Tag Archives: Internet folklore


  LH is a student who currently lives in Los Angeles. She is a comedian and has spent a lot of time on the internet throughout her life.

LH- So back in the day, when Creepypastas were popular and I was young on the internet, the stories used to all really scare me even though I knew it wasn’t real. When I first heard about Slenderman when I was in 5th grade, it really instilled a fear in my heart unlike no other. I remember after seeing it late at night I would always imagine him by my window, keeping me up every night. At one point someone made some badly photoshopped photos of Slenderman next to some kids at a park, and lurking in the woods, and I was stupid and you enough to believe it. It really frightened me deeply. I didn’t like ghosts or ghouls or scary stories as a kid, so the idea of a tall, omnipresent man lurking in the corner whenever it was dark really stuck with me. Then, a few years later, those 2 girls almost killed their friend in the name of Slenderman, and suddenly the fear became a lot more real, and less focused on the abstract suited figure, but also the people around me who could be under his control. If he doesn’t kill me then someone in his posse will. 

I first heard of Slenderman when I was in elementary school. I saw the original Creepypasta post and continued to see mentions and references to him on the internet for years. Slenderman was a tall disfigured German ghoul with long tentacles who would lurk around playgrounds and use its long spindly limbs to snatch up lonely kids. He appears at night, in dark lonely places, normally hiding out in the forest. Even though I heard of Slenderman by the chances of the internet, it does seem like the type of story parents would make up to scare their kids away from going to places alone or at night. Um, but the fear tactics of the Slenderman story were entirely imposed by myself. Seeing the Creepypasta scared me into not wanting to go out without my parents, and developing a slight fear of the dark. He followed me, in my subconscious, wherever I went. I was 10, I wasn’t bright, I believed everything I saw on the internet. It was definitely heightened by the internet because everyone was posting about it. 

On a psychological note, your brain has the same reaction to the feelings of excitement and fear, so a part of me thinks kids enjoy scary things because it gives them that little kick of adrenaline. Also, being a kid and having unlimited access to the internet makes you want to seek out scary and adult things, but being so young and naive makes it easy to be tricked. And people on the internet prey on the stupidity of others. Honestly, I also had a very unique childhood in the sense that my parents heavily monitored the TV and movies I watched, I wasn’t able to watch R rated movies for a very very long time, but I had unlimited access to the internet. They didn’t know what the internet was capable of, so they just let me run free with it, and I took what little freedom I had and wanted to make the most of it. 


I think Slenderman became such a popular ghostly figure on the internet because of its simplicity. As a kid, you’re taught all about stranger danger, and the scariest thing in the world is some untraceable stranger coming up and taking you away. Slenderman is a visual representation of that childhood fear of strangers and the dark and scary unknown. It frightened and captivated so many children because it was a representation of a concept everyone was familiar with. 

The design of Slenderman is an important factor in the figure’s popularity. Making Slenderman this very simple man with no face and long limbs in a classic black and white tuxedo made it very easy for others to create content for this creature. Even 10 years ago, photoshopping a Slenderman hidden in the woods on a random photo was not only easy but could look quite realistic. The simple design allowed for it to spread quickly, as more and more people created images and stories about him, convincing young kids everywhere. 

Creepypastas are a very interesting aspect of early Internet culture. Ghost stories have always been prevalent in youth culture, often being a rite of passage for the older, wiser kids to pass the stories down to more gullible children. As the internet grew in popularity, especially among young generations, many playground traditions evolved to fit the internet age. Creepypastas were the new ghost stories, scaring children into thinking it was real and allowing the people in the know to perpetuate and entertain. Kids also often were drawn towards Slenderman and other Creepypastas as a way to be ‘adult’. In the 2000s and early 2010s, most adults didn’t fully understand the capabilities of the internet, and would often not be aware of the type of content that their kid was consuming. Kids want to prove themselves to be grown up, and one way to do that is by rebelling against their parents by exploring things that seem ‘scary’ or ‘adult’. These scary stories perfectly captured the children’s imaginations while also making the kids feel braver and more grown up. Creepypastas were a fascinating phenomenon that showcases the ways our traditions evolve with us. 

A Message from Slenderman


ID: One summer, I was with my friend in Idaho, so there were a lot of trees and forests. We were very young and we didn’t have cars, so we decided to leave my family for dinner and walk home alone. What we didn’t know that it gets really dark really fast. So we were walking on this path in this forest–it was by a street, but it got completely dark. There were no street lamps, just thin trees surrounding us. There were trees with eyeballs. But I take this path every day, like I’m very familiar with it. I know every turn, so I was like “okay.” We were a little afraid, and we started hearing things, imagining things, but we both genuinely swear, we heard something, both looked to our left and saw something in the trees because- I don’t know, we both saw it though. It looked like Slenderman–it was tall– but there were a lot of trees, so we don’t know. We just ran for 10 minutes sprinting home. We got home, we were terrified but were like “Okay, it was just in our heads, blah blah blah.” The next day, we go back in the morning–it’s bright out, the same path, just lalalala back to town, do our little thing. We look at this tree for some reason–we see my NAME–I see this tree every day, mind you, and I’ve never seen this before. It has my name carved into it with a face too– a smiley face with two X’s and I have proof- I swear on my life; it was from a butter knife on the tree, and it’s still there to this day. I’ve never seen that before. It literally said [informant’s name]. I’m very familiar with the place, but I’ve never seen anything like this.


