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Creepypasta refers to short horror-themed stories transmitted via the Internet. The phrase is a play on "Copypasta," itself a play on "copy-paste," which refers to short stories or blocks of text intended to be copied and pasted on forums or message boards. Creepypasta are works of fiction (though they may be purported to document true events,) and intended to be disturbing or frightening.
Copypasta is a well-recognized phrase within Internet culture. Google's Insight program, which presents statistics on search frequency for a given phrase and which thus serves as a good means to compare a given term's relative popularity over time, indicates that the term was first searched for in June of 2006.  The derivative term "creepypasta" was first searched for in October 2007. 
Though the specific phrase is relatively recent, the concept of sharing frightening stories via the Internet is not. Know Your Meme, a popular informal wiki dedicated to Internet culture, links the phenomena of creepypasta to chain emails. Given some shared characteristics between the two genres - a preference for short, vivid narratives, and a blurring of the lines of fantasy and reality, as well as their propagation in informal circumstances via copying and pasting - it is not unreasonable to draw connections.
Chain emails, though they are shared between people, are essentially an individualistic phenomena, authored by a single person (though possibly modified by others later) and shared among friends. Creepypasta "fandom" makes widespread use of open forums to disseminate their works, the oldest documentable Internet-based precursor of which is Usenet's alt.horror group, with the first post dating to April 1990. The alt.horror group discussed (and still discusses) a variety of topics relating to horror fandom, from literature and film to conventions and fanzines, and thus prefigured later image boards and forums where horror fans could meet to discuss their interests, like 4chan's /x/ board and Reddit's r/paranormal forum.
Characteristics and ThemesEdit
Creepypasta is shared through messageboards and forums, like 4chan or Reddit. Creepypasta often draws on themes from other horror works. Creepypasta often reflects themes from other works. Japanese-style horror comics and movies, Stephen King and HP Lovecraft (and other “cosmic horror,”) Twilight Zone, and other “weird fiction” provide inspiration; our interviews on Reddit and 4chan indicated that many users prefer these themes, with their emphasis on the weird and unusual, to ghosts and other elements of traditional “horror stories,” which might be seen as cliched and unfrightening.
Creepypasta as FolkloreEdit
The community that produces creepypasta might loosely be referred to as a folk group, and for the purposes of this article creepypasta is being considered as folklore. Creepypasta stories do fit the criteria:
- Creepypasta may reflect pop cultural themes, but as they are written and enjoyed within a community of enthusiasts creepypasta are not “pop culture” in the commercial sense.
- Fans use the genre of creepypasta to communicate certain ideas – stories may uphold conservative values (by warning against sexual promiscuity or drug use, in the tradition of slasher films) or conversely critique elements of conservative society, by depicting it as a mask for sinister behavior.
- There is a developed sense of group identity among fans. Though we've been unable to find any real self-identification of creepypasta fans as a distinguished “group,” fans frequent certain message boards and websites, have some unique traditions, a number of inside jokes, and make use of certain slang.
Given that creepypasta fans tend to travel in many the same circles as horror fans or users of other message boards, it's debatable whether they constitute a real group of their own or merely subgroups of the larger communities with which they affiliate. To the extent that they do frequent their own message boards, though, which don't appeal to the larger communities with which they affiliate, it seems reasonable to regard them creepypasta fans as a distinct group within the larger internet and horror fandom subcultures.
Means of TransmissionEdit
Creepypasta is created and propagated by fans, and is a community-driven phenomena. Creepypasta fandom, as noted above, is largely focused around internet communities, most prominently 4chan's /x/ board. Fans may hold contests to write stories, or they may post their works for critiques on message boards. There are also sites specifically dedicated to what might loosely be called creepypasta “fandom,” where fans can post stories and images for others to evaluate and enjoy. Though it is harder to observe the machinations of "fandom" on these sites - they are repositories of stories - they allow readers to quickly find aggregated materials.
The other possibility for transmission of "creepypasta" stories is far more traditional - oral. One of our correspondents on 4chan expressed that he frequently shared stories he enjoyed with his friends. Given the similarities in themes to traditional horror stories, it seems reasonable to assume creepypasta authors may be recycling or reinterpreting stories shared orally - or they may be drawing from the same source material, the "building blocks" of a horror story, as Susan Stewart's article postulates. Without further research, it's difficult to draw any conclusions.
Relation to Other WorksEdit
Recurring Characters and "Mythoi"Edit
A notable tendency for works of creepypasta is its tendency to write in the same vein or recurring theme as other works - to found a "mythos." These bodies of interrelated works can become quite expansive; the Creepypasta Wiki lists at least 20 stories relating to the "slender man" character, many of which have been illustrated, as well as three related videos.
Parody and SubversionEdit
Creepypasta is a very recognizable sub-genre of internet fiction, and its distinctive conventions and narrative structures have made it an object of occasional parody - frequently by its own fans. Intentionally poorly-written creepypasta (sometimes called "crappypasta" or "") are popular - as with this purposefully bizarre short story describing a supposed lost episode of My Little Pony:
...It cut to Twilight Sparkle, looking depressed... I was already creeped out. Twilight turned her head... a cracking sound was heard... [Everybody] was there... just looking like all purpose in life had been destroyed. Twilight moaned...her face turned blue... That's when I realized...the ponies were all zombies.
