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Folie a deux, 2014
June 3, 2014 5:37 PM   Subscribe

Two twelve-year-old girls of Waukesha, Wisconsin, are currently in custody following the attempted murder of a classmate. According to their confessions, they and stabbed her nineteen times in order to prove their devotion to Slender Man. The girls believed that by murdering for Slender Man, they could become his "proxies," and live with him in his mansion in the Nicolet National Forest.

Slender Man (covered previously), although he has an elaborate mythology stretching back to 16th-century Germany, is well-documented as having been invented in the Something Awful forums in 2009. Creepypasta.wikia.com, the source of the girls' "information", has quickly responded with a post offering condolences and a link to a fundraiser for the victim.

The case has invoked comparisons to New Zealand's Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme case of 1954, in which two teenage girls, who inhabited an elaborate fantasy world of their own devising, bludgeoned one of their mothers to death. Parker and Hulme served only a few years; one of the pair has gone one to become a bestselling novelist, and neither has committed such a crime again. The two Wisconsin girls, however, face up to 65 years in prison.
posted by Countess Elena (262 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's like a Lois Duncan novel, with perfectly normal adolescents slowly taking things too far until it gets violent and awful. Horrifying.

(Not on board with trying them as adults, though.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:40 PM on June 3 [5 favorites]


Wow, I just happened to see a program about this very similar murder on TV the other day.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 5:45 PM on June 3


Absolutely horrific crime. And I find it strange that these children can simultaneously be so naive as to believe in a "slenderman" and to also be tried as adults in court.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:50 PM on June 3 [49 favorites]


Can someone explain the rationale behind trying nonadults as adults? I have never understood it.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 5:51 PM on June 3 [26 favorites]


Can everyone stop saying slender man? I really would like to sleep tonight.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:52 PM on June 3 [5 favorites]


The internet has gone too far. Again.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:53 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


People have gone to far. The internet just makes for more rapid action.
posted by vrakatar at 5:55 PM on June 3 [11 favorites]


They knew what they were doing was murder; that it's wrong; they tried to cover their tracks and avoid attention; in short, they acted like adults and committed a heinous crime (if the linked articles are to be believed).

In fact, in the U.S., it's trial as a juvenile that's a relatively recent innovation, first juvenile court was invented in 1899 according to Wikipedia.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 5:55 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


The TLDR podcast covered Slender Man a few months ago, and spoke to its creator. Still weird and baffling how two 12 year old girls concocted a story where they were supposed to kill a friend to appease this made up phenomena.
posted by mathowie at 5:56 PM on June 3 [10 favorites]


If they had to pick a Something Awful legend to reenact, at least it wasn't swap.avi. Or Gooncamp. (Though one may argue that the two aren't that far apart.)
posted by delfin at 5:56 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


This is going to blow the minds of '80s Moral Majority hysteria-over-Satanism types.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:57 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


If only they had believed in Splendorman instead.
posted by angerbot at 5:57 PM on June 3 [20 favorites]


The PBS Idea Channel on Slenderman as Internet Folklore.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:58 PM on June 3 [6 favorites]


Awful, bizarre crime. I am astonished that 12-year-olds would have thought this would have worked. Nothing about the Slender Man mythos seems any more "real" than any other horror character.

Part of me prefers to believe that they simply wanted to kill for pleasure, and that all this guff about Slender Man is just them naively fumbling for something like an insanity plea.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:58 PM on June 3 [34 favorites]


Can someone explain the rationale behind trying nonadults as adults? I have never understood it.

In the contemporary era, there was an upsurge in trying children as adults as part and parcel of the general "tough on crime" hysteria of the '80s/'90s that brought us the War on Drugs, draconian mandatory sentencing, and higher rates of executions.
posted by scody at 5:58 PM on June 3 [41 favorites]


I'm not sure how I feel about this. Back in the days of yore, we all made up ridiculous stories on the net. How must the creator feel? I'm trying to imagine how I might feel if someone took one of my old gaming stories seriously or something. Awful all around.
posted by corb at 6:01 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


if they're tried as juveniles, no matter what happens, they have a guaranteed release date in their early 20s. the victim, her friends and family and many in her community probably want the extra margin of safety of an adult sentence.
posted by bruce at 6:03 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I know how I feel. These kids are jerks. I grew up in a rural area and I never once thought about killing anyone. I have also lived in rural Wisconsin and I never thought about killing anyone.

There were plenty of folklore tales when I was growing up, and I never thought about killing anyone. These girls tried to kill another human being. I don't care one dime shit about folklore people. I never ever ever ever in my heart would stab another human being based on a story. Ever. On the internet or in a book or on someone telling me a story. I know the difference between a story and real life.

This is just disgusting. You can't blame it on some weird character. By 12, I knew wrong from right, I wasn't luring my companions into the woods to stab them. I was reading books and riding a bike and playing kickball.

This is just fucking bizarre.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:06 PM on June 3 [56 favorites]


I've seen stories from teachers who have young students who don't know where the Slender Man is from (or even what SA is, or, frankly, probably don't even know what forums are, given how the internet is nowadays) and just know that it's a bogeyman. Reminds me of nothing quite so much as being a small child and having never seen a horror movie, yet somehow knowing who Freddie and Jason were and what they were about.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:06 PM on June 3 [21 favorites]


Folie a *deux*, shame on *you*.
posted by uosuaq at 6:09 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


Either they committed a heinous act with understanding or they were insane. Either way they need to be locked up and not come out for a very long time.
posted by shivohum at 6:11 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Are Doctor Who's The Silence inspired in part by Slender Man?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:11 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Terrible. I immediately thought of Hulme and Parker as well.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:12 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


Folie a *deux*, shame on *you*

Yeux, surely.
posted by angerbot at 6:14 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


A white mentally ill misogynist with lots of guns lives out his violent rampage fantasy at relatively the same time as two girls attempt murder based on something odd they read on the Internet; which one will cause the most moral panic?

The answer may surprise you.

