Remembering The Holders
It's the middle of November, and this year's horror writing contest is well underway, so I thought I might do some reviews of "classic" creepypasta over the next few weeks, and what better to start with than one of the first I ever got really "into"...The Holders?
This should be interesting to do, because despite the fact that I got "into" The Holders, I can't honestly say that they've aged very well, and that's putting things very gently. Since they aren't illustrated, we're also going to have to scrounge for appropriate images as we go along, and I'm not sure I have the energy for that right now, so instead of "appropriate images" you're going to get barely thematic scooby doo screencaps. Sorry.
...So it all started back in 2007, when the following text began to circulate mYsTeRiOuSlY around the internet:
In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution or halfway house in you can get yourself to. When you reach the front desk, ask to visit someone who calls himself "The Holder of the End". Should a look of child-like fear come over the workers face, you will then be taken to a cell in the building. It will be in a deep hidden section of the building. All you will hear is the sound of someone talking to themselves echo the halls. It is in a language that you will not understand, but your very soul will feel unspeakable fear.
Should the talking stop at any time, STOP and QUICKLY say aloud "I'm just passing through, I wish to talk." If you still hear silence, flee. Leave, do not stop for anything, do not go home, don't stay at an inn, just keep moving, and sleep where your body drops. You will know in the morning if you've escaped.
If the voice in the hall comes back after you utter those words continue on. Upon reaching the cell all you will see is a windowless room with a person in the corner, speaking an unknown language, and cradling something. The person will only respond to one question. "What happens when they all come together?"
The person will then stare into your eyes and answer your question in horrifying detail. Many go mad in that very cell, some disappear soon after the meeting, and a few end their lives. But most do the worst thing, and look upon the object in the person's hands. You will want to as well. Be warned that if you do, your death will be one of cruelty and unrelenting horror.
Your death will be in that room, by that person's hands.
That object is 1 of 538. They must never come together. Never.
SPOOKY!!!!That sure is a lot of...tropes. A mental institution or a halfway house as our setting for no reason other than that those are super spookedy, I guess. Vague threats of being "driven mad" by something simply too terrible to be described to us and a possibility of a death also too terrible to put to words. Hints at some kind of apocalyptic doom, an artifact we can't look at, and the perfect series hook of over 500 more of these artifacts. Gotta catch 'em all!
...But maybe I'm being unfair, here. The mental hospital part was overdone and kind of insensitive even then, but this sort of "reality hack" story was a relatively fresh and underutilized paranormal narrative ten years ago, and its unanswered questions tantalizing enough that it was hardly a surprise this one went as viral as it did at the time, or that it would inspire hundreds of people to try and flesh out those other 547 Forbidden Objects of Doom.
I don't know if its author foresaw that possibility or was simply writing nonsense, but this felt like one of the first horror pastas tailor-made for personalization. Though the basic template was nothing more than a mysterious man in a cell, fan-written Holders would dive straight into the realm of horror-fantasy adventure, each new writer seeking to out-weird one another with sometimes preposterous twists on what these "objects" and "holders" could entail, where they could be hidden, how you might obtain them and what might befall you if you make a mistake. Some of them get so wacky and out-there, it can be difficult to determine where theholders.org even drew their line between "official" and "parody" entries.
...Unfortunately, this constant race to be the Extremest of the Extreme is how we wound up with such entries as the cringeworthy Holder of Innocence, in which the "object" you collect is literally a huge, giant, hypnotic, sentient, parasitic weiner and the "holder" you collect it from is a girl the "official" website had to age up to eighteen from the original version, which still doesn't make it much more tasteful, and if you ask most people, it was never worth serious consideration to begin with.
While this is perhaps the most egregious example, many if not most other holders suffer at some point from an obvious attempt to cheaply out-shock as much as out-weird the rest.
There's the dirty syringe you retrieve from the severed, talking head of a four year old, the one where you have to watch somebody masturbate and then acquire their burnt uterus, and who can forget the one where you murder a baby before it murders you?
Specifically, you have to throw that baby on the ground and stab it in the head with a scalpel or it will somehow tear your chest open and rip your heart out with its little, tiny, baby bare hands.
What "object" do you get out of this confrontation? A dead baby. Obviously. We're warned to never take the scalpel out, so I'm assuming if we do that, it goes through with the whole heart-ripping thing again. What if you trick someone else into pulling it out, though? What if you pull it out and then THROW the baby, like a grenade??? I guess maybe it hunts you back down, but you've still got the scalpel, you've already beat it once, and babies don't even know anything. You've got this in the bag!!!
Peppered copiously throughout this journey through edgelandia are an endless variety of Fates Worse Than Death. There are, of course, countless holders that cause some unspecified "madness" or "insanity" if you behold their True Form or hear the no-good very bad things they have to say. There are just as many holders who will digest, dissolve, burn or decompose you for all eternity, no matter how little sense it makes, and a variety of more creative but equally ridiculous Bad Ends in store.
One of the weirdest "eaten forever" Holders may be the one in which the protagonist, or "seeker," is eternally roasted and basted by a circle of happy, dancing Moai heads. In a slight change of pace, the Holder of the Worm might see you eating for eternity, if you fail to acquire Object 261; a python-sized tapeworm.
