Urban legends present a unique group of stories that have captivated minds for centuries. Though no one story is the same, urban legends offer the same general structure. They are moldable, usually change depending on who is telling them, and are often relayed as experiential. These characteristics make all sorts of urban legends persist through the ages. A modern day example of an urban legend is that of The Slender Man. A mysterious and adaptable figure, Slender Man captured the minds of countless youths across the world. So intoxicating is this legend, that some even followed the stories to violence. No matter the nature of the “origin” story, Slender Man persisted through countless adaptations and has become an insidious example of the power of imagination.
There is not a definitive or canonized belief system pertaining to Slender Man. His image and belief set that is attached to him changes according to the particular person engaged in the story. However, he is typically depicted as a tall, thin man who wears a black suit. He has long, spindly arms, sometimes multiple, like a spider. Depending on the interpretation, he can cause a variety of symptoms such as memory loss, insomnia, paranoia, distortions of the mind, and incidences of teleportation (Kim, 2019). In terms of His character, sometimes he is depicted as a “dark guardian angel” who is sent to rescue children from their abusive families, or from bullies. In other interpretations, he is seen as a vicious killer who feeds on young children (Brodskey, 2017).
Information regarding the actual legend of Slender Man can be found through a variety of means. The original image of Slender Man was developed by an artist named Eric Knudsen in a 2009 Photoshop contest for the web forum “Something Awful”. He superimposed an image of a dark figure onto 1980’s photographs of children playing in parks (Cohn, 2018). From there, the image inspired writers and film makers to create their own similar interpretations. Stories and
“experiences” popped up on sites like Creepypasta and Wikia (Cohn, 2018). These sources offer artists own personal depictions of the Slender Man legend. They are presented as true, and made to seem authentic or realistic. Videos shot with phones or low grade cameras allow footage to appear realistic, and actor commentary adds to the authenticity (Brodskey, 2017).
The legend was most popular in the immediate years following Knudsen’s Photoshop contest. Between 2009 and 2015, there were countless stories and videos circulating the internet focusing on Slender Man (Kim, 2019). Over the last few years, the popularity of the legend has tapered off, though there are still some blogs and video games dedicated to the character (Kim, 2019). While there is countless information devoted to this character online, belief in Him is undoubtedly extraordinary. Slender Man is a being that is not founded in scientific fact, nor is he substantiated by any actual evidence. He was merely created, and believed.
For the believers of the Slender Man legend, evidence may seem to abound. The believers of Slender Man are young, impressionable, and vulnerable. Mainly, they are middle school aged children who have alone time on their internet devices. Without parental supervision, or the general understanding of what is and isn’t real, the apparent “evidence” of stories and videos seem overwhelming (Brodskey, 2017). Children are impressionable, especially those who are lonely or suffer from a broken family or bullying. Often times, children in these situations feel ostracized, or as if they are outsiders from their communities. In these circumstances, a powerful image, whether He is seen as insidious or dangerous, can be comforting. A sense of belonging is not to be underestimated. In this way, Slender Man can seem very real to a child (Brodskey, 2017).
On the other hand, there is no substantiated evidence to support the actual existence of Slender Man. While one can acknowledge the apparent attraction of his character, there is no
factual basis for any of the claims associated with the stories surrounding Him. While videos and pictures may appear as evidence, experts can easily regard them as being Photoshopped. Additionally, the creator of the first actual image of “Slender Man” is known to be Eric Knudsen. It is factual that His first original “imagery” was created in 2009 for a Photoshop contest.
All in all, it is easy for adults to disregard the idea of Slender Man as a foolish childhood story. But, to those who are vulnerable, it can be very real. Children are impressionable, and the internet is very powerful. It offers a community for those who need it, and within that community, patterns of groupthink can develop. It can be nearly impossible to break off the effect of this apparent community once it has developed. The internet offers an escape, and the fantasies it offers can seem extremely real. The community belief of Slender Man is no different. The children who believed and believe in this story are devoted followers. It is important to acknowledge that although their belief is not founded in fact, it is indeed very genuine.