Unless of course trends remain the same and you've ever been paying attention for the last 40 years.

That's not to say this isn't horrific; it's just also a lot more, sad to say, media friendly.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:15 PM on June 3 [58 favorites]


I've completely freaked my shit out more than once falling down the online Slenderman hole.

But yeah, this is way beyond any of that. I don't care whether it's "the excuse" or "the reason", these girls need real help.

It's a shame our system is only set up to punish instead of rehabilitate.
posted by hippybear at 6:19 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


By 12, I knew wrong from right,

I never killed anybody when I was 12, either (nor at any other age, so far), but that doesn't change the fact that at that age, our brains were not yet done cooking. Those were not adult brains we were working with.

I'll quote a bit from a longer comment I made a while back:
Jensen says scientists used to think human brain development was pretty complete by age 10. Or as she puts it, that "a teenage brain is just an adult brain with fewer miles on it."

But it's not. To begin with, she says, a crucial part of the brain — the frontal lobes — are not fully connected. Really.

"It's the part of the brain that says: 'Is this a good idea? What is the consequence of this action?' " Jensen says. "It's not that they don't have a frontal lobe. And they can use it. But they're going to access it more slowly."

That's because the nerve cells that connect teenagers' frontal lobes with the rest of their brains are sluggish. Teenagers don't have as much of the fatty coating called myelin, or "white matter," that adults have in this area.

Think of it as insulation on an electrical wire. Nerves need myelin for nerve signals to flow freely. Spotty or thin myelin leads to inefficient communication between one part of the brain and another. cite
If we're collectively so willing to throw away the keys on 12-year-olds, what does that say about our ideas of justice, punishment, rehabilitation? If 12-year-olds are old enough to be held to adult standards and do adult time when it comes to criminal matters, is there a reason why we can't grant at least some 12-year-olds full adult status?

What about 11 - is that too young? When the next awful thing done by a minor comes along, and it will, and it's done by someone who's nine, do we lock them up for the rest of their life, too?
posted by rtha at 6:19 PM on June 3 [151 favorites]


Can someone explain the rationale behind trying nonadults as adults? I have never understood it.

It's how we make sure young black men spend their lives in jail.
posted by mhoye at 6:22 PM on June 3 [138 favorites]


Salem witch trials mob psychology writ small.
posted by vrakatar at 6:22 PM on June 3


What? Your brains were not done cooking? What? I never would murder someone at 12 or 16 or 8 or 9 or 10. I guess my brain was done cooking at 6.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:23 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


And I find it strange that these children can simultaneously be so naive as to believe in a "slenderman" and to also be tried as adults in court.

Where they will have to swear on a bible, no doubt.
posted by mhoye at 6:23 PM on June 3 [48 favorites]


That frontal lobes in a 12 year old work more slowly than an adult's, doesn't seem exculpatory where said 12 year-olds were apparently planning the murder "for months."
posted by mrbigmuscles at 6:25 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


I'm guessing there will be much more revealed about these girls and their mindsets in the coming weeks.

One of the girls has apparently stated that she believes Slender Man "watches her and he can read minds and teleport."

I'm surprised the conversation (not just here) has been slow to wonder whether some form of mental illness is at play, especially with this coming so soon after the Rodgers tragedy. Is it because they're so young? Though it's more difficult to diagnose these sorts of illnesses in preadolescents, I really hope this possibility is being investigated here.

Anyway, it's just doubly a travesty that we could even consider punishing a kid who would seriously say that sort of thing as if she were a fully developed adult.
posted by lesli212 at 6:25 PM on June 3 [8 favorites]


That's not to say this isn't horrific; it's just also a lot more, sad to say, media friendly.

Except that the Rodger killings received far more media attention than this. Which seems like the opposite of what you're saying?
posted by Justinian at 6:26 PM on June 3 [10 favorites]


I've seen stories from teachers who have young students who don't know where the Slender Man is from...

So, about those critical reading and media literacy skills that they dropped from the curriculum: can we maybe bring some of that back now, please?
posted by wenestvedt at 6:30 PM on June 3 [13 favorites]


What? Your brains were not done cooking? What? I never would murder someone at 12 or 16 or 8 or 9 or 10. I guess my brain was done cooking at 6.

I'd bet good money that you made some craptacularly terrible decisions when you were 12 and 10 and 16, decisions you would not make once your brain was better at going "And the consequences would be..." Glad you didn't kill anyone. That's not the point, though - the point is that kids are different. They are different biologically and socially - except when we get all tough on the internet (and the prosecutor's office) and hulk out about how thoroughly irredeemable these children must be. Clearly, the only solution to keeping everyone safe and showing how justice-y we are is to drop the hammer on kids who believe an internet meme is real. That will show them.
posted by rtha at 6:32 PM on June 3 [74 favorites]


This is a fucked situation all the way around but waiving these 12 year olds into adult court? When 12 year olds can vote, marry, join the military and buy booze I'll see the logic in this. On a related note I saw a comment on the Chicago Trib site blaming this on "liberal parents"(in the political sense). LOL, Waukesha is deep, deep RED Republican country. They'd vote for a ham sandwich if it was endorsed by Scotty Walker.
posted by MikeMc at 6:35 PM on June 3 [29 favorites]


I'm of the firm opinion that if we are going to try kids as adults, they should also be able to vote.

I also wish people (in this thread, and elsewhere) would stop rebutting the state of brain development research with anecdata from their own childhood.

I'm just thankful that the US mental health system is evolved enough where everybody that needs care gets it, before their mental health issues spiral out of control. (oh, wait).
posted by el io at 6:35 PM on June 3 [26 favorites]


Rtha, did you read the whole article? The one girl repeatedly egged the other on. They tried and tried again.

