PLEASE NOTE, THIS FEATURE FIRST APPEARED AT UK HORROR SCENE HERE. ALL SUBSEQUENT CHAPTERS WILL APPEAR AT UKHS FIRST.
At the heart of it, Creepypasta is all about creating a horror that lives on, one that people take to their hearts and help propagate.
Often this is done unwittingly, tricking an unsuspecting reader into believing that it is a genuine story and spreading it by way of a warning. But, on rare occasions, the reader is let in on the falsehood of the story and encouraged to adapt and expand upon it as they see fit. This becomes a kind of creation by committee.
It was through such a manner that one of the first and most enduring of Creepypasta monsters was created. That monster is called The Rake.
The creature that was to become The Rake was created on that regular Creepypasta birthing ground, 4chan’s /b/ board. An anonymous user opened the discussion towards the end of 2005 with the prophetic post: hey /b/ lets make a new monster.
Encouraging fellow users to submit ideas from the darkest depths of their imagination, different members of the /b/ community contributed, suggesting various types of weird and wonderful beastie.
However, along the way it became obvious that certain ideas were gaining more traction with the board.
Another anonymous user started a new thread based on one of these, which read:
Alright, this is for the people who like the three-eyes, no apparent mouth, pale skin one. Here’s what we’ve got so far: Humanoid, about six feet tall when standing, but usually crouches and walks on all fours. It has very pale skin. The face is blank. As in, no nose, no mouth. However, it has three solid green eyes, one in the middle of its forehead, and the other two on either side of its head, towards the back. Usually seen in front yards in suburban areas. Usually just watches the observer, but will stand up and attack if approached. When it attacks, a mouth opens up, as if a hinged skull that opens at the chin. Reveals many tiny, but dull teeth.
It was this idea which would eventually evolve into The Rake.
The thread makes for a fascinating read as certain ideas are embraced and others eventually discarded.
Among these is the since discarded name ‘Operation Crawler’, which was very popular during the early creative process.
The design of The Rake works on many levels, a mutated, nearly-human creature that is close enough to man to suggest intelligence and cunning, yet with the bestial savagery of an animal. I think it’s interesting that the name Operation Crawler was adopted since The Rake shares such a strong resemblance with the creatures referred to as crawlers by Neil Marshall and his crew for the film The Descent.
However, the creature now known as The Rake was able to carve out its own identity on 20 July 2006, when a Creepypasta story appeared on the personal blog of a user of Something Awful, Brian Somerville.
The story gives a detailed but still mysterious background to the creature, plus it established a decidingly unnerving M.O. The Rake is not just capable of wreaking terrible physical damage upon its victims, it also destroys their minds.
The full story follows below:
Primarily focused in rural New York state, self proclaimed witnesses told stories of their encounters with a creature of unknown origin. Emotions ranged from extremely traumatic levels of fright and discomfort, to an almost childlike sense of playfulness and curiosity. While their published versions are no longer on record, the memories remained powerful. Several of the involved parties began looking for answers that year.
In early 2006, the collaboration had accumulated nearly two dozen documents dating between the 12th century and present day, spanning 4 continents. In almost all cases, the stories were identical. I’ve been in contact with a member of this group and was able to get some excerpts from their upcoming book.
A Suicide Note: 1964
As I prepare to take my life, I feel it necessary to assuage any guilt or pain I have introduced through this act. It is not the fault of anyone other than him. For once I awoke and felt his presence. And once I awoke and saw his form. Once again I awoke and heard his voice, and looked into his eyes. I cannot sleep without fear of what I might next awake to experience. I cannot ever wake. Goodbye.
Found in the same wooden box were two empty envelopes addressed to William and Rose, and one loose personal letter with no envelope.
I have prayed for you. He spoke your name.
A Journal Entry (translated from Spanish): 1880
I have experience the greatest terror. I have experienced the greatest terror. I have experienced the greatest terror. I see his eyes when I close mine. They are hollow. Black. They saw me and pierced me. His wet hand. I will not sleep. His voice (unintelligible text).
A Mariner’s Log: 1691
He came to me in my sleep. From the foot of my bed I felt a sensation. He took everything. We must return to England. We shall not return here again at the request of the Rake.
From a Witness: 2006
Three years ago, I had just returned from a trip from Niagara Falls with my family for the 4th of July. We were all very exhausted after a long day of driving, so my husband and I put the kids right to bed and called it a night.
At about 4am, I woke up thinking my husband had gotten up to use the restroom. I used the moment to steal back the sheets, only to wake him in the process. I appologized and told him I though he got out of bed. When he turned to face me, he gasped and pulled his feet up from the end of the bed so quickly his knee almost knocked me out of the bed. He then grabbed me and said nothing.
After adjusting to the dark for a half second, I was able to see what caused the strange reaction. At the foot of the bed, sitting and facing away from us, there was what appeared to be a naked man, or a large hairless dog of some sort. It’s body position was disturbing and unnatural, as if it had been hit by a car or something. For some reason, I was not instantly frightened by it, but more concerned as to its condition. At this point I was somewhat under the assumption that we were supposed to help him.
My husband was peering over his arm and knee, tucked into the fetal position, occasionally glancing at me before returning to the creature.
In a flurry of motion, the creature scrambled around the side of the bed, and then crawled quickly in a flailing sort of motion right along the bed until it was less than a foot from my husband’s face. The creature was completely silent for about 30 seconds (or probably closer to 5, it just seemed like a while) just looking at my husband. The creature then placed its hand on his knee and ran into the hallway, leading to the kids’ rooms.
I screamed and ran for the lightswitch, planning to stop him before he hurt my children. When I got to the hallway, the light from the bedroom was enough to see it crouching and hunched over about 20 feet away. He turned around and looked directly at me, covered in blood. I flipped the switch on the wall and saw my daughter Clara.
