2014: The "Slender Man" Murders
In June 2014, news channels in England and America were abuzz with first one, then two, and finally three murders that were all connected to a non-existent internet personality called The Slender Man. The Slender Man is a monstrous being featured in fictional stories called 'Creepypasta', short and strange tales with bizarre and creepy twists, often of a supernatural nature. The Slender Man is most often illustrated as a tall skinny humanoid wearing a black suit and tie with a completely white and featureless head, and is implicated in cases of mysterious human disappearances.
A Day in the Woods
On May 31, 2014, three 12-year-old girls went out to a wooded park near Waukesha, Milwaukee, USA, to play hide and seek... instead, two of the girls stabbed the third nineteen times with a kitchen knife, then left her for dead. The victim, who's true name was not made public, barely survived and crawled far enough to be discovered by a bicyclist on a nearby road. Her would-be murderers were found by police later walking near Interstate 94, with the bloody knife in a purse. The story hit the news on June 2.
The two girls, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, were unusually compliant with the police, and fully explained that they had been planning the crime as early as February. All three attended the same middle school, and the night had been a sleepover at one of the attacker's homes. Geyser and Weier had considered both the possibility of duct taping their victim's mouth while asleep then stabbing her in the neck, or to kill her in the bathroom where the floor drain would make cleanup easier; but they finally decided to do it in a park while 'playing' hide & seek. Their reasons for the attack were most strange: the two girls had become fascinated with the stories published in the website Creepypasta Wiki, and had become especially interested in the character called The Slender Man, a supernatural boogyman capable of making victims vanish in horrible ways. Both girls felt Slender Man was a real being and were apparently unhappy that other people thought he was fictional... and for some reason they believed they needed to kill in order to prove their dedication to Slender Man.
Given the clear premeditation of the murder, both girls were slated to be tried as adults, with bail for each set at $500,000. Luckily, the victim of the Wisconsin stabbing did not die and was able to recover from the attacks.
Waiting for Mom
On June 6, national and international news services reported that a second 'Slender Man' attack had taken place, this time in Hamilton county, Ohio, USA. A Hamilton county mother who did not wish to be named told a reporter that she had come home one night from work to find her 13-year-old daughter standing in the kitchen holding a knife and wearing a white mask... then the teen attacked her mother. Luckily, the mother sustained only minor wounds. "She was someone else during the attack," she was quoted as saying, and then said that her daughter had been obsessed with Creepypasta and Slender Man previous to the attack. When she heard of the Wisconsin incident above, she was sure the same influence had effected her daughter. Her daughter was facing charges in juvenile court.
With the report of this second attack, there began a general public discussion of whether or not the creepy stories on the internet actually had any ability to turn children evil; then the third incident occurred.
The Gunman who Dressed Up
On June 8, in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jerad Miller and his wife Amanda walked up to two police officers who were having pizza for lunch, and shot both of the men to death at point blank range. Jerad then yelled "This is a revolution!" and both Jerad and Amanda fired several more shots into one of the officers before pinning a yellow 'don't tread on me' flag and a swastika on the two bodies. They then ran to a nearby Wal-Mart, where they killed an armed civilian who tried to confront them. They hunkered down at the rear of the store to wait for a firefight with police. Gunfire was exchanged; but the battle only ended when Amanda shot her husband dead and then killed herself.
When the Miller's neighbor Krista Koch was interviewed by local station KTNV-TV about what the couple were like, she told them that Jerad Miller sometimes dressed up as Slender Man or the Joker from "Batman", and Amanda would dress up as Harley Quinn... and when the story went national, a picture of the Miller's dressed as the Joker and Harley Quinn was commonly displayed, along with headlines that stressed Jerad's interest in Slender Man.
Since the national and international news media were clearly implying that there was a growing trend of violent crime inspired by Creepypasta in general and Slender Man in particular, discussion heated up around the question of blame and the connection of the scary stories freely available on the internet; but as quickly as the panic started, it soon abated... and for good reason. Though all three events did in fact happen, they didn't quite happen entirely as reported; and when the facts were double-checked, a connection between the crimes and the internet became very dubious.
The first crime was the only one that was directly connected to Slender Man by the words of the perpetrators... but spectacular a story as it was, it became very clear early on that Geyser and Weier were very delusional to begin with. The websites they were browsing for the stories all clearly stated the stories were fictional; so the girls themselves decided that Slender Man was real, and that they knew a ritual of some sort to attract the entity's attention. The website and stories could not be directly blamed, beacuse the two girls could have chosen anything as a focus or excuse for their crime.
Despite how the second crime was presented, it wasn't the second crime... it had occurred at some unspecified time before the May 31 stabbing by Geyser and Weier. In the original statement that the mother made to a Cincinnati local news reporter, she said that her daughter had a history of mental health issues and that her writings and drawings "have always been dark; they referenced demons, being insane and falling into darkness." When the mother was attacked, her daughter had her hood up and her hands covered by her sleeves and was wearing a mask... which was not described. At the time of the May 31 stabbing, the daughter was already facing charges as a juvenile and was telling people that she did not remember the attack. It was only in light of the reports of the Wisconsin stabbing that the mother in this case decided her daughter's behavior must have been influenced by Creepypasta and Slender Man, and decided to tell a reporter; and when the story went national the details of the daughter's mental state was dropped, the mask was reported as white -- with the implication that it resembled Slender Man -- and the timing of the event was implied to have happened after the Wisconsin stabbing.
As for the third incident, whether or not Miller ever dressed up as the Slender Man was beside the point because neither he nor his wife dressed up for their crime. All that can really be assessed from the details as reported was that the Millers had an ongoing interest in strong fictional villains and appeared to try to emulate a fictional style stand-off with the police, either intending to commit suicide or perhaps believing they would escape to become famous.
In the end, the news media's attempt to create a chain of events built around Slender Man failed for three reasons: the lack of actual connection in their three chosen cases, a lack of newer incidents that could even slightly be connected, and a general lack of support from the public in the attempt to villify Creepypasta and Slender Man. Perhaps this is because the idea of blaming an internet story would eventually lead to questions about censoring the internet, which is already a very unpopular topic.
And just so you know: a year after the Wisconsin stabbing, it had become clear that both Geyser and Weier were prone to intense fantasies, with Geyser being considered outright schizophrenic. Repeated attempts to have them tried as children on the claim that they didn't know the actual consequences of their actions had been denied, and their lawyers were expected to try to plead insanity... but if the two attackers can be asserted to be mentally unstable, then blaming the stories they chose to focus on is unrealistic.