Slenderman Stabbing

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on June 4th, 2014

Ghoulish stabbing raises question: Who is Slenderman?

He’s the Internet’s own monster, a ghoul who lurks in its darkest corners and, like the Web itself, has mutated time and again to suit the dreams and desires of his devotees.

He is Slenderman, a menacing, faceless specter in a dark suit — sometimes portrayed with octopus-like tentacles — known to haunt children and those who seek to expose him. He was born in 2009 in an online forum for people who enjoy creating fake supernatural images.

And, on Saturday, police say, he played a role in the attempted murder of a 12-year-old girl in suburban Milwaukee by two female classmates who stabbed her 19 times. According to police, the girls said the attack was meant to impress the fictitious bogeyman.

To be clear, the origin story of the monstrous character (sometimes referred to as The Slender Man) in no way urged readers to kill to earn his favor. But Slenderman has undergone hundreds of permutations online in his five-year existence.

In June 2009, a Photoshop contest for images that appeared to be paranormal was launched in a forum on the website Something Awful. According to Know Your Meme, a blog that chronicles Web culture, the goal of the contest was to create the images and then use them to fool, or “troll,” other Web users by submitting them to paranormal websites.

Site member Eric Knudsen (under the screen name “Victor Surge”) submitted two images to the contest, both black-and-white images of children, one of which appeared to show a largely undefined figure lurking in the background.

They were presented as being from 1984, and one included the text ” ‘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.” (Know Your Meme has documented these posts, although links to the original thread no longer work.)

A day later, according to Know Your Meme, Knudsen added a third photo and a fictional doctor’s account of a mass killing. And, from there, Slenderman’s assault on the Internet began.

“Some people joked in the thread, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if some of these ended up on those paranormal websites or someone said these pictures look real,’ ” Knudsen said in an interview this year with National Public Radio’s “On the Media.” “But I don’t think anyone really expected that to happen.”

Other Something Awful users began creating their own Slenderman stories. And they spread to other sites. Over the past five years, he’s appeared in fan art, short stories, videos, video games and other media all over the Web.


To learn more about the Slenderman, check out Strange Intruders, by my friend and colleague David Weatherly.

Order information here.

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

5 Responses to “Slenderman Stabbing”

  1. springheeledjack responds:

    Well, this tragedy is sad on so many fronts. Not because of the Slenderman mythology, but because there are kids and people who can’t make the distinction between reality and make believe. My sympathies go out to the girl who was stabbed and her family that have to deal with the aftermath–thankfully she survived, but she’s got a long road ahead of her.

    It’s also too bad for the two perpetrators–that they are incapable of distinguishing reality and internet stories. That’s a symptom of a much larger problem.

    As for Slenderman…eh, he’s the stuff of creepy stories, but not the story’s fault that this happened…except maybe parents should be more aware of what their children get exposed to, especially if they don’t know how to handle it.

  2. Fhqwhgads responds:

    I’m still not sure that the “Slenderman” angle isn’t just an attempt to pass the buck. Did the girls *really* think it was true? If they were impressed by a story, I have to assume they googled “Slenderman” to find out more, in which case they would have quickly found out who created the original story, when, and why. This is not an archetypal story, nor an urban legend started by no one knows who, nor folklore going back into the mists of time. When it is an admitted fake, a recent fake, and a well-documented fake, how could they think it was real?

    Unfortunately, there seems to be a community that enjoys pretending that in spite of all that, Slenderman *is* real. People claim to have seen the figure before the story came out. See, for example. This type of reality-denial is **NOT** helpful, and the pseudo-evidence presented would be particularly appealing to 12 year olds who like the idea of knowing Big and Important Secrets that their parents and teachers either don’t know or would conceal from them.

  3. Dr Kaco responds:

    Well said springheeledjack
    Our prayers and well wishes should go out to the the victim of this senseless act. Let us not lay blame on a website or creepy story/folklore but rather the individuals responsible for it. I pray for the attackers as well…

  4. Dark Auk responds:

    The Slenderman isn’t as simple as outsiders seem to believe. It is much more than mere spook stories. A culture, if you will. There are many beliefs within this culture as to the identity, motivation, and the like behind the monster, but it boils down to two different schools of thought as to where “it” came from. The popular belief is that the Slenderman is created through the “Tulpa Effect”, in which the large following of the monster in of itself creates it; that Slenderman is a thoughtform that exists in one form or another because of the power of human minds. In a sense, I believe this to be true, perhaps not as literally, but there is no doubt that rampant imaginations have created such a monster. A result of this is here, in this attempted murder case. The girls probably believed themselves to be what are known as “proxies” to the Slenderman; essentially his brain-washed human agents who do actions that ol’ Slendy can’t do on his own.

    Although, oddly, they chose to attempt human sacrifice to “gain Slenderman’s favor”. This isn’t really something I’ve heard of within the culture. At most, there are mentions of ancient civilizations sacrificing people to the being as a sort of god, but it’s never as appeasement and it’s not a modern thing either. Additionally, if the girls indeed thought themselves proxies, they wouldn’t have to appease Slendy because they’re already in his control.

    But that’s only if we go along with the idea that Slenderman exists for all intents and purposes. The reality of the situation is that the two girls were being immature humans, as they are, but took a rather frightening and hazardous turn that simply is not common. Fortunately the victim managed to live.

  5. Fhqwhgads responds:

    @Dark Auk — If there were anything to the Tulpa Effect, Darth Vader would be real — he has an even larger following of committed fanatics — and Captain Kirk would not be reduced to promoting

    Fictional characters do not become real just because lots of people think they are real. You may have real people try to step into the role, either because he has lost contact with reality or because he sees an opportunity, or deluded people may imagine him to be real, as with reported “paranormal” sightings of Santa Claus. If you believe in demons, you might even accept one of them taking on such a role, whether as Slenderman or as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Sorry though — there is no Prester John, even though he was widely believed to be real during the Middle Ages. In any event, the power of wishful — or fearful — thinking is greatly exaggerated.

    Now I have to go eat a pan of pasta, because an orange cat named Garfield has hypnotized me to do so as his proxy.

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