The Internet has spread beyond what perhaps anyone could have ever imagined. It is a vast cyber-universe which has connected humans and ideas in a way civilization has never seen before, and has grown far beyond what would have been imaginable even 10 years ago. This new cyber-realm also holds mysteries that dot its landscape, eerie cyber-enigmas that lurk in the dark corners of the Internet just as physical mysteries do in the real world. Whether it be cursed websites, ghosts haunting cyberspace, strange codes or indecipherable images, or just plain creepy strangeness, this brave new domain of the Internet seems to have just as many strange phenomena, mysteries, and weirdness as anything in the world of things we can touch.
One of the biggest and spookiest mysteries overlaid upon the whole spectrum of the Internet is what is called the “Deep Web,” or also the “Dark Web,” which is a hidden region of the web that lies within its deepest, darkest corners and where people are said to engage in all manner of nefarious dealings, from drug deals to human trafficking, illicit organ sales, weapons sales, child pornography, spy activity, and worse. If the Internet was an ocean, the Deep Web would be the unexplored abysses that plunge down into the cold, pitch blackness, possibly inhabited by unknown behemoths that wallow in the murk. Just as the deep trenches of our oceans have different depths, so too does the Deep Web, with each subsequently deep level inhabited by more and more impenetrability, as well as more depraved individuals, files of classified information, and those wanting increased privacy from the Internet world swimming about in the light above, and most of this cannot be accessed in the traditional manner of search engines, instead using a browser system of bouncing around communications off of numerous servers, known as Tor. In fact, the ocean analogy is often taken further, explaining that search engines are like fishing nets just skimming the surface, and just like our oceans, most of it lies down in the dark, with some people estimating that a staggering 500 times more websites than we know of in the visible web lurk in the bowels of Deep Web.
It is a dark and elusive mysterious zone we know little about, and the deepest of these domains on the web is what is referred to as “The Marianas Web.” Named after the deepest place on earth, the Pacific Ocean’s Marianas Trench, this perhaps mythical area of the Internet is said to be as remote and alien as it gets, and is such a mixture of fact and urban myth that it is hard to ascertain just where spooky lore ends and reality begins. This domain is every bit as inaccessible and secret as its name suggests, supposedly completely hidden from any search engines or other means of access, and only able to be reached through the use of a quantum computer using something called "Polymeric Falcighol Derivation." The Marianas Web has been claimed to house all manner of weirdness and mysteries, such as secret Vatican archives, the true locations of mysterious places such as Atlantis, ancient evil secrets, information on secret societies and intelligence agencies, various highly classified secrets and research, and all manner of other forbidden knowledge. There are even spooky stories of a sentient female artificial intelligence that resides there, like an entity from some other dimension, ever watching and ruling over her domain, and another popular tale is that the Marianas Web can serve as a gateway for spirits to enter into our world.
While the Deep Web itself certainly does exist to some extent, whether there is really a Marianas Web or not remains unknown. It is a theoretical place borne of speculation, steeped in mystery, rumor, and urban legend to such a point that it is hard to decide what stories are perhaps partially based on fact and what is pure speculation or fiction. Indeed, the quantum technology said to be needed to access it does not even exist yet as far as we know. Whether it is real or not, the enigmatic Marianas Web has generated a massive amount of talk, debate, and conjecture, and is certainly one of the spookiest mysteries of the Internet.
Other mysteries of the Internet are more specific and relate to certain websites themselves, and can range from the somewhat strange to the downright bizarre. One enigmatic site surrounded by odd mysteries and persistent conspiracy theories is Mortis.com, which was website whose main page simply consisted of a box requesting a username and password. Internet users who stumbled across it could not figure out why it was there or what lied behind that impenetrable first page, and not even the most computer savvy person could break the code. Some dedicated sleuths were able to figure out that the site’s server seemed to contain terabytes of information hosted on it, but there was no clue as to what it could be. All anyone could see was that taunting password box and nothing else.