And no, I would not have even thought of doing this, and no, I did not make craptacularly terrible decisions like this. They are not different, biologically nor socially. They were two girls who made a decision to harm another human being, and I don't think you can lay their decision on me.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:36 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


I live in Milwaukee, of which Waukesha is a suburb, and as you can imagine, this has been all over the local TV news. Last night they showed the father of one of the perpetrators sobbing as he left the courtroom. Apparently he (through an attorney) apologized to the family of the victim. I can't imagine knowing that your child did such a thing. I am really curious what will come out about their home lives. If they are tried as adults, I really hope they plead out and there's not a jury trial. We really don't need the spectacle and I am concerned about copycats.
posted by desjardins at 6:37 PM on June 3 [8 favorites]


My craptacularly terrible decisions at age 12 mostly involved wardrobe choices.
posted by desjardins at 6:39 PM on June 3 [29 favorites]


They are not different, biologically nor socially.

Jesus christ, they're not physically adults. They are certainly not legally or socially adults. I get the horror that this kind of crime induces in people - it is really horrible. But that is no reason to throw that functioning brain in your head out the window and say something like "they're not different." God help us all.
posted by rtha at 6:39 PM on June 3 [106 favorites]


These girls have serious problems. Perhaps mental illness factors in, but its disturbing no matter how you slice it.

12 year olds aren't adults and are not capable remotely of adult thoughts. No way they should be tried as adults.

It's either a Penetentary, where one does penance for his sins, or it's a reformatory, where one reforms and becomes a stand up citizen.

Thank God the victim is alive. We should pray for everyone involved, because no good will come out of this situation.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:43 PM on June 3 [13 favorites]


Q. WHAT IS THE NEW EVIDENCE?

A. In the last five years, as neuroscience has moved forward with functional magnetic resonance imaging and with research on animals, there have been dozens of new studies of adolescent brain development. These show that the brain systems providing for impulse control are still maturing during adolescence. Neuroscientists have shown that the part of the brain that improves most during adolescence is the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in complicated decision-making, thinking ahead, planning, comparing risks and rewards. And the neuroscientific research is showing that over the course of adolescence and into the 20s, there is this continued maturation of this part of the brain. So now, we have brain evidence that supports behavioral studies.

Moreover, we’re seeing that behavior can change once the brain more fully matures. Take thrill-seeking, for instance. What happens is that when people move out of adolescence, they become less interested in it. For example, I can’t stand riding on a roller-coaster now. I liked it as a teenager. I can’t stand driving fast now. I liked driving fast when I was a teenager. What has changed? I’m not as driven today by this thrill-seeking sensation. And in our studies, we’ve shown that there is a kind of normative decline in sensation-seeking after middle adolescence. A lot of adolescent crime is driven by thrill-seeking.
posted by rtha at 6:43 PM on June 3 [27 favorites]


First of all, I feel sorry for the victim's family.

I think the Slenderman aspect is a bit of a distraction here. They could have killed in the name of Sawney Bean, which is just as much a hoax but has been around longer to accumulate the trappings of 'genuine' folklore. These are children who need their mental health assessed and to be dealt with appropriately as children, rather than a media frenzy.
posted by elephantday at 6:44 PM on June 3 [12 favorites]


.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:47 PM on June 3


i don't really get how this is anything other than people do horrible thing. it being so sensational seems the exact right reason to not have a post on metafilter about it.
posted by nadawi at 6:47 PM on June 3 [8 favorites]


These people are children, they shouldn't be tried as grown-ups, even if what they're accused of is horrible. This reminds me of the The Onion News Network story Judge Rules White Girl Will Be Tried As Black Adult more than anything.
posted by Small Dollar at 6:48 PM on June 3 [35 favorites]


It's either a Penetentary, where one does penance for his sins, or it's a reformatory, where one reforms and becomes a stand up citizen.

What country do you live in where these things exist? All I see are prisons, where we warehouse those we feel are evil and train them to hate society so they can reoffend on release and get warehoused again.
posted by hippybear at 6:49 PM on June 3 [22 favorites]


People's grasp on reality--and hormone addled adolescents' grasp on reality especially--is not nearly as secure and stable as some of the comments in this thread seem to assume. People get confused by their imaginations and do stupid/selfish/dangerous/heinous things. I've seen people completely destroyed by their fantasies. I just feel sorry for the girls and their victim. Life hasn't even begun at that age. I'll leave the arguments over the meaning of what happened to the folks with a side to take, because I've got nothing on my side but sad on this one.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:51 PM on June 3 [11 favorites]


well, recidivism is decreased in kids who go through the juvenile system rather than the adult system - and the fact that lawyers try to fight for their clients to be tried as juveniles suggests there's some kind difference even is a system as fucked as ours.
posted by nadawi at 6:52 PM on June 3 [9 favorites]


John Tidor didn't have anyone kill for him. But really, what are you to do with them? Probation? Jail until they are 18 and then what?
posted by shockingbluamp at 6:55 PM on June 3


Of course adolescents are more impulsive, less rational, less able to assess risk, and more capable of failing to distinguish fantasy from reality than adults. This is just a fact, as proven as a fact can be.

You cannot simply wave that away, whatever your moral theory of agency tells you ought to be true.
posted by spitbull at 6:55 PM on June 3 [25 favorites]


God help us all.

At 12 years old I was taking care of my mother, and going to school. I was fully functional. I also cooked and baked and read novels and got into my Dad's college books, Greek plays and such. So yes, God help us all. That I didn't conspire with some high school friend to stab another girl due to some imaginary man. I guess my brain was just more advanced.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:59 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


They are not different, biologically nor socially.

The fuck they aren't! They're children!

That there are biological differences between children and adults could not be more obvious. They're physically smaller and weaker, and their behavior is obviously different in many ways.

The fact that most children don't make decisions this bad doesn't disprove that, as a rule, children lack things like critical thinking skills and empathy.

I'm completely unable to understand your thinking here.
posted by my favorite orange at 7:00 PM on June 3 [33 favorites]


I give up. Obviously, your extremely responsible childhood trumps all the research on adolescence and brains.

