Slender Man

Background: My informant was a young American male. He is a game design student studying at the University of Southern California and currently works as a VR Design Intern at Gadget-Bot.

Performance Context: According to my informant, he came to learn the story through viral media. Enough people had talked about it on platforms such as YouTube that he grew interested and looked into the story himself.

Main Piece: In 2009, a comedy website called Something Awful launched a Photoshop contest to create the “biggest creepy pasta”. Creepy pasta is a internet term for scary short-form horror tales that originate and spread on the internet. As part of this contest, some people photoshopped an original creature into some old photographs from a newspaper. The newspaper articles make reference to several children who have disappeared or vanished. My informant says that this is so that the creature could be passed of as even more real. Because of the use of the newspapers, people of the internet started to believe in this creature who became known as Slender Man, for his tall, skinny figure.

Slender Man has now become a legend about this mysterious creature with tentacles who comes, preys and steal children. He is a tall, slender figure with no hair, no face, and white skin. He is often depicted wearing a suit, appearing almost like a man in a morph suit with a business suit over that. Nobody knows why he does so as the origin comes only from photographs. Because people believed in the story so much as real, it spread as a viral internet phenomenon. Also, as a result, people began discussing ways to commercialize and spread the idea of Slender Man. Movies, games, short stories were produced en masse to explain this creature and his behaviors. One of the most famous of these is Slender: The 8 Pages, a horror game that became very popular on the internet through the game platform Steam. Sequels to the games and short films have also been produced and there are “even talks of a full-length feature film”. According to my informant, these derivative works are all a part of a large movement to “cash in” on the idea of this character. To them, they believe he was became so popular not just because people believed he was real, but also because to teh creature’s believers, how genuine and original he seemed. They said it was refreshing to see a story where the character seemed not only frightening, but also “genuinely original”. My informant says that people come up with myths all the time, but that a genuine modern myth that isn’t a rehash or remix of something else was interesting and made it all the more real.

My Thoughts: I think it is interesting because it not only comes across the originality of ideas, but also the canonization and commercialization of these stories as products. To tell stories not only encourages the spread of those stories, but also the ways in which those that hear it want to capitalize and market that story in one or many forms. The way the story was turned from a photograph that had been photo shopped into all sorts of other media suggests that not only is the story can be spread in any or all formats, but that it can also be warped and changed to suit those need and strengths of those mediums. That the story itself has no need for origin as long as it retains the sense of originality and outside of that scope, can be warped to become whatever it needs to be to those that wish to indulge in that media. I think it’s interesting to ponder whether the original form of a story is necessary or perhaps that it might be just a stepping stone for the true potential of a story to deliver an experience to its viewers. It’s a sort of idea that suggests that mutation is inherently a part of the story and that variation should be encouraged rather than discouraged, unlike some other stories that we suggest should have a “proper”, “authentic” or “original form.