The Birth of an Urban Legend: The Rise of Slender Man on the Internet

A mysterious and ominous presence lurks deep within the forest, its tall and thin silhouette obscured by the dense trees. It calls out to you, luring you closer, and whispers its one command – to commit murder. Today, we delve into the origins and evolution of the Slender Man, an internet-born urban legend that has captivated and terrified audiences for years

The Rise of the Slender Man: A Digital Phenomenon

Despite only existing for less than a decade, the Slender Man has managed to infiltrate the global consciousness in an unprecedented manner. With his unsettlingly tall and faceless figure, the Slender Man seems like something straight out of ancient myths or horror literature. However, the origins of this eerie character can be traced back to the digital realm – specifically, the internet subculture of creepypasta.

For those unfamiliar, creepypasta refers to a form of online storytelling that involves large groups of people copying and pasting the same block of text across various platforms. In the early days of the internet, these short and eerie stories would go viral and be consumed by millions. You may have even come across one or two of these tales.

One of the first creepypastas to gain widespread attention was “Ted the Carver,” a horror story about a group of friends exploring a cave. The story was originally shared on a series of blog posts, and as the story progressed, it became increasingly strange and captivating, drawing readers in and asking them to decipher bizarre facts and study unsettling photos for clues.

As creepypastas gained popularity, they began to spawn their own forums and websites. The subreddit “r/nosleep” became a popular destination for these types of stories, but they quickly spread to other internet forums as well, feeding the seemingly insatiable appetite for horror content. In a short period of time, creepypasta had become its own distinct internet subculture. The Slender Man, one of the most popular and enduring stories, was born from this subculture.

A Birthplace of Darkness: The Forum Origins of the Slender Man

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Unlike most memes and cultural phenomena on the internet, the Slender Man has a distinct point of origin. While many internet trends exist without a transparent creator, the Slender Man can be traced back to a single post on Something Awful website. On June 10, 2009, user Eric Knudsen, under the name Victor Surge, created two images of a tall, faceless figure and added a caption.

The first caption read, “We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us simultaneously.” The second caption read, “One of two recovered photographs from the Sterling City Library blaze. Notable for being taken the day 14 children vanished, and for what is referred to as the Slender Man. The deformity is cited as film defects by officials. Fire at the library occurred one week later, actual photographs confiscated as evidence.”

With these captions, Knudsen created the character of the Slender Man and sparked a viral sensation. The image and backstory of the Slender Man quickly gained a cult following, with legions of people becoming obsessed with the character and speculating about his origins and motives.

The Evolution of the Slender Man: A Changing Character

As the creator of the Slender Man, Eric Knudsen, did not claim authorship of the character and did not exert control over how it was used, the Slender Man has undergone significant evolution over time. Despite this, certain attributes have remained consistent, such as his tall, thin build, elongated arms, and blank white face.

In the character’s original incarnation, he was said to be around 15 feet tall, so tall that he would have to crouch to enter a house. Now, he is commonly depicted as being around seven feet tall. Alongside these physical changes, the surrounding mythology of the Slender Man has also undergone significant development.

In the character’s early days, the Slender Man was simply a tall man with tentacles protruding from his back. However, as time went on, he gained otherworldly abilities, such as mind control and the power to interfere with digital warp devices, making him difficult to document. He is often said to possess psychic and teleportation abilities, and proximity to him is said to cause symptoms such as paranoia, delusions, and nosebleeds. As new people began to write stories about the Slender Man, the character’s malicious motivations and abilities grew and expanded.

Initially, the Slender Man was often depicted as preying on and traumatizing children. More recent iterations, however, have expanded the character’s appetites and motives, making him an even more terrifying and unknowable force of evil.

The Original Adaptation

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Within a year, the slender man became such a viral success that, he received his first adaptation. In a 2009 youtube web series would be filmmakers troy Waggner, joseph Delage, and Tim Sutton began telling an eerie and disjointed augmented reality story, focusing on what they claimed was, real-life encounters with the unknown. Like ted the carver, this slender man adaptation titled marvel hornets was a web series that purported to be a real-life documentary with footage captured by the friends and showcasing appearances by the slender man. The web stories chronicled weird happenings that the group of friends experienced.

What perhaps gave them more credibility was the fact that the entire project was funded with only $500. Many believe that the footage and convincing effects the team created could not have been produced on such a low budget with such inexpensive cameras. In order to really sell the idea that they were experiencing these otherworldly phenomena, the group would upload at random times with some videos having little or nothing to do with the core story of the happenings.

Marble hornets developed quite a cult following and have since been compared to lonely girl 15 a series of fictitious web vlogs that took the internet by storm in the early 2000s as one of the most important early artistic works to be produced on the internet. In all, marvel hornets were comprised of 92 videos that encompass the main story.

