Described by numerous sources as an obscenely tall, faceless man; generally appearing in a black or grey suit with a red or black tie, and white shirt; and flashing black, shadow-like tentacles, Slenderman is universally understood to be both malevolent and aggressively dangerous.
Internet pages and various forums claim that he “has no exactly defined or specified history,” but sightings have been said to date back as far as the early 1600s in Germany. The Slenderman Wiki goes on to state that “photographs from the early 1900s were the next confirmed reports,” coupling photographic evidence with reports of child disappearances in the US, UK, and Russia. In the most recent occurrences, ranging from the late 2000s to the early 2010s, individuals have secured recorded evidence of ongoing stalking behavior and attack scenarios, codenamed Marble Hornets, TribeTwelve, and Rivn videos, to name a few.
However, despite pages upon pages of internet search results, pictures, and seemingly true accounts of “Slenderman,” he is ultimately nothing more than a myth.
Born in Internet forum “Something Awful” in 2009 as a submission to a challenge of creating a fake, photoshopped photograph of something paranormal, the Slenderman meme quickly gained popularity and has grown to have somewhat of a cult following, to the point where volumes of false folklore have been generated to fuel the meme. Since, Slenderman has been the integral concept behind the creation of various online games such as “Haunt”, “Real Slender”, and “Kill Slender” – all relatively entertaining to play with groups of friends.
Unfortunately, two young girls in Wisconsin took the satirical, over-hyped lore to heart, and are now facing adult charges of up to 65 years in prison for stabbing their friend, a 12-year old classmate, 19 times in the “arms, legs, and torso,” the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel states; the victim is in stable condition. The attack, according to the police report, was calculated. The two girls had been planning months in advance, but, when the time came to execute the murder on Friday evening, they decided to wait until Saturday to lure the victim into a nearby forest.
After being taken into custody, the young girls claimed to have been inspired by the Slenderman lore, voicing concerns that if they did not commit the murder, he would “kill [their] family” (Gabler). They went on to describe him as the “‘leader’ of Creepypasta”— an Internet site that hosts many pages dedicated to the meme—and that “one must kill to show dedication” (Gabler).
Parents across the nation are reacting to the news of such an awful event, wondering about the online safety of their own children when such manipulative, convincing evidence of fake villains rests at the tips of their fingers. In response, the higher-ups of the Creepypasta Wiki have issued the following statement:
“ALL WORKS PRESENTED ON THIS WIKI AND OTHER SITES (INCLUDING SLENDERMAN, JEFF THE KILLER, BEN, SONIC.EXE, ETC) ARE FICTIONAL STORIES AND CHARACTERS […] All it takes is one person to do something insane and radical in the name of someone or something […] This is an isolated incident, and does not represent or attribute the Creepypasta community as a whole. This wiki does not endorse or advocate for the killing, worship, and otherwise replication of rituals of fictional works. There is a line of between fiction and reality, and it is up to you to realize where the line is. We are a literature site, not a crazy satanic cult.”
Sadly, these words came too late for the two young girls in Waukesha County, as they face severe repercussions for their indiscretions and inability to differentiate fact from fiction. The Internet has done many great things and has provided almost unrestricted access to a wealth of information for people across the globe. Unfortunately for many unguided users, there are so many things posted on the Web that the line between fantasy and reality has become, for lack of a better term, virtually indiscernible.
This raises the question: how can we keep incidents like this from occurring again? Is the answer Internet censorship? Or, is it the parents’ responsibility to monitor their children’s Internet usage and promote safe surfing techniques at home? The minds of young children are extremely impressionable, so it is important to teach them to be cautious and safe on the Web at an early age, as well as to ensure that a line of communication is always open between children and adults. By doing this, situations concerning questionable Internet content, such as the Slenderman meme, can be discussed and investigated before they get out of hand or cause serious damage.
Regardless, basic online safety is a necessity, and a potentially life-saving preventative measure. The FBI urges children to “tell [their] parents right away” if they read something on the Internet that makes them uncomfortable; additionally, it gives the following advice:
- Never give out personal information such as contact info, names, or any information that references your geographical location in chat rooms or online forums.
- Never send pictures of yourself to others without the permission of a parent or legal guardian.
- Never write to someone who makes you feel uncomfortable or scared.
- Never meet someone or have them visit you without the permission of your parents.
- And, always remember that people online may not be who they say they are.
Chuck, Elizabeth. “911 Call Released in Waukesha ‘Slender Man’ Stabbings – NBC News.” NBC News. NBC News, 04 June 2014. Web. 04 June 2014.
“Dark Horror Games.” Slender Man Games. Dark Horror Games – Online Games, n.d. Web. 04 June 2014.
FBI. “Kids Saftey.” FBI. FBI – US Department of Justice, 14 Sept. 2010. Web. 05 June 2014.
“Fiction, Reality, and You.” Creepypasta Wiki. N.p., 3 June 2014. Web. 03 June 2014.
Gabler, Ellen. “Charges Detail Chilling Plot by 12-year-olds to Kill Classmate.” Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Journal Sentinel Inc, 02 June 2014. Web. 02 June 2014.
“The Slender Man.” Creepypasta Wiki. Wikia, n.d. Web. 04 June 2014.
“Slender Man.” The Slenderman Wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 June 2014.