Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Slender Man

 I've always been fascinated by the history of urban legends. Trying to trace the trail back to when the first time the story was told about the ghostly hitchhiker, or the man with the hook at a lover's lane. And this is why I became rather enthralled when I quite accidentally stumbled upon the- for lack of a more accurate term- legend of the Slender Man.

 After coming upon what appeared to be an urban legend I had never heard before, a quick Google search of the "Slender Man" gives you what appears to be a complete, detailed and time-tested history of a mythical supernatural creature; tall and slender, often dressed like a man, but with no discernible, or blankly white, face. Think of a darker Jack Skellington. The Slenderman has been reportedly sighted near children who have subsequently disappeared-- captured in black and white photos, and, even audio footage. For all the Slenderman's purposes, he seems nothing but the Bogeyman's latest incarnation-- even if he has something of a patchwork of sightings throughout history, in everything from old German woodcuts to accounts of Allied soldiers in World War I encountering Slendermen as German soldiers on the battlefield. The story which has sprung up on the Slenderman is detailed on a "Creepypasta Wiki" entry, a website I previously knew nothing about, but is apparently a forum where people submit brief, horror themed short stories which are called creepy pasta, rather than a short story. 

 This mythos, while not entirely convincing, seems, at least for yours truly, as if it could have benefited from the less is more approach of more modern urban legends (like the Blair Witch), rather than trying to create a new character who has literally been present from the beginning of time. However, I do find the speed and popularity with which the legend of the Slender Man has taken off to be impressive-- making use of all the Internet age's tools to spread stories. In fact, the whole legend of the Slender Man originated entirely from a contest on an Internet forum to create creepy supernatural characters and images. Given how easily online forums and other social media has birthed this first urban legend created entirely from the Internet, I would imagine the Slender Man is the first of many to be created online in years to come.

 There is also quite a bit of debate online over whether the Slender Man can truly be called an urban legend or if he is just an Internet meme (or trend), as an urban legend has historically been a story which developed, lasted and transformed to last over time. Can a tall tale told instantly in this time of rapid, world-wide digital communication become, so fast, its own urban legend? Or is the Slender Man simply one of many of the Bogeyman's centuries old transformations and different characters? Perhaps, only time will tell. As of now, we have the many pieces the character has spawned to enjoy-- all kinds of Photoshop and other art (some genuinely creepy) and amateur video. And there is even a film titled "The Tall Man" coming out this fall about a legend/entity that abducts children-- although the filmmakers apparently deny any connection to Slenderman (and, in their defense, bogeymen-type characters who abduct children-- whether Michael Myers, Freddy Kreuger or Pennywise the Clown-- are nothing new.)

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