Who the Hell is Slender Man?
If you haven’t heard, rumor is that the next season of American Horror Story is expected to star Lady Gaga and will take up Slender Man. The catch is that the script has been written by someone else, and Ryan Murphy is attempting to buy the rights and adapt it, and until that is settled, casting has been put on hold.
The question, some of us might wonder, is who the hell is Slender Man? It’s a question I had several months ago when my eight-year-old son mentioned him, having heard about Slender Man from a third-grade classmate. The more I heard, the more terrified I became by the notion that my kid knew anything about Slender Man, even if what he knew wasn’t entirely accurate.
Slender Man began as an Internet meme by Eric Knudsen in the Something Awful forums back in 2009 , and even if you’ve never heard of him, you’re almost certainly familiar with the Slender Man images. It apparently originated with this photograph, via NYMag.
You can probably see the creepy possibilities that might come out of that image, such as:
You can probably also see why it’d be a good subject for American Horror Story, and why it’s also beyond disturbing that a grade-school kid might be familiar with it.
But here’s the thing. They’re not just images. There’s an evolving mythology surrounding Slender Man. Inspired by, among other things, shadow people and the Gentlemen from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Slender Man mythology usually involves the forests and/or other abandoned locations, and the preying upon and capturing of children. According to Wikipedia, “proximity to the Slender Man is also often said to trigger a ‘Slender sickness’; a rapid onset of paranoia, nightmares and delusions accompanied by nosebleeds.”
In fiction, Slender Man has also been known to drive young people insane enough to act on his behalf, which is where it gets really creepy because this is where the line between fiction and reality blurs. In 2014, two 12-year-old girls stabbed a friend 19 times with a knife as a blood sacrifice to Slender Man (thankfully, the girl survived). You can read that entire fascinating and terrifying account here. That is the most high-profile real-life occurrence attributed to Slender Man, but a 13-year-old also attacked her mother and a 14 year old set fire to her parent’s house because of the Slender Man influence, and Slender Man was also attributed to an epidemic of suicides on an American Indian reservation.
Clearly, there’s a lot with which to work on the sixth season of American Horror Story, and the fact that the fates of Slender Man’s victims often remain vague and mysterious should add an extra element of creepiness to the season, so long as Murphy can manage something he’s not particularly well known for: Subtlety and restraint. The unknowns about Slender Man can do as much of the heavy lifting as the knowns.
Gaga would also be a terrific Slender Man. In fact, if Murphy found a way to combine Slender Man with Zelda from Pet Sematary, no one would ever sleep again.