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Is the "Slender Man" Movie Based on a True Story? The Origins of the Legend

On the left is a poster for the 2018 movie. The picture of Slender Man on the right was created by Eric Knudsen (aka Victor Surge), whose posts in the forums of the website Something Aweful sparked the legend.

Questioning the Story:

Is the character of Slender Man real or fake?

Slender Man is often described as a thin, faceless, 8-foot-tall, semi-human monster with tentacles that stalks people, particularly children, who it abducts, murders, or deeply traumatizes. Some of its evil actions are carried out through "proxies," which are human servants that Slender Man communicates with telepathically. The two 12-year-old girls who carried out the 2014 Slender Man stabbing in Wisconsin claimed that they were acting as proxies. You can learn more about the murder they tried to carry out below.

The reality is that the Slender Man character and legend is fictional. It is nothing more than a boogeyman for the Internet age. Slender Man's origins can be traced back to a creepypasta Internet meme from 2009. The term creepypasta is a portmanteau of the words "creepy" and "copypasta," with the latter being coined in 2006 on the imageboard website 4chan. A copypasta is a block of text that has been copied and pasted around the Internet. Therefore, a creepypasta is basically a scary version of a copypasta, or to be more precise, a short, readily available scary story that people copy and paste across the web.

This fictional picture of Slender Man is one of the more well-known doctored images featuring the supernatural figure, who is often depicted in the woods.

Who created Slender Man?

The creepypasta Internet meme known as The Slender Man first appeared on June 10, 2009 on this thread in the forums of the comedy website Something Awful. It was posted by user Eric Knudsen, then 28, who goes by the alias "Victor Surge" in the forums. He was responding in a thread that challenged users to a Photoshop contest, asking them to "create paranormal images." Knudsen contributed two black-and-white images (displayed below). The images show groups of children playing. Among the kids, Knudsen added a tall, thin, faceless figure outfitted in a black suit. Unlike most of the previous contributors to the thread, Knudsen included captions with his Slender Man pictures.

Other members of the forum added their own fictional Slender Man photos and/or text, expanding on Knudsen's story. In a short time, the Slender Man legend went viral and gave birth to fanart, cosplay and more creepypasta. A myriad of short fiction emerged from various authors, all holding to the same narrative theme (or mythos). By this point, Eric Knudsen's creation was out of his hands.

What are the first Slender Man images?

As explained above, the Slender Man origins can be traced back to Eric Knudsen, who created the supernatural figure in 2009 as part of a Photoshop contest in the forums of the Something Awful website. A thread challenged users to "create paranormal images." On June 10, 2009, Knudsen submitted his first two Slender Man images, which are displayed below, along with the accompanying captions.

One of two original Slender Man images created by Eric Knudsen. In a black and white photo that appears to have been taken during the 1980s, he inserted a faceless figure into the background under a tree. If you look closely, you can see the tentacles coming out of the figure's back.
Original Caption: One of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze. Notable for being taken the day which fourteen children vanished and for what is referred to as "The Slender Man". Deformities cited as film defects by officials. Fire at library occurred one week later. Actual photograph confiscated as evidence. – 1986, photographer: Mary Thomas, missing since June 13th, 1986.

Knudsen has said that he Photoshopped into the above image the Tall Man from the horror movie Phantasm.

Slender Man creator Eric Knudsen said that he used the Tall Man (right) from Phantasm in his original images. On the left is a close-up look at the figure in the earlier image.

This is the other of the two original Slender Man photos created by Eric Knudsen. A black and white picture has been doctored to include Slender Man in the background.
Original Caption: "We didn't want to go, we didn't want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time…" – 1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead.

Is the 2018 Slender Man movie a true story?

No. Like the supernatural monster himself, the 2018 Slender Man movie is not based on a true story. The script by David Birke is a work of fiction inspired by the Slender Man legend. The Slender Man murders in the movie were not based on the 2014 Slender Man stabbing, nor does the movie reference the incident. However, the father of Anissa Weier, one of the attackers in the stabbing, has called the horror film "extremely distasteful," saying that the movie is "popularizing a tragedy." He started an online petition to call on Sony to pull the film from its release schedule. The petition currently has over 19,000 signatures. The trailer for the movie depicts schoolgirls who are haunted by the character, with one stabbing herself in the eye. The higher-ups at Sony are worried about further blowback on social media should the release proceed as planned. -Variety

How far back does the fictional Slender Man history go?

Those who have been tricked into believing that Slender Man is real sometimes point to "evidence" that Slender Man sightings date back to 16th-century Germany. They often refer to the woodcut pictured below (left). It depicts the so-called "Tall Man" (Der Großmann), who has a bony spear for an arm and spider-like legs. According to the story spread on the Internet, he was a fairy who lived in the Black Forest and would chase bad children who crept into the woods at night.

A little research reveals that the image has been doctored. It's actually a print of a 16th-century Hans Holbein woodcut that shows a two-legged skeleton (Death) driving a lance into a knight. The original print can be found at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Fans trying to give the legend credibility have doctored images like this print of a 16th-century woodcut by Hans Holbein.

What inspired Slender Man's appearance?