Eventually, it was learned that the site was owned by a mysterious individual by the name of Tom Ling, and it was also discovered that Ling owned a few other websites that were just as strange. The weirdest was a site called Cthulhu.net, which was comprised of a single page upon which was written the words “dead but dreaming” in white on a black background, and nothing else. There were no other pages, no directions or explanation, and nothing at all to click on. Speculation ran rampant as to what it meant or if there was anything more behind this first page if one were able to somehow solve some puzzle or conundrum, but no one was ever able to learn anything more about it. Interestingly, as more and more people tried to crack the page and get to the bottom of the site, the FBI allegedly got involved and abruptly took it down without any explanation, leading to conspiracy theories that Tom Ling was not even a person at all, but rather a shadowy government organization using the sites for some unknown purpose. The Feds apparently took Mortis.com down as well, and curiously it has been claimed that shortly before this the page had taken to displaying an inscrutable and inexorable countdown, although a countdown to what we will likely never know.
Other strange conundrums have popped up on the web concerning enigmatic codes that no one seems to be able to decipher or make any kind of sense of at all. One notorious example is a mysterious thread on Reddit known only as "A858." On the thread is one lone user who continuously types out vast amounts of encoded text that relentlessly scrawls out and seems to the casual observer to be complete gibberish. It was at first assumed that this was all the doing of a bot just mindlessly churning out reams of gobbledygook, but it soon became apparent that someone was behind it when some Reddit users were replied to seemingly by the one creating the code, or at least someone analyzing it. In one instance, a user stated that A858 was like “the Stonehenge of Reddit,” after which an image of the actual Stonehenge was soon uploaded in the form of encoded data. In another instance someone was commenting on how ridiculous the thread was and the image of a troll appeared in the same way. A858 has been theorized to be everything from a government spy message to a secret encryption of a terrorist group, to weirder ideas like ghosts and of course aliens. To this day no one knows what the relentless thread of codes means or who is behind it. Oddly, the entire thread is said to be deleted and moved to another location whenever too many people look at it.
Speaking of gibberish, another bizarre website is this one, which has a title page covered with nonsensical numbers, symbols and phrases. Clicking on the arrows will take you to slideshow galleries of incredibly bizarre and unsettling pictures and paintings, as well as spooky cryptic words and phrases that seem to make no sense at all, or seemingly endless reams of random letters. What is the deal with this site? Is it some sort of code or just the rantings of a madman? It’s hard to say, but when I looked at it I can tell you I began to have a headache almost immediately. Does that have any significance? It is a creepy site to be sure.
A very well-known site that experienced a wave of strange images and words was none other than YouTube, which is of course already known for a vast number of strange videos, but some are far more bizarre than others. In 2014, a YouTube account called Webdriver Torso began posting videos showing merely red and blue rectangular shapes accompanied by strange, buzzing electronic sounds on a variety of frequencies. Webdriver Torso would upload over 74,000 such videos over a 9-month period, and on a few occasions the monotony of the shapes and sounds were broken up by random video clips that were jarringly out of place next to all of the bizarreness, such as one showing a red rectangle morphing into the silhouette of Rick Astley dancing, one simply showing the Eiffel Tower being lit up along with the message ““Matei is highly intelligent,” and another that shows an episode of the cartoon show Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Speculation as to what it all meant ran rampant. Some said it was some sort of encoded information for spies, while others said that it was ghosts or an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) experiment, communication from aliens, or even some form of mind control device, but no one had any idea.
Just as the speculation and debate over Webdriver Torso was reaching full throttle and further launching itself into the stratosphere of great Internet mysteries, Google came forward to admit that they were behind the whole thing. According to them, the videos had been designed as a test of the image and sound quality of their YouTube software. Yet although this was the official explanation, there are many who don’t buy this, claiming it to be a mere cover-up of what is really going on, whatever that may be.
