doing this and what you think you might get out of it.

By making you complicit in the survival and/or death of the characters, it begs the question; why do we want to watch these people be terrorised? It is every horror movie you’ve ever seen, and in being so it forces you to ask yourself why you would ever watch a horror movie in the first place. What joy do we get out of a genre that necessitates and advocates the suffering of others? Well, that’s a debate for another day. But let’s just say the game is scary, in more ways than one.

Please don’t force me to make adult decisions. Please.

Gameplay: 8/10, for those of you who despise QTES, it may not be the one for you, but the game contains a lot more playable portions than its predecessors

Storyline: 9/10, the Butterfly Effect dynamic is mind-blowing, and becomes even more so on a second or third (or tenth) playthrough

Fear Factor: 8.5/10, the game uses just the right amount of gore, jump scares, and atmosphere to make it pretty damn scary, coupled with that most terrifying of things: a sense of responsibility

Overall: 8.5/10, in spite of having played “Alien: Isolation” and “The Evil Within”, this has to be my standout survival horror game of 2015

Float Like a Butterfly: A Review of Until Dawn

Fantastic Phobias: Swinophobia

Ever had the sneaking suspicion that animals may be plotting against you? Maybe it was that squirrel who gave you a funny look, or that pigeon who appeared to coo derisively as you walked past. While many people love our furry counterparts, still more are terrified of them. Whether it be due to a traumatic event, or just generalised paranoia, the thought of certain animals is enough to fill some people with the deep down tremblies. So it comes as no surprise that several of the most common phobias are related to specific or non-specific fears of various animals.

Swinophobia, a fear that is currently on the rise, refers rather unsurprisingly to the fear of pigs. Its name is derived from the word “swine”, which in turn originates from the Old English word “swīn”. It is not only a general fear of pigs, but can sometimes extend to a disliking of or even a paralysing fear of pork. Let us all take a moment of silence for those swinophobics out there, who are trapped in a horrifying world without bacon. Unlike many phobias, which usually originate from a traumatic event involving the object of fear, swinophobia usually stems from an extreme dislike of the animal, with particular reference to their reputation as dirty and unhygienic.

Though many people, such as George Clooney, find our snub-nosed snufflers practically irresistible, the developing swinophobic usually regards them as a repulsive beast to be avoided at all costs. The incidence of swinophobia appears to be more common in those who follow the Jewish or Muslim faith, as these religions both prohibit the consumption of pork. Followers are encouraged to believe that pigs are the unholiest of animals, so it is unsurprising that many of them fear and/or hate them. To add insult to injury, films like Hannibal and Snatch habitually imply that all pigs want to do is munch on our delicate little faces.

The mere sight of a pig is enough to plunge the swinophobic into a series of panic attacks, with characteristic symptoms such as trembling, profuse sweating, shortness of breath, and a rapid heart rate. More extreme responses like nausea and vomiting are not uncommon, particularly if pork is accidentally ingested. So don’t even try to get facon (fake bacon) past these wary individuals because at best they won’t eat it and, in the worst case scenario, you’ll end up with baconnaise coloured vomit all over your carpet.

As with all phobias, the best way to conquer swinophobia is by treating both the symptoms and the source. Techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises will ease the passing of an anxiety attack, while desensitisation to the object of fear over time will cure the phobia itself. This can range from looking at photographs of piglets (preferably in wellingtons) to a jaunty scream-filled trip to the local petting zoo. For those with a deeply embedded phobia, use of talk therapy, psychiatric counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy or even hypnotherapy may be needed to deduce the source of the phobia and in turn combat it.

Dr. Chris P. Bacon, talented psychiatrist and champion truffle sniffer

Sometimes the road to recover may seem long, and it’s a real pig getting to the end, but we should all remember that fear is our daily constant; it is what connects us and what threatens to consume us. Whether it be a fear of pigs, flowers, or chainsaw-juggling clowns, in some way we all have fear and we will always have fear, for time immemorial. So next time you open a packet of bacon and your new housemate starts violently retching, have a little compassion.

