Don’t Hug Me, I’m Thinking (and Scared)

By: Emily Zuo

Don’t Hug me I’m Scared.

This puzzling and grammatically incorrect sentence is the title of a three-and-a-half-minute-long video that was uploaded to YouTube in 2011. Five years later – after going viral and gaining over 41 million views, a vast cult following, and five sequels – it has become an iconic piece of internet legend. I feel it is best seen without any prior knowledge:

(Warning: contains shocking and disturbing content)

Back then, I remember seeing people talk about it all over the place. I first saw it mentioned in YouTube comments. However, I still didn’t really know what to expect before watching it (the weird title didn’t help), and I definitely was not prepared. See, I’d experienced the beautiful and horrible internet enough to know mid-video that the cheerful vibe would take a dark turn, but at the end, I was still left with my mouth hanging open. What had I just seen?

Some may see this video as going for mere shock value. And I do see where that opinion could come from: something that looks like a friendly, happy kids’ show descends into insanity, complete with hearts-and-crafts, ‘death’ smeared on a wall, gore-cake, and puppets. But is there a method to the madness? Behind the shocking and disturbing imagery, one can’t help but wonder if the creators had a deeper meaning in mind. There are countless theories out there that analyze every detail of the video, but I would like to discuss a more general theory about what the main message of this short film is. Out of all the theories I’ve seen, it’s the one that makes the most sense to me, and I’ve added my own interpretations as well.

I think this video is about creativity. Obvious, right? But more specifically, it’s about how our society treats the concept of creativity. From the time we’re kids, we’re fed information. We’re told what we should and shouldn’t do, what we should think, and how we should feel by adults, the media, and countless other sources. A common anthem of kindergarten curriculum and kid’s shows is to “Be creative!”, but much of the time, ideas or ways of thinking that are outside the norm are shut down before they can begin. We are taught to do things in a planned way. And what is often the result? People, in a way, become unable to think creatively. Or, even worse, they may not learn how to express their unique thoughts in a healthy and constructive way, after being suppressed for so long.

“Don’t Hug me I’m Scared” is eerily reminiscent of this idea. At the beginning of the video, the puppets are sitting at the table, not doing anything – three blank slates. Then the notebook, a symbol of education, encourages the puppets to “think creatively.” All is fine at first; the puppets begin to engage in their world, imagining shapes in the clouds. However, when the yellow puppet paints a picture of a clown, the notebook deems that he “might need to slow down,” and black paint pours over his picture in a creepy, silent moment. The notebook, for whatever reason, has harshly decided that painting a clown is not right, even though obviously, there’s nothing wrong with it. Another example of such an unnecessary rule being put in place is when the notebook tells the yellow puppet that “green is not a creative color.” The notebook is dictating everything to these puppets, who have no choice but to follow. It’s not teaching them how to be creative at all. In the end, when the puppets are finally allowed to act freely, they don’t know what to do with themselves. They go crazy. They haven’t learned how to express their ideas in the right way, and as we see with the crazy dancing and gore-cake, it all ends very badly. Even more ironic is that the notebook decides they should “never be creative again.” Was creativity the problem? Or was it how these puppets were taught – in effect, not creatively?

Either way, the video is sure to leave you either pondering, or horrified out of your mind – or both.



Plot Twist

By: Kathryn Clark

I want to start this post by saying that I am completely, unabashedly a literary nerd. Whenever I read a story, part of my mind is always whirling in the background, figuring out how the story works and what techniques the author used to make the pieces fit together. The downside is that after a while, certain stories tend to become predictable. This is especially true of horror. I spend quite a lot of time on reddit/nosleep (a forum dedicated to horror stories), and though most of the posts are good, I rarely find one that actually surprises me. Which is too bad, because I believe that genuine shock is one of the best tools in a horror writer’s arsenal.

There is definitely a technique to writing a good plot twist. You need to keep a careful balance between revealing too much information and not revealing enough. Too much info, and the reader will see the twist coming from a mile off. Yet there’s much less satisfaction in twists that appear out of nowhere. The best plot twists don’t just shock you for a moment – they make you comb through the story a second time, your eyes widening as you realize how many clues were scattered throughout the plot, wondering how you could have missed this the first time.

