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The Slender Man stabbing: Attempted murder inspired by an urban legend

A depiction of Slender Man - a faceless, humanoid figure

How did an internet urban legend lead to one of the most shocking crimes in modern American history? We delve into the creepy and heartbreaking case of the Slender Man stabbing.

A fun sleepover

On the night of 30th May 2014, a young girl from Waukesha, Wisconsin named Payton Leutner was enjoying a sleepover with her schoolfriends, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser. It was a typical get-together for the 12-year-old girls – they had fooled around at the local roller rink before going back to Morgan’s house to play on their laptops and then settle in for the night.

It was a typical get-together, except Anissa and Morgan were planning to cover Payton’s mouth with duct tape, stab her in the throat and wait for her to bleed to death. They changed their minds because they were too tired, plus Morgan ‘wanted to give Payton one more day’.

The next morning, there was tomfoolery in the kitchen as the friends flung Silly Putty around, and then played dress-up. Afterwards, the friends trooped off to a nearby wooded area, where they had a game of hide and seek before Morgan stabbed Payton 19 times with a kitchen knife.

A sacrifice for Slender Man

Anissa and Morgan had been planning the murder for months, and the unlikely inspiration for their almost inconceivable crime was a made-up monster from the internet: Slender Man.

Back in 2009, a thread was started on a web forum called Something Awful, where users posted the creepiest Photoshop images they could come up with. A user known as Victor Surge (real name Eric Knudsen) contributed a few photos depicting a thin, pale, faceless humanoid in a black suit, looming amid innocent children.

The accompanying text identified this apparition as ‘Slender Man’, and it struck a chord with other internet users who began adding to its burgeoning lore. How he had the power to drive people insane or turn them into his willing puppets; how he haunted forested areas and had a penchant for stalking children.

Soon, Slender Man became a pop cultural icon, inspiring fan art, online stories, images and video games. Online horror fans willingly suspended their disbelief to treat him as a real entity, so he went from just another fictitious character to an urban legend – a kind of digitally-spawned cryptid.

Creepy, yes, but completely harmless in the real world. Until Anissa and Morgan found his page on the Creepypasta Wiki website and started taking the lore literally.

‘I actually thought that he was real because I saw him,’ Anissa later said. ‘We were like, talking on the bus. I look out the window and I see this... thing standing like this, with tendrils – looks exactly like a tree. There and gone like that.’

The two girls came to see themselves as ‘proxies’ of the spectre and felt they had to pay homage to him by sacrificing somebody. Their own friend, Payton.

‘Stabby stab stab’

Once the girls entered the woods, Morgan and Anissa put their long-considered plan into action. As they played amid the trees and flowers, Anissa yelled, ‘Go ballistic, go crazy!’ and Morgan was suddenly on top of Payton, plunging the knife into her again and again.

‘Stabby stab stab’, was how Morgan described the chaotic attack to police, likening it to simply stabbing air. ‘The whole time Payton was screaming in agony,’ Anissa recalled.

Once the onslaught was over, the two girls left Payton for dead. Miraculously, the 12-year-old clung to life and was able to crawl to a more public area where a passing cyclist found her. She was rushed to hospital, where staff treated her for 19 stab wounds, one of which came within a millimetre of killing her.

As for Slender Man’s proxies – they were picked up by the police hours later. They were walking to ‘Slender Man’s mansion’, which they believed was nestled in a forest hundreds of miles away.

The aftermath

The would-be killers were kept in a juvenile detention facility for a long stretch of time, undergoing interviews and assessments. Each girl said the other was the true mastermind of the murder plan and the extent of Morgan’s eccentric, inner fantasy life in particular became apparent. Psychiatrists declared her to have schizophrenia, a very rare diagnosis for someone so young.

In 2017, a jury decided that Anissa had been mentally ill during the attack, and she was committed to state mental care for 25 years, with the stipulation she would be kept at a secure facility for at least three years. Morgan was also found not to be criminally responsible due to mental illness and told she would be under medical supervision for 40 years.

Both girls expressed deep remorse for the gruesome crime, and in 2021 Anissa was released under strict conditions, including GPS monitoring and limited internet usage. It’s widely expected that Morgan will also be granted a conditional release in 2024.

Payton, meanwhile, made a remarkable recovery from her ordeal. The whole community rallied around her family, even holding a festival to raise money to help with her medical bills. She returned to school some months after the attack and has the dubious distinction of having been dubbed ‘the girl who survived Slender Man’.