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Slender Man, How An Urban Legend Was Born on the Internet

The slender man has only existed for about a decade. And yet he's wormed his way into the global consciousness in an almost unprecedented fashion.
Slender Man

There's a haunting shape in the forest. You can't quite see it among the dense trees, but you're drawn to it, this tall, gaunt silhouette. It pulls you in, you want to be near it, you want to follow its commands, and it has only one command for you-- to kill. Today, we're going to deconstruct the slender man, a modern-day urban legend born on the internet. S
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Digital Origins


The slender man has only existed for about a decade. And yet he's wormed his way into the global consciousness in an almost unprecedented fashion. This abnormally tall man with a completely blank face feels like something out of an ancient myth or some Lovecraftian short story.

However, the story of the slender man comes from a decidedly modern place, the internet. This mysterious and otherworldly character is a direct outgrowth of the creepypasta internet subculture. For those unfamiliar, creepypasta is a colloquialism that combines the terms creepy stories and copypasta.

A copypasta is a means of meme generation and storytelling that, involves large masses of people copying and pasting the same block of narrative text into emails and forum posts. During the days of burgeoning internet ubiquity, these small stories would go viral being consumed by millions of people. Perhaps, you've received them. Usually, little three to five-sentence short stories have a creepy twist or an eerie ending.

One of the original creepypastas that gained widespread attention was "Ted The Carver." a horror story, that involved a man and his friends exploring a cave. The story was told in a series of blog posts. And as the blogs continued the story would get weirder and weirder, drawing the reader in and asking them to reconcile bizarre facts or study horrifying photos for clues about the narrative.

Eventually, creepypastas became so popular that, they developed their own forums and websites. R/nosleep on Reddit became the unofficial home for these types of scary stories. But these user-generated narratives couldn't be contained just r/nosleep, they spilled out into other internet forums to feed the seemingly insatiable appetite for horror content. Virtually, overnight creepypasta became its own internet subculture.

A Forum of Darkness

Slender Man A Forum of Darkness


This brings us to the strangely simple origin of the slender man. Most memes and pieces of internet culture don't have a single definitive creation point. The lack of authorship makes them embraceable by everyone and thus viral. They just feel like they've always been there, never truly willed into existence by any one creator.

However, we can trace the origin of the slender man to a post on the website something awful, created on June 10 2009 by a user named eric Knudsen posting under the name victor Serj. 

Knudsen had entered a photoshop contest on the form to see who could create the most horrifying image. He created two images of a tall man with a blank face. Under the first image he wrote, 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.

Under the second photograph he wrote, one of two recovered photographs from the sterling city library blaze-- notable for being taken the day 14 children vanished, and for what is referred to as the slender man. The deformity is cited as film defects by officials. Fire at the library occurred one week later, actual photographs confiscated as evidence.

The slender man took off from there. Garnering a cult following virtually overnight. Legions of people became obsessed with his image and back story.

Character Evolution


Eric Knudsen never really controlled or claimed the authorship of the slender man, so the character has changed and evolved quite a bit over his lifespan. Most iterations of the slender man have common attributes. He's usually depicted as abnormally tall with elongated arms and a blank white face.

His original version was roughly 15 feet tall and he would have to crouch down to get inside houses. Now, he's usually depicted as being roughly seven feet tall. The surrounding mythology of the slender man has also evolved considerably over time.

In early versions of the character. He was just a very tall man who had tentacles protruding from his back. But over time he matured into a character with otherworldly abilities, who used mind control to compel humans to do his bidding. The slender man also has a strange knack for warping and interfering with digital devices making him extremely difficult to document with modern technology. He's often able to use psychic and teleportation abilities. And being in close proximity to him typically inspires paranoia, delusions, and nosebleeds. This unknowable evil with its malicious motivations quickly morphed and grew as new people began writing stories about him.

In his early incarnations, he has commonly depicted stalking and traumatizing children. Newer versions have expanded the slender man's appetites.

The Original Adaptation

Slender Man The Original Adaptation


Within a year, the slender man became such a viral success that, he received his first adaptation. In a 2009 youtube web series would be filmmakers troy Waggner, joseph Delage, and Tim Sutton began telling an eerie and disjointed augmented reality story, focusing on what they claimed was, real-life encounters with the unknown. Like ted the carver, this slender man adaptation titled marvel hornets was a web series that purported to be a real-life documentary with footage captured by the friends and showcasing appearances by the slender man. The web stories chronicled weird happenings that the group of friends experienced. 

What perhaps gave them more credibility was the fact that the entire project was funded with only $500. Many believe that the footage and convincing effects the team created could not have been produced on such a low budget with such inexpensive cameras. In order to really sell the idea that they were experiencing these otherworldly phenomena, the group would upload at random times with some videos having little or nothing to do with the core story of the happenings.

