The Slender Man movie played in theaters last year, fully ready to terrify you, so what are you waiting for? Who doesn't want to spend their night worried that a faceless man with long wobbly arms is going to emerge from the woods and kidnap them? Or maybe you've already seen the film and now you're frantically Googling to find out if any parts of the movie actually happened? Good call, because this willowy figure isn't just an urban legend spawned from the internet's creepiest corners—the Slender Man is actually responsible for several real-life attempted murders. Here's everything you need to know, and have fun trying to sleep tonight!
Slender Man's Origin Story Is Creepy AF
Slender Man was created back in 2009 by Eric Knudsen (who goes by "Victor Surge" on the internet) for a contest on the website Something Awful; specifically, Knudsen designed Slender Man for the "Create Paranormal Images" thread, which was calling for participants to photoshop existing photographs. The Slender Man started off as a tall, creepy, slim, spider-like figure photoshopped into two seemingly benign pictures of kids playing.
Knudsen's images found their way onto 4Chan and then went viral, and soon the Slender Man started appearing in videos, photos, and even games (Minecraft's Enderman character is said to be based on him). In short, Slender Man entered the realm of urban legend, morphing from an internet concoction into a wood-dwelling boogeyman who preys on children. Delightful!
Here's Knudsen explaining why the story of Slender Man took off, even though the figure was clearly manufactured:
It differs from the prior concept of the urban legend in that it is on the internet, and this both helps and harms the status of the Slender Man as one. In my personal opinion, an urban legend requires an audience ignorant of the origin of the legend. It needs unverifiable third and fourth hand (or more) accounts to perpetuate the myth. On the internet, anyone is privy to its origins as evidenced by the very public Something Awful thread. But what is funny is that despite this, it still spread.
Slender Man Is to Blame for a Real-Life Stabbing
In May 2014, two Wisconsin girls named Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier were accused of stabbing their classmate Payton Leutner because they believed that doing so would please the fictional Slender Man, and prevent him from harming their families.
The girls, who said they learned of Slender Man on the website "Creepy Pasta," were just 12 years old at the time of the crime. Payton was stabbed 19 times, and barely survived the attack. In response to the incident, Knudsen said, "I am deeply saddened by the tragedy in Wisconsin and my heart goes out to the families of those affected by this terrible act."
In October 2019, Payton spoke out for the first time about the attack. "I've come to accept all of the scars that I have," she said in an ABC interview. "It's just a part of me. I don't think much of them. They will probably go away and fade eventually."
In addition to the attack on Leutner, there have been numerous other crimes connected to the fictitious Slender Man, mostly involving young teens. After the Wisconsin stabbing, a 13-year-old Ohio girl—believed to be obsessed with Slender Man—attacked her mom with a knife. That same year, a 14-year-old girl from Florida reportedly set her house on fire after reading about Slender Man.
Even in September 2018 (in other words, like, VERY RECENTLY) tabloids are reporting Slender Man sightings. Literally, The Sun just published a piece called "Real Slender Man SPOTTED? Terrifying Footage Emerges as Man Goes Missing in Forest."
Good lord. Slender Man might be scary, but the impact of fake news—or in this case, fake urban legend-inspired news—is even scarier.
There's Been Some Major Controversy Surrounding the Film
The Slender Man film came out last year, which is (yeah) a controversial move on the part of Sony Pictures considering a child almost died when two other children took the horror story way too seriously. While the movie isn't specifically about any of the real-life crimes, Bill Weier—the father of one of the girls involved in the attack—told The Associated Press that he found it distasteful.
"It's absurd they want to make a movie like this," Weier said. "It's popularizing a tragedy is what it's doing. I'm not surprised but in my opinion it's extremely distasteful. All we're doing is extending the pain all three of these families have gone through."
Weier definitely has a point. But if you are still interested in seeing Slender Man, please remember that Slender Man isn't real and definitely isn't lurking in the woods outside your house right now. It's fine, I'm not scared, whatever, bye.
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