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.
In this clip from CBN’s The 700 Club, daft codger Pat Robertson tells a woman that she and her husband should sell their new home at half its value ASAP because it is haunted or inhabited by demons. The woman complains of household objects going missing, things falling off of shelves, and noises. She also doesn’t feel quite right in the house, and is disappointed that it needs a lot of work. Those are things that can’t possibly be normal, right?
Once again, Robertson shows just how out of touch with modern reality he is. I don’t know whether his bizarre pronouncements are the products of senility or just willful blindness, but either way I blame his producers and co-hosts for enabling his childish nonsense. Working families who have just gone through the laborious process of buying a home cannot just up and sell overnight because they vaguely suspect demonic activity. In some parts of America, it’s damn near impossible to find affordable, safe housing that meets your needs. Sure, if you’re a rich white man surrounded by enablers, there are “plenty of houses out there.” For the rest of us, life isn’t always so peachy.
Now, let’s say for the sake of argument that this woman’s house is infested with demons or spirits or whatever. Why wouldn’t exorcism be a valid option? Doesn’t Robertson have faith that believers would triumph over Satan?
Yesterday, Gordon Klingenschmitt won a GOP primary race by several hundred votes, becoming the official Republican nominee for House District 15 in the Colorado House of Representatives.
With the possible exceptions of exorcist Bob Larson and psychic ghostbuster Lorraine Warren, Klingenschmitt is probably the most obsessive demonologist on the planet. After being turfed from his position as a Navy chaplain for disobeying orders, he began webcasting a religious show that makes The 700 Club look pretty sane by comparison. He attributes all of the following things to demons and/or demonic possession:
- Alcoholism. According to Klingenschmitt, the demons that will inhabit your body if you drink are more dangerous than the alcohol itself. And the images you see while using hallucinogenic drugs are actual demons.
- Homosexuality. Klingenschmitt has boasted about performing successful exorcisms on gay people, and has likened teaching children about gay marriage to “mind rape”. He likens transsexual people using public washrooms to child rape. Frequently, he makes the bizarre assertion that certain legislation will “enforce” pedophilia in public schools. He defends all forms of discrimination against gays, because they are not fully human.
- Atheism. (of course)
Klingenschmitt believes that non-Christians should not be allowed any government benefits, since they will not be going to Heaven.
He is also profoundly paranoid. He predicted that federal agents would murder every last person at the Bundy Ranch and dump their corpses into a mass grave. Like Anita Bryant, he believes most (if not all) adult homosexuals are sexual predators who “recruit” children by molesting them.
Most of his claims are so wildly hyperbolic that they verge on satire. But he’s completely serious.
People of Colorado, if this is the man you want representing you – get some help.
This is an actual Today Show segment (you can see Bryant Gumbel not taking this seriously at the end of the report). The clip you see here was part of a longer story on the people behind tabloid headlines (also available on YouTube), and features a woman named June O’Brien being interviewed by Today Show reporter Richard Dominick about a pop-up toaster that speaks in a deep voice like Eli Wallach, spits out toast engraved with the words “SATAN LIVES”, and occasionally shoots flames.
- When Lawrence Harris Jr. of Sioux City, Iowa, murdered his two stepdaughters on January 4, 2008, the media pounced on reports that Harris had dabbled in both Wicca and Satanism. He had allegedly muttered something about a “spell gone bad” after police found the bodies of Kendra Suing, 10, and Alysha Suing, 8, in their home. Media reports and blog posts mentioned spells, LaVey’s Satanic Bible, and witchcraft at great length…but stayed away from the more pertinent issues of family violence and mental illness.
Later, Harris claimed he had been attempting to cast the spell on his stepson Triton, who wasn’t home at the time. Just how this led to the strangulation and stabbing of two little girls has never been adequately explained. In fact, this case remains about as clear as cola. Harris pled not guilty by reason of insanity, but was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Significantly, Harris’ religious interests were never brought up by the prosecution. Rather than focusing on Harris’ alleged Satanism, prosecutors argued (successfully, it would seem) that Harris killed Alysha and Kendra because he suspected his wife was having an affair, then faked insanity. If this is indeed the case, then witchcraft and Satanism are even mooter points than they were in the first place. Naturally, that doesn’t stop Fox News: “Iowa Man Convicted of Killing Two Stepdaughters During Satanic Ritual“.
- The prosecutor in the 2009 abduction/torture case of Joy Johnson and Joseph Craig took a completely different tack, declaring even before the start of trial that the defendants’ alleged confinement and abuse of another couple was directly related to Satanism. This came across as a transparent ploy to make the couple appear as deviant as possible (as if that was necessary). The bottom line is that Craig entered an Alford plea and Johnson pleaded guilty to committing crimes, not of practicing magick. The media’s insistence on highlighting their political and religious affiliations, rather than the nature of their alleged criminal activity, was the real scandal in this case. I don’t care if Johnson and Craig were Democrats, libertarians, or Communists. I don’t care if they worshiped Satan, Christ, or pumpkins. Creeps are creeps, and crime is crime.
