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Slender Man (a.k.a Slenderman) is a mythical creature often depicted as a tall, thin figure wearing a black suit and a blank face. According to the legend, he can stretch or shorten his arms at will and has tentacle-like appendages protruding from his back. Depending on the interpretations of the myth, the creature may cause memory loss, insomnia, paranoia, coughing fits (nicknamed “slendersickness”), photograph/video distortions and can teleport at will. The urban legend has inspired fan arts, fictional creepypastas and a mockumentary series in the style of the 1999 indie horror film Blair Witch Project. As the character has grown in popularity, he’s gained a number of other nicknames including The Operator, Der Großmann, Mr. Slim, The Administrator, Daddy LongLegs, Mr. Thin, The Tall Man, The Thin Man and Slendy.
On June 8th, 2009, a “’paranormal pictures” photoshop contest was launched on the Something Awful (SA) Forums. The contest required participants to turn ordinary photographs into creepy-looking images through digital manipulation and then pass them on as authentic photographs on a number of paranormal forums. Something Awful users soon began sharing their faux-paranormal creations with layered images of ghosts and other anomalies, usually accompanied by a fabricated witness account to make them more convincing. On June 10th, SA user Victor Surge (real name Eric Knudsen) posted two black and white photographs of unnamed children with a short description of “Slender Man” as a mysterious creature who stalked children.
“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.
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.
On June 11th, 2009, Victor Surge continued to improve upon the myth by adding another picture and a fake doctor’s account. The following day, SA user LeechCode5 posted a photograph of a burning building with a Slender Man back story. On June 14th, SA goon TrenchMaul reused the Slender Man character for his own story. The original thread, which still remains active today, extends for 46 pages as of June 2011.
The creation of “Slender Man” may have been also inspired by an ongoing series of amateur adventure games titled “Chzo Mythos”, published by Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw in 2003. In the games, one of the main vilains is called “Cabadath” and is sometimes referred to as “Tall Man.” Making his first in-game appearance in Trilby’s Notes, the character was portrayed in the third installment as a tall, thin man dressed in a long, black, high-collared coat with tails that reach to the floor and having a blank face. Throughout the adventures, the Tall Man can be seen stalking and trying to kill the main character.
Der Großmann (pronounced “gross-man”) is German for “The Great Man” and is often translated into copypastas as The Tall Man. It is rumored to be a German folklore concerning a tall boogeyman existing since the 16th century, which was introduced to the mythos as an “In Game” point of origin for the creature. It was first first used in the Slender Man web series TribeTwelve and has then been reused in many creepypastas. Other recurring names are Schwarzwald (“The Black forest”), an actual place in Germany where the creature is said to have first appeared, and Der Ritter (“The Knight”) based on several 16th century woodcuts by Hans Freckenberg that featured a strange figure dueling another man (shown below, left). On March 17th, 2011, Encyclopedia Slenderia published a post revealing that the original woodcut of Der Ritter did not show additional limbs (shown below, right).
Slender Man became a well-known mythical creature on the /x/ (paranormal) 4chan board. The earliest known mention of “Slender Man” on 4chan can be found in an archived thread dating back to June 24th, 2009, though the conversation suggests that it had been mentioned prior. The image was coupled with hand-drawn illustrations and fanart.
Outside of 4chan, Slender Man has caught the attention of several websites including the Unfiction Forums, Fangoria, Bungie, Facepunch, Wikibin, /x/enopedia, TVTropes, Kongregate, DeviantArt, SlenderNation, and Mythical Creatures Guide.
Trender Man is described as the sassy brother (sometimes referred to as a cousin) of Slender Man with a passion for fashion and clothing, wearing brown fashionable attire with a white shirt underneath. The photograph, representing a shop mannequin with no visible face, was taken by Tumblr user Conjured Charisma who posted it on his blog on July 31st, 2012 titled Slenderman’s casual Friday.
But his name and further relationship as a brother were coined by Tumblr user I Lack Tact as a response to another user commenting on the photo, on August 1st. The character became popular within Tumblr, has its own memegenerator page and inspired a number of macros and art pieces mainly involving puns on fashion and clothing altogether sometimes mixed with the original Slender Man myth.
Online artist communities like DeviantART also became a hubsite for fan illustrations of the mythical figure.
Vlogs & Alternate Reality Games
On June 20th, 2009, YouTuber MarbleHornets started hosting videos called “entries” which claimed to be taped segments retrieved by someone named “Jay” (or also “J”), and contained footage of a friend that had since disappeared. It would later become clear that the series was created by two film students, SomethingAwful users KicksYouInHalf (Joseph DeLage) and Ce gars (Troy Wagner), as part of an alternate reality bame centered around the Slender Man myth called the Marble Hornets Project. In this version, the creature is known as The Operator. As of February 2013, the channel has more than 250,000 subscribers and has uploaded 67 video entries divided into 3 seasons. There are also dozens of supplemental response videos provided by the YouTuber totheark, who is a recurring character within the story.
Many forum threads have been created for people to share their speculations and theories about the game on sites like Something Awful, Unfiction, BuzzFeed, and Reddit. A Marble Hornets wiki entry and a Twitter account (Jay’s) have been registered to keep track of the discussions.