In that one with the dirty needle and the toddler head, we're told that the bad guy might "keep us alive" until we "experience all the most horrifying things ever conceived," which is a PRETTY bold promise, isn't it? What's their cut-off point for what constitutes "all the most horrifying?" It sounds like it means hundreds or thousands of horrifying things, but maybe he just has a personal top ten list to get through, you know?
There's also a holder in which you're invited to a giant orgy where "every possible sex act" is performed forever, but if you're both horny and gullible enough to agree, all that weirdo wacky infinite sex will feel ...bad! Goodness, whoever could have possibly guessed that the orgy room in your adventure through hell might maybe be some kind of trap?
Read even half a dozen random Holders, and you're going to get bored of phrases like "indescribable torture" and "pain beyond hell's darkest imaginations" pretty quickly.
Watch out...the WORST THING EVER is going to GET YOU....TIMES INFINITY!!!!!!!!
Again, I'm probably being too harsh here. Some holders are trying far too hard to be as gruesome, taboo and "disturbing" as possible, but many of those were clearly written by well-meaning kids who just wanted to have fun with a series of cornball scaretales.
And, sometimes, the forms taken by these Holders are fun enough that you'll forget all about how formulaic and hokey all of this is.
The entire writing style already tosses subtlety out a ten story window, so there's certainly no reason a Holder can't be a gigantic brain that opens up your head and gives you a literal piece of its mind. This is not to be confused with The Holder of Empathy, which is another brain, and it permanently makes your own head twice as large as normal, which is hilarious, but only you can see it.
Speaking of big heads, The Holder of Candles is a simpler, more down to Earth Holder with a delightfully ghastly description I feel would have worked well enough in a stand-alone creepypasta.
Another Holder is a giant, rotten pig in like, a really super gross and dirty swamp, and to obtain the pig's "object" you'll have to stand there listening to the pig carefully lecture you on the science of every single disease that ever existed...even on other planets. If Professor Pigglysick's microbiology lesson sounds like it would take actual years worth of standing there, that's not unusual for a Holder either; there are some that torture you for "eons" before depositing you back at the time and place you started.
Compared to some of them, it seems like a cakewalk to just kick back and listen to a spunk-dribbling piggy describe the evolutionary history of herpes in what we are assured is the squealing piggy voice you surely hoped he had as much as I did...though it's only the entry's last line about the blackness of your soul that feels unnecessarily obscene. The pig oozing semen out of its pustules? Fine. The syphilitic whore analogy? Come on. Who wrote that. The professor there sure wouldn't talk like that.
Anyway, The Holder of Hunger is another memorable nonhuman, if only because your ultimate goal is to be swallowed and pooped out by this giant, three-mouthed lake monster, covered in its fishy slime. Congrats, that slime is Object 256 and you can never wash it off.
I guess you can tell that I'm personally a little biased towards animal-like holders. Not many however are as packed with zoological horror as the holder of Compassion, which admittedly won't be all that shocking to the veterinarians among you or to anyone who's been in a shitty enough pet store. Like all of them, it pushes a little too hard throughout, but I'm still fond of that rapidly escalating absurdity and the nondescript form taken by the Holder itself.
A few Holders are even gracious enough to break out of the usual format. A minor example, but a favorite of mine, is The Holder of the First Seed, which involves starting a bizarre garden from the weird, gross things that end up growing inside your body. By the end of it, you become the new holder, rather than continuing on as a seeker, and if you're so inclined, you can bring people you hate into your evil garden where they'll barf centipedes and die.
A more interesting deviation from the usual affair is The Holder of Denial, a more story-like Holder written from the perspective of a mental hospital receptionist who gets a lot of weird questions from people barging into her workplace.
For one that simply breaks out of the usual writing tone and style, The Holder of the Boom is partially written in sing-song lyrics consisting mostly of the phrase "boom, boom, boom!" It's that kind of lighter fun that feels painfully missing from so many other holders. There's only so much misery and death you can pack into your fiction before it loses all emotional weight.
Intentionally or otherwise, I feel like one of the zaniest Holders has got to be The Holder of Trade, which sees us basically babysitting the obnoxious, diabolical child of a cosmic horror through a shopping mall populated by other cosmic horrors. You even get a flesh and bone shopping cart and a shopping list written on - what else? - human flesh, along with a purse full of coins that are going to slice your fingers apart every time you use them.
What really sells me on this one is the fact that you have to take the whiny horror-child back to its monster dad, then throw your super sharp money in his face and scream at him to complete the quest. Do you even need to be TOLD to do that after lugging someone else's loud child through the largest mall in the cosmos?
I realize I only recently babbled about how we need to stop finding any fiction "embarrassing" or "cringey" or worrying about how seriously we can take it, but hopefully you can tell that, except for the teenage dingle one, my feelings toward this hokey series are mostly an affectionate nostalgia, and it's certainly not as if I could write that much better at the time.
In fact, I believe I said at the very beginning that I got "really into" the holders during their peak, and I think we both know what that means.
Not one, but two of the holders I have mentioned on this page were written by me, and in fact some of the first written fiction I ever shared anywhere. I'll leave you to guess which ones they are, but I'll narrow it down for you with the reassurance that it isn't the giant doodleoo or any of the dead babies.