The video continued on, but now cut to a black message:
"You are a pirate, and a pirate is free...but not if he resists. The end is neigh...your days are numbered. Run, little boy."
I believed the message...I know it will happen one day...
The Big Poopy will find us all.
This story manages to parody a several genre conventions: it purports to be a true account, written as it is in an epistolary format it integrates elements of pop culture, twisting them to its own ends.Other works are simply poorly written:
A FEW YEARS AGO A MAN WAS WALKING DOWN A ROAD BECAUSE HIS CAR BROKE DOWN AND HE SAW A CAR COMING UP BEHIND HIM SO HE STUCK OUT HIS THUMB TO HITCH HIKE AND THE CAR STOPPED AHEAD OF HIM. HE RAN UP TO THE PASSENGER SIDE AND OPENED THE DOOR. WHEN HE OPENED THE DOOR A SKELETON POPPED OUT
- ↑ Know Your Meme contributors, "Copypasta," Know Your Meme, http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/copypasta (accessed May 21, 2012).
- ↑ Google, "Copypasta," Google Insights, http://www.google.com/insights/search/#q=copypasta&cmpt=q (accessed June 4, 2012).
- ↑ Google, "Creepypasta," Google Insights, http://www.google.com/insights/search/#q=creepypasta&cmpt=q (accessed June 4, 2012).
- ↑ Know Your Meme contributors, "Copypasta," Know Your Meme, http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/copypasta (accessed May 31, 2012).
- ↑ email@example.com, "First post! (I think)," alt.horror, http://groups.google.com/group/alt.horror/browse_frm/month/1990-04, April 11, 1990 (accessed June 4, 2012).
- ↑ Creepypasta Wiki contributors, "The Slender Man," Creepypasta Wiki, http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/The_Slender_Man (accessed June 1, 2012).
- ↑ Creepypasta Wiki contributors, "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - The Lost Episode," Creepypasta Wiki, http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/My_Little_Pony%3A_Friendship_is_Magic_-_The_Lost_Episode (accessed June 1, 2012).
- ↑ Creepypasta Wiki contributors, "AND THEN A SKELETON POPPED OUT," Creepypasta Wiki, http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/AND_THEN_A_SKELETON_POPPED_OUT (accessed June 5, 2012).
- Baym, Nancy K. "Interpreting Soap Operas and Creating Community: Inside a Computer-Mediated Fan Culture." Journal of Folklore Research 30 (1993): 143-176.
- Bell, David, and Barbara M. Kennedy. The Cybercultures Reader. London: Routledge, 2000.
- Bennett, Charles H., Ming Li, and Bin Ma. "Chain Letters and Evolutionary Histories.” Scientific American. 2003. Web. 04 June 2012. <http://www.nature.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/scientificamerican/journal/v288/n6/pdf/scientificamerican0603-76.pdf>
- firstname.lastname@example.org, "First post! (I think)," alt.horror, http://groups.google.com/group/alt.horror/browse_frm/month/1990-04, April 11, 1990 (accessed June 4, 2012).
- Considine, Austin. "Bored at Work? Try Creepypasta, Or Web Scares." New York Times, 14 Nov. 2010: 6(L). Academic OneFile. Web. 30 May 2012.
- Creepypasta Wiki contributors, "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - The Lost Episode," Creepypasta Wiki, http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/My_Little_Pony%3A_Friendship_is_Magic_-_The_Lost_Episode (accessed June 1, 2012).
- Creepypasta Wiki contributors, "AND THEN A SKELETON POPPED OUT," Creepypasta Wiki, http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/AND_THEN_A_SKELETON_POPPED_OUT (accessed June 5, 2012).
- Creepypasta Wiki contributors, "The Slender Man," Creepypasta Wiki, http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/The_Slender_Man (accessed June 1, 2012).
- Google, "Copypasta," Google Insights, http://www.google.com/insights/search/#q=copypasta&cmpt=q (accessed June 4, 2012).
- Google, "Creepypasta," Google Insights, http://www.google.com/insights/search/#q=creepypasta&cmpt=q (accessed June 4, 2012).
- Know Your Meme contributors, "Copypasta," Know Your Meme, http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/copypasta (accessed May 31, 2012).
- Maxymuk, John. (2007) "Online communities", Bottom Line: Managing Library, Finances, The, Vol. 20 Iss: 1, pp.54 – 57
- Stewart, Susan. "The Epistemology of the Horror Story." Journal of American Folklore 35 (1982): 33-50.
- Stryker, Cole. Epic Win for Anonymous: How 4chan's Army Conquered the Web. New York: Overlook Duckworth, 2011.
- Wasserman, Stanley, and Katherine Faust. Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
- Wilson, Michael. "Legend and Life: 'The Boyfriend's Death' and 'The Mad Axeman.'" Folklore, 109 (1998): 89-95.
- Creepypasta.com, a repository of stories and images, sorted by theme
- Creepypasta Wiki, a wiki project that hosts numerous stories and images
- /x/, a board on the imageboard 4chan devoted to the discussion of works of horror and the paranormal. Many works of creepypasta are first posted here.
- r/Creepypasta, a board on Reddit. As above, many works are posted here for the first time.