Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2016: The Slender Man, An Internet Monster

A Slender Man Hallowe'en costume (2012). Image Source: imgur via Twisted Sifter.

On the Internet, a Web-based horror folklore is called a 'creepypasta.' Among creepypastas, the creepiest of all is the Slender Man. Slender Man is a monster invented in 2009 on the 'create paranormal imagesphotoshop thread at the site Something Awful; he is a Millennial spectre, invented by Eric Knudsen (pseud. Victor Surge) to give the Web a virtual haunter of children and young teens. Know Your Meme:
"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."
In the evidential narrative style of X-FilesBlair Witch Project, and RinguKnudsen added to his Slender Man photographs, and in forum posts began to create false 'true story' cases on the thread. These details put fake historical meat on Slender's bones; other contributors added scraps to the fake casebook:
  • “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.
  • 5/24/95**1994: Wilks Estate. One subject reported nothing out of the ordinary before taking photograph. Lower stairs area was said to be very dark. Subject states that after the camera flash she heard a sound like a watermelon being *unable to understand subject*.
  • 5/25/93**Subject unable to recall events after manor power failure. Unable to question other two identified subjects. Camera and film acquired from Gloria Cready, current resident of Woodview Mental Hospital and Psychological Rehabilitation Clinic. Film mostly uncontaminated despite mass of blood and human tissue present on camera. No positive ID on anomalous tall and slender subject. Facial blur caused by possible contamination.
  • 6/7/93**Early digital analysis indicates tall subject may have no eyes. Anomalies, previously thought to be film errors and flash artifacts, now thought to be appendages.
  • 6/10/93**Final identified subject reported missing along with other thirty-three patients and staff of Woodview Mental Hospital and Psychological Rehabilitation Clinic south wing.
  • 6/18/93**Further inquiry to cease immediately. (see report No.3339-2)
  • This first photo was given to me by my uncle, a police officer who was part of the investigation trying to find nine missing teens who had gone camping in the local mountains six years ago. It was developed from a disposable camera found at the campsite. None of the missing teens have ever been found, and all their possessions were still at the campsite. He was pretty drunk and shaken up when he gave me this, and made me promise I'd never show anyone else.
  • The second photo is of an elementary school fire in 1978. No official cause was ever found. Seven students and a teacher became trapped and died before firefighters could respond. Many of the students and teachers from the time have a history of anxiety disorders and panic attacks, even those who weren't at the school on that day. At least one has since committed suicide, and several others legally changed their names once they reached adulthood and have disappeared.
  • **Alert**Alert**Deployment Request**ANTI-S WALKER UNIT to deploy to --Wichita--Kansas--
  • Steinmen Woods**Both subjects were hunting in the Steinmen woods four hours before sundown. Surviving subject states that while hunting both men grew uneasy as fog levels rapidly increased. A constant murmuring sound accompanied by a low hum eventually became apparent to the two men an hour after the fog increased. An object falling out of tree stuck one of the men in the left shoulder causing him to discharge his weapon. Object said to be the body of a man of unknown age. It was very precisely dissected, with major internal organs still contained within the rib cage in what looked to be clear bags. Surviving subject placed organ bag within backpack. Attack followed several minutes later after a "low children's laugh, like a giggle". Surviving subject ran until he reached his vehicle. Subject then drove to assumed safety. Backpack destroyed. Surviving subject is classified as a B7 witness. B7 witness to be placed in quarantine "Blind Box" until resolution.