Famous Swinophobics

That’ll do, Bloom

Unfortunately our much maligned yet delicious squealing chums have been the target of a lot of negative press lately, worst of which being Orlando Bloom’s outburst on the set of Kingdom of Heaven. As a closet swinophobic, Bloom thought his secret remained firmly hidden until a rogue pig got loose during filming and he “ran like crazy” to get away from it. To Bloom, a horde of charging orcs is a walk in the park, but one lumbering pig is enough to send him into a fear-induced coma.

In the popular MMO Final Fantasy XIV, there is a side-quest called “Swinophobia”, in which the player must cull five wild boars as their population has gotten out of control.

In 6th episode of American Horror Story: Murder House, Ben is enlisted by client Derrick to help him overcome a fear of urban legends, or specifically one urban legend known as “Piggy Man”. In the story, a butcher from Chicago wears the skinned face of a pig in order to creep up on the unsuspecting swine before butchering them. One awful day, in 1893, Piggy Man slipped over in the pen while approaching the pigs and was subsequently eaten alive. Evidently the “pigs love human flesh” stereotype is a popular one. Looking into a mirror and whispering “here piggy pig, pig” will supposedly conjure the Pigman, who will then dismember you. So you can go ahead and add that to the list of “things I won’t be doing tonight…or ever”.

Fantastic Phobias: Swinophobia

Malicious Myths: Krampus

Much like Japan with the Teke Teke, the attitude towards parenting in Germany appears to be somewhat devil-may-care; quite literally when it comes to Krampus, a horrifying demon who carries a bundle of birch twigs and threatens German children with painful ass-beatings if they misbehave. He’s the marginally less cheerful companion of Ol’ Saint Nick and, as firm proof of Santa’s superior delegation skills, he focuses on punishing the naughty children while Santa can kick back and chill with the good kids. These punishments can be anything from being threatened with the birch rod to being carted off to Hell; so be good or Krampus will take you on a one-way joyride to the underworld.

In most Alpine German-speaking parts of Europe, Krampus features as one of the Companions of Saint Nicholas, alongside a blackamoor who kidnaps children and squirrels them away to mid-12th century Moorish Spain and a Gandalf lookalike, among others. Throughout the 1930s, 40s, and 50s his image was largely banned, as were celebrations involving him, but he appeared to enjoy a resurgence in popularity towards the end of the 20th century. Evidently German children had started acting out again and perhaps, dare I say it, even having fun, so it was time to wheel out the birch-wielding goatman to whip them all back into submission. An on-going debate still rages in Austria as to whether Krampus is appropriate for children. You know, because he’s a festive representation of the devil and all that.

And never is this debate more heated than on the night before December 6th, or the Feast of St. Nicholas, known to some as Krampusnacht or “Krampus Night”. On this night, locals don their friendly, furry Krampus costumes and visit children’s homes to remind them that a horrifically scarred ass awaits them if they don’t amend their mischievous ways. Our cheeky devil is sometimes accompanied by Saint Nicholas on these occasions, who dispenses lovely gifts to good children, while Krampus provides naughty children with only coal and bundles of birch twigs known as ruten. So, if you’re low on kindling on the run-up to Christmas, just push over a few old people and Krampus should show up at your door with ample supplies.

Please don’t touch me

Yet this is nothing compared to the terrifying Krampuslauf or “Krampus Run”, where local men get stinking drunk before dressing up as Krampus and chasing unwary passers-by. It is customary to offer these extreme cosplayers a relaxing glass of schnapps, because nothing calms an alcohol-fuelled demon down like the promise of sweet peach liquor. During these horrifying endurance races, the merry Krampus is sometimes accompanied by perchten; women dressed as wild pagan beasts with rotting animal skulls for heads. And we wonder why our Germanic cousins grow up to be so serious.

During the Christmas season, people exchange holiday greeting cards known as Krampuskarten, which each depict delightful images of Krampus beating, kidnapping, or eating young children. And, just when children thought they were safe for the rest of the year, in some places such as Styria, birch bundles are painted gold and displayed in the house year-round as a constant reminder of his oppressive presence.

