We all know that the Slender Man is nothing more than a pure urban legend created online in 2009 on an Internet forum. However, since then, it has taken on a life of its own, even being connected with several attempted murders as well as a spate of suicides and a possible mass suicide attempt.
While nobody is arguing that the Slender Man is real (at least in the physical sense), the belief in him by some has made the consequences of the legend very real for some. Here are ten very unsettling points about the legend and reality of the Slender Man.
Related: 10 Famous Urban Legends Come To Life
10 Very Definite Origins
Unlike many other legends and myths, the origins of the Slender Man can be traced to the exact date of its creation. At some point on June 10, 2009, the Internet forum Something Awful unleashed two photographs. They were created by user Victor Surge (whose real name was eventually revealed to be Eric Knudsen). He had created them in response to a challenge by the forum’s admin—to create “paranormal images” that might make people believe they were genuine.
The first picture, dating from 1983, showed a group of children looking upset and frightened. In the background is a discreet, extraordinarily tall, faceless man. The caption read: “We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified us and comforted us at the same time!” That quote was attributed to the unknown photographer, who was “presumed dead.”
The second picture was dated three years later, in 1986. It showed children looking altogether happier while playing in a park. Discreetly, though, the same tall figure can be seen lurking in the background. The caption informed those who viewed the picture that it was “one of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze.” It also stated that the photo was taken “the day which fourteen children vanished” and even referenced “Slender Man.” This time the photographer was “named” as Mary Thomas, who had been missing since June 1986.
These two pictures not only gave birth to the Slender Man legends, but they also captivated thousands upon thousands of people almost immediately.
9 A Legend Made by “The People”
Although Knudsen was responsible for the Slender Man’s creation, it would be the many followers of Creepypasta who would truly bring him to life. As more and more people became aware of Slender Man and added their own details and little pieces of the backstory, the legend grew.
He was often depicted with a white, featureless face and was slim, abnormally tall, and often with tentacles coming from his back. He also became associated with abandoned buildings, often in the wilderness or the woods. Some details added later even claimed that the Slender Man could teleport from one place to another. Those who were interested in the Slender Man even “agreed” signs that he was near and watching you. Such signs as sudden paranoia, nosebleeds, and intense nightmares.
In fact, this creation of a legend by the audience themselves is the subject of our next point. How this growth can be monitored and studied by those who study myths and folklore of the past.
8 See a Legend Grow and Develop
Many who study legends, folklore, and mythology have looked at the Slender Man legends as a way of being able to document its growth and reach. And in doing so, they look to understand how legends of the past might have developed and grown in a similar way. For example, there is a collective element to the growth of the Slender Man legend, as we examined above. What’s more, slight details change depending on who is telling the tale or who the audience might be. Indeed, the more accounts that were retold of the Slender Man (online as opposed to orally, in this case), the more the legend and the backstory grew.
The Slender Man legend had very quickly taken on a life of its own, much like myths and folklore of the past. However, several years after his creation, the Slender Man became “real” in a much grittier way.
7 The Slender Man Stabbing
On May 31, 2014, the Slender Man, or at least the consequences of the legend, spilled over into the real world in a very dramatic way. On the morning in question, two 12-year-old girls, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, attempted to murder their friend, Payton Leutner, by stabbing her multiple times in the woods. After being left for dead, she eventually stumbled out and was discovered by a passing cyclist.
The girls were arrested a short time later. When questioned, Weier claimed they had launched the attack in order to please the Slender Man. What’s more, they also believed they knew where the Slender Man lived (an old house in the Nicolet National Forest), a location they were on their way to when they were arrested.
For all intents and purposes, it could be argued that for the attackers and their victim alike, the Slender Man, or the consequences of him, were very real. Incidentally, Weier was released from a mental health facility in the summer of 2021. Geyser, on the other hand, remains incarcerated. Payton Leutner recovered from the nineteen stab wounds she received from her “friends.”
6 The Copy Cat Cases
Following the attempted murder of Payton Leutner, several copycat cases occurred, all with various connections to the Slender Man legends. For example, only weeks later, in June 2014, in Hamilton County, Ohio, a 13-year-old girl attacked her mother with a knife. In the investigation that followed, it was discovered that she had an “obsession” with the Slender Man.
Several months after that, in September 2014, in Port Richey, Florida, a 14-year-old girl set fire to her family home. According to reports, she was ‘inspired’ by the Slender Man to do so. Incidentally, all of those inside escaped the burning building, and the young girl was arrested the following morning.