Are you in favor of treating all minors as adults? In non-criminal contexts? If they're responsible and know right from wrong, as you did, then why not, right? No reason.
posted by rtha at 7:05 PM on June 3 [66 favorites]


The thinking is based on self perception of personal experience, and a fair dose of (understandably) needing to distance yourself from people who do awful things, rather than science or an understanding of why people do the awful things they do. There's no real way to argue with it, because it's not about evidence, and there's not really any point in trying.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:06 PM on June 3 [20 favorites]


I hope those girls get the help they clearly need, and that the victim recovers in full.

You never, ever hear "tough on crime" people thumping their chests about "white collar crime"--crime that brings infinitely more misery--up to and including death--to more people in society than all adolescent crime combined.

I gather the example from New Zealand is lost on people? Goddess forbid we show compassion and give chances to people who have done bad things--unless they're CEOs poisoning groundwater or gassing cities or defrauding retirees.
posted by maxwelton at 7:06 PM on June 3 [17 favorites]


At 12 years old I was taking care of my mother, and going to school. I was fully functional. I also cooked and baked and read novels and got into my Dad's college books, Greek plays and such. So yes, God help us all. That I didn't conspire with some high school friend to stab another girl due to some imaginary man. I guess my brain was just more advanced.

It's all really down to luck who becomes a murderer and who becomes the super responsible 12 year old that helps out around the house or whatever. What you have here is a case of bad brain wiring, which neither of the girls are at fault for possessing. They need to be segregated from society and treated by medical professionals until those professionals deem them to no longer be dangerous. Especially at 12 years of age, the brain has so much developing left to do that rehabilitation has a pretty high chance of success.
posted by todayandtomorrow at 7:08 PM on June 3 [9 favorites]


At 12 years old I was taking care of my mother, and going to school. I was fully functional. I also cooked and baked and read novels and got into my Dad's college books, Greek plays and such.

I was reading at a college level at the age of 12, too, but that has exactly fuck-all to do with what is being discussed in regards to brain development and adolescence.
posted by scody at 7:10 PM on June 3 [69 favorites]


Whether or not you made bad decisions as a child, Marie, says nothing about either these girls or children in general. Your experience does not translate to everyone's.

The data we have on juvenile offenders shows that interventions can make a difference and keep them from offending again. Treating them and sentencing them as adults eliminates that possibility. And unless you are ok with just killing them, they are going to be around for many decades, and it's stupidly wasteful to just warehouse them until they die if there's a decent chance they can be rehabilitated.

Do you not remember how cruel children can be? Because I do, and I didn't kill anyone either, but I was sometimes cruel in ways I would never be now. Empathy is something that has to develop; children do not pop out with it fully formed. Even as adults, under bad circumstances we are all capable of horrible things.

I am not excusing what they did; it was horrible. It was also bizarre and speaks to a lack of connection to reality that leads me to believe that treatment is more appropriate than punishment. It's not like this event won't already shape their lives forever.
posted by emjaybee at 7:11 PM on June 3 [56 favorites]


I give up. Obviously, your extremely responsible childhood trumps all the research on adolescence and brains.

I struggle with the idea of expecting children to have bear responsibilities for their actions like adults but with none of the rights and privileges of adults. We treat kids as if they're helpless and mindless except when it comes to punishment, then a 12 year old is no different than a 40 year old. Is a little logic too much to ask?
posted by MikeMc at 7:11 PM on June 3 [36 favorites]


So, about those critical reading and media literacy skills that they dropped from the curriculum: can we maybe bring some of that back now, please?

Ehhhhh, I think it's best for everybody involved that 12 year olds not be directed to Something Awful.


They were two girls who made a decision to harm another human being, and I don't think you can lay their decision on me.

Bolded is the important part. You're upset at the implication that it could've been you. You want to see evil as something that exists outside of you, but that's simply not reality. We all have the capacity for good or evil, weal or woe, love or hate. But the horrors that humanity is capable of do not come from Satan, or from aliens, or from the Slender Man, or from mutant bad-brained humans. It's just part of us, and acknowledging and understanding that is an important step toward dealing with it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:12 PM on June 3 [51 favorites]


At 12 years old I was taking care of my mother, and going to school. I was fully functional. I also cooked and baked and read novels and got into my Dad's college books, Greek plays and such.

I was hardly doing those things at 19. People are different.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:13 PM on June 3 [11 favorites]


Are you in favor of treating all minors as adults? In non-criminal contexts? If they're responsible and know right from wrong, as you did, then why not, right? No reason.

And yeah, this is exactly right. If you genuinely believe that a 12-year-old is responsible enough to be tried as an adult in a criminal context, then you must necessarily believe that a 12-year-old is also qualified to drive, buy alcohol, join the army, vote, get married, live on their own, and any of the other countless things that we -- crazily! inexplicably! -- restrict on the basis of age.
posted by scody at 7:14 PM on June 3 [34 favorites]


We as a society have decided children under the age of 18 are not competent to sign contracts for cell phones because they are too immature to adequately understand the implications of a cell phone contract sufficient to enter into said contract.

If that's the case, children under 18 definitely lack the capacity for the necessary mens rea to be tried as adults for violent crimes.

I understand a lot of the legitimate reasons for trying minors as adults for particularly heinous crimes (although, yeah, the biggest one is "so we can lock up young black men" and that is an awful, illegitimate reason; and the second biggest one is probably "to look tough on crime" which is also bad from a policy standpoint), but I think a lot of these can be addressed by adjustments to juvenile court -- having a secondary hearing at majority to see whether a child who committed murder should remain in detention as an adult, allowing "plus 5" sentencing for heinous crimes committed by kids who are close to the age of majority and will only serve a couple years if tried as juveniles, ensuring that court records are public in some crimes -- rather than insisting children are legally incompetent unless and until they commit a violent crime.

