Nosleep reddit

The internet's scariest place: NoSleep, Reddit's band of horror enthusiasts

“Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses,” Neil Gaiman once said. “You ride the ghost train into the darkness, knowing that eventually the doors will open and you will step out into the daylight once again.”

These days it feels like there are fewer and fewer ways to get on that “ghost train” of delighting in the suspense of a scary story. The tradition of swapping tales around a campfire is a rare occurrence in modern life, and smartphone screens too often get in the way, and stop us from getting lost in a book.

But a community of horror writers and fans who populate the NoSleep subreddit seem to have found a way to keep the “ghost train” alive. NoSleep has more than four million subscribers; popular posts there can garner tens of thousands of readers in a single day. The audience is mostly American, but it also has substantial followings in Europe and, improbably, Polynesia.

“Everything is true here, even if it’s not,” the sidebar on the website reads. And this rule of etiquette is key to maintaining the experience of the story. As a moderator of the subreddit, who goes by the name Kerrima, told the Guardian, her favourites are “creepy, sort of subtle stories, where maybe something happened, maybe something didn’t happen”.

The vague, unresolved nature of the stories are key to their appeal. The best ones are rarely gory, a function of the fact that images are more or less banned – you can link to them, but only sparingly. The scares come by way of the unknown.

Take, for example, the stories NoSleep’s moderators cite as their favourites. Kerrima likes a story called Free Coffee with Order of Pie, which deposits the reader in a diner in the middle of nowhere that is visited by a mysterious, prescient stranger.

Meanwhile, Khristopher Patten, another moderator who by day is a PhD student in cognitive neuroscience based in Arizona, said his favourite is a series called Correspondences, written by a user who goes only by the name “bloodstains”. The story, which you could say is about demonic possession, is told in an epistolary mode, each episode proceeding by emails, texts and blog comments.

What both stories have in common is that it’s impossible to know exactly what happened; the unsettled feeling they leave behind is wholly a function of the answers the authors never give.

What many NoSleep stories have in common is that it's impossible to know exactly what happened

But the indeterminacy of a NoSleep story can backfire. For example, just under a year ago a popular NoSleep writer posted an item titled WTF is going on in Pinal County, Arizona?. It described the outbreak of a mysterious disease in a small town called Mammoth, population 12,000. The epidemic began at a daycare, the writer said. The elderly owner had collapsed and died after bleeding from the ears and screaming in a fit of rage – and the children had been with her at the time.

The plague had then spread to the kids, and to their families. The mysterious disease was now afflicting the poster’s sister. The CDC, the writer said, was ignoring her frantic calls, but some kind of authority seemed to be closing in. The post cut off with the writer pleading: “The sirens have me terrified and the sun is almost down here.”

Pretty standard stuff for a horror story, not even particularly original. But apparently a few casual readers, coming across the story (which was actually part of a series, but only the Arizona instalment took off), felt concerned. They called the Mammoth police department, and they called local businesses to ask if the online reports of the epidemic were true. At that point, the media got involved.

Both the Arizona Republic and USA Today wrote stories about the incident. They likened it to the famous hoax of the 1938 radio broadcast of HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds, long said in urban legend to have terrified a large swath of America. Yet just as some historians contest that any “mass panic” followed that broadcast at all, it’s not clear Mammoth residents were overly bothered by the confusion. In fact, an audio recording of a call to a local store in Mammoth that one NoSleep reader made at the time, sees a clerk giggling about the fuss ginned up by a “damn website”.

For their part, NoSleep’s regular users were sharp on a separate thread about the “overly paranoid silly geese” who made the calls, writing that they deserved about “three years of time out”. To them, calling the police about a story posted on NoSleep is the decided mark of a rube.

Perhaps cynicism is an obvious byproduct of spending so much time in a state of suspense.

In fact, in an interview this week, NoSleep’s moderators seemed more irritated about the journalists who sometimes drive by and lift stories onto their own websites, misleading casual readers to believe they are true. Both BuzzFeed and Jezebel, for example, republished a NoSleep story about a boyfriend who was receiving Facebook messages from his dead girlfriend. To a regular reader of NoSleep the thing was plainly fiction, but several websites used a headline that made it sound like fact: “This Guy’s Story About His Dead Girlfriend Facebooking Him Might Be The Scariest Thing On The Internet.”

“There was someone who tried to write a story that solved a real crime,” said Kerrima. “Like, it’s a fictional solution to a real crime that happened.” The crime involved the disappearance of a woman, and someone who had known the victim wanted it removed. “I just didn’t want the hassle of having abuse hurled at the sub,” Kerrima said, so she removed it. The moderators also deleted a couple of speculative stories posted about the fate of the doomed MH370 plane, on grounds that they were posted too close to the real events.

There are, as it turns out, a surprisingly sophisticated set of moderating principles that go into maintaining the immersive fictional powers of NoSleep. The moderators mostly select and discard stories along a standard they call “believability”. In their posting guidelines, they define the standard thus:

As a general rule, if a reader could look outside and disprove your story, it’s not going to work for nosleep. If your story is physically impossible to post (like the narrator dies before the end, or it was a cat/infant the whole time), it will be removed. We don’t like to explicitly ban certain content, but things that “break the world” are never appropriate for nosleep. Examples include apocalyptic scenarios, large-scale time travel or alternate universes, or mass extinctions. Stories posted in second person narrative are not considered believable, and will be removed.

