Cathedrals will fall, the river will run red... and THE BIRD will be SLAUGHTERED!

DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S NEW GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA — PART 3: THE GOATMAN (part two)

In my previous Dark Web feature, I wrote about the iconic creepypasta, Anansi’s Goatman Story. For those who are unfamiliar with this story, you can read it at the Creepypasta wiki here: http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Anansi%27s_Goatman_Story

It’s the story of a group of teens and a seemingly ordinary fun trip to camp in the woods that soon turns into a nightmare when they draw the attention of a mysterious, inhuman shapeshifter straight out of Native American legends, the Goatman.

Part skinwalker, part something else altogether, the Goatman story is one that has brought a formerly relatively obscure mythology to the masses in a major way. From the original 4Chan /x/ thread to a polished and highly effective short-film adaptation, Anansi’s Goatman story has reached millions of web users and has even acted as a major catalyst in people around the world seeking out more information about the Goatman and its ilk. From Navajo skinwalkers to the more modern monstrous Fleshgait, not only are people reading more about these beasts, but there are online communities dedicated to sightings of them. Reddit’s r/skinwalkers and r/fleshgait subs are two such web communities, and it was through r/fleshgait that I met u/CanadianPepsi who was kind enough to talk about the Goatman phenomenon with me.  

 

When I mentioned Anansi’s story, CanadianPepsi said: ‘It’s not my favorite but I like the story and I know a lot of people do. It’s usually the first story about fleshgaits/goatmen that people read so I’m definitely glad it’s there and brings people to the community.’  

 

But, as well as bringing amateur cryptozoologists to the hunt for the shape-shifting beings that may dwell in the darkest depths of the woods, Anansi’s story has had another very palpable effect on pop culture — it has spawned hundreds of Goatman based stories, many of which are posted to popular Creepypasta and horror fiction sites.  

 

One of the best sites for horror fiction and a very real source of quality genre writers is Reddit’s infamous r/nosleep, from which a number of authors and screenwriters have evolved.  

Nosleep is an encouraging, supportive community so it comes as no surprise that the sub boasts a staggering 11,600,000+ subscribers at the time of writing (a number that is constantly growing)… and it will also come as no surprise that certain trends in Horror fandom can be spotted there. This includes a number of very well-written (and very frightening) accounts of Goatman encounters.  

 

One of the finest of these is u/_coyotes_’  ‘Goatman while camping’ tale, a spine-chilling little short story that you can read here: https://redd.it/3em0z6  

 

It’s the story of a teenager (with a very genuine feeling teenage ‘voice’) who goes camping with some buddies in the woods near his home. It’s not long until we get tales of creepy doppelgangers, odd sounds and smells and serious paranoia. u/_coyotes_’s story is short, but feels genuine and in that, it packs quite a frightful punch. Realism is the key to any successful nosleepstory , and this one feels like a teen account of otherworldly horror.

Boasting all the trademarks of a ‘classic’ Goatman story, this is a superb example of what the subgenre has to offer.  

 

The author_coyotes_ was kind enough to speak with me about the story. Our interview follows below.  

 

STEVEN: Thanks for agreeing to talk to us. First, please tell us a little about ‘Goatman while camping’.  

_COYOTES_: The story is a written experience of the narrator’s encounter with a mysterious entity in the woods while camping with friends in a forested area (on private property) in Canada.  

 

S: What was your inspiration for the story?

_C_: I think the main inspiration for this was actually mentioned in the story itself, the famous “Anasni’sGoatman Story”. In my story, the narrator claims to have not read it until recently and decided to share. I had written the story while I was on summer vacation and I had read plenty of horror stories late at night. After reading that particular Goatman Story, it gave me chills and I honestly couldn’t sleep after. I don’t get scared by horror movies or stories, but that is one of few that actually made me lose sleep because I read it. After posting my story, I managed to find a few other “Goatman” or “Skinwalker” stories that made me even more interested in the subject.

 

S: Why a Goatman story? What drew you to the lore?

_C_: I think I decided to write a Goatman story because it seemed kind of unique. I know they’re so popular now that people seem to write the similarities or clichés each story had with one another. You will always stumble across a spooky ghost story or alien story or some Bigfoot story but there are so many out there.

 

S: Why do you think Goatman stories are so popular with readers?