  • 2007:Investigation team discovered twenty-two bodies of both genders and various ages impaled on broken tree branches in a radiating circle pattern with chest mutilation as often noted with Slender Man. Upon confirmation, lead investigator ********* called for an immediate evacuation of investigation team at 1700 hours. Bodies first discovered at 1100 hours. Deadline for safe evacuation of team with only viewed physical evidence of Slender Man approximately 1730. Lost contact of team at 1725. Safety procedures fell well within established protocols. Reason for abnormality is unknown. Second team recovered camera equipment one week later. Slender Man safety procedures require this incident's physical photographic evidence to be disposed of by no later than 10/20. I honestly don't get what half this poo poo means. I'm done with this Slender Man stuff. It's starting to make me uneasy. It's like reading the GBS ghost story threads before I go to bed. Why do I have to look at this stuff while it's super late? Luckily, my friend is coming over.
Everyone chatting in the Something Awful forum agreed that Knudsen had created something frightening and original, a big monster begging for a bigger story. One commenter thought Slender Man reminded him (or her) of the scary (and true) 1959 Dyatlov Pass incident in Russia. Another wrote:
"Slender Man would make a pretty nice horror novel in the lines of House of Leaves. Essentially, make the novel a collection of witness statements, newspaper clippings, pictures, drawings, articles discussing evidence for an against the slender man and, to tie it all neatly together, a few stories of people who want to track the slender man, unravel the mystery, [a]nd the kicker would be the last 20 or so pages would be missing, with only scraps of paper left, arranged as logically as possible, just excerpts, words, rips, ink stains, etc."
Another said, "Slender Man is scaring the crap out of me for some reason." Others thought that Slender Man would be great subject for a movie. When you go back and read the forum thread now, you can see how the Internet can be a hotbed of genuine creativity, as it was supposed to be. This was folklore, generated in a brand new way. The Something Awful forum offered a new narrative form, an organic, virtual reality story-telling standing on the shoulders of oral tradition, fairy tales, urban legends, spiritual mythologies, religious texts, and ghost stories. That, in itself, is fascinating and culturally significant. Scholars of mythology have deemed Slender Man to be an authentic example of digital folklore: he is open-sourced, communally-created, variable in form, and audience-response-driven. Commentators have since remarked that Slender Man's appeal exploits the fears of the Digital era:
"Shira Chess describes the Slender Man as a metaphor for 'helplessness, power differentials, and anonymous forces.' Peck sees parallels between the Slender Man and common anxieties about the digital age, such as feelings of constant connectedness and unknown third-party observation. Similarly, Tye Van Horn, a writer for The Elm, has suggested that the Slender Man represents modern fear of the unknown; in an age flooded with information, people have become so inured to ignorance that they now fear what they cannot understand. Troy Wagner, the creator of Marble Hornets, ascribes the terror of the Slender Man to its malleability; people can shape it into whatever frightens them most. Tina Marie Boyer noted that 'The Slender man is a prohibitive monster, but the cultural boundaries he guards are not clear. Victims do not know when they have violated or crossed them.'"
This faux-real authenticity, as the directors of the 2016 Blair Witch sequel will tell you, is extremely hard for artists to achieve; sometimes a fable's original power only strikes full force in a particular time and place. This happened with Slender Man. What the Something Awful forum members did not reckon on was that Slender Man would inspire a real horror in real life.

