Sometime in the 1940s, the Russians took five political prisoners to an army-run facility, where they were put in a room pumped with an experimental gas to keep them awake for 30 days. They were provided with cots, but without bedding, food and water.
The prisoners would be observed through microphones installed in the room and a glass window. This was in the pre-CCTV camera days.
From the fifth day, the problems started to surface when subjects refused food. One of them started screaming on the ninth day. The others blocked the glass window with papers. Then the room went very quiet with only whispers.
When the chamber was opened on the 15th day to understand what was going on and special forces were sent to restrain the subjects, it was found that the subjects had turned into zombie-like creatures – they ate their own flesh and had their skin and multiple organs are missing. One subject was dead. The ensuing battle caused the death of another subject and six hardened soldiers.
The experiment ended when the military commander ordered three scientists to be locked in the room with the last two remaining subjects. The scientists refused, but the commander obeyed his orders. One of the scientists rebelled and shot the commander on the spot before shooting the remaining zombie-like subjects.
Unlike several other stories from the Soviet Union, which trickled out to the outside world during the Cold War years or years after the fall, this horrifying 1940s tale didn’t become public until 2010 when it hit the internet. It clicked with readers who sent it to friends and shared it on every internet platform they knew.
The more than six decades delay in the story becoming public was not because it was top secret, but because it never happened. The “Russian Sleep Experiment” is one of the earliest and most successful stories from what is known as “Creepypasta” – a genre of highly believable, viral horror stories on the Internet.
What is the Creepypasta genre?
Creepypasta refers to the horror story genre on the internet with highly believable, viral, internet-sourced stories – the Russian sleep experiment is just one of many well-known stories.
The name Creepypasta is believed to come from “copy-pasta,” which itself comes from the “copy-paste” nature of these stories, as these stories were copied in different places around the same time due to their virality.
These stories are often told from a realistic first-person perspective, which makes them more believable. While some of the earlier stories were text only, several of the stories featured photos and even videos, which are often edited.
What makes creepypasta popular, how has the genre evolved?
The unexplained phenomenon, supernatural themes, and deaths are common elements of these stories, making them stick more in people’s minds.
From their humble beginnings as viral stories and photos in the free circulation, these stories have evolved into an organized genre where authors are now known persons rather than strangers as they were in the beginning. Novels and films have also emerged from the genre, such as Dathan Auerbach’s PenPal series and Felix Blackwell’s Stolen Tongues, both of which were first shared on Reddit.
There were also unintended consequences, such as the stabbing in the United States where two 12-year-old girls stabbed another girl in the belief that they were protecting their families from “Slender Man” – a character in a creepypasta published in 2009. character is a very slim and tall man who haunts parks, forests, playgrounds or abandoned buildings.
What are some popular creepypastas?
Aside from the Russian Sleep Experiment and Slender Man, two of the most well-known creepypasta stories that many find hard to believe are:
• Lost Mickey Mouse footage is a popular story. In this video you can see Mickey Mouse walking with terrifying background music. A minute or so into the video the screen goes black and when it comes back there is screaming in the background and more voices join in and it just keeps getting grotesque every moment. Mickey’s face is also disfigured towards the end.
The accompanying story is this: Film critic Leonard Martin found this clip while browsing an old collection, but he became so upset watching this particular video that he left and asked an assistant to watch it and take notes. The guard said that night that the assistant stumbled out of the room after completing the footage, uttered the phrase “real suffering is unknown” seven times, grabbed his gun and shot himself.
This really scary story is, of course, just a story. There’s a whole subgenre of “lost episode” creepypasta out there.
• The Polybius video game is alleged to have been used in Portland, USA in 1981. There are many stories about it. Some say it was a US government tool to test mental and physical strength to recruit soldiers. Others say it was a prototype for CIA brainwashing activities. There are also stories that it causes seizures and brain aneurysms.
Like the Russian sleep experiment, this 1980s story didn’t surface until 1998. Not because it was a state secret, but because it was just a story.
But there’s no shortage of believers, perhaps because the idea of government spying on people through video games is so appealing—perhaps even more so in the age of Pegasus.