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Editing a Modern Myth Before it Bites…
by Ian ‘Cat’ Vincent
The Slenderman. A very modern monster. Born a mere three years ago in an internet Photoshop competition on the Something Awful website, this tall, suit clad, faceless entity rapidly spawned a dizzyingly complex mythology, growing from countless photo manipulations, acclaimed YouTube video series and blogs. Within weeks of his creation, terms like ‘tulpa’ were being used to describe him. Perhaps inevitably, his influence leaked from the fictions and Alternate Reality Games that were his home, into the fears and nightmares of many.
As Slenderman’s fame spreads, it is perhaps time to consider – if this creature can manifest from the imaginal realms into our reality… can we fight it? If so – how?
A Slender Thread
“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”
– Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody
“Magic is a disease of language.”
– Aleister Crowley
On 6th November 2009, the paranormal-based radio talk show Coast To Coast AM received a series of phone calls from young people who were expressing concern about a creature that they had begun to fear. Several of the callers reported seeing (both in nightmares and reality) a tall, thin, faceless entity who utterly terrified them.
They were reporting sightings of Slenderman.
At this point (September 2012), the Slenderman phenomenon is just over three years old. In the year since I first wrote about him in Darklore Volume 6, his ‘popularity’ has only expanded. Aside from the countless blogs and vlogs (video blogs), two low-budget movies about him (Hylo and Entity) have been filmed. A book considering Slenderman’s significance, by the Fortean writer Robin Snope (The Paranormal Pastor), has been published. A popular independent computer game, Slender, is entirely based on the player having to elude Slenderman in a dark forest…and, in keeping with the vast majority of the mythos, players have no way to fight him. All they can do is run.
In my previous piece on the subject, I ended with this question:
On the internet, nobody knows if you’re a dog. Or a tulpa. And if
enough people describe something as a thought-form… could this collective imagining actually make that form manifest?
And… if that form does manifest – this powerful, terrifying, unkillable thing called Slenderman – how can we fight it?
Considering the sheer ingenuity of the hundreds of writers and creators involved in the Slenderman project, it is no surprise that this question has already been considered in depth.
An important aspect to remember when looking into the Slenderman phenomenon is that it is, pretty much from the very start, a deeply metatextural thing. The vast majority of blogs refer to other blogs and stories within the corpus – treating them as possessing varying levels of veracity. For example: one of the earliest YouTube series, EverymanHYBRID, started as (supposedly) a series of amateur exercise/health videos, in which someone planted a Slenderman reference as a joke based on the earlier Marble Hornets series…which the EH characters originally considered to be fiction. This brought them to the attention of the ‘real’ Slenderman – with tragic results.
Though the high-profile YouTube series get a lot of the attention and are perhaps most responsible for the wider dissemination of the Slenderman mythos, it’s the simple written blogs that tend to provide much of the underlying structure of the mythos. Here again, the other stories of the Slenderman may be taken as either fact or fiction – while (of course) maintaining the illusion that their own blog is a record of actual reality. And sometimes there are crossover events – tales which are told across a group of collaborating storytellers within the larger mythos.
In regards to trying to find ways to combat the threat of Slenderman within that shared universe, one influential series of blogs came to examine the possibility of fighting Slenderman on his own turf. Let us assume, they said, that Slenderman is a tulpa, a thought-form created out of fiction, manifesting in our reality. Could that actually be a weakness? Can that fact be used to fight, even destroy him?
The model of anti-Slenderman action which came out of those blogs is known as ‘Core Theory’.
One of the earliest influences on what eventually became Core Theory was a blog called The Tutorial. It’s told from the perspective of a character known simply as ‘M’. The first blog entry begins:
This is is all because of f*cking Something Awful.
F*ck Something Awful.
It all started out so fun. Let’s make paranormal images, let’s share them, try to find where I doctored this picture! Yay yay yay! Hide a ghost, find a ghost, watch other people find your ghost. Fun. A good way to kill 3 hours. It’s weird to think it was only a year ago. Almost summer vacation. Everything was hot and sticky. People wanted to go to the mall, and I hated the mall so I stayed in and watched the nerdy horror thread and talked to other people who were doing the same. F*cking around the internet, looking for something to scare them. Then he posted it. The 1st pictures with it hidden away in forests and near kids and after fires. Can you find the Slenderman?
