Oh BBC Three. I was sad when you guys went off the air and moved your service online. I’ve binged on your channel’s offerings for ten years or so, staying up until the early hours watching Don’t Tell The Bride and Family Guy. Even in your twilight days on TV, we had some amazing documentaries such as the one about the murder of Breck Bednar which moved me to tears – my tweet actually made the page that I’ve linked here. And so far I’ve been impressed with your offerings on your YouTube channel – especially seeing as you’ve brought on the very funny Maxim Bady – but I am shaking my head at you right now. This morning after my first OU tutorial, I went onto YouTube to catch up with my subscribed channels when I was greeted with this video.
Titled ‘Who is the Slenderman? | EXCLUSIVE’, this three minute video tells a very ‘too long: didn’t read;’ version of the history of the internet phenomenon known as the slender man, and how the creepy fictional being influenced two 12-year-old girls in Wisconsin to brutally stab and attempt to kill a friend they lured to the forest to appease the fictional character they believed was real. After the incident back in 2014, investigators found various disturbing things in the bedrooms of the attackers, included mutilated dolls, drawings and even a plan for the murder of the other girl. Amazingly, their victim survived her ordeal and I can only hope Payton Lautner gets plenty of support in living her life in peace.
Also in the video, they show us how the series Marble Hornets started and noted how the ‘obsessed fans’ dedicated their love for the legend through art, writings and video series.
Now, there are two things about this video that have pissed me off. Firstly, this story is far from ‘exclusive’. Aside from the huge amount of coverage that this case had at the time and afterwards, HBO recently announced they’ll be showing a documentary about the case two years after the attack took place – something I am enraged about and I’m writing about for Some Nerd Girl. There is nothing in this video that is exclusive. Be very careful with your use of the word, BBC Three. The HBO film made its debut yesterday at the SXSW Film Festival in Texas and will be released later this year.
The second thing about this video? Sure, they point out how Victor Surge (‘creator’ of the myth as we know it today) sent his regards as well as the notice from creepypasta.com that the slender man isn’t real. Do you know what side of the story that is NEVER acknowledged whenever this stuff is dug up in the press? The one of the various creators who have built on the so-called ‘internet urban legend.’
The creators of Marble Hornets were devastated by this incident, going as far as to hold off further filming of their series as it drew to a close as a sign of respect for the victim. American media went crazy and hunted down every popular slender man series online, using every opportunity they could to show the creature in their flashy reports. They hounded the creators in an effort to get quotes to manipulate to whatever ends they wanted. Adam Rosner, creator of the series TribeTwelve was horrified by what happened, so much so that he openly spoke about stopping his series. The team behind EverymanHYBRID were defiant in the face of the adversity, maintaining that they were not responsible for the girls’ actions.
Now, I’ll be honest friends. I am biased. I have been a fan of the internet boogeyman myself since 2009 when The Ex introduced me to Marble Hornets. A few years later I began to follow the other named series as well as others, enjoying the interactive and creative ways to move along the stories. It helped me out of a very dark place in my life after MFP left. I made friends with a good number of creators and fellow fans, and was even inspired to make my own series like many others. I look at the girls in their mugshots and I get a twinge in my chest – I was a 12 year old girl who loved horror films, blood and violence, as well as imagining I could be somewhere far away from home. The key theme of the slender man mythos is creativity – or at least, those who know better will know this is the case.
Because there are those out there who will take what they see and believe it is real. These types of fans have been around for a very long time, and speaking as someone with a mental illness it is clear that these people aren’t well. The two girls at the centre of this case, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weir have been under intense psychiatric evaluation. At the time of writing, Geyser has been diagnosed with childhood onset schizophrenia, noted to suffer from hallucinations and delusions going beyond believing that the slender man is a real being. Weir had previously defended herself by stating she was just doing as Geyser had told her. Both girls may end up being tried in an adult court as opposed to a juvenile court – if they are convicted as adults, they may spend up to 65 years in prison for their crime. If that’s the case, they will be locked up with very little access to successful psychiatric care and support. They will lose what’s left of their childhood and be confined to darkness, spending the rest of their days trying to stay alive in the prison system.
Even to this day, there are fans that believe that slender man is a real being. They also believe that the proxy characters of Marble Hornets are real, that the Observer of TribeTwelve is real, that the psychotic HABIT of EverymanHYBRID is real. The simple fact is; they’re not. There are real people behind those fictional characters, and they are people I have spoken to over the years – they are real. Their characters are not. The slender man is not. But sometimes for those with a broken enough mind, it is safer to hide in frightening fiction than face the brutality that can come with real life.
And it’s the real lives of those involved in this case that should be respected. Sensationalised works like the one on BBC Three this morning, and that HBO presented yesterday do nothing to allow this peace, and it brings no justice. Just like the coverage of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and every other tragic atrocity where they delve into the broken psyche of the perpetrators and blame it all on music/films/video games. All it serves to do is allow for a moral panic amongst the ill-informed, and makes victims of balanced, stable fans who know that the slender man is nothing more than fantasy.
If BBC Three wants an exclusive, they can try looking outside the box as opposed to following the crowd – something they allegedly stood against as a channel. It seems that might not be the case, sadly.
The media needs to stop blaming the fictional monsters, and start looking at why two pre-teen girls turned to murder for something that doesn’t even exist.