It all started as a contest entry in 2009. People online were encouraged to take a normal picture and Photoshop it into something paranormal. Two pictures showed groups of children, and a tall, thin, shadowy figure. Bits of text were added, dubbing the figure ‘The Slender Man’.
Over time and cyberspace, Slenderman’s legend grew and expanded. The character went viral as fans created new stories and art about him. Nearly every story was about the Slenderman targeting children and young teenagers. In the years following, video games and fan films dedicated to the character were created. Some people began to consider these stories actual folklore, or even believe that the Slenderman was a real legend from long ago. Some even believed he was a real monster.
Now, HBO is bringing him into our homes with a documentary called Beware the Slenderman, airing this month. According to ComingSoon.net, the documentary will premiere Monday January 23rd on HBO; it will additionally be made available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, and HBO On Demand. Beware the Slenderman covers two different aspects of the Slenderman’s story: his online origins as well as how the story grew and changed; and the shocking crime which is now tied to the legend.
In 2014, two 12-year-old girls stabbed a classmate of the same age multiple times. The victim managed to crawl from the woods, where she was left to bleed to death from 19 stab wounds, and get help. She survived and her attackers were arrested. While the mental health of both attackers has been called into question, they are facing trial for attempted murder as adults. Both girls admit to wanting to commit the murder to please Slenderman, who they worshipped and feared.
Directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky, HBO’s documentary examines both the growth of the Slenderman story and how it allegedly inspired this crime. On hand to discuss the events are digital folklorist Trevor J. Blank, Ph.D.; Brad Kim, editor-in-chief of KnowYourMeme.com; evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, Ph.D.; literary critic Jack Zipes, Ph.D.; neurodevelopmental psychologist Abigail Baird, Ph.D.; and psychologist Jacqueline Woolley, Ph.D.
Often when children commit terrible crimes, the question comes up as to whether films, music, and other media are called to question. Whether violent images and words influence children to commit terrible crimes is a frequent question. This documentary should offer some insights to that theory, with a focus on the internet and how readily accessible information is, including access to stories like Slenderman. After all, this was not the only crime committed in Slenderman’s name, it’s simply the most famous.
Beware the Slenderman premieres Monday January 23 at 10 pm on HBO.