There was another case of seemingly nonsensical codes of some kind on the Internet back in the early 1990s, before the World Wide Web as we know it was even around, making it one of the older web mysteries, when the technology was still in its infancy. At the time, a proto-Web chat community called Usenet was very popular, and in 1996 this community was shaken and unsettled by an odd event no one could quite comprehend. From out of nowhere, for no apparent reason at all, the entire community and its various discussion groups began to be deluged with hundreds of meaningless strange messages featuring what looked like random words flung together into strings of gibberish. Despite the fact that many of the people using Usenet were talented computer operators and programmers, no one could figure out where the enigmatic messages were coming from or indeed even how they were being distributed. The only thing anyone knew was that they were being sent by someone with the username “Markovian Parallax Denigrate.” To this day the strange messages remain an unsolved mystery.
One prevalent type of sinister website is those that are supposedly haunted in some form, or linked in some way to the supernatural. One well-known story of a ghost on the Internet is that of a 4chan user named Katy Robinson. In 2008, Katy allegedly posted a photo of herself onto the site’s imageboard and was subsequently mercilessly berated and bullied for being overweight. The next day, another 4chan user claiming to be Katy’s sister came on to say that the girl had been so morose over the insults that she had killed herself. So far, so creepy, but it gets much weirder.
Not long after this alleged death, posts began popping up online of a bizarre individual called “Jeff the Killer,” who appeared as an incredibly pale-faced person with distorted features, a gaping insane smile, and blank, shark-like eyes. The extremely disturbing images became an Internet sensation, a pervasive meme, and Jeff the Killer quickly worked his way into web lore. When some Internet users began trying to figure out just where the strange, obviously digitally altered photos of Jeff the Killer had come from, some noticed that in the earlier photos the demonic looking individual bore a strange similarity in appearance to the dead Katy Robinson, including the hairstyle and a distinctive mole on her face.
This theory that the photos of Jeff the Killer were altered, photoshopped images of Katy Robinson further propelled the creepy tale into legend. One theory is that the original photo of Jeff the Killer was an altered picture of Katy taken by a person who had murdered her, or that the picture had been taken by one of her tormentors and changed as a practical joke, after which it had been further heavily photoshopped and doctored by other Internet users to become ever more frightening. Some have said that in later incarnations of the Jeff the Killer photos, the eyes have been replaced with those of a corpse and the jaw that of a dead dog. A more far-out theory is that Jeff the Killer is the restless ghost of Katy herself, haunting the Internet. It is unknown just what the true origins of Jeff the Killer are, or indeed if there really ever was a Katy Robinson who killed herself over cyber bullying, so it all remains speculation and spooky lore, but it is damn creepy all the same.
Other sites are created specifically for trying to communicate with the dead. One such site is ScientificPsychic.com, which claims to provide a portal through which to make contact with the spirit world, essentially allegedly allowing spirits to come into and inhabit your computer to talk through a Ouija Board-like interface. Strangely, when asked “Who are you?” there is a response of “I am the psychic spirit of a dead TRS-80 computer.” A similar site is called The WebOuija, and pretty much does exactly what its name suggests. Created in 1996 by programmer Mike Hill, the WebOuija is claimed to actually be able to communicate with spirits in the same way as a normal Ouija Board. To use it, a user types in their question at the top, after which the programs’s cursor will shake. The user must then put their own cursor over it and follow it to each letter of the response, which can be very weird indeed. For instance, supposedly if you ask the board if it’s programmer is still alive, it will not hesitate to say “No.”
If ghosts are too tame for you, there is also at least one site that purportedly goes into quite some depth on all things related to Satan and demons. Called Joy of Satan, the website is ostensibly a way for Satanists to debunk and dispel some of the common misconceptions, myths , and stigmas associated with their faith, but hidden amongst this are all sorts of strangeness. The site allegedly contains within it rites and rituals for summoning demons, and even the Devil himself, as well as online sermons devoted to this goal. There are also various dark magic spells, tips for connecting with Satan, and oddly a tutorial for how to chant the Torah in reverse. Many users have reported direct contact with demons using the site, and the Joy of Satan has made the bold claim of working alongside the Devil. Apparently the site has drawn quite a lot of morbid curiosity and is quite popular.
