In the history of all horrifying creatures, Slender Man is the most horrible. Badder than Freddy Krueger, more evil than Michael Myers, and more cunning than Jigsaw, he is without a doubt the scariest creature ever to exist.
Except this isn’t true. The only thing that Creepy McTentacleson (our adorable pet name for Slender Man) has in common with those other guys is that he’s, well, imaginary. Made up. A tall (literally) tale. Or is he? That seems to be the big question on a lot of minds, which is utterly baffling, since we know exactly when he was created, by whom, and where. Despite all this knowledge, there are forums galore dedicated to studying him, fretting over whether he’s coming after people, and some people even committing atrocious crimes to curry his favor.
The real-life Slenderman-inspired stabbing
On May 31, 2014, a 12-year-old girl crawled out of the woods in Waukesha, Wisconsin, to be found by a passing cyclist. She got to the hospital just in time, after being stabbed 19 times by two of her friends. Those girls, also 12, claimed they attempted to kill the victim to become proxies for Slender Man. According to them, he would hurt their families if they didn’t kill for him, but if they did, he would let them live in his mansion.
One of the perpetrating girls, when interviewed, described the incident as “stabby stab stab stab,” and described the victim crying out, “I hate you! I trusted you!” The same girl confessed that she had telepathic contact with Slender Man, and that she’d made a side deal that, if they failed to kill the victim, he could “have his way” with their families. Feel free to shudder — we did, too.
The girl with the Slender Man mind-meld was later diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her murderous companion has admitted that the pale supernatural villain is a work of fiction. Outside pure psychopathy, it doesn’t make any sense why they’d do this. At least this story has a happy ending, in that the girl who was stabbed is alive and well, and the two confused girls who stabbed her have concluded their trials and are receiving long-term psychiatric care.
All this for a character whose fictionality can be discovered with ten seconds on Google…
Slender Man belongs to everybody, and nobody
On June 10, 2009, Eric Knudsen, under the fake name Victor Surge, created Slender Man in a SomethingAwful thread called “Create Paranormal Images.” Handy with the Photoshop, Surge uploaded two photos featuring a tall, faceless man in the distance. On June 11, he added another photo and an imaginary doctor’s report. So, that means Knudsen owns the character, right?
Apparently not. On June 12, another user posted a new photo, along with a Slender Man story of their own. On June 14, yet another forum user made up a story about Slender Man. After that, the “creepypasta,” as the hip kids call it, spread like wildfire, resulting in fan art and fan fiction from all corners of the internet, along with a popular YouTube series called Marble Hornets. Additionally, people created extremely creepy (and crappy) video games about him.
Knudsen had little to do with any of these new creations, and yet he did not sue. Almost certainly, he couldn’t. See, the Slender Man character isn’t technically any one person’s property, nor is it technically public domain. It’s confusing, but basically, while Knudsen has copyright on the original images he posted on Something Awful, IP laws aren’t specific enough to keep other people from creating their own versions, which are also copyrightable. You’d think, with the way Slender Man has captured so many imaginations someone would have tried to lay claim to the character, but it’s tricky. Maybe because of the bad things that have happened in Slender Man’s name, nobody even wants to claim him.
Joss Whedon may have thought of him first
The Slender Man was created in 2009. However, a group of similar-looking characters hit the small screen in 1999, in the “Hush” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The similarities are obvious: Pale, tall, bald, snappy suit, creepy to the nth. Also, the Gentlemen are silent, and they steal your voice so you can’t scream — meanwhile, Slender Man is silent, and makes you vomit and cough blood, and good luck screaming while doing that.
Is it possible that Slender Man drew some inspiration from the Whedon creation? Alicia Lu, in a 2014 Bustle article, saw some similarities, but suggests that perhaps the Gentlemen were an incarnation of Slender Man prior to his internet birth. Lu also says Slender Man can be seen in 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth, and draws a correlation between Slender Man and the Ood on Doctor Who (2011) and Skrillex’s “Equinox” video (also 2011).
So did Joss or Guillermo think of Slender Man first, or did he exist already? Doesn’t make sense.
People are legit afraid of Slender Man
Despite his obvious and completely transparent origin, some people are legitimately afraid of Slender Man. While some kids, like the two girls in Wisconsin, decided he was cool and something to serve, others frantically posted to Yahoo Answers boards, asking the vast, gaping maw of the Internet whether or not they should sleep at night because they’re afraid the Slender Man is after them. Also, there is a forum on Psych Central where, in 2014, people discussed their fear of Slender Man, and a similar thread on the Phobics-Awareness forum.
Why would people be terrified of an internet meme that started in 2009? Fear doesn’t just go away. Slender Man has traits that echo many classic horror figures, and the biggest thing about him is his “Otherness.” He is a blank slate, allowing people to ascribe even more horrifying qualities to him. Despite his clear-as-day origins, his folkloric qualities allow people to build myths and legends around him, to create a new narrative that perfectly plays to the audience’s fears. This is probably why he’s amassed so many terrifying qualities, stretched to (depending on who’s telling the story) encompass all the terrible qualities of Cthulhu, Michael Myers, the aliens from Area 51, and anything else spooky.
