The Slender Man Stabbing: How An Internet Meme Led Two 12-Year-Old Girls To Attempt Murder

Published May 9, 2021
Updated May 10, 2024

"It was weird," said Morgan Geyser of the Slender Man stabbing of Payton Leutner. "I felt no remorse. I thought I would... I actually felt nothing."

On May 31, 2014, a man on a morning bicycle ride in Waukesha, Wisconsin happened upon a young girl lying in the grass, drenched in her own blood. As he would soon find out, this 12-year-old was Payton Leutner, the survivor of the Slender Man stabbing.

The day before, Leutner had been celebrating her best friend’s birthday. Little did she know that this preteen slumber party was really just a ploy to lure her into the woods and murder her — a sinister plot hatched months before by that same best friend, Morgan Geyser.

Slender Man Stabbing

Waukesha Police DepartmentIn what’s known as the “Slender Man stabbing,” Payton Leutner was stabbed 19 times by her Slender Man-obsessed friends Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser. This was the t-shirt she wore when she was almost killed.

The case quickly became a national news story, and not just because of the appalling youth of the perpetrators. Instead, it was their motive that struck fear in the hearts of parents everywhere: The two 12-year-olds had decided to stab their friend and leave her for dead in order to prove their dedication to a creepy internet meme, Slender Man.

How Payton Leutner Met Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser

Two years before the Slender Man stabbing, Payton Leutner and Morgan Geyser became friends when Leutner sat down next to Geyser in the school cafeteria.

“She was sitting all by herself and I didn’t think anyone should have to sit by themselves,” Leutner explained.

Morgan Geyser

Public DomainWhen asked if she felt bad for stabbing one of her best friends, Morgan Geyser said, “I thought about it, but then I decided that remorse would get me nowhere. It’s easier to live without regrets.”

Before long, the two were inseparable. Like any other young suburban girls, they had sleepovers, played together, and created their own inside jokes.

Morgan Geyser nicknamed Leutner “Bella,” and they became best friends. Leutner said she loved her friend’s sense of humor, as well as her wild imagination, which often expressed itself in drawings.

That all changed, however, when the two girls entered sixth grade and Geyser made a new friend: Anissa Weier.

“I didn’t like [Weier] at all,” said Leutner. “I just hung out with her because I knew that Morgan really loved her as a friend. But she was always cruel to me. I feel like she was jealous that Morgan was friends with me and her.”

Anissa Weier

Public DomainAnissa Weier said that she truly believed Slender Man was real, and she stabbed her friend in order to prove his existence to the rest of the world.

Weier lived in the same apartment complex as Geyser, and the two began riding to school together. They also bonded over their shared interest in the popular internet meme known as Slender Man. As their friendship grew, so did this interest, and soon it started to border on an obsession.

“I told [Geyser] that it scared me and that I didn’t like it,” said Payton Leutner. “But she really liked it and thought it was real.”

Still, Leutner remained friends with Geyser. She didn’t want to leave the girl sitting all alone during lunch, as she had found her that day two years before.

How Slender Man Became An Internet Phenomenon

Payton Leutner had good reason to be scared. In fact, the only reason Slender Man exists is to scare people.

Nearly five years to the day before Slender Man stabbing, a humor site called Something Awful organized a Photoshop contest that asked users to take a regular photograph and make it scary.

Original Slender Man By Victor Surge

Eric Knudsen/DeviantArtIn one image, Slender Man’s creator added the caption, “We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time… — 1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead.”

Eric Knudsen, also known by his username Victor Surge, took inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King to create his submission. His photographs, which depicted a tall, thin figure photoshopped into the background of old black-and-white pictures of children playing, quickly drew the attention of horrified website visitors.

Almost immediately, the figure was given his name — Slender Man — and people from around the globe began building on his myth.

Just 10 days after the Slender Man photos were first posted, a YouTube channel called Marble Hornets released a fictional found-footage series about a creepy, slender figure stalking a film student.

Slenderman In A Playground

Eric Knudsen/DeviantArtSlender Man has no face, long arms, always wears a suit, and often has tentacles growing out of his back.

It was a viral success, and soon more series, and even a few homemade video games, made their debuts. Many of these, all an homage to Slender Man, were posted on the popular site Creepypasta for anyone to read.

According to these Creepypasta stories, Slender Man was a tall, faceless man with long arms and tentacles coming out of his back. He existed to prey on children, luring them into the woods and convincing them to kill others in order to become members of his “proxy.”

The Sinister Planning And Execution Of The Slender Man Stabbing

Around December of 2013, Morgan Geyser suggested to Anissa Weier that they become “proxies” for Slender Man. Of course, this meant that they had to kill someone in order to show their dedication to the fictional figure.

Weier was immediately on board, and together they started plotting the demise of Geyser’s best friend Payton Leutner. “I was excited because I wanted proof that he existed because there were a bunch of skeptics out there saying he didn’t exist,” she said.

