Backrooms: The Horror Of Glitching Out Of Reality

Fans of internet horror stories, creepypastas, and eerie video games will have heard of The Backrooms.

On May 12th 2019, an anoymous 4chan user asked users to post “disquieting images that just feel ‘off'” and one reply sparked an urban legend unlike anything you have ever seen. Years later ‘The Backrooms’ has only grown in popularity in the creepypasta community, resulting in multiple short stories, video games, images, and horror films.

What Is The Backrooms?

How Backrooms Succeeds Where Slenderman Failed – Ryan Hollinger.

The Backrooms is an endless maze-like void, an infinite network of yellow, poorly lit rooms with no windows, doors or furnishings, and is seemingly empty except for the occasional buzzing of a faulty light-bulb, and the trap of the hum of electrical appliances. Those who enter this void do so by accident. They might be walking down the street, in their homes, or at work, and simply fall through a wall or floor and into the Backrooms.

Shortly after the creepy image was uploaded to that 4chan post, a user captioned it with the following infamous quote:

If you’re not careful and you noclip out of reality in the wrong areas, you’ll end up in the Backrooms, 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.

There are a lot of reasons why The Backrooms are scary. It’s an example of a liminal space, an eerie, slightly surreal environment where things appear normal but feel off. What’s worse is that you can simply fall into it for no reason. No matter what you do or how good of a person you are – it doesn’t matter. Once there, you have no guarantee of escape. The fear factor of The Backrooms lies in the idea of being stranded, lost, and unable to return to the safe haven of our reality.

What I what to focus on is verzephobia – the fear of glitches.

What Is No-Clipping?

The Backrooms began with the very simple, yet very chilling idea of ‘no-clipping out of reality.’

The term has hazy origins. Clipping is a concept in computer graphic design. When designing or rendering a digital 3D model, sometimes you want something to be visible and something else to be hidden. For example, let’s say you’re rendering a room with an armchair on top of a rug. You want the armchair to partially hide the rug because that’s realistic. Clipping is how that’s done, or as the professionals will say it ‘enable or disable rendering operations.’

In video games, what has become known as clipping actually refers to collision detection. Essentially, this is where a programmer has instructed a computer that when object A touches object B, they need to react to each other. The most common example is that when a video game player moves their character into a wall, the character stops because they have ‘collided’ with the wall. This digitaly rendered image of a wall is programmed to react as if it is a solid object. To no-clip is to disable this feature, thereby causing objects to phase through each other.

No-clipping is a glitch. A character moves through objects that should be solid. A wall. The floor. Another person.

No-clip out of reality and you end up in the Backrooms.

Verzephobia And The Uncanny Valley

When I was a child, I used to have nightmares about my family computer. I dreamt that the screen turned red, that it distorted and displayed a twisted a array of nonsensical shapes, all the while there was angry buzzing and noises that weren’t natural.

Verzephobia is the fear of graphical errors, distortion, and glitches. Currently, there isn’t a lot of information about it, however it may be related to the uncanny valley. The uncanny valley is a term used to describe the uncomfortable feeling people experience when they encounter something that is almost human-like, but not quite. It describes that feeling you might get when looking at a doll or a robot, an immitation of a human. This is a common effect with the more creepy glitches found in video games, from incomplete character models or characters that are plain bizarre, like the half-human, half-creature ‘manimals’ from Red Dead Redemption. 

Another glitch in video games that gives off the uncanny valley vibe is ‘out of bounds’ areas. Like in sports, this refers to the environment outside of the established boundary where normal play is allowed. To get there, like the Backrooms, a player is required to ‘no-clip.’ It is where the player is not supposed to go.

Source: Breaking Out Of Bounds In Sekiro Makes It Even More Beautiful by Heather Alexandra

That being said, going ‘out of bounds’ has become a hobby to some gamers, hackers, and development enthusiasts. It provides an opportunity to explore unused graphics, mechanics, and little easter eggs hidden by the game developers. Because the environments aren’t meant to be explored by the player, they are often incomplete. Often it feels like looking at an optical illusion. It features flat textures and static objects, arranged in a way that defies physics. Tunnels interlock in ways that physically aren’t possible. Buildings float in the sky. Static animals are scattered throughout a textureless environment. Or these spaces are completely empty, a liminal space like the Backrooms. It’s a space that is impossible to fully comprehend, and that makes it all the more frightening.

It isn’t always frightening. There is a kind of ethereal beauty in seeing what lies out of bounds. Equally, it can provoke an eerie, existential dread. This emotional conflict was used to great effect in the game The Beginner’s Guide.

The Backrooms makes use of the same strange feeling, which is the reason I believe it has captured the imagination of horror fans worldwide. The core idea is that at any moment we can leave our comfortable, logical world and end up in the out of bounds. There are no rules. No limitations. No telling what will happen to you.

Reality has glitched and now you’ve seen what you’re not supposed to.

And it’s seen you too.

If you’re interested in more internet horror stories, check out the Top 10 Creepypastas, According To


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