Great stories were posted. People made awesome pictures. That forum was more popular then ever. I woke up, checked my emails, went on twitter, checked that thread, every morning like clockwork. Sometimes there would be new stuff and sometimes there wouldn’t, but still it was great. People were being creative, people were making a new story, and, most importantly, people were scared.
Then Marble Hornets came out. And the other blogs and videos, and everything started. So much stuff. So many people thinking about Slenderman. So many people fearing it. So many people writing about Slenderman.
Have you ever heard of The Philip Phenomenon? In the 70s a group of people in Canada literally thought a ghost into existence. It took months. They would sit around a table and think about Philip and make up stories about him and try to will him into existence. And then they did.
It became Him.
It was fun until it wasn’t.
Until my brother died.
This isn’t a blog about how weird stuff will start happening to me, then I get paranoid, then I start to hear about Slenderman from other people and don’t believe you until it’s too late and He’s sitting right in front of me eating a cookie and I’m screwed. That already happened to me. And I survived. Because I was smart, I learned the rules, I kept moving. That’s what this blog is, a way to teach people how to win against Him. Because I don’t know how many of these Slenderman blogs are real or not (fun fact: you can tell a Slenderman blog/vlog isn’t real if it completely copies Marble Hornets, which is most of them), but I’m tired of seeing all these people make the same mistakes over and over.
The same mistakes I made.
The same mistakes that got my brother killed.
M goes on to establish the rules by which he has managed to survive and elude Slenderman thus far. They are:
- Get up high. (M has noted that Slenderman appears not to be able to see him when he’s above ground level. Even a few yards up a tree or on a roof is enough.)
- Keep moving.
- Keep your eyes open.
As the blog progresses, it becomes clear that others, writing in the comments section, are trying to apply M’s rules to their own situation. Then, other commenters start to talk about trying to find ways to actually fight, rather than flee, Slenderman.
The first blog to gain popularity with a tale about actually opposing Slenderman was Seeking Truth. The narrator, ‘Zeke Strahn’, is, as they say on The Wire, Natural Police – a detective investigating a series of child disappearances, who is dragged into the understanding that the abductions are not simply caused by a human assailant. After enduring terrible losses (a child in his care, and his partner and occasional lover Lizzie) and a direct encounter with Slenderman, Zeke gets his rage on…
Little Miss Lizzie
was having a tizzy
while eating her curds and whey.
A long Slender spider
tried to sat down beside her
but then I came and blew the f*cker away
…That’s the story I’m working on right now.
It’s still a rough draft, but…I don’t know, I think it has a nice ring
to it, don’t you?
Before going to face what may be his final confrontation with Slenderman, Zeke leaves the following post (23 July 2010):
And here is my message to the people out there, reading this, fighting him:
I know at the end of the blogs, they tell you that when the time comes that he comes after you, that you should end it yourself. Take your own life so that he doesn’t take it. Well today, I tell you the opposite.
Don’t give up.
Fight him as long and as hard as you can.
He may win in the end.
But don’t give him the satisfaction of an easy kill.
Let the f*cker work for his food.
You can’t keep letting him think that just because he holds the royal flush that it means you have to just fold. If enough people fight, if enough people give him a good run around...it may be enough to finish him.
Don’t give up.
Give it everything you’ve got.
If you have to end it before he gets you, then do it.
But give it your all before you do.
Give him one hell of a show before you do.
Many commenters on both The Tutorial and Seeking Truth warmed to the idea that Slenderman can actually be fought – suggestions on how to do so range from such classic anti-supernatural tools as salt and cold iron, to more straightforward weapons (swords, guns, baseball bats, even fire extinguishers) or powers (water, fire, electricity).
Some, however, rather than trying to find ways to strike at any particular manifestation or (to use a computing term) instance of Slenderman, consider the possibility of striking decisively at the heart of the Slenderman phenomenon instead. Using the Tulpa Effect itself as a weapon.
