Sep 25, 2022 I Nick Redfern

The Slenderman: How Did it Come to a Strange Kind of "Life"?

Imagine the scene: it’s the dead of night and you are fast asleep. Suddenly, though, things change radically and you find yourself far from asleep: you are now wide awake but unable to move. You are completely paralyzed. You try and cry out but it’s no use. Your heart pounds and your head spins chaotically. Worse still, you see hunched over in the shadows of the bedroom an eight-to-nine-foot-tall, skinny and emaciated creature. It is dressed in an old-style black suit, has a pale face that lacks eyes, a nose, ears and a mouth. As for its arms and legs, they are almost like those of a spider: long, thin and spindly. Rubbery, octopus-like tentacles protrude from its torso; they wave and flicker ominously in your direction. To your horror, the night-fiend slowly moves toward you and leans over. Its foul breath makes you wretch. It whispers that you are about to die. Or, that it is coming to take your soul. Maybe you will be its eternal slave in its forested, ancient abode. Now in a state of complete terror, you finally manage to cry out and wake up in a cold sweat. The terrible thing is suddenly gone. You have just had a trauma- and fear-filled encounter with the Slenderman. But, mark my word, he will be back. He always comes back eventually. 

The Slenderman has curious origins: he began “life” purely as an Internet creation, specifically the work of a man named Eric Knudsen. In June 2009, Knudsen, via the pseudonym of “Victor Surge,” uploaded a couple of doctored photos of the Slenderman to the forum of the Something Awful website. In no time at all, others began writing – and posting online – their very own tales of the Slenderman. Short stories, blogs, novels, online games, chat-rooms, and more soon followed. Then, something menacing and sinister happened: people, all across the world, began to see the Slenderman. Not just on the Internet, not in novels or in the pages of comic-books, but in their homes. In their bedrooms. In mysterious woods. In dreams that rapidly escalated into full-blown nightmares. The Slenderman had come to life. But, just how could such a bizarre thing have happened? Well, let us have a look. It all revolves around the very strange phenomenon of the Tulpa. Or, also, the thought-form. Take your pick. They're pretty much the same.

(Nick Redfern) Beware of what you bring into life

The Slenderman's strange origins are in the ancient teachings of Buddhism and is a Tibetan term that roughly translates into English as “manifestation.” It’s a highly appropriate piece of terminology for the Slenderman. In essence, it is the process by which the human mind can allegedly bring some degree of alternative, physical existence to an entity that is created solely within the depths of the imagination - and from within the dream state, too. In other words, and as incredible as it may sound, each and every one of us may well possess the ability to give “life” to certain “things” that don’t exist in the same way that we do. That may very well extend to the Slenderman phenomenon, too.

As amazing as this may all sound, there is a dark and danger-filled downside to creating a Tulpa-style thought-form. All too often they have a disturbing habit of running riot and turning against their creators. They become not just troublesome, but deeply manipulative, highly deceptive, and extremely dangerous. Sometimes even close to deadly. It’s a case of being extremely careful of what you wish and yearn for – and definitely so if the Slenderman is your particular Tulpa of choice. It’s intriguing to note that the 4chan members – who refer to themselves as Tulpamancers and who are now a sizeable phenomenon of their very own making - are described as largely being middle-class, young children and teenagers, living in urban environments, and who are primarily Euro-American in nature. Social awkwardness and anxiety, coupled with crippling loneliness and a sense of not belonging, typify many of the 4chan members – by their own admission. And their numbers are growing – and outside of 4chan, too. It’s these specific emotional issues that have led so many of the Tulpamancers to create their very own Tulpas, from whom, we are told, they derive deep friendship, a sense of kinship, and a feeling of no longer being alone.

Of particular note, 2009, when the specifically 4chan phenomenon of creating Tulpas began, was also the year in which the Slenderman phenomenon kicked off, thanks to Eric Knudsen. On this same path, there is no doubt that most of those who have gravitated towards the Slenderman phenomenon are young children and teenagers. Many of them have displayed extreme emotional states, sometimes dangerously emotional states. The tumultuous events that occurred at the city of Waukesha, Wisconsin in May 2014 amount to the most tragic and horrific example.

In light of all this, two important questions need to be asked. They are: (A) Is the massive interest in the Slenderman, as well as the claims that he is seen in the real world, all down to nothing more than hysteria and / or a fascination for the supernatural? (B) Or, does the process of intensively focusing and dwelling on the Slenderman phenomenon – by an untold number of young kids, such as the Tulpamancers – cause the Slenderman to come into existence from the depths of the human mind? To answer those questions, we’ll begin with the extremely cautionary experience of a woman named Alexandra David-Neel. Hers is a story that, perhaps more than any other, demonstrates how so incredibly easy it can be to focus the human mind on a particular phenomenon of supernatural proportions and then to have it duly manifest before you. And, today, that includes the Slenderman, of course. 

