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Sunday, December 05, 2010

OLL LEWIS: The Slender Man (or the creation of a modern myth)

It is reported that in 1972 the Toronto Society for Psychical Research met with the intention of seeing if it were possible to actually invent a ghost or poltergeist. They named their “ghost” Philip Aylesford and set up a detailed biography for him containing lots of the sorts of stereotypical details you find in the most popular and clichéd creepy ghost stories: events taking place during the English civil war, a stately home, witchcraft, gypsies, a doomed love affair, a horrific execution on trumped-up charges and a violent death. The group then met in well lit rooms to visualise Philip and after a year of this moved on to séances and such like where they started to receive positive results suggesting that Philip had now become an entity independent of the TSPR.

Of course all that is pure conjecture because séances are pretty easy to fake but if you believe the TSPR account then they created some sort of tulpa or zooform phenomena, purely by believing it. Whether hoax (as I strongly suspect) or not, the story of Philip has become one of the most often quoted bits of modern folklore, is trotted out in most books written about the nature of ghosts and has become a modern myth. People all over the world have reported making some form of contact with Philip ever since.

Many people have tried to replicate the alleged success of the Philip group by attempting to create their own ghosts or zooform phenomena in the same way, and some have even gone on to become popular local folklore, like lizard-men or goat-men said to stalk lonely woodlands in the United States on the lookout for “no-good teens” and other rapscallions, for example. In the last 18 months a similar myth has grown through the internet and is starting to enter local urban mythologies all over the world: The Slender Man.

The Slender Man started off in a post in a long thread on the Something Awful Forums where people contributed fake paranormal photographs they had created. Most of the posts were either ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot or the occasional screaming face reflected in a stream or window, but The Slender Man struck a chord with people as it was something that sounded a bit more creepy than the rest of the stuff on the thread and had an intriguing back story. In the words of its poster, Victor Surge:


One of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze. 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.

“1986, photographer: Mary Thomas, missing since June 13th, 1986.

Buoyed by the comments his first post had received Surge added more pictures of The Slender Man to the thread, and accounts and 'evidence' of more incidents involving a tall thin man that had tentacles instead of hands and no discernible facial features. The Slender Man was often involved in incidents involving missing persons, often but not always children, and all that was left behind as evidence was a camera with pictures of The Slender Man on it, a child's drawing or hastily scrawled writing warning of The Slender Man.

The Slender Man soon started appearing on other popular websites like 4chan's paranormal board /x/ from where the fame of this Stephen-King-style creature boomed among the more internet-savvy members of the population and it flourished as a low-key internet meme. Since its introduction several people around the world have invented their own sightings, adding to the mythos of the strange man-like creature. It will be interesting to see just how this develops, and if and when people who don't know of The Slender Man's origins start to report sightings of a tall man without a face and very long fingers....

8 comments:

CFZ Australia said...

Interesting piece! I was involved with a Philip-style experiment in 2001 for a period of 18 months. Our aim also was to 'create a ghost' and I believe we succeeded. I'm presently engaged in finishing a manuscript on the same so I won't go into detail, other than to say it is possible, it has been done before and under the right conditions can no doubt be done again. The Philip group may be the best known, but it was by no means the only research group at that time engaged in psi research - other groups were around and recorded similar success.

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

Given that 4chan is involved, I am moved to wonder if the Slender Man uses a Rick Astley song as a soundtrack...

Greatbeast said...

Actually, I've never heard the 'Philip" story dismissed as a hoax. Interested parties can read the full scoop in the classic tome, Conjuring up Philip: An Adventure In Psychokinesis by Iris M Owen.

AJ said...

That last picture sort of makes me think of Light Yagami. Slenderlight anyone?

Cam said...

i agree AJ it does look like light alot...slenderlight lol

Cam said...

I agree Aj it does look like kira alot slenderlight...lol

Aleksi said...

Actually, I know a girl, I'll not say her name though, who says she has been seeing a tall, slender man with no face look at her from her window in the second floor, she says it's also stalking her. The weird thing is that she says she didn't know of anything like the slender man when he began appearing, also se says her sister and friends have seen him in the windows. After I suggested it, she left a camera to film the window when it was night (a bit Marble Hornet style, lol). She says she managed to get him on tape, but that she doesn't dare to show it to anyone because she knows slendy will not like it. I am almost 100% sure she's not lying, and it seems a bit unlikely that it's only hallucinations, because others have seen him, and at least she believes she has him on tape. She also said he didn't look like the somwthingawful slendy, more grotesque, like he had no skin and no clothes, but still a stretching, stalking, faceless, slender man. Creepy, isn't isn`t?

Hoodie said...

My friends and I have been following the web shows and wierd things have hapened when we got really scared of the Marble Hornets story line. Like my friend fell a fence and some of the scratches made perfect operator symbols (x)
Then wierd writing and symbols apeared on my desks at school. some carved an inch into the wood.