This year, as soon as the seasons started to hint toward Halloween, my friends and I started injecting raw spooky content straight into the gaps between our toes via hypodermic needles. We revisited all the old favorites: Search and Rescue, Anansi’s Goatman, Candle Cove. We were reminiscing on Ted the Caver, a classic, and experiencing the Penpal saga on r/NoSleep for the very first time.
“I wonder if NoSleep is any good?” we asked ourselves. The answer may surprise you!
…Or not. The definition of a “quality” story on a subreddit whose description reads “Everything is true here, even if it’s not,” is about as subjective as you’d think. And to me, the weirdest thing that I just can’t get over about NoSleep is the user roleplay in the comments section. A story called “My Girlfriend’s Eyes Changed Color” might have a top comment that just reads something like “Dude. That’s not your girlfriend. You gotta get out of there.”
Like… yeah. That’s the idea. It’s the subreddit equivalent of sitting next to somebody in a movie theater who keeps repeating stuff the characters just said.
The other fun trend for garden-variety NoSleep stories is how predictable they are, and how predictably they follow trends. One successful story is posted in an AMA-style format, and suddenly it’s “I’m a [PROFESSION] in [SPOOKY SITUATION], here is the worst thing that’s ever happened on the job” every other post. For August/September 2018, it was all creepy stories about Disneyland/being at Disneyland/working at Disneyland. For September/October, it was all about questionable experiments with human subjects.
The procedural nature of NoSleep stories is what led me to write my own themed Mad Libs-style NoSleep template. I’ve married the August/September/October trends in the story below. Now, anyone can write and submit a NoSleep with only slight differences in the details!
I Was Part of the [NOUN] Experiment, and now [CARTOON CHARACTER 1] from [THEME PARK 1] is Trying to [VERB] Me
This all started when my friend [NAME 1] convinced me to apply to an ad I saw on [WEBSITE] for experiment subjects so that I could afford new [NOUN]. I was [MOOD] to receive a call the next [UNIT OF TIME] asking me if I could [VERB] with them sometime next [unit of time], and of course I said yes.
When I [PAST-TENSE VERB] to the address they gave, I went inside the [ADJECTIVE] building and [PAST-TENSE VERB] at the reception desk. A man named [NAME 2] in a [COLOR] lab coat took me to a room with no [PLURAL NOUN] and had me sit in a chair aimed at a projector screen.
“The first part of this experiment will test how your [BODY PART 1] responds to visual stimulus,” said [NAME 2]. “The images we are about to show you are [ADJECTIVE] and somewhat [ADJECTIVE]. We’d like you to [VERB] the best that you can, and please remember that you can stop any time if the experience gets too [ADJECTIVE] for you.” He left the room, and I had a feeling I was being [past tense VERB] by them behind the one-way mirror.
The first set was pretty simple—some photos of [VACATION DESTINATION] and [NATIONAL MONUMENT], and even some other recognizable things like [FAMOUS ARTWORK] and some nice pictures of [NATURAL PHENOMENON]. They made me feel [MOOD], which was better than how anxious I was when [NAME 2] left me in the room alone.
The second set was a little stranger. There were photos from [FAMOUS CONFLICT] and artist’s renditions of [METHOD OF TORTURE], as well as [TYPE OF NATURAL DISASTER] and photos of [TYPE OF ANIMAL] living on the Pacific Garbage patch. I was a little [mood] by then, but it wasn’t anything too strange, and definitely nothing I couldn’t handle.
Over the speaker, [NAME 2] told me I we were moving on to the third set. It was all sets of family photos taken at [THEME PARK 1], which wasn’t too weird because I live in the same city. But the photos started flashing faster and faster. I couldn’t help but wonder—what was I supposed to be [GERUND] for? And then, suddenly, there it was—my family photo at [THEME PARK 1] from when I was just [NUMBER] years old. Me, my [FAMILY MEMBER], my [FAMILY MEMBER], and my two [PLURAL FAMILY MEMBERs]. I sat up straight in my chair and said, “[INTERJECTION]!”
When the slides stopped, [NAME 2] asked me over the speaker if I wanted to keep going. I wanted to get my [NOUN], so I said yes. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t.
It was more photos of [THEME PARK 1], but this time inside the park like someone was [GERUND] around from the front gates and taking a picture every [NUMBER] [UNIT OF MEASUREMENT]. Hair stood up on my [BODY PART 2] and I couldn’t figure out why—until I realized that one of the cast members in a [CARTOON CHARACTER 1] costume was standing in every frame, never in the same place. And suddenly, I didn’t feel like I was aware that I was in the experiment anymore—I had to find every [CARTOON CHARACTER 1].
I should have stopped then. Somehow, the photos started following [CARTOON CHARACTER 1] through the park, sort of like a stop motion video, before stopping in front of a place I remembered from when I was just a kid. It was this ride called the [[ADJECTIVE]+[VERB –ing]+[NOUN]=(RIDE)]. I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. The [RIDE] had been torn down almost [NUMBER] years ago, but just seeing it made me feel [MOOD] again, even with these unsettling photos of [CARTOON CHARACTER 1] everywhere. And suddenly, [CARTOON CHARACTER 1] was standing in front of [RIDE] with my family, except there was something horribly, horribly wrong—their [BODY PART 2] were [GERUND 1] from their [BODY PART 3] and they had these creepy, too-wide smiles on their faces. I [PAST TENSE VERB] as [CARTOON CHARACTER 1] waved cheerfully at me.
I almost told [NAME 2] that I wanted to stop then. I should have. [CARTOON CHARACTER 1] turned away from the camera once more, skipping to the front of the line on [RIDE] and going through the dark doorway of the ride where I knew it would come out in a [ADJECTIVE] room filled with [NOUN] where parkgoers would be getting on the [FORM OF TRANSPORTATION] for the ride. But what happened next made my [BODILY FLUID] run [TEMPERATURE]: [CARTOON CHARACTER 1] wasn’t in the [RIDE] at all. The photo was of the reception area of this very building, with everyone I’d seen just minutes before looking just like my family had in the photo—their [BODY PARTS 1] [GERUNG 1] from their [BODY PARTS 3]. [CARTOON CHARACTER 1] put on a lab coat just like [NAME 2’s] and waved [ADVERB] at the camera. I realized [CARTOON CHARACTER 1] was on the same path that [NAME 2] had taken me to get here, to this very exam room. And now, under the noise of the slide projector, I could hear [ADJECTIVE] footsteps coming down the hallway.
“[EXPLETIVE]!” I screamed. “Stop! I want to stop the experiment!”
The doorknob jiggled. Just as I had suspected, [NAME 2] had locked the door. I thought I was safe. That’s when I heard it.
“[CHARACTER’S NAME],” [CARTOON CHARACTER 1] said, voice muffled through the door. “Come [VERB] with me!”
I backed away from the door, looking for another way out. There was a [NOUN] standing in the corner, and thinking quickly, I was able to throw it hard enough to shatter the one-way mirror. The doorknob jiggled harder. [CARTOON CHARACTER 1] slammed against the door, trying to get to me.
On the other side of the one-way mirror was [NAME 2], with his [BODY PART 1] [GERUND 1] from his [BODY PART 3]. He couldn’t have stopped the experiment if he’d wanted to–[CARTOON CHARACTER 1] had already got to him.
Horrified, I jumped through into the observation room and out into the hallway just as the door to the experiment room burst open. I didn’t look behind me—I just ran until I got to the first unlocked door I could find, which led me to a [STORAGE SPACE]. That’s when I decided I should type up this story. Help me, Reddit—what do I do?