November 19, 2010

Behavior Part I

Before we get onto the sexy topic of armed resistance[i]- which constitutes a greater part of the Slender Man mythos activity- one often overlooked subject is that of Slender Man’s behavior. What has He done to prompt these reactions?
The fact that this question is almost always passed over is in itself the means of our answer.

Common Fear

Let us use basic examples to start.
With a typical monster like a werewolf or zombie, one does not generally wish to be eaten. Screaming and running away is perfunctory.
A slightly more intriguing thought: though it’s generally agreed that vampires have a certain amount of charisma or appeal to them, almost in the way Slender Man can draw our attention and dare we say, pique our curiosity[ii], there are just as many people who would rather face a zombie than a vampire.
Further still, let’s consider a common murderer, even a mass-murderer or serial killer. The concept of real, actual evil does not need emphasis to be frightening to us on the deepest levels. However, place Slender Man on that list, and who would you rather be placed in a locked room with?
Let’s first take Slender Man back off the list.
Most people would rather be stuck with a serial killer or vampire than a zombie or werewolf. So let’s take killer and vampire out. Now, a lot of us have seen zombie movies, and maybe we think we could take a zombie easier than a werewolf with a good stomp to the head. So this leaves us with the werewolf as the last option preferable.
Let’s put Slendy back on the list.
Suddenly the werewolf isn’t looking too bad, is it?[iii]
Why do we think this way? You may say, “Well a baseball bat for the zombie, a silver bullet for the werewolf, a wooden stake for the vampire, and you can reuse that baseball bat for the murderer.” This is a fair point. Even if supplied with none of these useful items in that locked room, there is something to be said for the power of knowing that these things could be killed with the right materials. Perhaps Slendy is the least preferable locked-room-mate because we have no idea how to kill Him- it almost seems ridiculous to suggest. Goodness knows that baseball bat isn’t going to do it. But why the hell do we want to kill Him in the first place?
What has Slender Man done to incur more fear than the others?
We have no idea.

Back at the Gates of Canon

He strikes and He cuts
Your skin flays open
Your soul too weak to resist
This should not have happened
If only you had listened
Never go into His forest.
-JossiRossi, Something Awful Forums

The original Something Awful forum thread has given more material reason to fear Slender Man than anything occurring after it. Within it are tales of various times and places and invariable horror. Victor Surge, the creator of Slender Man, had a handful of stories prepared for those interested in the Slender Man in his “natural habitat”, describing:

“A constant murmuring sound accompanied by a low hum eventually became apparent… An object falling out of [a] tree struck one of the men in [sic] the left shoulder, causing him to discharge his weapon. Object said to be body of man of unknown age. It was very precisely dissected, with major internal organs still contained within the ribcage in what looked to be clear bags… Attack followed several minutes after a ‘low children’s laugh, like a giggle’…
“Investigation team discovered twenty-two bodies of both genders and various ages impaled on broken tree branches in a radiating circle pattern with chest mutilation…”

Material for nightmares. Inherent in all Slender Man mythos is the incomprehensibility, as we have discussed. There is no rhyme or reason to be applied here, only the feeling of knowing without actually knowing. For example, the broken tree branches can suggest something as basic as His level of strength, a natural fear-creating detail. Yet more commonly our mind turns to His “tentacles”, His association with the trees, and we get an altogether more terrifying image that those broken branches were once part of Him. There is nothing to suggest which notion is right, yet we are all sure we know. A low child’s laugh tends to blow our minds even further. Such a sinister creature that does not speak or even have a face shouldn’t have any laugh at all, much less one that can be harkened to that of a child’s. Still there is no explanation of why this is, and there never will be. Because the more we think we know about Slender Man, the further we are from the truth.
Bash Ironfist of the Something Awful forums went with this “typical” Slender Victim- the intestines wrapped and kept in their proper place within the ribcage, impaled upon trees, a strange pattern of bodies. Though generally associated with the much less popular “spider-like” Slender Man idea, it’s a duly noted consequence of getting too close to His grasp (which, arguably, has a rather wide reach). Still, as mentioned in the introduction, it hardly even has been acknowledged since it was mentioned at the beginning. SA Forum go-er kith_groupie submitted a much more intuitive take on this scenario:

“I ran back to the tent and I hid there under all four of our sleeping bags, crying and trying not to listen to the horrible sounds I could hear. No screaming, there was never any human voices. Sounds of crunching and tearing and popping… what was left of our sister, high up in the trees, skewerd…”

We know how and why we respond to monsters the way we do. Zombies moan for brains and we run, vampires laugh wickedly about their own diabolical natures and we dive for the holy water- and yet here’s a tall, faceless thing with tentacles, in a business suit messing about in people’s intestines and laughing like a baritone child, and we just gawk like a fucking clueless kid.