There were also 39 entries on an accompanying channel to the arc that has side narratives and additional content. In total, the channel’s videos have gotten more than 100 million views.

In 2015, a marble hornet spin-off feature film adaptation was released titled, always watching a marble hornet story. The film is a loose adaptation of the original web series and the slender man’s online mythology.

Another slender man web series “Every Man Hybrid” was released initially in 2010 and concluded in 2019. It consisted of 84 videos and six hidden videos. Additionally, a third web series tribe 12 also contributed to the slender mythology.

Marble Hornets: The Game

The success of marble hornets eventually spawned a video game titled slender the eight pages. In the game, you play as someone lost in the forest attempting to find eight pages from a book that the slender man has strewn among the rocks and trees. The game developed a significant cult following. Fans of slender men propelled the game and the character to new heights. Within the game though, a slender man was referred to only as the operator. Believe it or not, this isn’t the only game in which the slender man has a role.

He also appears in 2013’s slender arrival, a SQL to the eight pages. He’s even appeared in Minecraft. The slender man was the inspiration behind the creepy and mysterious Andelman in the highly beloved game.

Slender Man: Movie Star

The viral fame of the character continues to spawn more and more attention. It was only a matter of time before slender man-made the silver screen in a big-budget film. There have been a few films based on Slender Man, but the most mainstream adaptation was the 2018 film titled slender man.

The film stars Javier Botet and joey king. It was directed by Sylvain White and written by David Birke. The film centers on a group of friends who summon the slender man and who are then plagued by his presence and malicious intent.

Despite an outcry from fans, the film was greenlit with a pg 13 rating. The slender man was released on August 10th, 2018, and grossed 51 million worldwide off a budget of roughly $10 million. Unfortunately, the film was met with largely negative reactions from both fans and critics. One of whom called it to quote “an under-cooked serving of creepypasta.”

Real World Crimes

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The most truly terrifying episode involving the slender man happened four years before the ill-reviewed slender man movie came out, and it happened in real life.

The legend of the slender man’s popularity and internet ubiquity reached an all-time high when an attempted murder was carried out in his name by two twin girls. On may 31 2014 in Waukesha, Wisconsin two 12-year-old girls stabbed their mutual friend 19 times.

Why? would they do that what would drive two literal children to perform such a heinous act?

well, they did it for a simple reason. They said they believed the slender man was completely real, and they wanted to curry favor with him. They had an undiluted desire to become proxies of the slender man.

Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier were two seemingly normal children by any traditional metric. However, unbeknownst to their friends and family they’d become radicalized by tales of the slender man. They’d become completely enamored with him, and were convinced that he was in fact a real entity.

They lured their mutual acquaintance a girl named Payton Lautner into a nearby forest, a place called David’s park and convinced her to play a game of hiding and seek with them. But they both quickly turned on her one held her down while the other stabbed her 19 times in the chest, torso, and legs.

After they concluded the act, the two girls stood up drenched in blood and said they would go get help. Despite this claim, after arriving back at their respective homes neither girl said anything that would result in directing medical aid to a grievously wounded Payton Lautner, but Peyton never gave up. Realizing no help was coming she crawled through the forest until she discovered a path. Luckily a bicyclist happened to come across her and quickly called 9-1-1.

Peyton survived despite stab wounds to several vital organs and the fact that one thrust just missed piercing an artery by a single millimeter.

The Court Case

Despite their ages, both of the girls face criminal charges. And in 2017 Anissa Weier pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree homicide and was ultimately sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. She was also institutionalized in a state psychiatric ward until the age of 37 years old.

Morgan geyser accepted a plea bargain in which she would be given a sentence of 40 years to life and placed in a mental health facility for an indeterminate amount of time. She was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia. This horrific crime served as the basis for the documentary beware of the slender man which was released in 2016. Directed by irene Taylor Brodsky, it follows the true-life events that prompted two 12-year-old girls to try to take the life of a playmate violently.

The documentary examines both their lives as well as, shines a light into the murky depths of the internet and the bizarre corners of the world wide web.


The slender man is as ubiquitous today as he’s ever been. He’s become a fixture of popular culture, an urban myth of the digital age. A character who’s taken up residence in our imaginations. His eerie in human arms and blank expressionless face speak to the darkness within all of us. His unknowable otherworldly motivation, bizarre abilities, and iconic silhouette have captivated a viral legion of fans that will only continue to grow. And with more slender man films, video games, and anonymous forum posts likely on the way, it’s unlikely that he’s going to go anywhere anytime soon.

So what do you think? is the slender man the first urban myth of the 21 century? has he become a modern-day boogeyman whose blank face will terrify us for generations to come? is there someone in your life who’s just a little too interested in the slender man?

Originally posted 2021-06-12 07:37:00.