Many urban legends have been circulating for years. The very same legends I was scared of or maybe dabbled with when I was a child are the same legends my children still talk about today. More recently I heard about my niece who on grade 3 camp had a late ‘scary’ night in the cabin worried about the Bloody Mary they had played earlier. Even though many legends are older in origin, it has not stopped the appearance of new horrors to scare our children (and even some of us adults). One of the newer urban legends become a worldwide phenomenon which sadly ended in the attempted murder of a young girl. I am of course referring to ‘Slenderman’.
While some legends are so old and have had information twisted and changed over the years that we don’t even know where or how they came to be, the story of Slenderman is so recent that we actually know how it started. Its origin is a big lesson into the word ‘hype’ and how easily panic and misinformation can spread in the new age of social media and Google.
In 2009, Eric Knudsen (also known as Victor Surge) posted in a thread on the Something Awful Internet Forum in a thread called ‘create paranormal photos’. It was a thread created to challenge people to edit everyday photos to appear paranormal. While there were many submissions, it was Knudsen’s that made the most waves. Using his alias Victor Surge, he posted two photos featuring a thin, very tall, and slender man who had no face and wore a black suit that was added amongst a picture of children.
Setting his pictures in the past like they were almost out of some 1980’s horror movie about a summer camp gone wrong, they seemed real and the quotes which accompanied the photos helped to tell the story inducing both fear and intrigue to the reader. It was here that the legend of Slenderman was born.
Original Slender Man Photo edited by Eric Knudsen on Something Awful
“One of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze. Notable for being taken the day which fourteen children vanished and for what is referred to as “The Slender Man”. Deformities cited as film defects by officials. Fire at library occurred one week later. Actual photograph confiscated as evidence. – 1986, photographer Mary Thomas, missing since June 13th 1986”
Original Slender Man Photo edited by Eric Knudsen on Something Awful
“We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but it’s persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time. – 1986 photographer unknown, presumed dead”
Funnily enough, user slidebite from the forum commented underneath Knudsen’s submission saying
“You just know a couple of the good ones are going to eventually make it to paranormal websites and be used as genuine.”
If he knew then what he knows now!
Many continued with their submissions and some become intrigued and commended Knudsen for subtly injecting the tall figure with the accompanying story which had some proclaiming they would not be sleeping that night. Knudsen kept up with the story and said he would look into the owners of the photographs. Further down in the thread, Knudsen commented that he had found further information connected with these photographs:
1994: Wilks Estate. One subject reported nothing out of the ordinary before taking photograph. Lower stairs area was said to be very dark. Subject states that after the camera flash she heard a sound like a watermelon being *unable to understand subject*.
Subject unable to recall events after manor power failure. Unable to question other two identified subjects. Camera and film acquired from Gloria Cready, current resident of Woodview Mental Hospital and Psychological Rehabilitation Clinic. Film mostly uncontaminated despite mass of blood and human tissue present on camera. No positive ID on anomalous tall and slender subject. Facial blur caused by possible contamination.
Early digital analysis indicates tall subject may have no eyes. Anomalies, previously thought to be film errors and flash artifacts, now thought to be appendages.
Final identified subject reported missing along with other thirty-three patients and staff of Woodview Mental Hospital and Psychological Rehabilitation Clinic south wing.
Further inquiry to cease immediately.
(see report No.3339-2)
June 11th 2009 somethingawful.com
People were hanging to every word in posts to the thread which has now been removed. Some created their own versions and added their own take to the fake figure. The legend of Slenderman had now truely evolved.
Slenderman soon found its way to YouTube and other forums including Creepypasta – a famous website where users write scary paranormal related or horror short stories for the enjoyment of readers. The keyword here is ‘story’. The stories are fictional, however, not everyone seems to think this way. Many believe the stories about some of these mythical characters to be true. I know my son who is 8 years old developed a fear of the character ‘Jeff The Killer’. I had no idea what he was talking about. It seemed many people had made YouTube videos of encounters with this killer and I managed to trace it back to a famous Creepypasta submission. It is a true testament to the words ‘Don’t believe everything you read on the internet!’