While exploring Slender Man's origins, we learned that creator Eric Knudsen cited several sources as being the inspiration for his supernatural character. "I was mostly influenced by H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King (specifically his short stories), the surreal imaginings of William S. Burroughs, and a couple games of the survival horror genre; Silent Hill and Resident Evil," Knudsen told a blogger during an interview. "I feel the most direct influences were Zack Parsons’ 'That Insidious Beast', the Stephen King short story 'The Mist', the SA tale regarding 'The Rake', reports of so-called shadow people, Mothman, and the Mad Gasser of Mattoon." Knudsen also admitted to using the Tall Man from the 1979 movie Phantasm in his original images.

Who plays Slender Man in the 2018 movie?

Spanish actor Javier Botet portrays the character in the 2018 Sony Screen Gems movie. The 6'7" actor has Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that results in increased height, in addition to long arms, fingers, legs and toes. Botet's physical characteristics and affinity for acting helped him land roles in films like REC (2007), Crimson Peak (2015) and The Conjuring 2 (2016).

Actor Javier Botet lurks in the woods as Slender Man in the movie (left). The 6'7" actor is pictured in real life (right).

Have there been any Slender Man-inspired murders?

No. The Slender Man murders in the 2018 movie are fictional and are in no way tied to real events. However, there was an attempted murder that was linked to the Slender Man fiction. It occured in Waukesha, Wisconsin on May 31, 2014. Two 12-year-old girls, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, stabbed their friend Payton Leutner 19 times after luring her into the woods and holding her down during a game of hide-and-seek. They told police they did it to appease Slender Man.

They used a five-inch-long kitchen knife, stabbing Payton in the legs, arms and torso. Two of the stab wounds hit major organs, with one penetrating her heart and missing an artery by less than a millimeter. “If the knife had gone the width of a human hair further, she wouldn't have lived,” said cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. John Keleman, who operated on Payton. The other strike punctured her diaphragm, slicing into her stomach and liver. To save her own life after Anissa and Morgan left her to die, Payton crawled from the woods to a narrow path where a cyclist found her. She was in surgery for six hours. Dr. Keleman had to crack open her chest to save her life.

12-year-old Payton Leutner (left) was lured to the woods by her friends Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, who stabbed her 19 times because they claimed they were trying to appease Slender Man.

Police caught up to Anissa and Morgan near an interstate on-ramp. They told officers that they were on their way to find Slender Man's mansion to live there with him. They explained that they believed Slender Man was real, and that committing the murder was the only way to get in his good graces. Peyton spent six days in the hospital and it took weeks before she could breathe without struggling. By the start of the new school year, she had recovered physically. In 2017, Both Anissa and Morgan plead guilty. Both were ultimately found to be not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect and have been sentenced to confinement in a psychiatric institution for at least three years, followed by communal supervision for several decades. The attempted murder case was chronicled in the 2016 HBO documentary Beware the Slenderman. -ABC News

How did Slender Man's creator respond to the news of the stabbing?

In a statement released to the media, Eric Knudsen responded by saying, "I am deeply saddened by the tragedy in Wisconsin and my heart goes out to the families of those affected by this terrible act." -NBC News

Eric Knudsen's real identity remains largely unknown. While researching the Slender Man legend, we learned that he was living in Nagasaki, Japan at the time he created Slender Man. Believed to be from the Chicago area, he got married in 2011. As of 2014, he was living in Florida with his wife and toddler. You can browse some of his artwork on his DeviantArt account and Instagram where he posts under the alias "Victor Surge."

Are there any other Slender Man movies?

The symbol often associated with Slender Man was introduced by the creators of the Marble Hornets video series.
Yes. As we investigated whether Slender Man is in any way inspired by a true story, we learned that several other low-budget video series and movies about the supernatural character have been made. The first video series embracing the character is a found footage style series called Marble Hornets, which was created by Troy Wagner and began on YouTube in June 2009. Wagner's series introduced the Slender Man symbol (pictured). Similar YouTube series followed, including EverymanHYBRID and TribTwelve.

A Slender Man video game arrived in 2012 titled Slender: The Eight Pages. It was downloaded 2 million times in its first month. Various versions of the game followed, including a 2013 sequel.

Several independent Slender Man movies have been released or are in development. These include Entity and the Kickstarter-funded The Slender Man, which was released free online following its $10,000 campaign. In 2015, the Marble Hornets YouTube serial evolved into a VOD movie titled Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story. The character of Slender Man was portrayed by Doug Jones, who also played Abe Sapien in Hellboy, the Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth, and the Amphibian Man in The Shape of Water. In 2016, a documentary titled Beware the Slenderman aired on HBO. It followed the real-life Slender Man-inspired stabbing and the two 12-year-old girls who carried out the crime to appease the long-limbed monster.

The HBO Documentary Beware the Slenderman focuses on the attempted murder in Wisconsin that found two 12-year-old girls stabbing their classmate 19 times.

What would Slender Man's creator tell someone who believes that the legend is real?

Eric Knudsen, who uses the alias "Victor Surge" online, responded to this question during a SlenderNation Podcast interview by saying, "I can show you all the source art I used to make him. You wanna see all the little bits and pieces that went into Slender Man? Here they are. They're in this folder called 'Slender Man'. Here they are. This is what you're afraid of, on my computer screen...and your brain."

Slender Man Creator Interview & the 2018 Movie Trailer

Watch an interview with the creator of the legend. Then check out the YouTube video series that helped to popularize the Slender Man legend and build on the mythos. Also, check out the movie trailer for the 2018 film that features fictional Slender Man murders.