Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th movies that blended the sick with occasional flashes of surreal humor. I was mildly fascinated by real-life stories of mass murderers like John Wayne Gacy or lesser-known local weirdos like Gary Heidnik. I listened to the kind of satanic metal that sounded vaguely like it was already being played backwards and pretty much openly mentioned Satan. (The PMRC was the one thing that really messed me up with regards to supporting Al Gore...) I thought about executing grisly revenge on the daily as a nerdy-ass bullied teen.
In other words, I was a completely normal, wholesome American teenager. That's why the story about two Wisconsin girls stabbing their friend because they wanted to become "proxies" of a fictional bogeyman didn't actually surprise me. Exactly. But some of the implications are actually horrifying. Let me get one thing out of the way--I am not scared of the bogeyman, but adolescents are pretty scary.
I remember being an adolescent, but you don't actually get why adolescence is weird until you are old enough to be the parent of one, and wonder how the hell you actually survived. In adolescence, you are becoming physically adult, and are given the privilege to do some adult things (date, drive, be on your own). But you are still unaware of consequences, and still hold certain cradle misunderstandings about how the world works. And your emotions--let's talk about teen feelings? They are vehement. When an adolescent says "I hate you!", even if it's over a curfew misunderstanding, it is a white hot hate like a thousand suns. If youngsters fall in love, it's like no one ever did this before, and it was fated to be, and the God of Love carved their names in stone tablets for all eternity. You know. Until whatever. And let's just mention fandom. When you see the screaming fans of Justin for crying out loud Bieber, you almost understand how Maenads were alleged to tear apart cattle (or men) with their bare hands.
Which isn't to put down young people--oh no. They need that energy to become the adult people they are meant to be. It's a phase where reckless things are tried because experiences are needed to learn about life and mistakes can be made--and well? This incredibly poor judgment can lead to incredibly dumb things if left unchecked. Even murder. Sometimes blamed on a fictional entity. But this is not a cause--just like heavy metal or slasher films or Natural Born Killers or Stephen King's Richard Bachman novella Rage were not causes of post hoc awfulness.
People are just fucked up if they can't tell fiction from reality--if that's the case, seriously, no music, video games, movies, or tv are ever okay because who knows? That's intolerable. But some people do lodge themselves in fantasyland. Elliot Rodgers made a fantasy about women. These girls had a fantasy about a powerful "other" that they could be proxies of (and get protection from.)
Slenderman isn't a new thing. As a meme, he reminds me a lot of Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street. Freddy Krueger exists in dreams, but has real-life effects. In the seventh picture in the Nightmare series, A New Nightmare, the premise was that Freddy Krueger had become real, drawing power from having been seen by so many people in the preceding films. Slenderman is supposed to operate on the same principle--the so-called "Tulpa effect." (Or has become an internet "servitor", if you are feeling western modern magick-y.) If people have a shared experience of what Slenderman is supposed to be, look like, and does, is he really all that fictional?
Well, I don't know about all that. But there is a powerful brain/body connection where acting "as if" does make things happen, that uncanny area of the mind where fake it to make it and the self-fulfilling prophecy come from. And that is how, by angsty kids wanting to be Slenderman's proxies, Slenderman somehow gets his deadly business done. Without ever even having to be real in the first place.
Not that I believe in Slender. Just that I recognize the impulse for people to act on things they believe, even if untrue, and to be reinforced in that belief if it is repeated often, and to act on examples just in the way copycat killers do. Whatever it is that makes a meme go viral, could make this kind of killing go viral.
It doesn't take all that much for ideas to become things. That's why I find this particular thing to be mighty spooky.