Dec 05, 2020 I Nick Redfern

The Slenderman: “It Became a Meme”

An interesting question was put to me a couple of days ago. It went along something like this: "Which of all your books and subjects give you the most feedback from your readers?" Well, I can definitely answer that question for the first three books. Certainly, it's the Men in Black mystery: I get a huge amount of data and cases. Second, is my theory about the Roswell affair of July 1947 being a secret military experiment, rather than a UFO crash. As for the third, it's my 2017 book, The Slenderman Mysteries. And, there's an eye-opening aspect to so many of the emails and messages I receive concerning the Slenderman: it's  the undeniable fear that the people who claim to have seen the Slenderman in the real world - rather than in the world of online fiction and movies - exhibit so graphically. We're talking about the Slenderman having become a Tulpa/thought-form - as a result of the obsession that numerous people have with the creature. There's another aspect I get, too, from people who have immersed themselves into the world of the Slenderman. It's the sense that the person has a connection to the emaciated thing; a connection that provokes a feeling of excitement in them, but also overwhelming fear. And, with a bit of Stockholm Syndrome thrown in for good measure. I have literally dozens of cases in my records that contain variations of those key issues, one way or another.

While researching the whole Slenderman phenomenon for my book, one of the people who I spoke with was author Olav Phillips. He gave me a fascinating interview. In part, it goes as follows: "I remember speaking to my son and asked him if he had ever heard of the Slenderman – this was when I got into it, which was just a few years ago. He was about eight at the time and he gets real scared and he just says: 'What?' He asked me: 'Where did you hear about that?' I said, 'On the Net.' He was asking really softly, almost secretly, like it was something for him and his friends, but not for the grown-ups. It was their secret; their little club. Not mine. In my son’s elementary school, Slenderman was like their version of Bloody Mary. They were fascinated by it, but scared and mortified, too. Even in Grade two and three, my son said the kids were consumed by the Slenderman thing; completely consumed by it. With my son and his friends, there’s a lot of secrecy and paranoia with the Slenderman; you can’t tell people about this. They feel comfortable about talking about it with each other, because that’s their cohort. But when I come in – and I’m the old guy - I’m not supposed to know about that. That’s how they see it, I think."

The interview continued: "About a month after me and my son had that conversation was when the girls stabbed their friend. I had to investigate it; it became like an addiction. I can’t sit there and do nothing about it; it was very strange. At first, I believed it was a hundred percent horseshit, just made-up stories and nothing else. But, then, after me and my son talked about it, it struck me that there was so much fear in my son's elementary school, and the beliefs they had in the Slenderman were fairly complicated. That was when I started to think it had gone from this totally made-up story to a Tulpa – manifested by millions of children across the United States and around the world. The imagery and the name definitely had a lot to do with it for my son, I think; even for me. When we were kids, we were all afraid of the boogeyman: the guy under the bed or in the closet. But, you didn’t really have an image to go with it. I'm forty-two now, so we didn’t have anything that visually manifested for us back then, in the 1980s. And we didn’t have anything like the Internet – no pictures of the boogeyman to look at. And information was much slower to spread, too. The Slenderman thing was different: It became a meme. There were stories, images online. The way my son got it, it was like how the boogeyman story was told to me, but in a bigger 21st century context."

What this demonstrates is that Olav's son and his friends saw the Slenderman as something for them. Remember what Olav said: "I’m not supposed to know about that." Of course, "that" was the Slenderman. The angle of feeling a connection to the Slenderman is something I hear time and time again. As I also do in relation to the Tulpa phenomenon that Olav himself came to suspect was at least a part of the overall controversy. Whatever your thoughts are when it comes to the issue of the Slenderman, there's no doubt that it fascinates people, obsesses them, leads them to believe they have a connection to it, and puts them in significant states of fear, even though they can't help gravitating towards it. And it's a subject that - quite unlike any other subject that I've written about - results in a steady amount of communications that are dominated by the downright disturbing.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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