2009, June 10: The Slender Man

The Legend:

The entity known as 'The Slender Man,' currently described as looking like a tall, skinny man with a featureless white head and wearing a black suit and tie, has been claimed to be evidenced as existing in paintings and book illustrations dating back at least 600 years. The true motivations of this being are unknown, but people it shows an interest in tend to disappear completely; sometimes in groups. Stranger still, anyone who possesses any form of physical evidence of The Slender Man's existence, such as a photograph, also tend to disappear.

        The Slender Man's very form is said to change and warp; sometimes appearing simply humanoid, while at other times it may have dark tentacles extending from its body or completely replacing its arms. The Slender Man is also said to be able to penetrate any structure, and hide in plain sight... thus being absolutely inescapable when it turns its attention to a victim. Stranger still, some victims have left notes behind that describe a mixture of both trust and attraction with an absolute fear and dread of the tall creature when in its presence; the victims almost seem to help The Slender Man to catch them. The few glimpses caught of The Slender Man, and the even fewer chance photos of the being, offer only a disturbing picture of exactly how easily this entity could be anywhere at anytime... and, apparently, always has been.

The True Origins of The Slender Man

The being called "The Slender Man" is not quite as old as the legend above implies... and not quite as real either. The story of The Slender Man actually started in the year 2009 with a website challenge to create a fake image of a paranormal event; and, for a variety of reasons, this strange being quickly grew into an internet personality that some now believe is based on true reports of the paranormal.

        On June 8, 2009, the Something Awful forums launched a contest that seemed silly and innocent enough. The challenge was to alter normal photographs into faked 'paranormal' photos. When the photos were presented by their creators, they often were accompanied by fake witness accounts and stories to add a further air of authenticity to them. On June 10, Something Awful forum user 'Victor Surge' (real name Eric Knudsen) submitted two black and white photos he had altered to include a creepy tall figure, along with commentary, as follows:

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.

[Larger version here]

The Slender Man

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.

[Larger version here]

         As you can see, the name "Slender Man" was chosen straight from the start. Other forum members liked the pictures enough to request more from Surge, some playing along with the idea the photos were real as opposed to manufactured:

"As an amateur paranormal investigator, you'd be surprised how much the Slender Man appeared in pictures in times of disaster during that historical period.
(AKA I'd like to see more of those)"

Surge responded in kind: "Maybe I'll do some more research. I've heard there may be a couple more legit 'Slender Man' photographs out there. I'll post them if I find them."

The Wilks Estate
The third image. [Larger version here]

        So on June 11, 2009, Surge posted a third image in the series, with an even more elaborate backstory... presented as a police report that describes how the camera with the picture was acquired from one of the women in the picture, now in a mental hospital, that the other people in the picture were all missing, and that it was presumed that the appearance of the "tall and slender subject" and the odd 'appendages' were due to film contamination; when found, the camera was covered in "blood and human tissue." The inquiry into the matter ceased after digital analysis indicated that the tall man actually had no eyes, and after the last witness vanished... along with thirty-three other inmates and staff from the mental hospital.

        Just a few hours later the same day, Surge posted the fourth image in the series, this time with a fake police report instead of a textual backstory [Image Here]. The image shows a tall figure in black again, but this time with an insect-like split of six arms. The 'report' implies the police station was under siege by this strange intruder for several days, and that the mental stability of the station's inhabitants quickly broke down during that time. Of important note in this last 'report' are three aspects of the growing story: first that the police station was somehow isolated from the rest of the world for multiple days, second that a sound like a "baby laughing" was heard in the fog, and third the implication that the station was targeted because of the 'police report' related to the previous images... all of which sets a pattern that repeats in many of the Slender Man stories that came later.