Kim, Brad, and Tomberry. “Slender Man.” Know Your Meme, 20 Mar. 2019, knowyourmeme.com/memes/slender-man.
Cohn, Gabe. “How Slender Man Became a Legend.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Aug. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/08/15/movies/slender-man-timeline.html
Brodskey, Irene, director. Beware The Slenderman . HBO NOW®, 2017, play.hbonow.com/feature/urn:hbo:feature:GWDXSHA84tMLDwgEAAACY.
19 thoughts on “Slender Man”
I had never heard the interpretation that slender man was a dark guardian angel meant for protection. I think this is very interesting considering some of the horror stories that have emerged from children who believe the legend.
I know right, if anything slender man should have been a dark angel meant for destruction. Because this fictional character has only bought about destruction in this place. The children are very imaginative and love to make up stories. According to me most of the legends might have been made by imaginative children.
Fittingly enough, the first time I heard of The Slenderous Man was in middle school. One of my best buds, even to this day, was all over this legend. I honestly never knew the whole story behind the man until I read your post. The aspect I was most familiar with of The Slender Man was the circle with the x through it. My bud would draw circles with xs through them all over the place leaving them for other kids to bumble across. He definitely did not truly believe in the legend, but he certainly loved hyping it up. If I recall correctly, the circle with the x through it was meant to conjure the mental image of The Slender Man, and when this occurred, he would supposedly manifest near you for the purpose of murder
I happened to look up some more about the slender man and found a blog post/thread on what to do if your being stalked by slender man. There were some people who had techniques like eat sugary foods, get salt, and move your whole life to escape him. Then there were people who are very pessimistic, commenting that anything that you do wont make him go away and he will torture for the rest of your life and/or kill you. Its interesting to me because I always thought slender man was an actual person but its more of a dark presence or demon.
This comment is intriguing because I feel like it helps explain the case that’s mentioned in a previous Slender Man blog post, where two young girls almost stabbed their friend to death in order to ‘please’ Slender Man or protect themselves from his presence. The internet does have a profound power over the lives of young children, and its become a unit for strengthening beliefs by connecting believers. Going to such extremes as “moving you whole life to escape him”, makes murder feel like a likely next step to rid oneself of an unwanted presence.
I think the idea of Slender Man is kind of like any other horror story that is passed around in schools. I remember that when people were into Slender Man, they thought it made them edgy or cool to worship him or to even like him. I remember a lot of girls even romanticized the idea of being with Slender Man which I think its odd. I think teens are just more being influenced by being part of the hype to like whatever is popular at the moment. However, I do agree that children are more likely to believe these stories just like we talked about the Momo challenge in class. I think this has to do with the fact that kids don’t have a clear understanding of whats real and what is fantasy at young ages.
This was an interesting topic for your blog post! Slender Man seemed to me like the BoogieMan or something of that sort. Because who he is changes so much depending on who is telling stories about him, it seems as if it is more of something you tell children. I think if you are a believer this character can be very scary. The evidence does not seem to back up his existence so I would hope people eventually can be calm about him not existing or harming them. I have never heard of him so I thought this was an interesting post to read!!
The first time I ever heard about Slender Man is from a animate music video. And then I know there are whole storyline center as the Slender Man, and more serial killers characters. It’s interesting for me to think how these kind of spooky things could be accept as part of popular culture. I guess part of the reason why people would like this theme is to show their respect to the unknown?
Hello! I enjoyed reading this post about Slender man because I had always heard about the game that’s out there online! The fact that it gained such popularity and made it onto the big screen just this past year blows my mind. The other thing that really caught my eye was when you described groupthink as possibly being a key component to why the myth of slender man has sustained thus far. I liked this addition to your post because I really do believe that groupthink has such a powerful affect on the human mind and our behavior. Everyone wants to be distinguished as being part of some group/organization, and once you’re in that group, some ideas/ideals have to be sustained depending on which group you are a part of. In my mind, I think the emotion of fear halts peoples actual stances on beliefs because they are afraid that if they DO in fact think differently, then they will somehow be banished from their group. That’s why I think the parallel with young children and Slender Man is very strong. Thank you for your post!