The creature ran down the stairs while my husband and I rushed to help our daughter. She was very badly injured and spoke only once more in her short life. She said “he is the Rake”.
My husband drove his car into a lake that night, while rushing our daughter to the hospital. He did not survive.
Being a small town, news got around pretty quickly. The police were helpful at first, and the local newspaper took a lot of interest as well. However, the story was never published and the local television news never followed up either.
For several months, my son Justin and I stayed in a hotel near my parent’s house. After we decided to return home, I began looking for answers myself. I eventually located a man in the next town over who had a similar story. We got in contact and began talking about our experiences. He knew of two other people in New York who had seen the creature we now referred to as the Rake.
It took the four of us about two solid years of hunting on the internet and writing letters to come up with a small collection of what we believe to be accounts of the Rake. None of them gave any details, history or follow up. One journal had an entry involving the creature in its first 3 pages, and never mentioned it again. A ship’s log explained nothing of the encounter, saying only that they were told to leave by the Rake. That was the last entry in the log.
There were, however, many instances where the creature’s visit was one of a series of visits with the same person. Multiple people also mentioned being spoken to, my daughter included. This led us to wonder if the Rake had visited any of us before our last encounter.
I set up a digital recorder near my bed and left it running all night, every night, for two weeks. I would tediously scan through the sounds of me rolling around in my bed each day when I woke up. By the end of the second week, I was quite used to the occasional sound of sleep while blurring through the recording at 8 times the normal speed. (This still took almost an hour every day)
On the first day of the third week, I thought I heard something different. What I found was a shrill voice. It was the Rake. I can’t listen to it long enough to even begin to transcribe it. I haven’t let anyone listen to it yet. All I know is that I’ve heard it before, and I now believe that it spoke when it was sitting in front of my husband. I don’t remember hearing anything at the time, but for some reason, the voice on the recorder immediately brings me back to that moment.
The thoughts that must have gone through my daughter’s head make me very upset.
I have not seen the Rake since he ruined my life, but I know that he has been in my room while I slept. I know and fear that one night I’ll wake up to see him staring at me.
Like the web legend of Slenderman (will I ever manage to write a Creepypasta feature WITHOUT mentioning him?) the mysterious alien actions of the beast are perhaps more terrifying than its monstrous appearance. It’s an inherent fear in all of us that we may lose our rational grasp on the world, that the control we exert over the fears, pressures and worries of the world will slip and that we will become overwhelmed. One of the greatest horror writers of all time, H.P. Lovecraft, specialised in tales of otherworldly terror, in which seemingly calm, rational protagonists find their sanity shattered by encountering something from beyond their neat, ordered perception of reality.
Somerville’s tale of The Rake also alludes forbidden knowledge at the heart of the creature’s motivation.
It’s not an insult to say that Somerville doesn’t quite hit the highs of Lovecraft’s iconic stories (in truth, very few writers have), but he is a very good writer.
The style and language is crisp and fluent, while he cleverly blurs the line between fact and fiction by presenting the story as real-life witness accounts and journal entries (a technique used in the novel that birthed one of the most enduring monsters of all time — Bram Stoker’s Dracula). It’s no wonder that with a strong visual design and equally compelling back story The Rake’s popularity continued to soar.
The story was reposted on Live Journal on 20 December 2008, before then spreading like wildfire, appearing on the /x/ board at 4chan in April of the following year, then Something Awful in June, before appearing on the Paranormal subreddit in August 2010.
Since then it has been posted to all the usual Creepypasta sites.
So great was the reaction to the mythology behind the Rake that in December 2010 (a full five years since the thread that birthed the creature), a blog entitled Fuck Yeah the Rake appeared on Tumblr and served as a hub for fan art, stories and other posts re: The Rake. The site is still live and regularly boasts some quite fantastic creepy posts and gifs.
However, possibly the greatest moment in bringing The Rake to the masses occurred that same month when some pranksters took a still image of a Grim, one of the enemy characters from videogame Resistance 3, then sent that into a local Louisiana news station claiming to have encountered the beast while out hunting! Hilariously, it was broadcast (watch it here) and due to the character’s similar appearance to The Rake, soon YouTubers were claiming it was a genuine appearance of the monster.
However, one need not rely on videogame images to see a visual interpretation of the beast. It’s popularity has spread to sites such as Deviant Art, where a search for The Rake yields a staggering 19,000+ images, some of which are genuinely great.
Creative fans have also created plenty of video and audio interpretations of the story. From readings (such as this excellent example by the guys at Chilling Tales for Dark Nights) to polished and accomplished short films (including this one, by the wonderfully talented filmmakers at Go For Broke Features ). It even appeared during the cleverly constructed EverymanHYBRID web series, in the episode Cops Checked, No Body (which, much like the Slenderman-influenced Marble Hornets, is one of the finest Creepypasta adaptations and an superb example of what can be achieved with interactive web story telling).
The gif of The Rake crawling through the woods from this episode has become one of the most popular depictions of the creature thus far.
So why is The Rake so successful? It seems that people still enjoy a good, old-fashioned monster story. With plenty of real-world horrors, it’s nice to put a fantastical face on fear and use that for a cathartic release. Cryptozoology is still a popular pastime on the web, with tales of big cats, lake monsters, sasquatch and the chupacabra still drawing attention, albeit often somewhat cynically.
Perhaps one of the reasons the tale is so successful is because, in a way, it belongs to all of us. With hundreds of thousands of tweaks, twists and interpretations, The Rake is the creation of too many individuals to name, with more takes on the creature appearing by the day.
The Rake is our monster — and it’s a damn fine one to boot.
Come back next week when I shall take a look at an equally enduring and otherworldly entity… the dark god of Creepypasta itself.
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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.
Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.