I know that Slenderman isn’t expressly a videogame topic, as he originated in a forum post, but given the number of people who were likely turned on to the mythos through various games like Slender, I felt this was an appropriate topic. That, & the sheer gravity & general “messed-up”-ness of this news story is worthy of mentioning.
Yesterday various news sites reported that two girls in Wisconsin attempted to murder one of their friends to appease Slenderman. The two girls (12) reported to genuinely believe that Slenderman was a real entity & that he was watching them. During an interview, one of the girls told the police that she wanted to prove that Slenderman existed, & they’d planned to run away to his mansion, which they believed was in the Nicolet National Park. In order to become his proxies (which, if you’re unfamiliar with Slenderman lore, are sort of like brainwashed agents who do his work), they plotted to stab one of their friends (12) to death. During a sleepover, they tricked their friend into going out in the woods & repeatedly stabbed her. According to the article, she was stabbed nineteen times but managed to get away. Fortunately, she was able to crawl to a road where some bikers found her & she’s receiving medical attention. The article reports that she is in stable condition.
Now these two girls are being tried as adults for attempted murder & could face up to sixty years in prison.
Let me just jump to the crux of this post: SLENDERMAN ISN’T REAL.
I know how internet rumors can be. They circulate around for years & by the time you hear about you can’t make heads or tails of the truth. But let me assure you, Slenderman is fake. He’s just a story. He was a very clear origin as a myth. I know there are hundreds of pictures & videos of him, but surely we all know better than to trust something on the internet. Unless you saw the picture come out of the camera untampered, don’t believe it. It is very, very easy to alter any photo or video & then upload it as truth.
If you’re unaware, Slenderman originated from the “Something Awful” forum as part of a contest to create a new modern monster legend. He is just a creation. A very interesting creation with a compelling mythos built up around him, but a creation nonetheless. You can even track his creator down (Eric Knudsen).
And of course cue the inevitable backlash that always comes with such things. Rather than facing the anger and responsibility head-long, it’s always easier to blame someone else. And of course the blame here falls on the Creepypasta community. Despite the story having only come out yesterday, apparently the administrator of Creepypasta.com has already received so much hate-mail that they had to make an official statement. It’s a very long but well thought out response, so I recommend reading it. I’m just going to quote a few phrases that I think get to the heart of the matter:
I think that most of you will understand when I say it’s hard to justify pinning blame on an entire genre of writing. Unless you’re okay with blaming the world’s ills on Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft, I don’t believe that it makes sense to say paranormal writing or an interest in the macabre should be blamed or even used as an indicator of a “sick” person (as a few emails have already felt the need to call both myself and all the authors here). The human race has long held and encouraged a fascination with things that go bump in the night…
Most people don’t watch Hannibal and turn into serial killers. The popularity of the Paranormal Activity franchise did not cause a spike in violent crimes. I play Skyrim as a pickpocketing rogue, but I’ve never so much as stolen a pack of gum, nor have I murdered anyone. You can insert countless examples here of people enjoying popular culture without acting it out in real life, so I hope that you see my point. This isn’t to say that I believe that anything goes with regards to entertainment. I’ve mentioned it quite often in the comments here, as well as in the FAQ and on our writing review sister site, but I do draw the line with what I’m willing to accept and post as entertainment on my website. I’ve tried to contact writers who sent in things that troubled me – particularly teens who were clearly writing out their own unhealthy, violent revenge fantasies – and tried to direct them to websites or hotlines where they could find someone to talk to if they were having trouble…
We live in a culture with a very unhealthy relationship with mental illness. People with mental health issues are frequently dismissed (people who deal with anxiety, depression, etc have almost certainly experienced people telling them that their problems don’t exist and that they should “bootstrap” and just “get over it”), shamed and bullied (consider Miley Cyrus’ tweets where she mocked Sinead O’Conner for acknowledging her own struggle with mental illness and asking for help), and often ignored or denied necessary treatment because people either choose to look the other way when they see symptoms or their attempts to help are met with resistance because the sufferer has internalized all the negative cultural messages about having and admitting to mental illness…
Lastly, I’ll admit that my intention for this website was not to cater to young teenagers. I discovered Creepypasta right after highschool myself, and sort of assumed (and was backed up via Google analytics) that the audience here was generally highschool, college, and above. To me, I feel that’s an age range where reading creepy stories shouldn’t really pose a problem – moreover, it seemed pretty normal as I remember lots of nights in highschool with a group of people watching scary movies together, or going camping and telling each other ghost stories. For me, that produced a lot of fun memories. However, for the really young kids… while I don’t believe that creepy stories will cause them to become evil or sick, I do think it could scare them and/or make them very anxious! And if your child has issues with violent or destructive or depressive issues, it’s really important to make sure that they’re not interacting with things that will exacerbate that. I’ll quote the Chief involved with this case here, because I think he is completely right:
“Parents should not be allowing their children to have unrestricted or unmonitored internet usage –whether it be on their computer on their smart phone on their PlayStation. All of those accesses to the outside world,” Chief Jack said.
I grew up when the internet was still pretty new, and I had safe browsing and not giving out information and all that hammered into my head from the time I was allowed to start logging on. My mother was also very vigilant about my internet use and paid a lot of attention to what I was doing online, who I was talking to, etc. I know that nowadays it’s probably more difficult as so many more devices can connect to the internet beyond just computers, but it’s still really important to pay attention to what your kid is doing online. I’m sure that I’ll have some community members calling me a traitor for this, but I’ve talked to quite a few of your concerned parents who found the site in their kid’s browser history and, upon hearing their concern, I helped walk them through blocking this website. I don’t take offense to a parent deciding that this website is inappropriate for their kid in any way – you know your children far better than I do, after all.
Well said, Sir or Madam! They’ve even gone so far as to hold off on posting any new content on the site out of respect for the victim & her family.
It continues to baffle me how casual a lot of parents are when it comes to their kids with technology. I know you know what’s out there. I’ve seen some of your browsing history! Would you want your child seeing that. Parents need to step up & take more notice of what their kids are doing. You don’t have to understand it all, but you should know something of what’s going on. I remember when I was in middle school & started buying Anime & videogames with my own money, my mom still checked everything before I bought it. She looked at the ratings & the content warnings. I thought she was going to punch this clerk one time when he told her to let me buy whatever I wanted. Her response was basically, “She’s my child!”
This situation is a tragedy all around. It’s tragic for the girl who was assaulted & her family. I pray that she comes through with no lasting damage (physically & mentally). Based on how close some of her wounds were to being fatal, she was definitely in God’s hands that night. And it’s a tragedy for the assailants, as well. Twelve-years-old & facing incarceration. Because make no mistake, they will be found guilty. They’ve already confessed. It’s just a question of whether they’ll go to jail or a mental hospital. Only one has started a mental illness defense, but there’s clearly something wrong with both of them. In the articles there’s clearly no guilt from either girl. And not only did they plan this, but they had several plans. You can’t tell me someone didn’t notice there was something wrong there. Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t a lot of mental illnesses that just pop up one day.
So please remember, don’t believe everything you see on the internet.