I can’t quite work out why spooky internet stories are called “creepypastas”, except to say that there is a brilliant website of the same name. At http://www.creepypasta.com you can find a selection of horror and ghost stories, written in different forms. Some creepypastas have, according to Wikipedia, become urban legends, presumably given credence through the spread of information across the internet itself.
A particularly striking story is this one, Candle Cove: http://www.creepypasta.com/candle-cove/
Written as a series of posts on a message board, it asks for memories of a scary old children’s Tv show called “Candle Cove”. Various posters write in with different but all terrifying memories, until the originator of the thread posts the killer message about it at the end (I won’t spoil it).
It’s a brilliant story, but also a staggeringly effective one. For a start, fans and perhaps the original author have created designs, pictures, still frames and even sounds from the “tv show” itself. Secondly, the “memories” have a tinge of genuine terror about them. It’s so casually yet well-written, that you sense the fear these imaginary characters have of this ancient tv programme.
It’s also interesting that the date of the original show is given as 1971.
It set me thinking (when I was a bit freaked by the story and couldn’t sleep). Although the story originates across the pond, I’ve noted before how there is a genuine touch of the spooky about children’s television of the 1970s and 80s. The theme tune to geography programme Near and Far, for example; Picture Box, a school’s educational programme; the bizarre Charlie from Words and Pictures; although clearly unintentionally, Noseybonk features here. Doctor Who, although not explicitly a children’s show, was also pretty scary (and later, violent). The worst example of all these is the Natural Born Smoker educational ad (or Public Information Film) shown on British children’s TV in 1985.
What does this say about the time they were produced? Probably nothing. Perhaps that there was something underlying some elements of culture at the time that was frightened of the unknown…but most likely it is chance. The Candle Cove story is plausible because it fits this time perfectly – after the 1960s, when we all “feel” that children’s shows would have been tightly controlled; but before the late 80s and 90s, when everything would have been recorded and subsequently placed on Youtube. It’s a cultural twinge of the uncontrolled, which isn’t misplaced, as any student of cultural movements of the time could tell you. This sense of the uncontrolled is a bit frightening.
Would, could a network have put out such a frightening programme for children? The story works because we fear that yes, they might have done…in those days. It’s long ago, so dark in our minds, but in a time when it seems likely that they might have experimented with such a programme. It shows that we have more understanding of history than we think.
It also shows the way we turn scary things into outright existential terror as small children. The importance of such terror to early childhood cannot be overstated. We created and in some senses revelled in terror when we were little. It was a natural reaction to entering a dark, mysterious and dangerous room – which is what the world is, when you are tiny and know you are somewhere, but know almost nothing about it. It’s a psychic defence mechanism, but also something and a time that places fear into our selves. It becomes neuroses, anxieties, distant memories. Candle Cove is a brilliant little story because it is true.