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Slenderman: Monster or Myth?

Updated on March 1, 2016
Nightcat profile image

Nightcat loves everything about Halloween! She’s pretty sure it is a national holiday and if it isn’t it should be.

Man or Myth?

Total myth, but a pretty awesome one as such things go. Yes, I managed a photo all on my own. So they are fairly easy to fake.
Total myth, but a pretty awesome one as such things go. Yes, I managed a photo all on my own. So they are fairly easy to fake.

Slenderman, Slenderman

There are scarier things than the Slenderman out there. The IRS comes to mind. But what is it about this fictional creation of Victor Surge (Eric Knudsen) that captivates people? For a meme born in the Something Awful forums in 2009 he is now believed to be a real being. There are real life sightings, supposed photographic evidence, video games, books, fan made movies, and all sorts of goodies to rival Freddy or Jason in popularity.

So what is he, and why is he so popular? Firstly, to most people, he isn't real. The human mind can make us see a lot of things that aren't there, and if I tell you there are bunnies in your room every day and you keep reading about mysterious room bunnies, you will begin seeing them. So, disbelievers will say, if you think you have spotted him, it was either a cosplayer or your gifted imagination playing tricks on you. But on the pluside, you don't have him stalking you. Because he isn't real.

As for my beliefs? I'm a witch, hon. We know these about things. Or like to think we do. I'm honestly not sure as I had strange experiences while doing research, much like luckless authors who researched the fae. But, believe in him or not, he is still an interesting character to look into, because we all have our own theories of why he is so popular, so why not put a pagan spin on the discussion? Keep in mind I speak only for myself, and no other witches or pagans were consulted for this article.

Please Note: All the writing and photography in this article are original works by me. I do not, however, own Slenderman or any of the videos shown herein. If you wish to have any video removed please contact me and I'll happily comply. Videos are shown for entertainment and educational purposes only.

He Lives In the Woods

Like any good antagonist in a spooky tale, Slenderman is said to lurk in the woods, any woods. And I'll admit to strange encounters in the woods while doing research, and it was not the Good Folk, either.
Like any good antagonist in a spooky tale, Slenderman is said to lurk in the woods, any woods. And I'll admit to strange encounters in the woods while doing research, and it was not the Good Folk, either.

He's a Classic Monster


We all love monsters. Maybe we love being scared, maybe we love them as our kind of people, but monsters are fairly awesome, aren't they? They live longer than the rest of us, have magical powers, and seem to live exciting lives of doing whatever it is they do. A lot like the mythos people have built up about witches, if you think about it. Now the interesting thing is that in the original two photos all Slenderman does is stand and watch while his tentacles emerge.

True, he is watching children, and that should frighten all of us on some level, but we don't get motivation until a short time later when in the same forum a rather Grimm tale is added, adding Slenderman to the collection of nasty things that lurk in the woods, waiting to grab unwary children who wander in. Again, the poor guy gets thrown in with fictional witches. Unlike us real witches, many of which are Wiccan or vegan, or any other fluffy variety.

Still, at this stage he is maybe a baby creepypasta, just two doctored photos and a written story, that is it. By all rights he should have died in that forum like so many other pastas who never take off for whatever reason. But people must have saw something in the faceless, Cthulhu-like being because somehow he has grown in less than a decade into something fierce, with a backstory and legions of adoring fans, many of whom believe he is real. Having been there, done that with other fandoms, I do sympathize.

A lot of us want monsters to be real. Not to spread chaos, but it leads into the next reason I believe he is so popular. We all, if we are honest, go through times in our life when we feel alone, unwanted, and misunderstood, and a regular hero isn't going to help us at those times. We need a troubled one like us, someone who is often alone, whether by choice or by being a misunderstood outcast. Whatever Slenderman's creator intended him to be, he's taken on a life of his own and become an antihero.

As for what I or countless other people encountered? I honestly don't know. For the longest time I brushed it off as stress making me see things. Or a friendly spirit taking a form it plucked from my mind, but what I encountered looked like Slenderman. But he felt curious, benevolent. Not ready to attack or stalk. In fact, in one encounter he seemed concerned for my welfare.

Slenderman: From Fiction to Fact

Tentacles Like Branches

Some say his tentacles are like branches, giving him a tree-like appearance. His face is everything from a frightening blank to a skeletal outline.
Some say his tentacles are like branches, giving him a tree-like appearance. His face is everything from a frightening blank to a skeletal outline.

