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Two 12-year-old girls from Waukesha, Wisconsin are facing attempted murder charges after they lured their friend to the park and stabbed her. They claim that their crime was motivated by Slender Man – that's right, the internet horror meme.
According to a criminal complaint, the two girls had been planning the murder for months. On 30 May, they initially intended to kill their friend, a 12-year-old who attended the same school, at a sleepover. They put the murder off till the next day, when they played hide-and-seek in the park.
"Go ballistic, go crazy," one girl allegedly told her accomplice. After stabbing their victim 19 times, they left her for dead. She managed to crawl out of the park and onto the pavement, where she was discovered by a cyclist and rushed to hospital. She is now in stable condition.
Where does Slender Man come in? The suspects claim that they carried out the murder so they could become "proxies" of Slender Man and prove themselves worthy of his favour. They discovered Slender Man (or "Slendy", as they called him) on creepypasta.wikia.com, the website that archives online horror stories known as "creepypasta".
One of the girls claims that Slender Man was watching her, and could read her mind and teleport. She also claimed that they had to murder their friend or "he would kill our family". After the murder, the two girls planned to run away to Slender Man's house, which they believed to be a mansion in a nearby forest. Both girls have been charged with first-degree attempted homicide and could face up to 60 years in jail if convicted.
If you're not familiar with internet creepypasta or Slender Man, you can read more about the phenomenon here: suffice to say, all the stories are fictional – even if they do occasionally blur the line between real and fake with photoshopped manips and pseudo-documentary footage. But "proxies" do play a part in the online mythology: the term is used to refer to those who are under Slender Man's influence and do his bidding.
Fortean Times writer Ian "Cat" Vincent, who has given talks on the Slender Man phenomenon, describes the events as a "awful tragedy" – but he doesn't view this case as particularly shocking.
"People have claimed that gods and devils had driven them to perform terrible acts, even to kill, for centuries," he told Dazed. "For Slender Man to be named as the cause of such a death is a new, but not surprising, aspect of an ancient human problem."
Follow Zing Tsjeng on Twitter here @misszing