Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Cult of Slender Man

It's something of a modern mystery why so many weird crimes seem to happen in the state of Wisconsin. Both Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer committed serial murders there, and recently two twelve-year-old girls nearly murdered a friend in order to appease "Slender Man," a fictional character appearing in "creepypasta" online horror stories.

Creepypasta, contrary to the name, has nothing to do with noodles. It's a generic term for horror short stories that are posted on particular Internet forums. Just like with fanfiction, I find most kind of dumb, but some are genuinely well-written and spooky. For example, a few months ago the "Russian Sleep Experiment" story, originally from a creepypasta forum, went viral on Facebook. Some posters even believed it to be true.

A significant number of creepypasta stories concern Slender Man, a meme that has become so popular it was even alluded to as "Thinman" in a recent episode of the television series Supernatural. The actual name could not be used because the Slender Man meme is copyrighted by its creator, Eric Knudsen, who has shut down several projects related to the character.

According to police reports, the two Wisconsin girls were obsessed with the character, to the point where they decided to murder one of their friends as a sort of sacrifice. One of the girls explained they did it so that they would be able to run away and live with Slender Man in his Nicolet National Forest mansion - which, of course, does not exist anywhere outside the collective imagination of Slender Man's fans.

"It's extremely disturbing as a parent and as chief of police," Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack said at a news conference ahead of the court appearances Monday.

The girls invited their friend to a slumber party on Friday evening, the complaint said. They planned to kill her during the night so they wouldn't have to look into her eyes, one girl told police, and then run away. They decided to put it off, but the next day, during a hide-and-seek game in a wooded park, they attacked their friend with a knife. One girl told the other to "go ballistic, go crazy," according to the complaint.

The victim began to scream that she hated them and started stumbling away, one of the girls told police. The girls left the victim lying in the woods. She crawled to a road where a bicyclist found her lying on the sidewalk. Police arrived and she gave them the name of one of the girls who attacked her. She was rushed into surgery, police said.

Fortunately the victim survived the stabbing and is in stable condition following surgery for her injuries, and the two attackers are in custody awaiting trial. It remains to be seen at trial how disturbed the two perpetrators really are, and how the decision to kill in the name of a non-existent entity unfolded.

Some magicians are of the opinion that mass belief alone is sufficient to create artificial spiritual entities, called egregores. I am not one of them. I think that the "belief powers magick" idea is a misinterpretation of the observation that doubt inhibits magick, and that rather than belief being thought of as power, doubt should be thought of as resistance.

It is possible for a magician to create an artificial spirit entity. Chaos magicians work with servitors and as far back as the Golden Dawn the same concept was referred to as a telesma. But the difference between that and raw belief is that the creation of such an entity requires a significant magical operation of some sort, not just conviction alone.

Once the spirit exists, depending upon how it's constructed it may be able to draw upon belief to strengthen itself, but so far no account has been found of Knudsen or anyone else performing the sort of operation that would call Slender Man into existence, and I have no idea why anyone would want to. The character is a sort of "boogeyman" who traumatizes, abducts, and murders children, none of which the world needs more of.

I suppose it's possible that some misguided magician gave it a try at some point, and it's also possible that the artificial entity thus created drew on the belief of the Internet in order to grow stronger and influence these girls. I doubt it, though. Psychopathic delusion makes for a much more parsimonious and likely explanation, but it's hard to speculate on what other strange revelations might come up during the trial.

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Rob said...

There's also spiritual identity theft to consider. As long as you aren't too particular about the details, you can get just about any sort of spiritual entity you want. A friend on mine wanted Papa smurf for some, I dunno, reason, so he evoked Papa Smurf using lower realm connections and giving offerings. And he got Papa Smurf. Kind of. It looked like Papa Smurf at least. Probably was a nastier sort of imp. Thing was he put forth a good enough of an offering, and something wanted to come forward, so it gave him what he wanted.

You see this a lot too if you work with the Lovecraftian Mythos. I know there's a reasonable hypothesis to give credence to Lovecraft's writing, but in practice the things being worked with are only vaguely similar to what Lovecraft wrote about. Even strong supporters like Simon created vastly different systems to explain them. I think it's just easier for he things to latch on to the mythos, because it's easier for the human to work with something it already knows and understands.

List with Laszlo said...

Kids at that age are subject to vivid imaginations.

A thought comes to mind based on a part of your post.

" It remains to be seen at trial how disturbed the two perpetrators really are, and how the decision to kill in the name of a non-existent entity unfolded."

Isn't that what every religious war mankind has fought has been over?

Scott Stenwick said...

@Rob, I've done enough work with spirits to know what you're talking about. The ones that are earthbound and are stuck hanging around tend to be completely full of it. When you contact them, they'll tell you whatever you need to hear to keep them talking because as far as I can tell they're just bored. That's why you want to use a real magical methodology when contacting them to make sure they're who they claim to be.

@Knight of Pan, young teens are quite imaginative and it sounds like at least one of the girls is probably psychopathic. That's a dangerous combination. As far as religious wars go, I'd agree except that I think it depends on the person whether they're in contact with a real spiritual entity or not. Still, I agree that the decision to go to war over even a genuine spiritual connection shows that the individual making it is quite disturbed.

Trey718 said...

The attempted murder in Ohio thought to be influenced by the slender man makes it even weirder.

Scott Stenwick said...

Yeah, I blogged about the Ohio one today. Given the attention the Wisconsin case has gotten in the media it's not as weird as it might otherwise be, but it's still quite the coincidence.