There are always people who fall on the wrong side of a bright-line rule, but it seems monstrous and ridiculously retrograde to insist 16-year-olds (let alone 12-year-olds) are incompetent to carry out tasks of everyday life -- like leasing a car or paying rent or getting a cell phone or credit card -- but competent to be sentenced to life in prison.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:18 PM on June 3 [42 favorites]


It shocks me that anyone on here might think twelve year old girls belong in adult prisons.
posted by Anitanola at 7:19 PM on June 3 [26 favorites]


When I was in elementary school, a mass hysteria swept through my town. It was tangentially related to the Satanic Ritual Abuse phenomenon, though it manifested a little differently. In our town, the story went, there was a satanic cult called "The Anarchies"* which was kidnapping local children and sacrificing them to the devil. In the ladies room of the D.H. Holmes department store, in the mall. The archetypal Anarchy was basically a goth/punk teen or really anyone who wore lots of black and was into vaguely subcultual type stuff. And murdering children.

Real actual grownups, adults with jobs and mortgages and families, 100% fully believed this was going on and feared for their children's safety. It was a constant subject of conversation. People were keeping their kids out of school, not letting them go to soccer practice, and having everybody play indoors out of fear that their children would be abducted by a fictional group of people who there was no evidence ever existed. No children ever actually went missing. There was no shadowy group of people nearby that any rational person could believe constituted a satanic cult. (Though the cops harassed plenty of burnout teens over it, I later found out.)

It was folklore. And yet otherwise normal middle class Americans in the heartland believed it. Nobody got killed over it, thank God, but I don't hesitate for a minute to believe that somebody could have been. It wouldn't have taken much, the way the mob mentality was whipped up over the whole thing.

And this was based on something that isn't even pervasive in the culture (aside from just the general folk idea of "cults" in the 80s). Add in a known thing like aliens or "Slender Man" or fucking Ewoks or some shit, and, yeah, this is that.

So, no, this doesn't surprise me a whit. There but for the grace of god, and all.

*True story. Not anarchists. "Anarchies". Fucking ignorant ass south, don't even get me started...
posted by Sara C. at 7:20 PM on June 3 [83 favorites]


then you must necessarily believe that a 12-year-old is also qualified to drive, buy alcohol, join the army, vote, get married, live on their own, and any of the other countless things that we -- crazily! inexplicably! -- restrict on the basis of age.

My understanding is that a lot of these concepts of age restriction are relatively new in the human experience. Marriages and household-establishing used to take place much earlier in life. In more traditional cultures, boys are inducted into "being an adult" early in their teens, as are women with the arrival of their first menstruation. After that point, they aren't children anymore, and are expected to interact with the world appropriately.

There's an interesting intersection between "where humans are developmentally from a biological standpoint" and "what society expects from humans at various ages". I'm not sure it's nearly as universal across all cultures as one might believe.

Obviously, in our culture, the way we regard those younger than 12 16 18 25 (it seems to get older all the time) is that they are as-yet unformed and thus not actually adult humans yet.
posted by hippybear at 7:22 PM on June 3 [8 favorites]


I guess my brain was just more advanced.

Good. Good for you. You may cast the first stone.
posted by Behemoth at 7:23 PM on June 3 [37 favorites]


You all can rag on me all that you want. I was telling you my experience as a 12-year-old. And how I never would have thought that way. If you want to make me a scapegoat, go for it. And yes, I do think those girls should be tried as adults. They plotted. It wasn't some weird accidental thing that 12 year olds do. Whoops! We accidentally stabbed a girl!! Cast the first stone. I am not a Christian, so that doesn't really affect me, but thanks for the thought. I never plotted to stab anyone.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:25 PM on June 3 [8 favorites]


This reminds me of the The Onion News Network story Judge Rules White Girl Will Be Tried As Black Adult more than anything.

Most of the local reaction has been against trying them as adults, but I wonder what public opinion would be like if these were black kids, especially 12 year old boys. I sure wouldn't read the comments on any articles about that.
posted by desjardins at 7:25 PM on June 3 [9 favorites]


My understanding is that a lot of these concepts of age restriction are relatively new in the human experience. Marriages and household-establishing used to take place much earlier in life. In more traditional cultures, boys are inducted into "being an adult" early in their teens, as are women with the arrival of their first menstruation. After that point, they aren't children anymore, and are expected to interact with the world appropriately.

Well, sure, there's a whole history of the emergence of the modern concept of "child" and "childhood" that emerged, generally speaking, starting around the Enlightenment. I'm not clear what relevance that has to the well-established social and legal status of children in the 21st century, nor our understanding of the neurobiology of brain development.
posted by scody at 7:26 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


I never plotted to stab anyone.

Do you mean to imply that the rest of us did plot to stab someone? Or are you merely conceding that you lack sufficient empathy to comprehend that not everyone is like you (mentally, emotionally, behaviorally, etc.)?
posted by scody at 7:29 PM on June 3 [42 favorites]


My youngest son is 12. He's a good kid, gets good grades and has absolutely no common sense. I have to remind him once in a while that Minecraft and the real world are two completely different things. I also sometimes have to remind him to flush the toilet after he poops.

Tried as adults, my ass.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:31 PM on June 3 [50 favorites]


Can we maybe get away from the age derail and get back to the topic of exactly what kind of sacrifice it would take to placate Slenderman?
posted by Flashman at 7:32 PM on June 3 [42 favorites]


I have an 11 year old daughter who is super bright and does well in school, is sociable, articulate, compassionate, resourceful and compassionate. Today we were talking about whether the class had heard anything from her teacher, who had to leave the school early and go back to Algeria to care for her ailing mother. "No," she answered, "We haven't heard anything. But, you know, they're a week ahead there, so." WHAT? The kid knows how time zones work, I made her explain to me. She couldn't explain what she meant by Algeria being a week ahead of North America, but I could see that she believed it, absolutely and unquestioningly. She says that's what her teacher told her and what the student-teacher in the class, also Algerian, told her.

Kids' brains are just fucking WEIRD. I could practically see the wheels turning in her head as she tried to parse out what she could clearly see didn't make sense, but she was also on the verge of tears because she was SO certain it was true. Do I think she'd murder a classmate because of an urban legend? It seems pretty unlikely, but I fully expect her to act on all manner of ill-founded ideas between now and adulthood.

