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Imagine if you will… four high school girls huddled around a computer—a computer with a creepy website on the screen. The site is known as Creepypasta. It lists hundreds of scary horror urban myths. It is one myth, in particular, the girls are interested in. The girls are responding to a challenge that all young kids seem to like nowadays. 

It involves them closing their eyes and keeping their minds open and transparent. Once the first bell tolls, they close their eyes and keep them shut until the third bell toll fades away. Then the girls all open their eyes after reciting the summoning words in response to a challenge. 

A challenge requiring them to say the words before the third bell toll ends. Once they uttered the words, the wind outside rises, making swooshing noises through the trees. Outside, in the darkness, the trees sway back and forth in the breeze, making crackling noises. The computer screen suddenly goes black, and the four girls are gasping in fear, looking at each other in surprised, fearful glances.

Did the summoning work? Did the Slenderman appear, and if so, where is he? What just happened?

This is how the movie Slenderman grabs the viewer and sucks them in for an erratic ride of fear and suspense. The girls start to see hallucinations of a tall, slender man with a white face. He appears in their dreams and taunts them with frightful appearances. Then the girls begin to disappear, one at a time.

One exciting thing about the urban myth Slenderman is that he is isn’t a real myth. The Slenderman was conceived as a prank by Eric Knudsen. Knudsen created the fictional supernatural character as one of the creepypasta scary internet stories. The Something Awful forum user Knudsen is also known as “Victor Surge” created the internet icon in 2009.

The icon grabbed the imagination and fascination of millennials everywhere. Slenderman’s reputation grew in such a proportion that it took a life on its own and influenced video games and movies. Marble Hornets is a YouTube web series inspired by the Slenderman myth. The YouTube web series premiered on June 20, 2009. 

The series consisted of 133 episodes and ended on June 20, 2014. The events center around Jay, who is a film student. He receives tapes from his friend Alex which contains footage of a canceled film project named Marble Hornets. Hence the title of the series. Jay is stalked by a ghostly apparition known as ‘The Operator.’ The Operator character is based on Slenderman’s persona.

 The Operator doesn’t scare Jay away from the whole mysterious situation. Instead, it only makes Jay want to learn more about the mysterious tapes. 

This mysterious Slenderman is also the creative influence behind the video game Minecraft and the Slender’s video games: The Eight Pages and the following video Slender: The Arrival. Slenderman has also appeared in the movie adaptation of Marble Hornets and one of my favorite movies, Slenderman. The film was produced in 2018.

Now we come full circle to the four teenagers huddled around the computer.

The Slenderman myth reflects the power of fear and how belief can give life to a vague prank. Then that idea grows, gaining strength and power until it takes on a life of its own. Slenderman evolved from a simple joke into a horrifying monster. A monster that still affects kids today.

On May 31, 2014, two 12-year-old girls were arrested in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser lured a mutual friend Payton Leutner into the woods. There they stabbed her nineteen times. Payton managed to crawl out of the woods, and she survived the stabbing.

The eerie part of this story is that Anissa and Morgan stabbed Payton to prove their worth to the Slenderman. Like the four high school students, the girls discovered Slenderman on Creepypasta. The two girls really believed the Slenderman was real. They thought that unless they killed someone for the Slenderman, their families were in danger. 

The girls told the police they stabbed their friend to protect their families. The judge didn’t believe them and sentenced them to the psychiatric ward. 

Slenderman even made an appearance on Criminal Minds – The Tall Man. An episode of Law & Order Special Victims – Glasgowman’s Wrath is also loosely based on this sinister icon. 

An internet prank that had grown into a real urban myth – a myth without a monster. The only creature in this mythos is the one in our minds. Something about the Slenderman grabs hold of that part of the brain that believes in superstition. The part that is still connected to the roots of our beginnings back in the dark ages.

I think Slenderman triggers in us those fearful times, and we instinctively remember. We are naturally afraid of the things that go bump in the night. Some of us grasp that dark side of us and go exploring in that primordial darkness. 

Others shy away from the knowledge that such shadows exist. So, the Slenderman fantasy grabs our morbid curiosity of ghosts and spooks. The internet prank stays and taunts us about our fear of the dark and unknown. 

It isn’t transparent anymore. It has developed and expanded into a real and substantial fiend. The Slenderman is now real and has become a permanent fixture in our psyche. Adding one more thing to fear while we stand in the dark, trying to pierce the cloak of reality. What is real and what isn’t in our world of myths and legends?

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