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The Slender Man (also known as Slender Man or Slenderman) is a fictional character that originated as an Internet meme created by Something Awful forums user Victor Surge in 2009. It is depicted as resembling a thin, unnaturally tall man with a blank and usually featureless face, and wearing a black suit. The Slender Man is commonly said to stalk, abduct, or traumatize people, particularly children. The Slender Man is not tied to any particular story, but appears in many disparate works of fiction, mostly composed online.
The Slender Man was created on a thread in the Something Awful forum on June 8, 2009, with the goal of editing photographs to contain supernatural entities. On June 10, a forum poster with the user name "Victor Surge" contributed two black and white images of groups of children, to which he added a tall, thin spectral figure wearing a black suit. Previous entries had consisted solely of photographs; however, Surge supplemented his submission with snatches of text, supposedly from witnesses, describing the abductions of the groups of children, and giving the character the name, "The Slender Man":
We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time…
1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead.
One of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze. Notable for being taken the day which fourteen children vanished and for what is referred to as “The Slender Man”. Deformities cited as film defects by officials. Fire at library occurred one week later. Actual photograph confiscated as evidence.
1986, photographer: Mary Thomas, missing since June 13th, 1986.
The Slender Man is described as very tall and thin with unnaturally long, tentacle-like arms (or merely tentacles), which it can extend to intimidate or capture prey. It has a white, featureless head and appears to be wearing a dark suit and tie. The Slender Man is associated with the forest and has the ability to teleport.
The Slender Man soon went viral, spawning numerous works of fanart, cosplay and online fiction known as "creepypasta": scary stories told in short snatches of easily copyable text that spread from site to site. Divorced from its original creator, the Slender Man became the subject of myriad stories by multiple authors within an overarching mythos.
The first video series involving the Slender Man evolved from a post on the Something Awful thread by user "ce gars". It tells of a fictional film school friend named Alex Kralie, who had stumbled upon something troubling while shooting his first feature-length project, Marble Hornets. The video series, published in found footage style on YouTube, forms an alternate reality game describing the filmers' fictional experiences with the Slender Man. The ARG also incorporates a Twitter feed and an alternate YouTube channel created by a user named "totheark". Marble Hornets is now one of the most popular Slender Man creations, with over 250,000 followers around the world, and 55 million views. Other Slender Man-themed YouTube serials followed, including EverymanHYBRID and Tribe Twelve.
In 2011, Markus "Notch" Persson, creator of the sandbox indie game Minecraft, added a new hostile mob to the game, which he named the "Enderman" when multiple users on Reddit and Google+ commented on the similarity to the Slender Man. In 2012, the Slender Man was adapted into a video game titled Slender: The Eight Pages; as of August, 2012, the game has been downloaded over 2 million times. Several popular variants of the game followed, including Slenderman's Shadow and Slender Man for iOS, which became the second most-popular app download. The sequel to Slender: The Eight Pages, Slender: The Arrival, was released in 2013. Several independent films about the Slender Man have been released or are in development, including Entity and The Slender Man, released free online after a $10,000 Kickstarter campaign. In 2013, it was announced that Marble Hornets would become a theatrical film.
The Slender Man was called "the first great myth of the web" by the BBC. The success of the Slender Man "legend" has been ascribed to the connective nature of the Internet. While nearly everyone involved understands that the Slender Man is not real, the Internet allows others to build on the established tropes, and thus lend an air of authenticity to the character. Victor Surge has commented that many people, despite understanding that the Slender Man was created on the Something Awful forums, still entertain the possibility that it might be real.
Professor Tom Peddit of the University of Southern Denmark has described Slender Man as being an exemplar of the modern age's closing of the "Gutenberg Parenthesis"; the time period from the invention of the printing press to the spread of the web in which stories and information were codified in discrete media, to a return to the older, more primal forms of storytelling, exemplified by oral tradition and campfire tales, in which the same story can be retold, reinterpreted and recast by different tellers, expanding and evolving with time.
Shira Chess has noted that the Slender Man exemplifies the similarities between traditional folklore and the open source ethos of the Internet, and that, unlike those of traditional monsters such as vampires and werewolves, the Slender Man's mythos can be tracked and signposted, giving a powerful insight into how myth and folklore form. Tye Van Horn, a writer for The Elm, has suggested that the Slender Man represents modern fear of the unknown; in an age flooded with information people have become so inured to ignorance that they now fear what they cannot understand. Troy Wagner, the creator of Marble Hornets, ascribes the terror of the Slender Man to its malleability; people can shape it into whatever frightens them most.
Despite his legendary qualities, the Slender Man is not in the public domain. Several profit-making ventures involving him have unequivocally acknowledged the user Victor Surge (real name Eric Knudsen) as the creator of this fictional character, and several more have been legally blocked from distribution (including the Kickstarter-funded film) after legal complaints from various sources. Though Knudsen himself has given his personal blessing to a number of Slender Man-related projects, it is complicated by the fact that, while he is the character's creator, a third party holds the options to any adaptations into other media, including film and television. The identity of this option holder has not been made public.