A radio interview has been done with Troy Wagner (director/Jay) and Joseph DeLage (Alex Kralie) in the beginning of August 2010 about the Marble Hornets Project. The interview, divided into 5 parts, is hosted on Wagner’s personal YouTube channel troyhasacamera.
The success of Marble Hornets led Joseph DeLage, Tim Sutton and Troy Wagner to be invited to work on the script for the game Slender: The Arrival, which will be released on March 26th, 2013. Additionally, on February 25th, 2013, it was announced that Mosaic Media Group, best known for the 2011 comedy film Bad Teacher, would be producing an adaptation of Marble Hornets, set to begin filming in the spring.
20 Dollars is a sub-meme coming from the Marble Hornets Vlog. On september 30th 2009, Youtube user brett824 uploaded a parody video referencing how some of the early entries from the vlog lacked audio. It focused on entry #6 as a matter of fact, adding the chorus of Ron Browz’s 20 dollars song from his 2009 album Timeless for comedic effect.
It quickly became a hit song associated with Slender Man within online communities, people seeing the 20 dollars gimmick as the main reason the creature would chase people in the first place. It became a catchphrase on its own and was soon followed by more parodies.
Marble Hornets-inspired projects have appeared on YouTube since then, the earliest and most notable being EverymanHYBRID and TribeTwelve. Additionally, they may have inspired the blog named “Just Another Fool”, which contains a story about a man whose brother has been placed into a mental hospital after he returned from Iraq, where he’s the only survivor of a team that supposedly met Slender Man. This has inspired other blog-based stories like “Seeking Truth” and “Dreams in Darkness”.
EverymanHYBRID is the story of Jeff, Evan, and Vinny Everyman who start a fitness podcast that goes horribly wrong, and TribeTwelve tells the story of Noah Maxwell investigating his cousins alleged suicide. EverymanHYBRID was the first vlog to proceed Marble Hornets, TribeTwelve starting around one month after. TribeTwelve started out as an homage to Marble Hornets, but after its first few videos, changed its format to become a legitimate stand alone series, employing the first video graphic use of the Slender Man with his tentacles. Among Marble Hornets, both vlogs are said to be the founding fathers of the Slenderverse, a collective of stories and Vlogs created by the everyday user that revolve around Slenderman. The three video series tend to be referred to as “The Big Three”. Other Vlogs and Blogs that exist to pertain the mythos can be found on the Unfiction forums, notable examples being The Andersen Journals, DarkHarvest, and CaughtNotSleeping.
In October of 2011, the indie game developer group Green Meteor Team submitted a 3D puzzle adventure game featuring Slender Man as the primary antagonist to a horror game competition hosted by the gaming site 64Digits.
On July 2nd, 2012, Redditor getsukann submitted a post to the /r/IndieGamingsubreddit linking to Windows and Mac downloads of Slender by Parsec Productions, a 3D indie horror game in which the player must avoid looking directly at Slender Man to keep from going insane.
On July 4th, the gaming blog Rock Paper Shotgun published a post titled “Slender Delivers Scares From Internet’s Darkest Depths”, which praised Slender by comparing it to the horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent. On the following day, the gaming blogs PC Gamer and Kotaku reported on the game, providing links to mirrored downloads due to Parsec Productions’ website outage.
On July 10th, 2012, filmmaker AJ Meadows launched a Kickstarter campaign (shown below) to raise $10,000 to fund a full-length film based on Slender Man. He raised $11,012 by the end of the project and released the movie online on February 19th, 2013. It was made available to stream on YouTube and the film’s official website, gaining half a million views in three weeks. However, the film was removed from the web in April 2013 due to a copyright issue.
On July 26th 2011, Notch, Minecraft’s creator, posted on his Google + account a screenshot of his game featuring new monsters that will appear in an upcoming update. In a Reddit’s post from the same day, Notch stated that the mob’s name would be Enderman as a reference after someone, user drodeznop, coined the name “Slender Man”. An entry on the Minecraft Wiki has then been made with images featuring a clearer view of the creature. Because of the similarities in names and abilities with the Slender Man mythos, 4chan users from the /v/ board launched a petition to change the Enderman’s name to “Far Landers”. Notch wrote a tweet joking about the initiative, implying that he won’t change it. More info can be found in the Enderman entry.
Doctor Who’s The Silence
The Silence is a fictional “religious order or movement” led by an alien race of the same name in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. With a design inspired by Munch’s famous painting The Scream, the creatures are depicted as alien tall men wearing a black suit, white shirt, necktie and having a strange, twisted, featureless face. They are also reported to have some kind of mind-control power that makes people have memory loss when they look away after seeing them, which is quite similar to the abilities shown by The Operator, Marble Hornets’ own version of the Slender Man myth.
Though the phrase “Silence will fall” recurred throughout the 2010 series of Doctor Who, the Silence were not seen until the 2011 series’ episode The Impossible Astronaut, opener of the 6th season.
It is not clear if the producers were partly inspired by the meme when creating their own vilain for the show.
