The incredibly creepy nightmarish Internet meme known as Slender Man has been in the headlines lately — first for allegedly inspiring two 12-year-olds to stab their friend, and then for apparently inspiring a 13-year-old to stab her mother. But Slender Man is nothing new, and one of the creepiest parts about the nightmarish meme might just be that Slender Man appeared in pop culture, from Buffy to Skillrex, long before it was officially created in 2009.
In 2009, Creepypasta Wiki administrator Eric Knudsen submitted images of Slender Man in a Photoshop contest on the website Something Awful. Since then, hundreds of writers, artists, and fans have incorporated the horror figure in their own stories and artwork. What started out as a minor character in a very specific cultural niche has become a full-blown phenomenon. And just how does a thin, faceless man in a suit become such an influential force?
"The horror characters that rise to the top and become the best known are speaking to contemporary cultural anxieties," Rhonda Brock-Servais, an English professor at Longwood University, told the Huffington Post.
To prove just how deeply engrained into our culture Slender Man really is, take a look at all of the characters influenced by him over the years. Some were created before the meme was, meaning he must have been a latent force that had been looming beneath our cultural anxieties for God knows how long, just waiting for someone with an online forum and too much free time to officially bring him to life.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
In the episode titled "Hush" during the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, demon-like creatures called the Gentlemen come to Sunnydale and steal victims voices so they can't scream when they cut their hearts out. They resemble pale, thin men wearing black suits. The episode aired in December 1999.
Undoubtedly the scariest character in Guillermo Del Toro's 2006 horror fantasy Pan's Labyrinth was the Pale Man, whose eyeballs are in his hands. He eats anyone and anything who steals from his banquet, and the audience watched in horror as he devoured two miniature fairies.
The sci-fi cult favorite also featured a pale, thin demon-like creature in a black suit and tie (where are these creatures coming from or going to that they're all dressed for a black-tie event?) called the Silence. The Silence are a religious order who tried to kill the Doctor in order to stop a certain prophecy from coming true. They first appeared on the show in April 2011.
The electronic musician features an eerie figure in the 2011 music video for his song "Equinox." According to the Slender Man Wiki, the young girl in the video is a "proxy" controlled by the Slender Man, who is guiding her to kill a child molester.
The real-life perpetrators in Wisconsin and Ohio also claimed to be proxies who were trying to kill in order to impress the Slender Man.