Payton Leutner speaks out years later about her near-death experience at the hands of the ‘Slenderman Girls.’

For months they coordinated the Slender Man stabbing, whispering and using code names in public so as not to raise suspicion. “Like for knife, we used ‘cracker,'” Geyser said. “For the killing, we would use words like ‘itch.'”

This was their plan: Invite Leutner to Geyser’s birthday party, where the three girls would be alone together. Kill Leutner. Pack their bags and walk to Slender Man’s mansion, which they believed stood in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin. Here, they would be welcomed with long, open arms.

“You have no idea how difficult it was not to tell anyone,” Morgan Geyser said. “It was a flawless plan, actually.”

On the day of Geyser’s 12th birthday party, the birthday girl and her accomplice went to Anissa Weier’s house before picking up their victim. Here they packed a backpack with clothes, granola bars, water bottles, and a photo of Weier’s family. She didn’t want to forget what they looked like when she was living at the Slender Man mansion.

The parents of Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier contemplate what could have driven their children to attempt murder.

Once Leutner was picked up, Geyser’s parents took the three girls to a roller rink called Skateland, and then took them back home to sleep.

In the morning, Payton Leutner woke up to an empty room. She put on a t-shirt printed with a large heart, then went downstairs to find the other girls on the computer. Geyser asked her mother if they could go play in nearby David’s Park, and they were off.

As the three 12-year-olds left Geyser’s house, Morgan slyly lifted up the side of her jacket to show Weier a knife that she had stolen from the kitchen, now tucked into her waistband.

They veered toward a bathroom in the park, where Geyser tried unsuccessfully to incapacitate Leutner. When this didn’t work, Weier suggested that they go play hide and seek in a wooded area.

“Anissa told me to lie on the ground and cover myself in sticks and leaves and stuff to hide,” Leutner said. “But it was really just a trick to get me down there.”

The Pants Of Payton Leutner

Waukesha Police DepartmentPayton Leutner’s blood-soaked pants.

With Leutner on the ground, Weier told Geyser, “Go ballistic, go crazy.” Morgan jumped on her best friend, pulled out the knife, and started stabbing. One of the stabs punctured the heart on Leutner’s t-shirt — but missed her actual heart by a fraction of an inch.

When Geyser finally climbed off of her, Leutner screamed, “I hate you. I trusted you.”

“She said that she couldn’t see, she couldn’t walk and that she couldn’t breathe,” said Weier. The 12-year-old told Leutner to lay down while they went to get help — something that the murderous girls had no intention of doing.

After they left, Payton Leutner mustered up enough courage to move her body out of the woods and into a place where she could be spotted. Not long later, Greg Steinberg noticed the young girl while out for his morning bike ride.

How Payton Leutner Was Saved And Her Perpetrators Were Captured

An ambulance soon arrived at the Wisconsin park and Payton Leutner was rushed to the hospital. Her parents were there when she came in, covered in blood. It took two nurses to count her stab wounds. There were 19 in total.

An excerpt of Morgan Geyser’s police interview soon after the Slender Man stabbing.

During six hours of intensive surgery, doctors patched up the girl’s critical wounds. Two had hit major organs, damaging her liver and stomach. The one that had punctured her chest near her heart was considered a miracle.

“If the knife had gone the width of a human hair further, she wouldn’t have lived,” Dr. John Kelemen said after operating on Leutner.

When Leutner woke up after surgery — relying on an intubation tube in her lungs to breathe — her first thoughts were, “Did they get them? Are they in custody? Are they still out?”

By then, the girls who had committed the Slender Man stabbing were indeed in custody.

The Waukesha County police department had begun their search for them directly after Leutner was taken to the hospital. A few hours later, they found Geyser and Weier walking near the highway.

Knife Used In The Slender Man Stabbing

Waukesha Police DepartmentMorgan Geyser and Anissa Weier were found hours after stabbing Payton Leutner. They were carrying a backpack filled with granola bars and the kitchen knife they used on their friend.

Although they had stopped at a Walmart to wash their friend’s blood from the knife and their hands, their clothes were still spotted in red.

The girls confessed immediately. Geyser explained that she had to murder her beloved friend, or else “he” — Slender Man — would kill her family.

“It was weird. I felt no remorse. I thought I would,” she said. “I actually felt nothing.”

While the “Slenderman girls” were being held at the police station, investigators combed through their personal belongings.

In Morgan Geyser’s bedroom and middle school locker, they found notebooks with writing and drawings about Slender Man. Alongside some of the drawings were phrases such as “I want to die” and “Help me escape my mind.”

Her browser history, however, was the most telling. “In looking through the Geyser home computer, there were literally thousands of internet searches that were done: ‘How to get away with murder,’ ‘what kind of insane am [I]?’ She was searching these things ahead of time,” said one officer.

