Someone on Reddit recently asked the simple question “What’s your Deep Web story?”
In other words, the Reddit user was asking people to share any weird experiences they had encountered while using anonymous web services to access secret websites.
Such services, including Tor, have been around for years, letting people obfuscate their IP address to make it harder to be tracked.
They also provide access to a slew of websites known as the Dark Web (or Deep Web), which can be reached only through services such as Tor. Silk Road is the prototypical example of a Dark Web site. Though it has now closed, with its notorious founder in prison, new online black markets have surfaced to take its place.
But here’s a look at some of the bizarre and creepy things you can stumble on when accessing the dark underbellies of the web, as told by the people who claim to have experienced them.
Cale Guthrie Weissman contributed to an earlier version of this post.
The Dark Web may seem scary, but sometimes it’s quite innocuous …
Though people tell tales of drugs and other illicit sites, sometimes people use the Dark Web just for silly purposes.
A scavenger hunt …
One user was playing what was called an Alternate Reality Game. This game, “No Love Deep Web,” had users accessing Tor to hunt for various things.
This user got engrossed in the game. It ended with “me driving to New York to answer a pay phone at 3:00AM. That was cool.”
“The next stop is …”
Sometimes you find weird forums. Take this user’s example:
I once found a forum dedicated to sharing recordings of the automated messages that tell you the next stop on trains. People would post the recordings that they presumably made themselves and then they would discuss them.
It haunts me to this day. I have so many questions.
But sometimes things can a bit creepy …
Though Tor is said to hide your online identity, some people have found that to not be the case. Here are a few examples.
“We see you”
A Redditor writes this creepy tale about using the internet before Google. The user was following the online trail of a site he or she found. Then he or she found a document made just for the user, making it known that the Redditor was not alone. “We see you,” the message wrote.
The whole story goes that the user came upon a random page of what seemed to be “random thoughts from different people.” So the Redditor decided to press further. Looking through the source, compiling the IP addresses of all the comments, this user was trying to figure out what connected the people on this site.
Then, something creepy happened:
I finally came upon a web server with a huge directory of HTML files and TIFF images, with a few smaller sub directories containing the same. nslookup returned no reverse records for the IP. A VisualRoute traced it as far as Colorado. The HTML files appeared to be records a psychologist or similar mental health professional would keep. The images were of faxes, apparently of both military and medical nature.
As I browsed from a sub directory back to the parent, at the top of was a new HTML file named something like “1-.HELLO-THERE.html”. The time stamp was from right that minute. I opened it, and in plain text was the message “we see you”. No quotes, all lower-case. About 15 seconds later the server dropped.
“That’s very astute of you …”
Even if you’re using Tor, you can still be tracked. At least, that’s what one Redditor says. The story:
I posted a comment on a video, and when I went back to that page to watch the video later, someone replied to my comment saying: “That is very astute of you Mr. (insert my last name)”
I didn’t internet for like a week. my last name is not a common one.
But what about the things you can buy?
Sure, you can find some weird things for sale on the Dark Web. But how weird? Some users have some pretty bizarre tales …
For the DIY surgeon …
Sometimes you can find the everyday things on the Dark Web. But what makes it “illicit” is how you market it. Take this (very gross) example of something for sale on Silk Road:
DIY vasectomy kit on SR. it was a kit of weird dentist tool looking hooks and some tube thing. $US20.
A digital zoo.
Sometimes you may need something specific and you have nowhere else to turn. If that’s the case watch out for a steep price tag.This Redditor explains:
A few years ago I went searching for rhino horn for a story, one guy said he had a couple of whole horns he’d sell for six figures. I had to pass.
A mind-blowing experience …
Surprises are often in store. And so are vendors with senses of humour. As is showcased with this story:
Silk Road. Circa 2013. Purchased what was promised as a “mind-blowing” experience. Received a Dust Buster two days later. Strangely, no complaints on my end.
Also, the simple things.
And sometimes people are selling things you didn’t even know you needed to buy online:
There was a german man selling pretzels, just pretzels.
Saxophones and fake Gucci
Not everything on the deep web is creepy. Sometimes it’s just downright strange.
One user found a saxophone for sale on the Silk Road (where drugs are usually sold). He found a template for fake Gucci products, then logged off.
Most of the deep web isn’t accessible
One Reddit user explained that most things on the deep web simply aren’t visible to the average person – they’re hidden behind passwords or aren’t linked to on any other websites. Most things that are visible on the deep web are visible because someone wants them to be. Everything else generally isn’t easily accessible.
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