There’s a lot left up to discretion and interpretation in that standard, and the rules have shifted over time. For example, in another place on the site they say they will ban stories about zombies. But when I ask about it, I learn the rule has loosened.

“It used to be that the guidelines were a lot more strict,” Khristopher Patten, a doctoral student in cognitive neuroscience who is another of the site’s moderators.

“You weren’t allowed any time travel, you weren’t allowed any dimensional stuff,” Kerrima chimed in.

“Small incidents or weird tales of one thing going on, that’s OK,” Patten added.

“We kind of discourage putting labels on the monsters in a way, so if someone says, ‘I saw a vampire!’ that’s not okay,” Kerrima said, “But if someone said, ‘I saw a guy with pointy teeth,’ that’s OK.”

The specificity of the rules is no doubt the function of pure obsession. But they are also smart, a kind of roadmap for successfully scaring people. And they do so in a world whose frightening elements often feel like folklore than the ghosts and witches that bothered our ancestors.

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Reddit's r/NoSleep is a special 'horror bubble' for internet writers that has born book deals and even a Steven Spielberg adaptation

  • Anyone who knows anything about Reddit has heard of r/NoSleep.
  • It's one of the most popular and successful subreddits on the site, and attracts readers and writers from all over the world.
  • Writers have got book deals, careers in writing for Netflix, and even movie adaptations out of their amateur stories for the subreddit.
  • It's a place for people to tell first-person horror stories, which comes with the pre-agreed assumption that you treat everything on there as if it's real.
  • The beauty of r/NoSleep is it can keep you awake at night in fear, but it's also one of the most friendly and welcoming places on the internet.
  • Insider spoke to two of the sub's moderators and some popular storytellers about why they love r/NoSleep, and how it really is its own special little horror bubble on the internet.
  • This story is part of a series commemorating Reddit's 15th anniversary.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

There was a long discussion on the r/NoSleep Slack channel recently about whether a particular horror story on the sub was convincingly true to life.

"At this point, most of the fingers on one of her hands are gone," Rog, one of the moderators, told Insider. "We kind of battled back and forth with that one because doesn't she need them to type? How is she posting? Does that violate believability?"

The whole idea behind r/NoSleep is that "everything is true here, even if it's not." Stories are written from a first-person perspective and everyone commenting underneath has to post on the assumption that they're existing within the realms and boundaries of the world the OP has created.

Internet writers with no professional experience have gotten book details, careers in writing for Netflix, and even a Steven Spielberg adaptation out of writing for the subreddit as a hobby.

To celebrate Reddit's 15th anniversary this week, we took a look at what turned a creepy little place on the internet into an online juggernaut, and some of the biggest success stories to come out of it in the last 10 years.

'Everything is true here, even if it's not'

In one series the mods were discussing, the OP is staying with an exchange family in Japan, and "something very wrong is happening" there. At first, they notice wet footprints at the end of their bed like someone has been watching them sleep, then people in the village start running away, as if alarmed by their presence.

Things gradually get worse and worse after the OP ventures into the family's grandparents room one night, and is subsequently overcome with an insatiable and unquenchable hunger that has readers despairing for them.

"This is beginning to stress me out. Ugh," one person wrote in the comments. "WTF is wrong with that family? It seems like they're always a step ahead of you."

Rog said he and the fellow mods had a humorous yet fairly in-depth conversation about whether an OP could really type up their story in real-time if they'd chewed their fingers on one hand right down to the bone, but ultimately decided it passed the test.

"We legitimately had that conversation in the chat," he said. "Has she still got fingers on one hand? Or are they nubs?"

Vladimir Servan / Getty Images

Everyone has to play along in the comments

There are over 14 million Reddit users signed up to r/NoSleep. The sub began back in March 2010, and the distinct brand of horror has become its own culture in the decade since — dubbed "creepypasta."

A group of moderators, led by Christine (cmd102), ensures every post is approved and follows the strict set of rules before it is posted. A story has to be believably within reason, be a first-person narrative, and the writer cannot die before the end.

Mods also read every comment made on the stories, making sure they are respectful and contribute to the discussion by playing along.

Rog doesn't remember when he first came across r/NoSleep, but he was sucked in and has been a long-time fan for seven or eight years. He's been a mod for about a year now, helping out with reading the stories and contacting writers if they need to make changes before being published or if they haven't made the cut.

He dedicates 10-20 hours a week of his spare time to the sub, yet still finds himself losing hours by falling down "the NoSleep rabbit hole," especially when it's a series with multiple parts that provides a slow burn with plenty of character development.

"It's not something I like to read at 3 a.m. because I will never sleep," he said, fittingly.

What Rog loves about the sub is the "creep factor" that really makes you feel terror for the person who is writing the story. It's a very specific brand of horror where the community gets involved and interacts with the writer, so they become part of the story.

"The whole goal of the story is to inspire fear in others," Rog said. "In some of my favorites, you can feel it. I don't know if they've actually experienced this in their lives, but they're either exceptional writers or they're just putting out what they feel."

It's like you are sitting around a campfire telling scary stories

Rebecca, another mod, said r/NoSleep has a campfire vibe, "where you help someone figure out something really horrible that happened to them."

