Gather round, children, and let me tell you about a time before the internet, when our phones were attached to the walls and we bought music stored on physical objects that we played in our cars. Back then, secret groups of videophiles collected creepy, avant-garde, and extremely weird clips stored on tapes. We even believed that a Japanese ghost could haunt a VHS cassette.
With the advent of the internet, witnessing something you shouldn't in distorted, grainy footage became a national pastime. To indulge in creepy horror videos, you just need to know where to look. From true-life mysteries to carefully executed hoaxes, below are 17 videos that will seriously disturb you.
Why You Should Go See ‘Glass’ This Weekend
Dining Room or There is Nothing
One of the classic, creepy videos of the pre-YouTube internet made it to the mass streaming service in 2006. Rather than being downloaded and shared as a movie file as it originally gained cult status, the video was uploaded by the director of the short film, who already knew it had become a curio of the web. The director, David B. Earle, wanted to make an infinitely looping film to show the paradox that there might be nothing on the other side of life.
"Rubber Johnny" is not just British slang for a condom. It’s also a very disturbing art film by Chris Cunningham for the band Aphex Twin. The video originally hit the internet in June 2005, and what was supposed to be a 30-second commercial for Aphex Twin music became a short film about a deformed raver who lived in a basement with his chihuahua. Practical make-up effects were combined with quick editing and video shot in night-vision mode to make the whole thing seem trippy, weird, and disturbingly tactile.
Chances are when you first see this film it doesn’t play as an ad for EDM, and it ended up providing inspiration for some of the 2000s most disturbing horror. The “Big Brain” character in the rebooted The Hills Have Eyes looks a lot like Rubber Johnny and in January 2006, the Showtime anthology series Masters of Horror aired and episode called the “Fair-Haired Child” about a young girl who was kidnapped and kept in a basement with a scarily deformed child... named Johnny.
I Feel Fantastic
It’s been nearly a decade since it was first uploaded, but “I Feel Fantastic” is still only a little less mysterious than when it first captured the attention of the internet. The featured robot, Tara the Android, is the creation of an robot hobbyist who calls himself "John Bergeron." The plan was for Tara to be the first android pop star, but the bizarre description on the YouTube upload that references Pygmalion and a cutaway from I Feel Fantastic to an outdoor location gave birth to several online urban legends. Is Tara a harmless pop star, or a robot built in the image of a murder victim?
Video Dating tape
Chalk this one up to divine intervention. This creepy video, chronicling one man’s attempts to appear normal for video dating, is a scant six months old (although please tell us if you find an older upload). The various takes of the video include some with a woman screaming in the background, and the whole thing follows an arc of the creepy stalker narrative so clearly, it’s likely a very well executed horror short. There is a Vanwall Business Centre on Vanwall Road in Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 4Ub, but the companies there are a biopharmaceutical company, a branch of a translation company, a health and fitness education academy, and Mattel customer service. Any Tonys on staff?
Possible Fallen Angel in Catalonia
The Angel of Catalonia video has accumulated millions of views since its upload in 2006 and has made several lists on the internet “proving” ghosts and the paranormal are real. In the video, two men hit record on their camera as they enter a forest outside the town of Campdevànol, Spain, then come across some large feathers in the woods. Finally they pan over to what looks like a man with open wounds on his back, who turns and looks at them, catching a reflection in his eyes. The video is a very well produced hoax by some Spanish horror film fans who used to explain their process at a now-defunct making of site (but the Wayback Machine never forgets).
Real Demons Caught On Tape
Uploaded by chestertyler714 in 2009, Real Demons Caught On Tape, is a special effects showcase of a very high skill level. Back in 2009, the consumer technology easily existed to make an ashy hand ghost jump scare YouTube video. The four million views that the video has accumulated since means more than enough people were willing to go along with the creepiness all the way to the denouement of a monster. Sometimes this sort of thing could even get a person a job, like when Lights Out was all the rage.
United Utilities Water PLC/YouTube
Ghost From Japanese subway
A group of Japanese teenagers are in a restaurant and complain about an offending smell that manifests just as a pale figure appears in the background. Later, on the subway tracks, they smell the offending odor again and see the strange woman across the tracks who kills herself by jumping in front of the train, then staring down one of the men who has to crouch because of the overpowering smell. This video is actually a segment from a 2008 Japanese found footage horror anthology movie called Ura Horror. This isn't the only segment that's broken out from the show and blown up on creepy YouTube; after the mini-ghost-story, watch the exploding sea creature and the capture of a human soul escaping the body.
This video, uploaded by British water company United Utilities in April 2011, showed three clips of a maintenance robot running across some sort of creature in the sewers under the St. James neighborhood of London. The internet population quickly began wondering if this was some sort of genetic experiment or just an escaped monkey before someone put together that it was April and United Utilities had a “What Not To Flush” campaign running to educate people about proper sewer usage. Yeah, a water company pulled a viral April Fools' Joke that’s still circulated as legitimate. It only lives on because of how creepy it it.