Key among these is a man called Robert Sagel (the creation of writer Grady J. Gratt). Sagel thinks the fictional origin of Slenderman can be used, aikido-like, against him. And in his own blog, White Elephants (begun in September of 2010), he starts to explain how.
Sagel’s plan is create an opposing force to Slenderman, derived from (a rather mangled version of) C.G. Jung’s archetype theory. He designates himself and other bloggers certain key roles, bestowing upon them titles which reflect their actions and define which archetype they are to represent. Then, once the group is working together, he hopes they can literally rewrite the story of Slenderman – to turn it into a tale in which Slenderman can now be defeated.
The names and definitions of these archetypal figures are summed up by the Slenderbloggins OOG blog (Out-Of-Game – i.e. looking at the Slenderblogs as fictions rather than playing along) as follows:
Sage: There’s a dark jungle next to the village. People who go into it
never return. The villagers fear the jungle. Then one day a man with a torch goes in, the villagers scream at him to not, but he does anyway. He returns the next night, crawling back, bleeding to death, claw marks on his back. With his last breath he says ‘Within the Jungle lives a Tiger, who is twelve feet long, obsidian claws, and has fire in its eyes…but it is just a Tiger and it bleeds.’ After that he dies. The villagers no longer fear the jungle after that day. Oh, it’s still scary and they take precautions from the huge Tiger…but it’s just a Tiger. No longer is it Unknown or Shadows, perhaps one day someone will go and kill the Tiger…but there is no need for pointless fear.
Mystic: The Mystic can equal to -Veteran.- Mystic has fought, stores the knowledge of the past, and continues to give support when possible.
Hermit: The Hermit lives by himself, has developed methods to survive, and is willing to pass on instructions, but has his own priorities, and odds are will not fight as opposed to run.
Warrior: Brave, Bold, Stupid in that headstrong way, Fights for the sake of the fight, Fights without fear, Only fights on This Side, Can push /Construct/ back to Other Side for a while, cannot beat it. A stop gap, and if they become an /Agent/ then there’s going to be a lot of trouble. [Note: /Construct/ means Slenderman itself. /Agent/ means someone possessed or controlled by Slenderman – sometimes also known as a Proxy. This Side and the Other Side refer to our world and the Slender Man’s world, respectively.]
Guardian: Calm, controlled with knowledge, Fights for others BUT will have nothing left on This Side, Fights on Other Side, Stays on Other Side and keep Him there for a much longer time, will return when the Vigil is over, or if a Hero emerges.
Hero: Afraid but pushes on, Foolish but gains wisdom from Sages and Mystics, Fights for those who are important to him, Fights on both This Side and Other Side Only a Hero can kill a monster… but the Hero always dies at the end of the story.
As the Slenderbloggins piece also notes:
There were a total of six Sages: Robert (White Elephants), Jay (Anomalous Data), and Shaun (Testing, 1 2 3) made up the first generation, while Zero (A Hint of Serendipity), Maduin (A Really Bad Joke), and Amelia (Road to the Heavens) made up the second generation.
The title of Mystic was given to Zeke Strahm. This is where the title of his second blog comes from.
The title of Hermit went to M.
The title of Warrior was never given, but Robert implied that it belonged to Zeke before he became the Mystic.
The title of Guardian was taken by Robert after he passed on the title of Sage.
The title of Hero was never filled.
White Elephants, and the group of blogs that Sagel referenced, are notable for the considerable back-and-forth (in character, and within each respective version of the mythos) in their comments sections. Nominees for archetypal figures discuss their plans, while proxies and other servants of Slenderman try to dissuade and attack them. Some of the bloggers note that being associated with an archetype-name seems to assist their own efforts – in some cases, possibly providing actual defences or even special abilities related to them.
One of these commenters – the character ‘Zero’ of the blog A Hint of Serendipity (one of my personal favourites in the corpus) – proposes a specific plan to the other nominated bloggers: that they co-ordinate their efforts against Slenderman into a single push, focused on one event on a specific date – the Winter Solstice of 2010.
