So, this particular story was referenced in Alexander’s book. What he said really intrigued me, and this was an excuse to check it out for myself. Dionaea House tells the story of primarily Mark and Eric, two long-time friends, though more characters perspectives’ appear and are explored throughout the story.
The beginning sets up that Mark is dead or missing through a post from Eric stating that he’s leaving up all of the correspondence he’s received from Mark in the past month to help with his investigation. Immediately the reader is invited into the story as an online investigator attempting to find Mark. Here’s a screenshot of the first post if you’d like to read it.
The audience for The Dionaea House would definitely be the internet savvy, as well as any mystery-horror lovers. While the actual site the story was based out of wasn’t super complicated, from the commentary I’ve heard on it, it took a bit of skill to navigate between the websites the story bounced to. The story is told in the style of the epistolary novel, meaning that it’s told through documents written by characters in the story. (Examples of this style in literature are horror novels Dracula and Carmilla!) The style slowly creates a sense of creeping dread that mystery or horror lovers will likely enjoy.
As a Digital Story, The Dionaea House makes use of Alexander’s themes–except for maybe Multiple Proscenia. The entire story takes place mostly over text, and while it bounces between websites, the websites are pretty much all blog or archive sites, or sites meant to simulate them. The leads me to my next point–the social framework! I think people used to be able to leave comments on the main site’s blog posts, though because I can only read the story through archives and the Wayback Machine, I’ll likely never know what readers were commenting. When a part of the story diverted to a live journal website it became even more encouraged to be shared through live journal’s share feature. Additionally, the format of the simulated blogs (seen the in first post) mimics social media in a way that presents the story as something actually spawned from something like WordPress. Also, when it was coming out The Dionaea House was shared around a lot online and basically went viral before people were popularly using that term. (Maybe they were–I was not, because I was 5). And now, one of the only places you can read The Dionaea House is on social media (https://creepypasta.fandom.com/wiki/The_Dionaea_House).
I believe that as a Digitally Networked Narrative, The Dionaea House most benefits from its use of Personal Presence. As I mentioned earlier, the reader is invited to imagine themselves as an amateur investigation reading something they’ve discovered on the web. In an article on the story, Lewis H. C. wrote, “What makes the story scary isn’t that you necessarily believe it’s real (though I have a lot of fun reading through terrified comments on the blog posts), but that you know that in a place as wild as the internet, it could be.” The story is very obviously fake, but the plausibility created by the hook and the blog setup allows the reader to not only imagine themselves not only as part of a fake story, but also to imagine, “What if this really was real?” I think that’s a super compelling part of this Digital Story, and something I’ll want to incorporate into my final project.
If you want to read The Dionaea House, the actual site is no longer operating but the story can still be found through the Wayback Machine the creepasta fandom archives:
The last update that I can find came in 2014 from the creator of the story, who I’m pretty sure is himself now a character as well. Here’s the link to that if you want to check it out:
One reply on “Critical Review: The Dionaea House”
Solid work again. Count it. When you discuss the use of personal presence as a hook to encourage the visitor to work like an “amateur investigator” reminds me a lot of /Her Story/, another encyclopedic pile of interesting items that encourages you to dive deeply into it for the possible reward of a great story.