Took my young children to a cave not far from the house. Popular spot, but we had the place to ourselves. You can walk through it in about 30 minutes without too much difficulty. It has a tiny exit at the opposite end. It was pretty muddy, so we decided to turn around and head back to the entrance. Halfway back, there was a lit candle sitting about eight feet up one side. It was definitely not there on the first trip. I went into full-on protective-dad-mode knowing there was likely someone hiding in the dark while we walked the rest of the way out.
That thread led to a much larger strand, a marvelous sequence of campfire spooky stories. The conceit is a search and rescue veteran sharing the creepiest experiences s/he has had or heard. Pore through these in a brightly lit, warm house, without stairs: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
"Otherwhere" is a fine bit of audio horror. It starts off as a local public radio host interviewing one Dr. Arlen Childs about his new religion or psychic program. Childs is a channeler, and claims to have made contact with an unusual entity. Saying anything more will spoil the delights.
The story poses itself as a cry for help from a young man increasingly scared of Facebook content seemingly coming from his dead girlfriend. Formally, it's a sequence of paragraphs arranged in chronological order, each linked to a screen capture of some creepy bit of Facebook activity. The narrator sets up each graphic, then reacts to it.
For example, here is one of the early exchanges. "Nathan" is the story's narrator, the boyfriend; "Emily" is the supposedly dead girlfriend:
Note the anonymizing features, which add a documentary feel to the story. And note, too, the final open text box, which gives an extra sense of ongoing conversation.
Later the exchanges become more like a ghost story. For example, this screenshot shows Emily complaining about temperatures - of the grace, most likely:
Two girls dreamed of Slenderman, and tried to kill a third. It's a Gothic story, one that crosses between the boundaries of Gothic fiction, real-life horror, and digital media. It is in some ways the ultimate Infocult story, and deserves our attention, dear readers and minions.
If you don't know the Slenderman mythos, it's a fascinating one. Users at the Something Awful forums concocted it out of whole cloth as a kind of DIY internet horror meme.
And from there Slenderman just grew. The subject of games, movies, photoshops, and especially short fiction. Call him the first native boogeyman of social media, or the spook of prosumer culture.
So how did fictional Slendy cross over into real life without a Borgesian pathway? It's hard to say much, given that the story is only a few days old, and wrapped up in multiple layers of secrecy. But we can tackle this from a number of angles.
For example, this affair is a story about stories and horror. Listen to this account of events, starting with the worldview:
[accused attacker Anissa E.] Weier told police that Slender Man is the "leader" of Creepypasta, and in the hierarchy of that world, one must kill to show dedication. Weier said that Geyser told her they should become "proxies" of Slender Man — a paranormal figure known for his ability to create tendrils from his fingers and back — and kill their friend to prove themselves worthy of him. Weier said she was surprised by Geyser's suggestion, but also excited to prove skeptics wrong and show that Slender Man really did exist.
The suspects believed that "Slender," as Weier called him, lived in a mansion in the Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin.
What a fine imagining. There's the fairy tale castle grounded in the upper midwest (a mansion? did Slendy join the 1%?). There's the cult-like sense of shared sacrifice and crime. Then the fusing of identity, whereby the girls would become part-Slendermen, proxies. And the faithfulness to the source material, locating the fearsome tall man in darkness and horrible acts against children.
Beyond the worldling, the girls concocted a scheme, both practical and poignant:
The plan was to kill the victim and walk to Slender's mansion. After school on Friday, Weier told police, she and Geyser went to Weier's house, where she packed a backpack with clothes, granola bars, water bottles and a picture of her mother, father and siblings. She didn't want to forget what her family looked like after leaving for Slender's mansion.
And the tactics:
Geyser and Weier originally had planned to commit the murder at 2 a.m. Saturday, according to the criminal complaint. They'd duct tape their victim's mouth, stab her in the neck and pull the covers up to make it look like she was sleeping. Then they'd run.
But the plans changed after they'd been out rollerskating Friday night. Instead, they'd try to kill her in a bathroom at a nearby park the next morning. Weier knew there was a drain in the floor for the blood to go down, she told police.
Very practical. How much of this was drawn from crime fiction, and how much from solid DIY instincts?
Then there's a blend of crime and young adult chaos:
Weier said Geyser then tackled the victim and started stabbing her. The victim was screaming. Weier said when Geyser got off the victim, the victim screamed, "I hate you. I trusted you."
Weier said the victim tried to walk toward the street but was stumbling. They didn't want anyone to see her, so Weier grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the street. The victim fell. Weier said the victim couldn't breathe, see or walk. Weier told the victim to lie down and be quiet — she would lose blood more slowly. Weier told police she gave the victim those instructions so she wouldn't draw attention to herself, and so she would die. Weier told the victim they were going to get her help; but they never planned on actually doing so. They hoped she would die, and they would see Slender and know he existed.