by

Let’s face it: the internet can be a scary place. You never know what’s around the corner. One minute you might be innocently feeding your Neopets and the next, well, you’re unexpectedly barraged with a mass of child-scaring pop-up ads, sending you into a panicked frenzy as you savagely beat your mouse into submission in attempts to exorcise you computer screen (you might even whip out the holy water). Phew, grandma, you can look now.

Or, you might be intently watching a very important YouTube video on how to create your own origami ninja stars when Linda Blair herself jumps out of your screen, forcing you to change your underpants yet again. Hopefully you remembered to do the laundry.

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If I see this on Youtube one more time… 

It’s true, these things might give you a scare, but luckily, other than inducing a heart attack or making your computer spend some good bonding time with your axe, scary videos and pop-ups on the internet really can’t hurt anyone in real life. That is, of course, unless you run into “The Red Room.”

The Legend

The Red Room is a Japanese urban legend about an internet pop-up that advertises one thing and one thing only: your imminent death. According to legend, The Red Room appears as a red window displaying only the words “あなたは〜好きですか?(Do you like ____?)” which are read in a mangled but supposedly cute voice. Just like this.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 2.26.04 PM

“Do you like ___?” Now, you may be thinking, “That doesn’t even make sense! I’ll just exit out of this stupid pop-up and end this right here and now!” But no. Once the Red Room has chosen its next victim – there is no escape. The more you try to exit out of the Red Room pop-up, the worse things get.

As you get increasingly frustrated and start madly clicking the exit button as if you can avoid your grim fate, “あなたは〜好きですか?” begins to transform as the words “赤い部屋が” slowly appear. Click by click, the complete question is eventually revealed: “あなたは赤い部屋が好きですか? (Do you like The Red Room?)

At this point, all hope of survival is lost. You can kiss your miserable butt sayonara. Once the full question is revealed, the entire computer screen is enveloped in red and a list of names appears – past victims of the Red Room. What happens immediately after that is unclear, but one thing is for certain: victims of the Red Room commit “suicide,” coating the walls of their rooms with their own blood. Hence, the legend of “The Red Room.”

The Notorious Flash Animation

Around 10 years ago, someone created an interactive flash animation about the legend which allows viewers to walk through an encounter with the pop-up. If you’re bold enough, you can experience the original flash for yourself:

Here

If you can’t understand Japanese, well, the flash won’t have the same effect (lucky for you), but you can kind of tell what’s going on based upon the pictures (the beginning will be boring). However, if you can understand Japanese but you can’t read kanji, or if you’re too scared to go through the flash without an adult, there are plenty of Red Room videos on YouTube narrated by bored, adrenaline-junkie teenagers.

In the flash, the protagonist is told about the legend of the Red Room by his friends at school. As soon as he goes home, he attempts to research what he heard, but fails to find anything interesting. However, as soon as he gives up and returns to his routine website, ratemypoop.com, a pop-up appears. It’s the Red Room! Confused and bewildered, the protagonist proceeds with caution, but eventually he panics. Trying desperately to escape, he clicks one too many times and reveals the final question: あなたは赤い部屋が好きですか?Suddenly, the screen turns bright red and a list of names appears, the last one being the name of his good friend and classmate. With that, the protagonist slowly becomes aware of an ominous presence behind him, and all fades to black. The next day at school, there are whispers of gossip about 2 students who committed suicide the night before, painting their rooms with their own blood. At the end of the flash, the protagonist’s computer is shown once more, and the viewer can see that the his name has been added to the end of the list. Mwuahahahaha.

Are you scared yet? No?! Okay, I wasn’t either … at first.

Connection to the Sasebo Slashing

So, the idea of a “death pop-up” may not be the scariest thing you’ve ever heard of. It could easily be dismissed for one of those chain mail messages that people used to post on Myspace all the time, predicting your bloody murder by a killer clown at 3AM. At first, I had no idea what the big deal was with the notorious Red Room. In fact, the legend wasn’t even taken seriously in Japan, that is, until something truly terrible happened.