Knudsen's original Slender Man photoshopped images at Something Awful (2009). Images Source: Know Your Meme.

The Slender Man explainer from Know Your Meme (2012). Video Source: Youtube.

Until 2014, you probably would  not have heard of Slender Man at all, unless you were 16 years old or under, or you were searching for creepypastas online. After five years on the Internet, the creature acquired a German origin mythos, and had begun to stalk his victims, like the early Victorian ghoulSpring-Heeled Jack; the hideous thing in M. R. James's Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad; or the Canadian wendigo, immortalized by Algernon Blackwood:
"The Slender Man has no specifically confirmed history, but contributors to the mythos have placed early sightings of Slender Man-like beings in Germany in the early 1600s and before. Historically, the entity often took on the appearance of a knight or a noble figure. Germanic myths and fairy tales have been cited as containing Slender Man-like creatures as cautionary tales for children.

Photographs from the early 1900s are the first confirmed reports, where images of the Slender Man can be found in old photographs. Reports from this time indicate sightings in America, the UK, and Russia, usually connected to reports of child disappearances.

In the mid-1900s, several run-ins occurred in the war zones in Germany, which is theorized to be The Slender Man's native land. Soldiers were the primary targets here. In America and Canada, there were reports of missing skiers and children, mainly coming from forested and unoccupied areas. He is also held responsible for several strings of buildings burning with no apparent cause, and multiple related deaths. The few survivors of Slender Man attacks, along with accounts left by victims, show the following historic traits:

If the victim was a child, he would often approach them in a friendly fashion at first and attempt to gain their trust. The adults he stalked have one common trait: they had all been through a terrible tragedy in their life. Interestingly, in many cases the tragedy was originally caused by Slender Man as well.

If the victim was an adult, Slender Man would stalk the victim for long periods of time. This caused an illness that became known as "Slender sickness.” Symptoms include massive paranoia, nausea, nose bleeds, nightmares, and hallucinations. Eventually, The Slender Man would abduct the victim, usually into nearby forest, where they would be killed. In 'messy' cases, Slender Man may remove evidence of its existence by burning the victim’s home, place of work, or school, often causing the death of others in the line of destruction, generally those close to the initial victim. Originally, Slender Man killed its victims by impaling them on the branches of very tall trees and allowing them to bleed to death. The victim’s organs would be individually removed and placed in plastic bags, which were then returned to their original positions in the body. The victims' corpses did not show any sign of a struggle. However, as time has gone on, it would seem that Slender Man has abandoned this practice.

In the late 1990s, the more and more common use of cameras and camcorders allowed technology to shed more light on the creature, and The Slender Man was recorded and photographed stalking potential victims many times. In the late 2000s to early 2010s, several individuals recorded ongoing stalking and attack scenarios with themselves and friends. These video accounts are codenamed Marble Hornets, EverymanHYBRID, DarkHarvest00, MLAndersen0, and TribeTwelve, as well as certain Rivn videos.

New accounts of The Slender Man's powers, abilities, and attacks show some drastic differences from his original behaviors. Gone is the original desire to impale targets on trees, his overtly aggressive attitude, and the tendency to target mainly children. He now appears to target people who encountered him as children, often stalking them for years. It does so in such a way that the target is often unaware of his presence for months, years, or even decades. Typically, the victim won't be aware of its attention until far too late. Because of the somewhat contagious nature of Slender Man’s attacks, an initial victim may not even be aware that they are causing others to be targeted, since they may not know that he is stalking them.

The Slender Man’s stalking behavior is remarkably passive. He torments an individual by repeatedly appearing and vanishing – usually without harming the victim in any physical way. He invades the mental safety of his prey by appearing inside their house, outside their home, on roads they travel, at their place of work when they are alone or ensuring only the victim can see him, or while the target is sleeping. The sporadic and unexpected nature of these manifestations causes fear and unease, which eventually can grow into incredible paranoia. This period of stalking can last anywhere from several minutes to decades. The longer Slender Man stalks a victim, the greater strain on their mental health, which may be one of his goals.

Prolonged stalking causes what has been named 'Slender Sickness,' which is both a mental and physical ailment and can cause paranoia, nightmares, coughing and difficulty swallowing, convulsions, exhaustion, vomiting, hallucinations, etc. The physical symptoms naturally affect an individual’s mental health, but it is believed that Slender Man exerts a direct effect on the mind as well. However, this phenomenon and Slender Man’s control over it have yet to be fully explained. As mentioned, the behavior of taking organs out or impaling targets appears to have been abandoned."

Click to enlarge. Image Source: The Independent.

