LOS ANGELES – On Saturday, two 12-year-old girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin were arrested on charges of attempted first-degree murder for luring a fellow classmate into the woods, where they allegedly held her down and stabbed her 19 times.
Court documents revealed that the suspects may have been motivated by their obsession with an Internet creation called Slenderman.
“Some say I’m evil, but all I ever wanted was (a) friend. I think that a few dozen casualties are to be expected during the quest for friendship,” reads the “About” description of Slenderman (also known as The Slender Man) on the character’s public figure Facebook page, which has well over one million likes.
The criminal complaint says the two girls were trying to become something called a “proxy of Slender” by murdering someone.
So what is the ghoulish Slenderman and where did it come from?
In June 2009 in a “paranormal pictures” Photoshop contest on the website Something Awful, user Victor Surge (real name Eric Knudsen) posted images of a child-stalking creation he called “Slender Man.” Fellow Something Awful community members latched on to the creature, and Slenderman went viral.
The popular meme is most often portrayed as a tall, lanky and faceless figure in a black suit with the tentacles protruding from his back. The character is known by its online followers to cause “memory loss, insomnia, paranoia, and coughing fits” and is routinely depicted to stalk and traumatize people, particularly minors.
Since its inception five years ago, Slenderman has inspired everything from fan art, illustrations, and 3D puzzles to a mockumentary similar to the1999 DIY horror movie “The Blair Witch Project.”
In 2012, filmmaker AJ Meadows raised over $11,000 on crowd-funding site Kickstarter to make the movie based on the “legend.” It was made available to stream on YouTube in early 2012 and amassed 500,000 views in less than three weeks before being removed from the Web two months later amid copyright issues.
Indeed Slenderman’s ownership is a source of legal contention, given that Knudson is often accredited as its creator, although an unidentified third party reportedly owns the rights to media adaptations.
Slenderman’s fans have been quick to hit back at the character’s critics. Sean Stacey, the owner and operator of fan site Unfiction, insisted that the character is in no way responsible for the actions of the Wisconsin girls.
“It’s pretty clear (they) are a couple of disturbed individuals who had their own issues. It’s (not right) to blame that external muse,” he told Entertainment Magazine. “It reminds me of things like John Hinckley Jr. thinking that assassinating President Reagan would impress Jody Foster into going out with him. This is a crazy individual that has concocted some reasoning in his head that seemed reasonable to him but not to an outsider. There is no incitement of people in mythos itself to get people to do anything other than try to get away from Slenderman should they encounter him.”
The Slenderman Facebook page is still being updated with images of corpse brides and Satan worship quotes, although the page did acknowledge that one “must be stupid” to commit the girls’ alleged crime. The Wisconsin tragedy has also sparked lively debate in an array of related Internet threads and communities.
An administrator for the website Creepypasta Wiki –a community database for chilling short stories designed to make it seem as though they are news items or true crime stories – also defended the Slenderman character following the attack, writing that “all works presented on this wiki and other sites (including Slenderman) are fictional stories and characters.” The admin went on to condemn the ensuing public outcry to “censor” and shut down the site.
Representative of the Creepypasta Community even launched a crowd-sourced fundraiser on YouCaring.com http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/waukesha-creepypasta-bring-her-back/186588 to raise $10,000 for the stabbing victim over the next month.
“It’s our goal to get her through this tragic time so she can live a full, long life” reads the campaign. “We, as the Creepypasta Community wish to save this girl’s life and prove that the community is made up of strong, sane individuals and not those depicted from the suspects. All proceeds will go directly to the family for medical expenses and court expenses. We are standing together to show that we can overcome this tragedy.”
As of Wednesday morning, it had 45 supporters had raised $370.
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Danielle Jones-Wesley contributed to this report