Let’s start the new year off with a blast from the past, shall we? “The Woman in the Oven” — sometimes simply referred to as “The Tape” — is one of the oldest creepypastas around. Its original author remains unknown; indeed, there are several versions of it floating around, so at this point, there’s no telling how many authors it actually has at all. For what it’s worth, the oldest version I’ve found dates back to June of 2008 — two full years before I learned what creepypasta even was. That’s the version I’ve reproduced here — in full, purely because the tale is so short.
I’ll admit that I actually don’t find “The Woman in the Oven” as effective as I feel like it had the potential to be. It’s a puzzle as much as it is a story, and that, I dig; however, I think it would have been stronger if there was actually one definitive answer to the puzzle, which the dedicated reader could only arrive at once they actually buckled down and did the work. Instead, it’s so open-ended that it feels somewhat diminished to me. As I’ve remarked several times before, I’m a fan of the unknown as a storytelling device, but I always feel like something stops being scary when there are a zillion possible explanations to it. I believe in some circles, they call it “insufficient information.”
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
For what it’s worth, the kind of cremation described in this story also requires temperatures much greater than a domestic oven would be able to supply. Your average cremation oven reaches temperatures of 870 to 980 degrees Celsius (1,598 to 1,796 degrees Fahrenheit), whereas the kind of oven you’ve got in your kitchen is only capable of going up to 500 or 550 degrees Fahrenheit — maybe 600 if your oven runs hot, but likely not much more than that.
But “The Woman in the Oven” is still a classic for a reason: The way the story makes the reader into a detective turns it from a passive experience into an active one, and that’s pretty rad. Oh, and this riff on the tale is worth reading, too.
During the summer of 1983, in a quiet town near Minneapolis, Minnesota, the charred body of a woman was found inside the kitchen stove of a small farmhouse. A video camera was also found in the kitchen, standing on a tripod and pointing at the oven. No tape was found inside the camera at the time.
Although the scene was originally labeled as a homicide by police, an unmarked VHS tape was later discovered at the bottom of the farm’s well (which had apparently dried up earlier that year).
Despite its worn condition, and the fact that it contained no audio, police were still able to view the contents of the tape. It depicted a woman recording herself in front of a video camera (seemingly using the same camera the police found in the kitchen). After positioning the camera to include both her and her kitchen stove in the image, the tape then showed her turning on the oven, opening the door, crawling inside, and then closing the door behind her. Eight minutes into the video, the oven could be seen shaking violently, after which point thick black smoke could be seen emanating from it. The camera then continued to stationary point at the oven for another 45 minutes until the batteries apparently died.
To avoid disturbing the local community, police never released any information about the tape, or even the fact that it was found. Police were also not able to determine who put the tape in the well.
…or why the physical stature of the woman on the tape did not in any way resemble the stature of the woman found in the oven.
[Photo via Rick Galvan/Flickr]