Slender Man Inspires Another Attack — What Do the Meme's Fans Think About the Violence?
A woman in Hamilton, Ohio has reported being stabbed by her 13-year-old daughter, and many are linking the killing to the popular Slender Man meme. The victim, who remains unnamed, told authorities that her daughter was interested in reading and writing about the Slender Man, and "even created a world for [him] in the game MineCraft." Slender Man has been a popular meme among visitors of horror websites like Creepypasta Wiki and Something Awful, but recently gained widespread recognition after two 12-year-old girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin attempted to murder their friend in the hopes that they could then become proxies of the figure. (The two girls, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, are now being tried as adults and face up to 65 years in prison; their victim, who was stabbed 19 times, is reported to be in good condition and returned home from the hospital on Monday.)
The two events have sparked a debate about the responsibility of parents to keep their children away from horror sites like Creepypasta Wiki, and the responsibility of such sites to dissuade users from engaging in violence.
But though parents no doubt fear the influence of Slender Man and sites like Something Awful after the stabbings, how do the creators of the sites, and the fans that peruse them feel about the stabbings? Eric Knudsen is the creator of the Slender Man meme and an administrator of Creepypasta Wiki. In 2009, he entered images of Slender Man in a photoshop contest on the website, Something Awful, under the username "Victor Surge." Since then, Slender Man has inspired stories, films, alternate reality games, costume lines, web series, and thousands of photos and paintings. Creepypasta Wiki requests that users be 13 years or older and states in its site rules:
We are not responsible for any nightmares, loss of sleep, or any sort of mental effects you might suffer from reading the stories contained on this site. We here at the Creepypasta Wiki advise against attempting any ritual on this site and are not responsible for any loss of sanity, eternal damnation, hauntings, or imprisonment in alternate dimensions/realities/temporal locations that may occur as a result of a ritual.
After the attempted murder in Wisconsin, Knudsen's spokeswoman told the press that he was "deeply saddened" by the event. Another administrator of Creepypasta Wiki, David Morales, defended the site in an email, writing "we are not teaching children to believe in a fictional monster, nor are we teaching them to be violent." On June 3, a user called "Sloshedtrain" posted an entry on Creepypasta Wiki about the attempted murder, writing:
This is an isolated incident, and does not represent or attribute the Creepypasta community as a whole. This wiki does not endorse or advocate for the killing, worship, and otherwise replication of rituals of fictional works. There is a line of between fiction and reality, and it is up to you to realize where the line is. We are a literature site, not a crazy satanic cult.
Another post on Something Awful from Wednesday is entitled "Please Do Not Kill Anybody Because of Slenderman." The user, Zack "Geist Editor" Parsons refers to Geyser and Weier as "dumb as hell" and argues that:
Found footage Youtubes, shaking cameras and bad Photoshops of people with socks on their head standing in the woods should not be fooling anyone. Especially not 12 year olds who should be better at the Internet and media culture than actual adults.
It's certainly encouraging to see that Slender Man's fans are repulsed by violence, unlike other online communities that have recently come under fire. But it seems that the line between reality and fiction was thin for the three girls who were inspired by Slender Man. And the idea there could be more like them surfing the Web? That's what's truly scary.