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.
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 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.
“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:
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
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.
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:
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.