Adding to the Story

        The next set of Slender Man images to appear marked an important development in the growing legend of this non-existent being... because they were not created by the original user, Eric Knudsen/Victor Surge. Something Awful user 'LeechCode5' prefaced his new pictures with the statement "I've been seriously debating sharing these, but after Victor Surge's posts I feel I have to," going along with the in-joke of the pictures being real. On June 12, one day after Knudsen's last post, LeechCode5 posted two images of his own creation featuring Slender Man, along with back-stories to match them to the earlier creations. The first image was of a group of teenage campers with a faceless figure in black among the trees in the background [Image Here]. LeechCode5 then explained that it was a photo he got from his uncle, who was a police officer that investigated the disappearance of all of the teens in the photo... the campsite had been found with all of their stuff, including the camera containing the photo, but the teens were never found.

        The second image was of a building on fire with a strange figure in the smoke resembling the Slender Man image from the second Surge picture above [Image Here]. LeechCode5 stated it was an elementary school that burned down in 1978, with no official cause found. Seven students and one teacher died in the fire before firefighters arrived, and many other staff and students who were associated with the school at the time later had a history of panic and anxiety attacks, many having changed their names and disappeared... and, stranger still, many of these disturbed individuals were not at the school on the day it burned down.

        So not only did LeechCode5 imitate the overall feel and appearance of the original Surge pictures, his back-stories picked up the idea of an association of Slender Man with hunting the young, in groups, and causing mental disturbance in those who are even slightly associated with the strange being's activities.

        Around half-an-hour after LeechCode5's posts went up, Knudsen posted his own next installment. This time it was a set of pictures that, taken together, tells the story of a young boy encountering the Slender Man [Image Set Here]. The fact that Slender Man was becoming a favorite of the board was obvious from the reactions:

God, Slender Man is so great...I just want more.

I'm not usually one to get all bandwagony but Slender Man is honestly one of the most inspiring and sinister things I've seen lately. Something about it seems to strike some sort of primal 'wrong' chord.

        The next day, June 13, Knudsen put up two posts, each being half of the story he was telling that day [Image Set Here]. The first part of the set has two photos of misty forested areas, each containing a semi-hidden figure of the Slender Man, whose figure blends well with the trees in the forest. The text of the posts reads as an official investigation report of the forest, triggered by an attack on two hunters who found a human body preserved in an odd way by the Slender Man. Details of the report mentioned what sounded like a child's giggling in the fog before the hunters were attacked. Later, an investigative team discovered a whole stash of bodies in the woods... and though immediate steps were taken to evacuate the team from the location in less than half an hour -- because it was known that just seeing the bodies left by Slender Man put the team in danger -- the entire team was lost just twenty-five minutes later. A camera was recovered with the pictures, and the report acknowledges that 'safety procedures' required the photos to be destroyed after a certain time, because the very photos themselves could cause a Slender Man attack. This particular post ends with what appears to be a blog poster's comments on the scary story.

        The second post, put up by Knudsen just minutes after the first, presents itself textually as the blog poster who commented on the previous post panicking and describing how he and his friend are being attacked by Slender Man... and the image that goes with the post is a direct image of a blurry Slender Man reaching for the camera.

Last Intended Post.
The closeup. [Larger version here]

While a few people in the forum didn't like the direct image of the strange being, most were very enthusiastic:

Oh jebus, this one is giving me the willies. Usually subtle works best but sometimes the blatant ones scare me more. I really want to read a slender man horror novel now. With pictures.

Wow the Slender Man seems to be the the star of this thread. Very nice.

        The day after, June 14, Knudsen explained why he created the direct image of Slender Man: essentially, he felt that since the last set of people had some idea what they were dealing with they would have the best chance at a direct photo. In addition, Knudsen felt it was a good way to bring the story he'd been telling about Slender Man to a close. He was glad everyone had enjoyed it, but he had no intention of creating more. He also stated that a large part of his inspiration for the stories had been an earlier set of internet creepy legends, built around a creature called 'The Rake' [which I will have to add to Anomalies some day!].

        But Slender Man had been very popular in the forum... and the other creators posting pictures and stories were not ready for the boogeyman to be retired yet.

