I love spooky stories. I love creepypasta. I love eerie tales told in the dark, and grainy videos posted to YouTube in the wee hours.
I love the Slender Man mythos. I love the stories and the games and the videos, even the cheesy ones. This is collaborative genre storytelling at its finest – organic and DIY. Slender Man is not completely controlled by a single entity (though the original creator and an undisclosed third party do hold copyrights), not slaved to some silly movie franchise that exists mostly for product placement and merchandising rights. In a way, Slender Man belongs to all of us. We are his Creators.
And I’ll be damned if two little sociopaths are going to ruin it for everybody.
On the morning of May 31, a cyclist biking along a dead-end dirt road near Rivera Drive in the town of Waukesha, Wisconsin, came upon a 12-year-old girl lying on the grass, suffering multiple stab wounds. She was alert, but had difficulty breathing. She could not summon help herself because she didn’t have a phone. The man called 911, triggering a county-wide search for two other 12-year-old girls named by the stabbing victim as her attackers. They were “friends” who had lured her out to a wooded area for a game of hide and seek after a slumber party the previous night, then stabbed her in the chest, arms and legs 19 times as she lay facedown on the ground. Thankfully, none of her injuries were life-threatening and she was able to crawl to the abandoned road.
Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, two baby-faced girls with owlish eyeglasses, were apprehended at a furniture store near I-94 later in the day. Geyser had the knife used in the attack in her backpack when she was arrested. Both girls readily confessed to police. It was clear from the beginning that Geyser was the leader of the duo and the brains behind the attack.
This is a familiar pattern. A strong, disturbed character attaches him/herself to a weaker (also disturbed) young person, develops a powerful bond with that person, then persuades him/her to commit motiveless crimes as a team: Parker and Hulme, Mary Bell and Norma X, Robert Thompson and James Venables, Harris and Klebold. Adult cases include Leopold and Leob, the Papin sisters (the inspiration for Genet’s play The Maids), and Carol Stevens and Rose Turford. In the latter case, a potent folie à deux may have been at work, with Mrs. Turford believing that her friend was being abused and controlled by a shadowy cabal of wealthy, perverted men.
These crimes were disturbing enough to send people into moral panic, and scapegoating became a coping mechanism for parents, educators, and social critics. Nietzsche was blamed for the crimes of Leopold and Leob. In the Thompson/Venables case, detectives were so desperate to find some motive for the brutal murder of 3-year-old James Bulger that they combed through a list of 200 videos the Venables family had rented in search of one that might have inspired the crime. They found some similarities between the crime and a single scene in Child’s Play 3, but couldn’t prove that Venables had ever seen it. The same panicky hunt for motive occurred after Columbine, with parents blaming everything from prescription meds to Wolfenstein 3D.
In the end, after years of Nietzsche-shaming and game-blaming, we still don’t have a cut-and-dried motive for any of these crimes.
But that won’t stop us from trying. Within one day of the Wisconsin attack, news outlets around the world were calling it the Slender Man Stabbing. Stories like “Who Is Slender Man?”, “Could a fictional Internet character drive kids to kill?”, and “Fantasy ‘Slender Man’ Meme Inspires Horrific Wisconsin Stabbing” appeared alongside alarmist columns about What Your Child Is Doing on the Internet. Parenting blogs posted lists of warning signs that Your Child Might Not Be Able to Distinguish Fiction from Reality. Even a Creepypasta Wiki admin seemed to accept that Some Kids Don’t Know What’s Real and What’s Make-believe.
You see, Geyser and Weier both told police that they tried to kill their friend as some kind of sacrifice to Slender Man. Weier said that Geyser told her they needed to slaughter their friend to become “proxies” of Slender Man. She said they both hoped to be allowed entrance into his mansion, hidden somewhere within northern Wisconsin’s Nicolet National Forest. They planned to kill their buddy, then walk to the mansion (a mere 400 miles away from Waukesha). They had become so immersed in the Slenderverse that Geyser believed she was in telepathic communication with SM.
I call bullshit on all of this.
I don’t know their motive(s). You don’t know their motive(s). Hell, maybe they don’t know their motive(s). But I’ll tell you this: There is no way that two American 12-year-olds raised in suburban Wisconsin believe Slender Man is real. They were deeply into the mythos, obviously, and may even have play-acted or “performed” it to some extent, but they did not believe it was real in the same way that dentists, squirrels, and hipsters are real. They had other, unknown, reasons for slashing their poor friend. We may never know what those reasons were.
So why would they say it? Well, they’re smart enough to know that feigning insanity is something criminals often do to gain leniency, but not smart enough to know about the M’Naghten rule and the futility of insanity defenses and the horrors of indefinite detention in locked-down mental health facilities. They probably worked out their “defense strategy” a day or two ahead of time, in half-assed 12-year-old fashion.
