Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Creating the Rake

It's seldom that we can pinpoint the exact moment of origin of an urban legend.  Much more commonly, they start out from a campfire tale that spreads and changes, as if the people passing it along were participating in a giant, freewheeling game of Telephone, until somehow just about everyone knows some version of it and no one really has any idea where it started.

"The Rake" is one of the exceptions.  Like Slender Man, Ben Drowned, and the Black-eyed Children, the Rake began as creepypasta -- scary, allegedly true, first-person accounts that were created and shared online.  The Rake first appeared in 2013, with the following post at 4Chan:
Here’s what we’ve got so far: Humanoid, about six feet tall when standing, but usually crouches and walks on all fours.  It has very pale skin.  The face is blank.  As in, no nose, no mouth.  However, it has three solid green eyes, one in the middle of its forehead, and the other two on either side of its head, towards the back.  Usually seen in front yards in suburban areas.  Usually just watches the observer, but will stand up and attack if approached.  When it attacks, a mouth opens up, as if a hinged skull that opens at the chin.  Reveals many tiny, but dull teeth.
So yeah.  As an Official Paranormal Researcher (at least according to the stoned guy I met in the haunted underpass a few days ago), I can confidently say that if I saw anything like this, I would respond by looking the monster straight in the eyes (all three of them), and then proceed to piss my pants and have a stroke.  Because I may be a Paranormal Researcher, but I am also a great big coward.

Be that as it may, the Rake spread around the internet at a high rate of speed, once again showing the accuracy of Charles Haddon Spurgeon's quip that "a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still lacing up its boots."  To be fair, a lot of people sharing stories of the Rake knew they were fiction and never claimed otherwise; but pretty soon, it started to slip over into that foggy boundary region where the story ends with "... and my cousin's best friend's aunt swears she actually saw it happen."

One of the most common photographs associated with the Rake, although this thing seems to have the standard number of eyes and other facial features.  For what it's worth, I remember seeing this photo maybe twenty years ago -- where it was claimed to have been a monster someone caught on a hunting trailcam in my home state of Louisiana.

From a post that everyone knew was fiction, to an urban legend at least some folks were trying to claim was real, the Rake has now arrived at full-blown cryptid status, where there are YouTube clips wherein it supposedly was captured on video:

Okay, I have to admit a couple of those clips are pretty freaky, and make me glad that (1) it's daytime, and (2) my dog Guinness is right here by my side.  Although it bears mention that Guinness is a bigger scaredy-cat than I am, so I'm not sure how much help he'd be if the Rake actually showed up in my front yard, especially given that our yard is not so much "suburban" as "in the middle of abso-fucking-lutely nowhere."

But I digress.

Where it gets even funnier is that people who talk about how the Rake is real, when confronted with the very certain date of its creation, say, basically, "yeah, we know, but it's still real."  They say that the Rake is a tulpa -- a fictional creature that became real because so many people were putting their creativity and mental energy into imagining it.  Aficionados of The X Files may remember the simultaneously hilarious and terrifying episode "Arcadia," where Mulder and Scully find themselves battling a tulpa created to keep people in an upscale gated community from breaking their homeowners' agreement about things like putting up cutesy garden statues and whimsical house adornments.  Even more grim than that is the claim that Lovecraft's evil pantheon are tulpas -- that so many people are obsessed with Cthulhu and Yog Sothoth and Tsathoggua and the rest of the gang that the Elder Gods are now out there, ready to kill you in various eldritch ways, especially if you live in an accursèd house in Providence with a gambrel roof.

Sorry to bear the bad news if you just moved into one of those.  I don't make the rules.

In any case, I don't think we have much to worry about, with regards to the Rake.  It pretty clearly didn't exist even in fiction prior to 2013, despite any back-dated video footage to the contrary.  The worst I'm expecting to see if I look out into my yard are chipmunks, rabbits, and the occasional fox.  That I'll bring Guinness along if I go out at night is purely for the purpose of giving him some companionship. 

Really it is.


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