"I know some people aren't as into the immersion rule, and having to stay in character, but I do think there's something really special about the environment that it creates," she told Insider. "Just having to pretend you are sitting around a campfire telling scary stories to people. I always really liked that."

The saying goes: if you want hate, post something on Reddit. But while the sub does get occasional trolling and mean comments, they are in the minority. Rebecca said she loves being a moderator because it helps protect that unique community aspect of it, where people's creativity is welcomed and celebrated rather than mocked.

It's vulnerable sharing something you've created, and r/NoSleep, for the most part, is considerate about that.

"Helping to maintain that role-playing for people makes it really come to life," Rebecca said, "And that way people really can just immerse themselves in it and enjoy that small little magical creepy world."

blue fire
Aitor Diago / Getty Images

Caitlin, who goes by Cymoril_Melnibone on Reddit, was already an r/NoSleep regular when she wrote a series based on a drab seaside pub about four years ago, which remains a firm favorite among the sub's fans. It started with a beautifully descriptive short story about a youth-sucking yellow-haired demon-type woman called Mona who is a regular at a pub the OP works in.

Caitlin said she got the idea from a writing prompt about a waitress at a diner "where the patrons are starting to scare you," but thought it would be more fun to set it in a "shitty seaside British pub."

"As I'm a fan of British mythology, I thought I'd sort of mash together myths to make interesting supernatural creatures, and settled on the idea of a bar for supernatural losers and outcasts," she said.

She hasn't been very active on the sub in the last two years, but she used to enjoy the challenge of crafting a new tale "with horrifying elements that hasn't been conceived of before."

"I think there's a lot of wildly under-appreciated creativity and originality on r/NoSleep, but unfortunately due to the nature of Reddit, some of it never gets seen by a large audience," she said. "For the readers, I guess [they like] the nearly endless horror content being pumped out by the huge stable of authors.

"It's like an almost bottomless bucket of horror popcorn to munch on at your leisure."

r/NoSleep has taken on a life of its own

Since r/NoSleep began a decade ago, it has taken on a life of its own. There's the No Sleep Podcast, which isn't technically affiliated with the sub, where stories are read out loud and discussed. 

Many authors have also adapted their stories into published novels, such as Dathan Auerbach with his now-legendary series "Penpal" where the OP is stalked by an ominous character throughout his childhood.

User The_Dalek_Emperor was hired to write for "The Haunting of Hill House" on Netflix, and Tony Lunedi's story "The Spire In The Woods," which he wrote under the username theboyintheclock, is being adapted by Steven Spielberg.

Ryan Reynolds revealed he was interested in turning a renowned story on the sub called "The Patient Who Nearly Drove Me Out Of Medicine" into a film in 2018.

"I'm pretty sure I scared the living daylights out of the girl I was dating at the time with the scream of triumph and delight I made when my manager called to tell me Ryan wanted to do it," the author Jasper DeWitt told Insider when asked how it felt to be recognized by a Hollywood star. "Does that answer your question?"

DeWitt now lives in Los Angeles where he has been working on his second novel and a screenplay. He said it still feels hallucinatory that he's had so much success because his "The Patient" series was "a little bit of harmless fun" he would have during periods of insomnia.

"I'd go to the local all-night IHOP, post up, get bottomless iced coffees, and just write through the night," he said. "In my wildest dreams, I thought maybe the titular patient would end up a creepypasta legend like 'The Rake,' or 'Jeff the Killer.' The idea that he and his story would catapult me into the entertainment industry never even occurred to me."

r/nosleep scary woods
David Wall / Getty Images

Before he started writing his own horror stories, DeWitt's literary skills only came out when playing gothic horror-themed Dungeons & Dragons campaigns with his friends. He took inspiration from H. P. Lovecraft and E.F. Benson when materializing his nightmarish worm-shaped monster, and from "Silence of the Lambs" for the mental hospital element.

He likes to think of his style as a modern take on the "Gothic-inflected, gaslit, pessimistic, dream-like type of horror" that was written in the late 19th and early 20th century, where authors would "build tension by drawing on the uncanniness of even seemingly mundane situations."

"What was particularly enjoyable about the stories written at that time was that they didn't require any blood and guts, or jump scares, or any of the unsubtle trappings of modern horror," he said. "Hell, sometimes the horror in those stories wasn't even happening to the protagonist; it was just something they were witnessing."

What made it work is something that is deeply entrenched in the r/NoSleep culture today — atmospheric prose that conjures up feelings of dread, even when nothing is really happening. The creepy feeling of being watched or a sense of impending doom isn't just for conventional horror junkies either. Fans of mystery and thriller novels often flock to r/NoSleep as well because they know there's no chance of something jumping out at them.

'It's comforting to think there are dark corners we haven't explored'

DeWitt didn't actually take r/NoSleep, or the creepypasta genre in general, seriously for a long time, thinking of it as "Slenderman" knockoffs and nonsensical memes like "Who Was Phone?" But his impression changed after he started reading some of the more immersive stories, and realized the potential of short, snappy writing.

He saw how the "everything is true" rule let people engage with the worlds he was building, which reminded him of the D&D worlds he used to carve out in his friends' imaginations.

