The 2014 Slender Man stabbings were like an Internet skeptic’s fever dream come to life: two 12-year-old girls, both socially isolated, one possibly mentally ill, read stories about a (fictional) bogeyman online, became obsessed with him, and allegedly tried to murder one of their middle school classmates in his name. In the years since, debates have raged around the incident, and whether Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier are mini sociopaths in need of punishment or disturbed young women, victims themselves, who deserve treatment. Geyser’s mother spoke about her daughter’s schizophrenia diagnosis in a recent interview, her first since the alleged attempted murder, as well as her hope that her daughter will be tried as a juvenile despite the severity of her crime.
Geyser and Weier may be the most famous teen criminals the Internet has ever produced, but they’re far from the only ones. Here are five stories of kids who figured out how to use the digital world to wreak havoc in the real one.
Teen Becomes First Person in England Convicted of Soliciting His Own Murder
In 2003, a British teen named John very nearly succeeded in tricking a boy he’d met online in a chat room into murdering him. Apparently John had spent months chatting with his would-be assassin, Mark, pretending to be a variety of different characters— including a teenage girl, naturally— as well as a British secret agent named Janet. John-as-Janet told Mark that his victim was already dying of brain cancer—and that his murder was the final test before Mark would be allowed to join her as a spy for their country, for which he would be rewarded handsomely with, among other things, a gun and up to £500,000 cash. Mark followed through, finding John in his Manchester suburb and stabbing him multiple times in the chest and stomach, piercing his kidney and liver. Mark was initially charged with attempted murder, but when investigators discovered the chat logs – 58,000 lines written over the course of six weeks – John was charged as well, and he became the first person in England to be convicted of inciting his own murder. Due to the bizarre circumstances of the case, both boys were given court supervision instead of prison terms.
British Teens Build Site Linked to Over £15 Million in Credit Card Fraud
If you wanted to talk about how to commit digital crimes in 2009, one of the largest forums to do it on was GhostMarket.net, since nicknamed “Crimebook” by British authorities for its ubiquity. The administrators of the site were three teens who were eventually busted when they tried to pay a£1,000 pound hotel bill using a stolen credit card – but not before the site had been linked to more than £16 million in credit card fraud. One of the boys, founder Nicholas Webber, had business cards with his handle and the site’s URL printed on them in his hotel room at the time of his arrest. When he was released on bail he fled to Majorca, where he continued to live on stolen money and run GhostMarket for several months before finally being arrested attempting to re-enter the UK in early 2010.