The first clues that spooky season is underway tend to come sometime in mid-September, when America’s drugstores repaper themselves in foliage-themed decorations and vacant outlet-mall storefronts transform into Spirit Halloween pop-ups. Before you know it, the weather turns autumnal, pumpkins line the streets, and the internet becomes a minefield of Halloween-related articles competing for top placement on Google search. But some websites are ghoulish year-round.
What counts as a scary website? Scary is in the eye of the beholder, though there’s some consensus. The basics tend to include r/nosleep, a subreddit for scary but plausible personal stories; Creepy Pasta, the Wikipedia of horror stories; or the literally named Died in House, which purports to find any prior murders or deaths or possible hauntings at a given address. House Creep takes a broader view of the same idea, finding any “creepy, curious, or criminal” past for “stigmatized properties.” There’s Fateful Day, which claims to calculate the day you die; World Births and Deaths, which ostensibly updates every birth and death in the world in real time; and the Homicide Monitor, which is what it sounds like. There are hundreds of interactive web games and immersive websites aimed at scaring visitors — like this tour of Japan’s supposedly haunted Hashima Island, or MIT’s site of AI-generated nightmare locations, or the anonymous screamer site 1092 Paradise, and whatever this is. And there are relics from the earlier internet, like this short-lived YouTube diary of a “dying NASA scientist;” or the 2000-era fake spelunking journal of “Ted the Caver,” and the original “This Man” dream site.
It is hard to get scared by the computer, unless you are a moron or the guy who auctioned off his “haunted” 2007 Apple MacBook several years ago. (The seller claimed that after leaving the laptop in a cemetery overnight, he noticed that it occasionally “levitated,” that it appeared to have rearranged their household belongings, including his baseball cards and his wife’s “rare American coins,” and “that ALL of [his] songs in iTunes had become scary or haunted.”) But the scariest sites are usually the ones that aren’t trying to be. Here is an incomplete, but completely ghoulish list.
This audio recording from November 18, 1978 was supposedly taken before and during the murder of the 900-odd members of the People’s Temple cult at their compound in Jonestown, Guyana. The authenticity of the tape is somewhat disputed, though documentation and attestations to its veracity can be found at a dedicated site from San Diego State University. But the 44-minute recording of cult leader Jim Jones remarks over children crying in the background is unsettling to say the least.
One thing I have in common with Aretha Franklin is that we both hate flying. Which is why the late Queen of Soul’s spirit and I will be staying clear of PlaneCrashInfo.com. The truly harrowing website not only catalogs horrible plane crashes, but keeps a database of recordings from victims’ last moments.
Roller coasters are, without doubt, the most exhilarating way to simulate a plane crash, or at least the two to seven minutes of free fall before fatal impact. But with America’s track record on corporate safety regulations, it turns out that placing your life in the hands of theme park carnies can be deadly, as this comprehensive Wikipedia list spells out in horrible detail. On the plus side, if you survive, you can get a solid personal injury settlement.
If gore is your thing, this subreddit compiles crime scene photos from gruesome murders. Most photos are blurred with NSFW warnings, so click at your own risk. The photos at CrimeScene.com, however, are not. This one in particular will stay with me.
Professional wrestling is, of course, staged. But hardcore wresting, a subset of the sport that suspends several conventional rules — such as the ban on “foreign objects,” or weapons like cattle prods, brass knuckles, chains, leather clubs, guitars, branding irons, tennis rackets, mannequin heads, and barbed wire or barbed wire bats — can lead to disgusting injuries. This photo archive tracks some of the most brutal results.
The website with all the spookiness of an estate sale and the grim eclecticism of a serial killing hoarder also has an expansive selection of “haunted” used goods. This “Haunted Doll 1982 Gibbie the Clown Active Unknown Entity Creepy Mischievous” is so cheap you’re basically getting away with murder.
Few places are scarier than the far reaches of Craigslist, but the forums are an underappreciated corner. In the annals, you can find on-going conversations on all things supernatural, spiritual, or death-related, all from whichever ghosts post on there. Unsurprisingly, things get nastiest on > “vegan forum” and > “bisexuality.”
There are so many more surveillance cameras, in so many more places, than I would like. You can browse them here.
WebMD gets a lot of hate for its tendency to pour gas on hypochondriacs' late-night cancer fears. But HealthLine, which through either paid promotion or bribery, often ranks first in search engine results, is arguably worse. The site’s reporting on medications has been found to have been lifted from pharmaceutical press releases, and its descriptions of symptoms have drawn the same criticisms of exaggeration or ill-cited sources. Most frightening: for a long time, it was partnered with DoctorOz.com.
A compelling case for banning England from the internet.
There is no reasonable justification for WikiHow’s extensive archive of explainers, some of which beg serious questions about both their writers and their hypothetical readers, beyond demonic intervention. Consider the dueling listicles for “How to Determine if You Are Addicted to Wearing Diapers as an Adult” (23 co-authors) and “How to Stop an Adult Disposable Diaper Addiction” (seven co-authors). All told, given the cultural climate, this may be the scariest of all.
There’s nothing scarier than high worker wages and public spending.