"I loved screwing with the readership and seeing whether I could be unpredictable enough to out-think an entire forum's worth of commenters, all with theories on my stories," he said. "That element of playfulness and mutual escapism makes r/NoSleep an extremely attractive and welcoming place for a new writer, I think."

He thinks a lot of the popularity comes from people looking for "escapism and for catharsis in our very troubled modern era."

"It's comforting to think there are dark corners we haven't explored, or that the world could be so much worse than we know," he said. "Because that implies that however bad things are right now, at least we have something to be thankful for."

He said he can't think of another community that is so welcoming of "the shadows in other people's minds" and full of praise when a story is done well. There may even be a therapeutic aspect, given how horror movies have been shown to alleviate anxiety in some people.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the r/NoSleep community gives a lot of people a productive way to creatively engage with their own issues, while not feeling judged or held up to literary scrutiny the way they would on other hubs of creepypasta," said DeWitt. "And frankly, that's wonderful."

spooky woods ghost story
Ansel Siegenthaler / EyeEm / Getty Images

Where you should start

Rog thinks the sub isn't just a great place for entertainment, but also for writers to hone their craft and really experiment with their voice.

"The guidelines of posting forces you to be a better writer, honestly, because you've got to stick to within this certain parameters and then still craft something that's interesting and engaging," he said, "and I think that helps writers a lot."

Rebecca loves how much variation there is on r/NoSleep, which makes sense given hundreds of stories are submitted every day.

"I think the ones that make the most impact are the ones where there's more of a beautiful aspect to them as well, or something really grim," she said.

Some of her highlights include "Free Coffee with Order of Pie by /u/Deadnspread, the 8-year long "Correspondence" series by /u/bloodstains, and "The New Fish" by /u/Theworldisgrim. She said her favorite is probably "Let Me Introduce the Demon Inside of You" by u/ByfelsDisciple.

"It's really haunting because it's about the concentration camps, which is a really difficult thing to write about," she said. "But I think that's emblematic of what's so cool about r/NoSleep — it's not just ghost stories or someone being chased by a killer, you can write something really deep like that and still have it meet all of the rules."

'It really is its own special little horror bubble on the internet'

More than anything, r/NoSleep is a feeling rather than something tangible. You'll read a story — whether it's a tale about a mysterious package, or a secret in an old hometown — and think that it has the creepypasta vibe, but you may never find the right way to put into words exactly what that means.

Reddit is probably the only place r/NoSleep could have transcended from being a niche creative forum into something so treasured by so many. That may be because, against all the internet odds, it has remained a largely pleasant place for something that exists purely to scare people. It's maintained a rare sweet spot of immense talent, fun, and thoughtfulness for a community of its size which is almost unheard of anywhere else online.

It could also just be the fact that people seem to have an endless appetite for snack-sized horror stories that keep them up at night.

Whatever the reason for its success, there is an almost endless supply untapped talent just waiting to be discovered on r/NoSleep, and the mods are defending and curating it as diligently as they ever have to make sure stories are treated with the respect they deserve.

"It really is its own special little horror bubble on the internet," said Rebecca. "It really couldn't exist in any other form other than the way it does."

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Reddit’s ‘No Sleep’ forum goes dark in protest against copyright infringement

One of Reddit's most famous – and creepy – forums has gone dark in protest against copyright infringement.

The subreddit known as "nosleep" allows authors to post their own realistic, scary stories, to be enjoyed by a community of readers who often engage with the stories as if they really happened.

The popularity of those stories has allowed the site to become of the most famous on Reddit, and it has gained millions of subscribers.

But that same popularity has led some people to take the stories from the site, despite the fact that the authors retain the copyright to the stories they post.

Now the site has been closed to users in an attempt to bring more awareness to the problem. Anyone visiting will see a message indicating that anyone wanting to see the community must be invited, and that it will re-open on 2 March.

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"In a move to support our authors, r/nosleep has been set to private to protest content theft and unfair crediting and compensation practices by those who share/narrate the stories found here," a new message reads.

"This is being done not only to protest the theft and unfair practices by those who wrongfully profit from the stories posted here, but also to make a very important point: if the authors are not treated fairly and their work is continuously used in ways that break copyright laws, they will stop posting here," a separate announcement read.

"We hope that, during our time away, our community will do their best to learn and understand our authors’ rights and what they have gone through to exercise and protect them."

Administrators also said that, as "reward for our authors and readers tolerating our protest", they would relax the rules that require stories posted on the subreddit to be believable and scary, and that authors can only post once every 24 hours. That will last for three days, and the forum will return to normal on 5 March.

It is not the first time that the authors on r/nosleep have attempted to fight back against the use of their stories without permission. Almost two years ago, a "No Sleep Writers Guild" was established, which attempted to make it easier for authors to license and sell their stories, and to protect their legal rights when stories were being stolen.

In its announcement, the forum's administrators did not name the people they allege are "sharing and narrating [its] stories without permission". A related subreddit known as "Sleepless Watchdogs" catalogues examples of content that appears to have been taken from the main forum.

Online horror forums have often had a relatively permissive approach to the use of stories and other content, with many of the earliest and most famous examples being circulated through "copypasta", where text would be copy and pasted across different parts of the internet. The new protests come as authors attempt to stop such re-use, and ensure that they are properly credited and rewarded for their work.


