Slenderman: Online Obsession, Mental Illness, and the Violent Crime of Two Midwestern Girls (Hardcover)

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Slenderman: Online Obsession, Mental Illness, and the Violent Crime of Two Midwestern Girls By Kathleen Hale Cover Image
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Slenderman is a perfect example of true crime writing at its best – throughout a detailed account of Waukesha’s Slenderman stabbing and years of legal fallout, Hale searches for the places where the legal system fails us and where we, as people, fail each other. What is justice, really, and how can it be better served? The facts of the case are not in dispute, though widely misreported. Case in point: the single crime’s only victim survived, yet the incident is still often known as the ‘Slenderman murders.’ And key elements were all but ignored by a tough-on-crime judge hellbent on trying the girls as adults according to an outdated, illogical Wisconsin law enacted out fear of the superpredator myth. The facts are: two 12-year-old girls, one suffering from severe early-onset schizophrenia and one with pathological attachment issues, misunderstood online YA horror fiction as reality and then plotted and attempted to murder their classmate. A native Wisconsinite with a sensitive and fact-oriented eye, Hale cuts through the slogans attached to the case (Internet Evil! Adult Crime, Adult Time!) to understand the ties between mental illness, Midwestern stoicism, violence, and reactionary impulses. It’s a horrible incident, yes, but Hale well makes the case for the necessity of talking honestly about hard things to shine some light into the dark.

— Chris Lee

The Waukesha Slenderman stabbing, often mistakenly referred to as the ‘Slenderman Murders’, left many shocked and morbidly intrigued. Because the true facts of the case were blurred, fumbled, and outright ignored, the idea of two 12-year-old girls committing such a violent crime all in the name of an internet boogeyman is confusing and downright disconcerting. But that was never the full story. Kathleen Hale's telling of the tale is extremely comprehensive, well researched, and compellingly written. Told with facts and not sensationalism in mind, Slenderman is the best true crime book I've read in years. I was glued to the pages as Hale pulled back the layers of this complicated story, exploring the ways in which a young girl's ignored mental health crisis, backward judicial and mental health services systems, and Midwestern attitudes came together to create a truly tragic scenario. It's a hard story in which no one wins, but you'll have to decide for yourself if justice was served. Thankfully, Hale is willing to have that conversation. I haven't stopped thinking about this case or the three girls since I closed the book, leaving me to wonder, what does justice look like, and how we as a society can do better?

— Parker Jensen

Kathleen Hale appears In-Person at Boswell on Thursday, October 12, 6:30 pm central. Click here to register for this event.

— Boswell Book Company


The first full account of the Slenderman stabbing, a true crime narrative of mental illness, the American judicial system, the trials of adolescence, and the power of the internetOn May 31, 2014, in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, Wisconsin, two twelve-year-old girls attempted to stab their classmate to death. Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier's violence was extreme, but what seemed even more frightening was that they committed their crime under the influence of a figure born by the internet: the so-called "Slenderman." Yet the even more urgent aspect of the story, that the children involved suffered from undiagnosed mental illnesses, often went overlooked in coverage of the case.Slenderman: Online Obsession, Mental Illness, and the Violent Crime of Two Midwestern Girls tells that full story for the first time in deeply researched detail, using court transcripts, police reports, individual reporting, and exclusive interviews. Morgan and Anissa were bound together by their shared love of geeky television shows and animals, and their discovery of the user-uploaded scary stories on the Creepypasta website could have been nothing more than a brief phase. But Morgan was suffering from early-onset childhood schizophrenia. She believed that she had seen Slenderman long before discovering him online, and the only way to stop him from killing her family was to bring him a sacrifice: Morgan's best friend Payton "Bella" Leutner, whom Morgan and Anissa planned to stab to death on the night of Morgan's twelfth birthday party. Bella survived the attack, but was deeply traumatized, while Morgan and Anissa were immediately sent to jail, and the severity of their crime meant that they would be prosecuted as adults. There, as Morgan continued to suffer from worsening mental illness after being denied antipsychotics, her life became more and more surreal.Slenderman is both a page-turning true crime story and a search for justice.

About the Author

Kathleen Hale is the author of two young adult novels and one essay collection. She has written for the Guardian, Hazlitt, and Vice, among others, and is a writer and producer for Outer Banks on Netflix. She was born in Wisconsin and lives in Los Angeles.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780802159809
ISBN-10: 080215980X
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: August 16th, 2022
Pages: 368
Language: English