I love any well-written plot twist, of course. But when horror stories utilize this technique, the shock from the twist mingles with the horror that the story induced, making both reactions even more potent. I believe that there’s something inherently frightening about the unknown. Known enemies are frightening, but they at least offer a sense of certainty. When facing the unknown, anything could happen. You’re frightened without knowing exactly why you should be frightened; haunted by things you could never understand. And while this type of uncertainty is scary enough on its own, the best plot twists will take it a step further. They allow you to believe that you know what’s happening, only to rip away that security without warning. It feels as if the ground has crumbled beneath your feet, and I find these sudden reversals to be terrifying in a way that few other stories are.

Out of the hundreds of stories that I have read online over the years, there have only been a few that have managed to evoke a visceral reaction from me. If any of you are looking for a horror story that will shock you to the core and knock the wind from your lungs, I have a few recommendations. “My Girl” is exceptionally creepy precisely because of the hints it litters throughout the text. It took me a few seconds to understand “The Green Corvette”, but my stomach dropped the moment I made the connection. And “Nothing’s Going to Get You” actually made me gasp out loud.

Not all of these stories will be surprising to everyone. Everyone has a different experience when they read something for the first time, and foreshadowing that I missed by first time through might seem glaringly obvious to someone else. I’d be really interested in hearing how other people react to these stories, and if anyone else has any story recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

Happy reading!



From the Internet to the Woods of Wisconsin: The Rise of Slenderman

By: Emily Weinstein


Since his birth on the Internet in 2009, the faceless, tuxedo-wearing bogeyman known as Slenderman has since grown from a creepy online fairy-tale to terrifying real-life horror story. Originally created by Eric Knudsen on the Internet forum called Something Awful, Slenderman seeks to attract the attention and fright of the younger generation of his readers. He then uses their attention and fear to gain control over them and force them to do his dirty work. However, this mind control is actually much more intricate. Many of his victims suffer from actually physical symptoms including coughing, confusion, and memory loss. Examples of the effects that Slenderman has on his victims can be seen in many of the Marble Hornets videos that we watched for and discussed in class. For example, in entry #20, Tim suffers from heavy and uncontrollable coughing. Additionally, Jay experiences significant memory loss, including losing all memory of the previous seven months. However, after doing some research, I confirmed that the Marble Hornets videos are indeed works of fiction. I was able to locate the IMDB page for Marble Hornets along with the names of the actors who played characters such as Jay, Alex, and Tim. Although this story was fabricated, a real-life incident connected to the mythical and creepy Slenderman did in fact occur in 2014, and this incident along with evidence from the Marble Hornets video are now being combined to create an HBO documentary in January 2017 titled, Beware the Slenderman.

First released at the DOC NYC festival on November 12th, Beware the Slenderman takes a deeper look into the terrifying real-life incident that occurred in Wisconsin in 2014, in which two 12-year-old girls brutally stabbed one of their friends in order to show their devotion to Slenderman. Specifically, this new documentary seeks to question to safety of today’s Internet as well as our younger generation’s unrestricted access to it. How safe are today’s children if they are so easily able to access information on the Internet that convinces them to commit horrendous crimes such as murder? According to research, this was not a spur-of-the- moment attack, but instead one that had been methodically planned out for months. So what drove these two young girls to want to commit such a strategic murder solely to please a mythical creature that they had read about online? This is the big question at hand, and the court charged with handling this sensitive case has struggled to determine the next step. Since the attempted murder was so strategic, should the girls be tried as adults? Or was this crime just derived from the imagination of children? It really is quite difficult to decide. In addition to looking at the Wisconsin case, the documentary will also examine the recent fascination with Slenderman as well as how this newly-created fantasy has turned into a horrifying reality.

The new Slenderman documentary will be released on HBO on January 23rd, 2017, and I can definitely say that I am very interested to see from what point of view it chooses to evaluate the case. Here is a link to the newest trailer.

Annie 96 is Typing

By: Anna DeRango

When I was sixteen and a sophomore in high school, I had been too afraid to watch horror movies or go to haunted houses for a long time. In fifth grade, my parents took our whole family to a “family-friendly” haunted house that turned out to be not so friendly. I decided that horror was not for me, because that experience made me feel unsafe and betrayed. After that, I swore to never step foot in a place like that again. With the encouragement of friends, I slowly started building up my horror movie tolerance, easing into it by watching some films with the volume down and lights on in every room of the house.

Eventually, I was intrigued by horror and wanted to experience more. I still refused to go to any haunted houses around October when my friends would ask. However, I found another way to access it that I thought wouldn’t be so scary. I started reading online horror stories. One night, when it was getting late and my house was silent, I read this story . Rather than just an online story posted in some forum, this form of horror was interactive. The story simulated a chat history between two teenagers, but instead of just reading a conversation, you had to click to get every new message. As I sat in the computer room, I shook with anticipation to figure out what the next text would be. It felt like I was receiving the texts, and that the horror was happening to me.

