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Who Is Slenderman?

This week, news outlets around the country reported a disturbing story about two 12-year-old girls who brutally stabbed a classmate to please an evil entity named Slenderman. One of the girls even told investigators that Slenderman visited her in her dreams and watched her, and believed that becoming his “proxy” would prevent him from killing her family and would allow her to live in Slenderman’s mansion hidden in the forest. So who is the Slenderman, and where did stories about him come from?

Back in 2009, as part of a sort of game on a message board on the site “Something Awful,” users challenged each other to Photoshop frightening, fictional paranormal images. One of the user’s images, featuring a tall, faceless figure standing in the shadows of a playground, became so popular, other users began to create their own stories about his origins. Eventually, “Slenderman” as he became known, went on to become the subject of fan-fiction stories on Creepypasta posts (which are essentially just campfire-style ghost stories and urban legends, rewritten by Internet users.) Slenderman, one of the most popular figures in Creepypasta culture, went on to be featured in online games, fan art, YouTube videos and even some independent movies.

Obviously though, the tentacle-armed, evil, child-killing monster who could teleport and lived in a hidden mansion, is—and always has been—completely fictional. But, because of the way many of the “found footage”-style videos are shot, and urban legend-style stories were told, some users thought they could be real. The two 12-year-olds were tragically among those to mistake fantasy for reality. The young girls told investigators that they encountered the stories online, and hoped that by stabbing their classmate, they would help convince others that Slenderman was really out there …

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