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The Reach of the Slender Man
Whilst perusing the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the internet this weekend I was reminded of one of my great loves. Not my love of chocolate, or kittens, or a nice Mocha. No it’s a slightly darker love. The love of being afraid.
Fear is a strange beast to say the least. No two people can be scared by exactly the same things in the same way. Not everyone has my exact phobia of haunted houses because no one else went through the haunted house I went through at my age with my past and my mindset to traumatize me. Each person has their own distinct form of fear and how they express it. Sure they may look similar or be triggered by similar things. But in the end it’s all different.
I say this to give the following statement context. My fear of certain things is a great feeling. I’m obviously not the only one to think this. The Horror genre of film, literature, and video games are massively successful and has been since people started telling ghost stories around campfires centuries, maybe millennia ago. We may fear it, but we all like staring in to the darkness. While the stories and myths have their origins in occasionally unlikely places, those stories take on a life of their own as time goes on.
Creating a Myth
The source of the myth I am especially fond of comes from, surprisingly, the Internet. I say surprising because the internet for most is usually restricted to inanities and Wikipedia. The wriggling mass of insanity that makes up the World Wide Web is not known for creating myths. And yet, just three years ago on the “Something Awful” forums a user by the name of Victor Surge created the Slender Man.
I could spend, literally hours, talking about the Slender Man and the various implications, connotations, contexts, etc. that he brings up. I could go on about my love for Marble Hornets and the mixed joy and frustration of Everyman HYBRID. The creation process for the Slender Man mythos is a fascinating result from a long series of events that have since created one of the most terrifying myths of the 21st century.
The Slender Man myth started as something remarkably simple. In a forum on Something Awful there was a Photoshop contest, the goal being to create a nice and terrifying picture. Being the internet, many of the entries were less than macabre. Then Victor Surge posted two pictures and some text detailing the fates of the people photographed and the photographers.
The forum quickly dissolved into expanding the reach of this mysterious figure and before anyone knew it, the Slender Man had been created.
Since his inception the Slender Man has appeared many times across the internet. Some of the most popular forms of his story are told in “Alternate Reality Games.” In the games people act out roles and discover clues that lead them to a final destination. Arguably the most widespread of these is the series Marble Hornets mentioned above, which consists primarily of YouTube videos spanning over two years. Other stories are told strictly through blogs, with text, drawings, and photos that lead to the final conclusion.
What is truly fascinating is less the creation, but just how far the myth has spread since its origins. Owing to the Internet’s ability to connect, people from around the world have created their own stories for the Slender Man. A fascinating community has arisen from the various tales of fear, some pitching in to help the players of one game or another work out their troubles. They follow the series with avid dedication and hope beyond hope that the people they watch will make it out alive.
The path from random Photoshop contest to internet phenomenon is less rare than it once was. With the internet spanning the globe a thousand times over, communication of ideas and information is the easiest it has been in history. The wide spread appeal of many things are a mystery unless you are directly interested in that thing. I may not know Bronies from my Pottermores, but I know and fear the Slender Man. And I’m far from alone.
The independent game company Parsec Productions recently released a video game based on the Slender Man mythos. To date it has over 200,000 downloads. While small, it has garnered some positive criticism for the mechanics and setting, a “minimalistic horror title.” The future of the project is yet unrevealed.
Some may be reading this and thinking, “well none of that is scary.” And maybe it isn’t to you. You might find such things as internet created boogeymen as frightening as a kitten. That’s completely within your rights. The point here is just how far reaching some things are. How time and place make little to no difference on whether something can be popular. As a fan of the Slender Man, I’m amazed by the fact that all the way in Lithuania people are still interested in letting themselves be scared by a tall man in the woods. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
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