Slender: When Urban Legends come to life!
Imagination is a tool to be reckoned with. As a self-proclaimed writer, I know that only too well. This was originally going to be a review of a fun little free-to-play indie game that’s doing the rounds at the moment, and when I say ‘fun’ I mean that in a ‘shit your pants scary’ kind of way.
The point of the matter is that no mere ‘review’ or ‘write-up’ of Slender could ever do it justice, at least without touching on the ethos of urban legends and in particular – the Slender Man mythology around which the game is based.
I pose to you this dear gamer; we have all been on this planet for long enough that at some point in our lives we have heard a tale or two. Whether it is a story of ‘a friend of a friend’ that had an irritating scratching noise bugging them for days, only to later find out in a rather horrifying manner that they had a nest of baby spiders attached to their eardrum. Possibly it is ‘someone that a relative knows’ that on their way home from work one night, was ambushed and drugged. Only to later awaken in a motel room bathtub filled with ice; sans kidney. These tales are often passed down by such an ambiguous web of story-tellers and steeped in so many vague details that it is almost impossible to trace the source of the story’s true origin.
These stories are part of our culture, they always have been. Some would even go as far as to say that these stories of today are comparable to the legends and myths of yesteryear. So that being said, it is incredibly rare to catch one of these ‘urban legends’ (in this instance, one that seems to be spinning out of control so wildly – the Slender Man legend) and still be able to track it to its source.
So what is the Slender Man? Well, do you have the lights on? Are you alone, or do you have company? Never mind. Even if you think you are alone, the Slender Man is watching. The Slender Man always watches…
According to current belief, the Slender Man is a creature commonly depicted as a tall, thin humanoid figure wearing a black suit or completely enshrouded in darkness, with just his silhouette visible. The being is commonly associated with having ‘no face’ or a ‘blank face’. According to legend, it is capable of stretching or shortening its arms at will and has long tentacle-like appendages protruding from its back.
Interpretations of the creature differ from encounter to encounter, but the creature is reputed to inflict maladies such as memory loss, headaches, insomnia, coughing fits (nicknamed ‘slendersickness’) and a constant feeling of dread or paranoia in those who have come into contact with it. It is widely said that the Slender Man can teleport at will and if caught on film or camera, is capable of distorting image or media on which it appears.
So how did a creature with this scary level of detail come to pass? Well, popular culture has played its part, but the origins of the Slender Man are all too human.
June 8th 2009 on some corner of the internet in a little place called the ‘something awful’ forums, a competition took place that required participants to turn an ordinary photograph into a creepy looking image by way of digital manipulation. Amongst the entries of ghosts, orbs and other anomalies – on June 10th forum user Victor Surge posted a couple of black and white photographs of children along with a description of the ‘Slender Man’ as a mysterious creature that stalked children. Sure enough, looking closely at the images revealed a very tall, slender creature in a suit – standing in the background, watching the children.
Over the course of the next few days, more images and ‘witness accounts’ surfaced on the forums – this time by different users, and shortly after these spread like a virus outside of the forums, on paranormal websites around the world. Thus the legend was born. Slender Man came into being.
References to the Slender Man myth have since entered popular culture, content not just with the internet – popular game Minecraft referenced the being with the aptly named ‘Endermen’ which seem to have similar abilities to the ones the Slender Man is supposed to possess. The almost-too-close-for-coincidence ‘Silence’ in sci-fi cult TV show Doctor Who also bare remarkably similar traits. Whether these take any inspiration from the Slender Man myth is still unknown, but the similarities are striking.
I thank you dear gamer for sticking with me whilst we took that short detour, but we are now at the main event: Slender. Now if you want to be truly gripped by terror when playing this short game like I was, then you will need to do four simple things.
1. Google ‘Slender Man’. Do some research, read up on some of the ‘witness accounts’, visit the Slender Man entry on CreepyPasta, peruse the ‘photographic evidence’ and even watch some of the YouTube videos dedicated to the sightings of the creature.
2. Make sure you are home alone. Playing in pairs is fun, but to truly invest in the terror the game offers – and to make sure nobody sees you acting like a fool as you jump out of your skin – you need to do this one solo.
3. Invest in a good set of headphones. As you can’t look at him directly, you need to know when the Slender Man is near, and when to panic. So crank up that volume.
4. Play at night you wimp!
The link to this free game will be provided at the end of this article, and it is only a small download. Once you boot up the game for the first time, you appear in a forest at night. All you need to do is collect 8 pieces of paper from different locations deep within the forest without the Slender Man catching you first. Sounds easy right? Wrong.
You have a flashlight with a limited battery that you must try and conserve in order to see anything. You are also able to jog for brief periods of time before slowing down and becoming tired. Each time you play, the pieces of paper you are supposed to collect will appear in random locations – making it difficult to predict where they will be.
You have no weapons of any kind, and if you stay in one spot for too long the Slender Man will eventually find you and trigger a Game Over screen. To make things even more difficult, with each note you pick up things get more intense. The sound effects get eerier, Slender Man’s footsteps get louder, your vision distorts and your battery on your torch wanes.
The first time I played this, I barely got one note before the Slender Man caught up with me. The next few times I fared better, but I must confess I’ve yet to get past five notes before that overgrown scarecrow mind-fucks me.
My most successful attempt ended when I was walking quietly through an abandoned shower block deep within the woods. I thought I had lost my stalker when I couldn’t hear the footsteps any more, turning on my flashlight to navigate the building I turned the next corner and found him standing there right in my path. He screamed into my mind through my headset and I jumped so violently out of my skin that I bit my tongue. This game HURTS.
It costs nothing and we all like a good scare, so I urge you dear gamer – let Slender into your life for a few minutes every day. It’ll certainly get the adrenaline pumping! The down side is that you’ll probably have to change your underwear more often, and your laundry bill may go up…