_C_: I think Goatman stories are so popular with readers is because such little is known about them but big questions always come up. If you think about it, there are tens of thousands of ghost hunting teams out there looking into what ghosts are. But how many Goatman teams do you know? I think most of the experienced have been coming out in recent times, I think the oldest Goatman story I’ve read took place in the ’70’s or ’80’s. I find it interesting how there is a lot we don’t know about them but we know what they can do. They can shapeshift into other people or animals, they can make freaky noises in the dead of night and I suppose they seem to enjoy terrorizing people.

 

S: Why do you think your story is so popular with readers?

_C_: I think my story became relatively popular with readers partially because of the way I wrote it. I wrote my story like someone recounting it. If you read plenty of Nosleep stories or creepypasta stories, you can just see where they go into extreme details on their emotions or something they’ve seen. I know it’s to try and bring the reader in but sometimes it just takes me out of it. I just went plain and simple into explaining what the narrator experienced which likely made it feel more real.

 

S: As a nosleep author, are you a fan of flash web horror fiction? Or creepypastas? If so, which are your favourites?

_C_: I do enjoy some Nosleep and some creepypasta stories! I’d say my favourite Nosleep story would have to be the Search and Rescue Stories about the SAR officer who tells plenty of stories of strange things they’ve experienced in the wilderness as well as what others have told them. I think it’s famous for the staircases that just appear in the middle of the woods. It seemed very interesting and it didn’t need a murderer brandishing a knife or a banshee wreaking havoc on a home. It was just simple strange things that really got under my skin. There are a couple creepypasta stories I enjoy reading but I’d have to say that Bedtime is probably one of my favourites, the one where the kid sleeping on the bunk bed gets freaked out when some type of thing is sleeping on the bed beneath him.

 

S: Thanks for agreeing to talk with us.

 

Nosleep has proven very receptive to Goatman stories and one of the highest rated of these, with over 1000 upvotes is u/xsutac’s‘Goatman’, which you can read here: https://redd.it/3z8n7m  

 

Xsutac’s story varies from the traditional Goatman stories in that relocates the action from the depths of the woods to a small town during a torrential rainstorm. It’s the story of another teen and her friend, Samantha. After overhearing some ominous noises in their garden during the aforementioned storm, the narrator’s mother takes a trip to the local shop… and returns ‘different’….  

 

The story may take place in a different location but, once again, it is written in the correct vocabulary for a teenager, and it very effectively captures the strain of paranoia that makes Goatman stories so effective.  

Paranoia, most notably the fear that you can’t trust those people closest to you, is a potent horror tool. Some of the finest examples of horror media have used this concept wonderfully, most notably John Carpenter’s seminal The Thing and Jack Finney’s 1955 novel Body Snatchers, the source material for no fewer than four incarnations of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers on the big screen.  

A menace that you cannot identify due to its ability to look and sound like those familiar things around us is a terrifying concept, causing the reader to look at every person around them and wonder: ‘What if…?’  

The fact is that perception, in particular our ability to identify danger, is one of our greatest survival tools. By seeing and identifying danger we are able to avoid situations that put us at risk of physical harm. The Goatman’s camouflage and shapeshifting robs us of that basic protection, putting us at terrible risk without even realising it.  

Combine this with the multiple descriptions of almost-human gestures, expressions and movements and we can throw a healthy dose of the ‘uncanny valley’ into the equation. As covered before during my features on both Candle Cove and The Expressionless, the term ‘Uncanny Valley’ was first coined in 1978 in the book Robots: Fact, Fiction, and Prediction, by JasiaReichardt, describing a concept originating from robotics professor Masahiro Mori.

The wikipedia entry for Uncanny Valley describes it as: ‘a hypothesis in the field of aesthetics which holds that when features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some observers. The “valley” refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of beings as subjects move toward a healthy, natural likeness described in a function of a subject’s aesthetic acceptability.’

 

In short, we get freaked out when inanimate objects look a lot like people/animals, but not ENOUGH to truly convince.  

 

The ‘glitchy’ movements of the mysterious imposter described by u/xsutac certainly fit this bill, adding one more potent horror tool to the tale.  

Xsutac was kind enough to discuss the story with me, and you can read our interview below.  

 

STEVEN: Hi! Can you tell us a little bit about your story ‘Goatman’ in your own words?  

XSUTAC: My story ‘Goatman’ is currently my only public creation. It is written from the perspective of a teenage girl home with a friend, recounting her experience with the Goatman, who dons the appearance of her mother. The main issue for her was having to process and produce (in such little time) a plan to elude  the entity unharmed.  