The elements in that interactive horror experience immersed me in the story like I had never been before. There was anticipation when one of the characters was “typing,” so it made me feel like I was a part of the story. I shook in my computer chair, completely silent as waited for each new message to come through.

That night, reading that story opened up the world of online horror. I clicked link after link, eager to read more and more, but scaring myself more and more. By the end of the night, I had terrified myself so much that I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep. The world of online horror amazed me, and I will always remember the story “Annie 96 is typing” as the first online interactive horror story that really scared me. Although I never explored too much, I spent many long car rides with my synchronized swimming team reading and listening to stories we found online.


By: Noah Kihata

At the beginning of this class, we were asked to watch two short videos and a story. Since this viewing, I have become more interested in short horror videos. One day, while viewing Imgur before going to bed, I came across this page. Usually I am smart enough to file this page away and look at bunnies or puppies, but I wanted to push my limits for this class and watch one or two of these videos.

I started with ‘Get with the Times’, which revolved around brain stimulation for pleasure. The horror in this video results from societal implications caused by the stimulation, and the lives people may live if this comes to fruition. This video, while slightly disturbing, did not leave the same creepy feeling as pieces such as The Witch. Combined with a forgettable plot, the poorly animated cartoon gore and fuzzy voice-over were enough to make it creepy at best.

The next video I viewed was titled “Local 58- Weather Report.” This video revolves around a fake weather report concerning the moon. Watching this video late at night, alone, can give the viewer some inner turmoil. The video is purposely left vague as to the actual phenomenon happening. It is likely a video that plays at the end of the world or when some major meteorological phenomenon is happening. There is a very large feeling of existential dread when watching this video. The use of existential dread in horror is not a new or unique style of horror, but it is usually successful when used, at least on me.

When watching a horror movie, directors use eerie music, camera angles, and lighting as buildup to horror scenes. This may happen many times throughout the movie, and sometimes the director may choose for nothing to happen at the apex. Save the last scene, each of these segments is a few minutes long and is usually quickly forgotten. And that is why “Vicious,” the third video I viewed, has become so stuck in my mind. Vicious is a short film concerned with staying in this build-up phase for as long as possible. Almost the entirety of the 12-minute video is in this state, leaving the viewer little time to recover from the last episode of buildup. I viewed this video the next day, during the day, and with my roommate (As Rachel mentioned, videos are less scary in groups). I am not one to jump or scream at horror scenes (Sinister being a terrifying exception), but Vicious had me holding a blanket over my eyes like I was 8 again. The human brain can only stand so much strain from horror before it begins to wane. And I guess my tolerance is less than 12 minutes. The issue with this kind of horror is that once you’ve seen the video once, it is much less scary. This is the same effect that “Light’s Out” had on me, so I would place it in a vein of horror similar to it.

Learn from my mistakes. If someone puts together a compilation of horror films, do not assume that you are strong enough. Tread carefully when looking through horror compilations, and always have some puppies queued up just in case.

Your Favorite Horror, now in Bite Size

By: Loren Heubert-Aubry

I have often considered Ernest Hemingway’s famous six-word story to be among writing’s great experiments. To be able to tell an entire story in itself is a challenge – to incorporate all of the necessary features of a story, while still maintaining the reader’s interest – but to provide all that in a few minute’s reading is a different thing altogether. The website Reddit, particularly its famous subreddit r/nosleep, has long been a proud source of horror and creepypastas, churning out such classics as Penpal, Mold, and many more.

There is, however, another lesser-known subreddit, which combines the chilling writing of r/nosleep with a stimulating dose of brevity: in r/shortscarystories, users are encouraged to write their own horror stories in 500 words or less (recently increased from 250). While not quite as extreme as a mere six words, the subreddit provides horror in small doses – doses that pack twice the punch.

This added stipulation has a major impact on horror, as the author must forfeit the commonly used tactic of gradually building up suspense, or at least speed up the process in a manner that still flows with the writing style. No longer can one spend pages setting up the scene, the characters, and more; all of this must be done in roughly the space of a paragraph.

The incredible thing about it, though, is that it works. Although, as on any forum fueled by its users, there are hits and misses, a surprising number of the stories produced not only stand on their own, but deserve a spot right next to many of the better known classics. Rather than minimize word count for its own sake, writers must focus purely on the important details – what does the reader need to know? Why is that scary? What can they figure out on their own?