The media was delighted to go along with this, because “Slender Man Stabbing” sounds heaps sexier than “Mildly Deranged Tweens Cut Their Friend”. Let’s face it: Without the creepy meme angle, this story would have stayed in Wisconsin. The motiveless 2012 murder of 16-year-old Skylar Neese by two of her best friends didn’t receive half this much attention, even though that case led to the correction of serious flaws in the Amber Alert system.
The defense lawyers love it, because having a client who believes Internet Horror Stories Are Real is significantly better than having a client who Stabs Her Friends for No Effing Reason. Not that this will have any real benefits. Ask John Wayne Gacy’s lawyer.
The only people who have ever entertained the notion that Slender Man is an Actual Guy are Coast to Coast AM listeners, the same people who report sightings of Black-Eyed Kids, Shadow People, and Holes to Hell. I have always been a bit concerned that fear of the BEKs could lead to violence against an innocent child, but that hasn’t happened to date. Most C2C fans are harmlessly eccentric.
You find me one – one – 12-year-old suburban American child of average intelligence and normal mental capacity who believes that Slenderman is a Real Thing, and I will remove this post and issue a retraction. In the meantime, I will view the Slender Man mythos in the same way I always have, and enjoy it every bit as much as I always did. Richard Leob didn’t ruin Nietzsche. Dylan Harris didn’t ruin SSRIs. Anne Perry didn’t ruin walks in the park. I will not allow Geyser and Weier to ruin some imaginative, spooky fun.
As discussed in my last post, many conspiracy theorists are trying to link the Aurora and Newtown massacres to Satanism. The video below is one of the silliest examples of this effort. It attempts to connect the dots among a perfume commercial starring Lady Gaga (a favourite target of Vigilant Citizen, and others who search for Illuminati/occult symbolism in movies, music videos, and TV commercials), the latest Batman movie, Aurora, and Newtown.
The major flaw with this approach is that any number of interpretations can be made of Lady Gaga’s videos. They are artistic, dark, and more than a little twisted. Beneath the video, I’ve added my own interpretations of some of the imagery in the perfume commercial to show you just how easy it is to bring your own experiences and perceptions to the table.
The “Matrix-style surgical probe”: This is actually just a light mounted on a flexible, snake-like tube. It does not enter the statue.
The black bodysuit: I doubt this is a nod to Catwoman. Gaga likes bodysuits, as evidenced by the white Where the Wild Things Are-inspired latex bodysuit she wore at the beginning of the “Bad Romance” video.
The “trooper hat”: An old-fashioned ladies’ picture hat, updated
The mirror: Clearly a reference to Cocteau’s Orphée, in which Orpheus is transported to the underworld by stepping into a mirror with a liquid surface. We know that Gaga admires French culture; she speaks French at the beginning of the video for “Papparazzi”. We know she likes classic film, because she references Hitchcock four times in a single verse of “Bad Romance”. And I’m not the only one who sees a correspondence between Cocteau and Gaga – check out this fan video of her song “Bad Romance”, set to scenes from Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. We are not dealing with Satanism here. The black mirror is a straight-up homage to French arthouse cinema.
[I wrote the passage above before re-watching the mirror scene in Orphée. When I reviewed it, I realized Gaga was definitely, absolutely, beyond any question in the world, re-enacting it. Watch it yourself, and note how Orpheus and Gaga extend their arms and place their hands in the same position as they cautiously approach the mirror. Note, also, that Gaga hesitates before the black mirror, while Orpheus allows himself to be coaxed into his mirror by an underworld minion. Give her credit for that, at least!
Fun fact: While Gaga’s mirror is CGI, Cocteau filmed someone submerging their gloved hands into a pool of mercury to create the shimmery ripple effect.]
“Portrait: Death of Children (ovum and sperm)”: I don’t see ovum or sperm in this image, so abortion doesn’t come to mind at all. The gold jewelry Gaga wears reminds me of slime mold.
“Look how they prequel shooting children!”: But there are no children in this scene. There is a CGI rendering of a metallic Gaga aiming a gun at a flesh-and-blood Gaga. I don’t think the metallic Gaga represents a child.
The backmasking of Lt. Paul Vance: I closed my eyes for this portion of the video, and typed my own interpretation of the backwards words. Someone says, “Let us now…worst-dressed. Now. Worst.” Then Vance says, “Excellent. Herb get it done initiate get some I said go. Said the wood A sauce throat dead Sarah the one with oss nitiate.get some mean you left paw. Nnnnasty deep blue knew it he blew it no [or know] me luck. Still when this window go in and out ffth with a maze Gazoo [or kazoo] with your breath. With your breath a syndrome go pull out the waw never been there rash knees bucksters soreth give [gibberish that sounds like “Mickulick”]. Judith or a nay she not pay up.
So from this we can determine that Paul Vance is owed money by a woman named Judith, has an accomplice named Herb, and may or may not like The Flintstones.
As for production designer Nathan Crowley being related to the infamous occultist, Aleister Crowley was, as Nathan told the Art Newspaper in 2008, his grandfather’s cousin, but Nathan was “never allowed to even mention his name because we were a very Quaker family.”
