PLEASE NOTE, THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED OVER AT UK HORROR SCENE HERE. ALL SUBSEQUENT CHAPTERS WILL BE PRINTED THERE FIRST
There are some truly unspeakable monsters in the Creepypasta universe. As terrifying as the human faces of evil such as Jeff the Killer are, it is the otherworldly creatures that have always best captured my attention.
From the monstrous wheezing thing in Michael Whitehouse’s Bedtime to the ubiquitous Slender Man, it seems to me that some of Creepypasta’s greatest creations are its supernatural entities.
This week I’m going to return to one of the most notorious of these beasties — The Rake.
For those of you unfamiliar with The Rake (those who didn't read my previous feature on the story HERE), it is a fascinating example of creation by committee.
Back toward the tail-end of 2005, an anonymous user posted a message to 4chan’s /b/ board that simply read: hey /b/ lets make a new monster.
From here lots of users put forward their own ideas about the most vile creatures they could imagine and, over time, some ideas started to stick. This led another user to start a new thread based on what was the most popular idea, with a post that 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.
This eventually became Operation Crawler, although that name was later discarded in favour of The Rake.
The creature has its genesis from dozens, if not hundreds of contributors, but arguably one of the most important of those was a backstory written on the personal Something Awful blog by Bryan Somerville. Taking the form of a number of historical accounts of encounters with the pale-skinned monster, it gave us an insight into a being’s terrible, mysterious motives.
You can read it the Creepypasta Wiki here.
It’s a VERY strong story, and unlike the multiple (and often conflicting) origins that I’ve covered here for the likes of Jeff the Killer or Jane the Killer, this one seems to have been widely accepted as canon for the mysterious being. It’s probably the fact that the story is so well-written that has caused the fan community to embrace it, but from Somerville’s tale The Rake has become one of THE iconic creepypasta characters, appearing in hundreds of examples of fanart and even spin-off tales.
The Rake is even included in the first issue of the recently successfully crowd-funded Creepypasta comic book, as written by prolific Pasta author Vincent Vena Cava and arguably the most highly regarded Creepypasta YouTube reader, Mr Creepypasta.
But never forget that it was Somerville who truly breathed malevolent life into the diabolical frame first created by the users of 4Chan. For that, the Creepypasta community owes the very humble Somerville a debt of gratitude.
I’m delighted to say that Bryan agreed to speak with Hickey's House of Horrors about his role in the creation of one of the web’s most popular monsters.
The interview follows below.
HICKEY'S HOUSE OF HORRORS: Thank you for answering my questions.
First, in your own words, tell us a little about the Rake?
BRYAN SOMERVILLE: The Rake is a human. He was born into a small exiled group forced from the community into the wilderness. As the small group rapidly collapsed, the remaining few were forced to eat the dead. During this period, he matured rapidly and eventually moved on as the only survivor. He is not immortal. I'd like to keep the mystery there, but there is a backstory that fills in the "why" and "how" of the character.
HHoH: What served as your inspiration for the story?
BS: A simple question - what would a wild animal that was as smart as a human be like? One who was chased away by scared people with torches and guns for hundreds of years, with no hint of humanity remaining. This is the kind of thing I think of while lying in bed, so naturally it evolved into a bit of a recurring nightmare.
HHoH: Are you a fan of Creepypasta? If so, what is your favourite Creepypasta by a creator other than yourself?
BS: Huge fan. One of the stories I'll always remember was actually a photo essay about urban exploration. The author slipped small hints and silhouettes into the pictures and put together a story about a camera found in the woods while exploring an empty building.
Another is the classic Ted the Caver story. So disturbing without ever explaining a single thing. I love the mystery up to and including the lack of an ending.
I don't know who actually created these — and I'm sure I could find that out in a half second — but I don't want to. I like that they just exist.
HHoH: Why do you think Creepypasta resonates so well with the fandom?