I don't think that trying a child as a child means the legal system has to go easy on them or that they should get away with murder because they're young. I think it means you have to assess the crime in the context of their age and socialization and consider and mete out consequences that are appropriate. I certainly don't think a kid should be more severely punished than an adult--and I think that throwing a child into an adult prison is far more sever than putting an adult there.
posted by looli at 7:33 PM on June 3 [56 favorites]


Can everyone stop saying slender man? I really would like to sleep tonight.

Two twelve-year-old girls stabbed a classmate 19 times and it's a made-up boogie man that is disturbing you?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:35 PM on June 3 [14 favorites]


get back to the topic of exactly what kind of sacrifice it would take to placate Slenderman?

I thought Slenderman was just a creepy dude that hung around being creepy? Is there a whole backstory I'm missing that he needs sacrifices and has opinions on anything?
posted by mathowie at 7:36 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


...acted like adults and committed a heinous crime

you said it, not me: acted. that is, they are not actually adults.

imho, the retributive justice types will get theirs (kharmically). mercy is better than justice etc. so - yes, heinous crime. also yes, rehabilitative and restorative justice are the only compassionate path for our collective society.
posted by j_curiouser at 7:36 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


What drives me nuts about this is the Catch-22 aspect: If any adult believed this nonsense, they would have a pretty good insanity plea. But because they are children, it is plausible they might actually believe such nonsense, and therefore they aren't insane and should be severely sentenced.
posted by chortly at 7:37 PM on June 3 [81 favorites]


I'd really like to know the part of the story before these girls became obsessed with Slender Man. My gut tells me there's something there.

Also, count me among the horrified that they have been charged as adults, their identities revealed in the paper, and the sentence for attempted murder is 65 years in Wisconsin.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:37 PM on June 3 [16 favorites]


It astonishes me that the newspapers and media outlets are actually talking about this slender man myth. I understand that news media report on what suspects say about crimes, but there's something about the coverage of this story that seems weirdly credulous. These girls did something horrible, apparently, but they're talking utter nonsense, and newspapers seem to be granting it a strange epistemic privilege. I mean, I remember when people started this meme. It wasn't that long ago. And yet the articles on this incident I've read seem to be written like crummy wiki articles, where anything anyone ever said about a topic is just as germane as any fact.
posted by clockzero at 7:38 PM on June 3 [8 favorites]


Is there a whole backstory I'm missing that he needs sacrifices and has opinions on anything?

Before I stopped watching the Marble Hornets videos because the mythology was confusing and they were poorly-made, it seemed like there was some sort of emerging idea of Slendy having human (maybe hypnotized or something?) acolytes who did the killing for him.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:38 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


It's come to this - the first generation who have always had the internet always on hand.

They're going to believe they -can- do anything, anything at all at zombo.com

And they'll be right
posted by angerbot at 7:38 PM on June 3 [17 favorites]


I still don't get it: if they are not legally, actually adults, how can they be tried as adults? I'm not saying there should be a disparity, I'm just saying why bother identifying juveniles at all? I mean, what constitutes juvenescence excepting actual age? What is the point of legally discerning a difference that you are going to discard every time you are pissed off and want revenginess? Cops and the legal system baffle me. We love the children. Until they kill. then --especially if they aren't pale-- we try to treat them like hardened 40-year-olds. Although I guess there is some kind of loathsome social progress to see that some white girls are now held to the same adult standards that young black men are accustomed to being held to. Why is that not encouraging? Lock-up nation.
posted by umberto at 7:38 PM on June 3 [5 favorites]


hippybear: "My understanding is that a lot of these concepts of age restriction are relatively new in the human experience. Marriages and household-establishing used to take place much earlier in life. In more traditional cultures, boys are inducted into "being an adult" early in their teens, as are women with the arrival of their first menstruation. After that point, they aren't children anymore, and are expected to interact with the world appropriately."

I guess they're new-ish? But in common law and Roman Civil Law they're quite old concepts. Children up until the age of 7 ("infants" in the law) are incapable of liability for torts or crimes historically in common law because they're not capable of understanding their actions; notably, the age of 7 is also when most Catholics make their First Communion as they're considered competent to understand sin. Between the ages of 7 and 14, there is a rebuttable presumption that children don't understand their actions and can't be liable in common law. This dates back at least to the Middle Ages. In many parts of law, children aged 14 to majority (21 is such a nice round number with another 7 in it!) are presumed liable but you can rebut it by showing they're immature. After majority you're on the hook unless deficient in some manner.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:39 PM on June 3 [26 favorites]


I was telling you my experience as a 12-year-old.

it's not scapegoating you to point out that this thread isn't actually about you or your adult memories of you as a 12 year old.
posted by nadawi at 7:40 PM on June 3 [71 favorites]


I'm surprised the conversation (not just here) has been slow to wonder whether some form of mental illness is at play, especially with this coming so soon after the Rodgers tragedy

Yeah, I keep thinking of the scariest line in Angels In America: "In the new century I think we will all be insane."

This whole thing. Fuck.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:43 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


If only they had believed in Splendorman instead.

Splendorwoman would have nipped this shit in the bud
posted by lakersfan1222 at 7:44 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


If any adult believed this nonsense, they would have a pretty good insanity plea.

Not really, no. They appeared to understand the severity of their crime. They approached both the crime and the aftermath with longterm planning. They appreciated the wrongfulness of their conduct: they understood that they would get in trouble if they were caught, because murder is regarded as being wrong.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:45 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


I want to know why they thought Slenderman lived in Nicolet National Forest in particular (is it part of the mythology?), and how they planned on getting there (it's hell and gone from Waukesha).

(My guess is one of the girl's parents has a cabin up there; it's extremely common.)
posted by desjardins at 7:47 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


If only they had believed in Splendorman instead.