The Story Grows

        Following in the footsteps of LeechCode5, another forum user created and posted his own Slender Man image on June 14, just a little before Knudsen explained he was done with the character. This posting by user 'TrenchMaul' placed a figure of the Slender Man in the background of a photo from a known historic incident: the as yet unexplained deaths of several Russian students who were camping near the Dyatlov Pass in Siberia, 1959. Slender Man was added to a candid shot of four of the campers just having fun a few days before they were found dead, a photo that had originally been recovered from the camper's own cameras [Image Here]. So not only had a third forum user created a new Slender Man image, for the first time the character was included as a factor in a known historic event... and from here, most of the participants in the forum started to work together to expand on the story of the fictional monster.

        On June 15, user 'Thoreau-Up' claimed that evidence of the Slender Man could be found in 16th century woodcuts from Germany, and offered a translation from German of a "chilling account from an old journal, dating around 1702," which talked of a strange being called "Der Großmann," German for "The Tall Man." Since most previous stories created about the Slender Man had occurred in the relatively recent past it was no big stretch to set the character into the relatively ancient past as well, implying a great age to the proposed being.

        By this time creativity regarding the Slender Man was boiling over in the forum as readers with various creative talents -- writers, illustrators, photo editors, sound editors -- created new stories, illustrations, photos, fake radio programs, and fake newspaper accounts. More and more these new entries were presented as real reports, because all previous thread readers were in on the gag... so newcomers didn't always realize Slender Man was fictional right away. Slowly, a different creative challenge started to be presented to the forum users... a great number of them started to discuss the idea of releasing their creations on the world outside the forum as if they were real, to see what the reaction would be.

        The first jab at this new challenge was made on June 18, only eight days after the character's first appearance, when forum user 'apsouthern' created a Wikipedia page on The Slender Man, presenting a number of the stories and pictures from the forum as real evidence for an unknown entity. Not surprisingly, the page was pulled down shortly after due to a lack of credible sources. Though the moment was applauded by many forum users, one user in particular, called 'Leperflesh,' took the time to explain what would have fooled Wikipedia into keeping the page (which would likely not work after the first attempt was pulled down)... and then laid out a plan for how to make Slender Man look like a real phenomena to forum outsiders.

Getting Real

        Leperflesh suggested making a website designed to look like one created by an amateur investigator or conspiracy theorist; not professional looking at all, with an obvious name like 'slenderman.org.' This would be in a blog style, and they would take time to add small stories and snippets to fill it out, so it looked like new things were being discovered and added over time. They would then add some of the longer accounts from the original forum, carefully picking the stories that required the least amount of additional support... no mentions of secret government agencies that chase Slender Man, for example, as this is a further stretch of the imagination. The accounts posted should also describe the being, but not explicitly label it as Slender Man since, presumably, all 'witnesses' would not know that they were part of a repeating phenomena. The site would focus on establishing the entity of Slender Man as real, and nothing else. Leperflesh also suggested that the site could be semi-skeptical of the Slender Man, posting evidence which it then concludes is obviously false... which would make the evidence labeled "unable to discount" sounds more credible. Leperflesh figured if this was built this way for about a year, then other people on the web would start to spread the stories for them and they might even get a reporter or two who just wanted a good story.

        Leperflesh also noted that someone in the forum had suggested calling Art Bell's late night radio program Coast to Coast AM. Coast to Coast AM specialized in paranormal and conspiracy type of stories, generally told by investigators and by audience call-ins, so the idea was to make several calls over a few weeks with just small weird accounts -- like "I was camping and thought I saw a tree moving" sort of thing -- that over time would add up to the idea of the existence of Slender Man.

        Ironically, even as some forum users were suggesting how to convince outsiders that Slender Man was real, other forum members were starting to wonder if that might be true. On June 20, user 'Soakie' brought up:

"Has anyone thought about the possibility that we are creating a tulpa? It's a thought form that is realized through the efforts of a group of people. We might be creating the Slender Man, making him real."

'Tulpas' are a legendary being told of coming from Tibet, where it was asserted that highly trained people could create the mental image of a living being; and that, over time, that mental image could become physically real enough for other people to see and interact with. Soakie was worried that all of the attention of the forum users at creating this shared being might be having the same effect... slowly summoning up an actual Slender Man, created by all of their thoughts, especially as newer users didn't know the being wasn't real to begin with!

