People are talking about “Slender Man.” In case you missed the news, two twelve year old girls from Wisconsin attempted to murder one of their “friends” by stabbing her nineteen times. The victim was left for dead in a wooded area, but a passing cyclist saw the girl and reported the crime to police. The victim is currently in the hospital. This crime occurred in Waukesha, a suburb of Milwaukee.
Both girls are facing charges of attempted homicide and they are being charged as adults. Bail has been set at $500,000 for each girl, and if convicted they could face up to 60 years in prison. When asked about the reasoning behind stabbing the victim, one of the girls said that she had been told by Slender Man to do it.
Slender Man is a fictitious ghost like figure who is portrayed in fictional works as extremely tall and thin, with long sinewy arms. He wears a black suit and has no face. She said that she believed if she killed someone, she would be in Slender Man’s favor and could go and live with him in his Wisconsin mansion. Apparently the girls had been planning the stabbing for months. NBC has recently released audio of the 911 call made by the cyclist. If you would like to hear this call, click on the following link-
Slender Man’s origins are somewhat unclear. Most people accept that Slender Man was created by Eric Knudsen, who registered a copyright for the character in 2010 and used the character in multiple creative projects including writing and film. Others say that “Slender Man” is just a new name for a character who has been around for a long time, and his roots are in German folklore that is over a century old. For more information about Slender Man’s origins, see the following links-
Knudsen’s Slender Man stories were originally published the Something Awful Web Forum, and recently have been very popular on the CreepyPasta website, a writer’s forum that concentrates mainly on works of horror. The stabbing put the creators and contributors to the CreepyPasta website in an uncomfortable predicament. They could have said nothing about the case, knowing that a bizarre murder would certainly bring more viewers to their site. They also could have played up Slender Man’s popularity by claiming that he is a real entity, rather than a work of fiction. Instead, CreepyPasta took the high road by offering a statement about the crime that includes condolences to the victim and the families involved. In this statement, the writer, (perhaps still Eric Knudsen, although it is unclear as the site has multiple writers featured,) also encourages people to seek mental health services if they are considering any acts of violence. To see the full statement, go to the following link- http://www.creepypasta.com/
This case brings up questions about how we can prevent violence in our society and what more can be done to help people with mental illness. There have always been people who suffered from mental illness, and while many of these people were completely peaceful in nature, there have been others whose illness drove them to commit acts of violence. The diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia has been particularly troublesome because the major symptom includes the person hearing voices that advise them to act in a certain way.
Treatment for mental health disorders has come a long way, and therapeutic techniques combined with medication have created a world where most Schizophrenics can enjoy a healthy life. So why in this day and age of medical marvels are we seeing more and more people who appear to suffer from delusions that incite them to violence? The usual answer to this question is gun control. It seems that whenever a violent act occurs, the majority of people say that it could have been prevented if we had stronger restrictions on gun ownership. While it may be true that a person would be less likely to shoot another if guns were not available, a case like this demonstrates that guns are not the only method used in homicides.
Others argue that all killers are shaped by negative lessons learned by modern entertainment. There is always someone who claims that certain criminals would have never acted if they had not been influenced by rock music, movies, video games or books. Yet this theory falls short as well. While one killer may have been “inspired” by a video game such as “Call of Duty,” there are thousands of others who play the game who would never act out the violence in the real world.
Also, if we are truthful with ourselves, violence as entertainment is really nothing new. Slender Man actually bears a strong resemblance to the iconic villain “The Shadow,” which was an extremely popular mainstream radio show starting in 1930. Edgar Allen Poe is often considered the master of the macabre, and his works were popular in 1845. There were clearly mentally ill people around during these time periods, but we never heard of these people committing horrific crimes mimicking the entertainment of the day. That is why this author would argue that the spike in crime related to mental illness in America is not a result of lack of mental health experts or the newest horror comic on the shelves, but is rather a result of our transient, technologically addicted society.
If we look back to a more peaceful period of American history, whether it be thirty years ago or a hundred years ago, we think of a society where people were in closer contact with each other. It used to be that neighbors knew one another, and people had specific roles and expectations in their society. Now it seems that even when people are gathered together in a room, there is no social interaction. People are so engaged with their laptops or phones that they seem oblivious to the needs of others. This habit is so prevalent that the latest version of the Diagnostical Statistical Manual, (the tool used to diagnose mental disorders,) has actually created a new diagnosis called “Internet Addiction Disorder.” With regard to this disorder, David Greenfield, Ph.D has described the internet as “A socially connecting device that’s socially isolating at the same time.” For more information about this disorder, see the following link-
Regardless of the reasoning behind the Slender Man case, it’s becoming more and more apparent that there is a rising number of people with mental illnesses who are committing violent crimes. As one woman said today, “When I was a kid, we used to play cops and robbers, but no one would have ever thought of going out and actually shooting another person. We could distinguish fantasy from reality.”
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