The (Internet) Legend of Slenderman

Slenderman is a legend created on the Internet, fueled by photoshopped images. Photo from SomethingAwful forums.

Slenderman is a legend created on the Internet, fueled by photoshopped images. Photo from SomethingAwful forums.

There is always something in the darkness. Around this time of year, everyone’s personal monster comes out to play, but out there, steadily making his presence known is a relatively new horror amongst the old ranks of demons and ghouls. He stalks you, usually starting in childhood and never relenting. There is some connection to the woods and the trees, and being in a forest when he is around is a terrible mistake. Video cameras and other electronics malfunction when he is around, producing eerie distortions and eventually revealing the malevolent force hunting you. Paranoia, relentless pursuit, unexplained memory loss, disappearing without a trace or reappearing dismembered in the woods; these traits belong to the tall, faceless and mysterious entity known as the Slenderman.

While many mythos sources list sightings of Slenderman as far back as 16th century Germany, in reality, he began his life in 2009 as an urban legend on the Internet forum Something Awful in a thread dedicated to creating spooky or paranormal images in Photoshop. A user-created and uploaded two pictures, one of a crowd of children walking down a road and the other of a playground, both with a tall and faceless figure in the background. From there, other users began to upload more pictures and begin to attach stories to Slenderman, and his form began to emerge.  Because of the many creators adding stories to the mythos, there are many differing traits and actions that have been attributed to Slenderman but at the core is the idea of this unknowable entity appearing and tormenting its victims. In many early stories, he was a much more violent creature, with the pursued vanishing before turning up days later in a forest with their internal organs rearranged. Oftentimes animals would turn up mutilated in areas stalked by him, and his targets were primarily young children. Those that tried to investigate or compile evidence would also gain his attention, and many unexplained fires would destroy evidence of his existence.

Over his evolution, Slenderman has become more of a silent manipulator. Marble Hornets, the first video series that took off in popularity upon its arrival, introduced the concept of Proxies, people somehow controlled or directed by him. The series also introduced the now iconic distortions, which coincide with the presence of Slenderman, and set the stage for other video series such as Tribe Twelve and EverymanHYBRID. Also created in Marble Hornets was the Operator Symbol, a circle with an X through it which is now ubiquitous throughout much of the mythos. While the video series are a staple of the series, it still finds life in the form of various blogs and websites written in-character by their creators who usually find themselves targets of Slenderman’s attention.

Slenderman’s influence has spread from blogs and videos to the world of video games recently. “Slender” was the first to hit the scene, and it has spread knowledge of Slenderman to a wider audience. Quite literally it is a walk in the park, and the player must wander the woods while collecting pages, all under the watchful eye of the titular entity. Several other games and mods have begun development in the wake of Slender’s popularity, and the original developer has teamed up with another group to create an improved sequel titled “Slender: The Arrival.”

Whether he is chasing malevolent or simply standing there watching silently, the Slenderman is a terrifying entity that embodies the eldritch unknown. One of the most terrifying aspects of the mythos is knowledge. The more one knows about the Slender Man, the more likely it is that they will find themselves pursued by a faceless man, unnaturally tall and thin, dressed in a plain suit and always just out of sight.