Quantifying Creepiness

It’s Halloween! That means only one thing. Creepy shit. But what does that even mean? Here’s a piece I did for Deviant Dolls where I attempted to find out.

Creepy: Causing an unpleasant feeling of fear or unease (Adj.)

We all have a thing. Something that creeps us the fuck out. I know a girl who is terrified of dwarves. Even worse than that, there are people who walk among us, looking all normal and shit, with a profound fear of cheese. Yep, it’s true. The condition even has a name, Turophobia.

My thing is creepy crawlies. Not very original, I know. But my bug fear has a weird little twist. The more legs they have, the more repulsed I get. Dung beetles? Cool. Centipedes? Forget it. There’s also something intrinsically creepy about lobsters and crabs. It’s those pincer things. Therefore, despite being about half an inch long, earwigs put the fear of God into me. ‘Cos they have lots of legs AND pincers, see?

Yep, it’s irrational. On paper it looks damn stupid. But it’s something I can’t control. With humankind being a race of such disparate and complex individuals, anything is possible. What might might freak one person out might make another get his freak on. One man’s poison, etc. It’s one of the things that makes our lives so colourful. Imagine how boring this would be if we were all the same.

So is quantifying creepiness even possible?

Apparently so. There’s a wealth of material on the Internet to prove it (so it must be true, right?). Everything from academic papers to sketchy blog posts like this one. After digesting some of this information, a few points become evident. Some things are almost universally creepy. Clowns? Creepy. Spiders? Creepy. Serial killers? Creepy. Using those indicators, it would be fair to assume that serial killer clowns like John Wayne Gacy would push the creep factor through the roof. It wouldn’t be a complete surprise to discover he had a thing for spiders, too. He was just that kinda guy. Some people make it easy for the rest of us to judge them by ticking every. Fucking. Box. Or at least one box too many.

Usually, though, it isn’t so straightforward. Some boffins (smart, scientific types) have decided that people’s jobs should be taken into account. Apparently, the job with the highest ick factor of all is funeral director, while things like morticians also rank highly. Basically, anything involving death. Does that mean we find death itself creepy? Possibly. On the other hand, according to the statiticians, your friendly local weathermen is about as scary as a poptart. But guess what? That doesn’t mean a weatherman can’t be a serial killer. You just wouldn’t expect him to be, so you’d be even more horrified when sneaks up behind you and stabs you in the throat. Tellingly, a writer friend of mine disagreed with the first assumption because the funeral director in her town was ‘Hot, has abs, and rides a Harley.’ So it turns out, when someone is pleasing on the eye, we tend to overlook a lot. Who knew, right?

It’s obviously wrong to pre-judge anyone on what they do for a living. Just like it’s wrong to judge them on where they come from, the colour of their skin, or what music they are into. The only thing that really matters is what people are actually like. You know, their personality and shit. And here, a Reddit user by the name of Saigonsquare has helpfully attempted to produce a handy formula to help us decide how creepy the people around us really are.

Creepiness = (Awkwardness x Forwardness / Attractiveness) ^ Persistence.

See the role ‘attractiveness’ plays? It’s right up there, which means my friend with a thing for funeral directors isn’t such a freak after all. Apparently, if you are considered charming and/or good-looking, you can get away with murder. Just ask Ted Bundy.

Of course, this all breaks down when you enter the murky world of the Internet and you can’t actually see who you are talking to. Or, perhaps more accurately, who is talking to you. Sure, they might have a hot profile pic, but how do you know it’s not fake? I was happily chatting away to a hot chick online recently who’d sent me a random friend request a few days before. Things were going pretty well, until ‘she’ sent me a picture of his dick. Yup.

Every item in that formula is subjective. Take ‘persistence,’ for example. Everyone likes it when someone shows a romantic interest in them. It makes us feel wanted, valuable, even a bit special. We also like a bit of persistence. The keener the admirer is, the more they must like you. But too much persistence? Nope. Then you’re heading into potentially dangerous stalker territory. So where do we draw the line?

Same goes for ‘forwardness.’ Someone who displays just the right level of confidence is a real go-getter, right? Which can only be a good thing. They probably have a well-paying job, a nice car, prospects, ambition, all that good shit. Nobody wants to go out with a slacker. But there’s a fine line between ‘confident’ and ‘cocky.’ And after ‘cocky’ comes ‘pushy,’ which is an obvious turn-off.

This brings us to the ‘Awkwardness’ part of the equation. Some things just feel wrong. We don’t know why, they just do. It’s instinctive. It’s entirely possible that whatever causes us to lose our shit is linked to some primal condition buried deep within us. A legacy, perhaps, of the time when we crawled around on our bellies in swamps. But obviously, that doesn’t explain what the fuck clowns have to do with anything.

Check out some more deviance HERE.

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About cmsaunders

I am a writer. I write. My dark fiction has appeared in Asphalt Jungle, Raw Nerve, Roadworks, Dark Valentine, Screams of Terror, Shallow Graves, Fantastic Horror, Unbroken Water and several anthologies. My first book, Into the Dragon's Lair – A Supernatural History of Wales was published in 2003, and I have also worked extensively in the freelance journalism industry, contributing features to numerous international publications including Fortean Times, Bizarre, Urban Ink, Loaded, Record Collector, Maxim, Nuts, and a regular column to the Western Mail newspaper. I lived in China for over five years where I taught English during my search for enlightenment, before moving back to the UK in January 2013 to work for a men's lifestyle magazine. I was senior writer on Forever Sports magazine and associate editor at Coach magazine, before leaving to chance my arm in the world of pro freelance. In recent times I have devoted more time to dark fiction, my latest offerings being the contemporary ghost story Sker House and No Man's Land: Horror in the Trenches. I am represented by Media Bitch Literary Agency and drink far too much coffee. View all posts by cmsaunders

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