June 4, 2014 4:44 pm

Slender Man: How an Internet meme became involved in a stabbing case

WATCH: Two Wisconsin girls claim their attack on their friend was an act of devotion to “Slender Man”

TORONTO – Two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls have been charged with attempted murder after nearly stabbing their friend to death in a forest after a sleepover. The girls said they planned the murder in order to become proxies a fictional Internet character named “Slender Man.”

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According to reports, the girls believed the murder would lead Slender Man to “accept them” and gain them an invitiation to live with him in a mansion in the Nicolet National Forest. One of the accused told police she often saw Slender Man in her dreams, adding that he often watched her and could read her mind.

READ MORE: Neighbours say ‘Slender man’ stabbing at odds with girls’ upbringing

“It was weird that I didn’t feel remorse,” one of the accused said in court.

The case has shocked both police and the public as investigators try to understand what drove the girls to believe in the purely fictional character they read about online.

Who is Slender Man?

Slender Man is depicted as an unnaturally tall man with long, stretched out limbs. He has no facial features and is sometimes pictured with a set of tentacles that appear to come from his back.

The character is usually dressed in a dark suit and tie and often appears in the background of images, hiding in the shadows. In many Slender Man tales, he is not seen until someone shines a light on him.

According to Creepypasta.wikia.com, Slender Man has the ability to stretch his limbs and torso to any length to induce fear in his victims. Once his arms are outstretched, his victims fall into what is described as a hypnotized state and are “utterly helpless to stop themselves from walking into them.”

“Whether he absorbs, kills, or merely takes his victims to an undisclosed location or dimension is also unknown as there are never any bodies or evidence left behind in his wake to deduce a definite conclusion,” reads a description of Slender Man on the website.

Many accounts point toward the belief that he only preys on children, but enjoys stalking those who are “paranoid of his existence.”

The figure is often said to hide in wooded areas.

Why was he created?

Slender Man was created in 2009 on a forum called “Something Awful” during a photo-editing contest that called on users to insert supernatural figures in regular photographs.

He was created by a user named Eric Knudsen who posted images of the slender figure lurking amongst groups of children.

One of two photographs originally created to show Slender Man.

Victor Surge/Eric Knudsen

The above image was submitted with the following caption, which Knudsen made up: “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.”

In an interview with “Know Your Meme” Knudsen said Slender Man was inspired by a series of supernatural and horror stories.

“I feel the most direct influences were Zack Parsons’s That Insidious Beast, the Steven King short story The Mist, the SA tale regarding The Rake, reports of so-called shadow people, Mothman, and the Mad Gasser of Mattoon,” he said in the interview.

“I used these to formulate something whose motivations can barely be comprehended and causes general unease and terror in a general population.”

Rise to Internet fame

Slender Man quickly became popular on Internet forums and message boards like 4Chan and Reddit. But the fictional character also made its way into many fan-written horror stories called “Creepypasta.”

“Creepypasta” comes from the term “Copy and Paste” and “Copypasta” – stories that are often copied and pasted on online messaging boards or sent as chain emails. “Creepypasta” refers to short horror, or just plain creepy stories posted online for fun.

Slender Man continues to be a widely referenced character on the Creepypasta site, so much so that the site’s administrator released a statement on the Wisconsin stabbing case:

“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,” read a portion of the statement.

“I have tried to keep Slender Man stories limited here. I’m aware that he and Jeff the Killer have become absurdly popular recently, with fans expanding upon their origins. Stories about Slender Man and his proxies are not the central focus of this website.”

“Slender Man” continues to be featured as one of the site’s popular tags.

You can read the fan-made Slender Man pieces here, if you dare.

Slender Man has also inspired many online web video series, including a very popular YouTube series called Marble Hornets. The series followers a character named Jay who tries to figure out what happened during the filming of a school project. He then starts to experience eerie phenomenons associated with the tapes.

The character has also inspired many video game adaptations including “Slender: The Arrival.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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