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The internet myth that nearly led to murder—and changed folklore forever

The story of Slenderman has been cited everywhere from internet message boards to the courtroom. But how did it take hold—and what does it tell us about horror in the digital age?

By James McMahon  

An 8-bit depiction of Slenderman made on piq. Photo: piq/eeveegirl300

Despite describing behaviour that spans the entirety of human existence, the word ‘folklore’ is a relatively new one. Its creation is credited to the English writer William Thoms, who in an 1846 missive to The Athenaeum replaced more cumbersome descriptives of the age—“popular antiquities” being the most prominent—with this new term.

Loosely speaking, “folklore” is an umbrella term for stories that are transmitted from one person to another. Examples include conspiracy theories, fairy tales and ghost stories.

The word is…

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