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The Backrooms are a culturally significant creation on the horror side of the internet
Karma Patey
Girl wandering the Backrooms

Creating something new and unique is a popular drive for a lot of people on the internet. In the modern media world, though, very few horror creations rival the popularity of the Backrooms.

What started as a simple image posted to the site 4chan in 2019, the Backrooms are a well-known set of liminal space areas that are most commonly depicted as winding, desolate rooms and hallways. It’s a seemingly empty place, with a sort of familiarity yet unknown that makes it unsettling. Liminal spaces are an internet aesthetic that capture empty or abandoned places, often with the association of creepiness. These spaces may come off this way because of their “uncanny valley-ness”, otherwise known as an unsettling emotional response to, in this case, certain structures or places.

The Backrooms are what brought the aesthetic to life. Ever since its creation, liminal spaces have become more popular.

In just a few short years, the Backrooms have become an internet urban legend and a creepypasta. Part of the reason it may have become so popular was because it fed directly into the fear of eternity or infinity, also known as apeirophobia. The main idea behind the fictional liminal space is that the area is never-ending, and there’s a sense that, despite the rooms being empty, there’s something else existing in the winding passages. Dimly-lit rooms and hallways span on for forever, with no end in sight.

The impact that the Backrooms have left on the internet as well as the game and film world is undeniable

The Backrooms were originally posted by an anonymous user on 4chan on May 12th of 2019, which read, “If you’re not careful and you noclip out of reality in the wrong areas, you’ll end up in the Backrooms, where it’s nothing but the stink of old moist carpet, the madness of mono-yellow, the endless background noise of fluorescent lights at maximum hum-buzz, and approximately six hundred million square miles of randomly segmented empty rooms to be trapped in… God save you if you hear something wandering around nearby, because it sure as hell has heard you”.

Just like the caption details, the existence of the Backrooms is a massive liminal space of never-ending monotony and a dull yellow hue, of which contains creatures and monsters that will attack anyone they come across. The most commonly depicted monster in this fictional setting is a wire-thin, metal frame, almost like an animatronic-type endoskeleton, that somewhat represents a human. However, there are more entities that exist in this place alongside the animatronic.

Since dying in the Backrooms might be a way to escape, death gets the person sent back to “Level 0”. It becomes an endless loop of trying to escape, or rather, die. Anyone who falls victim to the Backrooms may become insane, because there is really no exit. Wandering endlessly may drive anyone insane.

The only way to reach the Backrooms is to, quite literally, clip out of reality. And the original post claims that clipping in the wrong areas will send you there. “No-clipping” is a term in video game culture, which essentially means slipping through a gap in our reality.

As the years have passed and more developments have been made in the lore of this place, it has become so much more than what it started out as. There are several games, edited clips, and shorts that capture the horror of being inside of the Backrooms. Additionally, there have been several “levels” created beyond that of the original place of the yellow halls and rooms. Each level has been given a safety rating on the official wiki site, as if to act as a guide for anyone who may have found themselves trapped in this reality. Anything someone can think of for an empty, eerie place, has probably been added into the story of the Backrooms. There are levels with expansions of pools, endless labyrinths in different types of places, et cetera.

One of the most popular pieces ever made for the Backrooms was a short video posted onto YouTube in 2022. User Kane Pixels was the one to create the video, titled “The Backrooms (Found Footage)”. This is often credited for being what helped kickstart the rise in popularity of the Backrooms again, 3 years after the original post was released. The video is just over 9 minutes long and has 58 million views as of May 13th, 2024. In it, the audience follows a young man as he falls and clips out of reality, and into the first “level” of the Backrooms. He then travels through it to find an exit, all while getting chased by a creature. Eventually, he clips out of the Backrooms and back into the real world, only to fall from a height that would render him dead upon impact with the ground.

Kane Pixels’ adaptation of the Backrooms has gotten him into creating a movie out of his series, in collaboration with the studio A24.

Some of the games made inspired by the Backrooms include Pools by developer Tensori, Enter the Backrooms by developer Justin Kroh, and Escape the Backrooms by developer Fancy Games. It’s safe to say that the internet phenomenon became incredibly popular among the masses. Some games, such as Pools, have no monsters, and rely solely on setting and sound design to create a truly horrifying and creepy experience in a giant maze of liminal spaces. Others, like Escape the Backrooms, do include monsters that attack the player upon contact.

Memes and various other types of images have also sprouted on the internet, all relating to the Backrooms. Several posts from reddit show images of places like the familiar main level, often accompanied with a caption that explains how it feels like deja vu. 

The impact that the Backrooms have left on the internet as well as the game and film world is undeniable. It’s an entirely fictional setting, but some people have a very real fear of it. While the fear may not be entirely rational, as with anything in horror-related media, that won’t stop people from being afraid of accidentally winding up here. Its expansion in popularity has brought in a large crowd, and even if someone isn’t really into it, it’s likely that they’ve heard about it, especially if they use the internet a lot.

Maybe one day, we’ll find out it’s real. Or maybe it’ll stay hidden away from reality, because once you’re lost there, you will never escape.

About the Contributors
Finley Wiseman
Finley Wiseman, Reporter
The only thing keeping me going this year is my paycheck.
Karma Patey
Karma Patey, Illustrator
the dude who draws the things who isn't the other one