Slenderman is very interesting – it originated online, was hyped online, gained a mythos online, and then became so popular and entrenched that history was built around it to justify the belief that it existed in the past. It reminds me somewhat of the marketing for the film The Blair Witch Project in late 90s – the internet was so young that the filmmakers were able to make a large quantity of people believe that the Blair Witch was a figure of folklore for decades prior to the film (through a documentary that aired on television) and that the film was real and essentially snuff. Had Slenderman occurred 20 or so years earlier, perhaps a similar amount of widespread fear and cultural apprehension could have resulted. On the same token, Blair Witch likely would have failed in convincing consumers of its validity were it to debut today.
One thing that I have always found interesting about slender man is his simplicity. He isn’t super complicated to imagine or have any weird unnatural abilities. I think this is one of the things that makes him so scary. Because he is so simple there is a lot of room for imagination and people can craft him in a way that makes him extra scary to them.
The first time I heard about Slender Man was when I was about 8 years-old and my cousins were having a bonfire. I had wandered off going back into the house and it was dark, so my cousin shouted: “Don’t let Slender Man get you!” The way they explained him was as a killer who was red with a long trench coat and top hat who was difficult to see before he attacked and disappeared. I was scared of it for the longest time and I truly was a follower in the theory behind it because I was so young.
What I’ve always wondered about the Slender Man belief is what made it so popular/what made it have such a large real-world impact when the internet (and Reddit/Creepypasta in particular) are absolutely packed with creepy characters like him? Is there something special about Slender Man that makes him particularly appealing to conspiracy theorists? Is it just because he’s kinda cool looking? What do you think?
Slender man to me is so spooky. My friend and I would play the slender man game in the dark on our laptops and we would always get so scared playing it. We knew that he wasn’t real, but it still had an impact on us. I have seen a few trailers for slender man movies on the air recently, which to me means that there are probably going to be a lot more slender man conspiracy theory believers in the future. Did you ever find yourself believing in slender man?
Wow, slender man, my favorite urban legend story.Uncanny Valley theory may affect a lot for this. Slender man is so similar to human, but he has no face and he is so slender which makes us realize he is not normal and feel creepy for that. Compared to Zombies or Vampires, slender man is so classical for an urban legend that sounds very real and physically make people fear without any direct threats.
I remember having a sleepover in like 7th grade and my friends wanted to play slender man and I refused because I was absolutely terrified he would come and murder me. What you said about in your blog perfectly describes the situation I was in. I was a young, impressionable and vulnerable middle schooler.
Your post is really interesting! Unlike the other monsters such as Mothman and Nessie, slender man is classified as the created monster. The slender man really scares me when I first heard and I am afraid of all the tall people around the garden. But then know it’s unreal. I think most of the urban legend become the popular base on the fear of people and the fake experience.
I think what probably popularized the idea of Slenderman more than anything was the Marble Hornets series that came from the initial photoshop on the something awful forums. These videos, called entries were a Blair Witch Project-esque “documentary” following a group of friends and their encounters with the monster. It starts with Jay receiving a bunch of tapes from his friend moving away, who told Jay to burn them. Jay watches them and begins discovering the terrifying footage of Slenderman lurking around his home, and then the series slowly descends as Jay and others previously involved with Alex start having their own encounters with Slenderman and delve further and further into insanity.
Anyway, when I first stumbled upon these as a teen, the commitment to making them seem real, especially with the first person camera views, really served to terrify me and my friends. For Slenderman, I think it was portrayals like these that really made this real to swathes of impressionable teens.
I did not know that slenderman started from a photoshop competition and how it siraled out of control from there by people making up news stories, and now there is a movie out about him. I never really heard of him until high school and I never believed anything about him. Have you ever believed in him?
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