Horror fiction has its niche on the internet, but the Slender Man stabbing case offers evidence of the damage caused when stories seep into reality. Slender Man, a fictional character of digital origin, inspired two 12 year olds to plot the murder of a close friend. Though the victim survived the attack, the girls who hoped to gain Slender Man's favor through their actions and live with him in the woods are now about to stand trial as adults. The Slender Man trial could end with the two attackers spending most of their lives in prison.
Back in 2014, two Wisconsin girls stabbed their friend 19 times in the woods, according to NBC News. The victim made it to safety, ultimately being treated and released from a nearby hospital. The girls were arrested the same day and, in conversations with police, revealed the details of their plans and intentions for the attack. They are being charged with first-degree intentional homicide. Though their attorneys want the girls to live at home with their families and get therapy, they are set to be tried as adults instead of remaining in the juvenile court system. That decision means that the stakes are much higher; if they're convicted, they are likely to receive a more severe punishment. Here's everything you need to know about the backstory, the crime, and the aftermath:
The legend of Slender Man got started on the website Something Awful, according to The Washington Post. A user named Victor Surge added an image to a thread of Photoshopped "paranormal images," providing the earliest known depiction of the character. A mythology developed around Slender Man, commonly depicting him as a faceless murderer who alternatively stalks and protects children. The fiction became so popular that it landed on horror website Creepypasta.
Waukesha, Wisconsin, middle schoolers Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier visited Creepypasta and read about Slender Man, Newsweek reported. Instead of recognizing him to be a figment of memes and open forums, they reportedly viewed him as a real being and wanted to serve him. Believing that they needed to kill someone in order to earn Slender Man's favor, the two planned for months to murder friend Payton Leutner, according to ABC News. The three girls got together for a sleepover in May 2013. Geyser and Weier later told authorities that they'd planned to kill Leutner overnight, but they changed their plans and attacked her the next day during a game of hide-and-seek in the woods. Weier initiated the attack by bringing Leutner to the ground, then encouraged Geyser to stab Leutner; the victim received 19 stab wounds from a kitchen knife before Geyser and Weier left Leutner on the ground, falsely telling their friend that they'd get help.
Leutner managed to escape the woods and catch a passing bicyclist's attention from the sidewalk, Newsweek reported. The bicyclist got help, and Leutner went into a six-hour surgery at a local hospital. Police arrested Geyser and Weier hours later, according to ABC News; the girls said they were looking for Slender Man and planned to move into his mansion. Both girls initially went to a juvenile detention center, and their legal representation has spent time over the past two years trying to determine whether they were competent to stand trial.
The Role Of Mental Illness
In January 2016, authorities transferred Geyser from jail to a state mental hospital after 19 months of incarceration, according to People. In July, The Huffington Post reported that Geyser has oppositional defiant disorder in addition to schizophrenia. Geyser's father was previously diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to ABC News. Weier was diagnosed with both "a delusional disorder" and schizotypy, The Huffington Post reported. Schizotypal Personality Disorder is characterized by "odd speech" and "Excessive social anxiety and paranoia," according to Scientific American.
The problem with blaming this crime on mental illness alone is that it could be misleading. Only three percent of violent crimes can be attributed to people with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or depression, according to a study published by the Journal of the World Psychiatric Association.
Near the end of July, the Wisconsin court of appeals denied the girls' lawyers' request to have the now-teenagers tried in juvenile court, The Wall Street Journal reported. Judge Michael O. Bohren made the initial decision to try them as adults under a Wisconsin law that requires children 10 years of age or older to stand trial as adults if they were charged with homicide or attempted homicide. They can be tried as juveniles if they're given a "reverse waiver," but the lower court wanted to emphasize the seriousness of attempted homicide by having them tried as adults. Though lawyers initially tried to use the girls' diagnoses of mental illness to keep the case from going to court, Reuters reported that both girls were determined to be competent to stand trial. The maximum sentence for both girls would be 65 years behind bars. The status hearing will take place on August 19.