Zero had an advantage over many of the other victims of Slenderman in that he was already an experienced role-play gamer – this gave him the option of modelling his experiences, and those of other victims, from the perspective of gaming. (The metatexturality of doing this within an Alternate Reality Game is notable.) His insights were valuable, especially to the growing Core Theory named participants.
An early example:
/Construct/ was created by a gap in social conscience, I think. We’ve heard people blame [Something Awful] for its existence, which can sound laughable, but perhaps is more true than we thought. Something Awful, while I do not visit it, is well known as being a very culture-centric site. As I understand it, a great deal of memes are created there, that spread out into the internet culture.
When the communication explosion occurred, back when texting and facebook started, we stumbled across something magical, the ability for instant communication gratification. Stimulus/Response from practically anywhere in the world, at your fingertips. Added with the mobility of cell phones, this staggered us as a culture. People were killed responding to texts while driving, lives crumbled, and school rooms were simple texting grounds. These things still happen, but now we’re starting to step up against it. Communication evolved farther than our ability to understand it, we needed to grow socially, as the whole world, to understand what we had done.
One of the games I’ve played has a concept of magic that in essence says, ‘the more you’re taught something, the more you’re defined as to what your world is, the less potential you have, because you’ve chosen to rigorously define what is and is not real.’ I’ve seen this as a sound theory, and while I am naturally skeptical of things, I believe that this could in fact be the case. What was it Sherlock Holmes said? “If you take away the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
This malaise, this cultural reawakening we discovered, threw back the curtains, and revealed to us another truth, and for a few years, we were children, open to the fantastic yet again. This is how we got here.
So here’s my proposal. We need to kill him, here on-line together. We all need to write a story, a paragraph at least, of how the /constructs/ die, and leave us rid of them forever. We need to tap into that morass, and spread the word, get it on Something Awful, maybe make it a contest or something, where everyone submits a story, and kill this asshole in our minds and spirits. Do it, Kill the Slender Man!
As more and more of the Core Theory group were targeted by Slenderman’s Agents in-game, pressure grew to find a specific plan of attack. Suggestions from The Tutorial and other blogs implied that Slenderman was perhaps slightly weaker at the Solstices. With the Winter Solstice fast approaching, Zero proposed to the Core Theory group the following plan:
On the 21st of December 2010, Zero and several other bloggers would lead a direct physical attack against Slenderman, after luring him to a specific location. The intent would not be to actually kill Slenderman – instead, they simply intended to wound him, to show others that it was possible to do so. The secondary aspect of the attack would be to encourage other bloggers to write stories of this attack from their own perspective – whether they were present within the battlespace or not. It would be these stories – all conforming to the broad description of the event as told later by the participants, but each with their own Rashamon-like variations, which would install an ongoing weakness into the Slenderman mythos as a whole… leading to the rise of a later Hero-archetype, who would thus have a much better chance of fully defeating Slenderman. As Zero wrote in his final post before the Solstice Event:
I’ve said before, that you are the key to victory. You always have been. What I need you all to do is simply write a story about what happens. It’s that simple. I’ve given instructions to the people who are attending the Event to elaborate and romanticize the entire deal, to let fantasy add its mark to the fight. All of you readers who are not attending, I will ask you, as well, to write a story. Tell in your own words what you think happens.
So now that I’ve intentionally shed confusion on most observers, everyone has a more equal amount of credibility for writing. As I said, some of you said you’re coming, but do not have the address I am at. Some of you, I spoke to but have not alluded to showing. Others are just reading this now, and have never left their homes. It’s because of this unreliable narrator quality, we can discuss on equal terms what happens.
Why should you do this for me? Because this is how we kill the monster. We, as a blogosphere, discuss, critique, and solidify a story of this Event, enough that we can agree and deem it canon. It doesn’t matter what is true within it or not. The point is that we progress further into the chain of events, advancing another rung closer to killing the Slender Man. In a literal sense, I am putting my life on the line, that you readers and bloggers can come together to give a cohesive answer as to the happenings today.
The Solstice Event went more-or-less as planned. Participants from many blogs, from the Core Theory group to other parallel stories (such as the black-ops monster-hunting unit from the blog Observe and Terminate) made their appearance. In all the tellings of the tale, Zero strikes a clearly effective, wounding blow against Slenderman… but is grievously wounded in return. He disappears, and is possibly dead.