Some mysteries of the Internet have more of an air of urban legend than others, but this doesn’t make them any less spooky. One tale that has made the rounds is that of a woman named Annora Petrova, who was a figure skater and had big dreams of someday becoming a world champion. The story goes that one day she decided to look herself up Google on a whim and to her surprise found that there was a Wikipedia page dedicated to her. Oddly, in addition to the usual Wikipedia background information the page gave her information on things in her life that had not even happened yet, such as figure skating competitions she would win or lose. It was like a crystal ball, and she began to make a habit of checking the page before every competition to see whether she would win or lose
Out of curiosity, Annora tried to go onto the page to edit it and the page began to spit vile hatred and venomous vitriol at her. Among some of the menacing rants that suddenly materialized on the page were predictions that she would become a “pathetic little orphan,” and that her parents would die in a horrible car crash, as well as “Annora Petrova is a selfish little bitch who is going to get what she deserves.” Despite breaking down in tears every time she looked at it, Annora still felt compelled to look at the page every day, and she finally called Wikipedia to complain but the company claimed to have no knowledge of the page she was talking about. The panicked young woman then tried to call her parents to tell them about it but she claimed that every time she did so she could only hear an ominous, sinister laughter on the other end of the line.
Annora then is said to have headed to Switzerland in pursuit of her dreams and her skating career supposedly really took off. One day after auditioning for a show called "The Ice Circus” she checked the mysterious Wikipedia page again to see if it said whether she would pass it or not, and it instead stated that the next day “Annora Petrova died friendless and alone.” The distraught skater apparently e-mailed the whole ominous story to her friend, and it ends with a chilling statement as she sits in her room waiting for the predicted death to come for her:
God, it's been forever, I keep refreshing but it still hasn't changed, I'm waiting for midnight, I don't know what to do, so I locked myself in my room. There's only a few minutes to midnight now. All I can do is refresh the page. I'm exhausted, but I can't stop. I'm afraid.
This has the distinct feel of merely a creepy Internet legend, but it is still unsettling nevertheless. Another story that has been passed around concerns the site Webkinz, which is a site devoted to children and involves buying and collecting stuffed animals that become virtual pets and can be used for a variety of interactive learning games and activities. It sounds like it all couldn’t be any more harmlessly innocuous and innocent, but according to Internet lore there are sinister forces at work within the game.
Users of the site began to increasingly report that their beloved, cute and fluffy virtual pet had been killed or murdered in a variety of different ways, sometimes right in front of their eyes, and which became known collectively as “The Webkinz Killer.” The method of death seemed to be varied but was always shocking and gruesome. In some stories the pet was killed by another neopet which would appear out of nowhere to viciously stab or even decapitate the animal with a knife, or on other occasions mercilessly bludgeon it to death with a hammer or even blast it with a shotgun or brutally hack it apart with a chainsaw. In other accounts the screen will suddenly go dark and a maniacal penguin with red eyes will pop out as screams and groans go on in the background, ending when the screen lights up again to show the slain Webkinz. Another version says that sometimes one’s Webkinz will die horribly after being given a special pill at the vet, while in yet another there is a ravenous bear on the loose that will savagely attack and devour the animal. Other methods of death abound, and although this is a children’s game and the company denies any of this, saying that it is simply not true, the macabre reports and complaints still come pouring in. Is there anything strange going on here or is this just myth and hoax? Who knows?
There can be no doubt that the Internet has become a major force in changing our world, our lives, and indeed civilization itself. Yet it also has many of the hallmarks of uncharted, unexplored territory. Very much as the furthest, most remote parts of our world hold strange mysteries we may never understand, and weird, often creepy phenomena abound in the shadows, so too does the vast expanse of cyberspace. It is a wilderness into which many of us venture every day, often unaware of the bizarre enigmas lurking within it that could emerge from the woods to baffle, startle, or even terrify us at any time.