On May 31st, 2014, America bore witness to the tragedy that was the Slenderman stabbings. A young girl was stabbed roughly nineteen times with relentless intent, almost dying in the process. The culprits behind this act, however, were not adults with malicious motives. Both culprits were children, and both were even in the same class as the young, twelve year old victim. The motive behind this act is as unbelievable as the perpetrators: both wanted to appease a fictional character known as the “Slender Man”. This stabbing is the result of young children experiencing media online that has no restrictions and no ways to prevent impressionable or mentally unsound minors from experiencing said media.
The internet today plays host to many different sources of entertainment. Many frequent sites like Hulu and Netflix for movies, and some enjoy playing an occasional game that caught their eye. There is, however, a very wide and varied collection of disturbing media that is in circulation today. Amongst these different collections lies a sub-genre that has taken many youths of today by storm: Creepy pasta. Creepy pasta, a collection of short stories belonging to the horror genre, makes it its goal to attempt to make readers uncomfortable or afraid of what they are reading, as is the purpose of most horror. Among the many ranks of the Creepy pasta genre lies none other than the Slender Man, along with many other fantastical and terrifying creatures. The true differences between the horror genre and Creepy pasta lies in both its audience and the accessibility of the material being posted.
Before going into how Creepy pasta has played into these children’s actions, it is worth noting exactly what Creepy pasta is and how it came about. Creepy pasta comes from the term “Copy pasta”, which is meant to describe the process of how many stories on the internet were copied and pasted throughout different forums. When a collection of horror stories began circulating, many dubbed the various macabre tales as “creepy pasta”. Over time, these Creepy pasta were eventually gathered into a large internet site, christened after said stories.
Creepy pasta’s main audience tends to be young adults and teenagers to children. The young girls behind the stabbing frequented the site and read many stories about the poster child of the site: The Slender Man. One of the children were deemed to be afflicted with schizophrenia, were tried in a Wisconsin court as adults for their act. These girls were exposed to a culture that they didn’t understand or fully grasp, and treated it as if it were reality. It’s quite obvious of how this internet sensation holds some fault for irresponsibly parading this culture around and pandering towards these poor minors.
The easy accessibility of these horrifying narratives also makes it greatly different from the typical horror story. Many systems of providing reading material, such as libraries and book stores, can limit or discourage certain individuals from reading certain texts. Society today often bans books or prevents more adult texts from falling into the hands of children too young, or perhaps too pliable. The internet knows no such limitations. Children can easily access media that is in no way meant for children to view, possibly even these short stories that could shock a stern adult. Creepy pasta may pander towards younger adults in practice, but is still material that needs restriction to prevent minors from misinterpreting the meaning or reality of the narratives. While horror fiction can be regulated, Creepy pasta is much more difficult to restrict due to the nature of the internet as a medium.
Hence lies the problem: Creepy pasta panders toward an audience that could easily misunderstand and act on what they read in a radical and illogical way. Creepy pasta indirectly led to the tragedy of the Slenderman stabbings because it allowed for two twelve year old girls, one being schizophrenic and delusional, to bring a peer to the brink of death in the name of a fictional character. Creepy pasta needs restriction and regulation to prevent this tragedy from reoccurring. While many authors and narratives have attempted to make amends for the actions of their genre, they continue to irresponsibly pander towards minors that could easily repeat the horrors brought about by these two twelve year old girls, in the name of some other fictional character.