From the Internet to the Woods of Wisconsin: The Rise of Slenderman

By: Emily Weinstein


Since his birth on the Internet in 2009, the faceless, tuxedo-wearing bogeyman known as Slenderman has since grown from a creepy online fairy-tale to terrifying real-life horror story. Originally created by Eric Knudsen on the Internet forum called Something Awful, Slenderman seeks to attract the attention and fright of the younger generation of his readers. He then uses their attention and fear to gain control over them and force them to do his dirty work. However, this mind control is actually much more intricate. Many of his victims suffer from actually physical symptoms including coughing, confusion, and memory loss. Examples of the effects that Slenderman has on his victims can be seen in many of the Marble Hornets videos that we watched for and discussed in class. For example, in entry #20, Tim suffers from heavy and uncontrollable coughing. Additionally, Jay experiences significant memory loss, including losing all memory of the previous seven months. However, after doing some research, I confirmed that the Marble Hornets videos are indeed works of fiction. I was able to locate the IMDB page for Marble Hornets along with the names of the actors who played characters such as Jay, Alex, and Tim. Although this story was fabricated, a real-life incident connected to the mythical and creepy Slenderman did in fact occur in 2014, and this incident along with evidence from the Marble Hornets video are now being combined to create an HBO documentary in January 2017 titled, Beware the Slenderman.

First released at the DOC NYC festival on November 12th, Beware the Slenderman takes a deeper look into the terrifying real-life incident that occurred in Wisconsin in 2014, in which two 12-year-old girls brutally stabbed one of their friends in order to show their devotion to Slenderman. Specifically, this new documentary seeks to question to safety of today’s Internet as well as our younger generation’s unrestricted access to it. How safe are today’s children if they are so easily able to access information on the Internet that convinces them to commit horrendous crimes such as murder? According to research, this was not a spur-of-the- moment attack, but instead one that had been methodically planned out for months. So what drove these two young girls to want to commit such a strategic murder solely to please a mythical creature that they had read about online? This is the big question at hand, and the court charged with handling this sensitive case has struggled to determine the next step. Since the attempted murder was so strategic, should the girls be tried as adults? Or was this crime just derived from the imagination of children? It really is quite difficult to decide. In addition to looking at the Wisconsin case, the documentary will also examine the recent fascination with Slenderman as well as how this newly-created fantasy has turned into a horrifying reality.

The new Slenderman documentary will be released on HBO on January 23rd, 2017, and I can definitely say that I am very interested to see from what point of view it chooses to evaluate the case. Here is a link to the newest trailer.


7 thoughts on “From the Internet to the Woods of Wisconsin: The Rise of Slenderman

  1. Thanks for the information about the documentary, it sounds intriguing and I am definitely curious to see if they will rely on the fictional Marble Hornets videos or if they have more stories like the one about the girls in Wisconsin that they will be presenting. It definitely is terrifying that fictional horror can transition into real horror so easily sometimes. It also is concerning how easily the younger generation can get access to it, any suggestions on how to combat that problem?

  2. Oh wow, I didn’t know a lot of this! My first experience with Slenderman was on the internet (probably in 2010?) where I saw an image on him while searching “scary things” in a google image search (don’t ask, I was a weird teen lol). When I saw the image of him standing in the woods I was immediately spooked. My understanding of Slenderman was that he originated from an old German fairytale and that Slenderman’s goal was to murder children. I did not realize that Slenderman was made from the internet until I took this class.

    • That’s what I had originally thought too, so I was surprised when we learned in class that he was created on reddit! I wonder if German literature has a character similar to Slenderman on which Eric Knudsen based his character? It would be super interesting to do some more research into related characters or themes in German literature!

  3. I’ve known about Slenderman for a long time, but this class is making me realize how much more there is to the story. I hadn’t heard anything about the documentary, but it looks really interesting. And it definitely raises some moral issues with regards to the internet. It’s scary how much you can find online nowadays, and it’s so much harder to keep kids away from things that they aren’t old enough to understand. Really good blog post!

  4. Like many of the other commenters above, I thought Slenderman was originated like many scary characters: as a folk tale. My first experience with it was in high school, around 2012 when a classmate showed me him on a computer. He has honestly terrified me ever since but it makes me feel better that the Marble Hornets videos are definitely fake as proven by IMDB profiles. It’s also really interesting to me how the court case for those girls would proceed; would they be tried as sane adults or would there be some defense about influences of the internet or something like that? (I watch a lot of SVU, sorry). But thank you for this super interesting blog post, it was really in-depth and cohesive!

  5. Although I am jealous you wrote this before me (this was my next paper idea for the blog!), I truly enjoyed reading this and appreciate your devoted research. I am most definitely looking forward to the documentary. I am curious if there are any other smaller examples like the Wisconsin story that have dealt with Slenderman as a muse. Very well-written and informative post!

  6. I am so excited for this documentary. It is going to be very interesting to see how the story is told. if you are curious about some of the legal aspects of the case. Watch Law & Order SVU season 16 episode 6 titled “Glasgowman’s Wrath.” Although it is fiction, it is loosely based on these killings and is super entertaining!

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