When police recently found 12-year-olds Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier walking near Interstate 94 after stabbing a friend 19 times and leaving her to die in the woods, the girls said they were on their way to meet Slender Man, a mythological creature born online that's at the center of this bizarre case of gullible adolescents committing a very adult crime.
The origins of Slender, as Weier called him in interviews with police, can be traced back to a photoshop contest on the Something Awful forums in 2009. A user named Eric Knudsen manipulated two images to show a tall, thin humanoid lurking behind children, stalking them like prey. "I was mostly influenced by H.P Lovecraft, Stephen King (specifically his short stories), the surreal imaginings of William S. Burroughs, and couple games of the survival horror genre; Silent Hill and Resident Evil," Knudsen said in a 2011 interview. Though Kudsen's original creation was little more than a shadow lurking in the background of two photos, the Internet soon provided details about Slenderman. He wears a suit and has tentacles coming out of his back. His arms extend and retract at will and his ghostly face has no permanent features, only what his victims see on it. Slender Man, the legend goes, has a taste for children, who he first stalks, then kidnaps, then kills.
As Know Your Meme documents, the legend of Slenderman inexplicably grew, thanks to popularity on 4Chan, DeviantArt and many other forums. Geyser and Weier became familiar with the meme through Creepypasta.com, a site that collects user-generated scary stories. Slender Man is such a popular character on the site that it no longer accepts stories about him. To reiterate, the stories are fiction. As is Slender Man. If anyone should doubt that, the Creepypasta Wiki administratior, in a blog post defending the site yesterday, made it clear: "ALL WORKS PRESENTED ON THIS WIKI AND OTHER SITES (INCLUDING SLENDERMAN, JEFF THE KILLER, BEN, SONIC.EXE, ETC) ARE FICTIONAL STORIES AND CHARACTERS Of course, only a small minority of people (mostly newcomers) on the wiki (and the Internet) truly believe what they read here."
But this key point eluded Geyser and Weier, who told police they believed Slender Man was the "leader" of Creepypasta and they were attempting to kill their friend to show their devotion to him. They also believed Slender Man lived in a mansion in Wisconsin's Nicolet National Forest.
To be clear: Slender Man is not real. Anyone who reads Creepypasta's Wiki entry on him and emerges believing otherwise is either not thinking clearly or not able to distinguish fact from fiction. Geyser and Weier would seem to fall into one, if not both of those groups. One of their lawyers (it's not clear from reports whom the lawyer represents) is claiming his client is mentally ill. So why then is Wisconsin trying Geyser and Weier, who aren't even teenagers, as adults?
Because the alleged crime was premeditated. Police say Geyser and Weier were planning their attack for months. Initially, they meant to kill their friend at a sleepover last Friday. After a long night of roller skating, they decided to execute the plan the next day. So Saturday, during a game of hide and seek in the woods, after much hesitation and passing back and forth of a knife, one of the girls stabbed the victim (each of them says the other did the stabbing). After leaving her lying on the ground with instructions to be quiet, the girls set off to meet the non-existent Photoshop creation who they were trying to impress. The victim was able to crawl out of the woods, where a cyclist found her. Somehow, she's still alive.