Splendaman would have demanded the same, only with fewer calories.
posted by hippybear at 7:47 PM on June 3 [13 favorites]


Splendorwoman would have nipped this shit in the bud

Get out of here with your weird tumblr nonsense, Splendorwoman doesn't exist
posted by angerbot at 7:47 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I have to wonder how many pitches for Slenderman The Movie are being made by horror screenwriters right now... It honestly seems quite inevitable.
posted by el io at 7:52 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


And yes, I do think those girls should be tried as adults.

And I think "tweens" should be allowed to serve on juries in criminal cases. Why not? They're obviously mature enough.

Most of the local reaction has been against trying them as adults, but I wonder what public opinion would be like if these were black kids, especially 12 year old boys.

Being locals I think we both know how that would go down.


I have to wonder how many pitches for Slenderman The Movie are being made by horror screenwriters right now... It honestly seems quite inevitable

Someone's already made a micro-budget crowdfunded Slenderman movie.
posted by MikeMc at 8:01 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


in you must necessarily believe that a 12-year-old is also qualified to drive, buy alcohol, join the army, vote, get married, live on their own, and any of the other countless things that we -- crazily! inexplicably! -- restrict on the basis of age.

Speaking as a guy in his 40's, kids should be able to drink at about 16, vote at 18 (only since Wild in the Streets never happened), drive at maybe 21, join the army at 25, have kids when they're responsible enough for it (which might be never.)

Of course I would have thought differently when I was younger, because my brain was basically still a glob of silly putty, and frankly I'm not sure it's entirely mature even now.
posted by hap_hazard at 8:03 PM on June 3 [9 favorites]


What The Fuck.
posted by homunculus at 8:07 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Just watched the beginning of the local news, and of course this is still the top story. This is how ridiculous it's getting: they showed a screenshot of a Daily Mail article (I assume this one) and interviewed a psychologist about "red flags" she perceived in the father-daughter relationship just from reading the article.
posted by desjardins at 8:11 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


emerging idea of Slendy having human (maybe hypnotized or something?) acolytes who did the killing for him

This is not completely clear, IMHO so far (I'm up to date with watching the episodes but haven't followed in detail any other clues on forums, wikis, etc.) Slenderman does seem capable of puppeting humans that have been "damaged" by repeated exposure to his presence, but it seems the humans always snap out of it. It's also somewhat blurry, but some events in past episodes could be interpreted as "kill/sacrifice others for him and you will be blessed", or at least left alone long enough to not going completely damaged. So I guess there could be a possibility that the girls are following actual clues from the fiction so far, if they have actually watched it and not just absorbed the new boogeyman idea.
posted by Iosephus at 8:12 PM on June 3


There's a lot of weird things going on here all at once. I get how you could strongly believe that these kids "deserve" adult punishments because they had the capacity to plan this thing in advance and keep their plans secret. I guess my experience with childhood was that at 12 I could do certain types of thinking better than most adults, but as for understanding even what it meant to distinguish between reality and fantasy? Not a chance, how could I? I had been in school for, what, 7 years? Prepubescent? 4 years away from having a job? Shit, work and responsibility and adulthood are things I've been slowly learning about for many, many years.

I think one of the disconnects here is that the legal notion of criminal responsibility is its own thing, criminal justice is just done the way its done because it's always been done that way. Do the crime, do the time. Does it make sense to blame somebody for what they did, as if they have something internal called "bad intent", and as if there were some good that would come of treating that person really, really badly for a long time? A couple of huge "as ifs".

The criminal justice system knows nothing about psychology, or childhood development, or the effects of punishment on a "criminal", or even whether having prisons causes more suffering than not having them at all. But we humans like to be able to say we did something rather than nothing when bad things happen, it's just how we're wired. It's just inherently unsatisfying somehow to "let somebody get away with it", even if it's incredibly unlikely that punishing them will deter similar crimes (it's not like it's a secret that killing somebody is against the law, but somehow these 12-year-olds went ahead and tried to do it anyway - funny, that), and even if it's almost certain that putting them in prison will essentially destroy any chance that they'll ever do anything positive for society, and on the contrary increase their chances of committing further crimes. My point is not that I know these to be the case, cause i don't - it's that the decisions about these girls' futures will be made on the basis of retributive thinking, emotional thinking, unempirical thinking, and not rational thinking - it's not like anyone's in a position to step back and consider "what, holistically and probably, would be the best outcome here, based on everything we know about human psychology, and about the victim, the attackers, the families, and the community?" has never happened, won't ever happen. but we'll do *something*, so that we can look back and say "yup, those little girls thought they could get away with something, but we showed 'em!" that's basically what it boils down to.
posted by facetious at 8:14 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


My understanding is that a lot of these concepts of age restriction are relatively new in the human experience. Marriages and household-establishing used to take place much earlier in life. In more traditional cultures, boys are inducted into "being an adult" early in their teens, as are women with the arrival of their first menstruation. After that point, they aren't children anymore, and are expected to interact with the world appropriately.

I can really only speak to the Romans, but although they do have theoretically these lines between adults and humans, going by various court cases and other texts, they were pretty clear on the fact that young people - well into their 20s - did stupid things because they were young and should be excused in part because of their age. Fair enough these are often defenses, but they'd hardly say that if they didn't think there was some traction in the idea among their peers. (And they went for adulthood, the wearing of the toga of manhood, for boys around 16).

I can't believe that anyone would try a 12 year old, no matter how advanced and mature as an adult. And the level one reads at or education makes no difference to how mature you are emotionally, physically, and mentally. I read Plato when I was 12 (though without understanding anything) and I still thought fairies bloody existed.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:16 PM on June 3 [8 favorites]


this is shockingly awful, i just don't get it at all. I get that kids are idiots but... how dumb do you have to be to think slenderman is real? like, damn.
posted by rebent at 8:17 PM on June 3 [5 favorites]


Two things I haven't seen mentioned:

Peer pressure. It sounds like one of the girls was the ringleader, and the other one didn't necessarily ever believe they were going to go through with it. We're not sure if both girls even took part in the stabbing.

