Slenderman: Requiem For Responsibility

Okay, so yeah, I know that I’ve been gone for a while. Real life has intruded (and in a severe way just recently). But something happened recently that’s so bizarre, so surreal, that it’s prompted me to come out of […]
on Jun 4, 2014 · 8 comments

Okay, so yeah, I know that I’ve been gone for a while. Real life has intruded (and in a severe way just recently). But something happened recently that’s so bizarre, so surreal, that it’s prompted me to come out of hiding. And it all started on Facebook.

Have you noticed that, with one of the latest updates to Facebook, they’ve added a “Trending” newsfeed? It’s a short list of the top stories that’s setting Facebook abuzzing. I usually ignore it, but every now and then, I’ll spot something that catches my attention. So you can imagine my surprise when I spotted a familiar name in the feed.

That name was “Slenderman.”


Are you familiar with the Slenderman? I wasn’t until a few years ago. I would visit a website dedicated to various memes and I kept spotting this weird guy in some of the jokes relating to videogames. So, ironically, I Googled “slender man” and I learned about who this rather odd fellow was. And I’ll admit, I got a little obsessed. I started watching Marble Hornets and Tribe Twelve, two YouTube shows that feature Slenderman as a villain (just a warning: those aren’t Christian videos, so be warned of language and violence). I found the best video out there, a short movie called Proxy (again, not for the squeamish). I discovered that someone had made a video game revolving around Slenderman and I wound up in a sort of merry war with a friend of mine, challenging each other to videotape ourselves playing it. You can check out one such video here (just a few jump scares in this one):

I even went so far as to write my own little horror movie about Slenderman.

So again, I had to wonder, why was Slenderman trending on Facebook?

Then I found out why: two twelve year old girls stabbed another twelve year old girl out in the woods, hoping that their actions would somehow please Slenderman.

I was stunned. What a horrific tragedy! But I wasn’t surprised when I how some of my friends reacted to this story: ban the Slenderman! Shut down the website where the girls first read about him! He’s a demon! He’s responsible for their actions!

And I have to say, that reaction got me a little peeved.

Look, I’m not trying to downplay what these girls did. It’s horrible, mind-boggling, a horror story come to life. But at the same time, let’s not overreact. Slenderman, after all, is a fictional character. He’s not real. These girls did something horrific, but it’s pretty clear to me that the responsibility for what happened should rest on them and, to a certain extent, on their parents. It’s clear that at least one or both of these girls were disturbed. Slenderman provided a trigger for that disturbed nature to express itself. But let’s be honest: if it wasn’t Slenderman, it would have been something else.

Besides, to blame Slenderman for what happened allows the perpetrators of this heinous act to duck their responsibility. Seriously. It’s a ridiculous argument. Should Jodie Foster have gone to prison because she “inspired” John Hinckley, Jr., to shoot President Reagan? Should Heath Ledger retroactively have his Oscar taken away from him because of James Holmes’s actions?

But then, human beings have always tried to blame other people for their sins, even from the beginning.

Take a look at what happened in the Garden of Eden. Satan, in the guise of the serpent, approaches Adam and Eve and, after a short conversation with the latter, convinces her to take a bite. Adam, who apparently was standing right there at the time, also indulges. They realize they’ve done wrong and, when God confronts Adam about it, notice what Adam says:

“The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Do you notice? “It’s not my fault, God! It’s her fault and really, it’s Your fault too for giving her to me in the first place!” Adam tries to pass the buck.

And then Eve does the same thing! She pins the blame on the serpent, saying that he tricked her and she ate.

To some extent, that’s true. Satan did use his crafty wiles and fast talking to get the fruit into Adam and Eve’s hands. But here’s the amazing thing: God doesn’t let them off the hook for what they did. They had to bear responsibility for what they did regardless of what may have inspired them.

Now, having said all that, I do believe that the girls’ obsession with Slenderman was a contributing factor, but to say that it was the only reason is ridiculous. This is how human beings tend to react in the wake of inexplicable violence. If there’s some factor that people don’t understand, that usually gets the blame. We oversimplify the narrative and say that X is the sole cause of Y, when the reality is really that while X may have been a contributing factor, Q, R, S, T, U, V, and W played a part too. And let’s not forget that parents bear a responsibility for monitoring what their children are up to an interested in.

But in the wake of a tragedy like this one, let’s be careful with the over-generalizing, pious hand-wringing, okay?