Even the murders of two police officers and a member of the public in Las Vegas in the summer of 2014, followed by the suicide of the alleged killer and his wife, was connected to the Slender Man after neighbors told the media that he would often dress up as the Internet legend and parade around his house and yard.
5 Suicides Connected to the Slender Man
In the summer of 2015, The New York Times published an article detailing the suicides of multiple young people between the ages of 12 and 24 who had committed suicide on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in the previous six months alone. What is particularly interesting about this wave of suicides is that the article also claimed that “several officials with knowledge of the cases said that at least one of the youths who committed suicide was influenced by Slender Man.”
What is further interesting about the alleged connections to the Slender Man legends and these tragic deaths are legends of the reservation itself. They speak of a spirit named the Tall Man or Walking Sam. What this spirit did was to encourage those he chose to visit to take their own lives. It is perhaps a coincidence that there are similarities between the legends of the Slender Man and these Native American legends. However, the coming together of them within this reservation’s community very well might have resulted in tragic consequences.
4 Aborted Mass Suicide and Connections to Native American Legends
A particularly grim account tells of a narrowly aborted mass suicide at the same reservation mentioned above. According to the story, multiple teenagers suddenly set out to a specific spot in the woods and started preparing ropes by tying them to the branches of the trees. They were clearly planning on committing suicide, hanging themselves together as a group.
The local pastor on the reservation, John Two Bulls, heard of the morose plans and immediately set out to the location. He, fortunately, managed to halt the proceedings and seemingly bring the group out of whatever mass-trance they appeared to have been in.
Rumblings from the reservation claimed that the cause of the attempted mass suicide was a result of the visitation of Walking Sam. Given the publicity that the Slender Man was receiving at this stage, it is perhaps easy to understand how some in the media connected the legend of the suicide spirit and this new urban legend. 
3 “Lacy” – A Truly Bizarre Account
Paranormal author and researcher Nick Redfern relayed a particularly intriguing account that was told to him. The witness—who he gave the name “Lacy”—would claim to have had several real-life encounters with the Slender Man, although not physical encounters.
She would claim that she had been researching the Slender Man for several months. Then, one evening, her laptop (which was on sleep mode) suddenly switched on of its own accord. To her shock, an image of a faceless creature was on the screen. Within a few seconds, it was gone. She told herself she must have imagined it. However, two nights later, the laptop once more switched on of its own accord. When it did, the face appeared again, only this time it was much clearer.
Things went quiet for several weeks, and Lacy had almost forgotten the incidents. That was until her laptop came on again. This time, a strange voice came from the device stating, “we are friends.” It was at this point that Lacy shut the laptop down and ceased her research into the Slender Man legends.
It is easy (and perhaps right) to suggest that what Lacy experienced, at best, were hallucinations brought on by her intense interest in and subconscious fear of the Slender Man legends. It is interesting to note once more, though, that the fine line in a person believing in a legend suddenly “making it real” is indeed delicate in the extreme.
2 Intense Internet Debate
As we might imagine, a fierce debate ensued following the attempting stabbing and the copycat cases that followed. And while it concentrated on the Slender Man at first, it soon moved on to the Internet and the influence it has on children in general. For example, in the Waukesha School District, where the attempted murder of Payton Leutner took place, Creepypasta Wiki was blocked. For their part, the administrators of the website claimed that the stabbing was an “isolated incident.” They also claimed their website was a literary one and not one that condoned murder.
Ultimately, it was reasoned that all manner of films, TV programs, and video games that children had access to did not result in such atrocious attacks. In short, the problem was with the attackers themselves as opposed to the apparent catalyst. Although the debate originally had momentum, the more it went on, the less sway it had.
1 A Contemporary Equivalent of the Boogeyman
There is little doubt that the Slender Man is the Boogeyman of the modern age. If you talk to anyone in the western world under the age of 20, it is almost certain they will know who the Slender Man is. They might not know the history or even how they heard of him, but the fact is, they know. And although they understand—at least for the most part—that he is nothing more than an urban legend, he is without a doubt in their collective subconscious.
There are certainly very definite similarities between the Slender Man and the Boogeyman. Both are on the prowl for children, for example, and both have grim abodes in out-of-the-way locations, often in the woods.
Of course, where the legend of the Slender Man goes from here remains to be seen. Perhaps he will still be spoken in hundreds of years by spooked youngsters around the world as much as he is today.