 

S: What was your inspiration for the story?  

X: At the time of writing ‘Goatman’, my fascination with Creepypasta and Nosleep stories had reached a new peak, I would say. I was practically eating up Urban legends left, right and centre.  

I stumbled across Anansi’s Goatman Story — I even linked it at the end of my post — which I can honestly say was (one of, if not) the first urban legend to genuinely scare me.

The shape shifting ability and the subsequent dilemma of not fully knowing if that person is really who they seem to be is, needless to say, terrifying. In a sense, I feel somewhat guilty because the idea was not one that I had created, and so I would like to stress that many facets of my ‘Goatman’ were derived from Anansi’s story.  

 

S: Why a Goatman story? What drew you to the lore?

X: As aforementioned, I recall the Goatman scenario to be one of the first to really strike fear in me. It also seemed like one you could really play around with, in a way; mould it into your own. Goatman, the entity, possessing the power of shapeshifting allowed for so many different experiences to take place, I mean it could literally just become anyone at any time.  

 

S: Why do you think Goatman stories are so popular with readers?

X: It’s always going to come back to the shapeshifting. The thought of such a malevolent force being able to intrude in something as intimate as family is a fear everyone has, whether they are aware of it or not.  

 

S: Why do you think your story was so popular with nosleep readers?

X: Aside from the sheer idea that such an enigma existing is beyond unsettling to many,  I feel it was also, for lack of a better term, the realism of my recount. It’s very easy to notice that the most successful stories on r/nosleep have a balance of environmental descriptions and elements of retelling. Nosleep is basically one big campfire and everyone is just sharing their ‘experiences’, but I digress.  

I think it was, to be quite frank, the way it was written almost poorly, as if a traumatised teenage girl just mashed together a previous horrific experience. With that said, the submissions to the subreddit are perfectly structured and exemplary (for me, at least), I think it just depends on the situation depicted.  

 

S: As a nosleep author, are you a fan of flash web horror fiction? Or creepypastas? If so, which are your favourites?

X: God, yes! While I do enjoy reading actual full-length books, sometimes I just want to skip the endless (and seemingly trivial) descriptions and get to the gruesome parts. Off the top of my head, some of the most memorable stories I’ve read include ‘World’s Best School Psychologist’ by r/CreepyCarbs, ‘My Brother Died When I Was A Child. He Kept Talking…” by r/TheEmporersFinest and “The Disappearance of Ashley, Kansas” by r/CoasterKid93.  

I will mention, though, that my all time favourite series would have to be “I’m a Search and Rescue Officer for the US Forest Service, I have some stories to tell” by r/searchandrescuewoods. I was so hooked on that story and would absolutely recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it yet.  

 

S: Thanks for the interview.  

 

Now, if those two stories haven’t yet satisfied your thirst for spooky Goatman stories, allow me to direct your attention to this bumper bonanza of shapeshifter horror stories, lovingly compiled over at Imgur: http://imgur.com/a/Zmhjw#0

 

This is a fascinating log of multiple accounts of encounters with the backwoods dwelling bogeyman collected from a wide range of sources, including 4Chan, the birthplace of Anansi’s story.  

The collection is the result of some serious hard work by Swedish journalist, author and broadcaster Jack Werner, who has provided some thought-provoking theories as to why Goatman mythology has proven so popular with modern web users

 

STEVEN: First, that’s an impressive collection of Goatman stories! What inspired you to collate them all?  

JW: In 2013 and 2014, I was writing a book about creepypasta as a folkloristic phenomenon that went on to be published in the fall of 2014. A huge part of the work was just reading and analyzingcreepypasta, and Goatman stood out to me from the beginning as an interesting character, why I was looking in particular for stories about it. After publishing my book, I just realized I had archived heaps of creepypasta and that I should probably share some of it.  

 

S: Why the Goatman? What is it about Goatman stories that interest you?  

JW: Quite a few factors weighed in: first of all, the stories from 4chan often made for interesting examples of ”greentexting”, the attempt to write in a way mimicking the informality and lucidity of a chat room. Greentexted stories often contains multitudes of code words and internal references that, read with those glasses, gives away a lot about it’s users.  

Second of all, Goatman as a character seemed to me a clear result of a particular event, the sightning of this strange guy: http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/man-in-goat-suit-seen-living-among-goats-in-utah-mountains/, in combination with the already existing North-American folklore about a Goatman who’s half mad scientist, half goat and the older myths about shapeshifters that we interpret as native American.  

