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Slenderman: Terror to Anti-Hero

At what point does a story of a unusual creature become a creature of legend? Does it depend on the creature and how easily it captures the imagination? One creature that seemed to grab onto the collective imagination (and who did it rather quickly) was the creature called Slenderman.

Slenderman is an abnormally tall creature with limbs that are unnaturally long and a featureless face; he is normally depicted as wearing a black suit. He originated as a creepypasta internet meme (a horror-related legend that has been shared with others via the internet) in 2009.

In the majority of stories that feature him, he is depicted as stalking, abducting or traumatizing people (usually children). In the pictures that people have shared, where they have inserted him into the picture), he is usually in the background somewhere, and it takes a moment to locate him (making his appearance a bit more frightening than if he was more prominent).

Starting in 2014, there was a bit of a panic that was related to Slenderman. It was around this time that readers of his fiction were connected to several violent acts. The most prominent of these may have been the near fatal stabbing of a 12-year-old girl in Wisconsin (which inspired the HBO documentary Beware the Slenderman, which was released in 2016).

In the documentary, it was revealed that two girls lured their friend into a secluded area and attempted to stab her to death as an offering to Slenderman (believing him to be a real being), thinking this “sacrifice” would put them in his good graces, and they could become proxies for him. When they believed their friend was dead (after stabbing her 19 times), they left her there.

They were not aware that their friend had survived their attack, and she managed to make her way to a road, where she flagged down a passing cyclist and got help. The girls were later found several miles away, they were arrested, put on trial, and are still serving their sentences for the attack.

Attacks such as this only added to the decline of the popularity of Slenderman that had been happening; most of the original blogs that had been devoted to Slenderman either shut down completely or became less popular.

In the late 2010s, the stories that were being told about him changed somewhat. He went from being a frightening creature, to being an anti-hero who protected victimized children from bullies. It is believed by some that the change from being a creature that was meant to frighten children, to becoming one that protects children was directly caused by the stabbing depicted in Beware the Slenderman.

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