The 5 Best Stories on Reddit's r/NoSleep

Oral traditions, in which village historians weaved tall tales to preserve the stories of their people — many of them ghost stories — have evolved and migrated onto the internet. On Reddit, “the front page of the internet,” the massively popular (11,809,894 members) community r/NoSleep houses some of the creepiest, oftentimes longest short stories you could possibly find. And they call come from everyday Reddit users.

While the internet has always been a treasure trove for scary stories, r/NoSleep is unique. Unlike Creepypastas, another Reddit creation, the goal of r/NoSleep is a level of “role-playing,” where the author pretends the story is legit and writes pleading to their fellow Redditors for answers, help, or just a bit of hope. Sometimes, users in the comments will break character, praising the “OP” (original poster) for the clever writing, but others add new layers to the terror. It’s like crowd-sourcing fear, and r/NoSleep is always in demand.

Unlike the old tales of witches and devils, the monsters in these stories have evolved, becoming malevolent television shows or ghostly text messages from dead girlfriends that haunt living boyfriends.

With Halloween upon us once again, here are just five of some of the best stories ever told on r/NoSleep:

5. “My dead girlfriend keeps messaging me on Facebook. I’ve got the screenshots. I don’t know what to do.” by natesw

“Around this period of time, I stopped being able to sleep. I was too angry to sleep.”
“She would tag herself in random photos every couple of weeks. The friends who noticed and said something thought it was a fucked up bug; I found out recently that there have been friends who have noticed and didn’t say anything. Some of them have removed me from their Facebook friends list.”

Probably the best example of what can be done in r/NoSleep, Nathan initially asks Reddit users for technical help. But look closely and you may believe that Nathan is slowly losing his mind.

In the story, Nathan’s girlfriend Emily died in August 2012. But a year later, on September 2013, Nathan begins receiving strange Facebook messages from Emily’s account. Soon “Emily” begins feeding Nathan fragments of their old text messages, conversations never written down, and Emily alluding to being “FREEZING” and alone. Making great use of r/NoSleep’s format, Nathan goes the extra step in providing screenshots of his messages with “Emily” and photos where she’s “tagged” herself.

While a good story on its own, it’s a heart-stopping comment from a user staying in character that adds the best plot twist to the story.

4. “The M Show Fan Club” by lenalona

“The letters were sent off and every day we all rushed to the mailbox to get our The M Show Club badges. When the first snow began to fall we stopped checking the mailbox. Brandi was still passionate about the show and watched it every day, but Scarlett lost interest. When Scarlett stopped watching I too began to skip the show. Brandi still came over, but she was the only one watching. I sat next to her while working my way through Scarlett’s old girl magazines.”
“It was early spring. I remember there were tulips in our garden and my mom reprimanded me for plucking two to decorate the kitchen table. But right after her lecture she handed me a small square letter with my name printed on it. The back said “Welcome to The M Show Fan Club.”

Turning childhood nostalgia into an unsolved nightmare, Reddit user lenalona writes in a more traditional narrative style as they take on the role of a woman remembering the scariest day of her adolescence. Imagine if your favorite TV show hid a terrible, dark secret. That’s the horror behind “The M Show Fan Club,” sometimes regarded as one of the best unsung stories of r/NoSleep. You’ll never look at The Mickey Mouse Club the same way again.

3. “I found a usb stick / The Long Face” by Fyve

“There were a few folders with incomprehensible names, and 3 others: “Case Notes”, “Training”, and “Emails”. There were about 100 emails, mostly unconnected, but a few were really interesting. Usually, I wouldn’t go snooping through such private information, but I felt such a strange urge. In the end, I kept it. I think I’m going to hand it in to the police still, sometime in the future. I’m going to share with you the more interesting emails, ordered and formatted (where appropriate) for easier reading, and maybe you can help me decide what to make of it.”

The best stories of r/NoSleep don’t just take advantage of the “Asking Reddit” format, they also feature fully-realized characters with something to lose. That’s where “I found a usb stick” comes in, in which Fyve is crowdsourcing tech support to help them investigate bizarre emails exchanged between two friends on different sides of the world.

While the emails start out with juicy relationship gossip (as nosy people, of course we’re immediately invested), you quickly realize there’s something sinister and otherworldly at play. Another one of r/NoSleep’s best, the story was formally recognized as such when it was published in September 2012.

2. “Uncle Gerry’s Family Fun Zone” by Red_Grin

“I mean, we came all that way, right? The main entrance was this huge, wooden double door. Probably fifteen feet high, and above it was the sign: Uncle Gerry’s Family Fun Zone, with this picture of a cartoon farmer with a piece of straw hanging from his mouth. And the sign had been vandalized. Someone had spray-painted X’s over the farmer’s eyes, and nearly every letter had been scribbled out. Everything except for “Fun,” but the ‘F’ was turned into an ‘R’ and an exclamation point was added. So it just read, “Run!”. So we weren’t the first people that’d been there. And I remember thinking, I don’t know if this makes me feel better or worse.”

A brilliant, bizarre mix of Five Night’s at Freddy’s, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Blair Witch Project, and Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, “Uncle Gerry’s Family Fun Zone” is an easy-to-read tale of terror in the form of a banal Q&A interview that ends with sheer horror. Told between three friends in a love triangle, the subjects talk about investigating an old secret involving a kid’s entertainment establishment that their small town wishes it could forget.