Remember William Tapley, the dude who calls himself the Co-Prophet of the Endtimes and The Third Eagle of the Apocalypse? His videos about the “Satanic” mural at Denver International Airport went viral last year, strictly because it’s hilarious to watch a poker-faced man condemning imaginary penguin erections.
In his latest video, Tapley explains how a crappy music video for some teenie-pop hit is actually about the arrival of the AntiChrist, and analyzes the New World Order/AntiChrist numerology cleverly hidden in the video for “Gangnam Style”, which is basically just a song about South Korean hipsters and their sexy ladies.
Best YouTube comment: “Thank you so much for counting the number of horses by pointing to each one with a pencil and saying the numbers out loud. That was very helpful.”
Tapley’s reply: “Yes, it’s amazing what God requires prophets to do. I’m really lucky! In the Old Testament, one prophet had to eat manure and another was required to marry a prostitute!”
One of the artists accused of hiding “occult horror pornography” in his work (see my post, “Da Vinci’s Other Code”) is Steve Erspamer, a Catholic artist who mostly designs filler for religious publications. I’ve posted about Erspamer at my regular blog, blueapples.
Priests Become Perverts Because of…Art?
A new documentary, Rape of the Soul, posits an odd theory that occult/sexual imagery in centuries-old religious art has helped create an atmosphere of evil within the Catholic Church, leading to the sexual molestation of youngsters by priests. According to the director, subversive imagery is still used in the Church – even in children’s books. The film is directed by Michael Calace, a devout Catholic who wants to expose the shameful legacy of “embed art” within the Church. From the Silver Sword International website: “SSI has announced that its story rights to the recently uncovered religious artwork scandals have now been completed into a feature film documentary for release.The highly inappropriate imagery that is being distributed by trusted organizations has caused the demand for expert analysis and education on the subject, which has affected a vast multitude of churches and millions of people internationally.The stunning images and deceptive techniques, which were primarily aimed at children, is clearly identified, and includes the investigations utilized to uncover the scandals, resulting in a crucially engaging motion picture.” Hmm.
I’ve no doubt that subtle imagery can influence us on a subconscious level, especially if we’re bombarded with it on a regular basis. And Calace is hardly the first person to point out the strange use of erotic imagery in religous art. In his book The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and In Modern Oblivion, Leo Steinberg noted Renaissance artists’ preoccupation with Christ’s genitalia. The late University of Chicago professor Ioan Couliano explored such ideas in depth in his book Eros and Magic in the Renaissance. From the book description at Amazon.com: “Renaissance magic, according to Ioan Couliano, was a scientifically plausible attempt to manipulate individuals and groups based on a knowledge of motivations, particularly erotic motivations. Its key principle was that everyone (and in a sense everything) could be influenced by appeal to sexual desire. In addition, the magician relied on a profound knowledge of the art of memory to manipulate the imaginations of his subjects. In these respects, Couliano suggests, magic is the precursor of the modern psychological and sociological sciences, and the magician is the distant ancestor of the psychoanalyst and the advertising and publicity agent“. Basically, Couliano contended that the Italian upper classes manipulated the masses through liberal use of sexual imagery in art, fashion, and public displays.
But do really old paintings hanging in churches and the Vatican spur priests to become pedophiles? Highly unlikely. I think this director should have stuck to exposing the hidden messages in these artworks, rather than using them to explain decades of sexual deviance. The Rape of the Soul website is rather strange, too. It’s advertising a supposedly serious film that excoriates long-dead artists for sneaking naughty stuff into their work…but the website itself has a ghoulish cartoon full of popes’ skeletons and dead trees (with a clap of thunder for effect) on its homepage; looks like an ad for an anime horror movie.
I’ll post more on Rape of the Soul when I know more about it. I’m curious to know which artworks contain all this interesting stuff.
E. Michael Jones, conservative Catholic founder of Culture Wars magazine, has different thoughts about horror movies, fiction, and art. In his book Monsters from the Id: The Rise of Horror in Fiction and Film (Spence Publishing Company, 2000), Jones argues that horror “is an unconscious backlash against the Enlightenment and the evils of secular humanism…the moral order, when suppressed, reasserts itself as an avenging monster.” He draws connections between Enlightenment ideals and the disastrous love affair of Mary Godwin and Percy Shelley, Dracula and the 19th-century fear of syphillis, contraception and drive-by shootings. Sex is to blame for pretty much every social ill, in Jones’s view: The exploitative and exploited Marian visions of Medjugorje, Bosnia, are somehow the result of the sexual revolution, the homosexual is the “culture of death’s ideal citizen”, and Bahaus architecture is a symptom of sexual immorality. Somewhat like Couliano and Calace, Jones believes that today’s leaders of media, insdustry, and politics manipulate the masses with sexual imagery.
When not battling the evils of architecture and birth control, Jones writes songs a la Bob Roberts, such as “I’m Voting for Skull and Bones.”