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Happy Hallowmeme: The Rake

Join us this October as we look into the horrifying meme-beasts that haunt the Internet and trace their roots back to literature and role-playing games. In this installment we meet the Rake, a dog-like humanoid who watches you while you sleep.

[h=3]Raking It All In[/h]The Rake started life, like many of his fellow meme-monsters, as a thought experiment on the Internet. He was born of 4chan's /b/ board in 2005 and started out quite different than the creature we know today:

Alright, this is for the people who like the three-eyes, no apparent mouth, pale skin one. Here's what we've got so far: Humanoid, about six feet tall when standing, but usually crouches and walks on all fours. It has very pale skin. The face is blank. As in, no nose, no mouth. However, it has three solid green eyes, one in the middle of its forehead, and the other two on either side of its head, towards the back. Usually seen in front yards in suburban areas. Usually just watches the observer, but will stand up and attack if approached. When it attacks, a mouth opens up, as if a hinged skull that opens at the chin. Reveals many tiny, but dull teeth.

Future versions would remove the three eyes and added back a "regular" mouth. Brian Somerville's blog expanded the creature's lore in 2006:

Primarily focused in rural New York state, self proclaimed witnesses told stories of their encounters with a creature of unknown origin. Emotions ranged from extremely traumatic levels of fright and discomfort, to an almost childlike sense of playfulness and curiosity. While their published versions are no longer on record, the memories remained powerful. Several of the involved parties began looking for answers that year.

Like other Internet myths, the Rake's popularity is bolstered when it fools mainstream media. The picture above is a Photoshopped version of a Grim from the video game Resistance 3. It was submitted to NBC 33 News as evidence from a hunting camera in Berwick. The Internet immediately seized on the picture as evidence of the Rake's existence.

The Rake's popularity merged with another meme-beast, the Slender Man, where it has been commonly characterized as a minion of the latter in a sort of monster mashup (more on him next week).

The Rake's appearance is that of a large hairless dog with a body position that is unnatural, "as if it had been hit by a car." There are references to horror author H.P. Lovecraft as inspiration, but like most horror memes, that seems to be more of a badge of legitimacy than an actual lineage.
[h=3]Ghoulishness[/h]One of the many fears haunting Lovecraft's stories was the idea that a sufficiently debauched human would devolve into a more primitive form. The debauchery had a wide range of behaviors, but one example is cannibalism. Eating corpses and associating with those who eat corpses is part of how Upton Pickman, the artist in Lovecraft's short story, "Pickman's Model," becomes a ghoul. Ghouls are described in that story as:

...seldom completely human, but often approached humanity in varying degree. Most of the bodies, while roughly bipedal, had a forward slumping, and a vaguely canine cast. The texture of the majority was a kind of unpleasant rubberiness.

The ghoul has strayed from its roots in Dungeons & Dragons. The very definition of a Lovecraftian ghoul is its humanity, that one can become infected by association. In D&D, this has been changed to a form of undeath that's transmitted through a ghoul's bite and claws.

Despite sharing a superficial appearance with ghouls, the Rake acts very differently. Another possible connection to Lovecraft is through his night-gaunts, faceless, winged gargoyles who use their paws to tickle victims they catch. Lovecraft placed them as guardians of the Dreamlands (they were born of his own nightmares); the parallels with the Rake as a nightmarish figure who watches its victims sleep seem apt.

But perhaps the strongest connection to Lovecraft is the Rake's hunting grounds. It's "primarily focused in rural New York state," also known as Lovecraft Country.

Mike "Talien" Tresca is a freelance game columnist, author, communicator, and a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to http://amazon.com. You can follow him at Patreon.
Michael Tresca



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