Come for the interpersonal drama, stay for the horror movie-like scenery, and keep staying for the theories Reddit users have exchanged among themselves to make sense of the story’s brilliant and scary twist.

1. “The New Fish” by theworldisgrim

“Satisfied that I wasn’t about to become chow for some unspeakable creature, I laid back down on my squeaky, saggy old cot and tried to get back to sleep - but I couldn’t. Instead, I found myself thinking about that night in the penitentiary, the night of the lockdown; I kept thinking about Mikey and Big Rob and the rest of them, all of us huddled in a cell with the lights off and the frigid northwest winds howling at the walls. After a while, I gave up trying to sleep. Instead, I sat down in front of the computer and I started typing. I’m no story teller, not like Mikey or Hutch, but I’ll try my best.”

Sometimes there’s a story that just has it all. World-building, colorful characters, and sharp writing that can turn drab settings like a prison come alive with horror. That’s “The New Fish,” which one could easily imagine as a film from Stanley Kubrick or Guillermo del Toro.

Set in one of the most unusual places for a scary story — it’s lockdown in a federal prison — and starring the most unusual but unforgettable characters, “The New Fish” is a flashback told by an ex-con who, on dark and stormy nights, always remembers the scariest story he’s ever heard.

Unlike most stories on the internet, “The New Fish” sports A-grade writing that makes even the worst individuals imaginable as worthy of sympathy. While the story’s “antagonist” is probably too exaggerated for the setting’s limits, the writing and characters make up for it. “The New Fish” is such a strong story, it will make you glad you’re having another sleepless night on the internet.


Reddit nosleep

How One Reddit Community Is Finding the Next Generation of Screenwriters and Novelists

Freelance animator Marcus Kliewer was already having a rough year when the pandemic hit. Supported by a Canadian unemployment program, the Vancouver resident decided to pour his energy into writing short horror stories and posting them on Reddit’s r/nosleep community.

The 28-year-old posted his first story of the pandemic in September. Three months later, his work was discovered by Ground Control Entertainment’s Scott Glassgold. In June, Netflix announced a screen-rights deal for his story “We Used to Live Here,” with Blake Lively attached to star and produce alongside Ground Control and Matt Reeves’ 6th & Idaho.

“If it wasn’t for CERB (the unemployment program), I would be landscaping right now,” Kliewer told IndieWire. “Instead, I was writing six days a week full time.”

Kliewer said he also made a two book, high-six-figure deal with a major publishing company; he’s not saying which one, since it’s yet to be announced. The subreddit r/nosleep didn’t just give Kliewer his break; it laid the foundation for the career of his dreams.



Kliewer is part of a growing group of writers who find their big breaks through online mediums that largely circumvent traditional industry gatekeepers. Their success is fueled by executives’ appetite for unicorn IP: material that is proven — in this case, through Reddit upvotes and Kliewer’s strong following on the subreddit — but still feels fresh. It’s the same phenomenon that led a viral Twitter thread to be adapted into “Zola.”

“There’s a finite number of publishers out there, there’s a finite number of film studios and TV studios out there. They can only buy a certain amount. It also requires — whether it’s representation and connections or otherwise — steps to even get to those doorsteps,” Glassgold said. “What these platforms allow for is entry without asking for permission.”

Kliewer is the second r/nosleep discovery this year that Glassgold (“Prospect”) helped turn into a Netflix project. He first read attorney Matt Query’s r/nosleep series “My Wife & I Bought a Ranch” in July, at the suggestion of Query’s screenwriter brother and Glassgold collaborator Harrison Query. Less than a week later, the package was the subject of a bidding war; Netflix bought it in a seven-figure deal. Matt Query also landed a publishing deal to turn the story into a novel. Verve repped the Querys, Kliewer, and Ground Control in the negotiations.

“My Wife & I Bought a Ranch” was the first series Matt Query ever posted to r/nosleep, though he’s been a forum reader for a decade. The adaptation also marks his first creative collaboration with his brother, who is penning the script.

“I definitely did not expect it to turn into this kind of opportunity,” Matt Query said. “My hopes were that the story would simply be well received by the nosleep community and that maybe those folks would be interested in reading something else from me down the road.”

Launched in 2010, r/nosleep now has 14.8 million members. That growth coincided with increased critical appreciation of the horror genre and its commercial success. That trend led to the controversial term “elevated horror,” which refers to stories in which ordinary situations like an interracial couple’s family dinner or a summer trip to Sweden lead to situations far more disturbing than jump-scares.

“Nosleep is full of stories that are endlessly creative and original, even taking popular tropes and turning them on their head at times. It’s the perfect place to find something that’s both terrifying and refreshing,” r/nosleep moderator Christine Druga said over email. “What sets nosleep apart from other horror forums is the Plausibility rule, which I think is another thing that attracts people who want to make these stories something more. Every story has to be based in reality. There are no zombie apocalypses, giant monsters destroying New York, etc. (without an explanation for how it’s happening and no one noticed). Every story is told as if it’s something that really happened, which ramps up that sense of terror while reading.”