Slenderman the Antihero


Feelings unloved and unwanted? Slenderman understands you. At least we assume he does. Here is where who or what exactly he is or not becomes tricky. To people in the Marble Hornets camp he is an unrelenting monster that will stalk you. For decades. Yes, decades. So if you are an adult now you can go ahead and get that AARP card before he will finally decide to do something with you, and honestly, nobody has any idea what he does to people. The bodies presumably disappear, but that is just guesswork at this point.

To fans of the original meme he can actually be a misunderstood monster, taking the kids to another world entirely. And yet others point out that you never actually see Slenderman do anything. From a pagan perspective, yeah, he is a pretty cool antihero, only a fictional one. Until you encounter something or someone that looks just like him and have to wonder what you just saw. Did my intermittent third sight let me see the real being Surge somehow uncovered, or a being masking itself a Slenderman. And if so, why the ruse?

But, a fellah who lives in the woods with pale white skin, wears Armani suits and doesn't speak? And he is somehow according to fans filthy rich? Sign me up! Besides, he's got that bad boy reputation that some of us like, a Slender who apparently follows no rules, a trickster spirit, a being never wholly defined.

Which brings us to a mainly pagan connection, the mysterious man who lives in the woods and wears black. Oh, snap.

Fantom: Best Film I've Found Yet

Fantom: This excellent short story combines many of the Slenderman boogeyman traits into one stunning short. Here the mysterious Slenderman is being chased by the brother of one of his victims, Emily, through the decades. But what the fate is of those he takes remains a mystery. Excellent film, but does contain some horror violence and adult language.

Fantom: Slenderman Movie

He Watches, Unseen

In many tales he seems to lurk nearby, watching, yet himself unseen.
In many tales he seems to lurk nearby, watching, yet himself unseen.

He's Not Mortal


Now from a pagan perspective, if he was real, and again, I stress the majority of pagans feel he is not, what would he be? An alien? Maybe, he's got the tentacles and everything. A boogeyman? Would explain why his main job seems to be creeping around playgrounds scaring the bejeepers out of small fry.

Or, may they forgive me, and realize I am just throwing this out there, and wish to be spared their wrath, one of Them. You know, Them? Come from Ireland, wear all black, and if you are pagan you know they aren't cute, tiny, nor do they have wings? But the Good Folk were always known for two things. Dressing in all black finery (sometimes other colors as well) and an intense dislike of humankind who stole the fair isle from them.

So imagine if one of these beings, ambivalent at best, took it into his head to stalk a human he became obsessed with. By now pagans are ready to flee in terror, and even those of other faiths who respect the Good Folk are feeling uneasy. For it is well known that they are well aware of us, and if you've read any of the books that treat them as real beings you know many writers have quit research abruptly, having been terrorized by nightmares, misfortune, and malicious and seemingly supernatural attacks.

All of which Slenderman is said to excel in. So imagine, a powerful spiritual being that can apparently teleport, give you nightmares, and start harassing you either on his own or using humans as his puppets and you can see the rather dark appeal he'd have. To have on your side, of course. To appease him.

And what better way to appease the Good Folk or Slenderman than with gifts? They get milk, gemstones and other gifts for the friendlies, milk to keep the malicious ones at bay on Samhain, and him? Fan fiction, fan art and movies seem to be keeping him at bay.

Maybe that's why I wrote the Hub. To appease what I encountered not only in the woods while doing background shots and soaking up atmosphere, but on a lonely roadside as well. I will also admit to a few decidedly strange dreams during my research and even once or twice thinking I saw a curious Slenderman in the distance.

I had the same experiences with the Good Folk, which frightened me away from Them, and wonder if he isn't the same type of being at times. I don't mean he's one of them, his energy is uniquely his. It's, well, soothing.

He Is What You Want Him To Be

Scary or sweet, it is all up to you as long as you remember it is all in good fun. Yes, my own Slendy doodle.
Scary or sweet, it is all up to you as long as you remember it is all in good fun. Yes, my own Slendy doodle.

He Can Be What You Want Him to Be

I think his real appeal come not only from his featureless face or sharp suits, or aura of mystery. But that he can become whatever you want him to be, and as long as you are willing to take flack from fans in other camps you can likely find people who share your view. In fan fiction for example, he is everything from the classic monster, to the leading man, intent on sweeping you, the reader, away into the forest forever.

