He lurks in the back of grainy photos – always black and white – stretched out and twisted.
Some say he hides in the woods waiting to eat children, others that he stalks humans down on lonely streets at night. There are those who say he heralds from Eastern European myths or children’s fairy tales.
He’s faceless to some, changeable to others, his expression mimicking your fears.
No one agrees what the Slender Man looks like because he was never a real tangible thing.
He’s an Internet legend.
Born on a forum, he spiraled out of control becoming something in his own right – a being whose origins can be traced back to a specific day.
Something two 12-year-old girls, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, seem to have missed when they attempted to murder their classmate in a bid to become Slender Man’s “proxies”.
Geyser has been committed to a hospital for 40 years and Weier was sentenced to 25 years in a mental hospital in December.
June 8, 2009 – the day Slender Man was created
If you search for Slender Man’s origin, you’ll be inundated with elaborate – but made up – tales. From Germany’s Black Forest to Ancient Egypt, he’s reportedly been everywhere.
The truth is far simpler. His life began on a forum on Something Awful, a humour site for people who like to joke about everything from Dungeons & Dragons to porn, creepy pictures to weird reviews.
On June 8, 2009, a Florida man called Eric Knudsen uploaded two photoshopped images under the alias Victor Surge.
The thread he commented on, Create Paranormal Images, challenged users to create the best new mythological creature and pass them off as authentic.
When Knudsen posted his attempt, it struck a chord. Two photos of children haunted by a tall, shadowy man with tentacle like arms. He added ominous text alongside them.
The first: “‘We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time…’ – 1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead.”
To the second he added a fake library seal. Several children smile at the camera, while the others gather around a tall figure in a suit as he summons them.
A detailed caption accompanies it: “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.”
Knudsen later revealed his inspiration for Slender Man came from “H.P Lovecraft, Stephen King (specifically his short stories), the surreal imaginings of William S. Burroughs, and couple games of the survival horror genre; Silent Hill and Resident Evil.”
The doctor’s evidence
A few days later Knudsen returned to the forum and posted a fictional doctor’s note that listed several alleged Slender Man victims from the 1990s.
They include the extremely graphic; a “mass of blood and human tissue present on the camera” handed over to authorities by a patient at a mental hospital being one.
A follow-up post continued the story, adding 33 patients later went missing from the institution. Of course, the facility didn’t exist.
For weeks he added to the myth. Doctored photos, newspaper clippings and child’s drawings all emerged. Other users started to add their own contributions.
By June, the Something Awful thread was solely dedicated to Slender Man.
“I’ve been seriously debating sharing these, but after Victor Surge’s posts I feel I have to,” baited one, going on to tell a story about missing teens who vanished while camping. He claimed he was given a photo by an uncle, a police officer, still haunted by the incident years later.
While the post was later removed, it sparked more. Users added and added to the myth. Stories of houses burnt down, missing kids and Slender Man luring people into the woods poured in. By mid-June, the backstory for the creature had run to 194 pages long – at least according to one authoritative PDF.
The original thread is still live .
How the legend outgrew the forum
It was a mere ten days later when three college students – Troy Wagner, Joseph DeLange and Tim Sutton – released a series of short videos showing Slender Man in the style of The Blair Witch Project.
The tall, faceless figure disrupts the students school project ‘Marble Hornets’. A classmate later finds the footage after the student becomes ill and becomes obsessed with what he calls ‘The Operator’. The last captions tell viewers he went on to become disturbed. There are 97 videos amassed over a year that then go on to become the game The Arrival.
Slender Man has gone viral.
He now crops up on 4Chan, fan art and fiction follows, making him an internet sensation. His mythology has entered muddy waters as his folklore appears on other fan forums, some argue he was around long before Knudsen – with his roots in German mythology.
“I didn’t expect it to move beyond the SA forums,” Knudsen said.
Adding: “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. Internet memes are finicky things and by making something at the right place and time, it can swell into an ‘Internet Urban Legend’.”
Slender Man appears in augmented reality games inviting gamers to survive encounters with him, two games were created by the men behind Marble Hornets, and in Minecraft – he had become a trope.
Slender Man spurs two girls on to attempt murder
It’s in 2011 that Slender Man appeared on CreepyPasta, the online hub for horror stories. He was given his own page on the site. This was where the two girls Geyser and Weier read the story.
Payton Leutner, then 11, was coerced into the woods by the pair behind Geyser’s Wisconsin home in the middle of the night. They stabbed her 19 times, in the torso, arms, legs and then left her for dead. They said they did it for the Slender Man, to make sure he would spare their families, but also so he would invite them to live with him in his manor.
Luckily Leutner survived, crawling onto a bike path where a cyclist spots her. The girls were caught, but the spotlight was now on this ‘mythical being’.
The public demanded answers as the case blew up. Terrified parents were baying for blood, they wanted to know how their impressionable kids had been exposed to such a story.
Hounded by press and parents alike, Knudsen released a statement through a publicist.
“I am deeply saddened by the tragedy in Wisconsin and my heart goes out to the families of those affected by this terrible act,” he says. He then distanced himself from the horrific event – he hasn’t spoken to the media since.
The two teens aren’t the only ones to turn to murder to appease Slender Man. An Ohio teen stabbed her own mother in his name.
“I came home one night from work, and she was in the kitchen waiting for me, and she was wearing a mask, a white mask,” said the mother.
It emerges that her daughter was obsessed by Slender Man; role-playing and claiming she had found notes from him. She even created a whole world for him in Minecraft.
It eerily echoed the 12-year-old’s story.
Were the girls faking it?
Morgan Geyser was later diagnosed as Schizophrenic. She claimed she also communicated with other characters, like Harry Potter’s Voldemort, the Vulcans from Star Trek, even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The court-appointed psychologists said she was “not faking”.
“They hoped [their friend] would die,” Ellen Gabler wrote in the Journal-Sentinel , “and they would see Slender and know he existed.”
Slender Man on the big screen
Now Slender Man is being made into a movie slated for release this year.
He shows no signs of going away, but then legends never do.
“Before you had angels and succubi, and then ghosts and spirits, today we have shadow people and inter-dimensional beings,” said Knudsen. “The Slender Man, and other newly created entities, are just the newest addition in the progression of a long, and very real, human tradition.
“You’ve seen him, now you can’t unsee him.”
When is Slender Man released in the UK?
Slender Man is slated for release on August 24, 2018 in the UK.
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