My brain hurt like a warehouse it had no room to spare
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there
And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people
And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people
I never thought I'd need so many people…
-David Bowie, Five Years
If you had asked me as recently as two weeks ago if I thought the fifth anniversary of Slenderman's birth – today – was worth noting, I would have probably have said, "not so much". Other than the news that a feature length adaptation of the first (and still best) Slenderman video blog Marble Hornets had been announced, there was a feeling that the world's first open-source monster was fading into the background.
Sites were shutting, Tumblr blogs such as Ask Slenderman were posting less and less often and shedding staff. And, though I still find the mythos that has appeared around him fascinating, I would have thought few others would still be interested.
That was before last week. Before Wisconsin.
The tragic events in the town of Waukesha, Wisconsin – in which two 12 year old girls attacked a third as an alleged sacrifice to Slenderman – horrified the world. Suddenly, every news agency was asking "what is Slenderman?" – the monster, it seemed, had finally found its wider audience. The suggestion of a possible second incident in Hamilton County, Ohio, and the fact that recent Las Vegas cop-killer Jerad Miller cosplayed as Slenderman (and The Joker) only emphasises this.
As readers of Darklore will know, I’ve been watching the Slenderman phenomenon for over half of his lifespan (looking both at Slenderman’s origins and the possibility of killing at least local manifestations of it). One of the most significant aspects of the entire Slenderman mythos has been the way that Slenderman has slipped across the permeable membrane between fiction and reality – occupying a very old definition of the concept of myth, while simultaneously being a child of the most modern aspects of communication.
Right from the very start, Slenderman crossed that line again and again – within the mythos, he has always been shown as a creature capable of crossing supposedly rigid boundaries of space and time effortlessly, and it is apt that this nature is reflected in the wider expression of the myth. In the videos purporting to be found footage of those unfortunates to have crossed his path, for the participants in the many Alternate Reality Games that appeared to further tell his tale, or simply those who, for a second, when playing the Slender game felt his faceless gaze upon them and shivered in terror… his presence is becoming more and more palpable.
Whether you call it by the anthropological term ostension, see it as a manifestation of the hyper-real nature of how we perceive and are altered by symbols in times saturated them, or even believe that Slenderman is truly a new form of deity… there is no question that those entities whose birthplaces were in known fictional works are becoming more and more influential.
Slenderman may simply be the first. Learning what to to do about that may become an important question for our times. It may even offer the possibility of understanding how all our beliefs sway us, can drive us to both atrocity and gnosis.
However it plays out, the next five years of Slenderman will certainly be worth watching closely.