Appearance

Although there are some minor variations in depictions of Krampus, most share several common physical features. He is covered in black or brown fur, usually that of a goat, ram, or bear, and has the horns of a goat or a ram on his head. He stands upright and has the facial features of a man, although he has cloven hooves instead of feet and a distinctively long, pointed tongue that constantly lolls out of his mouth. Kind of like a dog sticking its head out of a car, only with more general hatred for mankind and less whimsy.

He is sometimes depicted carrying chains or wearing shackles on his wrists, which symbolises his enslavement to Saint Nicholas, and he loudly thrashes these chains for effect. More often he is shown bedecked with charming bells and simply won’t be seen without his characteristic bundle of birch twigs or, as he likes to call them, the “Ass Swatter”. The bells are designed to warn children of his impending approach, while the birch rod serves to remind them why they should have ran away after hearing the bells. He sometimes appears with a sack or washtub strapped to his back, which he uses to cart off naughty children before drowning them, eating them, or taking them to Hell.

Origins

Krampus’ name is derived from the German word “krampen”, which means “claw”, and he is thought to be the son of Hel from Norse mythology. For those who don’t know, Hel was the ruler of Helheim (the Norse realm of the dead) who had the upper body of a living woman and the lower body of a corpse. So perhaps not the most functional upbringing. Depending on the story, Krampus was either enslaved by Saint Nicholas and was forced to do his bidding, or decided to work for Saint Nick of his own freewill. It seems the repression hit Hell pretty hard, and what’s an out-of-work demon to do?

“And what would you like to be beaten with this Christmas, little girl?”

Though the Krampus mythos is now part of the Christmas canon, he is largely thought to have pre-Christian origins. Anthropologist Maurice Bruce posits that he was based on the legendary Horned God of the Witches, as his bundle of birch twigs has deeply pagan origins. Similarly John J. Honigmann attests to the “heathen” elements of Krampus’ character and argues that he was once a pagan creature who was eventually assimilated into Christian tradition.

Modern-Day Usage

Krampus is not widely known outside of Europe but his popularity is growing as a horrifying alternative to the traditionally merry, consumerist Christmas that we have become accustomed to. In light of that fact, here are a few references to our festive furry friend:

  • Since the 19th century, Europeans have happily exchanged Krampuskarten featuring images of Krampus, as well as humorous rhymes or poems. Originally he was portrayed as a menacing character, looming over unsuspecting children or lecherously chasing buxom women, but nowadays more modern versions employ a “cuter” Krampus in an attempt to improve his public image.

  • The 2015 horror-comedy Krampus , directed by Michael Dougherty of Trick R’ Treat fame, is based around a dysfunctional family who are attacked by Krampus.
  • An indie horror film called Krampus: The Christmas Devil was released in 2013 and revolves around a detective searching for missing children.
  • Krampus features in the episode of American Dad entitled “Minstrel Krampus”, where it transpires that he was in fact the real hero of Christmas after he is murdered by Santa Claus.
  • In the children’s TV show Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated, the Krampus features as an antagonist to our hapless, mystery-solving heroes.
  • On an episode of the political satire show The Colbert Report, Stephen decides to join forces with the Krampus in order to fight the “War on Christmas” but is swiftly whipped and then threatened by the demon himself.
  • A Christmas episode of the supernatural show Grimm featured the Krampus as a humanoid ram dressed in a Santa suit. In the episode, as in folklore, he kidnaps naughty children but instead leaves behind coal in their wake.
  • Artists Brian Joines and Dean Kotz created a five-issue comic book series known as Krampus, with Krampus as the main character.
  • Let’s Kill Krampus is a card/role-playing game where you can either play as Krampus or as one of eight children. As the former you attempt to eat all of the children, while as the latter your aim is to ultimately kill Krampus.

