I’ve never understood why creepiness was regulated to Halloween. January, to my mind, is an infinitely more disturbing season. The sun all but disappears, and on my ever-darker walk home from work I am even more careful to avoid looking in the windows of the abandoned house on my block. Chilly spots manifest in my house that, without fail, remind me of one of the ways you can tell if a ghost is present.
This is why, on long winter nights, I’ll often cozy up to a warm computer monitor and discover the mysteries of the SCP Foundation wiki.
The SCP (the initials stand for “Secure, Contain, Protect”) is a series of documents chronicling the goings-on at various facilities and labs that “operate to maintain human independence from extra-terrestrial, extra-dimensional, and extra-universal threat.” Already been done, you say, thinking of Torchwood and the X-Files, but the SCP has a hard edge that both these shows lacked. Instead of the 90s campiness that almost every “weird” TV show pays homage to at some point, the SCP often wanders into the kind of existential abyss that you find in the best Lovecraft stories.
Or maybe there’s just something far, far creepier to me about reading about Larry the Loving Llama in the dry academic tones that characterize every SCP document (“Subjects with a dead partner will still act as their appropriate half until they also expire… Subjects do not show any negative attitude towards their time inside SCP-1545, instead behaving as if their actions were typical”), as if the directions on your Ibuprofen bottle had suddenly taken a worrying turn.
If you’re visiting the Foundation for the first time, a great place to start is the Object Classes section. The objects (or beings) the Foundation works to secure are divided into three distinct classes: Safe, Euclid, or Keter. “Safe” objects can be deeply strange, but not immediately dangerous to human life (though, often, they can result in death through ignorant misuse.) Objects are classified as Euclid “when its behavior cannot be unerringly predicted, either because the item is sentient, it behaves outside of current scientific knowledge, or its nature is simply poorly understood at present” (Stairs that only lead to a face and train tickets that cause the holder to vanish from spacetime are both good examples.)
“Keter” objects are by far the worst, exhibiting “vigorous, active hostility to human life, civilization, and/or spacetime.” My favorite Keter object (if you can say to have a favorite among objects that are determined to destroy all human life) is SCP-682, a sentient being that can adapt in moments to any kind of environment and heal from any kind of trauma. When the staff isn’t keeping it contained in a vat of acid, they are continually pitting it against other beasts in the Foundation’s menagerie in an effort to find something that can kill it.
Though the objects that the SCP Foundation wiki covers are all vary greatly, there are still constants in their world. Critical sections of SCP documents will always be blacked out, or [EXPUNGED], often leaving more horrifying gaps in the reader’s imagination. Objects are almost always referred to as “it,” even if they’re sentient, humanoid, or human, and are always given a randomly assigned number (which can also make it difficult to find things again in the archive). There will always be SCP task forces with oddly stupid nicknames (my favorite being “Moloch ‘n Load.”) And the Keter objects will always, always, escape their confinement at least once to either messily devour or demonically possess the bodies of the staff (an “event.”)
This last point has resulted in the D-class, the redshirt test-subjects recruited from prisons who are used to test multiverse strip clubs, taste infinite combinations of candy, and serve as blood sacrifices for the more unruly objects. In any case, they are all killed every month and replaced by new prisoners, for security reasons.
Perhaps it is this last point that makes the SCP Foundation wiki such a deeply disturbing read for me: though the documents are authored by many different people, the SCP always seems to work for its own self-interest. Independently funded, by entities whose agendas are never fully understood, the SCP Foundation staff often doesn’t even try to pretend that they want to save the world for any other reason than the fact that they also live there. (Individuals will always be secondary to the post-human creations that result from combining a supercomputer and a human female in SCP-914.)
Other times, the threat faced is so specific in its brutality that ethics become laughable. Some Keter objects can only be lured back into containment with the promise of “a human within the 10-25 years of age bracket… injured, preferably via the breakage of a long bone, such as the femur, or the severing of a major tendon, such as the Achilles Tendon.” Procedure 110-Montauk will always be as horrible as you imagine, and will always go on because the only other option is a “XK class end-of-the-world scenario“ and “she has to be aware of what is going on for 110-Montauk to work.” When I finally emerge from my basement room, blinking in the light of forced cheerfulness and togetherness, I can at least be in the proper frame of mind to be thankful for the unforgivably violent sacrifices upon which the future of all human life depends.
Credit for weird skeleton pic