I’ve done some blogging in the past about how a genre of horror story involving cursed cartoons, haunted video games and the like has flourished online via creepypasta, but here’s something I haven’t seen talked about. Before creepypasta developed at the likes of /r/NoSleep, similar stories had been disseminated at outlets of a very different sort: fundamentalist Christian websites.
For a pristine example, take a look at this page on the Crossroad Ministries site, dating from circa 2000. The page republishes an email sent in by someone named Shellie, which is introduced as follows:
[*Note from Pastor Kevin – this is a real life testimony from someone in our fellowship dealing with a relative who is involved in Poke’mon. Demons are real and the power they possess is also very real. The amount of power is determined in degrees by the acceptance of the child or person of these demons.]
Shellie then introduces us to her Pokémon-loving niece:
I was able to visit with my sister and my 8 year-old niece yesterday. My niece is totally, thoroughly, completely, entirely and utterly into Poke’mon. Everything she says, how she acts, every thought and every move is Poke’mon. She has trading cards, toys, video games, she writes stories: “Me and My Poke’mon”, draws pictures at meal times, has wall posters, interactive videos, books, and help-guides all about Poke’mon, and their theme “Gotta catch ’em all”.
So far, this sounds like nothing more than a kid who’s really into her favourite cartoon. But then Shellie brings in a more ominous tone:
It is a very complicated and intrinsic “game”. It doesn’t end when you put it back into it’s storage box.
Next is a transcribed conversation between Shellie and her niece, in which the little girl seems to be struggling to explain the concept of handheld gaming to her aunt:
“Well,” she explained, “What you do is, there are 150 pocket monsters. You need to get all of them to have all the power. So you want to get all of them. I just love them. I love my pocket monsters!”
“How do you get the power?” I asked.
“You use your pocket monsters to get the power.”
“Where do you do this? While you play Pocket Monster nintendo?”
“Oh no. You play it everywhere, out there? (pointing to outside the house), not usually in here. But everywhere, anywhere out there, wherever you go.”
The next topic is the fine art of Pokémon-summoning. Shellie admits that she can’t remember what any of the characters are called, so she substitutes names she’s made up like “Ginkachu”:
“How do you call them?”
“By their name, silly.” She laughed.
“Like how?” I inquired.
“Well, like ‘Ginkachu’, I need you, come and help me?”
Shellie describes how she became convinced that her niece was actually summoning demons, and tried – without success – to move the conversation towards Jesus:
“What are you called? I mean, are you just a little girl or what is your name when you play this?”
“The Master. I am the master. I call them and they do what I ask. They have to obey me.”
I felt absolutely sick inside, knowing that this is totally evil and the monsters are demons that she can summon and give her power. I wanted her to know that there is someone who is ALL POWERFUL and who loves her and died for her. I talked to her about Jesus. While I spoke she acted distracted and wouldn’t listen, she fidgeted with the dog and wouldn’t look at me. But when she wanted to she would immediately tell me something about Pocket Monsters during that time. When she spoke of the Monsters she remained concentrated and focused.
Then, plot twist! The girl insists that Pokémon are real, and even gives her aunt an anecdote about how she threw a Pokémon over the garden fence, only for it to be returned by another Pocket Monster:
“AUNTIE, THEY ARE REAL AND THEY DO HAVE REAL MAGIC POWERS.” “No, ” I told her. “It’s just a game.” Wanting to tell her about Jesus’ love, mercy, forgiveness and grace, and not to continue this conversation about demons. “They do come and help you and give you powers Auntie. My friend Sadie and I were playing in the backyard. We were playing Pocket Monsters and I accidentally threw my ‘Plahpaquch’ over the back fence. We both stood by the fence and called out to ‘Mahmuchu’ to help us. Then we went off to play. The next day ‘Plahpaquch’ was back in our yard.”
In a rather macabre touch, we learn that the lost Pokémon was returned with its head cut off:
“Your neighbor threw it back in, that’s all.” I said. “No Auntie. It was a ‘Spanichu’, I know because he came back with his head cut off. That’s how I know they are real and the powers are real too.”
“Maybe you neighbor did that?” I said.
“Why would they want to do that? Why would they chop off its head.” She explained. “That’s how I know it was a ‘Spanichu’.”
Shellie then rattles off a list of Bible verses about evil spirits, before concluding thus:
THERE IS ONLY ONE NAME WE CAN CALL ON FOR HELP, THERE IS ONLY ONE WHO CAN SAVE US, JESUS CHRIST!
Unlike the creepypasta stories, Shellie’s account doesn’t appear to be a work of fiction as such. The exchange probably took place as described: an eight-year-old had managed to convince herself that her favourite cartoon characters were real (or else, was simply engaging in some extended play-acting around her aunt) had a toy mutilated by a rather sick neighbour. The kid’s fundamentalist aunt, who seems to have been completely unfamiliar with how children’s minds work, concluded that demons were afoot.
Yet Shellie’s account still hits many of the same beats as a typical cursed-cartoon creepypasta. It takes an innocuous piece of children’s entertainment and turns it into the object of supernatural horror. Intentionally or not, it riffs on horror film conventions, namely all those adult-talks-to-creepy-kid-who-knows-what’s-happening scenes (think fo the famous “I see dead people” exchange in The Sixth Sense). And it’s structured like a horror story, with a gradual build-up and final pay-off.
A quick look through the creepypasta scene makes it clear that the Internet has given rise to its own strain of ghost story – but what’s more remarkable is that this strain seems to have developed independently in two very different areas of the web.