A collage of a brown box with objects poking out - a fish, a creepy babydoll, a comb with hair, a jar of eyeballs and teeth. The background is a dark green tinged night sky with lightening.
Collage: Cath Virginia

Are Those Freaky Mystery Boxes from the Dark Web Real?

People are making disturbing unboxing videos. I tried to buy one to find out.

“I can still smell it… It’s sticky, ew… Oh my God, what is that?” says YouTuber CryptoNWO right before he vomits on camera. He’s an influencer opening a “mystery box” – supposedly bought from the dark web – and has just pulled a plastic bag with something in it that you’d most likely find in a butcher’s shop. “Don’t eat before dark web mystery boxes,” he advises weakly before unwrapping a pair of children’s shoes, a clown puppet, a cat ornament, a bullet casing and a radio. “Comment and say what you like about the video or something I can improve on, and you can win one of these items in the dark web mystery box,”  he says, pointing to the pile.


It’s probably a bit of a stretch to say I grew up on Crypto’s videos, but for many of my teen years, I’d binge hours of his content. A decade later and dark web unboxings are flooding my TikTok feed, seemingly making a comeback. 

There’s something fascinating about the morbid discoveries – made by predominantly guys – on the internet, opening cardboard boxes with shaky gloved hands. They often recoil in horror, pulling out disturbing items such as teeth in jars, animal organs in sandwich bags, medical texts, live fish or creepy dolls while trying to talk through and piece together the stories behind them. But why do people order them in the first place? Isn’t the dark web pretty risky? It was time for me to do a deep dive into the weird world of dark web mystery boxes and find out for myself. 

TikTok’s Red Mask (@maskred) is currently reaching up to 16.2 million views from a single video on his unboxing page. Wearing a black mask, he stares into the camera silently as he opens various purchases: Anything from phones, fake Rolexes, and USBs are sinisterly held up to the camera after their packaging is removed. He tells VICE he started “dabbling in the dark web” back in 2015, intrigued after reading about people’s experiences online. 

For anyone that doesn’t know, or isn’t 100 percent sure but usually nods along, the dark web is essentially a hidden part of the internet (unless you have a TOR browser, but more on that later). It contains browsers for illegal sites that let you buy stolen details and drugs or access even darker things like illicit images – it’s not actually illegal to use, but it’s a minefield of dodginess.


Red Mask's first experiences of the dark web were through a friend who’d order what he would only describe as “goods”, which arrived wrapped in socks.  “It amazed me how accessible and simple it was,” he says.  It wasn’t until 2022 that he started filming his unboxing videos, when lockdown boredom led him to rediscover the dark web. 

“The creepiest thing I've ever received is a letter from someone claiming to be my real birth mother. It actually had details about me that not just anyone would know,” he continues. “They didn’t want to get in contact but told me they still keep an eye on me.” Perhaps even scarier, the letter was delivered to his actual home address (so he claims). 

Can this, or frankly any dark web box, be the real deal? It’s hard to wrap your head around the image of some random geezer packaging up boxes of creepy junk, handwriting personalised letters, and filling up coke cans with beans (yes, this happened) to send to influencers purchasing them off the dark web. There are plenty of suspicious-eye emojis being thrown at the genre as a whole, questioning whether it’s all a hoax for views, but all Mask Red has to say about that is: “Try it for yourself.”

So I did – well, I tried. As it goes, finding dark web mystery boxes is not easy, nor is searching the site recommended; clicking on the wrong link could lead to irreparable viruses. First, I had to download a VPN, to hide my identity, and a TOR browser, the only browser that gives you access to use “.onion” links (as opposed to “.com”) which is what every dark web website ends with. There’s no such thing as dark web Google either, and while there are other search engines, they’re extremely hard to find, and you need the right “.onion” link in the first place. 


I scoured the dark web for hours, using various search engine links while trying to obtain a box, but to no avail. I went onto Reddit to find more dark web forums and browser links and asked friends, but still no luck. I could find plenty of credit card information for sale, access to one of Andrew Tate’s courses for $9, hacked Paypals, any drug you could possibly want and even a degree, but no mystery boxes. When I asked Mask Red for a helping hand, he simply warned me – very vaguely – that he didn’t think he could or should help me because “it can all potentially get a bit weird”. 

As disappointing and as suspicious as this all sounded, I was still determined on getting my hands on one of these boxes. Surely with so many people opening them, they have to be out there? Or is there a possibility that all these influencers are in on the same lie?

This is exactly what YouTube star HindiDarkestFacts thought when he first got into unboxing videos. “I’d actually seen lots of the videos too, and they seemed really scripted,” he says. “So I decided to check if there was a mystery box out there myself.” Now specialising in unboxing content himself, he says he orders most of his boxes from the deep web and eBay to a PO Box for safety. “I show everything I get,” he assures.  

Whether the boxes are genuinely bought on the dark web or actually just cobbled together by the content creators, I guess theorising it is all part of the fun. For the doubters out there, HindiDarkestFacts’s message is this: “I'm glad you don’t believe in it, because the less curious you are, the more safe you are.” 

Getting into the dark web in general seems to be a slippery slope. HindiDarkestFacts says he’s even had to move house due to safety concerns after a stalker from messaging platform Discord sent him “a necklace which was a triangular shape”. Apparently, the amount of information he knew about him was scary. VICE asked HindiDarkestFacts whether he’d ever called the police about things he’d seen online or opened in a box, and he said no, though. “If you ever see this on the internet,” he says, referencing the many dark web unboxing videos which feature “Cops Called” in the title, “then just know they aren’t real, they’re doing this just for content.” His reasons why were as coded as the rest of it, obviously.

Every unboxing influencer asked was unable (or unwilling) to help me obtain a box of my own, and most didn’t want to talk at all. I’m here for the entertainment value, though. In many ways, I really do hope they’re fake – I don’t even want to sit with the connotations of pulling out wrapped up bags of children’s shoes or human hair being real. For now, I’ll accept defeat and continue to live my dark web unboxing days vicariously through the megastars. I guess, at the very least, it’s good to know there’s always a debt-free option to get a degree.