And the Gates of Cannon

Let’s have a slight detour of thought.
In kith_groupie’s story, before running to the tent, there was a passage particularly resonant in the Slender Man mythos:

“I was just about to ask her what she was doing when I heard this…noise calling my name. It wasn’t a voice, it was like the sound of nails on a chalkboard. I don’t know if it was real or if it was in my own head, but it called me and I was too terrified to move or run or even call out…”

The Fight or Flight mechanism in the animal instinct is what causes a rabbit to freeze in the middle of the night when greeted with the headlights of an oncoming car. It can also prompt one to grab the baseball bat.[iv]
Dr. Walter B. Cannon of Harvard coined fight or flight, which deals with the mental and physical response to perceived threat or imminent danger. This reaction corresponds to the two basic instinctual choices: to run away to escape the danger, or in some cases when this is too dangerous itself or as an act of protecting others, to try to fight the danger off. In the moment of encountering the potential threat, the body responds by placing all energy into the muscles and processes that are necessary to fight or flight, shutting down nearly all else. This adaptation of the nervous system provides one of the greatest and most perplexing clues about Slender Man.

Many an ARG have made a point of this instinctual response. As stoic as many of the characters may be, running away as fast as possible is a popular response. Though it can be noted there seems to be little use in this decision, the overwhelming fear of seeing Slender Man proves too strong to deny, and this still continues even now in the ARG realm.


I've been struck
I will fight
I’ve been struck
I will fight
- “I Know Them”, Ektomorph

While there is a great number of average personalities who can be placed within the fight response group mentioned in the lyrics above, the numbers are lessened in response to the threat of Slender Man (see endnote iv) so considerably that the fight mechanism is seen as suicidal or a result of possible madness. One of the major compelling factors also at hand can be ascribed to the fact that no means of killing Slender Man is immediately found, nor has any been found in hindsight[v].

Herein lies the mystery. There is a third, less common name for this instinctual process; fight, flight or fright.

A threat from another animal does not always result in immediate fight or flight. There may be a period of heightened awareness, during which each animal interprets behavioral signals from the other. Signs such as paling, piloerection, immobility, sounds, and body language communicate the status and intentions of each animal. There may be a sort of negotiation, after which fight or flight may ensue, but which might also result in… nothing at all.”

While this represents a more common animal scenario, it is a basic form of fear overload- when the fight or flight decision cannot be made due to the panic or distress of the encounter.
Detour over.

The Unsent Laugh

“I always went with the assumption that His arms, and to a much lesser degree, His legs would change periodically. The Slender Man wants to maintain human-like proportions, but try as It might, It’s always off to the point where you know something is very, very wrong.” –Victor Surge

“It was nearly bright as noon when the found The Tall Man. The Tall Man stood in a clearing, dressed as a nibleman, all in black. Shadows lay over Him, dark as a cloudy midnight. He had many arms, all long and boneless as snakes, all sharp as swords, and they writhed like worms on nails. He did not speak, but made his intentions known.” -TombsGrave

What is imminently clear in the Slender Man mythos is that it does not matter what we believe He will do to us, what we’ve read about His victims, or that we fear we will become one of those victims. His presence, itself, is the true fear. It can easily be said that more than His physical threat, the mental threat He presents is the worse of the torments. Throughout the original forum thread, the cerebral terror (the fright response) took extreme precedence over the small handful of attempts to describe what He could do to a person. From this common reaction, the idea of “hallowing out” (or otherwise mentally breaking under the influence of Slender Man[vi]) formed and has since been used extensively in the ARGs.
This is the main point- inexplicable and overwhelming. What does Slender Man do to trigger these responses? He is. We don’t know what He is but sense He is to be feared. We don’t know what He wants but know it’s us. We don’t know what He’ll do but know it is worse than our imaginations can comprehend. We don’t know anything, from the first encounter and beyond- but he makes “his intentions known.”
But we’ve gone too far today, and must back away. Quickly is preferable.

“Und wenn Sie lang in den Abgrund starren, starrt der Abgrund auch in Sie.”

Sorry about the wait, guys! This one was a fighter. Hope you enjoy.


[i] here having the meaning of “with a camera”
[ii] to be discussed fully in a later entry
[iii] this is all relative, of course- personally I’d rather take on all four of those monsters than Slender Man
[iv] SPOILERS: the above reference is only one of two known ARG responses of this kind- Zeke Strahm of Seeking Truth is the first known character to attack Slender Man- by shooting Him in a moment of terror and rage, while Evan aggressively goes after Slender Man with the baseball bat he’d been carrying in the EverymanHYBRID episode “Ashen Waste”- both characters exhibit unusually strong “fight” and “protector” personalities
[v] to be discussed fully in a later entry
[vi] to be discussed fully in a later entry

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