The Backrooms: Cultural Phenomenon Explained

An image of the infamous Backrooms, which is said to have an unsettling vibe.

via Wikimedia Commons

An image of the infamous Backrooms, which is said to have an unsettling vibe.

Picture this: You’re walking home from a hard day at work. It’s 11:00 PM. You take the metro home as life in the city bustles around you. Nothing is out of the ordinary. You take a step up the stairs that will lead you to your apartment… and you fall through it. After a brief moment of panic, your entire body falls into the stairs. But you don’t land on the stairs – you fall completely through them, as if it was a hologram. You land on the floor hard. When you look up, you’re in a completely different area. The walls are all made out of yellow, ugly wallpaper, and you can hear nothing except for the loud sound of flickering fluorescent lights above you. There are thousands of connected rooms, all looking the same, surrounding the area. As the internet would call it: you have just entered “The Backrooms.”

 

This is a familiar horror tale told around the web. People will allegedly fall through reality and enter this large, yellow maze, with unknown entities stalking them. It is said that this place exists in a different reality, and there are certain times where tripping through the floor like a glitchy video game will send you there. But where did the crazy tale originally start? Back in May 2019, a website messaging platform called 4chan posted an image that very closely resembled the back rooms of an office, except with no windows and unusual colors, containing a comment adding more detail to the situation. According to the post, the place is over “600 million square miles big” the carpets are wet, and the place smells musty, and if someone is unfortunate enough to find themselves in it, there is probably no way to escape. The mystery and horror of this simple story and image someone created immediately made its rounds throughout the internet: users made more stories about the place, and communities started talking about the strange, unsettling vibe the idea gave off. It entered the realm of “liminal spaces.” Liminal itself derives from the term for transition – The Backrooms seems like something that could technically exist in real life but is also nonsensical in its design, such as a school hallway completely filled with water. Something in our brain doesn’t like this Goldilocks zone between reality and fiction and perceives it as scary or weird. But the most important thing about the Backrooms as a whole is that people started to add to the mystery.

 

Specifically, the addition of multiple levels kept things spicy. Some people decided that the backrooms should not just stay one giant maze but instead have a lot of different levels to it, each that can be entered and exited through various means, and each is not similar to the ones before it. For example, it is said you can get to the next level of The Backrooms by finding a staircase in the large maze and going down it. The new level, creatively nicknamed “Level 1”, instead of being a back room area of a building, would be a gigantic warehouse with various other creatures roaming around inside of it. The world-building by adding more and more levels to this tale, like a cake, not only kept the horror story fresh, but also made you imagine that The Backrooms were a gigantic, otherworldly building that was humongous in size and could eventually be escaped if you reached the top. And as the idea grew, so did its fanbase, including a 16-year old on YouTube named Kane Pixels, who, in an amazing display of artistry and taking the ideas everyone had come up with, made an incredible and realistic horror short film about The Backrooms titled “The Backrooms (Found Footage).” It followed the journey of a person who ended up slipping through reality into The Backrooms, and watching him traverse, running into monsters and exploring the various levels it had to offer. The video blew up in popularity, currently sitting at over 20 million views worldwide.

 

This is not the first time an internet tale about mysterious creatures and lands has gotten very popular. Take SCP, for example, a story about a facility named the “SCP” (standing for Secure, Contain, Protect) that captures various different strange entities, creatures, and other things outside of normal Earthly nature. The community behind SCP blew up in 2013 in exactly the same way as The Backrooms recently did, and both have very big and imaginative fanbases today. In the end, both of these, especially The Backrooms, are very fun and scary urban legends that aren’t real, but many people still fell in love with them as concepts. It would still most likely be best to avoid any place with yellow walls and buzzing lights, though.