The centerpiece of the data which I have found is the concept of the Uncanny Valley. I dug into the subject and found that a number of online forums have traced the concept to the story of a Japanese engineer who was a designer of rudimentary robots. His goal was to make robots that were essentially perfect human simulations. His early models were popular with all his friends, who thought that the little “bolted children” were to some degree cute. But as he progressed in his development and began to add synthetic skin and basic facial cues to his creations, people began to fear them. The theory that emerged from this story has become known as the “Uncanny Valley,” which is essentially the idea that man does not have the ability to create perfect human simulations and therefore the more realistic the attempt, the more disquieting the product (Bryant). The person who offered the response citing the Uncanny Valley compared the Slender Man to some thing called “SCP-173,” which I had never heard of but have since discovered is an online cousin to the Slender Man and is pictured below:
Originating on a paranormal fan website posing as the website for a shadowy government organization with the initials SCP (Secure, Contain, Protect), the thing pictured above is identified only by its “item number,” SCP-173 (SCP-173). The website offers this description for the origin of the thing:
“Origin is as of yet unknown. It is constructed from concrete and rebar with traces of Krylon brand spray paint. SCP-173 is animate and extremely hostile. The object cannot move while within a direct line of sight. Line of sight must not be broken at any time with SCP-173. Personnel assigned to enter container are instructed to alert one another before blinking. Object is reported to attack by snapping the neck at the base of the skull, or by strangulation. In the event of an attack, personnel are to observe Class 4 hazardous object containment procedures.”
SCP-173 is the most popular of the hundreds of other items cited on the website, and its lack of back story and unexpectedly vicious behavior make it a kind of companion piece to the story of the Slender Man. But as you can see in the picture, whatever the thing is it does retain some humanoid aspects. It has arms and legs, a head and something like a face. Honestly, it resembles something like a mascot at a college football game. It is an imperfect human simulation without a creator and without purpose, enough to turn it into a living nightmare. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Slender Man has asserted a greater presence on the internet:
The image on the left depicts the Slender Man as he is seen from a distance, while the right image is more of a vision of what the Slender Man might look like when he attacks. In each, it is easy to see the humanoid features of the Slender Man: he has arms and legs and in fact appears to be wearing a fine men’s suit complete with a neatly tied tie. Imagine removing the tentacles from the left image and replacing the face with that of Brad Pitt, or John Travolta, or any recognizable face. There would be nothing wrong with that image. The Slender Man seemingly unites the idea of class with the idea of depravity, and is in a sense the best personification of the “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” This is the likely reason why he is always seen as a distance in video series’ exploring the myth. If you were to see a man watching you from a distance, you would innately want to watch him back. You would want to show him that you know that he is watching you. The fact that Slender Man has no face to look into makes the character that much more wrong and disquieting. It is relatively accepted within the Slender Man community that he has powers which are likely beyond our knowledge, with the idea that he has the ability to stretch and modify his limbs at will only being the most obvious. Therefore the concept of something which looks so simple having unimaginable demonic power is all it takes to make the Slender Man significant.
When sorting through the archival data that I have compiled regarding the Slender Man, I noticed that there are extensive themes tying each of the stories together with only a handful of exceptions. The majority of the stories that I found claim to be true, including several which are written as pleas for help. Some involve extensive memory loss, some involve intimate encounters with the Slender Man, but in all of them the Slender Man is characterized in the same way (not including the response discussing multiple fighting Slender Men, which I am writing off as a kind of outlier). None of the posts featured an actual attack by the Slender Man. In all cases he is observed; while he may have an effect on those that he watches he does nothing. He is merely a representation of evil, a perversion of the human form bearing nothing but silent malevolence. I think that this is the first conclusion which can be drawn regarding the influence of the Slender Man. He is successful because he is just well-defined enough to have his own identity, but mysterious enough that we are left to fill in the blanks with our own nightmares. The vast majority of the online Slender Man community believes that the entity is not real, but if some of these stories are to be taken at their word then there does exist a minority that believe that the Slender Man is a real occurrence. Likely this is nothing more than a case of an overactive imagination taking the form of the Slender Man rather than any number of other half-formed shadow demons lurking in the average American night.
The fifth story that I offer begins by saying that the poster intends to resign after writing his story. The story also stands out among all of them for the reason that this is the only story that I found which involves an exorcism of the Slender Man. This is really important to note because it is the only example amongst the dozens that I looked at and elected to include or exclude that involves any kind of offense against the Slender Man. It doesn’t fit with the motif that I have began to understand after reviewing all of this data. I think that the reason for this is that the Slender Man is far more effective when he is viewed as unquestionably invincible. A relentless, evil force without purpose loses its sting as grim entertainment the second we realize that the curse can be lifted with a strong Christian faith.