Slenderman and Its Repercussions

The news of two 12-year-old girls stabbing a fellow 12-year-old girl in Wisconsin shocked me like few other news stories. I follow many deplorable news stories, and I’ve seen plenty that involve children carrying out shocking acts of violence…but the fact that these two girls performed this stabbing because of a horror creation has given me pause. I’ve created my own horror stories, and I can’t help but obsess over the reality of this horrible act carried out by children.

The two girls were twelve years old. They had access to an internet meme titled The Slender Man, a fictional character. They thought the character was real, as the internet character is portrayed as an urban legend that has existed historically. They collaborated together and seemed to worship Slenderman as an unholy deity. They developed several plans to carry out attempted murder on a classmate. They invited another 12-year-old girl to a sleepover. They lured her into a nearby forest and stabbed the girl 19 times, emulating some ritual sacrifice to Slenderman.

Two twelve-year-old girls…

This happened in reality…in neighboring Waukesha, Wisconsin. As a horror writer, I wouldn’t have been able to dream up something as horrific as this.

I had not heard of Slenderman prior to the stabbing. After finding the meme and doing more research, I admit my reaction, as a horror fan, was that it was a pretty cool character. Apparently, I’m not alone, as the creation has evolved based on the input of many internet creators. The original creator, Eric Knudson, provided the initial idea, but the internet community has mostly contributed to its mythology.

When I was eighteen, I created a comic book called The Unseen. The main character was a Satan-worshipper who prayed to demons in order to gain the power of invisibility. He slashed and murdered helpless people who could not see him. It was a more violent take on the classic Invisible Man. I don’t have the following of Slenderman, but I know I do have a few followers out there.

If I found out that anybody—much less children—attempted to emulate my character in real life, I would not handle it well. The creator of Slenderman released a press release expressing his grief of this stabbing, but it’s difficult to pin blame to a man who simply had an idea…especially an idea that has inspired fan fiction from so many others.

It’s easy to blame the parents, as many people are wont to do in scenarios like this, but that doesn’t seem fair either. The internet cannot be monitored comprehensively by a parent. It just cannot. In a time when cell phones are handed to 10-year-olds as a rite of passage and internet is a requirement in schools, it is impossible for a parent to monitor every moment of a child’s internet surfing…and the Slenderman website is fairly innocuous compared to some horror websites. We might also consider the content of websites…what is off-limits? Are gun-advocating websites off-limits? Is the Nightmare Before Christmas off-limits, since Jack Skellington resembles Slenderman? How about those misogynistic web-sites the Santa Barbara shooter read from and wrote to before shooting and stabbing multiple persons?

Were the Beatles to blame for the Charlie Manson murders?

It’s so hard to find blame here…but then again, shouldn’t the blame rest squarely on the heads of those two 12-year-old girls? They will be tried as adults…I can’t help but think that the social perception of children as innocents is misconstrued. Children are capable of murder, as awful as this might be for many to believe…

…especially when they grow up in the media-saturated 21st century. It’s most difficult for me to admit that violence is embedded in us from an early age. It’s difficult because I do enjoy violence in my books, TV, movies, comic books, video games, etc. I always have. I’ve loved Stephen King’s horror stories…I read plenty of them when I was twelve years old. I worshipped the early horror works of Stephen Spielberg (Jaws and Duel), Peter Jackson (Dead Alive), Sam Raimi (Evil Dead), Oliver Stone (The Hand), Paul Verhoeven (Robocop and Hollow Man), and many, many more. I eagerly watched the Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I grooved to the violence soul-train that is known as Quentin Tarantino. I’ve studied the social fascination with Herschell Gordon Lewis. I’ve played Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Fatal Frame. My favorite television show is Game of Thrones, where the past week’s show involved a man’s head being caved in by another, with his bare hands…and don’t get me started on the Red Wedding.

It’s tough to admit in the wake of this Wisconsin stabbing, but I do enjoy violence in my literature. I’ve sustained an appreciation of it…and I’m not alone in this appreciation, as many people my age who just read the previous paragraph probably acknowledged appreciation of their own and easily contributed additions to the list.

We live in a society where we are bombarded with violent fantasy. When two 12-year-old girls succumb to unintentional imitation, it’s difficult to admit that the environment might have contributed to the senseless stabbing of another child. I’m not sure if this environment will change…if anything, the trend is towards more violent representations. I think the hardest thing for me to admit is that I don’t really want it to become less violent. It’s selfish…especially when a twelve-year-old girl lies in a hospital with nineteen stab wounds delivered by TWO (not just one) juvenile “friends.” How do you explain to this girl or her parents how something like this could happen?

I’m still involved in a few horror projects as of this writing. I have to think long and hard before I contribute any more potentially-venerating horror creations to the public.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

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