Urban legends and folk tales have existed for centuries, but with the rise of the Internet there has been a growth in new urban legends. One, whose popularity has grown immensely because of the Internet, has been the mysterious Slender Man.
The Slender Man was first created on a forum on the website Something Awful in 2009, which is ironically mainly a comedy website. However, the forum wanted users to create photographs that contained paranormal figures. User “Victor Surge,” whose real name is Eric Knudsen, created two photographs depicting groups of children with Slender Man in the background. In one photo, Slender Man appears to be wearing some sort of suit, while in the second photo he is almost entirely a silhouette with tentacles. The Slender Man is (as the name implies) an abnormally tall, slender figure with no “face,” usually depicted wearing a suit, and sometimes shown with long numerous tentacles originating from his back.
Since his first appearance on the Something Awful forums, Slender Man has become extremely popular throughout the Internet. Aside from his appearances in edited photographs, there have also been numerous “creepypastas” (a scary story usually posted repeatedly on the Internet), video games, and fan films about the Slender Man. For example, there was a video game entitled Slender: The Eight Pages released in June 2012, which was subsequently followed by a sequel entitled Slender: The Arrival, released in March 2013. YouTube in particular has multiple videos which claim to be “documentaries” regarding the origins of Slender Man, although there are a few popular YouTube series that utilize the Slender Man. One example would be the EverymanHYBRID series, which begins as a health and wellness series but changes due to odd events involving Slender Man. A second and much more popular example would be the Marble Hornets series, which begins as a film student’s project but begins to revolve around strange occurrences involving an individual referred to as “Totheark” and the “Operator” (the series’ name for Slender Man). Another series related to Slender Man would be the totheark channel, although its connection to the Marble Hornets series is extremely vague, as videos are often indecipherable or borderline nonsensical. The popular video game Minecraft even got in on the Slender Man craze, as an enemy referred to as the “Enderman” was eventually added.
Due to the many incarnations of Slender Man and no official source, there is no “canon” in regards to the Slender Man’s abilities or history. However, there are some generalities. As stated above, Slender Man’s appearance in media tends to remain the same with no face, a suit, and tentacles protruding from his back (although he is not always seen with the tentacles). In most instances, the Slender Man is seen off in the distance standing very still and very silently, and only appears to “move” or “follow” someone by teleporting closer and closer when the person is not looking at them (as seen in Slender: The Eight Pages). However, in some cases Slender Man can be seen slowly and quietly walking around (as seen in Marble Hornets). While he does not have a set location or area, the Slender Man is often seen in wooded areas and abandoned buildings, although photos sometimes depict him in urban or suburban areas in foggy or night-time conditions.
According to most “mockumentaries” and creepypastas, Slender Man’s preferred target is children, although other media frequently depicts him targeting adults as well. People who have reported contact with or often seeing the Slender Man tend to disappear, though as to what the Slender Man does with his victims is never explained. Coming into contact with the Slender Man supposedly induces paranoia and sleep deprivation, as well as amnesia (such as in Marble Hornets). Some claim that certain woodcuts that supposedly originated from 16th century Germany are proof that the Slender Man is real, as they depict a skeletal figure referred to as “Der Ritter” and “Der Großman” (or “Grossman,” meaning the “tall man”). However, while the woodcuts themselves do not have any historical backing, there are supposedly legends regarding Der Großman originating from Germany and Austria about a figure that targeted families as well as children.
While Slender Man himself is fictitious and has not actually hurt anyone, there have been a few individuals who have committed certain acts supposedly on the Slender Man’s behalf. One instance was when two twelve year-old girls stabbed a fellow twelve year-old nineteen times in Waukesha, Milwaukee. When asked why they committed the crime, Anissa E. Weier stated that they had discovered the Slender Man on a website called the Creepypasta Wiki and that they wanted to become “proxies” to him, and in order to prove their dedication to “Slender” they had to commit a murder. The girls had also believed that the Slender Man resided in a mansion in Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin. Another situation was when a fourteen year-old girl set fire to her home while her nine year-old brother and mother were inside. Supposedly the girl had visited a website with multiple Slender Man stories on it, and at the time of her arrest she had been reading a story called “Soul Eater.”
Unsettling and mysterious, the Slender Man has grown greatly in popularity since creation in 2009, and part of it is due to the nature of the Internet. However, there are rumors of a feature film based on the Marble Hornets series, as well as a few fan films being developed on Kickstarter. Slender Man appears to have become the first major urban legend to take hold on multiple forms of media, despite being the creation of an Internet forum.