In most senses, however – both in-game and OOG – the Solstice Event was not a success. In-game, the Core Theory bloggers continued to be pursued and attacked. Many of the participants – Zero himself, Robert Sagel and many others – are either horribly wounded, killed or turned into Proxies. Although attempts are made after that point to use the Tulpa Effect again, none seem to cause any lasting harm to Slenderman or his minions.
Out-of-game, Core Theory, though popular, was also highly criticised. Many bloggers felt that the whole Core Theory concept reduced the power of the mythos as horror – because something that can be successfully fought just isn’t as scary. Others insisted that the addition of archetypally-bestowed abilities to the mythos was leading to a wave of blogs which were nothing more than super-hero tales, with the protagonists functioning simply as Mary Sues (wish•fulfilment personifications of the writer). Even some of the Core Theory writers themselves – including Gratt and the creator of Zero – agreed with this OOG, and later wrote other stories to retroactively change the continuity of their stories (‘retcon’) so that the powers weren’t as effective or useful, to counteract this trend.
From a writer and horror fan’s perspective, I see their point. But at the same time, as someone looking at the Slenderman phenomenon from the perspective of a practicing modern magician with considerable experience in working with avowedly fictional entities, the thought which kept going round and round my head when reading of Sagel and Zero et al’s noble battle against this awful foe, was: “If only they’d read more comic books…”
Specifically, the comics of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison.
Idea-Space and the Hypersigil
“Ideas are bullet proof.”
– Codename V, in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta
“I’m an assassin – I can kill anything.”
– King Mob, in Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles
Alan Moore and Grant Morrison are two of the most important, and generally underestimated, cultural influences of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. That’s no hyperbole – if you just consider the impact of Anonymous (symbolized by the Guy Fawkes mask from Moore’s V For Vendetta) and the film The Matrix (which was strongly influenced by, or possibly part-plagiarized from, Morrison’s epic The Invisibles, of which more below), their thought has filtered into modern culture with lasting effect.
Although they are (infamously) far from friends, they have much in common. Both are British (Moore from the town of Northampton in the north of England, Morrison from Glasgow, Scotland). Both were born into the working class. Both have produced classic works in the comic book mainstream which changed the industry greatly, but also have worked outside the Big Two of DC and Marvel Comics.
And…both are practicing magicians, who have each had powerful personal experiences of the fictional bursting into the supposedly Real World. Each of them has a theory about just how that can be – and both these theories bring an important perspective to the Slenderman phenomenon.
Alan Moore’s experience with magic grew from the vast amount of research he conducted for his various works, from as far back as his ground-breaking run on DC Comics’ Swamp Thing, in which he created the character of John Constantine. Constantine, a sarcastic, morally ambiguous working-class Englishman with a strong resemblance to Sting and a notable lack of respect for the niceties of both ceremonial magic and supposed authority, became a break-out character, featuring in his own long-running comic Hellblazer. In its unbroken 24-year run, Hellblazer has been written by the very cream of modern comic writers – creators such as Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Mike Carey, Peter Milligan…and Grant Morrison.
Although Moore’s own career took him away from writing Constantine after his initial Swamp Thing run – as he came to fame for such works as Watchmen, V For Vendetta, Batman: The Killing Joke and his epic, occult-and-psychogeography-drenched Jack The Ripper opus From Hell – the character continued to linger in his mind…to the point where Moore has publicly admitted to encountering John Constantine in the real world. Twice.
Moore told of his first encounter with Constantine in the flesh to Wizard Magazine (which, it should be noted, was a comic industry work, not an occult zine!) thus:
One day, I was in Westminster in London – this was after we had introduced the character - and I was sitting in a sandwich bar. All of a sudden, up the stairs came John Constantine. He was wearing the trenchcoat, a short cut, he looked…no, he didn’t even look exactly like Sting. He looked exactly like John Constantine. He looked at me, stared me straight in the eyes, smiled, nodded almost conspiratorially, and then just walked off around the corner to the other part of the snack bar.
