How many of you had to read the Crucible in English and literature classes? The book about the witch trials that left you wondering if there was anyone there who actually was a witch or actually did deserve to die. The witch trials were a very real thing. Puritans used them to sort out the people that were supposedly causing crops to fail, pregnancies to miscarry, diseases to spread, and bad days to exist. When religion and science couldn’t come up with an answer, they blamed a witch, and they never didn’t find the witch. Or someone witch-y enough to burn at the stake in her or his place. Everyone developed methods of finding a witch, ‘documenting’ their experiences in witches covens, dark rituals, and infernal gatherings.
But, in 2014, we don’t worry about that. Witches as they were described are now reduced to stories and Halloween movies. We don’t have to worry about people inventing some dark character to explain phenomena, or create a monster when there isn’t any.
And then there’s Slender Man. We know he’s fictional, we know he was created 8 years ago for some college project, we know his usual haunt isn’t in
wooded areas but on forums like 4chan and creepypasta, but gosh darn it, he’s to blame when something goes wrong. Doctored photos are growing en masse, ‘documented sighting‘ of the Slender Man are filling up Youtube, and believers in this creature also call him by mythological names such as dybbuk and Windigo.
Oh, the dog’s barking at nothing out the back porch?
What’s that funny shape in the photograph?
Your camera fuzzes out for a second, or your cell coverage drops for a split second?
The temperature drops enough to make you shiver?
Take a guess.
Now, if you happen to be a Whovian, you would have answered The Silence before Slender Man, and I have to agree. However, believing in the Silence is just as ludicrous as blaming it on Slender Man.
Then the news lights up with the story of two girls who stabbed a friend. The friend luckily survived getting stabbed 19 times. When asked why these two twelve year olds would ever commit such a crime, they said because Slender Man’s existence needed to be validated. If they could kill their friend, he would show himself to them to take the deceased away, they said. They spent their entire trial insisting that Slender Man told them to do it, that they needed him to be real.
But, that’s a one time deal, right? Statistically anomalous. Just a couple of months later, a 13 year old girl stabbed her mother in the name of Slender Man. Starting to sound familiar? Sounds a bit more like the events of the old with trials and The Crucible.
So, our question becomes ‘why do we, in our enlightened and scientific world, still try and enforce false realities?’ I mean, you’d think if they wanted an
alternate reality that Hogwarts would have been a better choice. Not everything is out to kill you in Hogwarts unless you’ve got a rather interesting shaped scar on your forehead.
My only conclusion is that there is still that great big realm of stuff we can’t explain and science has basically shrugged its shoulders and thrown in the towel. Cryptozoology seems to be the back burner that so much gets resigned to when we aren’t able to completely and quantifiably prove something. In other words, it becomes the job of legends and folklore to pick up where science left off.
But we all do that. We’ve all made that complaint about the legendary Car Key Gnomes that misplace stuff. We’ve cursed the sock monster that lives in the dryer and makes just one sock disappear. We still talk about bugs in the system even though we know no such insects could possibly live in modern devices.
Slender Man is an extreme example, and like everyone else, I’m praying that this year is the one and only year we see so much tragedy blamed on a known fictional character. Yet Slender Man is now entranced in our American Folklore. Just like the Minotaur of Greece or the Kappa of Japan, Slender Man is a construct designed to make tangible our fears, because if we can see an enemy, we can kill it. If we can see what we’re facing, it’s nowhere near as scary as the enemy we can’t see.
Slender Man is American Mythology, and one that will still be talked about for future generations, just like the Salem Witch Trials.