        Given Soakie's worries, it's a bit ironic that June 20 is also when user 'Ce Gars' announced the posting to YouTube of a video he'd made. Ce Gars had posted on the 18th a 'true' story about a friend of his named Alex who had been involved "two or three years ago" with filming footage for a project named "Marble Hornets"... only the film was never made. It was set to mostly be filmed in a wooded area, about half a mile from Alex's house, and all the other students working on the project were excited about it; but two months or so into filming, Alex suddenly ended the whole project completely.

        Ce Gars then claimed that when he asked Alex about 'Marble Hornets', and what he planned to do with the tapes of footage, Alex's answer came without hesitation: "burn them." After some more back and forth questioning that got no answers, Alex agreed to let Ce Gars take the footage, but only if he promised to never talk to him about it again. Shortly after, Alex transferred to a school in a different state. According to Ce Gars, the whole incident had been so weird that he had set the tapes aside and forgotten about them... until discussion of the 'Slender Man' made him curious about what the tapes contained. On the 18th, he promised to post again if he found something interesting. On June 20, Ce Gars posted a brief video to YouTube under the user name 'Marble Hornets' that basically told the story about how he got the tapes from Alex while showing some of the supposed student footage.

        The next day, June 21, Ce Gars posted a second video. In this short entry, captions explain that the footage stood out as odd because it was not of the set for the Marble Hornets movie; rather, it appeared to be from Alex's house, at night. The video has no sound, captions explaining that it was unknown if it had been removed or if the microphone had not been working. Once the actual footage starts, it lasts less than twenty-seven seconds. We see random shots, like the camera is not aimed as it moves, then the room is dark and the camera looks out a front window at the porch of the house, where a figure wearing black and with a featureless white head is looking at something... then the head suddenly turns towards the camera, and the camera is pulled from the window as the shot ends. The captions then explain that the presenter will be checking other tapes in the collection to see if anything else strange can be found.

        So, just ten days after the first Slender Man pictures were posted in the Something Awful forums, a video about the idea had been created. Nowhere in the videos or the pages presenting them in YouTube was it stated that the videos were fictional. People outside of the Something Awful forums were now encountering the tale of the Slender Man as if it was a real story, in much the way that had been proposed by user 'Leperflesh' on June 18. It had the desired effect; one of the other Something Awful forum users noted that the video had gotten the following comment:

"That #slenderman poo poo is scary as gently caress. Subscribed that youtube channel. ARG or viral marketing?"

In short, this commenter was guessing that the strange video was a promotional for a soon to be announced TV series or movie... they suspected it wasn't real, but clearly were not sure.

        Victor Surge, who had been silent in the forum since his last post announcing he was done with the Slender Man character, approved of the video while adding to the growing story of the character being possibly real: "I'm loving this a lot. Also, what if I didn't spontaneously come up with Slender Man? What if that's what it wants you to think. Come to think of it, I don't really remember those days last week, or even making those posts."

        This need for the character to be treated as real was also displayed when forum user 'Dick Milhous Rock!' commented that the Slender Man in the video didn't look as tall as he expected. Two others users each responded with arguments that the Slender Man could change its size and shape to look almost human, and possibly that it could simply blend into the surroundings to disappear as well.

        Other forum members continued to both expand the backstory of Slender Man and push for guidelines on how to create new stories, all while still acting as if the monster was a real phenomena... on June 21, user Soakie, who worried about the Slender Man actually becoming real, suggested that the forum users needed to add an element to the overall story: a weakness.

"The Slender Man needs some weakness, some way to defend against him. An all-powerful creature leaves no hope, gives you no reason to even try to escape. If this loving thing materializes, I want to know how to fight it or even defeat it.

"I'm thinking fire. It's man's primordial achievement, and casts shadows of its own. Maybe the shadows from the fire can fight him. Maybe humans discovered fire because of him, the embodiment of darkness and fear.

