Slenderman, The Internet Horror Icon


The Slenderman notes in the school’s garden.

By Sofia Herrera, Staff Writer

Generation Z grew up with the internet as a part of their daily lives, which means that they didn’t have to acclimate to how dark and creepy the internet is, so it was no big surprise that Slenderman became such an important part of internet history. 

   Even though Slenderman was a large part of the horror community in the early 2000’s and 2010’s, many have no idea about how Slenderman came into existence.  


The origin of Slenderman 

   Slenderman was created by Eric Knudsen in 2009, as an internet meme for a photoshop contest. With this context, Slenderman isn’t scary at all, considering he was just made as a joke and nothing more. However, this is when the true horror starts. 

   It’s my opinion that Slenderman became so popular because it’s a character that was only on the internet, a place that, at the time he was created, was rarely monitored. Because of this, everyone and anyone was allowed to take the image Eric Knudsen made and give it a large backstory, or they could take the image out of context and tell young children that it was like a modern Boogieman that will come and get them. Slenderman’s origins isn’t anything threatening; however, Slenderman wouldn’t have become the iconic horror character he is today without his fandom. 


Slenderman in Marble Hornets and Totheark 

   Slenderman was able to become so well known on the internet because of the YouTube horror series called Marble Hornets. 

    Marble Hornets was created by Troy Wanger in 2009 around 10 days after Eric Knudsen’s original post. Marble Hornets is the name of the YouTube channel that was made by the fictional character Jay Merrick so he can archive his findings as he investigates his friend Alex Kralie’s old tapes that contain Alex’s university film project.  

    In these tapes Jay sees Slenderman (which is named The Operator for this story) following and stalking Alex. By the time Jay gets and watches these tapes, Alex has left town, and no one has seen him in three years. Because of this and because of the supernatural creature that is seen in the tapes (Slenderman/The Operator), Jay sets himself on a quest to find Alex and ask him what happened. This is the basic plot of Marble Hornets without any major spoilers. 

    While Marble Hornets has the main plot, you will miss part of the story if you don’t watch Totheark as well. Totheark is a channel that was created by Slenderman’s proxies. Slenderman in Marble Hornets has three followers or proxies that help him in his efforts to torment Jay. These proxies are Hoodie (a masked man who wears a hoodie), Masky (a masked man with an effeminate face) and The Observer (he’s never seen). Totheark makes videos specifically to torment, give warning and hints to Jay. 

   I developed a personal theory when I watched the videos. Totheark’s videos have very distinct styles from each other which implies that the different proxies are making the videos independently from each other. When Masky makes videos, he makes them with shots of rain and black and white scenes with a lot of text to decode.  

    Hoodie makes videos that are black and white with some red and blue glitching, with only one exception where he solely used the color red. He also exposes his other proxies and calls attention to them and himself in many of his videos.  

   The last proxy is The Observer, who strictly makes videos in black and white which have a lot of quick movements, but the way you are able to tell it’s his video is because of the large number of eyes that are in his videos all the time. 


Slenderman Theories 

   Since Slenderman is a character from the internet, it comes to no one’s surprise that people have their fair share of theories about him, especially when he became even more polarizing by Marble Hornets. 

   One of these theories is what I call the Pied Piper theory, which implies that Slenderman takes children like the Pied Piper. 

    A second theory is what I call the “bullied child” theory, which says that Slenderman was a deformed child that was bullied and was forced to live in the forest, isolating him but making him want to hang out with other people especially children. 

   I personally don’t agree with any of these theories because they don’t fit the personality that the internet has given Slenderman. While I understand that from the beginning Slenderman was always around children, I can’t see the similarities between him and the Pied Piper, and I don’t understand the story of a deformed and bullied child as a genuine idea of why Slenderman is who he is today. 


Slenderman’s effect on the world 

   Anyone can say that something on the internet has affected the world in a major way, but this is genuinely true when it comes to Slenderman. 

    Slenderman was nationwide news on May 31st, 2014, especially in Waukesha, Wisconsin. According to the article titled “Investigators in ‘Slender Man’ case discuss chilling interviews with 12-year-old attempted murderers” posted on the website for ABC news, two 12-year-old girls by the names of Anissa Weber and Morgan Geyser lured their friend Payton Leutner into a forest and stabbed her around 19 times.  

    Luckily, Payton was able to crawl to a road where she was found and was able to survive the traumatizing event after six days in the hospital. Thankfully, Anissa and Morgan were caught and where questioned by police.  In the ABC news report, Morgan said, “We had to, because he’d kill our families…A man. I didn’t know him. But Anissa knew him.” 

   The interviews of these two young girls show how much their fear of Slenderman got to them. This is a real-life story of what can happen when a child is left unmonitored with the internet without someone telling them what’s real or not.  

   Children need to be aware of the content they are consuming, and they need to know whether it’s real or not, or else more events like this will continue to happen, and no one will be allowed to share a fictional story online anymore. 


Full playlist of Marble Hornets and TotheArk in order of release:  

Marble hornets/totheark (in released order)