Who is “Slender Man?” What was once a frightening game for Internet-browsers to dare each other to play, and what had been before that an urban legend on horror sites, has suddenly become a focal point for the supernatural. As a growing number of strange crimes committed by young teens point to Slender Man, an icon for mythical fright and the fear surrounding this specter bloats, until fact is separated from the fiction that this character was born from.
Slender Man was created by Eric Knudsen, who submitted a photo of his creation for a contest held by a Something Awful forum. The terms of the contest were to submit an altered photo to present it in a horrific way, then spread it on paranormal forums as fact. Knudsen submitted a photograph with a long-armed, blank face being blurred out in the background, and supplied his photo with a backstory describing how the children were being forced to do Slender Man’s bidding.
The photo’s backstory was quickly added to in the forum, and the question of who is Slender Man began to spread in other horror stories across the internet. By far, Slender Man is the most recognized from the free-to-download video game, Slender: The Eight Pages, of which there are innumerable amounts of reaction videos and play-throughs on YouTube.
The reason Slender Man is so terrifying is because of his indirect terror. The myth behind the legend is that he lives in the corner of your eye, never threatening to attack, just to watch and force others to do his bidding out of fear. Slender Man’s main weapon is essentially the mind: the fear comes from self-doubt and self terror. Even in the game, the closest tangible experience, Slender Man doesn’t interact with the player unless they look directly at him, and then the game is over.
As the popularity of Slender Man has spawned, hundreds of deviations of the original terrifying story have been created with the video game, which has granted the largest audience. Other forms of media inspired by Slender Man include short horror films, original art and deviations of famous works of art, Halloween costumes, and T-shirts. There is now even a deviation meme named Trender Man, inspired by clothing store mannequins, whose ‘faces’ resemble Slender Man’s.
Unfortunately, the dark nature of Slender Man has caused him to be the figurehead of dark motivation. Young teens, unaware of the power of the subconscious, turn Slender Man’s fictional and mental presence into a physical fact, and act on the fear that they have installed in themselves.
What is important to realize, for adults and adolescents, is that Slender Man is not a motive in these seemingly ritualistic crimes. He is merely a factor, albeit a powerful factor, that is not tangible in any way. The question and fear of who is Slender Man is the fear of walking home at night, fear of what lives in the closet or under the bed, fear of the missing object that was in the corner of the eye: it’s the powerful fear of indirect terror. It is important to realize the fear of Slender Man, like many other fears, can be conquered.
By Jonah Stephens