How does a fictional character inspire 3 girls to attempt murder?

A fan image of Slenderman with a child. (Photo: via Instagram.)

It first came to our attention when two 12-year-old girls allegedly stabbed their ‘friend’ 19 times in the US state of Wisconsin.

Luckily their victim was able to crawl to a nearby road where she was found by a passing cyclist and the girls were later charged – as adults – with attempted first degree murder.

Then, days later, while the public was still struggling to fathom how this attack could have happened, a 13-year-old girl in Ohio allegedly stabbed her mother while wearing a white mask.

The mother sustained only minor injuries, and afterwards described how her daughter “was someone else during the attack”.

Both incidents are horrifying. And both times, the young perpetrators were reported to be in a daze. And eerily, both times the mythical horror creature Slender Man was linked to the attack.

And the reference has left a lot of adults wondering who this character is and how it could possibly compel young people to attempt to kill those close to them.

If you don’t know what a Slender Man is, you’re not in the minority.

And that’s why we decided to put together this explainer about the character  –and the frightening, cult-like following that’s developed around him.

So who is/what is Slender Man?

Put simply, Slender Man is a fictional character created by 33-year-old father Erik Knudsen. Knudsen created the character in 2009 by photoshopping two black and white photos depicting a tall, faceless man in a suit, standing behind a group of children, and posting them to the comedy forum SomethingAwful.

The myth went viral from there, with pictures, stories and videos expanding on the legend that Knudsen created. Fan-fiction tales about Slender Man are now posted to paranormal and horror story website Creepypasta, and an online, first-person horror game — in which users virtually move around a dark forest as the Slender Man’s panting breath gets closer and closer — has also become popular in recent years.

The creepy captions accompanying Knudsen’s original images helped the legend really come to life: The first caption, which reads “We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time”, appears to have echoes in the story told by the two 12-year-old girls who allegedly committed the first attack. They allegedly said they tried to kill their friend to prove themselves to Slender Man.

According to descriptions on the Creepypasta website:


Whether he absorbs, kills, or merely takes his victims to an undisclosed location or dimension is also unknown as there are never any bodies or evidence left behind in his wake to deduce a definite conclusion.

His face is pale and slightly ghostly, and almost appears to have been wrapped in a type of gauze or cloth. his facial features are also an object of debate, and many people believe that his face looks different to each person, if it is seen at all.

Even though Slender Man was fabricated on SomethingAwful forums (or was he?), some people have already claimed sightings. He is seen mostly at night peering into open windows and walks out in front of lone motorists on secluded roads.

Why are we only hearing about the character now?

Slender Man has been around for a few years, but didn’t really infiltrate Australian media until now. Teenagers had heard of it, of course, but those outside the Creepypasta community only really knew bits and pieces.

“Slender Man” in an alleyway.

Slender Man become quite famous before the attacks though, with some fans even raising $11,000 to turn the legend into a movie, which was posted to YouTube before being removed due to copyright violation.

Knudsen has said in the past he didn’t expect Slender Man would go viral, saying he just wanted to make a character.

“I like the concept of a monster, a creature that causes general unease and horror,” he said.

How can it possibly cause people to kill?

The basic answer here is that young people have become so caught up in the fictional story, that they now think Slender Man is real and want to prove themselves to him. They believe Slender Man watches everything they do.

According to one news report, the 12 year old girls “are believed to have told detectives that Slender Man would come to kill their families if they did not murder their friend.”

The Slender Man fan following doesn’t like to be called a cult — and perhaps it’s not the most appropriate word. But the art, videos and stories focusing on Slender Man are created in order to feed, and feed off, the obsession with the frightening mythical character.

A quick Google search leads to posts about sightings in the 1800s, details about Slender Man’s killing habits, and countless photoshopped images that look frighteningly real.

As blogger Milo commented in a recent post, “I’m not going to deny the existence of Slender Man because some proof seems quite real.”

It certainly does, so much so that Creepypasta were forced to issue a statement earlier this month to explained that characters on the website are works of fiction, and that it “just takes one person” to take the ideas put forth by the characters and misinterpret them.

The statement goes on to say:

“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.”

That may be, but the depth and detail that has gone into these stories are extremely convincing.

Now, to try and sleep without nightmares tonight.

Slender Man has inspired countless fan images since his inception in 2009. Here is some of the creepy Slender Man-inspired artwork doing the rounds of the internet, including the two original images that started it all.