Slenderman: The Boogeyman For a New Generation

“Oh, should I travel through the woods, or should I not wishing I would? For above me lurks within the trees, no one could hear my deathly screams. The palest man, the blackest suit, bigger than the tallest brute. Six black arms will grab you up, or will stalk you till you just give up. He’ll leave your body not to eat, but to staple your corpse upon a tree. Fear the man, the Slenderman, for he can do what no one can.” – Creepypasta

Written by: Hayden Gnat & Isabelle Odeh

Starting with a 911 call describing the finding of a little girl who had been stabbed, the Slenderman stabbing case takes us on a whirlwind. 12-year-olds Anissa Weier, and Morgan Geyser lead Payton Leutner to the park in the early morning. While in the bathroom, Anissa, and Morgan attack Payton by banging her head on the concrete wall. “I’m sorry.” Morgan says as she begins to stab Payton 19 times. Anissa and Morgan leave Payton to die as they walk through the park and to Slender Mansion, a mansion they think is real, to be with Slenderman. Payton survives and gets help. Anissa and Morgan are picked up by the cops and the scary story of what happened unwraps. 

Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser recount the story of Slenderman, a fictional character who preys on children and will hurt their families. Over 7 feet tall, dressed in a suit, having no face and a white head, Anissa and Morgan are convinced that if they don’t sacrifice Payton, Slenderman would kill their families. Thus, the reason behind the stabbing is revealed. Slenderman is a meme originating from the website CreepyPasta. Flying through various media outlets like YouTube and has been in many forms of literature and art, as well as video games such as Minecraft. There have been movies made about Slenderman, with the most recent one coming out in 2018. The hunting of Slenderman pulls those in and spits them out in the most gruesome way in the case of the Slenderman Stabbing.

In the documentary, “Beware the Slenderman” the idea of the impact social media and the influx of content can have on children is heavily highlighted throughout. We are shown in the documentary many varying types of social media memes, videos, and photos. The filmmakers were able to really put the audience member into the minds of Anissa and Morgan, garnering sympathy as a viewer. Going from cute cat videos to pet feeding videos to Slenderman images, the filmmakers force the viewer to see the world through these young girls’ lens. This could possibly lead to a bias in viewing, but the documentarians do their due diligence by giving multiple viewpoints from professionals who build a strong character case about the two young girls, so we get an understanding that while these girls have underlying issues, they were still failed by a system and social network that never had their best interests at heart. 

By the end of the film, we are given a very clear timeline of what happened between these three friends. In 2014, Anissa Weier, Morgan Geyser and Payton Leutner, all children, came together for Morgan’s birthday party, which happened to be a sleepover. Anissa and Morgan, who know fully about Slenderman, plan to sacrifice Payton and become a servant of Slenderman. They planned to lead her out in the middle of the night, but instead, go out to a park in the early morning. They lead her to the bathroom, crash her head on the concrete wall, and begin to stab her 19 times. She survives and Anissa and Morgan are found and arrested. Both are charged with attempted murder. Anissa and Morgan tell officers all about Slenderman and how they were afraid he would kill their family if they didn’t do this. Through psychiatrists Morgan is diagnosed with schizophrenia, which leads her to a mental institution, while Anissa ends up in prison. Tried as adults, Morgan receives 40 years in a mental institution and Anissa is sentenced to 25 years in a mental institution as well. These girls are victims of the horrendous side of the digital age surrounding them. Through the internet they are led to believe in a fictional character and are then convinced to almost kill someone. Media has influences that reach far past the screen. Three girls’ lives were all ruined because of the impact of the digital age.  

Furthermore, when looking at the way the documentary is designed and created, there’s a few insights we could pull from that. For instance, some of the basic elements in this documentary would be interviews with Weier and Geyser’s families, live footage of the girls throughout the investigation/trial, major sound cues and the lack of a very important perspective: Payton. This documentary does a great job giving the viewer all of the insight about the girls through these elements, but one of the most glaring oversights would be that Payton never once makes an appearance herself in this documentary, but instead we are relying on other’s interpretations of Payton to get a good sense of who the victim is. Now, in saying that, the documentarians could have contacted Payton for an interview, but the documentary makes no mention of whether they reached out or not. This documentary ultimately does a very similar appeal like “Making a Murderer” with garnering sympathy for those who were the perpetrators and not focusing much attention on to the victims of these crimes. 

Currently streaming on HBO Max, “Beware the Slenderman”, is a poignant documentary focusing on the tragic story of how two young girls grapple with mental health, pressures from the virtual world they were inhabiting and a slew of ill-conceived plans. All these factors were a recipe for disaster for these young girls, but none more so than Payton Leutner, who’s name isn’t brought up enough. It’s important to note, as of This incident has also sparked enough interest in pop culture to spawn/inspire a horror movie in 2018 called Slender Man, exploring Slenderman’s history and adding material to the canon of Slenderman. Slenderman still lives on today through meme culture, artist renditions of his famous appearance and through the dreams of every scared child today. 

Morgan Geyser (Left) & Anissa Weier at a court hearing. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press. (2018).

For more information on Anissa Weier’s release in 2021, you can visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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