And last but not least, the stories are often just creepy – they take place in the forest or the wilderness, the Goatman is often in the uncanny valley, and the thing about not being able to trust your buddies is a great ingredient in a ghost story.  

 

S: What is your favourite Goatman story?  

JW: One of the first ones I read was AnasisGoatman Story, and even though it’s messy and unstructured, it still stands out as one of the most intriguing stories. Another one I got a tip about just last fall was posted in a 4chan thread that has sadly disappeared, but I saved it here. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1LB-0b-U1DT0an7mYvuEdXLm2SCTn9_Ukpp-UNpO4qAA/edit?usp=sharing

 

S: Why do you think Goatman stories have become so popular? And, what do you think so many people find fascinating about Goatman stories?

JW: While introducing sort of a new character, the outlines of the main character in stories about the Goatman is still very clear to everybody which makes it easy for anyone who wants to write their own story about it. I’ve seen 4chan threads in which the users argue, or maybe rather negotiate, what distinctive features and components of the Goatman should be canonized. There has been lists of his traits and recurring themes, and that has probably not only made him easy to implement in stories but also inspired writers to use him.  

When it comes to the popularity, it probably has to do with the combination of a new and tantalizing character and the old setting – a forest, a few friends, darkness between the trees. And the fact that Goatman might be able to turn your friends against you is, as I mentioned above, genius: often we don’t like the stories in which the creepy things are too detailed, and when the Goatman ”hides” in a body of your friend, that makes him more elusive and thus scarier.  

 

S: Are you a fan of Creepypasta? If so, what are your favorites?

JW: Sure, it’s hard to write a whole book about it without becoming sort of invested.

After publishing my book, I got the opportunity to produce a podcast about creepypasta, urban legends and ghost stories for the Swedish public service radio, and today after doing some 65 episodes the podcast is the fifth biggest in Sweden. One of the first stories I knew I wanted to tell in that podcast was ”Ted the Caver”, the old Angelfire blog story about a guy who discovers something dark in a cave he’s exploring. That story is still one of my absolute favorites, and my listeners always mention it as a favorite too.  

”The Showers”, originally published by Dylan Sindelar on Reddit, is another one I really like, and ”Psychosis” by Matt Dymerski is great too. Both of those stories made huge impressions on my listeners.  

 

S: Are there any projects you’d like me to link to in my feature? Any websites or anything?  

JW: My blog about creepypasta: http://www.creepypasta.se/  

The Goodreads page about my book: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23273800-creepypasta—sp-khistorier-fr-n-internet  

My podcast: http://sverigesradio.se/sida/avsnitt?programid=4845  

My Twitter: https://twitter.com/kwasbeb  

My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bestofJackWerner/  

 

Werner (under his Redditor name of r/kwasbeb) makes an interesting point about the Goatman story boom in the comments to his Reddit post sharing the Imgur link ( https://redd.it/1iwnkr )  

He writes: ‘They seem to have had quite the renaissance after an event last year, in which a man dressed as a goat was seen climbing about on a mountain in Utah. The mystery was solved just a few days later, but my theory is that it put some life in urban legends from other times (such as) native americanshapeshifters and that goatman from Maryland.’   

 

These other versions of the Goatman have received a timely boost in popularity in recent years also, and the infamous Maryland Goatman story is one that has been in circulation since the mid-late Fifties. As mentioned in my last feature, the fur-covered mad axeman that is the Maryland Goatman has taken on legendary status in Prince George’s County, and has even been mentioned in news stories and articles.  

The other main Goatman myth is that of the Pope Lick Monster, a hideous figure said to live under an old railway bridge over Pope Lick Creek in Jefferson County, Kentucky.  

This monstrous being is said to have caused countless deaths over the years and has terrified local teens since for just as long as his Maryland cousin.

The Goatman is a potent horror creation, so it should come as no surprise that the diabolical beastie has provided inspiration for storytellers and media creators. One of the most polished of these is the short film, Goatman, by the folks over at production company, Shutterstinct.  

 

It’s a cool, classic throwback slasher film and provides plenty of gory fun and some very intelligent twists along the way during its punchy 18 minute run-time.  

You can check it out here: https://vimeo.com/227202665  

 

I was lucky enough to speak with Mason Guevara, co-creator of Goatman about his team’s dark and twisted little film just before its big (and highly successful) premiere.  

