By now, most followers of forteana will have heard of the Slenderman. This creation, if that is what it is, started out ‘life’ on the website Something Awful, which is a comedy site. The creature itself loosely resembles a man in a black suit and wearing a black tie. All likeness to a human being stops there, as the face is blank, it is far too tall and thin and, on occasion, it has tentacles. It is a denizen of the half-light, usually depicted as standing in the shadows at the back of a picture, sometimes even hardly noticeable, yet representing a brooding threat, especially to children, who normally frolic in the foreground, unaware of what is yet to befall them. The book that this review is about is the second reviewed in the past year, so this entity is setting something of a trend.
Nick Redfern is a veteran journalist specialising in paranormal writing, with a leaning towards UFOs and cryptozoology. He has been writing about such subjects for over twenty years. He has made many and various television appearances, most notably on the History Channel, covering the aforementioned material. He has written many books and articles specialising in forteana, having had work published in the most recognisable magazine in the field, Fortean Times, and is one of the field’s most prolific and well-known authors.
The Slender Man or, as it is more commonly known, Slenderman, first appeared on the Something Awful website in 2009. Because it is ostensibly an artificial creation, the time and date may be discovered simply by searching on the internet as if there is no mystery at all and it is just what it appears to be; a creature derived from a fertile brain. It then faded in and out of focus on the web for roughly five years, until 2014, when a 12-year-old girl was nearly stabbed to death by two of her schoolmates as a form of sacrifice to the Slender Man. It seemed that, amongst some schoolchildren in the United States at least, Slenderman was a real bogeyman.
One adult married couple, the husband dressed as Slenderman, shot and killed three people before being shot and killed themselves. A writer declared the Slender Man as a contemporary manifestation of an ancient evil for the personal screens used by almost all. The book looks at the crossover between fictional creations of people’s minds and reality. It examines the concept of our mental brainchildren crossing the divide between thought and independent existence as well as the idea that, far from being a human creation, the Slender Man was around before it was ‘created’.
The theory goes that the person who first depicted it had, in some fashion, tuned into a phenomenon that had a form of existence earlier than had been realised. The tulpa is examined as a precedent for bringing a being created in the mind into independent life. The act of creation itself is analysed in order to better comprehend how such a being is capable of leaping from gadgets and computers to adversely affect people‘s thoughts. This can vary from writing to various forms of ceremonial magick, from Thelema to Chaos. The Slender Man is also compared to those most paranormal of beings, the Men In Black, who occasionally share a similar sense of ill fortune.
Nick Redfern is an old hand at bringing some of the lesser-known corners of the Fortean world to the notice of the wider general public. He achieves this by writing accessible books where jargon is kept to a minimum and concepts that may possibly stump the new reader are explained. Therefore the more esoteric areas that are brought into the light are taken on board quickly and easily. There are no footnotes and there is no index. However, there is a bibliography.
This book is much more than a general introduction to the Slender Man. It posits possible explanations as to why this undesirable essence affects people in the unfortunate and negative way that it does. Having said that, it does so in a relatively simple and straightforward fashion that means that even someone fresh to Forteana may be able to take on board ideas that may baffle the newcomer otherwise. As is stated above, it also brings many theories to bear, thereby being up to the task of maintaining the interest of the reader who is well versed in strange phenomena. -- Trevor Pyne