Rebecca Klingel is one of r/nosleep’s earliest success stories. In 2017, she was working as an insurance underwriter in Phoenix and passing the time writing “creepypasta” — online horror stories — for the subreddit. It wasn’t long before she was one of the community’s top writers, and filmmaker Mike Flanagan reached out to option two of her stories. Then she got another call from the “Doctor Sleep” director.

“He said ‘I want to know if you want to come out and write a TV show for me and Netflix.’ I was taking this call in the parking lot at work and I was like ‘I’ll start driving now,'” she said. “I met with Paramount and Amblin over Zoom, they approved of me even though I had never written a script in my life. I was on YouTube looking up ‘How do you write a script? What software do you use?'”

That show would become “The Haunting of Hill House.” She went on to gain representation at WME and write for both the Netflix show’s follow-up, “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” and “Borrasca,” the Cole Sprouse-starring podcast she created based on one of her r/nosleep stories.

“I think it’s neat when you do write things on the internet, they’re put out into this Wild West and they sink or swim on their own,” Klinger said. “If people respond to certain things, they get very popular and it’s really a hunger games of what’s entertaining people, what are people responding to?”

Internet virality is an indicator, but it’s not always a predictor. In 2015, Clive Barker and Warner Bros. announced a TV series, “Clive Barker’s Creepypastas,” but the concept never made it out of development.

“The work still needs to be fantastic,” Glassgold said. “I think ultimately there’s the sizzle of the viral and the steak of the material — if the steak’s not there, the people aren’t spending the money on the material.”

Alex Walton, executive VP advisory for the film group at Endeavor Content, draws parallels between source-book or talent followings that have long helped sell indie projects. He’s repping the YA package “Perfect Addiction” at the Cannes market, based on Claudia Tan’s story published on storytelling website Wattpad that garnered 81 million reads in the last six years.

“In the indie film space, having an in-built following is a great value add for any project,” Walton said. “Wattpad is a really engaged platform.”

Wattled has been a particularly successful for sourcing YA material; the Netflix hit “The Kissing Booth” (and its two sequels) are based on a story written by by Beth Reekles, who uploaded the story to Wattpad in 2011 when she was 15.

The Kissing Booth 2

“The Kissing Booth 2”

Marcos Cruz/Netflix

Community engagement — rather than fleeting virality — is perhaps a better analogue to the built-in followings of the paperbacks of yesteryear.

r/nosleep moderator Druga says that’s another reason Hollywood is so interested in stories that come out of the forum. It’s a community that extends far beyond Reddit; YouTubers frequently record audio narrations of popular stories, or the tales are adapted into podcasts and games.

“The fanbase here is super loyal … the connection to the audience is unparalleled,” Kliewer said. “That’s why I’m never going to stop writing on r/nosleep.”

A strong, dedicated community is one of the reasons why startup studio Jumpcut is developing a series based on the popular Facebook group Subtle Asian Traits with writers Ivan Tsang and Justin R. Ching. The group is dedicated to sharing memes and sparking discussions among the Asian diaspora; it was started by a group of Chinese-Australian high schoolers in 2018 and has grown to nearly 2 million members and spawned countless offshoot groups and pages.

“You can almost scoff at the idea of building a show around a Facebook group,” Ching said. “But it’s much more about adapting the spirit of what the group stands for — the sort of grand tribe, big tent for Asian people around the world.”

Winnie Kemp, Jumpcut’s development chief and a former CBS Films executive, said coupling proven IP with fresh stories could soothe industry hesitance about a show with an entirely Asian cast.

“[“Subtle Asian Traits”] gives us this opportunity to tell personal stories, explore the nuances between these different identities, but not scare off the networks because there’s this very engaged audience of 2 million people all around the world who are pumped and ready for a show like this,” she said. “The reality of the situation is making a show like this, without that IP, is pretty near impossible.”

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Netflix Just Bought the Rights to an r/Nosleep Horror Story

Netflix has made a "low seven-figure" deal to acquire the screen rights to Matt Query's short horror story 'My Wife and I Bought a Ranch,' which was posted across six installments on Reddit.Deadline reports that Query's brother, Harrison, has been tapped to write the screenplay, while Scott Glassgold of Ground Control Entertainment will take on the role of producer. 21 Laps' Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen are said to be in talks to produce also, together with Atomic Monster's James Wan and Michael Clear.Query posted his tale of terror on the r/Nosleep subreddit, a popular space for users to share their original horror stories. It tells the story of a couple, named Harry and Sasha, who buy their dream ranch in rural Idaho but soon discover that they're not alone in the mountains.

According to the outlet, the couple "meet their neighbors, who inform them that there is a malevolent spirit in the valley, one that manifests itself by coming to the house in the same manner at the start of each season. There are certain steps that must be followed to keep the spirit out of their house, and the tension and violence grows with each gory ritual as the duel between the spirits and [Harry] the ex-Marine soldier becomes personal."The first part of the story has received more than 3000 upvotes over the past five months, with Part II: The Lights, Part III: The Bear Chase, Part IV: The Scarecrows, and Part V: The Ghosts Arrive also proving popular amongst readers.Over the years, Netflix has garnered a reputation for spending enormous amounts of money to secure original streaming content for its platform in a bid to stay ahead of its competitors in the increasingly crowded streaming landscape. In fact, it was projected earlier this year that Netflix would be spending $17.3 billion on new content for 2020, up from $15.3 billion last year.

