The case of the stabbing of a 12-year-old girl by two of her friends in Wisconsin has gripped America over the last couple days. The crime is made particularly resonant not only by the age of the victim and perpetrators but by the source of the motive — a demon-like creature called Slender Man that has fascinated Netizens for years.
“I recognize their young ages but it’s still unbelievable,” Court Commissioner Thomas Pieper said during one of the girls’ initial court appearances Monday.
The victim suffered 19 stab wounds; one missed a major artery near her heart by a millimeter, doctors told police. She was in stable condition Monday. The court documents did not provide her name.
As it is, there is enough stuff on the Net that routinely get into kids’ heads. Devices get better and better at becoming more and more addictive. The latest iOS and OS X updates being promoted by Apple and its legions of social media fans promises better ways to keep you hooked on its apps and devices. Computer human interfaces have come a long way — from dreary command prompts on green monitors to the candy-coloured Pokemon-like icons on touch screens.
But there is also a darker side to all the colour of modern tech. Mythical — often “evil” — creatures lurk in the shadowy worlds of alternative, sometimes deviant, Web communities. In these worlds medieval legends that tap into primal fears and passions that persist in our brainstems live on. Ironic, considering the modern technology that is used to propagate and enhance the potency of these cultural artefacts.
Slender Man or just “Slender” to its fans is a product of digital memetic selection in its purest form. According to KnowYourMeme.com the character traces its roots to a 2009 photoshop contest launched from an online forum on SomethingAwful.com encouraging members to create and post images of the “paranormal”. Presumably the “creepiest” amongst these would win in that contest.
Something Awful users soon began sharing their faux-paranormal creations with layered images of ghosts and other anomalies, usually accompanied by a fabricated witness account to make them more convincing. On June 10th, SA user Victor Surge (real name Eric Knudsen) posted two black and white photographs of unnamed children with a short description of “Slender Man” as a mysterious creature who stalked children.
[Photo courtesy KnowYourMeme.com.]
Since then, the Net community has improved on, refined, built upon, and expanded the Slender Man mythology. Slender Man has evolved, through this digital replication and propagation process, into a remarkable agglomeration of people’s deepest fears — a fearsome crowdsourced creation at its digital purest.
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