"I don't know, but this thing has got to have a weakness."

If a weakness was added to the character that everyone was thinking of, then, theoretically, that same weakness would be in any accidentally created Slender Man, if Soakie's ideas were correct. Almost all responses to this line of thought made clear that, for most of the users, the very idea that there was no credible weakness or escape from the Slender Man was one of the defining features of the character that made it intriguing to start with; no serious weakness would therefore be proposed.

        About 5:30PM, Ce Gars posted another video to his Marble Hornets series. Much of the remaining discussion on the forum that night had to do with identifying where in the video Slender Man appeared... and no one discussed the video as if it was a creation of Ce Gars, rather than a real video.

Riding the Wave

        While users within the Something Awful thread considered how best to spread the story to the outside world, the story started to spread itself. On June 20, Slender Man was added to the list of creatures at the Mythical Creature Guide website, which generally listed just ancient or legendary creatures... not brand newly created monsters. The posting stated that Slender Man had been created in the Something Awful forums, and included a link back to the pictures thread, but also posted Victor Surge's first two pictures with their text entries. Just including the Slender Man in the site was essentially acknowledging that the story was spreading.

        On June 21, the day user Soakie worried the thread's monstrous creation needed a weakness, an artist called 'Pirate-Cashoo' posted an illustration of the Slender Man they had created at the DeviantArt website. DeviantArt is a website that gives artist a place to display their work.

The Slender Man
Pirate-Cashoo's illustration. [Larger version here]

Pirate-Cashoo named the piece "The Slender Man," and made no attempt to explain the background to the illustration; judging from the comments, it was a tremendous hit. Some of the commenters said they knew of the Slender Man previously, but don't mention how they knew... and it's not until July 11 that one of the commenters links the illustration to an outside site, the YouTube page compiling all the 'Marble Hornets' videos. On September 25, a commenter posted a link to the original Something Awful forums in response to someone asking where the story started, but they don't include the name in the link; so, for the most part, this image became an introduction to the character for many people, who then searched the name 'Slender Man' and seem to have hit enough other websites referencing the story that most of them never encountered the Something Awful picture thread. The story was spreading, independent of the forum users' efforts.

        Back in the Something Awful pictures thread, it was noted by users on June 23 that a new Wikipedia page had appeared on the topic of Slender Man; but this new page firmly stated the story had been created by the forum, and included a link back to them. In addition user 'pr0digal' noted he had discovered a second thread on the topic of Slender Man, which was also mainly debunking the story. Some asked if they could get the Wikipedia page pulled, and if they could communicate with the creator of the second thread... many of the users in the forum were now actively interested in obscuring the origins of their creation in an attempt to make the outside world see it as a true 'legend'.

        On the 24th, things were getting strange... while users were still posting new stories and pictures to the forum, other users -- some who fully knew they had created the character of Slender Man themselves -- started to complain of how they were becoming paranoid of the dark, of trees at the window... and some were having bad dreams with Slender Man in them. Some users discussed the merits of destroying the existing thread to cover the evidence of the creation of the fictional Slender Man... and then user 'pr0digal' pushed the narrative further.

My friends,

What have we done? What have we created?

It started off innocently enough, like telling ghost stories around the campfire. You wanted to give people a good scare, but a good laugh at the same time.

But it was something more than that, wasn’t it? It was taking your fears that lived on the edge of your psyche and pushing them out into the world, into the light of day. It was taking them and instead of putting them into words, you put them into pictures. You wanted to take your fear and place it into others so that you wouldn’t be scared anymore. That your deepest fears would be held bare to the world, to be laughed at and in some cases to embed themselves in others.

But then things started to change, Victor Surge posted a picture and a backstory so powerful that it dredged up memories and stories that you forgot even existed. It took the whispered tales that were meant to scare children into behaving, tales you pushed so far back into your mind you almost forgot and it forced them to the surface.

But these tales and fears couldn’t be excised by a simple picture, these tales were powerful. These tales held power; they held the power to create and create they did. The Slender Man began to take form and began to grow in our minds. Suddenly we looked back on past occurrences, began to put together the pieces and we began to remember.