This last question is particularly important, as the brief nature of these stories leaves much to the reader to figure out. Hemingway’s story, in its entirety, is “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” On its own, this is a mere advertisement for used baby shoes, however by thinking beyond what has been told, a much deeper, more somber story emerges: A mother and father, distraught over the death of their child (birthing complications? Miscarriage? Who knows?), and must now painfully auction away its would-be belongings. Part of the uniqueness of the story comes from the details that the reader fills in, and the same goes for the short horror stories on the subreddit.

The mystery aspect holds a second importance, however: the unknown doesn’t only stimulate the reader’s interest; it makes the scary even scarier. Stephen King, the renowned horror author, has oftentimes said that the key to horror is not to tell the reader anything. We are frightened by what we don’t know and can’t comprehend, and these short stories take full advantage of that. One of my particular favorites, Please Pay First by user IPostatMidnight, which, without spoiling too much (links will be included below), ends where most horror stories might typically begin.

It can be tough to get pleasure reading done in college. Between exams, projects, and the frenzy of homework, who has time to pick up a book in their spare time, much less finish it? r/shortscarystories provides an alternative; a source of genuinely frightening tales that can be read in between classes, on a bus ride, or in line at the dining hall. Just make sure that if you get caught inside, you can pull yourself away.

Here are some personal favorites to get you started:

A Horror Made Just for You

By: Cassidy Gardner


Have you ever wanted to be someone involved with a serial killer either as a lover, little sister or a loyal follower? No? Me either. And yet there are page after page on multiple websites of fan-fictions depicting these kind of relationships. Fan-fictions are stories written by fans of a series or story that contain some or all of the characters of the original story, yet also contain key differences that alter the story itself. Fan-fictions differ from regular fiction in the way that the authors are not actually licensed to use these characters or the story and have to give credit to the original author, no matter how much or how little they change the story. This isn’t to say that these stories aren’t original though! There are plenty of serial killers to choose from. The new favorites are the creepypasta hits Jeff the Killer and BEN Drowned. These previously terrifying characters have gone from distorted, monstrous people to objects of lust, admiration or something perhaps indescribable. Fan-fictions are ways for people to immerse themselves deeper into a story, sometimes literally by inserting themselves, sometimes by just rewriting the story completely. In the case of creepypasta fan-fictions people can live out all the horror they ever wanted to without ever having to truly experience it. For example, should you want to be Jeff the Killer’s little sister you would simply search Jeff the Killer x Little Sister!Reader and you could be launched into a new realm of horror. Frankly, you do not know what you will get when you look into these fan-fictions. Perhaps you will encounter someone’s rape fantasy… maybe a partner in crime… or even the person who finds and kills the serial killer in question! Anything imaginable may have been explored and written in the world of fan-fiction and you may encounter something even more horrifying than the story itself.

Yet, fan-fictions also tend to take these originally terrifying stories in another direction and they do this through original artwork. Taking Jeff the Killer as the example, he is known to be disfigured and purely terrifying and yet the world of fan-fiction has made him an object of desire or at least not so scary any more. This is an interesting tug of war between actual creepypasta and fan-fiction of creepypasta- horror and romance, or at least deep relationships. Can the aspects of one be retained without losing the other? I believe by “de-horrifying” the characters physically yet retaining their dastardly deeds and moderately sociopathic personalities is one way to retain the aspects of horror and to add a touch of the author’s desire as well.

The question that could be asked then is “How is this horror?” Well, I’d argue it’s a different kind of horror, and at the same time not horror for everyone. As a note, some fan-fictions I would not qualify as horror, or at least not scary. Because the authors of these stories have complete liberty with the plot, they can alter the true story of the original creepypasta as much as they want, even changing the stories from horror to a completely different genre. But those stories aren’t what I’m interested in sharing with everyone. The stories I’m interested in sharing are the ones who not only added to true creepypasta but pounce on your true fears, or appeal to your deepest desires and draw you into the madness that is BEN Drowned, or Jeff the Killer. And it is also true that I am not endorsing a single story but that is for the same reason I have just laid out: these stories are for the author and for you. A first person novella of being a random victim of Jeff the Killer may be enough for one person, but for another they may need to be a betrayed lover turned cop, or even a demented little sister. Therein lies the true glory of the fan-fiction. If a horror movie has ever lacked a quality that you wanted, you are sure to find it in a fan-fiction. However, once you start you may not ever be able to go back.