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.