The Squonk & The Hag

The Backrooms & Liminal Spaces

There are many urban legends that have originated in online forums, but one of the more interesting and popular legends is The Backrooms. The Backrooms originated on 4chan, specifically on the paranormal board, /x/. On May 12, 2019, an anonymous user posted an image of a large carpeted room with yellow wallpaper and fluorescent lighting and asked fellow users to “post disquieting images that just feel off.” Although the image had appeared in an earlier post on April 21, 2018, it is unknown where or when the image was taken. After many replies with similar images, one user replied to this post with the first description of The Backrooms: “If you’re not careful and you noclip out of reality in the wrong areas, you’ll end up in the Backrooms, where it’s nothing but the stink of old moist carpet, the madness of mono-yellow, the endless background noise of fluorescent lights at maximum hum-buzz, and approximately six hundred million square miles of randomly segmented empty rooms to be trapped in God save you if you hear something wandering around nearby, because it sure as hell has heard you”. Just days after the original post, stories began appearing on subreddits such as r/creepypasta and later it got its own subreddit, r/backrooms. Eventually a fandom began to surface based on The Backrooms and creators began to expand on the original description by adding additional floors or “levels” and creatures that inhabit them. For example, level 1 has industrial architecture, while level 2 is a series of darkly lit service tunnels, level 0 is the original description and image. Like with many fandoms, groups of fans who preferred the original version over the additional levels split off and created their own subreddit called r/TrueBackrooms. By March of 2022, r/backrooms had over 157,000 members. There has since been many adaptations of The Backrooms, from mini series’ on Youtube, short films, and even indie games. In another thread on /x/, one user asked “So what if someone “noclipped” in the year 1800 or 40 BC or the year 2200? Would they still go to an early 21st century room?” To which another user responded “A previously unknown back system of caves hidden in the home cave system, leading into an eternal labyrinth cave, occasionally looking out onto the world, to the savannah, the waters edge, a lit fire at night, birds migrating in slow patterns, but unable to reach through the invisible tunnels that you are lost in. Of course those who returned reported events in their own cultural terms. Maybe some were taken seriously upon reappearance and these occurrences contributed to new myths. Most never returned.”

It’s rumored that there are ways to intentionally access The Backrooms, one of which is a Korean ritual called the elevator game. The ritual involves finding a building with 10 floors and following a series of steps while in the elevator to access a hidden world. While you are in this other dimension you are alone, electronics don’t work, and it appears identical to a normal room except the lights are off and the only thing you can see from the windows is a red cross in the distance. You can follow another series of steps to return to where you started.

On the fandom wiki there are numerous entries for around 1000 levels, one of the more interesting floors is level 37, more commonly known as the Poolrooms. It’s an expansive maze of interconnected rooms and hallways that are slightly submerged in rippling, bluish green, lukewarm water. Each room varies greatly in size and structure, from regular pools and hallways to more abnormally-shaped spaces. The walls, ceiling and floor appear to be made of the same white ceramic tile. All of the tiles are in perfect condition and very clean. There are certain areas where large pillars protrude from the water, while other areas contain staircases into deep, water-filled pits.

Many believe that The Backrooms are the origin of the liminal spaces aesthetic which shows normally busy places as strangely empty. Have you ever been on a trip as a kid and on the ride back home you fall asleep only to wake up a while later to find that it’s dark outside and you’re stopped at a small gas station in some unknown town, you’re unsure of what time it is and your family are the only ones there besides the employee inside? That’s a liminal space, neither point A, nor point B, but somewhere in between. Liminal spaces are described as places that are transitional or intermediate in some way. I experienced this while going to the terminal for my first flight. It was early in the morning and I had to walk through a dimly lit airport, passing stores that hadn’t opened yet and only saw a handful of people. The whole thing was really creepy since it seemed like the busy area at the tsa checkpoint was the only area that had other people and when I moved through the airport it was like I was somewhere else entirely where it was just me and very few other people. There are places where you can experience this (not sure why you would want to since it is very unsettling.) These places are known as dead malls, ghost malls, or zombie malls. Despite the creepy names, these malls either have a high vacancy rate, low consumer traffic, or are deteriorating in some way. The following is a list of malls that are considered traditional dead malls that are currently open: Exton square mall, Exton, PA. Midway mall, Elyria, OH. New Horizon mall, Balzac, Alberta. Puente Hills Mall, Puente Hills, CA. South China Mall, Dongguan, China (formerly New South China Mall) 

Bonus Content

Watch Mo’s reaction to a video about The Backrooms

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