Warning: This Part Gets Bloody

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On June 1, 2004, an unspeakable event occurred in Sasebo, Japan. The “Sasebo Slashing” refers to the brutal murder of a Satomi Mitarai, a 12 year-old elementary school girl, by her younger female classmate known as “Girl A,” or more colloquially, “Nevada-tan.”

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the words “elementary school girls” and “murdering each other” together, something seems amiss. I might assume it was an accident of some sort – perhaps someone was running with scissors. Just thinking about it sounds like a more extreme version of Battle Royale – absolutely impossible.

However, this incident was not an accident. The 12 year-old admitted to murdering Mitarai over a comment she made on the internet, slandering Nevada-tan by calling her “goody-goody.” In response, Nevada-tan brutally slashed her classmates throat and arms with a utility knife. She then proceeded to walk back to her classroom, covered in blood.

As expected, all of Japan was shocked and disturbed by this incident. What could possess a 12 year-old girl to commit such an act? Further investigations produced something eerie: the 12 year-old murderer’s number one bookmark on her computer was the Red Room flash animation. It was this unnerving discovery that lead to the Red Room’s notoriety over the last decade as a truly evil force.

Although there haven’t been reports of students covering their bedroom walls with their own blood, this comes pretty close. Somehow, after knowing this fact, the Red Room becomes a lot creepier. You can’t help but wondering if the red room really is the manifestation of something dark and unknown.

Other Versions

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Image by Robert Bejil

As rumors of the Sasebo Slashing’s connection to the Red Room began to spread, more and more stories of the Red Room started cropping up all over the place. While the original legend still remains, new interpretations of the Red Room curse have emerged as well.

One story depicts the Red Room as the silent ghost of a woman dressed completely in red. The rumors of the Red Room started amongst cab drivers, several of which claim they’ve picked up such a woman in the dead of night. They say she possess the power to allure men with her mystery and enchanting beauty – even her eyes are color of blood. Cab drivers beware: do not pick up this woman!

The Red Room legend has even been recreated by the Japanese horror channel. Below is a short sketch about the Red Room curse. This one is a bit closer to the original tale, so be warned, things get bloody again:

Where Did it Come From?

So, if the Red Room curse has been around even before the Sasebo Slashing, where did it come from? There are multiple theories on this, some of them being obvious crack-pot conspiracies. Here are the top three:

1. COMMUNISTS.

That’s all I really need to say. “The Red Room?” Well, red is a symbol of communism, so that must mean it was created as some sort of systematic communist brainwashing tool! Puhfliwauhhilfwakjn.

2. North Korea Abductions

In the last half century it hasn’t been entirely uncommon for North Korea to abduct a few people from Japan here and there – a high risk game if you ask me. In order to lower the risk of collecting “followers” in such a brash way, many people believe that the North Korean government has created several mind-control internet pop-ups in the last decade with one goal in mind: to gain as many zombie followers to do their dirty work and obtain foreign currency as possible. NORTH KOREA!!!

3. The Red Room curse is a type of love letter virus.

Around the year 2000, virus love letters were a big trend in Japan. It’s most likely that the Red Room legend began due to a prominent virus of this sort. The list of names at the end could have been a list of infected computers, but seriously, I think we all know “communists” is the most appropriate answer to this mystery. Case closed.

No matter where the Red Room curse came from, I never want to encounter it. Ever. There are very few urban legends out there that seem to produce evidence in reality, and this is one of them.  It’s one of those things that just keeps getting creepier and creepier the more you think about it. I pretty much never want to browse the internet again. Maybe this could be a cure for Facebook addictions?

Think you could outrun the Red Room? Try again. The Red Room curse will follow you, even if you take a shotgun to your precious iPad. Let me know if you’ve ever came across this pop-up before in the comments section below. Oh, but wait, you’d be dead. Sorry.

