Tag Archives: Slenderman

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. 


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.


“The idea is that there is a man that lives in the woods, he is very tall and lanky, he wears a suit and has tentacles on his back but the biggest thing is that he doesn’t have a face, when you look at him it’s just a white head, a flat nothing. I honestly don’t remember how I first heard about- it was probably just through talking to other kids because it became such a big deal because Slenderman started as a creepy pasta where someone wrote a story and it just spread through the Internet. There’s a whole bunch of scary photos with a child next to him and the whole idea is that he would lure kids into the woods and kill them. One of the things that was scary about him was that the more you research the Slenderman, the more likely he is to get you. So like as you look stuff up, he’s like gonna put you on his list like this person looking too much into it. I don’t fully know how that started and it made it scarier because we can’t find anything about him.”


My informant is a 16-year old from Kansas City, Missouri. She is active on the Internet and has been on YouTube since early 2010. In the early days of the Internet, people invented short stories that would be spread throughout the Internet via copy and pasting, earning the name copy pastas. Eventually, this act of sharing stories transformed to fit the horror genre and this subculture was known as creepy pastas. These stories are shared in Internet circles as short and creepy stories and are subject to reinterpretation with each telling. My informant, being invested with the Internet, learned of several of these throughout the years and remembered this one in particular. 


My informant brought up this story during a walk around her neighborhood when I asked her about scary stories from her childhood. 


This story is interesting as it represents several fears for a generation that is heavily present on the Internet. Firstly, the Slenderman takes from similar urban legends of the past featuring a man in the woods who seeks to hurt others. It should be noted though, that this specific story states he only seeks to hurt children, which is done to emphasize his cruelty and evil nature. Furthermore, it is tailored to fit those who would stumble upon the story, most of which would be younger children using the Internet. Being entirely on the Internet also changes how people could discuss the story, which features prominently in this telling of the story. The informant told me that she heard you could not look anything up about the creature, as it would make you his target. This is fascinating, as it plays into the fears of a generation with seemingly unlimited access to technology, which is a restriction of said content. If nothing else, the Slenderman also represents an entire shift in the methods by which stories are told. Whereas other classic horror stories are primarily told orally, the Slenderman’s origins are entirely on the Internet. This pushed the content of the piece to better fit this audience, and it adapted to address fears of this generation of kids on the Internet.

For an in-depth look at the history of this legend, see: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/15/movies/slender-man-timeline.html


According to my younger brother, he heard about an internet ghost story that was meant to scare people. About 4 years ago while on a YouTube site he saw that a reference was made to a “creepypasta” page about the Slenderman story that was made into a game. Slenderman was a faceless tall skinny figure with tentacle arms. When he first saw the picture of Slenderman, he did not think it was scary, however the game had many jump scares and fast action that did make it frightening or at least surprising to the player. In the “creepypasta” story the pictures of Slenderman always showed children playing unaware while back in the background within the shadows of the woods there would be slender figure appearing to be watching them. The game did not add any additional info about Slenderman but the story in the “creepypasta” site made it seem that the children he was photographed with would disappear without a trace, leaving some to speculate that they were kidnapped maybe even taken into a different dimension. Two “idiots” girls “allegedly” bought into the story of Slenderman believing they had to become proxies of Slenderman in order to protect their families, it ended up with one of their “friend’s” being stabbed 19 times but survived. My brother made air quotes with his fingers when referencing the words “Creepypasta”, “idiots” “allegedly” and “friend’s”. He says he know Slenderman is completely fictional although he kind of understands the fascination with the image because it is usually shrouded in the shadows letting your mind to fill in the blanks. He says that maybe because of the girls attempted murder of their “friend”, parents seemed more disturbed buy Slenderman than actual kids.

Analysis: Slenderman became an internet meme and started to trend on the internet about 5—6 years ago but I paid no attention to it since the demographic was skewed for some reason to younger viewers (preteens). Creepypasta sites in general have no real interest to me because the stories always seemed written by a mentally unstable person. However, the concept of photographic pictures showing mysterious paranormal orbs or other unexplained phenomena has been around since photography was invented and the first double exposure was seen as a ghostly reflection. Slenderman is just a continuation of that tradition that can now use advance technology like Photoshop to get just the right amount of mystery. The over reaction by parents also made Slenderman even more popular because the forbidden, will always be more attractive.