BS: Good Creepypasta is something you read and move on from, maybe even forget. Then one night when you're alone, all the little bits in the back of your mind form some ridiculous, uncanny image and you can't get it out. I suspect it's the resonance that draws people in, and the little gaps you fill in with your own mind that connect it to things in your life.
HHoH: What do you think the appeal of the Rake is to fans?
BS: I honestly don't know — I rarely show it to people directly, I prefer they just find it as-is somewhere so it comes with an air of legitimacy. But I do know that people remember the imagery of "something" sitting on the end of their bed, and coming toward them to whisper into their ear. It's probably the lack of detail that allows people to make it their own. People scare themselves better than anyone else.
HHoH: Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?
BS: My favorite author is Paul Auster, which I got into through the "New York Trilogy". He has a sometimes weird way of describing the world, such that you don't know if the narrator is joking, making fun of you, or just unreliable. It adds this feeling of being slightly lost, or slightly behind the story, which is the perfect atmosphere for a very strange crime drama.
HHoH: What work of your own are you most proud of?
BS: No answer. Most of my writing is short form horror or comedy, most of it absorbed by long-dead wordpress blogs or sites like MySpace. It's really a stroke of luck The Rake survived, mainly because I posted it on one extra web site back in 2007, but then felt bad for self promoting, and never tried again.
HHoH: The fans are very passionate about the character. Are there any examples of fan art, such as images, films or readings, in particular that have impressed you?
BS: There's a sketchy drawing that I have always liked. It's not exactly what I imagined in my head, but it's pretty close. I like that one a lot.
There are also the fake camera pictures from what looks like one of those deer cameras people put up in the woods. I have always been a fan of the found footage style.
As far as readings, Chilling Tales for Dark Nights has done a few readings, and they have been really good. The guy who runs that channel reached out to me for permission, which is extremely rare, so I might be a bit biased.
(Hickey's Note: This one, by the always fantastic Otis Jiry is one of my favourites:
HHoH: By the same token, are there any unauthorised attempts to cash in on the popularity of the character that have upset you?
BS: Yes, that has happened a lot. I didn't even realize the story was "out there" until I came across it myself. My dad actually commented on a YouTube video and tagged me in it, saying basically "isn't this yours?". I always find them after the fact, and have never asked anyone to take anything down.
I wouldn't say I've ever been upset about it. I would always prefer people approach me for permission of course, but in fairness, it's not usually easy for people to figure out where exactly the story came from.
HHoH: The Rake appeared in the recent Creepypasta comic book by Vincent Vena Cava and Mr Creepypasta. Have you discussed the project much with them? Have you had much creative input? How was it working/speaking with them?BS: Vincent and I have spoken several times. I have provided some basic input, although I am anxious to see what he comes up with. We still have some open communications so I won't go too much further here.
HHoH: And finally will you ever return to the story of the Rake in the future? And what else can your fans look forward to from you in the days ahead?
BS: The Rake has a very long and detailed backstory that I'd like to explore. There is always the problem with revealing too much and ruining what makes it creepy, so I'm taking my time on it. I usually try to have an explanation that avoids supernatural explanations, which makes it creepier to me because it could exist in reality. However I don't want to ruin what your mind added to the story, you know?
HHoH: Finally, are there any links to which you'd like me to send my readers to see more of your work?
BS: Actually, I'm not super happy with this story, but I just found it "anonymously" submitted on a creepypasta site — http://ghostsstory.com/Blog/26/the-woman-behind-the-door
I don't even remember where I posted this one, probably MySpace or something many years ago.
There are a few more out there, but they're never credited to me (almost always "anonymous") so I just occasionally run across them. I have something I'm kind of excited about but it's not quite ready yet. ;)
HHoH: Thanks again for agreeing to speak with us.
The Rake is one of the most recognisable Creepypasta creations for one major reason — it taps into some of our worst fears and it’s incredibly well told.Come back next time when I will write about another fantastic tale that revisits not one but two pastas that feature the very worst kind of human monster.
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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.