Elaborating upon the online story - especially the paranoia the monster is supposed to inspire - became a competitive obsession for younger Web users. The more the fiction evolved, the more Slender Man's story mixed virtual reality with real reality. Proving that one had seen Slender Man became a fad for pre-teens and tweens. Internet one-upmanship required bravado, attitude, and stone-faced dead seriousness. Of course, these are tools of good story-telling; they make the audience or reader suspend disbelief until a fiction seems real. That complex online psychological environment inspired two 12-year-old girls to attempt to murder one of their friends on 31 May 2014, to 'sacrifice her to Slender,' in order to prove that Slender was 'real.' The girls intended to become the monster's servants and live in his 'mansion' in Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin, USA. After planning the attack, they stabbed their friend, Payton Leutner, 19 times. She almost died, spent six days in the hospital, and eventually returned to school. The attackers' mugshots are here.

Morgan Geyser's pre-attack notes (2014). Image Source: Daily Mail.

The Slender Man attackers in 2016: "Morgan Geyser, left, and Anissa Weier were 12 when they stabbed their friend in Wisconsin. Their case is set to proceed in adult criminal court." Image Source: Michael Sears/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/TNS/Getty via Rolling Stone.

The victim, Payton Leutner, after her recovery. Image Source: Facebook via Daily Mail.

  • Gawker (2 June 2014): Two 12-Year-Olds Allegedly Stabbed Third to Please Mythological Creature
  • Gawker (3 June 2014): The Story of Slender Man, the Web Myth Invoked in a Brutal Stabbing
  • AP (3 June 2014): 12-year-old Wisconsin girls charged in stabbing
  • Washington Post (3 June 2014): Pre-teen girls accused of stabbing friend 19 times to honor mythological creature
  • Independent (4 June 2014): Who is Slender Man: What you need to know
  • Tech Crunch (30 June 2014): The Story of Slender Man, The Internet's Own Monster
  • Washington Post (27 July 2014): The complete history of ‘Slender Man,’ the meme that compelled two girls to stab a friend
  • Newsweek (13 August 2014): The Girls Who Tried to Kill for Slender Man
  • ABC (26 September 2014): Slender Man Stabbing Survivor's Parents: 'She's Meant to Do Something Special'
  • Daily Mail (27 September 2014): 'I wanted to live': Girl, 12, stabbed 19 times by classmates who wanted to impress Slender Man reveals herself to cameras as doctors say she was less than a millimeter from death
  • HuffPo (7 January 2015): 6 Scary Stories That Will Make You Rethink The Black Hole That Is The Internet
  • Daily Mail (19 February 2015): EXCLUSIVE: Back at school and celebrating her birthday while the 12-year-old girls accused of trying to murder her learn if they will be tried as adults - the amazing recovery of the 'Slender Man' stabbing victim
  • New York Magazine (25 August 2015): If These Girls Knew That Slender Man Was a Fantasy, Why Did They Want to Kill Their Friend for Him?
  • Rolling Stone (29 July 2016): 'Slender Man' Trial: Why Trying These Girls as Adults Is Absurd
  • Daily Mail (21 August 2016): Wisconsin girl, 14, who tried to stab a 12-year-old classmate to death to please the mythical Slender Man arrives in court to plead insanity

VICTIM - Student Award Winning Short Horror Film (2013). Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video: "This is a Short Horror film I made for my last college project in Creative Media Production, before I went off to University. We were given the chance to individually make a film of our own choice, of varied length and subject matter. My film is based around a teenage boy who finds himself being stalked by the mythical being 'Slender Man' over a period of days. It has been heavily inspired by the game 'Slender' by Parsec Productions, as well as many horror films I have been influenced by. It was awarded best short film for our year group, when shown at our student screening at the Duke of York's Cinema, Brighton[, UK]. Filmed on a Canon EOS 550D with both 18-55mm and 50mm 1.8 lenses used. Edited on Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10 (Production Suite). Any likes, comments, or feedback would be appreciated. Thanks for watching!- Eddie Adamson. Directed, Filmed, and Edited by Eddie Adamson. Starring Jake Holmes and Jordan Scott."

See all my posts on Horror.
See all my posts on the Paranormal.
Posts on the Occult are here.
Click here for my posts on Ghosts.

Check out other blogs Counting down to Hallowe'en! Image Source: Guff.

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