We were scared. We wanted it to stop. We wanted the Slender Man to be nothing more than something we created.

But it didn’t stop. The power that the words and the stories held had finally broken free after being suppressed in the human psyche for so long. They took hold and they began to create reality. We began to see and hear things that we could not explain, the pictures and the videos bringing chills to our spine. We tried to laugh it off, just dismissing it as a fantasy. But it was already too late, the Slender Man had already taken hold.

We have created something we cannot control.

We have created the Slender Man. Brought him out of the shadows and back into the world.

We have created a monster and we cannot put it back in its cage.

Thus, pr0digal attempted to create a way to claim Slender Man existed separate and before the forum... which would clearly only satisfy those who wanted to be convinced in the first place. As it turned out, the forum users shouldn't have worried so much; there were plenty of people who wanted to be convinced.

        One matter with strangely convenient timing to it was that the forum's picture server -- waffleimages.com -- had been losing some of the posted images from earlier in the thread. By June 28, users were actively complaining that earlier images in the thread were gone, most notably both of Victor Surge's original Slender Man images. There was some discussion of moving to a different picture server, an idea Victor Surge approved of; but the thread users by and large continued to use waffleimages.com, and the thread continued to lose pictures, even after they had been re-posted. Over time, this loss of the early image posts actually helped the thread hide its initial connection to the images that were by now starting to appear in a variety of paranormal and spooky story based sights; essentially, it was similar to actually erasing the earlier parts of the thread, as some users had once suggested.

       User Ce Gars continued to post new videos in his 'Marble Hornets' series, posting up the fifth installment on June 30th. In response to suggestions from others in the Something Awful thread, Ce Gars had gone back to edit all of the earlier videos so no one could leave comments on them; this was because someone had started to post links back to the Something Awful picture thread to expose the 'hoax'. By disallowing the comments, Ce Gars effectively prevented the easy exposure of the videos' origins... so now forum outsiders were learning about the Slender Man from the Marble Hornets videos as if it was either real or a promotional for an upcoming series or movie.

Stepping Out

        By July, the picture thread was almost exclusively devoted to Slender Man; very few pictures and stories not connected with the tall boogeyman were now being posted. On July 5, user 'Reverend Gnome' made a call to try to ground their precious monster as a real urban legend to present to the world at large. Reverend Gnome's suggestion was to let the existing thread die and be forgotten and, after a few months time, to start posting new pictures and stories -- short ones that didn't explicitly name Slender Man -- to a wide variety of outside websites, perhaps starting a few 'amateur paranormal' sites that would eventually include Slender Man content. In short, go quiet then build the legend up in the public sphere, slowly.

        In addition, creators in the thread had begun to make an effort to collect and share new photos from various real places to use as the background fodder for new Slender Man pictures... thus avoiding background images already shared on the internet that could be found and used to prove a picture was fake.

        It's hard to say if it was related to Reverend Gnome's post on July 5, but most of the early contributors to the Slender Man stories and pictures stopped posting to the thread around this time; for example, user pr0digal's last post in the thread was on July 12, offering new source images to any interested creators. Victor Surge, who had become largely silent in the thread already, only posted three more times, months apart: on July 14 he jokes about creepy pizza delivery, on October 5 he states he's had his first Slender Man related nightmare, and on November 8 he comments on a Slender Man emoticon another user has designed. Then he's gone.

        By July, Ce Gars is largely only posting to announce new episodes of his Marble Hornets series; but he stops making even these posts after September 27, after a relatively new user to the thread -- SgtScruffy -- starts a whole new thread just for the discussion of the Marble Hornets videos which were up to fourteen installments by then. Though this was mostly done just to make finding the videos and their links easier, it had the secondary effect of separating them from the original thread that Slender Man was created in, further obscuring the origins of the video series itself.

        Ironically, Reverend Gnome was the last of the original users involved in the development of the Slender Man that continued to post in the thread until November 4, 2009; this last post was just a positive comment on another user's story that drew a comparison between the Slender Man and the legendary Green Man of English folklore.

