J is a freshman at USC studying screenwriting, and a good friend of mine.
Slenderman is an online-created urban legend spread throughout the site CreepyPasta. It originated with photoshopped images of a slender, tall and faceless man in a suit.
J: So one time when I was a kid, my cousin and my mom were talking about Slender Man, because I guess they both heard of it. And I was like, eight at the time. And I had never heard of this because I was like, eight years old. And I had no connection to like, creepy pasta or anything on the internet. And so I asked them to tell me a story about it because I wanted to know what he was like. So they told me this story about this girl who was home alone one night, and she forgot to get water before she went to bed. So when she was in bed, she was like, oh, I need to get up and get water because I’m really thirsty. So she went to her kitchen. And as she was getting the water, she saw this weird, creepy figure in the corner of her kitchen, and it really freaked her out. But instead of going back to bed, she continued to get the water. And so then when her parents came home, they saw that she wasn’t there. So they looked around, and they asked a bunch of people. And eventually they found out that she was at the hospital. And so they went to the hospital to talk to her and ask her what happened. But her ears and her tongue and her eyes were all cut out. And her hands were cut off. So that she couldn’t see if he was going to come again. She couldn’t hear if he would come again. She couldn’t speak what happened, and she couldn’t write down what happened. And so that way, he would remain anonymous.
Me: They told you this when you were eight?
J: Yeah. And so then I remained afraid of Slenderman until I was like, in the middle of high school. Because the legend goes that like, if you cease to believe that Slender Man exists, then he will come kill you. But so long as you believe that he exists, you’re sort of safe. And so that made me not want to stop believing in it. But then it kept freaking me out.
Slenderman is a curious case of folklore in which it takes on a life of its own outside of its place of origin: the internet. Creepypastas tend to be another form of scary storytelling for children and young people, and they are, in a way, a place akin to campfires for the exchange of scary stories. For something as famous as Slenderman, however, it evolves into a cultural being despite having been started with fan narratives that were written down, which is not how we traditionally think of folklore. Yet because there is no official canon nor a copyright, the people are able to be communally creative while making agreements on who this character is and what he should be.