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How Internet Folklore Works


Pasta Served with Urban Legends

The Internet is teeming with urban legends and myths and rumors and outright lies. Sometimes a few quick Google searches will confirm a source or outright debunk the premise of a tale. Other times you have to rely on the research of others. That's why sites such as Snopes.com are so interesting.

Snopes is sometimes called the urban legends reference pages. It's filled with Internet urban legends and their origins. Sometimes, those legends turn out to have basis in truth. Other times, they're complete hooey, like the ones about the Obama administration banning sprinkles on donuts or Michael Jordan (now older than 50) returning to play in the NBA.

Sites like Snopes are very much a reflection of Internet folklore. They're an immediate glimpse into the concerns and interests of people browsing the Web.

Rumors and urban legends spread quickly on the Internet because of the way people perpetuate them. On the Internet, it's common for people to copy and paste popular bits of content (called copypasta in Internet slang), which then spread throughout forums and social networking sites. Content that takes a weird or scary turn is sometimes then called creepypasta, for obvious reasons.

Like ghost stories around a campfire, creepy online stories tend to grab our attention.

Take the story of Ted the Caver, which is basically a journal of man who finds a cave and begins exploring it. He details the cave's features in lengthy narrative passages and includes grainy (and claustrophobia-inducing) pictures of his discoveries. After several trips underground, his experiences in the cave become unsettling and he begins having hallucinations and almost supernatural experiences that he attributes to his subterranean escapades.

Is the cave haunted? Is it driving him mad? Ted seems to think so. And so too will you, if you read his story in full.

The last entry of his journal indicates that he's returning to the cave one last time in hopes of returning his life to normal. He also writes that he'll update the site immediately up returning. The final page, appropriately, is never updated.

Although Ted the Caver is all fictitious, it's also gripping in the way that only the Internet can be. It speaks to the anonymity and helplessness of witnessing strange and even harrowing things on the Web. It's a ghost story for modern times, echoing through the digital crevasses all around us.

As folklore, Ted the Caver is powerful. But even as folklore, Ted is a pretty minor character compared to our friend on the next page.