Marble hornets developed quite a cult following and have since been compared to lonely girl 15 a series of fictitious web vlogs that took the internet by storm in the early 2000s as one of the most important early artistic works to be produced on the internet. In all, marvel hornets were comprised of 92 videos that encompass the main story.

There were also 39 entries on an accompanying channel to the arc that has side narratives and additional content. In total, the channel's videos have gotten more than 100 million views.

In 2015, a marble hornet spin-off feature film adaptation was released titled, always watching a marble hornet story. The film is a loose adaptation of the original web series and the slender man's online mythology.

Another slender man web series "Every Man Hybrid" was released initially in 2010 and concluded in 2019. It consisted of 84 videos and six hidden videos. Additionally, a third web series tribe 12 also contributed to the slender mythology.

Marble Hornets: The Game


The success of marble hornets eventually spawned a video game titled slender the eight pages. In the game, you play as someone lost in the forest attempting to find eight pages from a book that the slender man has strewn among the rocks and trees. The game developed a significant cult following. Fans of slender men propelled the game and the character to new heights. Within the game though, a slender man was referred to only as the operator. Believe it or not, this isn't the only game in which the slender man has a role.

He also appears in 2013's slender arrival, a SQL to the eight pages. He's even appeared in Minecraft. The slender man was the inspiration behind the creepy and mysterious Andelman in the highly beloved game.

Slender Man: Movie Star


The viral fame of the character continues to spawn more and more attention. It was only a matter of time before slender man-made the silver screen in a big-budget film. There have been a few films based on Slender Man, but the most mainstream adaptation was the 2018 film titled slender man.

The film stars Javier Botet and joey king. It was directed by Sylvain White and written by David Birke. The film centers on a group of friends who summon the slender man and who are then plagued by his presence and malicious intent.

Despite an outcry from fans, the film was greenlit with a pg 13 rating. The slender man was released on August 10th, 2018, and grossed 51 million worldwide off a budget of roughly $10 million. Unfortunately, the film was met with largely negative reactions from both fans and critics. One of whom called it to quote "an under-cooked serving of creepypasta."

Real World Crimes



The most truly terrifying episode involving the slender man happened four years before the ill-reviewed slender man movie came out, and it happened in real life.

The legend of the slender man's popularity and internet ubiquity reached an all-time high when an attempted murder was carried out in his name by two twin girls. On may 31 2014 in Waukesha, Wisconsin two 12-year-old girls stabbed their mutual friend 19 times.
Why? would they do that what would drive two literal children to perform such a heinous act?
well, they did it for a simple reason. They said they believed the slender man was completely real, and they wanted to curry favor with him. They had an undiluted desire to become proxies of the slender man.

Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier were two seemingly normal children by any traditional metric. However, unbeknownst to their friends and family they'd become radicalized by tales of the slender man. They'd become completely enamored with him, and were convinced that he was in fact a real entity.

They lured their mutual acquaintance a girl named Payton Lautner into a nearby forest, a place called David's park and convinced her to play a game of hiding and seek with them. But they both quickly turned on her one held her down while the other stabbed her 19 times in the chest, torso, and legs.

After they concluded the act, the two girls stood up drenched in blood and said they would go get help. Despite this claim, after arriving back at their respective homes neither girl said anything that would result in directing medical aid to a grievously wounded Payton Lautner, but Peyton never gave up. Realizing no help was coming she crawled through the forest until she discovered a path. Luckily a bicyclist happened to come across her and quickly called 9-1-1.

Despite stab wounds to several vital organs and the fact that one thrust just missed piercing an artery by a single millimeter, Peyton survived.

The Court Case


Despite their ages, both of the girls face criminal charges. And in 2017 Anissa Weier pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree homicide and was ultimately sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. She was also institutionalized in a state psychiatric ward until the age of 37 years old. 

Morgan geyser accepted a plea bargain in which she would be given a sentence of 40 years to life, as well as be placed in a mental health facility for an indeterminate amount of time. She was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia. This horrific crime served as the basis for the documentary beware of the slender man which was released in 2016. Directed by irene Taylor Brodsky, it follows the true-life events that prompted two 12-year-old girls to try to violently take the life of a playmate.

The documentary examines both their lives as well as, shines a light into the murky depths of the internet and the bizarre corners of the world wide web.

Conclusion

 
The slender man is as ubiquitous today as he's ever been. He's become a fixture of popular culture, an urban myth of the digital age. A character who's taken up residence in our imaginations. His eerie in human arms and blank expressionless face speak to the darkness within all of us. His unknowable otherworldly motivation, his bizarre abilities, and his iconic silhouette have captivated a viral legion of fans that will only continue to grow. And with more slender man films, video games, and anonymous forum posts likely on the way, it's unlikely that he's going to go anywhere anytime soon.

So what do you think? is the slender man the first urban myth of the 21 century? has he become a modern-day boogeyman whose blank face will terrify us for generations to come? is there someone in your life who's just a little too interested in the slender man?

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