The Digital Campfire: The Statue

28 04 2010

So, a while ago, I started a new little feature called “The Digital Campfire.” In it, I look at creepypasta: spooky stories copy-pasted across internet message boards. In my view, these stories can be seen as a revamped form of the ghost stories and folktales told throughout the ages. Here’s an example (taken from Encyclopedia Dramatica) entitled “The Statue.”

The Statue
A few years ago, a mother and father decided they needed a break, so they wanted to head out for a night on the town. They called their most trusted babysitter. When the babysitter arrived, the two children were already fast asleep in bed. So the babysitter just got to sit around and make sure everything was okay with the children. Later that night, the babysitter got bored and went to watch TV, but she couldn’t watch it downstairs because they did not have cable downstairs (the parents didn’t want children watching too much garbage). So, she called them and asked them if she could watch cable in the parent’s room. Of course, the parents said it was OK, but the babysitter had one final request… she asked if she could cover up the angel statue outside the bedroom window with a blanket or cloth, at the very least close the blinds, because it made her nervous. The phone line was silent for a moment, and the father who was talking to the babysitter at the time said, “..Take the children and get out of the house…we will call the police. We do not have an angel statue.”
The police found all three of the house occupants dead within three minutes of the call. No statue was found.

I was shocked when I read this as creepypasta, because I’ve heard this story recited before as fact (with a clown statue substituting for an angel statue). The first time I heard it was from my freshman English teacher in high school. I’ve heard it several times since then, as well. Skeptic that I am, I never flinched in my belief that it was an urban myth.

And according to Snopes, I was right. Snopes began receiving versions of this story in 2004. I first heard this story in my Freshman year in high school, which would have been 2003-04. The message board most associated with memes and copypasta, 4chan, was founded on October 1, 2003. That last fact isn’t necessarily related, but it’s a logistical possibility that this urban legend originated as creepypasta.

Assuming that the origins of this legend don’t go far back before 2004, it would mean that I heard this story pretty recently after it was developed. Assuming this story originated on the internet, it would have had to make the leap from “being typed on a message board” to “being spread by word of mouth” in a pretty short span. Think how quickly it must have moved to reach my technological-backwater community in Iowa.

Certain creepy stories and urban legends become “universal cultural knowledge.” Say for instance, the famous hook in the door story. Or the motorist flashing their lights because there’s a murderer in the back of a woman’s car. Or the one about waking up kidney-less in a tub of ice. Or the one about the babysitter on acid. But if you check the Snopes articles, all these stories have had decades to build their renown. Thanks to the arrival of electronic media, “The Statue” has been getting passed around like currency since it’s introduction to the world.

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