I sat there and thought, should I go around that corner and see if he is really there, or should I just eat my sandwich and leave? I opted for the latter; I thought it was the safest. I’m not making any claims to anything. I’m just saying that it happened. Strange little story.
His second meeting with John Constantine is recounted as part of his theatrical performance piece, Snakes and Ladders (which was adapted into comic form by the artist Eddie Campbell as A Disease Of Language – in direct reference to the earlier Crowley quote):
Years later, in another place, he steps out of the dark and speaks to
me. He whispers: “I’ll tell you the ultimate secret of magic. Any c*nt could do it.”
In a personal conversation with me in 2011, Moore said that this encounter took place in the context of a magical ritual. But under the circumstances, that may make it more relevant here, rather than less.
At the age of 40, partly as a result of the deep assimilation of occult lore required to write From Hell, Moore publicly announced that he was now a magician. Furthermore, he added that his specific focus of worship was the little-known ancient Greek deity Glycon – a snake-god which, by most accounts, was actually nothing more than a glove puppet operated by a fraudulent priest. Clearly, Moore’s take on magic was not to be limited to the traditional forms of ritual worship and was able to embrace the validity of fictional forms as a magical focus, as first proposed by the practitioners of what would eventually be called Chaos Magic.
His magical praxis brought a deeper structure to his later works, especially in his mammoth retelling of the Western esoteric tradition in comic form, Promethea (featuring another god-figure created entirely from human imagination) and in his ongoing potpourri of fictional worlds The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In the latter, Moore advances his theory of how the imaginal and physical realms may interact – a concept he has named ‘Idea-space’.
Essentially, Moore’s concept of Idea-space is that there is a parallel level of reality to ours which is both inhabited by, and the source of, every idea humans have or ever will have. That the concepts and characters we think we create are actually discovered. As Moore puts it:
Maybe our individual and private consciousness is, in Idea-space terms, the equivalent of owning an individual and private house, an address, in material space? The space inside our homes is entirely ours, and yet if we step out through the front door, we find ourselves in a street, a world, that is mutually accessible and open to anyone. What if that was true of the mind, as well? What if it were possible to travel beyond the confines of one’s individual mind-space, into the communal outdoors, where one could meet with the minds of other people in a shared place? This would at a stroke explain dubious phenomena such as reported telepathy or knowledge-at-a-distance. When James Watt discovered steam propulsion, for example, there were a number of other inventors who came up with the idea independently in that same year, yet were unable to beat Watt to the Patent Office… If Idea-space doesn’t exist, then these numerous independent discoveries of steam power can only be an almost unbelievable coincidence.
This conception of a realm in which human consciousness can overlap with ‘fictional’ forms clearly has relevance for the concept of thought-forms in general, and the Slenderman phenomenon in particular.
Grant Morrison’s experience with magic is rather different to Moore’s. Morrison was practicing magic from the relatively early age of 17, thanks to an uncle who lent him various works by Aleister Crowley. His success with these rituals, combined with his taste for the outlandish public personas in rock and punk music (as well as a deep admiration for Michael Moorcock’s dandyish character Jerry Cornelius, The English Assassin) led Morrison to increasingly combine his magic, writing and personal life. He, like Moore, shot to fame as a result of being recruited by DC Comics as part of the British Wave of writers intended to invigorate the industry in the 1980s. Right from the first, in his reboot of the obscure C-list superhero Animal Man, Morrison’s work was looking hard at the metatextural…to the extent that, when he finished his run on the book, the last issue had the hero meet a version of Morrison himself as a creator-figure – in this instance, of Morrison apologising for the travails he had put the character through for the sake of a good story.
Morrison’s interest in surrealism and the edgier realms of philosophy and the occult were increasingly instrumental in his work – coming to the fore in books such as his version of Doom Patrol and his breakthrough Batman story Arkham Asylum. His success was such that the editors of DC’s adult-oriented Vertigo Comics imprint were willing to take a risk on an original comic series from Morrison, one which would make a huge mark on comics in general, and Morrison himself in particular – a series called The Invisibles.