2014 Wisconsin Teenagers Stabbing
On May 31st, 2014, TMJ4 News in Waukesha, Wisconsin reported that two 12-year-old girls, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, were arrested on charges of attempted first-degree intentional homicide after allegedly trying to kill their mutual friend by stabbing her 19 times. The victim survived the attack and remains hospitalized. According to the criminal complaint, the victim had spent the night before at a sleepover with Geyser and Weier, who lured her into nearby woods the next morning to “play a game,” before they held her down on the ground and stabbed her 19 times in the arms, legs and torso. The report also revealed that the crime may have been motivated by the two teenagers’ obsession with the Slenderman mythology, particularly in the idea of becoming a “proxy of Slender” by physically killing someone.
2014 Ohio Teenagers Stabbing
On June 6th, 2014, WLWT News in Hamilton, Ohio reported that the myth of Slenderman may have been implicated in another stabbing incident of a mother by her 13-year-old daughter. According to the victim, who asked not to be identified, she was attacked by her daughter, whom she says was waiting in the kitchen for her with a mask over her face and her hands covered with her sleeves, upon returning home from work. Though it is unclear when the incident occurred, WLWT reported that the woman made the connection after learning about last week’s report of two Wisconsin teenagers’ stabbing and discovering that her daughter had been obsessed with Slenderman. The woman suffered minor injuries as a result of the attack, including cuts on her neck and face and a puncture wound on her back, and the teenager is facing charges.
Interview with Victor Surge
Tomberry : Please introduce yourself a little. Who is Victor Surge? How long has he been a SA goon and how active is he there?
Victor Surge : I’ve been a goon for about four years, but I’ve lurked in the forums since ‘99. I’m not a large poster, but I spent a few years in EVE Online’s goonfleet and spend a lot of time reading threads in the forums. I don’t spent a lot of active time on the Internet since I usually have a lot of real-life stuff going on.
T : Back In June 2009, 10th to be precise, what motivated you to join the “create paranormal images” kind of contest on SomethingAwful forums?
VS : It was pretty spontaneous. I saw some of the pictures in the thread and just decided to make something that I myself would find creepy.
T : What was your sources of inspiration in creating your first two pictures dealing with a strange figure that you called “The Slender Man”? How did people react to it?
VS : I was mostly influenced by H.P Lovecraft, Stephan King (specifically his short stories), the surreal imaginings of William S. Burroughs, and couple games of the survival horror genre; Silent Hill and Resident Evil. 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. I used these to formulate asomething whose motivations can barely be comprehended and causes general unease and terror in a general population.
The reaction was suprisingly good so I continued making pictures based on Slender Man.
T : What was your reaction when people started creating pictures and stories about your newborn myth, in parallel with yours? Did you think it would get that much popular and spread to others websites (4chan, Kongregate, Facepunch…) as quickly as it did, gaining the status of “Internet Urban Legend” and a meme?
VS : It was amazing to see people create their own little part of Slender Man in order to perpetuate his existance.
I didn’t expect it to move beyong the SA forums. And when it did, I found it interesting to watch as sort of an accelerated version of an urban legend. It differs from the prior concept of the urban legend in that it is on the Internet, and this both helps and harms the status of the Slender Man as one. In my personal opinion, an urban legend requires an audience ignorant of the origin of the legend. It needs unverifiable third and forth hand (or more) accounts to perpetuate the myth. On the Internet, anyone is privy to its origins as evidenced by the very public Somethingawful thread. But what is funny is that despite this, it still spread. Internet memes are finicky things and by making something at the right place and time it can swell into an “Internet Urban Legend”.
T : Do you know about users “Ce Gars” and “KickYouInHalf”, or overall, the Marble Hornets project itself?
VS : There have been a couple of e-mails, but I don’t know them personally.
T : Did you help with their series of video (to these days, more than 26 episodes)? Was it more of a tribute to your work? What was your reaction toward it and their own popularity as a series on Youtube?
VS : I had nothing to do with their series of videos or any other that may have anything seemingly to do with the Slender Man. I’m keeping my projects close to my chest (in a plastic bag with the rest of my organs). I hope other groups create new concepts and make series of videos. Not necessarily a horror series or somehing about the paranormal, but productions using all sorts of subject matter and in multiple genres. I think the Marble Hornets project’s strongest point is showing what you can achieve with this medium.
T : One year later, people still seem to continue to like the Slender Man character, enough to make the Marble Hornets crew consider about a new season. Do you still get recognition from time to time about Slender Man? Has that character changed your way of browsing the web?
VS : I do on occasion, but I like it to stay mysterious (does interview).
T : Do you have anything to add on what has been said, or any last word you would want to say to the readers?
VS : Before you had angels and succubi, and then ghosts and spirits, today we have shadow people and inter-dimensional beings. The Slender Man, and other newly created entities, are just the newest addition in the progression of a long, and very real, human tradition.
You’ve seen him, now you can’t unsee him.
T : Thank you very much again for your time.
The new mob I’ve been working on is a bit creepy.. – Google + / 7-26-2011
Rock Paper Shotgun – Slender Delivers Scares From Internet’s Darkest Depths