Obscure Horror Corner/YouTube
Cursed Kleenex Commercial
Not only does this Japanese facial-tissue commercial make no sense as an ad -- what does that tomato/unicorn baby have against wiping itself? -- it's also, supposedly, cursed. Like earlier "viral" videos that would get passed around on VHS, this curse comes with an isolating twist: Watch the video by yourself at midnight (in your respective time zone, of course), and the video changes to a distorted, satanic-looking mess with a pair of black eyes that stare back at you.
It’s not important to understand exactly what the "deep web" is, but suffice to say that the majority of what we consider "the internet" is just the surface of a vast network of computers and systems constructed by humans. The owner of the Obscure Horror Corner YouTube channel was reportedly sent this game from one of his subscribers who had found it on a deep web Tor page where users could post random files. This "game" was labeled simply "ZK." After running a Malware check, Jamie the YouTuber started playing the game and recording the results.
It’s a maze game that has bizarre flashes of black and white photography as well as disturbing audio samples, like a monologue that Charles Manson gave from San Quentin to NBC in the 1980s and images of child sex offender Jimmy Savile and Margaret Thatcher promoting the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. No one knows the purpose of the game and one of the creepy in-game children will eventually begin following you, causing “contact damage” and ending the game.
Croatian Stalking Tape
Reported as "found footage" released by Croatian authorities after the two kids in the video disappeared, all signs point to this being a short amateur horror film from Eastern Europe. There is no hard evidence that such an incident ever actually occurred, but it is a really creepy idea for a short horror movie about being stalked.
My Dead Great Grandma's Coffin in My Own Backyard
This video, conducted mostly in American Sign Language, finds a man claiming that he keeps his great grandmother's casket in his backyard. Apparently, the original cemetery "cannot upkeep because of corruption," so he transferred his grandmother's body to an above-ground lot. Not only is this very illegal (do not keep dead bodies, y'all), the next video clip involves the man opening the casket and kissing the corpse of his grandmother on the mouth. ON. THE. MOUTH.
Girl Goes Psycho During Makeup Tutorial
User the15experience uploaded with the simple description: "This video was sent to me anonymously. I do not have any information beyond that. It is for you to decide on your own whether it is real or fake." The video was so shocking when it was uploaded that it launched an online search for this woman, which eventually uncovered the truth. It turned out that the original teaser had been clipped to remove the "15 Experience" URL at the end and made it to Facebook as a "real" paranormal video. Don't worry, "Nikki" is fine.
Elisa Lam video
In January 2013, a Canadian student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver was reported missing, having last been seen at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. After Elisa Lam had been missing for a week and a half, LA police released this video of her last known appearance. Three weeks later, Lam's body was discovered naked and drowned in the building's water tower, and her death was labeled an accident. Her mystery reportedly inspired Ryan Murphy to make American Horror Story: Hotel.
Man gets lost in the catacombs of Paris
Watch through Blair Witch vision as some poor soul gets hopelessly lost in the subterranean stone tunnels of the Paris catacombs, and listen to him get more frightened as he speeds up his winding path (like he's being chased?) before the camera cuts out (was it dropped?). Then we hear the man either run off or get sucked into the spirit world. You watch and decide... if you're not claustrophobic, that is.
This Is a Special Time
Little Baby's Ice Cream in Philadelphia makes handmade, super-premium ice cream from 16% butter fat, in addition to vegan-friendly, non-dairy frozen desserts. That sentence is more appetizing than this ad for the brand, featuring an androgynous ice cream person eating itself while maintaining constant eye contact with the viewer. Sure, 16% butter fat ice cream sounds great, but I'm too traumatized to enjoy it.
Mass of Daddy Long Legs in a Tree
I wasn't going to include this video. Then my girlfriend walked by and saw the first frame of it on my screen and yelled, "What the hell is that? That's not spiders, is it?" I cocked an eyebrow at her, which was enough to make her run away, repeating, "Nope." If it helps, I'll remind you that daddy longlegs spiders aren't poisonous. They only make these fuzzy patches because they have such long legs and single-segment bodies. Just don't touch anything that looks like human hair when you're in the wild -- unless you're really into spiders.
Creeper in my apartment
New York City actor Joe Cummings made this video capturing what appears to be a homeless woman who secretly lived in his house for an indeterminate amount of time. As recently as July of last year, Joe continued to insist this really happened and is not a prank or joke. There was never another product or release that tried to market itself off this video, so chances are he's telling the truth, which makes it so much creepier. What if there's someone peeing in your sink at home right now? You don't know.
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, get Streamail for more entertainment, and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.