Lately I’ve been listening to horror narration on YouTube. Horror narration is pretty self-explanatory, but just in case, I’m talking about a YouTube video in which someone reads scary stories, uses a few sound effects, some stock photo visuals or some kind of video clip that complements the mood of the story.
Some of the stories are true scary encounters and for paranormal encounters from Reddit. There are some channels that read Creepy Pastas. Creepy pastas are scary stories passed around the internet. They are modern versions of urban legends. Some are “based” on real events like these four scary stories and some are fictional like Slenderman (though that seems to have taken on a life of it’s own). The word is derived from “copypasta.” That’s slang for text that gets passed around the internet by copy and pasting. And since, in these cases, the copy and pasted texts are scary stories… voila–Creepy pasta! There are a many creepy pasta sites such as www.creepypasta.com/ but a story doesn’t have to be on one of these sites to be called a creepy pasta. Argh! Enough with the pasta! Carb overload!
My favorites are the “allegedly true” stories sent to the narrators by channel subscribers. Did they really happen? You have to trust that these experiences shared on the channel are true as usually there is no accompanying evidence sent in. Sometimes they writer’s let you know what search terms to use to find out more.
These true tales from subscribers can be pretty scary. Some are about bad encounters with Craigslist, the deep web or dating apps. Other stories are about paranormal events or the unexplained, but most are stories of close encounters people have with violence. In most of these stories, the person sharing them got away with just a frightening experience, but not all the time. Sometimes it’s a victim sharing an experience that didn’t have a happy ending. Those stories are chilling and I think the subscribers are brave. It has to be hard to share when something horrible happens.
I’m not really sure why I’m listening to them right now. I started over the Christmas holiday which is not exactly matching the mood of the season. There’s a kind of voyeuristic element to this but it’s kind of cathartic, too. When someone gets away, you feel good. When a victim shares an experience you feel far from good, but I think there’s something like bearing witness to someone sharing a trauma and (maybe?) coming to terms with it that moves you.
Some of the stories seem like those urban legends where the character does something stupid and then ends up paying the price for their bad decision or lack of vigilance. But we all do that while we grow up. We make dumb mistakes and survive them and learn from them–ideally. These stories also teach us to be vigilant and how to navigate what can be a pretty scary world. I know that watching Silence of the Lambs taught me to change my parking habits and to check my car before I got in. I was 21! Why wasn’t I doing that sooner?
But the flip side of using these stories to teach vigilance is how these stories reinforce the culture of fear in modern society. Don’t we get a big enough daily dose of fear in the media new cycle? How do these stories used for entertainment teach us in ways the news doesn’t? It’s frightening how similar the fear-thrill is to watching the news and listening to horror narration at times. I don’t even know where to begin with the paranormal stuff.
For me, the biggest reminder when I listen to these stories is how humans have a sense of danger. I’m not talking about obvious danger or the moment you see the flashing knife. I believe people are often aware a situation is bad before it escalates to the knife. I don’t think these are psychic vibes. These are subtle signs in our environment that our brain processes but that we can’t quite articulate. When we can’t easily label these sensations, we explain away our fears. I’m all for rational thought, but there is explaining away your fears, and there is picking up when you’re truly in danger and it’s a skill we learn to survive. Trust your instincts. If something gets your nerves up, trust yourself and don’t rationalize it away. Maybe that message is the biggest difference between these stories and the news.