 

STEVEN: First, tell us a little about your film, Goatman.

MASON GUEVARA: Well, despite what a lot of people might think, our film has nothing to do with the popular creepypasta story that has been going around the internet.  

There is a connection between the titular character and the urban legends of the Goatman and the Pope Lick Monster, but those connections will be revealed in due time.  

The basic premise is that GOATMAN is a classic 1990s slasher film. The idea came about when director and co-creator Logan Donald heard a song called Goatman, which is included in the film’s soundtrack, and decided to adapt one of his scripts to include the Goatman character. As we started to develop the film’s universe together, we decided we wanted to avoid two things, CGI effects and the supernatural.  

Thus, we created a Goatman that was entirely human, though he isn’t referred to as “Goatman” for nothing. There is a backstory, but again, all in due time.  

 

S: Why the Goatman legends? What drew you to these stories?

MG: While we stumbled onto the concept of Goatman incidentally as I mentioned, what ultimately led the project to where it is now was the desire to join the recent revival of classic horror and hopefully introduce a new villain along with the likes of Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, and so on.  

However, we wanted to create a character that has a bit more depth than your average axe-wielding killer. Of course, you won’t be able to know everything right away, but without revealing too much before the premiere, I can only say that GOATMAN is going to be a much bigger project than audiences might initially expect.  

 

S: Is there any one particular version of the Goatman legend from which you drew inspiration? If so, which one(s)?  

MG: Not any in particular, but we have researched about the various legends and created our own story that builds upon them.  

 

S: What do you think your adaptation will deliver for fans of the Goatman mythos?

MG: We have already received some reactions to the teasers and promotional material from fans of the creepypasta and urban legends, and while the film might not quite scratch their itch if they’re wanting a traditional Goatman story, we hope that as horror fans, they will still take interest in what we have created and stick with us because there will be quite a payoff in the end.  

 

S: Are you a fan of Creepypasta?  

MG: I have read a few on Reddit over the years so I am familiar with them, but I can’t say I have any favorites.  

 

S: What were the major challenges in telling this story? And what were your favourite moments during the filming/editing process?  

MG: Every bit of the whole process has been a challenge. Filming in the deep woods was tough on our cast and crew, as well as working in such a low-light environment.  

Our shoot ran for four consecutive days overnight and we were on a very tight schedule, which meant some decisions needed to be made and shots were cut or condensed due to timing. All these factors inevitably led to some complications with the footage, which thankfully we were able to mostly overcome with some intensive editing and creative adjustments to the overall story. In the end, I think we ended up with something that overall is even better than we initially intended, a “happy accident” as David Lynch would call it, and we’ve crafted something that I think is going to surprise those who are willing to stick with it until the end.  

As far as my favorite moments, I would have to say the experience as a whole and the opportunities that have come out of both the creation of the film and working with Logan in general have been some of the most exciting and significant things to ever happen to me. I think that regardless of the outcome when the film comes out, making GOATMAN has been catalyst for growing Shutterstinct and our careers.  

It has been a huge networking opportunity and I have recently caught wind that some major A-list Hollywood actors will be watching the film to evaluate the scoring work of composer, Hammy Havoc, who we are thrilled to have attached to this project.

 

S: Do you have any plans to adapt any other urban legends into short films?  

MG: Not at the moment, but we do have my own project coming in the near future that deals with the paranormal in a unique way, so that’s something to look out for down the road.  

 

S: And finally, where is the best place for my readers to find out more about your work, including Goatman and any upcoming projects?  

MG: We do have a Facebook and Instagram accounts both for GOATMAN (www.facebook.com/goatmanfilm or @goatmanfilm) and Shutterstinct (www.facebook.com/shutterstinct or @shutterstinct), as well as the Shutterstinct Vimeo (www.vimeo.com/shutterstinct) where GOATMAN and all of our projects will be shared, and you can visit us at www.shutterstinct.com.  

 

S: Thanks for speaking with me, and the best of luck with GOATMAN. I’m sure it’s going to be a huge success!  

 

Providing inspiration for writers and filmmakers, and drawing some frightening compelling eye-witness accounts from individuals and cryptozoologists, the Goatman has emerged from the darkest depths of the web as a new and frightening form of monster — one that shows no signs of waning popularity.  

Come back next time when I’ll be looking at another modern monster — and one of DeviantArt’s coolest original creations.

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