It was to be the tale of the modern descendants of The Invisible College – the age-old magically-enhanced anarchist conspiracy who battled to hold in check the forces of authoritarianism. And, it was, from the first, intended to heavily reflect Morrison’s experience with chaos magic – especially the sigil tool set derived from the early 20th century practitioner and artist Austin Osman Spare.
As Morrison explains it in his chaos magic tutorial Pop Magic!:
The sigil takes a magical desire or intent – let’s say “IT IS MY DESIRE TO BE A GREAT ACTOR” (you can, of course, put any desire you want in there) and folds it down, creating a highly-charged symbol. The desire is then forgotten. Only the symbol remains and can then be charged to full potency when the magician chooses. Forgetting the desire in its verbal form can be difficult if you’ve started too ambitiously. There is no point charging a sigil to win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.
…I’ve also used sigils for healing, for locating lost objects and for mass global change.I’ve been using them for 20 years and they ALWAYS work.For me the period between launching the sigil and its manifestation as a real world event is usually 3 days, 3 weeks, or 3 months depending on the variables involved. I repeat: sigils ALWAYS work.
So. Begin your desire’s transformation into pure throbbing symbol in the following fashion: First remove the vowels and the repeating letters to leave a string of consonants – TSMYDRBGC. Now start squashing the string down, throwing out or combining lines and playing with the letters until only an appropriately witchy-looking glyph is left.
…There are no rules as to how your sigil should look as long as it WORKS for you. RESULTS ONLY are important at this stage. If something doesn’t work, try something else. The point is not to BELIEVE in magic, the point is to DO it and see how it works. This is not religion and blind faith plays no part.
Charging and launching your sigil is the fun part…
Morrison then notes that a sigil is to be charged by a powerful, focussed release of emotional energy. Any stimulus can be used – a common one is masturbation, the sigil to be concentrated on, visualized and empowered at the moment of orgasm.
In The Invisibles, Morrison wanted to expand the concept of sigil magic beyond the limits of the single image – it was to be, in the term he coined, a hypersigil. As he defined it, “The hypersigil is a sigil extended through the fourth dimension.”
The entirety of The Invisibles – every line of dialogue, every drawn frame – would be an aspect of a huge spell to alter reality at a fundamental level. Morrison’s intent was to awaken a higher level of magical consciousness in the world as a way of allowing people to greater control their lives in the face of increasingly authoritarian times
– and to alter his own life on a deep level, to re-imagine himself into a better man. To this end, he used many aspects of his own life story in the text, especially in the creation of a character designed to be the archetypal version of who and what he wanted to become: King Mob.
The book had an enthusiastic, but small, audience when it was first published in 1994. Aspects of the book soon began to show powerful recursive effects in Morrison’s life; to an extent, he was starting to become King Mob. This, however, had its drawbacks.
Towards the end of the first run of The Invisibles, King Mob is captured by the forces of Order, and brutally tortured. One part of the torture involved his being convinced that the enemy had mutilated his face with a necrotizing fasciitis virus, leaving a huge disfiguring hole in his cheek. As those issues of the book reached print, Morrison fell grievously ill, nearly dying. One of the symptoms was an infection which made a hole in his cheek.
When Morrison recovered, he sensibly decided to alter King Mob’s character trajectory into something which would be less damaging in terms of magical backlash. He was further informed by the visions he had in his near-death experience, changing the storyline of The Invisibles to a more optimistic outcome and influencing powerful later works such as The Filth, All-Star Superman and Batman RIP. His interest in magic has never wavered.
(He also published a sigil in the letters page of the end of The Invisibles’ first volume, designed to raise sales of the book…and to be charged with the orgasmic power of the readers. This act, known as The Wank-a-thon, is now legendary…especially as sales of the book increased dramatically, allowing the series to reach its natural, er, conclusion five years later.)
All of which is a roundabout way of allowing me to ask the following: What if the entirety of the Slenderman mythos, this brutal intrusion from Idea-space, is an accidental hypersigil?
Hacking the Hypersigil
“You made it real! You can make it unreal.”