[hr]

Sources:
【都市伝説】ネットで伝わる「こわ~いうわさ話ベスト10」
赤い部屋

 

  • MisterM2402

    Surely there’s nobody that believes this is actually true, right? If it really did kill everyone who saw it, there’d be no one alive to tell the tale in the first place :D As for the little girl, isn’t the “curse” supposed to *kill you*, not *make you kill others*?

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    you’re asking too many questions. Urban legends stop making sense when you ask questions.

  • eBunny

    Oh god ;_; readings this makes me feel very uncomfortable. Reminds me of that Death Note murder a while ago in Belgium that I think took years to solve.

  • http://easteban.tumblr.com/ Esteban

    Aw.. :(

  • April Roberts

    Wow….”goody, goody” was enough to kill someone? She had issues. I have been called far worse and haven’t killed anyone yet. YET. ;)

  • Mami

    I can’t believe that I hadn’t known the detail of Nevada-tan incident until today…just looked it up…that is absolutely insane. 怖い

  • Mami

    ______              /|
             ,-”::::;::::::::::::::‘”‐ .,        |ヘ|
            /:::::::;:/´ヾヘ;;::::::::::::::\      |ヘ|
           ,゙:::((,/    `、::r:::::::::丶    _| __|
            i::::i \   /  ゙i::::::::::::’,   /つ( ) ───
      < \  |::::l ●   ●  |::::::::::::!   / └┘
      丶/\!:::!          !::::::::::::!/ \ /    ───
       丶/ |:::!"" ____ "" !::::::::/  \/
        丶  i::ヽ   丶   ,l  |::::::|     /   ────
         丶 i:::..\,_ "''''` _,./、l:::::i     /
          丶 ヽ::|  l,_ ̄l二/ /|:::/   /    ─────
           丶    \ | //  レ'   /
             丶 i  ‘'' "      \/    ──────
             \| NEVADA    丶
               |                \  ───────

  • Mami

    Yeah, eh? She seemed to be lately admitted as an Asperger Syndrome, AS, but was originally judged as just a normal girl in the curt. I just spent an hour to learn this incident..so crazy.

  • Aya

    ERMAHGERD

  • Sarah

    gsOIHGLSEOihgfl this is amazing… lol I still think Nevada is so random

  • Sarah

    Wow is it that bad to admit to having AS, or was that a cover up? WHAAAAAAtttttt..

  • Sarah

    Death Note Murder?? Sounds insane!!!

  • eBunny

    Yeah it’s quite an interesting story. If you want and haven’t done so already you can read more about it over here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manga_Murder

    I think I discovered the case quit early on when I was really into Death Note and there were actually a lot of people coming up with these theories by using the few clues and pieces of information that were available at the time, even making videos in which they acted like L or Near or other characters. To be honest I actually found it kind of exciting at the time. Not the murder itself, which was terrible, but just the detective vibe I got from all these people discussing it and coming up with theories.

    Also according to that wikipedia article two suspects were actually convicted to jail quite recently.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Sounds like you’re a bit of a goody goody, huh April?

  • gah

    Guys, the Sasebo incident wasn’t even a decade ago yet — it was in 2004. Mitarai Satomi was a real girl, and Girl A is still alive and, IIRC, now released. She was placed in a mental health unit and not a juvenile delinquency unit for a REASON – she was very, very ill. It didn’t come out in the case, but a child with that kind of tendency could easily be the victim of abuse, assault, and/or bullying from a very early age.

    I find it in really poor taste to jokingly suggest that the red-clad girl variation could be the “ghost of Mitarai.” The idea that the Red Room game had any influence on Girl A’s behavior is insulting; it’s more of a symptom of what was already wrong, not the cause. (Suggesting this also buys into Mori Akio’s “game brain” theory, something that I’m 99.9% certain no Tofugu employee would consciously do.)

