Police in Waukesha, Wis., have arrested two 12-year-old girls in the grisly stabbing of another girl, allegedly to prove their devotion to a fictional character they learned about online.
The girls, Morgan E. Geyser and Anissa E. Weier, are accused of attempting a murder they had been planning for several months; they lured their friend into a wooded area where one girl allegedly held the victim down while the other stabbed her 19 times.
According to an article in the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, "When confronted by police, Weiser immediately began explaining about the website Creepypasta. Weier said she introduced Morgan Geyser to the site back in December. A character named "Slenderman" is the leader of Creepypasta, and below Slender Man is the killer and below the killer is a proxy.
Weier explained that in order to be a proxy you needed to kill a person in order to show your dedication to Slenderman. Weier said that many people don't believe Slenderman is real and she wanted to prove the skeptics wrong. Weier said that Geyser told her they should become "proxies" of Slenderman, and in order to do so, they needed to kill their friend, the victim, to prove themselves worthy of Slenderman.
The suspects believed that "Slender," as Weier called him, lived in a mansion in the Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin. The plan was to kill the victim and walk to Slender's mansion and become one of his proxies, according to the criminal complaint.
The victim remains in serious but stable condition while the two girls accused of trying to kill her face charges of attempted first-degree intentional homicide.
Slenderman: The Internet-Age Boogeyman Folklorist Gail de Vos, in her book "What Happens Next? Contemporary Urban Legends and Popular Culture," explains Slenderman's origin: "Recognized as a fictional contemporary urban legend, created by Victor Surge on the Something Awful forums on June 8, 2009, Slender Man has gained prominence beyond the confines of the online forums. He is most often portrayed as a malevolent entity abducting and psychologically traumatizing people after stalking them for a long while."
The character is wildly popular among online fans, as researcher Sharon Hill of Doubtful News.com noted in an article in the February 2013 "Fortean Times" magazine: Slenderman "currently stars in an array of videos, YouTube series, alternate reality games, fan art, online horror stories and parodies.... Slenderman is an evolving meme." (Yes, there's even Slenderman porn, and no I'm not going to describe it.) It is a character in some ways similar to La Llorona, the wailing woman said to haunt ditches and rivers searching for children to abduct.
The two Wisconsin girls are not alone in believing in the literal existence of Slenderman. Though most people recognize that this boogeyman is fictional and no more real than Freddy Krueger or Captain Hook, not everyone is convinced.
Rev. Robin Swope, a pastor at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Erie, Pa., believes the Internet-generated monster is real. In his book "Slenderman: From Fiction to Fact," Swope states that, after years of reviewing stories sent to him by people who claim to have encountered the elusive monster, he has concluded that Slenderman is a literal demonic entity: "We can come to the conclusion that Slenderman is real. The archetype of death that Slenderman embodies is not an archetype at all. Slenderman is the archetype. He is indeed death personified who from countless ages past has hunted down humanity with a relentless determination. If you see him as a child he will forever haunt your dreams and your waking nightmares... There is nothing you can do about it, it is inevitable. Begging and screaming are useless; Slenderman makes no bargains and takes no bribes. Slenderman is coming for you," he concludes his (non-fiction) book.
According to Rev. Swope, Christian faith and prayer are the only defenses against Slenderman.
If an adult --- the leader of a church, no less -- can give credence to Slenderman stories as eyewitness accounts, it's no wonder that some children may as well. Acting out a scene or scenario from a story or an urban legend is actually fairly common.
Folklorists call this sort of behavior legend tripping, and it is an activity shared by ghost hunters who (sincerely or jokingly) walk around reputedly haunted locations, as well as girls who go into a dark bathroom, stand in front of a mirror, and call out for Bloody Mary. Usually, of course, the legend tripping is done in fun and no one gets hurt. But some people take the make-believe too far, and confuse fantasy with reality; that may be what happened in this case.
Image: Slenderman, as portrayed on https://www.facebook.com/pages/Slender-Man/