To get a better sense of what Netflix is getting in exchange for its expenditure, check out everything that is new to Netflix this month, learn about the best horror TV shows that are on the service right now, and read about Netflix's extensive partnership with the Roald Dahl Story Company, which now includes two animated adaptations from Taika Waititi.Adele Ankers is a Freelance Entertainment Journalist. You can reach her on Twitter.

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No Sleep, a popular Reddit community for original horror fiction, has locked its subreddit "to protest content theft and unfair crediting and compensation" from YouTubers.

You've probably been freaked out by a story that was originally published on No Sleep before. Whether it's the story of the pop song that makes you commit suicide, or the tales of a fictional search and rescue officer for the U.S. Forest Service, No Sleep has been staying true to its name by keeping me and it's over fourteen million subscribers awake at night. Starting this Monday, though, the subreddit will be locked for a week. In their statement about this closure, the mods of the subreddit say that it's because their authors are being plagued by theft of their work. People on YouTube will read or narrate the stories without credit or permission.

"There are still people sharing and narrating r/nosleep stories without permission. There are still fans of those channels and pages who are either ignorant of copyright laws in regards to posting written work to the internet or refuse to believe that those laws exist. There are still authors who aren’t aware that they have rights in regards to what is done with their stories once they are posted," the mods said in their collective statement about the closure. "So we, the mods of r/nosleep, have decided to take a stand in support of our authors and the projects that have been created to fight on their behalf."

Christine Druga, one of No Sleep's mods, said over email that this problem has spanned years. Two years ago, Druga said that they created a subreddit to help foster a positive relationship between authors and the people who would like to narrate their work in YouTube videos. Between then and now, several other communities have been created to both educate writers about their rights and teach YouTubers about copyright. Nothing has worked, and the issue has come to a head this month.

"The Youtuber Mini Ladd, who has over 5 million subscribers, had read several r/nosleep stories on his channel without permission. After 4 months of attempting to contact him to resolve the issue, a handful of the affected authors filed DMCA strikes against the videos, and his channel was scheduled for deletion," Druga said. With his channel under threat, Mini Ladd's fans rallied to his defense, and Durga said that No Sleep authors ended up being harassed, claiming one of them was doxed.

"Mini Ladd wound up posting a public apology and contacting the affected authors to resolve the issue, and his channel was saved. Unfortunately, the damage that had absolutely rocked the community had already been done," Druga said.

Motherboard reached out to Mini Ladd regarding this incident but have not yet received a response.

Druga claims that, for the authors that have their work read on YouTube, the damage can range from mild annoyance to loss of livelihood.

"Some authors have nearly lost paying gigs because of it, others have stopped posting to r/nosleep and/or removed their stories from the subreddit completely because they were so tired of seeing their work stolen," Druga said.

Olivia White, who is an author on No Sleep and also works for the unaffiliated No Sleep podcast, said that this theft has affected her in multiple ways. The No Sleep podcast, which pays authors for the right to reproduce their work, now also has to compete with YouTubers with much larger audiences than them.

"People taking and adapting my work from r/nosleep means they’re literally reproducing something that someone else holds the audio rights to," White said. "Sometimes it’s a story we’ve already run on the podcast, and may want to do something else with in future, so having random Youtubers adapt it without permission makes that harder too."

Author T-Jay Lea, whose first book comes out August 31, said that he estimates that he's lost $10-30,000 in revenue.

"That would be a conservative estimate," he said.

Lea has watched people on YouTube and elsewhere steal his work without credit since 2012, when he wrote a short story called "The Expressionless" which went viral.

"I will tell you straight up that for several years it killed my love of writing," Lea continued. "I saw all these adaptations of my work and once the glamour of 'exposure' faded and I saw it was not a neon sign but instead a paltry promise with nothing behind it, I felt powerless to stop it all from happening. I was a 22-year-old kid with no experience in the industry, no understanding of how I should be adequately paid and in some cases I believed bigger YouTubers who said they 'couldn’t afford to pay me.'"

If you're not a huge corporation with tons of money and an army of lawyers, creating original work on the internet often leads to people ripping off that work. Independent artists face a myriad of copycats selling their work on Amazon, and teenagers with Tumblrs see their artwork traced and slapped on album covers. It's no different in the world of original fiction, where someone can swoop in, read your story, and make money off of it without asking permission or obtaining the rights to the work. That said, authors on No Sleep haven't unilaterally been screwed over by the people who want to adapt their work. The anthology television show Channel Zero has based some of its seasons on work that was originally posted to No Sleep, and properly licenses, credits and pays the authors.

Druga said that she hopes that the people who want to narrate original fiction and authors of it can come to a mutual understanding, because they have more to gain by working together.

"There is so much potential for the communities to work together and to promote each other, they just need to learn the right way and what's necessary to do it," Druga said. "I really, genuinely, hope that all of the hard work we have put forth leads to the two communities to form a better relationship."

No Sleep will reopen its virtual doors at midnight on March 2. Hopefully the authors who post their work there can finally close the book on this particular art theft horror story.

Correction: This article originally said that the No Sleep podcast is the official podcast of the r/NoSleep subreddit. The No Sleep Podcast is not directly affiliated with r/NoSleep, though it often uses stories found there and shares the name.

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