    Seriously – there were more respectful ways of bringing up the Sasebo incident. The parents are still very much present and grieving. Girl A is alive and trying to cope with what she did. Mitarai’s memory and spirit should be more respected than being reduced to a ghost that goes and KILLS OTHER PEOPLE. (Do you see the cruelty of making a murder victim into a murderous ghost posthumously? No?)

    Just…there were better, more respectful ways to mention the connection while keeping the overall tone of the article light. The fact that a foreigner is also writing this adds another layer of insensitivity.

  • yoru.morino

    This made me remember the movie “Kairo”

  • Helen Kirifides

    This was a good article –extremely horrible though this real incident was! :( I really want to click on the link that says “HERE” but… I’m a loyal taker of the blue pill …or whichever pill it was that Neo did not choose to keep him blissfully ignorant of The Matrix. Curiosity, as they say, killed the cat..! :x

  • Helen Kirifides

    I read up on it but didn’t read about the Asperger’s claim, and I don’t know enough about Asperger’s to give much of a comment, but imo, it sounds like a typical adult move (human move?) of trying to justify the actions of the murderer, because i think it’s hard for people in general to believe that there might not be any legitimate cause or reason for a child do such a thing, rather than just admitting the possibility that this girl was old enough to have chosen to commit an act of murder in cold blood… :$

  • Sugoida

    Ooooh, now I can look for this when I get to the point where I can browse the Japanese interwebz. Also, that person that runs the red room pop up should have added the name of the victim to the list. I know it would be really dark, but at the same time it would have been really dark. Which is creepy. Which is good.

  • groundless

    This reminds me of a great Japanese drama, VISION Koroshi ga Mieru Onna. Rather than an ad, an alluring game appears. After deaths, it disappears from the perpetrator’s hard drive. I don’t remember the drama very clearly now, but I would recommend it as a watch!

  • Mescale

    The sad things is that this is the way a society deals with their failure to care for people, there would have been lots of oppourtunities to stop this from happening, but people didn’t care, or looked the other way. All it needed was someone to actually give a damn about Girl A, to help her before hand.

    Easier, instead of accepting the blame and making sure it doesn’t happen again, to claim that the person was a terrrible person, a monster, genetically driven to kill in cold blood. A demon, with some horrid disease like Aspergers Syndrome, which we all know is pure evil right, RIGHT? Lets turn it into some spooky legend, she was cursed by the internets, that made her do it!

    I wonder if thats what happens to all the American school shootings n stuff, that whole columbine shooting thing right, that was totally down to the curse of goatse right?

    How acceptable is it to use incidents like that to create some light entertainment for internet people?

  • Alan

    I’ve done research on the “Death Note” murders. The people who died had their names written in someones death note. I also had a friend who I knew on facebook (We never met in real life) who said he had a death note and said we was going to write his name in it. Not long after that conversation, he stopped talking to me and by the next months he had died. :( Its very sad but this can also conclude as proof that the “Death Note” murders may just have happened as it is told.

  • Mescale

    When you’re a kid small things can seem like really big things.

    Breaking your moms best vase, OMG, OMG, but you know, really, it is no real big deal, sure maybe it was something mom liked, but it was just a thing.

    But that doesn’t stop it being something terrible and terrifying as a child, to have done something, that might make you lie, to your mom to hide the pieces…

    I would surmise that it wasn’t just about being called a goody goody, I would guess that maybe Girl A thought that Mitara was a good friend, someone she could rely on, someone who would stick up for her, but when she found out she had called her a goody goody, she felt betrayed and lashed out.

    Maybe you can’t understand the mind of a child who has come to rely so much on one person, who has nothing else in her life that is good, and to have that taken from her, to cause her to act in such a way.

    Thats very sad because its exactly that lack of empathy which caused the problem.

    On the one hand I hope you really understood it wasn’t just being called a goody goody that caused it and you’re making fun of a really tragic situation, on the other hand I really hope you don’t understand and aren’t making fun of a tragic situation because I’m not sure which is worse.

