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Anonymous Chalk Drawing Of Slenderman. Photo:MDL70

Anonymous Chalk Drawing Of Slenderman. Photo:MDL70

He’s Not A Ghost—Though He Could Be A Demon

In fact, Slender Man is no more and no less than the good, old boogeyman. He’s just been refurbished a bit for the internet culture.

Dating back no further than 2009, the Slender Man myth involves a supernatural being who follows in the well-worn phantom footsteps of solitary, ghoulish, and predatory characters produced in cultures throughout time, and across the world. Wherever they’ve originated, these outskirts-dwelling fiends invariably kidnap and feast on children—in fact their very purpose among many groups is to scare kids into behaving.

In some countries, the local Slender Man/boogeyman-like legend is called the “Sack Man” because of his habit of stuffing children into a cloth bag in order to drag them away. Europe is full of Sack Men—though they also occur on other continents. A man who grew up in Arizona’s Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community during the early 1900s once told us that adults there used to frighten children with tales of a witch who would remove their heads and gather them into a sack if they misbehaved at night.

In Spanish-speaking countries, the boogeyman is referred to as El Coco or El Cuco, and he goes by dozens of other names in countries from Belize to Bulgaria to Burma.

Slender Man differs from other boogeymen only in that, rather than arising as a local variation of a global archetype, he is entirely the product of the World Wide Web. As such, he is known not just in a particular country or culture, but everywhere—or at least wherever people entertain themselves by trading creepy urban legends online. In fact, he is one of the most popular themes, or memes, in the popular online urban legends and fictional stories collectively known as creepypastas.

The boogeyman’s latest incarnation as Slender Man first took shape in 2009 as a creation of Something Awful Forums user Eric Knudsen, who also goes by the name of Victor Surge. Knudsen’s electronic boogeyman adaptation caught on quickly, and soon amateur writers and online horror enthusiasts were using Slender Man as a character in their own fictions—many of them interpreting him in their own individual ways.

Slender Man is invariably depicted as being freakishly tall and thin, with frighteningly long arms that are sometimes described as tentacles. Some writers tell their readers he possesses long arms and tentacles. He is (usually) said to wear a black suit, and he (again, usually) haunts the woods near suburban areas in order to snatch or lure away vulnerable children.

As with many myths, the otherwise-entertaining stories of Slender Man have been taken far too seriously by a few highly suggestible, deeply disturbed people. In early 2014, two 12-year-old girls were arrested for allegedly wounding another young girl in a knife attack that they claimed was inspired by Slender Man. A few other non-fatal assaults have also been attributed to Slender Man’s influence.

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