True story behind the urban legend: Slender Man

The Slender Man Urban Legend Was Created Online — Yet It Has Real-Life Effects

Slender Man is a unique urban legend. Unlike the others on this list, Slender Man was born on the internet as a “creepypasta,” or terrifying urban legend that was created online before evolving offscreen into real life.

Slender Man was developed for an innocuous June 2009 Photoshop contest hosted by the website “Something Awful.” Users were pushed to take everyday photos and turn them terrifying by adding genuine spooky images. Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s “surreal imaginings,” one entrant called Eric Knudsen created a tall, slender, scary creature. Slender Man was created.

Knudsen’s innocuous creativity was rapidly adopted by a number of internet users. Only a few days later, someone developed a found footage horror film about teenage students being stalked by a Slender Man-like creature. Fresh visuals were produced, as well as a frightening mythology that existed offline. Slender Man invited youngsters into the woodlands, where he then instructed them to kill in order to become his proxies, according to the stories that filled creepypasta communities.

What was supposed to be an internet meme rapidly escalated into actual violence. On May 30, 2014, two 12-year-old girls named Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, who believed in the terrifying urban legend, lured a friend into the woods outside their Milwaukee suburb, intending to murder her and leave her as a gift to Slender Man. They stabbed their 12-year-old pal Payton Leutner 19 times before abandoning her in the woods.

But Leutner managed to survive. Bleeding from her torso, arms, and legs, she dragged herself to a nearby path and was discovered by a cyclist who called 911. Geyser and Weier were arrested shortly after Leutner was rescued.

Geyser and Weier eventually revealed to authorities that the attack had been planned for months, commencing in December 2013. Weier stated that Geyser suggested the plan, which they both thought would get them into Slender Man’s house and a role as his proxies. Their faith in the terrifying urban legend was so strong, and their desire to satisfy it so strong, that they attempted to murder a friend they had known since fourth grade with a kitchen knife.

The state of Wisconsin elected to trial the two girls as adults, and Geyser was diagnosed with schizophrenia, while Weier was declared not criminally liable due to a “shared delusional condition” by a jury. Geyser has subsequently been sentenced to 40 years in prison, all because of an urban legend that originated online.

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