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Two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls are accused of stabbing a peer nearly to death, all over a supposed belief in the "Slenderman" meme.
The girls allegedly lured a friend into the woods, supposedly for a game of hide and seek. There, police say one of the girls stabbed the victim with a knife, almost killing her. The girls allegedly told police they committed the act in an attempt to impress "Slenderman."
What is this "Slenderman" meme, and who should answer for this stabbing?
What Is 'Slenderman?'
Let's be clear: "Slenderman" is a fictional character. According to Rolling Stone, it originated from an image creation contest by artist Eric Knudsen in an online forum called Something Awful. He drew inspiration from writers H.P. Lovecraft and William S. Burroughs to create an image of a "tall, thin humanoid lurking behind children, stalking them like prey."
As many memes do, the "Slenderman" mythos grew and evolved, creating full fictional profiles and histories on sites like Creepypasta. Creepypasta's wiki describes "Slenderman" or "The Slender Man" as a gaunt, lanky man in a plain black suit who has shadowy, tentacle-like appendages with a penchant for stalking and killing children.
After their arrests, the two 12-year-old suspects told investigators that they had planned to kill their victim in order to curry favor with "Slenderman"... after reading up on his CreepyPasta wiki.
Charged as Adults
Both girls have been charged as adults in the attempted murder of their 12-year-old victim, although they may be transferred to juvenile court.
The New York Daily News reports that both girls could face up to 60 years in prison for allegedly stabbing the victim 19 times.
Juvenile suspects are treated differently in every state, and Wisconsin has particularly harsh juvenile justice laws. The Associated Press notes that Wisconsin requires homicide or attempted homicide charges to be filed in adult court if the suspect is at least 10 years old.
What About the Website's Liability?
There is also an active question about Creepypasta's role in introducing the girls to "Slenderman." Creepypasta is a self-proclaimed "literature site, not a crazy satanic cult," and its site rules do not allow accounts for users under 13.
It seems unlikely that the site could be held liable for the alleged attack, criminally or otherwise, but it could potentially be used as evidence if an insanity defense is pursued.
The girls' bail has been set at $500,000 each, CNN reports.