Dig deep enough and those who grew up in the early 2000s can recall vivid memories of playground stories surrounding disturbing figures — ideas that stuck in our minds long after recess, occupying our thoughts under the covers and in our dreams.
Creepypastas, horror stories told and spread around the internet, have been a staple of online culture since 2008. Tales of death and disfiguration naturally shocked readers, namely those without knowledge of where they came from.
As online urban legends like Jeff the Killer and The Rake picked up steam, some spawned spinoffs. The most notorious example is Slender Man, a predatory and blank-faced figure (dressed in surprisingly dapper apparel), who inspired horror games like Slender: The Eight Pages that were played and popularized by web personalities.
A few years later, after a dip in cultural presence following news of two 12-year-old girls inspired by Slender Man’s mythos to stab a classmate, the bogeyman had his own movie — a bad one. Its poor reception (with a current 6% critic score and 17% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes) was the final sign that Slender Man had faded from the forefront of internet culture.
He was succeeded by urban legends like those from the fictional paranormal database SCP Foundation, which preserved interest in the internet’s ability to spread horror stories. Creepypastas kept creeping, and contributors continued to create their own pools of paranoia. But none of them seemed to rival the once-dominant cultural influence of Slender Man.
Enter Siren Head.
Created by horror artist Trevor Henderson, the 40-foot-tall spook sports two sirens in place of its head, delivering piercing sounds ranging from emergency broadcasts to imitations of unsuspecting victims. The gaunt creature design is fantastic — simultaneously unnerving and captivating.
People who matured as the internet did are experiencing some déjà vu. Henderson’s creation is following a similar pattern to that of old Slendy, already having inspired a few games. Most attention has been directed toward a PlayStation 1-style game from Modus Interactive that’s as striking and chilling in its aesthetic as Siren Head itself. The game sat mostly unnoticed after it came out in 2018, until a mod added the creature into Fallout 4 and set the web’s spotlight on anything related to it earlier this year.
Siren Head has invaded every platform, from the mainstream media to TikTok, in the form of art and video edits. It’s great publicity for Henderson, who now sits at over 200,000 followers on Twitter. As let’s plays and fan renditions continue to churn out, it’s clear not much has changed in the years since Slender.
With the warm reception of such a horrific hellspawn, it’s worth asking: what does that mean for Siren Head?
Part of early internet horror fiction’s appeal was the ambiguity surrounding its origin. Stories were traded between circles, with notoriety being earned as they strayed away from the source. All it took was a click or two to find a fountain of forums on the desired subject, but even that process has been reduced to a quick swipe into a clip’s comment section. Slender Man suffered from his prevalence. With Siren Head’s steep climb, the creature may be at risk to succumb to the same fate.
Still, while Siren Head doesn’t have the obscurity that was so pivotal in igniting interest in early internet horror subjects, its popularity is a symbol for what online culture can achieve and the web’s uniqueness as a medium. With the groundwork laid by a sprawling community of anyone interested in contributing, its reception is proof that the engaging experiences offered by the internet’s horror veterans are not things of the past.
It might not end up with its own cinematic disaster, but Siren Head has likely already crept into today’s playground conversations.