Horror video games are some of the greatest ways to explore terrors that we (thankfully) can’t find in reality. They place us in a world of danger, where supernatural threats and twisted forms of reality get our pulses racing and trigger deep levels of fear response.

The backrooms are a newer take on this idea, as a specific form of horror gaming built on a central concept. In both gaming and in general creepypasta, the legend of backrooms is growing, and they might be closer than you think.

What Are Backrooms?

It's difficult to explain what are backrooms exactly without first exploring the idea of liminal space. These are areas used to move from one place to another, such as hallways, car parks, and stairwells. Liminal spaces are places of transition, serving an important function while not acting as a place where anyone spends major amounts of time.

So, what are backrooms? Backrooms borrow from the idea of liminal spaces and empty them, usually completely. The backrooms are then given odd and impossible layouts, as they repeat infinitely or offer minor changes incongruent with what you'd expect in a real physical space.

A backroom might have you walk a mile down a hallway, only to turn a corner and have you back where you started from. What are backrooms doing exactly to cause this is unknown, and that’s a big part of the mystery. 

You could also turn around in a backroom only to see your path blocked, despite having walked through the space seconds before. You could hear voices and sounds, encounter malevolent creatures, or experience sudden lighting changes. All are answers to what are backrooms, in one way or another.

Why Are Backrooms Scary?

Backrooms are frightening because they work on unconscious understandings and internalizations that we have about the spaces we inhabit and travel. Liminal spaces are areas we unconsciously connect with activity. Remove the human element and these become alien and unsettling, as our minds work to address what they detect as unnatural. 

Where Did Backrooms Originate?

The inspiration for this article exploring what are backrooms came from modern online communities like Reddit and YouTube, and collaborative efforts on building the collective mythos. On a broader scale, answering what are backrooms means turning back the clock.

A major inspiration is found in the works of authors like Lovecraft, who often utilized the concept of the unknown and perversions of natural laws. Many of Lovecraft's famous creatures could shift reality and our perception of reality, both of which the conscious mind finds naturally terrifying.

In a more modern sense, we have to thank works like House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. This epistolary novel spends a great deal of time in a seemingly unending stairwell and hallways, mirroring much the same horror as that which backrooms inspire.

Just keep in mind that next time you're heading to work or parking your car, an empty space might be more than just a coincidence…