- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Wisconsin court ruled Wednesday that two 14-year-old girls who stabbed a classmate 19 times in homage to an internet urban legend called Slender Man will be tried as adults.

Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier were 12 at the time of the 2014 attack, as was their victim, who survived the stabbing. The preteen would-be killers said they were inspired by the supernaturally lanky and faceless man in a dark suit.

“We need to kill to prove ourselves worthy of the Slender,” the girls told police.

Slender Man is a fictional horror character who uses his long tendrils to abduct children. He quickly rose to web stardom after being created for a paranormal Photoshop challenge in 2009.

Under the internet alias “Victor Surge,” Florida resident Eric Knudsen edited a demonic character into the backgrounds of black-and-white photos of children. The photos quickly began to pop up on paranormal sites as reality.

“One of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze,” read the original caption to one of Mr. Knudsen’s images. “Notable for being taken the day which fourteen children vanished and for what is referred to as ‘The Slender Man.’ Deformities cited as film defects by officials. Fire at library occurred one week later. Actual photograph confiscated as evidence.”

Slender Man was born.

Since blowing up the internet in blogs, video games and photos, his presence has become a harbinger of doom, wrote TechCrunch contributor John Biggs. Slender Man isn’t necessarily a killer, but he is the sign of coming bloodshed.

Slender Man does not directly kill his victims. Instead, he encourages others to in order to please him,” Mr. Biggs wrote.

The Wisconsin girls had hoped to enlist Slender Man’s help in protecting their families, so they lured their friend Payton Leutner into a wooded park to carry out their attack. One night earlier, the three enjoyed a birthday slumber party at Miss Geyser’s house — where they initially had planned to kill her.

Miss Geyser and Miss Weier decided to give Payton “one more day.”

Dr. Stephen Diamond, a forensic and clinical adult psychiatrist, said the girls’ obsession with Slender Man could be something akin to Satanism.

“It seems like what they were doing in a way was trying to make a sacrifice, in the same way that people who worship the devil believe in the necessity of making a sacrifice to win [Satan’s] favor,” Dr. Diamond said.

They were introduced to Slender Man mythology via a paranormal website called Creepypasta Wiki, where online legends and horror stories abound. The site provides stories and photos to prove his existence — the images Mr. Knudsen created for the Photoshop contest in 2009. Many of the photos look normal upon first glance, but a closer look reveals a sickly man with tentacle arms in the background.

Part of the appeal of Slender Man is his elusiveness; he is hard to find and is never seen attacking anyone.

“I like him because most Creepypastas [online horror stories] try to scare you with blood, gore, and if you’re lucky hyper-realistic blood,” one blogger wrote on Reddit. “Slender Man scared me with psychological horror; making me scared of fields, trees, and sometimes nothing. He has made me as paranoid as I’ve been in my life and I love the thrill.”

In one Slender Man video game, players run through the woods trying to find pieces of paper before the demon appears. When he does, there is no violence. The screen fades to white, leaving the result of Slender Man’s appearance to the gamer’s imagination.

However, authorities know exactly what happened to the victim in the Wisconsin woods. Miss Geyser and Miss Weier stabbed Payton 19 times and left her for dead. The victim was described as a “millimeter from death,” bleeding from a major artery near her heart upon arrival at a hospital.

The level of violence attained in the assault has led some to question the impact of internet use on children. Though Steve Albrecht — a threat assessment analyst from California — didn’t think Slender Man’s online presence was to blame for the attack, he did say that scary internet games and stories can play roles in grooming children for violent acts.

“The primary issue is desensitization,” said Mr. Albrecht. “They don’t see what they’re doing as having real consequences. Kids harm other kids and just don’t realize the gravity of what they’ve done.”

Miss Geyser and Miss Weier could face up to 65 years in prison for attempted first-degree intentional homicide, if convicted.

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