John W. Otte leads a double life. By day, he’s a Lutheran minister, husband, and father of two. He graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a theatre major, and then from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. By night, he writes unusual stories of geeky grace. He lives in Blue Springs, Missouri, with his wife and two boys. Keep up with him at
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  1. Julie D says:

    Thank you. I actually had a conversation with my parents about this yesterday (not exactly my first choice of topics, but they brought it up, not me) and while we both agreed that it was a horrible tragedy,  they were much more comfortable with shutting it down in response than I was. I pretty much went over your points, in my own way, boiling it down to

    Bans are horribly inefficient.
     Human nature can muck up anything.

    Where we disagreed was point #3:

    Therefore, to limit the damage we do to ourselves, we should put rules in place until people’s hearts are changed.

    One bad apple can spoil the barrel, but it’s not the fault of the other apples.  And as your experience points out,  people can and have enjoyed the Slenderman mythos before without causing any of this horrible stuff. (I haven’t seen more than a few Marble Hornets myself) .


    • we should put rules in place until people’s hearts are changed.

      I won’t comment on the morality of this (yet), only the workability: It won’t work.


      Because you must define a “we” who are able to enact and enforce the rules on others. Which requires being exposed to the Thing yourself. Which requires assuming that some people already have either changed hearts or other means of “immunity.” Which defeats the whole point.

      • Julie D says:

        I agree.  The problem in explaining that comes when you apply this logic to something like abortion or pornography….because we do have laws that attempt to limit that harm.

  2. Matthias M. Hoefler says:

    I think there was a whole subculture created around (don’t stone, folks who are through with references to these novels) Tolkien’s mythology. He certainly contributed to the couple fantastic Hobbits I’ve been watching. No spoilers, I haven’t finished Smaug yet.


    But this Slenderman. He might as well have done it himself. Was guilty to the point that if our technology were able to trace things like this into the realm of the mind, his fingerprints would be on that knife along with those girls’.


    That’s what people say about our LORD when something awful happens or their life doesn’t turn out the way they promised themselves it would. I’m sorry they lived through something horrible. But God’s so much better than that.


    I don’t understand how an all good, all powerful God tolerates the extremes of suffering that happen here everyday. I’ve read some on the subject, and my heart and mind tell me it’s wrong to simply blame Him for, say, the Holocaust.


    The Lord Himself has suffered.

  3. I totally agree. This isn’t about the specific evil character that “inspired” an action. If it wasn’t one, it would be another. Plenty of folks in history have blamed the devil (or God, for that matter) for inspiring their actions, so even the Bible was the only book published in the whole world, you’d have this problem. Like you said, it’s been there since Adam and Eve.

  4. Christian Jaeschke says:

    I don’t believe demons are behind every bush and I’m not saying that the girls weren’t responsible for their deplorable crime. That said, the girls mentioned that they wanted to appease Slenderman. I don’t know about you, but that sounds to me like a demonic influence (like the ancients killing to appease their gods/goddesses). We know the Enemy can use mental illnesses for his own purposes. It’s like ‘they’ using this obsession of the girls as a proxy to lead them into greater and greater sins, to the point where they took the life of one of their friends. Personally, I have no issues with Slenderman. I tried the game and it was creepy but I’m played worse. Also, I enjoyed aspects of the mythos but never really got into it. These girls need our prayers.

  5. Josh says:

    I like how everyone jumps to say, well this person shouldn’t believe in something that doesn’t exist. Just because you believe something doesn’t exist, DOES NOT MEAN it does not exist.

    If you saw the trial details you would see that one of those girls was very smart. She wasn’t dumb, and violent.  I am sorry, but if I saw something like the slender man and it told me to do something, I might think twice about not doing it.

    I know to some people right now I may seem dense. All I want you guys to realize is that you do not know everything, you have not seen everything.

    And for those who believe in a God who made everyone and everything, and is almighty and all knowing, how could you not believe in the slender man. I mean honestly guys. I am pretty sure you haven’t seen either one, but deeply believe one is up there, why not the other?

  6. Greg says:

    “Over-generalized pious hand-wringing?” “Requiem for Responsibility?” A horrible tragedy and you’re claiming we shouldn’t be too quick to blame Slender man? What about a sense of community? It seems to me that “Where we go one, we go all.” Perfect righteousness is the sine qua non of the kingdom of heaven. Come on now, you’re a minister – trained in theology. Why can’t you see that what you’re saying is biblically incoherent for the reason that murder, whether real or imagined, is sinful. Even your own enjoyment in such an atrocious past-time is culpable, which is not to blame all video-games – just ones that treat sin lightly, as if a little sin has no consequences. Perfect righteousness my man – the sine qua non of the kingdom of heaven. Nothing that perverts or corrupts will enter.

What do you think?