This past weekend, two 12-year-old girls, allegedly, attempted to murder their 12-year-old friend by stabbing her 19 times. This horrifying act was not only cold-bloodedly premeditated (again, allegedly), but also was, apparently, being done to appease the fictional character of the Slender Man.
As reported by CNN (as well as many others):
They thought they had something to prove to someone they found on a ghoulish website, police say. So, two girls allegedly lured a third girl into a wooded area in Waukesha, Wisconsin, over the weekend and stabbed her 19 times, according to authorities.
The girls were trying to impress a certain “Slenderman,” the complaint read. One of the girls encountered the name on a website known as Creepypasta Wiki.
This horrifying act drives home one of the reasons why I became active in skepticism. Even though most of what I do is silly and light-hearted, belief in the absurd, the unproven, even the frankly and obviously fictional does do harm. Works of fiction, in this Internet age, can, strangely, turn into urban legend. From there, it can move into the realms of belief. I’ve written about this before; Alexandria’s Genesis and The Russian Sleep Experiment.
While urban legends would certainly spread prior to the Internet, the modern Internet, paradoxically, seems to reinforce the reality of these fictional accounts, rather than reduce it. Despite being able to easily find evidence showing that, for instance, Slender Man is a fictional creation of Victor Surge back in 2009, the idea of the Slender Man has continued to grow.
An article at News.com.au discusses this as well:
The Slenderman myth is not new. It was created during 2009 on the SomethingAwful web forum in an experiment in the creation of folklore-like images through photo manipulation.
The criminal complaint filed over the Milwaukee attack quotes one of the girls as saying: “Many people do not believe Slender Man is real. [We] wanted to prove the sceptics wrong.”
The article goes on to examine whether or not Creepypasta should hold some responsibility for the attack:
The Creepypasta website presents itself as a repository for budding horror-genre authors to share and discuss their work.
But there is little provision for parental guidance or age-restriction of content here, or anywhere.
In their defense, Creepypasta says:
But if I may be so bold, I don’t believe that it’s the fault of Slenderman or horror writing in general that this happened. I remember reading scary stories and watching slasher movies when I was a child and young teenager and while they certainly gave me nightmares, they did not instill within me a desire to murder my friends.
In my opinion, Creepypasta hold no more blame in this than any other media property which inspired a brutal act of violence. The decision to commit a violent act is, to my thinking, not a sign of a healthy mind. I would expect that another focus would have been selected besides Slender Man, were circumstances different.
I don’t intend to do a take down of Slender Man. There’s enough out there for you with a simple search. I honestly didn’t think that it needed one. I had, perhaps naïvely, assumed that the fictional nature of Slender Man was well-known and accepted.
The bright spot for me in this story is that it appears that the girl who suffered this horrific attack will survive, though she has a long road ahead of her to recover, mentally and physically. She will be in my thoughts and I wish her a complete recovery, in every respect.
In the mean time, I think I’ll go find some more silly stories to write about. Maybe it’ll make a small difference.