  • Believe it or not, there is a surprising amount of erotic fiction about Krampus, including A Kiss From Krampus by Red Hanner, Punished By The Krampus by Sapphire Del Ray, and Christmas Spirit by Alise Bell.
  • There is an Italian folk-metal band called Krampus. Yes, you heard me, an Italian folk-metal band.
  • In the indie video game Don’t Starve, the Krampus will appear and steal the player’s items if the player has been “naughty”, i.e. if they’ve been killing too many non-aggressive animals such as rabbits or beefalo.
  • In the strategy-based video game Medieval II: Total War, there is a mod where Krampus is included among Santa’s units.
  • During the Frost Moon event of the video game Terraria, Krampus features as an enemy.
Be good, kids!
Malicious Myths: Krampus

Malicious Myths: The Slender Man

The Slender Man, or Slenderman to his friends, represents one of the most fascinating horror phenomena of modern times and is the direct result of that nebulous entity, that filthy temptress, we know as the Internet. Unlike many urban legends, which have their roots in ancient folklore or unexplained events, Slenderman began virally and unfurled its tentacles to all corners of the earth. This elusive stalker, this haunting presence that pursues its victims relentlessly; what’s not to be afraid of?

The Slender Man is an entity who predominantly targets children or young adults that have suffered some major trauma. It follows them, takes delight in psychologically tormenting them, and then eventually abducts them. Remove that last part and he sounds like every ex-boyfriend I’ve ever had. He is said to haunt forests or abandoned locations, has the ability to teleport, and may stalk his prey for months or even years. He may look like an upper class businessman, but he has all the sleazy determination of a used car salesman.

Close or extended proximity to Slenderman will trigger a condition known as “Slender sickness”, where victims will experience rapid onset paranoia, nightmares, delusions, and nosebleeds. So basically just your typical night in an underground rave, but with a creepy monster stalking you. Scratch that, just your typical night in an underground rave.

In the web series Marble Hornets, it was established that Slenderman could create “Proxies”, which are human beings who have fallen under his influence and act as his puppets. Kind of like Beliebers, only a lot less violent. They also introduced the “Slenderman Symbol”, a circle with a cross through it that looks about as macabre as a children’s drawing, and the concept that his presence interfered somehow with video and audio recordings.

With all that in mind, Slenderman is unique in that his stories rarely employ graphic violence or body horror. Originally it was believed that he impaled his victims on tree branches, removed all of their organs, placed them in plastic bags, and then returned them to the victim’s body. Kind of like a piñata for people on the organ donor list. As the Slenderman canon developed, he became far more of a passive aggressive creature, choosing instead to stalk his victims and kill them in unknown ways. In fact, since no bodies are ever recovered, it is unknown whether he even kills his victims or simply spirits them away to an unidentified place. This leaves both his motives and modus operandi incredibly vague.

Yet on May 31st 2014, the Slenderman stories became far too real for the residents of Waukesha, Wisconsin when a couple of 12-year-old girls lured one of their classmates into the woods, held her down, and stabbed her 19 times. Fortunately the victim was able to crawl out of the woods and onto the roadside, where she was found by a passing cyclist and promptly rushed to hospital. She survived and the perpetrators were swiftly apprehended. When questioned by the authorities, the two girls claimed that they had read about the Slender Man online and had attempted to murder the other girl in the hopes of becoming his Proxies.

During an interview, one of the girls believed that Slenderman watched over her, could read her mind, and could teleport. That being said, she also believed that she’d had extended conversations with Lord Voldemort and one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so perhaps not the most reliable source. The girls are being tried as adults and are now facing up to 65 years in prison.

Not long after this news story broke, an unidentified woman from Hamilton Ohio informed a WLWT TV reporter that her 13-year-old daughter had attacked her with a knife and written macabre fiction usually centred on Slenderman. Then, on September 4th 2014, a 14-year-old girl in Port Richey, Florida set her home on fire while her mother and nine-year-old brother were still inside. A police report later confirmed that the teenager had been reading online stories about Slenderman, as well as the manga Soul Eater by Atsushi Ōkubo.

So why, in spite of his clearly fictional status, has the Slender Man become so popular? And what is it about him that makes him both horrifying and strangely alluring?

