Online is a strange and terrifying place. It’s enabled us to connect with one another, advance the causes of science and culture, and unite the world with a glowing net of data. It’s also enabled people with very… particular interests to find each other. In this weekly series, we’ll be dipping into the Internet Gutter – the strange subcultures and weird worlds lurking in the dark pockets of the World Wide Web.
Everywhere you look, it seems, there are superheroes. Not just in comic books, their ancestral home, but in movies, TV shows, video games, et cetera. They’ve become the dominant modern myth of the 21st century. And there’s nothing a myth likes more than crossing over into reality.
We all want to be something more than we are. We want it so bad that, in extreme cases, we manage to tell ourselves that we’re actually doing it. Welcome to the world of Real Superpowers, an Internet forum populated by men and women who are completely convinced that they’re mutants with abilities beyond the norm.
There are certainly real people in this world who have pushed their body beyond normal human limits. Wim Hof, the dude who invented a breathing technique that lets him survive extreme cold. Veronica Seider, the German dentist with such acute eyesight she could identify people from a mile away. The people on this website, though? I’ll let you make up your own mind.
The site’s How To Get Super Powers page is a good place to start. Here are a few paragraphs in their own words.
Maybe you just haven’t found your power yet. Maybe every one has a power or possibly even powers that they are born with, and can only be unlocked during puberty when the body undergoes immense changes, or during life or death situations, when the bodies natural fight or flight responces activate. Now let’s assume that none of that is true. Then perhaps with advanced technology, you could manipulate your genetic code, and gain powers that way.
You could also manipulate your physical body using technology. Maybe you replace some parts with robotic counterparts that are far more powerful, like stronger arms and legs, or a heart that can pump enough blood to make you run faster and longer than everyone else.
Nanotechnology could be used to tweak existing muscles and tissues. You could rework all your muscle fibers and bones, making them far denser and more powerful than normal, giving you super strength.
Technology could also theoretically be used to alter your mental capacities, increasing your intelligence, and perhaps giving you telepathic, precognitive, or telekinetic abilities.
Intensely stressful situations, like combat in a war, could as well trigger a change in you whereby you suddenly gain control over your five senses, and can see, smell, touch, taste, and hear with far more clarity, accuracy, and detail than before. And now some possibilities with out assuming everyone has them, or that technology could give us powers.
You may have noticed that the words “could” and “perhaps” appear with disproportionate frequency in those paragraphs. That’s because none of these methods have actually been proven to work in the world we live in. That’s not stopping the Real Super Powers folks, though.
The real fun here, though, is on the forums. That’s where site users who are convinced they’ve already transcended humanity gather to share their stories. Let’s start diving in.
Behind The Mask
We’ll start in the “Personal Experiences” section. The posters here are convinced that they’ve already manifested extranormal activities and just need some help in controlling or understanding them. That help typically isn’t forthcoming.
Probably the most popular power to claim to have is the ability to predict the future. Post after post features wanna-be psychics claiming to have predicted everything from political assassinations to fast food value meals. On reading, they seem like little more than simple coincidence, but for the believer, there are all sorts of meaning to be had.
No, we don’t think this has happened to anyone else. Posts on the site are divided about 50/50 between “a weird but basically normal thing is happening to me, do I have super powers” and “I’m in life or death combat with aliens/demons / CIA agents that only I can see.” There’s very little middle ground to be had.
Another active forum on the site is the “Developing Super Powers” section, which is where people who haven’t come into their abilities discuss ways to make them happen. These posts are full of yearning, as multiple users are convinced that they’re just an inch or two away from unlocking their true potential.
For every person who needs help, there’s a corresponding poster who is offering their own secret techniques. And for every one of those, there’s someone else claiming that they’re lying. What initially seems like a support group for wanna-be mutants is actually a bitchy, backbiting circle of angry people calling each other frauds and rip-offs.
Sadly, that’s kind of the level that Real Super Powers winds up at. Nobody ever gets powerful enough to fight crime, so they just sit around and argue about the best way to do it. Or at least they did…
Crisis On Our Earth
Perhaps the most mystifying thing about Real Super Powers is that the site has essentially been abandoned. Almost all the posts we’ve shared with you date from over five years ago – everything more recent on the site is spam. Where did all of the brave explorers into the realms of the superhuman go? Did they know too much? Were they abducted by the Obama administration and put into one of those FEMA camps we’ve heard so much about? Are they out there, fighting crime in the shadows with their abilities? Or did they meet and destroy each other in a grand battle?
The world may never know.