Skip to main content

Iconic Internet monster SCP-173 is losing its look

In reality, the murderbeast is a sculpture by a Japanese artist

One of the most popular Internet monsters, a grotesque neck-snapping concrete figure codenamed SCP-173, is losing its face. SCP-173 is part of the SCP Foundation, a collaborative online horror writing project which most famously inspired Remedy's Control, and has appeared in several SCP fan games, too. But as SCP's administrators wrestle with copyright and morality issues, they're preparing to remove that iconic image, which actually is a photo of a sculpture by a Japanese artist.

Watch on YouTube

The SCP Foundation appears to be the private files of a vast and secret organisation dedicated to discovering, studying, and containing supernatural threats. The wiki is a catalogue of reports documenting oddities, describing their characteristics and efforts to contain them: a cave leading to an alternate reality where all life ended 2016, a coffee machine able to dispense any liquid, an animate pool of notblood, a bloodthirsty book rewriting the world as it rewrites the history of a lost civilisation, a deadly prank show, and hundreds more. It's clearly a big influence on Remedy and Control, down to the ████████████ redactions over ██████ words, the █████ █████.

One of those is SCP-173, an eerie concrete humanoid which cannot move if being watched but will murder with great speed when unobserved. It's Doctor Who's Weeping Angels, basically, but elevated by the report including a photo of a strange and terrible creature ("the heck" said our Katharine upon seeing it for the first time today). This version of 173 has starred in fan games including the singleplayer horror SCP: Secret Laboratory and the multiplayer SCP: Containment Breach. Unfortunately, this creature is a problem.

Like many communal web projects, copyright wasn't really a concern when SCP started. Authors found creepy pictures online, either to spark a creation or illustrate one. In the case of 173, it was a photograph of a sculpture by a Japanese artist, initially used with permission of neither artist nor photographer. SCP's administrators retell this with a photo making it look very different outside the context of an SCP report.

The administrators explain in an announcement that they knew eventually they'd have to change it, between Kato's discontent and wrong'uns using it commercially against his wishes. "Although this process has been delayed significantly, the longer we wait, the more harm is done to Izumi Kato's creative vision and the risk of legal issues becomes greater," they say. He hasn't insisted they remove it, but they add in a tweet that they believe "it is necessary in the spirit of Creative Commons, open collaboration, and artistic integrity to remove the image".

So, SCP-173 will soon no longer look like Untitled 2004. The report's author has requested it look like nothing at all. Rather than replace the photo with a new legitimate one (as they did when SCP-682, the "hard to destroy lizard", went from a photo of a decomposing cetacean lifted from the Internet to a Creative Commons photo of a beached humpback whale), its report will have no image at all. With no definitive official look to the monster, newcomers will have to imagine it for themself. Goodbye, you terrible beast.

The SCP community team do plan to see it off with a communal art showcase of different intepretations.

If you've not encounter SCP before, do enjoy losing an afternoon to browsing random reports. I tend to like short reports of weird objects and inexplicable places more than the sprawling reports on kewl murdermonsters and mythos, though folks have written some neat longer stories set in the world of SCP. I liked the There Is No Antimemetics Division tales by "qntm", who also wrote SCP/Control crossover fanfic. And I've only just realised qntm is also behind Absurdle, a Wordle variant which changes the answer while you play. Huh!

I realise this isn't directly about a PC game, but 173 was in several PC games, and the whole SCP project feels very PC gaming to me? The ephemeral quality of PC gaming-ness? So. Yeah. Go read some entries, I'll talk to you later, bye.

Read this next