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
The above text is the Reddit-via-4Chan post from 2019 that sparked the Backrooms meme, which unfolded across message boards, social media, and YouTube as participants created their own fan fiction and art describing an ineffable menace that seems to constantly be lurking around the corner in subterranean liminal spaces like the one depicted in the photo: endless, low-ceilinged, dimly lit interior expanses that resemble abandoned or underutilized office space (perhaps vacated by a shift to remote work but probably due to something more sinister). If this description doesn’t quite capture it, a cursory Google Image search provides a good sense of the Backrooms gestalt—a deep well, so to speak.
In a 2022 essay about the Backrooms, Samatha Culp situates the meme within a broader narrative tradition:
“More than most creepypasta, however, [the original Backrooms post] seemed to tap the mainline of cosmic horror, channeling much more ancient traditions of uncanny geography, existential dread, and inferno art from Lovecraft to Lynch, Sartre to Tarkovsky—even the Minotaur’s labyrinth. While creepypasta are inherently collaborative, perhaps this one, with its mythic charge and the fact it depicted and described a speculative ‘space’ (instead of a discrete character or artifact), issued even more of an irresistible call to ‘fill’ it.”
The Backrooms concept thus fueled a burst of “open-source world-building,” Culp writes, an effort that not only fleshed out the details of its fictional space but expanded its conceptual borders, resulting in a sprawling aesthetic anarchy and arcane debates about the universe’s proper narrative conventions (“the back rooms was such a cool and creepy concept at the beginning but 12 year olds decided to make it not creepy anymore by adding monsters and shit into it.”). Like so many robust fictional worlds, this one evinces a seemingly insatiable appetite for growth that often manifests itself as a drive to co-opt other worlds—such as the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” which, according to retroactive lore, supposedly refers to a specific floor within the Backrooms.