The Manifestation of Fear in Slenderman

by Kerry

Slenderman’s presence in media is especially intriguing due to its origin as a viral subreddit post. The concept of Slenderman therefore was not created through a movie, video game, book, or anything of that nature, as many similar characters are. Because of this, a lot of the content created about Slenderman, whether that be other internet posts, video games such as “Slenderman: The Eight Pages”, or Marble Hornets, are made by a variety of different people, rather than just one person or company. This leads to more variety between the different depictions of Slenderman in media, and a lot more additions to the lore that comes with Slenderman that is not seen with a lot of other similar horror characters. This overall variety in the media able to be consumed for Slenderman makes a lot of the content more unexpected despite the fact that the lore is something that many people already have prior knowledge of. 

Beyond this, Marble Hornets specifically is able to invoke fear in the viewer for reasons beyond the creature of Slenderman himself. Marble Hornets plays heavily on the common fear that one is being watched or stalked. The characters in their videos are consistently depicted as stressed about someone following them, and even feel a need to film everything they do for this reason. Marble Hornets also shows Slenderman himself coming into one of their homes while they are sleeping, and then later the man in the mask standing over the main character as he sleeps. This builds upon the fear that the show is invoking that one is being watched, and begins to play with the fear of someone or something actually breaking into your home, and your home no longer being somewhere you can feel safe. On top of both of these, Marble Hornets depicts the characters as having to essentially leave everything behind and focus all their time and energy on escaping their situation. Because of this, they end up isolated, and isolation and loneliness are another largely had fear, especially when it is forced the way it is here. So through these means, Marble Hornets, and Slenderman lore in a more general sense, are able to very easily invoke fear and unease in the viewer despite the fact that the amount of times Slenderman is actually depicted in the show is rather low.  

Further, Marble Hornets has a unique characteristic to it that adds an extra layer of horror many others in the “Found Footage” genre do not have. This comes from the premise being that Jay is watching all the old film from his friend Alex, which is the “found footage” in question, and trying to figure out what happened to him. There are often even written comments on each clip before or after the clip plays, giving the show the feel that you are watching them at the same time as Jay. However, as Jay watches the film, and begins to get an idea of the situation that Alex was in, the same situation begins to happen to him, and the clips become footage Jay takes of his own experiences. This gives the viewer the feeling that because Jay watched the footage, he then ended up in a horrifying situation himself, and that this could possibly happen to anyone watching the footage, including the viewer themselves. This added layer in Marble Hornets also plays on the viewers fears similarly to the ways mentioned above by implying the possibility that actually viewing this could be a danger. 

Outside of Marble Hornets, Slenderman lore also creates horror beyond just Slenderman appearing scary by playing on common fears. Many creepypasta and subreddit posts involving Slenderman would involve someone creating a photo with Slenderman photoshopped in the background, and a caption implying something bad happened after it was taken. A good example of this was a post with Slenderman in the background of a photo of many children playing, and the caption describing that they all went missing following the photo. This post plays on the very real fear most parents have about their children being kidnapped. 

It can be seen how Slenderman manifested itself in a very real and scary way through the tragic Wisconsin stabbing involving the young girls. This incident has brought about the discussion of whether this sort of event would be inevitable and could have manifested through any viral horror entity, or if there was something about the Slenderman lore specifically that invoked it. While it seems this incident could have been inevitable and inspired by other pieces of horror, it does seem that the nature of Slenderman, and horror with similar lore, could more heavily inspire this than some other entities.  As discussed above, the lore of  Slenderman and Marble Hornets do a very good job at playing at people’s fears and creating a strong sense of unease for viewers with this subliminal threat of being watched, and isolation.

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