And the thing is, like any fictional character, he will fit both roles. He can be your hero, you friend, your romantic intended, heck, go ahead and marry him and declare him a real being for all I care. Slenderman can become anything you intend for him to be, and to me that's his real appeal. As any good witch will tell you, pagans are not a folk overly fond of rules or being told what to do.

And he can change. Tired of him or his fandom? Kick him to the curb and cease to believe and he disappears into oblivion like so many other things we once loved. And honestly for a lot of people that has already happened. If you are on the Internet as much as I am, you can barely go two steps into a creepypasta video without finding someone role playing him.

And while that can be awesome at first, seeing the once beautifully elegant, mysterious and silent creature reduced to a troll is somehow defeating the purpose of playing him. Unless the purpose was to loose him his fanbase, in which case you trolls are doing a super job. So maybe he is on his way out, defeated by over saturation, now reduced to a joke and a ghost of his former self.

I'm sure for some folks he will survive, more or less as a character they like among other countless memes and creppypastas. But just like the stories themselves when the videos, stories and fan art at last decay and wither from neglect so may he.

Unless of course, what I encountered was the actual Slenderman, or someone that decided to appear as Slenderman, because, why not? It makes me want to revisit those woods and find out, yet when you research Slenderman, perhaps he also researches you?

He's The Boogeyman

In a way Slenderman is everything we currently fear. The unknown, strangers, dangers to ourselves and our children. Happily, he isn't real.
In a way Slenderman is everything we currently fear. The unknown, strangers, dangers to ourselves and our children. Happily, he isn't real.

A Word About the Dark Side of His Fanbase


Most adults know what I'm going to label the 'Slender Defense'. People commit violent crimes, supposedly as the first step to becoming a Proxy, or servant of this fictional character. Hon, those people are seriously disturbed and there is no way to blame Slenderman specifically or the horror genre in general for this unfortunate violence.

Disturbed people will have deep-seated reasons for violence, and a fictional character or industry often takes the blame, because we live in a society that can't accept that violence does occur and needs no explanation except that the actor in each case chose to.

Now, barring mental illness, or extreme stress situations that will make you hallucinate, I don't believe Slenderman appeared to these people any more than a dog talked to the Son of Sam. I do believe that they are seriously disturbed people and that they need help.

So if your kids are into it, or that creepy neighbor down the hall is cosplaying Slenderman all day every day you can relax. The majority of his fandom, while a perhaps bit odd to outsiders are just like any other fandom. Some are nice, some not so nice, but most are about as lethal as kittens.

Keep in mind the majority you will encounter may be tweens and teens, so yes, you will encounter a lot of them who are passionately insisting he is real, but remember that these are young people trying to make sense of the world and for whatever reason Slenderman helps them do that. They are no more dangerous than tweens or teens into anything else.

And adult fans have the been there, done that savvy under their belt to know fandoms come and go. Remember when every girl was crazy for Angel the vampire? Or every guy wanted to be Harry Potter? Slenderman too will disappear into the closet of cool nostalgia, even though he seems as if he will be part of pop culture forever.

So my advice would be to enjoy him or ignore him as you would with any other fictional character. Soon the next big thing will come along and people will be into that and life will go on. But if you're looking for a good scare, and you are old enough to watch them, you can find many movies on You Tube about this mysterious being.

For true believers who know he is real? I know I encountered something during my research. I know there are a growing number of people who have met Slenderman or other Slenders, who believe in them as being as real as the Goddess or your computer. I know I've encountered other beings we would now call Slenders, so perhaps these beings have always been with us, pushing through to reveal themselves in fiction and fact both.

Did I met him? Yes, I think I did. I can work with Gods and dragons, a being that either nudged us humans to notice him or just resembles a popular character isn't all that unusual. Loki is real, despite there being a Marvel version of Himself. So why not Slenderman? Whether the tall gentleman I encountered answers to that name. I do not know. But I know he was quite real.

The History of the Slenderman Video

This video is a little more intense, but covers a lot of Slenderman's mythos and connects him to older mythos. Sensitive viewers may not appreciate some of the descriptions of horror violence.

The History of Slenderman

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    • Nightcat profile image
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      Nightcat 2 years ago

      Thank you so very much! I really enjoyed the research. I find it amusing how much time and care people put into building the mythos now. Cave paintings, woodblock prints, bless 'em. :)

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 2 years ago

      Can't say I believe literally in Slenderman, but I think you've hit the nail on the head as to why he's gotten so much attention from the start. Great hub.