The Internet can be a scary place. And not just from all the witches, ghouls, and goblins (not to mention hackers, stalkers, and phishers) that creep up this time of year. In fact, it's the sites that don't deliberately set out to scare that make you want to crawl into bed and hide under the covers.
This Halloween season we searched high and low for sites with the fright stuff. Our top 15 ranges from the insanely insipid to the terrifyingly untalented. In some cases the horror is limited to one venue; in others, the choices were so rich (and repellant) we couldn't narrow the selection to a single site.
Presented for your approval: scarier than an IRS audit, more disturbing than nude photos of Janet Reno, the 15 freakiest spots on the Net.
15. The Thrill(er) is Gone
A woman sits alone at night in a dark house. Suddenly the candles go out. The phone rings...mysteriously. Who could it be? A serial killer? A collection agent? Her mother, saying she's coming to spend the weekend? The bedroom door creaks open and--EEEK! It's a Microsoft VB Script error! Run for your lives!
Here, then, lies Urbanchillers.com, an occasionally buggy video site that calls itself "The Home of Fear," where you'll find one-to-three minute thrillers starring malicious milkmen, knife-wielding neighbors, and murderous bric-a-brac, made by amateur auteurs who have clearly spent too much time watching The Blair Witch Project. (Don't look now, but...the killer is inside the house!) In most cases the writing, acting, and directing are far scarier than the plots. Is that shadowy figure lurking behind our hero a demon who will devour his soul, or just bad lighting reflecting off the camera lens? We'll never know, because it's over in minute (or three). And that's probably a good thing.
14. Calling Captain Hook
It's a simple rule to live by: Grown men should not wear tights. But this fact has apparently been lost on Randy Constan, proprietor of PixyLand, the Web home of Peter Pan. Here you'll discover many, many photos of Randy dressed in elfin garb, sprinkling pixie dust and singing "Do you believe in fairies?" (Order his self-produced CD, "I Won't Grow Up," for just $10.95--operators are standing by!)
13-11. iPod, Therefore I Am
People who enjoy unhealthy relationships with their personal electronics are always a little disturbing. Thanks to iAttire, they can dress up their iPods as a pirate, a princess, a clown or a cowboy, or simply accessorize by adding bunny ears, a jaunty beret, or some sexy negligee. Prices range from $10 for an argyle cap to $60 for a set of three boxers.
Even scarier: people who dress up as their personal electronics. The Apple Collection features a gallery of individuals who consider it perfectly reasonable to appear in public as their favorite music player. But why wait till they're grown? At iPop My Baby you can make your newborn look like an oversized Nano for $16. The 100 percent cotton onesies feature Apple's trademark click wheel on the chest (but, sadly, no volume controls).
10. Date Crimes
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned--and Don't Date Him Girl is scorn with a flaming red S. Here women can tell the world about the snakes, skunks, scoundrels, losers, and jerks they have dated and/or married. The scary part, of course: finding your own name--or that of your current love monkey--among the database's 17,000 anonymous entries, each of which include the gentleman's actual name, the city where he lives, a physical description, and in some cases a photograph.
Are the stories true or false? Blatantly libelous or deadly accurate? There's no way to know for sure, though the site lets men post rebuttals that are often funnier and more revealing than the original complaints. Read it for fun or with trembling hands. And if you're unlucky enough to find yourself slandered, consider joining the class action suit that one maligned bachelor is threatening to launch.
9-6. In Goth, We Trust
Is your dream date a cross between Marilyn Manson and Morticia Addams? Are you looking for that special someone with a fondness for formaldehyde? Then you'll love Gothic Personals. Here you can search for soulmates by fetish, religion (Druid, Wiccan, Vampire), type of Goth (MopeyGoth, PerkyGoth, GangstaGoth), and more. If you're desperately seeking a transgendered polyamorous couple that wants to be pen pals, this is the place to look.
Need a name for your gothic persona? Use Necrotic Obsession's Goth Name Generator to get an online moniker like Leather Pleasure or Lips Sewn Shut. (Warning: some of the links on this site are naughty, while others are, well, dead.) Or if you just want to know how Goth you really are, submit your photo to Hot Goth and get rated by other denizens of darkness (unless, of course, you're a vampire and can never be photographed).