  • Richard Robertson

    This is easily the most disturbing thing TOFUGU has ever done :(

  • MisterM2402

    Having read more into the story, I don’t get why people online have turned her into a cute anime-style mascot – she may be a young girl but she *did* murder another girl by slashing her throat and wrists with a Stanley knife, there’s nothing loveable or innocent about that :P Maybe if it was just a scary story it’d be fine but it’s a real thing that actually happened not 10 years ago. I mean, it’s definitely a fascinating story but I wouldn’t call it “cute” haha.

    @Sarah: They called her “Nevada” because she used to wear a University of Nevada sweatshirt, or she happened to be wearing one in some photo or something.

  • Kim

    I think it’s North Korean communists that try to stop facebook by sending out love letter viruses out.

  • iamoyashiro

    I wonder why they dont shut down the flash animation site? I mean if they found it on her laptop, and think it was an influence, why didnt they do something to the site?

  • April Roberts

    LOL…Ah! I am filled with rage now! Watch out Koichi! ;)

  • April Roberts

    Yes, I do understand the mind of a child, I have 2 of my own and I was (obviously) one myself. I was picked on relentlessly in high school. Maybe it is a cultural thing, because “goody, goody”, in America would not have been a big deal. In my family we deal with tragedy by using humor, and yes, I was being humorous.The entire article had a humorous quality, as the main subject “The Red Room” is pretty ridiculous, not the death of the child. I do not have a lack of empathy, so if you found my response insensitive, I apologize. No offense was meant.

  • Paulo

    Scary but not so scary. Unless I myself will be a victim. There’s nothing much about it, I guess, we’ll see though if I commit suicide one of these days – not gonna happen.

  • Sarah

    Creepy! I’d love to see an article on the virus love letter’s thing from Tofugu in future. :)

  • Rin

    I don’t know, there have been some pretty disturbing posts involving *gulp* AKB48.

  • Ieva

    When I was younger I came across something similar. Well, it wasn’t the Red Room, and it definitely wasn’t Japanese. But it was an online pop-up that killed something.
    It was called the “Webkinz murderer.” It was a made-up thing that was meant to scare little kids into thinking their precious Webkinz pets would be killed by it. They said it was a box that would appear when Webkinz World loaded, it would be there and no matter where you clicked it would open the box, and out would jump some kind of monster, which would slaughter your pets and they would be there, dead and bloody.
    When I ran across it I got scared. But it was just a story.
    This is the same sort of thing, except it’s aimed at older people and not little kids. Honestly….
    If it was real no one would be able to tell you what it’s like. Because in order to know, you have to be dead. It’s just a story.
    Now, about the murder linked to it… Maybe that girl had mental problems, was emotionally unstable, whatever. We don’t know why she did what she did. We just know that she spent a fair bit of time watching a video about an evil pop-up that killed people.
    She didn’t see the actual pop-up. No one has, have they? If they did this would have been a lot bigger than just some legend. It would be all over the news – I mean, a whole list of names? Of people who coated the walls in their blood? Please, it would be a bit more well-known than this.
    So to anyone who’s scared, don’t worry. It’s just a story. Logic says it’s not true. Besides, you “commit suicide” because of it? What, do you loose control of your body because of a stupid computer screen? Seriously? I mean, how stupid does that sound?

    No offense meant to Sarah. I think you did a great job writing this. But I think the story itself, the idea that some digital ad can kill you, is absurd.
    I also think that using the murder Satomi Mitarai as proof of a legend made to freak people out is somewhat insulting to her memory. I mean, what do her parents think about that? I can imagine I would be upset…

  • Richard Robertson

    Hehehe nice :D

  • MYnameISyou’reAfuckface

    No she watched “Red room” which may have caused those “Issuse’s”

  • Carol Tôn

    Your wrtitting is so good !! :)

  • Kuchisake-Onna

    What happens if you don’t exit the popup?
    Do you live?