- Emily Jessup, in Paddy Chayefsky’s Altered States
It is, of course, entirely possible that the people mentioned at the start of this article who phoned in to Coast To Coast AM were simply lying. Playing the Slenderman ARG, planting the idea of his reality into a paranormal talk show just for the lulz. But, on one level, that doesn’t actually matter. Stories like this feed into the overall myth structure of Slenderman, act to enhance the hypersigil, more deeply delineate into (or, perhaps, reinvest from) his Idea-space form. Right from the start, in the Something Awful thread mere days after Victor Surge’s original pair of photoshopped pictures began the whole thing, the commenter known as ‘I’ said:
The Slender Man.
He exists because you thought of him.
Now try and not think of him.
We can’t. The same as the old saying about hearing the words White Elephant and trying not to imagine a white elephant – or, for those who’ve read so far, the blog White Elephants. So, in one sense, we can’t kill Slenderman. We made him real.
But, as the quote from Altered States above notes: we can make him unreal. In the same way the Core Theory group tried (but failed), in the way Grant Morrison did successfully with King Mob – we can edit the story. Magic is, after all, a disease of language – a ghost haunting the space between reality and the symbols we use to describe reality – which are all we can ever truly know of reality.
We can manipulate the symbol-set.
We can hack the hypersigil.
And we can certainly take action against any single instance of him.
Any c*nt could do it.
One of the most powerful principles in the array of techniques that have become known as Chaos magic is banishing with laughter. Most often used at the end of a ritual to disrupt and free any lingering magical energies (and as a clear crossing-point back to ‘reality’ from magical space), it’s most often applied as sharing a good, hearty group laugh. But it can also be used as a weapon.
The power of ridicule and satire against figures of authority is well-known. The powerful rarely appreciate being laughed at. And, it seems, Slenderman is no different. Many of the blogs diverge from the serious horror-show and creepypasta of the mythos and simply take the piss.
Born in a 2-minute video spoof (embedded below) and now distributed nearly as widely as Slenderman himself is his sweet-natured, fun-loving brother Splendorman! (the exclamation point is important). There are even stories where people have used the spirit of Splendorman! to successfully banish Slenderman.
Another effective set of spoofs used as anti-Slendy magic in-game revolve around another short parody video, which takes a Marble Hornets clip and adds to the soundtrack the (rather tedious) rap song “Gimme Twenty Dollars” by Roy Browz. It’s catchy and annoying – and at least one member of the initial Core Theory Group (Madurin the Jester of A Really Bad Joke) managed to actually banish an instance of Slenderman by handing him a $20 bill.
If Slenderman were to make actual inroads into quotidian reality, I think it’s tools like these that would best oppose him. Fighting fire – to quote the film Toys – with marshmallows.
And let’s be clear – a full formed manifestation of Slenderman is pretty damn unlikely. Chaos mages have been trying to manifest Great Cthulhu in ritual for decades since Kenneth Grant popularized H.P. Lovecraft’s work in his magical theories, and the world remains uneaten. But he could – and may – haunt the edges of our consciousness, pull us in to notable synchronicities. Manifest as thoroughly-yet-tenuously as John Constantine did to Alan Moore, become as significant as King Mob was to Grant Morrison.
In that event, we have to remember that, whatever else Slenderman may be, he is a creation, a story, a trick of the mind. And, if I may leave you with one more quote – this time from the modern Holy Fool Pee-Wee Herman…
Your mind plays tricks on you? You play tricks back!
Ian ‘Cat’ Vincent was born on Imbolc-Groundhog Day in Gravesend, England, 1964. He is a lifelong student of the occult, and a former professional combat magician, curse-breaker and exorcist. In recent years, he has focused on exploring the utility of the ‘hyper-real’ (fiction- inspired) belief systems. His writing on Forteana and magic, especially on the personal magical style he terms ‘Guttershaman’, can be found at CatVincent.com. He is also a staff writer at Weaponizer and Modern Mythology and co-curates the consciousness news/ discussion group F*ck Yeah Consciousness. He lives in Yorkshire, England with his wife, the artist and writer Kirsty Hall. He is often found on Twitter as @catvincent.
He’s a nasty piece of work. Just ask anyone.