Litercurious Book Review
|Title||Slenderman: Online Obsession, Mental Illness, |
and Violent Crime of Two Midwestern Girls
|Publisher||Grove Press (August 16, 2022)|
|Genre||Schizophrenia, Violence in Society, True Crime, Computer History and Culture|
Anissa later said. The new final plan, at that point, was to lure Bella into the woods, set her loose, and then hunt her down-“like lionesses,” SLENDERMAN, Kathleen HaleTweet
Kathleen Hale was born and raised in Wisconsin. She graduated from Harvard in 2010. She is now a TV writer and true crime author based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published in Vanity Fair and other outlets.
Just how did an Internet meme of a fictitious Boogeyman, and two pre-teens end up in the tale of an attempted murder? More importantly, why did it happen at all?
It was the crime that shocked the world; every bit as infamous as the first US thrill killers Leopold and Loeb. The two adolescent girls conspired together, to befriended, lure, and stab their mutual acquaintance in a secluded woodland. Morgan and Anissa intended to act as proxies in the crime in order to becalm the Slenderman and save their own lives. In a complex, planned and highly detailed scheme, Morgan and Anissa conspired to kill. Fortunately, fate intervened and whilst terribly injured Bella endured the ferocious attack, but only just; having come within a millimeter of death.
Morgan Geyser, Anissa Weier and Payton “Bella” Leutner all lived in the idyllic Midwestern town called Waukesha, Wisconsin. Back in 2014, the three were peers in the sixth grade at the same local school. Whilst Bella was considered to be a happy well adjusted child, Anissa and Morgan were considered to be a little “strange.”
Morgan had a serious unseen mental health condition that she inherited from her father. No one understood just how ill she was and although she was a highly intelligent girl, she had an uncontrollable dark side; complete with visual and auditory hallucinations. She also suffered periods of manic behavior and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as well as paranoia and dissociation. Her multiple challenges, noted by her peer group, left her isolated, bullied and derided by her cohorts and marginalized by the school faculty. As a consequence, Morgan Geyser would look for solace and lose herself in literature and the internet. It was on the Web that she first discovered the fantasy character – Slenderman.
Slenderman was a fictional character originally created for a Creepypasta meme by Eric Kundsen in 2009. Morgan, the troubled and lonely 12 year old became obsessed, and so began the fascination that led to the events of 31 May 2014. Soon Anissa was also introduced to the Slenderman, and what had begun with an interest quickly became their shared mutual obsession.
On that fateful day in 2014, Morgan and Anissa led Bella to nearby woodlands on the pretext of playing a game of hide-and-seek. Morgan used this excuse to pursue and eventually stab Bella 19 times. Convinced that Bella was dead Anissa and Morgan followed their plan to travel the hundred miles to join the Slenderman at his reputed home in the Nicolet National Forest.
What followed was a criminal trial that stunned the world, and that decided the futures of two twelve-year old children. So serious was the crime they were tried as adults despite their tender years.
Hale has produced a sympathetic account of a horrific crime; the attempted stabbing murder of 12 year old Payton “Bella” Leutner by two of her classmates in order to appease the fictional character Slenderman. The seriousness of Morgan Geyser’s actions are in no way ignored. Hale acknowledges that illness was one feature of this crime obsession, and she also opines that perhaps there may have been an element of “folie a deux.”
The author does a great job detailing the chronological events and of the crime itself as well as the the lives of all those directly involved. She covers the length and the breadth of the children from their upbringing, family history, their social interactions, the crime and the punishment. There is a sense that Hale fells some sympathy as she pays special attention to the mental health of Morgan and the lack of treatment she received prior to the crime and afterwards. Morgan was diagnosed with early onset schizophrenia, also known as adolescent onset schizophrenia while in custody.
Despite the significant life long injuries suffered by Bella, Hale prompts us to consider if it was appropriate for children of twelve years to be tried as adults; especially as the children had documented mental health challenges that were not being adequately treated at the time of the offense.
According to Hale, the medical neglect of Morgan prior to the crime and the neglect and clinical mismanagement since she has been incarcerated increased her continuing dis-functionality.
Slenderman by Kathleen Hale was an exceptional work; detailed, concise, informative and respectful. The focus of this book is different from many other true crime books. The interplay between the various individuals was the primary focus, and it made for a more fulfilling and satisfying read.
I would like to thank Kathleen Hale, Grove Press, and NetGalley for affording me the opportunity to review Slenderman: Online Obsession, Mental Illness, and Violent Crime of Two Midwestern Girls.