Since 2009, the World Wide Web has had a meme-worthy bogeyman all of its own: The Slender Man. Created by a creepypasta Something Awful forums user named Eric Knudsen, what began as a photoshop contest entry spawned an Internet myth that soon reached urban legend status, detailing an eerie, faceless, and spindly trickster who achieves deadly mischief through the influence of his victims.
Since that time, Slender Man (also sometimes appearing as the combined Slenderman) has seen much attention in mainstream media outlets, following a tragic attempted murder in 2014 involving two girls who tried to kill a third schoolmate in order to become “proxies of Slenderman.”
With little doubt, the reach of the Internet, paired with the viral nature of the meme phenomenon, allowed the Slender Man character to progress to near-mythic status in a short period of time. Hence, it was only a matter of time before a film production based on Knudsen’s viral character would be in the works.
According to Mashable, “The trailer for the upcoming Slender Man movie seems to take inspiration from the idea that Slender Man stalks kids and influences them to do terrible, murderous things,” noting the low-budget look of the film (which, at least in some cases, may lend to the appeal of the film). Low budget or not, the trailer for the upcoming movie actually looks pretty decent:
Part of the appeal of Slender Man has to do with the silent anonymity of the character. It is a monster whose frightening appearance is complemented by no grimacing features or growls but instead relies on the eerie power of suggestion in order to make its victims harm themselves and others.
All the more frightening is the fact that this unsettling power of persuasion exhibited in the myth of the character has played out in real life, following a brief moral panic in 2014 surrounding the aforementioned attempted murder in Waukesha, Wisconsin. During the ensuing weeks, similar incidents were reported to somewhat less fanfare from the press, involving a stabbing incident in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a Florida teenager who attempted to burn her family’s home (the associations between these latter incidents and the Slender Man mythos, compared with the murder attempt in Waukesha, is admittedly somewhat vague).
It was similarly suggested that an epidemic of suicides among teenagers and young adults on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 2015 could have been influenced by the Slender Man character. References have been made to a sort of “suicide spirit” in the traditions among the Oglala Sioux tribe, an apparent reference to an entity known as “Walking Sam,” who appears in conjunction with such suicides.
In fact, the Walking Sam stories first emerged several years prior to the appearance or creation of Slender Man, although a few similarities do exist. Several years ago, I received an email from a Federal Government Agent who had attended a town hall meeting in the region and noted that many residents of the reservation in attendance spoke about the “Walking Sam” character.
“I work for the Federal Government and was at a tribal council meeting in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, a couple of years ago at which an elderly woman complained about Walking Sam,” the gentleman explained. This character was described as being some kind of bad spirit “that was causing teenagers to commit suicide.”
“The physical description of what she described sounded like a Bigfoot-type of entity,” the gentleman wrote in his email to me, further noting that he had shared his description of the incident at the town hall with researcher and cryptozoologist Loren Coleman.
It remains to be seen whether the upcoming Slenderman film will capture all of the nuances of the eerie urban legends that have grown around the character in recent years… although from the looks of the trailer, at least they’re off to a good start.