After the photos began circulating the internet on a more mainstream basis, people began to write fictional stories about Slender Man and submitted them to Creepypasta with storylines of Slenderman stalking people, scaring them and his target in the stories was usually children using the original photographs as inspiration. Some went as far as providing theories with evidence they linked him to unsolved murders. The horror community loved the story and started to submit and created their own ‘fanart’ one of which ended up becoming one of the main photos many associates with Slenderman. A photo of the character holding the hand of a child as if to lure them in with a sense of false security. Soon Slenderman made his way popular children’s games such as Minecraft and Roblox with young teens the prime target.
There is no official source on the ‘lore’ of Slender Man (as he doesn’t exist) so there are different stories around about his motives, what he does, and his appearance all changes from story to story. We live in a digital age where the perception is that if it is not on the internet, it isn’t true and everything we read on the internet must be true! While the origins of this legend are very much well known, many younger people are unaware and found the story so convincing in fact, that the legend of Slender man led to attempted murder.
In 2014, two 12-year-old girls Morgan and Anissa came up with a plan to kill their friend Payton (also a 12-year-old girl). The girls were obsessed with ‘Slender Man’ and told police that they had to carry out the murders as it was necessary to please Slender Man. On the morning of May 31st, 2014, the three girls woke up from a sleepover at Morgan’s house. They asked Morgan’s mother if they could go to the local park. Morgan and Anissa led Payton into the woods. They had a kitchen knife. Morgan handed Anissa the knife and said “I can’t do it, you know where all the soft spots are”. Anissa handed the knife back to her and said “You do it …. Go ballistic. Go crazy. Make sure she’s down”. Morgan then began to stab Payton 19 times. She wiped the knife on her jacket and put it back into her bag. The girls left Payton for dead, however, she managed to crawl out of the woods and got help. Police soon visited Morgan’s house in riot gear looking for the girls. Morgan who is now 15 recently pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree intentional homicide. She has also been diagnosed with early-onset schizophrenia meaning the court found her not guilty due to mental illness. She will live in a mental institution for an unknown number of years. Anissa was diagnosed with ‘shared psychotic disorder. Anissa who is now 16 pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree intentional homicide as a party to a crime. Again she was found not guilty due to mental illness and was committed to a mental health institution for 25 years. Payton survived the attack. The girls had a shared delusion due to an obsession with Slender Man.
The girls were obsessed with Slender Man through creepypasta. Their mental illness blurred the line between fiction and reality and sadly ended in tragedy. Even with the large amount of publicity this case received, a lot of people still believe Slender Man to be a real being. In this case, the girls had read stories and came to believe that if they did not kill their friend Slender Man would become angry and kill their families and that they needed to do it as a first step in becoming proxies. They said Slender Man watches them and can read their minds and has special powers like teleportation. Their parents didn't know anything about Slender Man or creepypasta.
There have been other reports of young teens attacking family members who claim the attacks were also motivated by Slender Man. Slender Man has become to this generation what the Candyman or Boogie Man was to my generation. When I was a young impressionable teenager,r however, social media didn’t exist in the way it does today. I was quite naive on my ICQ chats and we certainly weren’t talking about the boogie man. It is up to us to monitor our kids and inform them what is real and what isn’t. My 8-year-old son is scared Slender Man is going to come into his room at night. At the same time, he also wants to dress as Slenderman for Halloween. We need to monitor what our kids are reading and what games they are playing. They are impressionable, and it is up to us to fill in those blanks when that line between fiction and reality gets blurred.
When you watch one of the many Slender Man movies or see these photos on the internet, please remember one thing …… It is FICTION! I also encourage you to watch a documentary on Netflix and HBO called 'Beware the Slenderman'. it focuses on the attempted murder and to hear the detailed information the girls give in their interviews with police is disturbing and spine chilling.
Images shown of Slender Man all belong to Eric Knudson/Victor Surge
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