This encounter happened while the informant was in 8th grade, right when everyone heard the story about those “two young girls who tried to murder their friend.” There was a lot of content about Slenderman circulating around online, and it appeared that everyone “was into watching things that freaked them out.” The informant and her friend also “went down the rabbit hole” to learn all about Slenderman and were absolutely intrigued by all the horrific, awful things they heard online. When this encounter occurred the summer after the hype around Slenderman, it became a story that the informant would tell whenever she got the chance.


Slenderman being a product of the digital age is a prime example of the Internet’s influence on young consumers. In a sense, there is a false form of protection when interacting with legends on the Internet–perhaps young users feel more daring to delve deeper into a horror story when they’re distanced from images of violence and gore. Especially with newer technologies being able to manipulate pictures and videos, when we see visual “evidence” online, it only adds to the legend–it could or could not be true. However, when online legends translate to real life, they suddenly appear much more plausible. Whether someone pranked them by engraving the informant’s name in a tree or Slenderman was actually watching over them, potentially witnessing a legend in real life strengthens individual and communal belief.

This story is a memorate: since the two friends insisted they saw a strange vision the night before coming across the name on the tree, ID translated her personal experience into an existing legendary structure in order to explain this seemingly inexplicable encounter. When ID was telling this story to our mini group, our mouths dropped when she told us about her name inscribed in the trunk–we could hardly believe our ears. Even in a setting where we were purposely telling speculative narratives, that detail appeared to provide tangible “evidence” for the sighting. Not only did she potentially see Slenderman, but the legend personally interacted with her and directly addressed her. Experiences like that could put subjects in a limbo between going out on a “quest” to reconfirm the legend or distancing themselves from it for their own safety.

Legend – Slenderman in Real Life


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. 


Background: The informant learned this word from the internet. It was prevalent on the internet around 2018. It was the acronym of “仔细想想,非常恐怖。” Variations include alternating the order of the characters.

Context: The phrase is often used to describe a scenario or concept that seems innocuous or even mundane at first glance, but upon closer examination or reflection, it reveals itself to be much more sinister or alarming than people would have initially thought. The informant saw an internet post saying, “the brain is your most important organ—that’s what your brain told you.” People commented on the post with the main piece.

Main Piece:
[something] contemplated carefully and becomes very scary

This phrase emerged when the Chinese internet created a lot of acronyms for daily use. The fact that these acronyms are all four characters might be influenced by Chinese Chengyu- an idiomatic expression, most of which consists of four characters and has a story behind it. The Chengyu is from historical or legendary stories and fables. The modern four-character phrases can be applied to a variety of contexts, such as political situations, social issues, or personal experiences, just like what people used to do with Chengyu. The main piece could be a continuation of a long tradition as a result of the habits of the Chinese language.


Text: “Well we were all scared of Slenderman. Slenderman is a really really tall slender man, and when we were younger whenever kids were like especially malicious– so not if you were talking back to your dad or something, but like if you were severely bullying a friend. Then there would be an incident where you would be “slendermanned” and everyone knew that he was not real kind of, but like kids would make up other stories to tell kids he was real. Anytime that there’s like a sus murder in the news and no one could figure out what it was most people would just say it was him [slenderman]. It all started in 2014 I think when there was another kid who almost stabbed a 12 year old kid to death. Slenderman like he doesn’t kill you, but he gets someone else to do it for him pretty much. When slenderman is around you have this type of feeling, and you get really paranoid and you can’t get rid of him. We talked about that from a very young age as kids, like we were walking around talking about that. The whole idea was like the original kid that killed the girl was possessed like would do anything for slenderman. Anytime someone does something unexplainable like setting their house on fire or suicides all of that goes back to slenderman. There’s also the idea that he has a daughter and her name is skinny Sally, but I don’t know anything about that really.”

Context: M is a twenty one year old student who grew up in Chicago and went to school on the Southside. She currently attends USC, and says she doesn’t as frequently hear references to the story above anymore, but believes that’s more due to age than location. 
Analysis: I had heard of Slenderman before talking to M, but never any of the background on him or why he was considered so terrifying. Before researching, both M and myself were unaware that the story of Slenderman originated on the internet. He’s usually represented as M and his name describes: a tall, skinny man, but also as a faceless shadowy figure. Slenderman first surfaced in 2009 when he was posted under a photoshop contest thread. Since his inception countless threads and communities online surfaced building upon the original narrative into several different horror stories. Transferred from site to site there is no canon, or singular correct version of Slenderman instead there’s multiplicity and variation. Slenderman’s evolution continues today, and was adapted into a 2018 film. The folkloric quality of Slenderman is well documented and has been researched by Andrew Peck who considers its popularity to be due to its “collaborative nature.” Still in spite of this “collaborative nature” Slenderman has been copyrighted by Eric Knudsen the 2009 poster of the images that inspired the narrative.