The Trial And Sentencing Of The Slender Man Girls

For the Slender Man stabbing, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier were charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and they were taken to the West Bend Juvenile Facility.

They were charged as adults rather than as minors and faced up to 65 years in prison. With a $500,000 bail each, their families could not afford to bring them home before the trial.

Anissa Weier

Michael Sears/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/TNS/Getty ImagesAnissa Weier was diagnosed with “shared psychotic disorder” after her arrest, and received 25 years in a mental health institution for her crimes.

Because of this, the girls’ mothers went to visit them every week. “Initially, I mean, she really behaved like a caged animal,” Angie Geyser said of her daughter, Morgan. “Her hair was wild.”

Before the trial, Geyser underwent a mental health examination and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. In the three years between her arrest and the trial, she was treated for her mental illness and made significant progress.

However, when the trial dates were set in 2017, the factor of mental illness could not be ignored. Geyser pleaded guilty to the charges against her, and many of her doctors testified for the now-teenaged girl. While it was determined that she no longer presented serious psychotic symptoms, she was still hearing voices at the time of the trial.

Ultimately, the jury found Morgan Geyser not criminally responsible for the Slender Man stabbing due to her mental illness. She was sentenced to 40 years in a mental health institution.

Morgan Geyser In Court

Michael Sears/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/TNS/Getty ImagesBetween her arrest and her trial, Morgan Geyser was treated for schizophrenia. It was later determined that she had been experiencing visual hallucinations since she was three years old.

When Weier pleaded guilty to a lesser charge — second-degree murder — the jury had a similar finding. It was believed that she had experienced “shared psychotic disorder” and could not be held responsible for her part in the stabbing of Payton Leutner. She was sentenced to 25 years in a mental health institution.

At the end of Geyser’s trial, she said, between sobs, “I just want to let Bella and her family know. I’m sorry… I never meant this to happen.”

What The Slender Man Case Means Today

Since the Slender Man case captivated the media in 2014 and came to a close in 2017, people around the nation have been left to wonder: What is lurking just beyond our children’s screens, waiting to turn them into a murderous monster?

The Slender Man Stabbing Victim

Payton Leutner/ABC NewsLeutner wants all parents to be more open with their kids about what is real and what is fake on the Internet.

As a reaction to the Slender Man stabbing, the internet phenomenon behind the case petered out. Marble Hornets concluded their web series inspired by the myth in 2014, and CreepyPasta issued a statement saying that Slender Man was indeed fictional. The site that may have started it all also organized a fundraiser for Leutner.

And with that, the myth reached its end.

As for the people that watched the case unfold, and, especially, the girls and families involved, the stain of this tragedy has not disappeared so easily.

“This should be a wake-up call for all parents,” said Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack. “The internet has changed the way we live. It is full of information and wonderful sites that teach and entertain. The internet can also be full of dark and wicked things.

Five years after her attack, Payton Leutner agrees. “Parents need to talk to their kids directly, saying, ‘This is not real. This is fake,'” she said.

Payton Leutner

Payton Leutner/ABC NewsBecause of what she went through as a preteen, 17-year-old Payton Leutner now plans to pursue a career in the medical industry.

Because two young girls mistook a creepy story on the internet for reality — and because their mental illnesses took this belief to the next level — Leutner still struggles to trust the people in her life, especially new friends.

But her ordeal has also given her a new perspective. When asked recently what she would say to Geyser if she got the chance, Leutner said, “I would probably, initially thank her. I would say, ‘Just because of what she did, I have the life I have now. I really, really like it and I have a plan. I didn’t have a plan when I was 12, and now I do because of everything that I went through.”

As of 2019, Leutner is 17 years old and a senior in high school. In the fall of 2020, she hopes to attend college and pursue a career in the medical field, a decision she made based on the stabbing.

As for the other 17-year-old girls involved in the case, their mental health treatment has changed their lives, and they are both expected to remain in institutional care. As Angie Geyser said about her daughter, “Morgan lives in reality now.”

Now that you know about the disturbing Slender Man stabbing case, read how 15-year-old Alyssa Bustamante slaughtered her nine-year-old neighbor for the thrill. Then find out how Denali Brehmer, an Alaskan teenager, murdered her best friend after an online catfisher promised her $9 million.

Hannah McKennett
Hannah McKennett is a Dublin-based freelance writer that is dedicated to traveling the world while writing about it.
Cara Johnson
A writer and editor based in Charleston, South Carolina and an assistant editor at All That's Interesting, Cara Johnson holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Washington & Lee University and an M.A. in English from College of Charleston and has written for various publications in her six-year career.
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McKennett, Hannah. "The Slender Man Stabbing: How An Internet Meme Led Two 12-Year-Old Girls To Attempt Murder.", May 9, 2021, Accessed May 22, 2024.