Internet meme Slender Man is the proposed cause of recent violent acts in Wisconson. But just what is Slender Man?
The Slender Man, also stylized Slenderman, is a fictional character created in 2009 by Eric Knudsen, under the pen name Victor Surge. The mythology of the Slender Man often describes his Boogeyman-like activities to include kidnapping, stalking, and even murdering children for unknown purposes, though some fan-made stories and art treat the Slender Man more sympathetically. Slender Man's appearance is described as a freakishly tall, unnaturally slender, and a demonic man in a dark black suit.
The Slender Man also sometimes appears with looming, serpentine tentacles and always has a featureless white face. The character became something of a viral phenomenon; fan-art and cosplay of the Slender Man began spreading rampantly around the internet. Short fan-fictions about Slender Man, referred to as "creepypasta," also began making their rounds on the web. A Slender Man video game, Slender, even emerged - the nearly-impossible goal: to save a child abducted by the Slender Man, you must make your way through a dark forest covered in warnings from the child before the Slender Man catches you.
This year, however, the Slender Man fun took a very dark turn when two twelve year-old Waukesha, Wisconsin girls, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, suppressed and stabbed a classmate, also 12, and left her for dead in the woods. When asked, Geyser and Weier said that they committed the crime to become "proxies," or servants, of the Slender Man, while proving his existence, by killing their friend, whose name remains withheld. It may be noted that nowhere in the Slender Man story does it say that killing another person will make a person one of Slender's proxies. A cyclist found the injured girl alive and helped her to safety. The stabbers are charged as adults with attempted first-degree homocide and both are facing 60 years in prison, but will not be tried until Geyser has had a competency test. The victim, who was stabbed 19 times, survived and is stable. Her family has released a statement thanking followers of the story for their support, which states that they "are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from the surrounding community, across the country, and even overseas."
After hearing about the above events, an Ohio mother believes that an attack made on her by her daughter believes that her motivations may have been similar.
After these incidents, Eric Knudsen released a public statement, saying, "I am deeply saddened by the tragedy in Wisconsin and my heart goes out to the families of those affected by this terrible act." Knudsen has not yet given any personal interviews on the matter.
In addition to the Slender Man creator's statement, an admin from Creepypasta Wiki, a website that publishes short internet horror folklore such as the Slender Man stories, posted that the website "does not endorse or advocate for the killing, worship, and otherwise replication of rituals of fictional works." The website, respectfully, has stopped publishing these stories for a while and now has an age limit upon website visitation. Additionally, the admin posted:
"First and most importantly, my condolences go out to all the families involved. I cannot even imagine how painful and confusing and awful this has to be for them. I don't have children, but I can imagine how my mother would feel if something like this happened to me, and it absolutely breaks my heart to even consider her having to go through that. The families of the young ladies who committed this crime also have my heart going out to them – I know this can't be easy for them as well, and I'm sure they'll have to deal with mistargeted backlash and anger even while they try to get through such a trying time themselves. So when I say that I extend my deepest sympathies and my prayers to those affected, I hope that you understand that I mean it."But one group of Creepypasta users did not think that statement was enough. The group, under the name Narrators u-NIGHTed, has created a fundraising campaign via YouCaring - the proceeds of which will go directly to the girl and her family, as well as to the organization SafeHorizon, which dedicates itself to the aid of families impacted by crime and abuse - saying:
"As members of the Creepy Pasta community, we'd like to come together as exactly that, a Community. A community who will pool their efforts to raise donations for the victim and for the broader charity to aid other children, adults and families recovering from violent crimes via SafeHorizon.org...
"In the wake of this cruel event, many people have begun pointing fingers at the Slender-man mythology and by guilt of association, the Creepy Pasta sub-genre of horror... It is imperative to understand that these things, like almost all works of the horror literary genre, are fiction. Many of these stories yes, are filled with an illusion of reality to them in an effort to make them much more unnerving. However, that does not change the fact that they are concoctions of fantasy...Hopefully, this fundraiser will reach its goal and financial support will be brought to the victim and her family. But will the creepypasta fan base live on - and should it? Is the Slender Man mythology at fault, or is there something bigger at hand?
"It is considered by many that common sense is applied to fantasy and history. We do not repeat the actions of real life monsters. We do not attempt to replicate the fantasy. We do not in any way condone those who fail to realize the line between fantasy and committing an atrocity. Nor do we condone a lack of security on the parts of the minds of those who read them. Many times when accountability is called into question, the blame is placed not on the perpetrators, but on the supposed fictional root causes. In most cases, the accountability and responsibility is to the teacher who failed to impart the wisdom of what is real and right, and most importantly, failed to pay attention."
[Image via DeviantArt user DoctorTonyStarkWho]