- An edited TikTok video of a robot in an abandoned building has been viewed 22 million times.
- Commenters on the video linked the footage to an online subculture called “backrooms”.
- The fictional concept of secret rooms in other dimensions originated on 4chan and Reddit.
On March 24, supposed Google Earth images went viral on TikTok showing what appeared to be a robot with wings inside an abandoned building.
The video – which was captioned, “wtf they’re hiding in Japan” – now has 22 million views, with many people in the comments saying they were trying to find this hidden room on their own, using the coordinates that appeared in the TikTok.
However, the images appear to have been edited and are linked to an online community called “backrooms”, where people imagine there are a series of hidden rooms in different dimensions. The video is just one of many related to this online community, which has sprung up on 4chat and Reddit, but is quietly spreading on TikTok.
It is not possible to reproduce the images by entering the same coordinates in Google Earth
The viral video – posted by a user called @yeetme084 – zooms in on the country of Japan, then two circular buildings, before showing what appears to be the interior of one of the buildings, which is mostly empty apart a cubic robot with wings.
Comments on the video were shocked. A comment with 750 likes said, “Someone needs to check this place out bro.”
When entered into Google Earth, the video’s coordinates take users to the site of the two circular buildings, located next to an abandoned Japanese water park called Nara Dreamlands.
However, users can only zoom to a certain point and cannot access the interior of the building using Google Earth. This has led some commentators under the video to speculate that the hidden room in the building was likely produced using image or video editing software. The original TikTok creator did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The video has been linked to ‘backrooms’, an online folk community from 2018
Some commenters wrote “backrooms” under the video, appearing to link the video to a larger online community of the same name.
The concept of “backrooms” is believed to have originated on imageboard website 4chan in 2018 or 2019, according to a moderator of a Reddit subculture group who did not want to be named for privacy reasons.
The original post showed a room with yellow walls and a bare floor. Many community members now describe this as “floor zero” of back rooms – the most basic level – and the moderator told Insider that the “creepy” image “terrified” people and brought them to develop a storyline about the secret rooms hidden in the universe.
On TikTok and Reddit, people have been posting later images that purport to be of other “levels” and “floors” in the back rooms, each with a different vibe, with some saying you can “unclip” in these rooms, which means you can transport yourself to them by going through the ground like you might in some video games.
Reddit forums dedicated to backrooms have tens of thousands of members, where people often post pictures of abandoned rooms they believe are part of backrooms, as well as stories written by people claiming to be trapped in those rooms. The moderator told Insider that the concept and stories were “entirely fictional.”
In yeetme084’s TikTok, the cubic robot with wings that can be seen in the room closely resembles a fictional character named “Billy the Robot”, who is named and depicted in numerous posts on backroom subreddits.
The owner of a YouTube channel, who poses as the character ‘Billy the Robot’, is sharing coordinates and riddles with viewers in videos as part of a game to help them find the fictional behind-the-scenes. He told Insider that the character is meant to be a “traveler” who goes in search of secret rooms in other dimensions.
The “backroom” community takes off on TikTok
The original creator of the fake Google Earth images in Japan has posted other similar videos, featuring what appears to be Billy the Robot in Canada and Florida, and each have hundreds of thousands of views.
While the Japanese building video is one of the most viral, the “backrooms” are becoming a popular talking point on TikTok. The #backrooms hashtag has 2.3 billion views, where people are sharing videos of fictional levels and rooms, and commenters seem to have become engrossed in the community and folklore, saying they want to find these rooms or dreamed at night.
A Reddit user and r/backrooms member, who did not want to be named for privacy reasons, told Insider he thinks the community has become popular on TikTok because the video format allows creators to embed “the sound design, like the squishing of the carpet and the hum of the fluorescent lights, which adds a lot to the atmosphere” and becomes more immersive.
He added that the allure behind the scenes for himself and many others is the “weird” and “horror” aspect. “It’s like staring into the vast void of space not knowing what’s around the corner,” he said.
For more stories like this, check out Insider’s digital literacy team coverage here.