Slender Man is the most powerful scary thing ever
Part of Slender Man’s allure is how he can take on pretty much every spooky superpower a baddie can have. He has tentacles coming out his back, presumably for all kinds of horrifying things. He can teleport, so you can’t really run away from him. While he’s chasing you, he’ll magically give you coughing fits that make you vomit blood. He can change his physical appearance based on who is looking at him, and he never leaves a body or any evidence (because magic).
Because his mythos is crowdsourced, he has all the characteristics of a collection of nightmares smashed into an uncontrollable, uncontained mythology that has yet to sort itself out into a cohesive fictional story.
That, of course, doesn’t mean people haven’t tried. A quick IMDB search turns up (besides the shorts and YouTube videos), several titles related to Slender Man. One is the HBO documentary about the legend and, specifically, the girls who tried to kill their friend, but the rest are horror movies featuring our tall villain. And now Slender Man has his own feature film.
So, um, about those tentacles. Why does Slender Man have tentacles? According to fandom lore, his tentacles (or “tendrils”) can appear and disappear, and they’re used for grabbing people. Or to help him walk or climb. Or to be super-duper creepy. Whatever.
Slender Man is usually drawn with six tentacles, but sometimes as many as 10, and they can reach quite far into the forest. What is it about these squirmy arm-type things that really freezes your blood in its tracks? It’s probably Lovecraft’s fault. His most infamous monster, Cthulhu, has crazy tentacles coming out of his face. Plus, not only was Cthulhu a thing to fear, he was also a thing to worship in Lovecraftian mythology. His Otherness was singular and awe-worthy. So is Slender Man’s, one would suppose.
So yes, maybe Slender Man captures our imagination because of those tentacles. Of all the scary traits Slender Man has, that’s the one talked about the most. They, out of all his “powers,” make him especially “other.” But it still doesn’t make sense that people would want to be his proxy, which is sort of like worshiping him.
He may be a fourth-dimensional being
Some people have actually tried to use science to explain Slender Man’s movement. Or rather, “science.” Since he teleports, one might assume that he time travels — however, since time travel is so far-fetched, some more grounded types have suggested that everyone get real — he might just be a fourth-dimensional being. Yep.
In this theory, Slender Man is capable of moving not only in our three-dimensional world, but in the “n” dimension, like the Upside Down in Stranger Things. Things that exist in the “n” dimension are not separate from our reality, but we can’t see it or explain it, unless we’re super special, like Eleven. To further our Stranger Things analogy, this theory suggests Slender Man doesn’t actually teleport. He can move in and out of the “n” dimension, which makes it look like he pops up out of nowhere in our dimension, much like how Eleven can access the Upside Down in her deprivation tank, or how the Monster can show up and steal Barb.
You know. Science.
Despite not being real, people report experiences
Yep. Despite the fact that Slender Man is plainly not real, people still report seeing him. Whenever a figure like this pops up, people will search to the ends of the Earth to find some sort of “true” origin. Slender Man was “born” in 2009, yet people report he’s been stalking them since they were children, or that as soon as they read about Slender Man, he pays them a visit. That’s the thing about an ominous, looming, scary monster. As imaginative and fearful human people, we find our deepest horrors and nightmares and throw this new figure right into the club.
In a collection of “real” experiences with Slender Man, published in 2014, one Reddit user claimed that, as a kindergartner, a faceless tall man in a suit visited them in a dream. The user called the nightmare “Tall Stick Man.” Another story in the collection tells of a dream someone had in 2003, where they were running through a forest holding a baby. Long story short, Slender Man eats the baby.
Perhaps the most interesting thing suggested was that once you’ve learned about Slender Man, he becomes real to you. Basically, the knowledge of him is a disease, and the more you learn, the more you fear. We’re not sure if that person meant it was something like from The Ring, that once you “saw” him, you couldn’t unsee him … and he’d eventually murder you. Perhaps, though, they meant once the seed of fear was planted, it could germinate and take root. Your darkest fears would finally have a tangible thing to attach themselves to. And that … actually makes a lot of sense.
Unsolved Mysteries Of Colonial America
The Psychedelic Fungus That's Infecting Cicadas
This Is What Happened To Pablo Escobar's Colombia Estate
The Weird Thing People Are Using A Volcano For
The Strangest Aphrodisiacs Throughout History
This Was T.S. Eliot's Odd Obsession
Going Postal: Man Receives 55,000 Letters From The Same Company
Physicists Can't Explain Strange Particles Found In Antarctica
The Most Bizarre Toys From The Past Decade
Have Scientists Really Found An Alien Probe?