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The Slender Man (also known as Slenderman) is a fictional supernatural character that originated as a creepypasta Internet meme created by Something Awful forums user Eric Knudsen (also known as "Victor Surge") in 2009. He is depicted as a thin, unnaturally tall humanoid with a featureless head and face and wearing a black suit.
Stories of the Slender Man commonly feature him stalking, abducting or traumatizing people, particularly children. The Slender Man is not confined to a single narrative but appears in many disparate works of fiction, typically composed online. Fiction relating to the Slender Man encompasses many media, including literature, art and video series such as Marble Hornets, wherein he is known as The Operator. Outside of online fiction, the Slender Man has become an internet icon and has influenced popular culture, having been referenced in the video game Minecraft with the Enderman character and generated video games of his own, such as Slender: The Eight Pages and Slender: The Arrival. He has also appeared in a film adaptation of Marble Hornets, where he was portrayed by Doug Jones, and an eponymous film, where he was portrayed by Javier Botet.
Beginning in 2014, a moral panic occurred over the Slender Man after readers of his fiction were connected to several violent acts, particularly a near-fatal stabbing of a 12-year-old girl in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
The Slender Man was created on June 10, 2009, on a thread in the Something Awful Internet forum. The thread was a Photoshop contest in which users were challenged to "create paranormal images." Forum poster Eric Knudsen, under the pseudonym "Victor Surge", contributed two black-and-white images of groups of children to which he added a tall, thin, spectral figure wearing a black suit. Although previous entries had consisted solely of photographs, Surge supplemented his submission with snatches of text—supposedly from witnesses—describing the abductions of the groups of children and giving the character the name "The Slender Man"
The Slender Man soon went viral, spawning numerous works of fanart, cosplay, and online fiction known as "creepypasta"—horror stories told in short snatches of easily copyable text that spread from site to site. Divorced from its original creator, the Slender Man became the subject of myriad stories by multiple authors within an overarching mythos.
Many aspects of the Slender Man mythos first appeared on the original Something Awful thread. One of the earliest additions was added by a forum user named "Thoreau-Up", who created a folklore story set in 16th-century Germany involving a character called Der Gro?man, which was implied to be an early reference to the Slender Man.:36 The first video series involving the Slender Man evolved from a post on the Something Awful thread by user "ce gars". It tells of a fictional film school friend named Alex Kralie, who had stumbled upon something troubling while shooting his first feature-length project, Marble Hornets. The video series, published in found footage style on YouTube, forms an alternate reality game describing the filmers' fictional experiences with the Slender Man. The ARG also incorporates a Twitter feed and an alternate YouTube channel created by a user named "totheark". As of 2013, Marble Hornets had over 250,000 subscribers around the world and had received 55 million views. Other Slender Man-themed YouTube serials followed, including EverymanHYBRID and TribeTwelve.
In 2012, the Slender Man was adapted into a video game titled Slender: The Eight Pages; within its first month of release, the game was downloaded over 2 million times. Several popular variants of the game followed, including Slenderman's Shadow and Slender Man for iOS, which became the second most-popular app download. The sequel to Slender: The Eight Pages, Slender: The Arrival, was released in 2013. Several independent films about the Slender Man have been released or are in development, including Entity and The Slender Man, released free online after a $10,000 Kickstarter campaign. In 2013, it was announced that Marble Hornets would become a feature film. In 2015, the film adaptation, Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story, was released on VOD, where the character was portrayed by Doug Jones. In 2016, Sony Pictures subsidiary Screen Gems partnered with Mythology Entertainment to bring a Slender Man film into theatres, with the title character portrayed by Javier Botet. The film was released in 2018.
Because the Slender Man's fictional "mythology" has evolved without an official "canon" for reference, his appearance, motives, habits, and abilities are not fixed but change depending on the storyteller. He is most commonly described as very tall and thin with unnaturally long, tentacle-like arms (or merely tentacles), which he can extend to intimidate or capture prey. In most stories his face is white and featureless, but occasionally his face appears differently to anyone who sees it. He appears to be wearing a dark suit and tie. The Slender Man is often associated with the forest and/or abandoned locations and has the ability to teleport. Proximity to the Slender Man is often said to trigger a "Slender sickness"; a rapid onset of paranoia, nightmares and delusions accompanied by nosebleeds.
Early stories featured him targeting children or young adults. Some featured young adults driven insane or to act on his behalf, while others did not, and others claim that investigating the Slender Man will draw his attention. The web series Marble Hornets established the idea of proxies (humans who fall under the Slender Man's influence) though initially they were simply violently insane, rather than puppets of the Slender Man. Marble Hornets also introduced the idea that the Slender Man could interfere with video and audio recordings, as well as the "Slender Man symbol", ?, which became a common trope of Slender fiction. Graphic violence and body horror are uncommon in the Slender Man mythos, with many narratives choosing to leave the fate of his victims obscure. Shira Chess notes that "It is important to note that few of the retellings identify exactly what kind of monster the Slender Man might be, and what his specific intentions are- these points all remain mysteriously and usefully vague."
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