The Slenderman might not be a real entity, but that doesn't mean that the mythical internet figure hasn't managed to do real harm.
The nation was captivated when two teenage girls aged just 12 were arrested for luring a fellow pupil into the woods in Waukesha, Wisconsin under the premise that Slenderman had asked them to take her life. Although she was brutally stabbed multiple times and left "one millimeter away from certain death," luckily 12-year-old Payton Leutner survived
This haunting tale that centers around the devastating way internet fiction can bleed into real-life is being turned into a HBO documentary entitled Beware The Slenderman, but if you want to get up to speed with the case before you tune in, read how the near-deadly tale unravelled below.
Who Is Slenderman?
Although he might masquerade as some sort of haunting entity who has been stalking the world for centuries, the Slenderman (sometimes written Slender Man) is actually a creation born entirely of the internet.
The character was developed after a photoshop competition for Something Awful in 2009 and the resulting image inspired the collective imagination so much that it became a kernel for various sinister works of fiction.
Enter Creepy Pasta, the website that truly helped to popularize the be-tentacled beast and wedge his mythological firmly into web culture.
While the image of Slenderman might be familiar, his supposed powers aren't as well known, or as well-developed. According to Slendy mythology the tall, gaunt, faceless figure can cause amnesia and paranoid behavior in individuals which can lead to insanity. He is preoccupied with children and can often be seen stalking them in the forest, although the fate of his victims is generally, and deliberately, ambiguous.
After devouring pages and pages of Slenderman fiction online, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser allegedly decided that they must become his "proxies" in order to save their families from the evil entity.
After ploughing through internet literature, Anissa and Morgan decided the only way to protect their families from harm was to murder someone as a dedication to Slender Man. It is reported that the tweens believed that once the crime was committed, they would become Slenderman's servants and be allowed to live alongside him in a mansion in the forest.
The pair chose a mutual friend who attended the same middle school as a target and began to plan their murderous attack. All three girls attended a sleepover for Geyser's birthday party on May 31, 2014, and Anissa and Morgan decided the murder would take place at 2am that night.
The pair backed out of their plan to lure the victim into the woods that night and stabbed her in the neck with a kitchen knife after one of the perpetrators decided she deserved another day to live. The following night, however, was a different story.
Payton Leutner was a classmate and mutual friend of both of the girls who attempted to murder her. She was 12-years-old at the time of the attack, but managed to survive after crawling to a cycle path and being discovered by a passer-by.
Chillingly, Morgan (the girl who actually stabbed Payton) was described by Payton's parents as her "best friend" who had been close to the victim since the fourth grade.
The plot to kill Payton was allegedly in the works for months and those investigating found the level of detail involved one of the most shocking things about the case.
According to Anissa, it was Morgan's idea to kill Payton to prove themselves "worthy" of the Slenderman's attention. Both of the perpetrators made it very clear to police that they intended to kill the victim as a sacrifice to Slenderman, although they did not succeed in their murderous mission.
Although it was all mapped out, the day of the attack went differently to how Morgan and Anissa planned. They intended to stab Payton in a public bathroom in a public park, but were worried that there was no drain to wash the blood down and, essentially, chickened out of the heinous task.
After their failed mission to the park, they persuaded Payton to go to a nearby woods under the guise of playing a game of hide and seek. Anissa hid with the victim and made her lay on the ground in order to be better hidden. She then sat on Payton so Morgan could come and stab her with the five-inch kitchen knife they had stolen.
Morgan took the the knife and said "I'm not going to do it until you tell me too," to which Anissa replied:
These words unleashed a furious attack and Morgan stabbed Payton 19 times after allegedly whispering "I'm so sorry" into her ear.
Payton sustained catastrophic injuries from the attack with 19 wounds to her arms, legs and abdomen. Two of the stab wounds were to major arteries; one close to the heart and another through her diaphragm, cutting into her liver and stomach.
Despite the devastating nature of her injuries, Payton was still conscious after the attack. Morgan and Anissa told her they were going to go and get help before actually fleeing the scene and leaving the stabbed girl to die.
Somehow, Payton found the strength to crawl out of the woods and onto a nearby cycle path before being discovered by a passerby. She said she managed the colossal feat because she "wanted to live."
After The Attack
Although Payton was mere millimeters from death when she was discovered by a cyclist, she was rushed to hospital and made a full recovery after life-saving surgery to her damaged arteries. Before she was put under the anaesthetic, she managed to tell police who had stabbed her and chase was on to capture Morgan and Anissa.
Police picked Geyser and Weier up on a roadside 9km away from the scene of the crime. After leaving their victim for dead, they washed up in a local Walmart bathroom, refilled their water bottles and continued on their journey to Nicolet National Forest, where they believed the Slenderman's mansion would be open to them.
Both perpetrators were carrying keepsakes from their families to remember them in their new lives. Weier also left two messages on her mobile phone in case it was found, one left all her possessions to her parents, while the other read:
“This is my final wish to those who care, do not grieve my absence, but remember me for who I was. I love and cherish you all and wouldn’t do you harm.”
When they were arrested both girls stated that they were on their way to Slenderman's mansion.
Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier's trial has been plagued with difficulties, both due to the age of the perpetrators and their mental heath status.
Geyser and Weier initially appeared in court being charged as adults for first degree intentional attempted homicide. If convicted, they could face up to 45 years in prison, but defence lawyers were adamant that a trial in juvenile court would be more appropriate due to the perpetrators' ages.
On August 1, 2014, Morgan Geyser spent several weeks at a state mental health facility and was diagnosed with early onset schizophrenia meaning she must undergo a competency evaluation for the trial to continue. Anissa's competency was also reviewed on September 15, 2014. After their mental health was evaluated, judge Michael Bohren ruled that both girls were competent to proceed with the trial.
The perpetrators appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court for the right to be tried in a juvenile court in July 2016. The defence attorneys claimed that one of the girls has oppositional defiant disorder and schizophrenia, while the other has schizotypy and a delusional disorder, therefore making adult court unnecessary and unethical. The court however, turned down the appeal due to the premeditated and "extremely violent" nature of the attacks.
Both Morgan and Anissa are still trying to arrange a trial that they believe is appropriate and in October 2016 their attorneys applied for the girls to be tried separately. The trial is still ongoing.