- A staple of Western conspiranoia culture is that affluent, well-connected Satanists are operating massive child-trafficking rings throughout the world for the purposes of ritual abuse, ritual sacrifice, and child prostitution (see the “Franklin cover-up” hoax for one of many examples). But as I pointed out in this 2010 post about a group of Baptist missionaries, global child trafficking is not confined to any particular religion or tax bracket.
Whatever happened to those orphan-hustling Baptists in Haiti? Incredibly, nine of the ten people arrested were released without charge, leaving just one woman to face trial in Haiti for human trafficking. Laura Silsby was convicted, but went free after sentencing because her six-month prison sentence had “already been served”. You read that correctly. Abducting Haitian children gets you less prison time than stealing a car.
Wow. So where are the outraged conspiracy theorists, writing books and making documentaries about the Baptist conspiracy to steal and sell kids? Don’t any of them find it interesting that 33 Haitian children were taken…the very number sacred to Scottish Rite Freemasons?
- When I last checked in on him, in 2007, “occult expert” Jerry Johnston was in some hot water, facing allegations of financial mismanagement and other shady dealings at his Kansas megachurch.
Here’s what happened. In February 2011, First Family Church went into receivership, owing $14.4 in loans. At that time, First Family had an annual payroll of $915,000, with over $600,000 of that going to members of Jerry Johnston’s family. On September 11, 2011, First Family Church closed it doors.
- For a time, the Hosanna Church case in Ponchatoula, Louisiana appeared to be the world’s first authentic incident of Satanic ritual abuse. Pastor Louis Lamonica Jr. had confessed to molesting children in a ritualistic manner, and his clannish little following certainly fit the profile of a dangerous Satanic cult.
The problem was, the Hosanna church cultists weren’t Satanists. They were Christians. And when the case finally went to trial in 2008, two of the three children supposedly abused by cult members retracted their accusations on the witness stand. The two boys first gave retractions back in 2005, but prosecutors proceeded with the case anyway.
Far from worshiping Satan, church members attempted to expel demons from their bodies by purging and confessed their every sin to the charismatic assistant pastor, Lois Mowbray.
Again, where are the conspiracy theorists? They were all over this case when it was about Satanism, but they seem to have faded into the woodwork now that it’s all about deviant Christianity.
Radio preacher Bryan Fischer, while talking about demonic possession in the Bible, suddenly switched gears and declared that the full moon has a diabolic influence on us because (for some reason) that is the time Satan chooses to exert his control over us. Source: Right Wing Watch
Walter Slonopas of Clarksville, Tennessee resigned from his job as a maintenance worker at Contech Casting LLC only because his W-2 tax form was designated with the number 666. He feared that if he continued his employment, he would go to Hell. This is not the first time Slonopas has resigned over that number. Two years ago, Contech changed its time clock system and Slonopas was assigned the number 666. He quit his job, but apologized and returned to work a few days later. Source: Newsday
An Alabama Congressman, Shadrack McGill, is sponsoring a personhood bill for an interesting reason: He fears that unborn babies who are aborted might go to Hell, since they are considered (by his interpretation of the Bible) to be extensions of the mother’s body…and if the mother has an abortion, she’s probably destined for Hell. Source: The Daily Sentinel
Tabloids, Christian websites, and YouTube auteurs are attempting to link Newtown, Connecticut, killer Adam Lanza to Satanism – on the softest evidence you can possibly imagine.
A Daily Mail article quotes Trevor L. Todd, a “former classmate” of Lanza, as saying that Adam once had a “Satan worshiping” web page with a banner that featured the word Devil in a red, “Gothic-style” font. This vaguely-remembered website supposedly created by a middle school student is the only evidence presented to suggest that Lanza was a Satanist. To date, the web page’s existence hasn’t even been confirmed.
The article goes on to claim that FBI investigators “strongly believe he made use of devil-worshiping and suicide sites and boasted of his murder plans on message forums”. No source is given for this information.
The last case Klein cites is the murder of Steven Newberry by a trio of teens, led by a charismatic thug named Jim Hardy. The killers practiced some rudimentary form of “Satanism” that mostly revolved around torturing and killing cats. The murder of their “friend” Newberry was a thrill killing that would have been committed with or without their childish attempts at devil worship.
Klein’s efforts to lay the blame for Adam Lanza’s crimes on Satanism are baseless. To call Lanza’s evil deeds “Satanic” because he allegedly expressed interest in the Devil in his teens is just as absurd as labeling a murder “Christian” because the killer was once an altar boy.