Born in 1868, Alexandra David-Neel had a rich and fulfilling life; it was a life that lasted for just short of an incredible 101 years. She was someone for whom just about every day was filled with adventure and excitement. She was a disciple of Buddhism, was strongly drawn to the concept of anarchy, and had a particular affinity with Tibet and its people, much of which is described in her acclaimed 1929 book, Magic and Mystery in Tibet. It’s a fine and entertaining tale of road-trip proportions and with a large dose of the supernatural thrown in. It was while in Tibet that David-Neel became acquainted – deeply acquainted - with the phenomenon of the Tulpa. Like so many people that came before her and since, however, she found herself in the icy grip of a thought-form that, when primed, activated and called forth, was determined to keep the priceless life to which it had quickly become accustomed.

David-Neel used her very own experiences to demonstrate to her readers the extent to which one creates a Tulpa at one’s own eternal peril: “Once the Tulpa is endowed with enough vitality to be capable of playing the part of a real being, it tends to free itself from its makers’ control. This, say Tibetan occultists, happens nearly mechanically, just as a child, when his body is completed and able to live apart, leaves its mother’s womb. Sometimes the phantom becomes a rebellious son and one hears of uncanny struggles that have taken place between magicians and their creatures, the former being severely hurt or even killed by the latter."

You would have thought all of this knowledge would have dissuaded David-Neel from following the path that so many trod earlier and paid the price. But, no. She was ready and fired up for the challenge.  David-Neel knew precisely of what she wrote way back in the 1920s – as well as of the inherent dangers. Indeed, on one occasion in Tibet she unwisely chose to create her very own Tulpa. She did so in the form of a rotund, beaming, jollity-filled monk. By the end of the experience, however, there was nothing fun-filled or even chubby about her strange creation. As David-Neel described it, she performed certain procedures and rites – all taught to her by her Buddhist friends in Tibet, and all designed to place her into a state of mind that would make the manifestation of the monk an all but guaranteed reality. It was a long and drawn-out procedure, one which lasted not for days or even for weeks: it went on for no less than months. Dedication was most definitely the order of the day.

(Nick Redfern) Tulpas and thought-forms: they created the Slenderman

Finally, the day came when David-Neel saw her creation – in her very own abode, if not exactly in what we would call the flesh. At first, at least, the monk was a character that could only be seen as a brief, shadowy manifestation of something barely recognizable. As time progressed, however, the monk became more and more physical and substantial. One can see this clearly in David-Neel’s own words. She said that he eventually “became a kind of guest, living in my apartment."

It was shortly after her monk was “born” that David-Neel temporarily left her apartment behind her and “started for a tour, with my servants and tents.” By now, the creature had a strong presence in David-Neel’s environment, to the extent that she no longer needed to focus on the monk to make him appear. The monk would now materialize when and where he wanted to appear, regardless of what David-Neel’s plans might have been for him. This was far from being a good sign: the tables were slowly, carefully, and less than subtly, being turned. As its time in our world progressed, said David-Neel, so did the monk’s progression from a shadowy figure to that of a physical entity. And, to the extent that, on several occasions, she felt his robe brush softly against her. One time, she even felt his hand grip her shoulder. There was nothing playful about any or all of this, however, as David-Neel soon came to realize – and to her cost.

As time progressed, and as the monk became far less like a fragmentary thought-form and far more like a fully-formed person, something ominous happened. The Tulpa began to physically change. Its chubby form altered; it became noticeably slimmer and far more toned and lithe. A fat visage was replaced by sculpted cheekbones of the kind that an up and coming Hollywood star would kill for. His original, smiling and beaming appearance was soon gone. It was replaced by a slyly and knowingly evil face. The creature became “troublesome and bold.” Then, there was the most terrifying development of all – if “development” is the correct word to use. David-Neel said that the day finally arrived when her monk-of-the-mind “escaped my control.” The monster was now fully free of its moorings.

What had begun for David-Neel as an interesting and alternative experiment concerning the issue of what amounts to reality, was now a downright state of emergency. There was only one way to solve the problem, a knowledgeable lama told her, and that was for David-Neel to destroy her creation. It wasn’t quite so easy. Just like the unfortunate doctor in Mary Shelley’s classic gothic novel of 1818, Frankenstein, David-Neel didn’t just come to rue the day she created her supernatural thing. She also found it extremely difficult to end its life. It took close to half a year, David-Neel said, before the manipulative creature was finally dissolved and forever wiped from the face of existence. It was far from an easy task, as David-Neel admitted: “My mind-creature was tenacious of life."  Very much the same could be said of Eric Knudsen’s version of the Slenderman: it’s likely now relishing its lease on life. 

So, that's the way in which the Slenderman came to a strange form of life. And the skinny thing is still being seen. For example, when my 2017 book, The Slenderman Mysteries was released, numerous people contacted me and shared their real-life stories and encounters of "him" or "it." And the cases still come to me. In other words, the Slenderman is not gone. It's still "alive."

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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