Slenderman can be considered as the “definition” of the imagination overblown by social media. The “father” of this character is Eric Knudsen with the nickname Victor Surge. In 2009, Knudsen published two black and white photos, capturing a strange entity watching children from afar. Knudsen used these two photos to win a Photoshop contest on the “Something Awful Forum”.
For Knudsen, Slender man is a character that represents the paranoid human imagination, especially the fear of strange things or strangers. Before Slenderman there existed many characters and similar photos, with grotesque faces captured in the corner. These photos all become fertile images for us to imagine and make horror theories, even if they are products of Photoshop.
Slenderman has become the inspiration for many horror stories, theories and photographs. However, one of the “projects” that made such an unknown entity so famous belonged to Marble Hornets. This is a Youtube channel that features mysterious, horror videos, but in the style of Found Footage movies like Blair Witch, Cloverfield or lonelygirl15 series. Therefore, the videos and characters all seem real, like a series of video diaries and no script.
The series revolves around amateur filmmaker Alex Crowley – who was forced to stop producing his Marble Hornet project for being haunted by a strange entity. This entity is called The Operator. Although not Slenderman, but images and videos show this entity has many of the same characteristics as the later Slenderman, with a level of authenticity that makes viewers creep.
Marble Hornets have contributed to the overblown Internet stories and rumors. Slenderman caught appearing more and more famous thanks to the game “walking in the woods” that made people obsess. The era of Slenderman began, and this character has appeared everywhere, from movies, stories, games to paintings.
Although only a product of fear and imagination, many gullible people still believe that the character is real, especially children. Typically a case happened in May 2014, Wisconsin, USA. A middle school girl was stabbed 19 times by two of her friends, but luckily escaped death. The culprit of the case told police that the two were only trying to show their loyalty to Slenderman. Both girls were diagnosed with mental illness, and one of them was sent to the asylum with a 40-year sentence.
As the joke has gone too far, the Internet has grown more serious about Slenderman – a fiction of nothing more and less. Slenderman’s stories, photos, videos, games, and fanart appeared everywhere. Slenderman has become so familiar that it is no longer scary.
Apparently, the Internet has “moved on” without the terrifying legends of Slenderman. The rampant fanfic or meme stories put an end to a creepy era for Slenderman and many other horror characters. However, at the right time and the right way, there will be other urban legends created to replace Slenderman, becoming the new trend on social media.