Slender Man - Creepypasta to murder.
Updated: Apr 1, 2019
Let’s establish something right from the off, something which would be furiously denied in some small corners of the internet, Slender Man is not real. He’s the result of a Something Awful photoshop competition, in which the brief was to create paranormal images. Forum user Eric Knudsen published two black and white pictures featuring groups of children, and the now infamous tall, sharp dressing, blank faced Slender Man in the background.
Slender Man tumbled into mass consciousness when Slender: The Eight Pages was released. The game was actually really good, it captured the essence of jump-scare horror without getting too bogged down in the details as later Slender Man appearances would. Slender Man has now appeared as the eponymous villain in the 2018 film Slender Man, rated at 8% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes - not bad for a horror film.
The fictional character has therefore achieved mass public exposure, but some claim that this has lead to several tragedies.
Most notorious is the Slender Man stabbing in Wisconsin. Two 12 year old girls lured their friend into the woods under the guise of a game of hide and seek, and stabbed her 19 times. They left her for dead, but she was able to crawl onto a footpath where she was discovered and was rushed to hospital.
The two girls cited an attempt to impress Slender Man as their motive. This isn’t the first time pop culture has been blamed for the crimes of children. The murder of 2 year old James Bulger by 10 year olds Jon Venables and Robert Thompson remains one of the most shocking and notorious cases in British criminal history. It sent shockwaves across the worlds as the shocking details were released. One such piece of information was that the two 10 year old boys had apparently watched Child’s Play 3, although this is debatable. Nonetheless, Child’s Play 3 became an inherent part of the story of the murder, forever intertwined with the events that day.
When Slender Man was blamed in the attempted murder of a 12 year old girl, named by the perpetrators themselves as the source of inspiration, there was no doubt that it would add to the mythos and notoriety of the character in the same way that Child’s Play 3 will always be linked with the James Bulger killing. Slender Man has, though, been connected to several more cases, from suicides to attempted murders, it doesn’t take long to find a number of cases in which Slender Man is referenced.
I’m not going to make an assessment as to how much these cases were really inspired by Slender Man since i’m not in possession of all the facts, but it is interesting to consider how the urban legend has permeated into society, and the legend is now developing a legend of it’s own.
What is it though that made Slender Man such a popular and recognisable character? His appearance in mass media for one. Slender: The Eight Pages and Slender: The Arrival both had huge exposure on Youtube from various ‘Let’s Players’, and the 2018 film did reasonably well too, grossing over $50 million world wide.
There is something to be said too for the design of the character himself. Slender Man is the essence of simplicity, and the human-like shape he has highlights the things that differentiate him from a human being, i.e his lack of face, his abnormally long limbs and his umm.. tentacle arms. Okay, perhaps the tentacle arms aren’t quite human enough to demonstrate my point, but there is something in his human features that make him more scary.
For my BA degree, I wrote a long and painful thesis about Frankenstein’s monster in cinema, and social anxieties about technology which may have influenced the way the monster looked on screen. I found very quickly that the films that wanted to make the monster scary, James Whale’s 1931 film for one, use the human appearance of the character to emphasise the horror. They create something that we expect to know the motives of, it being human-like, but our expectations are subverted by the deviant behaviour of the human shaped monster. It’s the same with Slender Man. The character is human enough to make his actions feel that bit more uneasy.
This has been rather a whistle stop tour of Slender Man, and the myth goes much deeper than I can get into here. Internet fiction’s greatest monster certainly still has legs, and I think we’ll be seeing him across various media for years to come.