        Even as the original creators were vanishing from the thread, evidence suggested that the legend of the Slender Man was spreading independently of the Something Awful forums... though it is impossible to know how much of this new activity might be related to the actions of the missing thread users to continue the character's growth outside of the thread.

        The most notable outside event happened on November 6, 2009, when three people called Art Bell's Coast To Coast AM radio show to report sightings of the Slender Man. The show, as mentioned previously, deals with strange, borderline, and paranormal topics, and often has callers tell strange stories on the air... which is why it had been suggested in the Something Awful forum way back around June 18 that someone should call the radio program with stories about Slender Man just to spread the legend.

        The first caller on November 6 identified himself as "Nick, a 17-year-old from California," and gave a brief description of the Slender Man as a tall shadow man with unnaturally long limbs and a desire to kidnap children, and claimed his girlfriend had seen the monster once when she was young. A little later in the evening, a female caller said she wanted to tell Art Bell that the stories appear to be real and spreading, and she then described the rough idea of the Marble Hornets videos, and said she didn't think the videos were fake.

        Even later in the show, a third caller, another female, claimed to have seen the Slender Man in her dreams in 1982,  and to have then seen that same creature years later in an episode of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show. She also claimed to have seen some ancient German references to the monster... and she asserted it must be real. After this third caller, Art Bell announced he would devote a whole future episode to the topic.

        Whether or not Art Bell eventually did devote an episode to the Slender Man, the references on his show on November 6, 2009, undoubtedly pushed the story even further into the public eye, as Bell's radio program was listened to coast to coast by millions of followers.

Closing Shop

        The fake pictures thread in the Something Awful forums began to die in December 2009. Fewer and fewer users logged in; fewer and fewer were creating new content. Between December 10 and January 18, nobody posted at all... and on January 18 the thread only woke up because some new users were posting compliments to some of the creators of the earlier stories. There were some 'thank yous,' and a little back and forth; but after February 12, 2010, no more posts were added to the thread. And so the whole starting point for the Slender Man came to an end, just around eight months after the character had first been created.

        In addition, the picture server for the thread -- waffleimages.com -- soon folded, causing almost all images in the former theread to be lost... though, truthfully, by this time most of these had already been reposted to other websites. But with the death of the image server, gone was the ability to easily tie those images back to the posts in the original thread, making the job of ignoring that origin point much easier.

         It seems likely that many of the original contributors were both posting the earlier content to the outside sites later, as well as continuing to create and post new material at a variety of places... which was the key to making the stories look like they were from all over the place. And, even though evidence continued to point to the stories and pictures being fake, more and more people were hearing of the stories by word of mouth and through 'possibly paranormal' style websites, leading to the general idea of the story being an urban legend, rather than a collective creation.

        And, for a time... it worked.

        Until June 2, 2014, when two 12-year-old girls in Milwaukee tried to murder a third girl in an attempt to summon the Slender Man.

        In the resulting public uproar and reporting, Eric Knudsen, aka 'Victor Surge,' made public statements about the fictional nature of the character, coupled with an insistence that to his knowledge all presentations of the stories (not the pictures, mind you) were marked as being fictional in some way... and whether or not this was true when he said it, all effort was made to make it true afterwards in a broad attempt to avoid having censorship placed on websites to 'protect children.'

        Since that time, the Slender Man is generally well labeled as fictional wherever the character now appears... but some aspects of the monster's fame can never be taken away.

        Sculpted by a collective imagination, the story of the Slender Man only took ten days to become something that was being told of and spread by people unaware of its mundane origins. The nature of its creation added up to a story that spoke to a wide variety of fears and concerns, creating an imaginary threat that many could relate to, odd though that may sound. The Slender Man has a undeniable claim to being the first truly original monster of the 21st Century, and remains one of the most well-known of internet legends. As Something Awful forum user 'I' stated on June 15, 2009:

"The Slender Man.
"He exists because you thought of him.
"Now try and not think of him."