Appearance

Slenderman is the master of chic, as he is regularly depicted wearing a black suit, white shirt, tie, and long, black dress shoes. However, since he is entirely based on random accounts by various authors, his appearance is not fixed and continues to change. Typically he is depicted as a thin, unnaturally tall man with a blank and featureless face. In some cases he has no face, while in others he has a different face depending on who is looking at him.

Some people portray him as having many tentacles that protrude from his back, although it is noted he can retract them at any time. It is believed that, once his arms and tentacles are outstretched, his victims are lulled into a kind of hypnotised state, where they helplessly walk towards him and become ensnared in his trap. Hypnotic tentacles, you say? We’re looking at you, Japan.

Origins

The Slender Man’s origins are part of what makes him so fascinating, as he started as an Internet meme created by Eric Knudsen, known online as Victor Surge, on the Something Awful forums. Two black and white photographs containing Slenderman were posted to the forum on June 10th 2009 as part of a photoshop contest where users were challenged to create “paranormal photographs”. Knudsen supplemented his submission with a few snatches of texts from “witnesses”, which further fleshed out the original story. One such statement reads: “We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time…” — 1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead.

The original photographs by Eric Knudsen

Slenderman rapidly and unexpectedly went viral, spawning numerous works of fanart and fanfiction, particularly on the website Creepypasta. Our slender pal swiftly became divorced from his original creator and subject to an overarching mythos created by a range of authors. In the totally serious and not at all laughable academic work Folklore, Horror Stories, and the Slender Man: The Development of an Internet Mythology, Professor Shira Chess attempts to compare Slenderman to ancient folklore about fairies. Because fairies are vague looking creatures that haunt woods and kidnap children too! Except they don’t have tentacles and an Armani suit.

Chess argues that, although Slenderman’s origins can be identified and he is clearly fictional, he can still be classified as folklore because he was created by a collective whose stories change depending on the storyteller. According to Chess, the way the Slenderman mythos has developed online provides a fascinating insight into how traditional folklore becomes established. Some people attribute Slenderman’s success to the ambiguous nature of the Internet, which consistently blurs the line between fact and fiction by providing the reader with myriad stories that breathe authenticity into the lie. Yet why do we want to believe in this faceless fashionista so badly?

Chess believes that he represents the looming threat of death and the helplessness involved when faced with anonymous, unknown forces. Others posit that he simply represents fear of the unknown, which is a fear that is growing ever stronger in the modern age of technology and information. The creator of Marble Hornets, Troy Wagner, posits that Slenderman is terrifying because of his malleability, as he can shape himself into whatever the reader is most frightened of. Other theories suggest that he guards the undefined cultural boundaries that are alarming simply because victims do not know when they have violated them.

Perhaps, as a modern-day Pied Piper figure, he could even be seen to represent the faceless populous behind the computer screen. Slenderman is that vague, humanoid threat that you consistently meet on the web, that unknown force which can reach out and ensnare your children. Because, after all, how do you know who you’re really talking to when you never see their face?

Modern-Day Usage

As this post is getting a little long, let’s not be coy about this. Here are but a few of the modern-day references to our skinny friend:

  • The Youtube video series Marble Hornets is a found footage style fictional documentary about a group of high school students and their encounters with Slenderman. It has received over 55 million views.
  • Other, similar Youtube serials include EverymanHYBRID and TribeTwelve.

  • In 2012, a video game entitled Slender: The Eight Pages was released based on a fictional encounter with Slenderman. The video game was so successful that it was swiftly followed by a sequel, known as Slender: The Arrival, and it inspired similar games such as Slenderman’s Shadow and Slender Rising.
  • The independent film The Slender Man, released in 2013, was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and is based on Slenderman.
  • Slenderman makes a cameo appearance in the music video for the song “Equinox” by Skrillex.
  • The character Enderman in the indie video game Minecraft is believed to be based on Slenderman.
  • He bears great similarity to a “modern Yōkai” or urban legend created on Japanese websites known as the Kunekune, which appeared online around about 2003.
  • He’s also visually very similar to SCP-096 or “Shy Guy” from the SCP series.
  • The Slendy Review is a blog dedicated entirely to stories in the Slenderman canon.
Malicious Myths: The Slender Man