Written by Jonathan Wojcik
IT FINALLY HAPPENED.
We're about to cover a lot of territory that many of you are already well-acquainted with. A lot of territory the internet has already analyzed and argued over again and again, but trust me, I'm building up to something special. Something I haven't seen anybody, anywhere, making any fuss over until I sat down to hammer this one out. We're making history here, you and I. We're going to be reviewing something totally totally new, amazing and wonderful at the bottom of this page. NO! Don't skip! I have some OPINIONS!!!
If you've spent any significant amount of time on the internet over the past five years, it's likely you've seen, heard or read something or other about a figure referred to as the Slenderman, an unnatural tall, ominous being in a snazzy black suit who may or may not have black, branching tentacles and is prone to making people disappear by some unspecified means.
Some say this modern bogeyman was invented on exactly June 10, 2009, when a member of the Something Awful forums photoshopped a thin, faceless figure into some old pictures. Others say he was ripped off from Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw's Chzo Mythos. Still others maintain that the Slenderman is, in fact, an "authentic" paranormal mystery with ancient mythological roots, but those probably include some of the same people who maintain that they're married to Digimon on the astral plane.
Slenderman's popularity really began to snowball when he became the focus of an independent, ongoing youtube series, Marble Hornets, about a bunch of people videotaping nothing for extended periods of time and then I guess there's some Slenderman. I'll admit, I was finding it pretty creepy in its early days, before its slow, plodding build turned into a slow, plodding everything. Nonetheless, it sowed slender's slimy seeds around the web, inspiring an exponential onslaught of skinnyduder stories, fan-art, parodies and hundreds of other videos. The phenomenon has even caught the eye of the academic community, referred to in one BBC radio show as one of the "first great myths" of internet culture.
In the Summer of 2012, Parsec Productions released "Slender: The Eight Pages," a simple but well-received and completely free horror game made famous by the antics of gaming dorks like the Rage Quit guys. Once more, Slenderman's fame was given a shot of adrenaline, resulting in a successful sequel game and numerous imitations.
With the announcement of "ENTITY," a relatively big-budget theatrical film still seeing delays, many believed Slenderman had finally transcended the status of a mere internet meme and gone truly "mainstream." It remains to be seen whether "ENTITY" propels Slenderson to the ranks of such celebrated horror icons as Jason Vorhees or Freddy Kreuger, but He Who Slends has almost become as household a name even without cinematic recognition.
Slenderman plays rather effectively on some of our most ubiquitous fears. He embodies all the dread that comes with any mysterious, lurking stranger, takes it for a brief dip in the Uncanny Valley and adds the almost universal horror of ambiguity. Nobody has ever really decided what the Slenderman is, where he comes from, what he wants, or even what becomes of his victims. He's a weird, creepy thing that comes and gets you, and that's basically it, but that's a special sort of fear basically everyone has experienced, isn't it? The fear of just sort of being "gotten." It's easy to see how such a fundamental bogeyman could catch on so hard and fast in the public subconscious.
And through that entire rapid rise to fame, I've basically maintained the same steady reaction:
Don't get me wrong, I understand the appeal, as I hope I've demonstrated well enough. I think it's damn cool that the internet is keeping the art of the spook-tale alive enough that people are even arguing over the Narrowguy really existing or not, but I've only ever really admired Sir Spindly from afar, at best. Perhaps people take him just a little too seriously for me to get into, or perhaps the lore has been growing too much. When we start to talk about Slendo as some magical, child-eating fallen angel or Nyarlathotep's lawn guy, he kind of loses that vague, ambiguous "weird stranger" quality that made him even as interesting as he was to begin with, which, let's be honest here, was never especially any more interesting than thousands of other ghouls and ghasts out there; this one just got a little lucky, and was, up to now, even starting to grate a little.
We get it, Slend. You're too skinny and you're going to get us. It's a cute trick, but isn't it time to pack up your bags and give somebody else a turn? It's not like there's any further you can go...is there?
I'm going to let you take a moment to soak in what you've just scrolled past. Feel free to scroll back up, and do it again if you need to.
I trust some of you already realize what you're looking at.
These giant, fan-powered inflatable whosits are a relatively recent invention in the art of gaudy holiday decor, but once they caught on, they caught on big. You can find them at drug stores, grocery stores, hardware stores, basically anywhere you might also find any other holiday decoration for any reason whatsoever. For Halloween, they're available in a mind-boggling array of classic, kid-friendly imagery; snarling werewolves, grim reapers, ghost-faced trees, and now a blood-stained fucking Slenderman.
Giant, inflatable Slenderman is approximately one hundred dollars, and he is already available everywhere you can buy this kind of crap on the internet. Every Halloween supplier has added him to their catalog. Chances are good that he might even be haunting some actual, physical, public retail outlets; that someone who has never even touched a computer could, hypothetically, be blowing him up on their front lawns as we speak, surrounding him with styrofoam tombstones and smiling cartoon spiders to give candy-hunting children an innocent, harmless spookifying.
I am so, so proud of him.
This is it. This is what it took for me to truly fall in love with Slender's legacy. To see a figure from internet creepypasta officially join the ranks of Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and Pumpkin-headed scarecrows brings a tear to my eye. A mass-produced Slenderman costume was available as early as 2012, yes, but costumes based on internet memes are nothing new, nor significantly different from costumes based on the trendiest film or television characters. A gigantic lawn balloon, though? That's completely fucking different. Do you have any idea how long it's been since an entirely new category of monster has found a niche in royalty-free Holiday capitalism? I'm not so sure it's happened in almost any of our lifetimes, unless you're old enough to remember when Boris Karloff put a bold new spin on a Mary Shelley classic.
And the very best part, the real beauty of it all, is how perfect Slenderman is for this role. He's immediately recognizable, yet he's as simple to reproduce as a zombie or a sheet-ghost. A monochrome humanoid with a smooth, featureless head should be the easiest thing in the world to manufacture as a bendy toy, a hanging scarecrow or a marshmallow-and-gummy treat.
Welcome, Slenderman, to your true destiny.
Welcome...to your real family.