Who is Slender Man? A Brief History of the Meme-Turned-Movie

Chris Tilly
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With the Slender Man trailer dropping this week, the following is a potted history of the horror meme that’s been turned into one of the most eagerly anticipated horror movies of 2018.

Where Did Slender Man Come From?

Slender Man is a meme that built into a phenomenon. It all started on June 10, 2009, on the Something Awful Internet Forum. Two days previous, a thread entitled ‘Create Paranormal Images’ was launched, and on the 10th a user called Eric Knudsen — using the alias Victor Surge — created the first picture of Slender Man (see below).

Under the photo he wrote: “we didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time…” – 1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead.

And so an internet legend began — a very modern, digital folk tale that quickly spread like wild-fire. Online fan-art followed, as did ‘creepypasta‘ fan-fiction, cosplay, and short films that further built on the mythos, most notably Marble Hornets.

More fan-made movies followed, as did multiple video games, including Slender: The Eight Pages, Slender: The Arrival and Slenderman’s Shadow. The character also featured in books and comics, while variations or parodies have appeared in episodes of Law and Order, My Little Pony, Minecraft and Supernatural. In fact, at this point, Slender Man has terrified fans in pretty much every form of modern media.

Who is Slender Man?

The first image of Slender Man, which was created by Eric Knudsen/Victor Surge.

As the mythology has evolved, so Slender Man details have changed. But he’s normally described as tall and thin, with long, slender arms and legs. He can stretch those appendages, Mr Fantastic-style, attacking his prey using terrifying tentacles.

He wears a black suit, tie and shoes, oftentimes accompanied by a black hat. His face is pale and featureless, with some stories claiming that it appears differently to whoever is looking at him.

Slender Man is thought to reside in woods or abandoned locations, preferably near children, as he mostly preys upon the young.

In terms of powers, he floats and drifts as much as he walks, and is sometimes able to teleport. And he psychologically tortures his victims, filling them with fear, paranoia, and terrifying delusions. Which he uses to cast a spell over said prey, forcing them to do his evil bidding, and ultimately driving them mad.

What is Beware the Slenderman?

Beware the Slenderman is a 2016 documentary about a horrific real-life case which was inspired by the character. On May 31, 2014, three 12-year girls entered a Wisconsin forest, where two of the girls then stabbed the third 19 times and left her for dead. When arrested and questioned, they told the police that Slenderman made them do it.

The victim somehow survived, and the documentary examines the events leading up to the attempted murder, with director Irene Taylor Brodsky exploring the girls’ childhood and home life to try and figure out how they ended up committing such a heinous crime.

The film also documents the birth of Slenderman online, and looks at the nature of the modern myth, explaining how new urban legends can quickly spread across all forms of media, and how they can affect young, impressionable minds.

A deeply disturbing cautionary tale, Beware the Slenderman was broadcast on HBO and Sky Atlantic earlier this year, while the girls themselves have faced trials and are awaiting sentencing.

What Should Audiences Expect From the Slender Man Movie?

The first trailer for Slender Man was posted this week. Written by David Birke (Elle, 13 Sins) and directed by Sylvain White (Stomp the Yard, The Losers), the official synopsis for the film is as follows…

In a small town in Massachusetts, four high school girls perform a ritual in an attempt to debunk the lore of Slender Man. When one of the girls goes mysteriously missing, they begin to suspect that she is, in fact, HIS latest victim.

The father of one of the aforementioned real-life attackers is not impressed, however. Speaking to the Associated Press, Bill Weir said, “It’s absurd they want to make a movie like this. It’s popularizing a tragedy is what it’s doing. I’m not surprised but, in my opinion, it’s extremely distasteful. All we’re doing is extending the pain all three of these families have gone through.”

Slender Man is set to hit screens May 18.

Chris Tilly
FANDOM Managing Editor in the UK. At this point my life is a combination of 1980s horror movies, Crystal Palace football matches, and episodes of I'm Alan Partridge. The first series. When he was in the travel tavern. Not the one after.
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