Weapon used. If they had used a gun, one might have a case for arguing that they pulled the trigger without understanding the severity of the consequences. But stabbing someone repeatedly, through the screams? And despite multiple false starts and opportunities to pull the plug? And then leaving her there to die? Cold-blooded.

I feel badly for the girls that their lives will end before they've even started, no matter how many years they get. Jail time is likely to do even more damage to their developing brains. But on the other hand, I can't see how they aren't just as threatening to society as any other murderer. Do we excuse adults who say demons made them do it?
posted by mantecol at 8:19 PM on June 3 [5 favorites]


It's like, you're 12 years old and you're reading the Narnia Chronicles. How in the world do you know that there aren't wardrobes that can be climbed through to another world? Of course you don't, just like adults don't, but adults have many, many life experiences that all seem to play out according to certain basic rules, one of which is that there's only one world. A 12-year-old who told you there's no such thing as ghosts would most likely be saying it because they think that's what you want to hear. They have no way of knowing for real.
posted by facetious at 8:20 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


That Daily Mail article I posted is execrable. They include pictures of one of the families' Halloween decorations as if there were some sort of connection.
posted by desjardins at 8:21 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


Do we excuse adults who say demons made them do it?

Sometimes we do. And when we don't, the word 'adults' may be the key thing there. Generally as a society* we have a lot of things in place to say children aren't adults, can't behave as adults, and are separated by many degrees from the rights we give adults. I assume that's because by and large many societies think children are a distinct category that don't think and reason like adults. I am not sure why all of that (and it's a huge way we organize society) goes out the window even when the situation is as awful as this is.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:25 PM on June 3


Slenderman does seem capable of puppeting humans that have been "damaged" by repeated exposure to his presence, but it seems the humans always snap out of it. It's also somewhat blurry, but some events in past episodes could be interpreted as "kill/sacrifice others for him and you will be blessed", or at least left alone long enough to not going completely damaged.

I don't mean to pick on you, Iosephus, but doesn't this sound like what grade-school kids say when they're playing a game and agreeing on the rules or the setting? Shouldn't adults point out that this is all completely made-up, eventually? Why are people talking about this like it's normal to take something which is made-up and not based on real life as though its internal rules have some kind of autonomy from its fictive status?
posted by clockzero at 8:28 PM on June 3


this is shockingly awful, i just don't get it at all. I get that kids are idiots but... how dumb do you have to be to think slenderman is real? like, damn.

Yeah, I feel like these wires keep getting crossed in this thread. 12-year-olds are not adults, obviously, and they have still-developing brains and so on and so forth. But! Also! The level of credulity and delusion behind the idea that they could become acolytes of Slenderman is also very much not normal for a 12-year-old. And all of that is separate from the idea of trying juveniles as adults, especially juveniles who are 12 and whose crimes are so obviously bizarre.

I mean, yes, 12-year-olds do and believe many other strange things, but if you can't see how "sacrificing humans to become acolytes of Slenderman" is well outside the sort of thing which 12-year-olds ordinarily believe in and act upon, then I can't help you.

None of that means they should be tried as adults, of course.

...

Regarding Algeria being "a week ahead", I'm reminded of 1) a high school classmate who firmly believed that there were trans-Atlantic bridges which allowed you to drive from the US to Europe and 2) a law school classmate (who dropped out) who thought you could catch HIV from living in an apartment in which an HIV+ person had once lived. (Our quick-witted Property professor, who looked and acted like Carl from Up, was uncharacteristically at a loss for words when she insisted on this.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:29 PM on June 3 [16 favorites]


There seem to be a number of people who simultaneously make these two assertions:

>They appeared to understand the severity of their crime. They approached both the crime and the aftermath with longterm planning. They appreciated the wrongfulness of their conduct: they understood that they would get in trouble if they were caught, because murder is regarded as being wrong.

And:

>Awful, bizarre crime. I am astonished that 12-year-olds would have thought this would have worked. Nothing about the Slender Man mythos seems any more "real" than any other horror character.

It's true, the irrationality of the latter is indeed astonishing if you happen to believe the former.

I suppose one coherent story is just to say:

Part of me prefers to believe that they simply wanted to kill for pleasure, and that all this guff about Slender Man is just them naively fumbling for something like an insanity plea.

where now the Catch-22 logic seems to go: this is all so juvenile and insane that only someone far older and eviler than their apparent years could possibly have planned and executed it, and thus they should be tried as adults.

It's amazing the amount of work people put into finding grounds for severe punishment.
posted by chortly at 8:34 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


I wonder if their parents were devout xtians? Its probably showing my personal flaws saying that. I refuse to read about this, trying to keep my life positive and productive.

Even tragedy is clickbait.
posted by sfts2 at 8:34 PM on June 3


who thought you could catch HIV from living in an apartment in which an HIV+ person had once lived

I'll call your idiotic Law Student and raise you a person I knew getting their PhD (in a research based field no less) who fled across town when someone cracked, not even broke, a compact fluorescent light bulb in their apartment's laundry room lest the hypothetical mercury leak take them down like a pack of vengeful ninja assassins. No amount of data and empirical numbers could convince them that said fear was unfounded. Any and all clothing in said laundry room was thrown away out of hand and they moved out as soon as the lease was up citing health risks.

I fear for our future now that I know these are the intelligentsia we are producing. My only, and faint at that, hope is that it is different elsewhere in the world.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:39 PM on June 3 [9 favorites]


It's amazing the amount of work people put into finding grounds for severe punishment.

What on earth are you talking about? I don't understand why you would invent such a thing. I already said they shouldn't be tried as adults.

Either way, there is no contradiction whatsoever behind the idea that somebody would labor under a bizarre delusion, while also rationally pursuing goals related to such a delusion.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:39 PM on June 3


clockzero, you're overthinking what I meant to point out, which was just that in regard to some other posters up there wondering if what so far seem the girls' explanations for their actions was purely their own created delusion, or whether it had a specific basis in what can be seen in the actual Slenderman video ficition. What this difference might mean for their legal responsibility, state of mind, or mental health, I wouldn't dare to say as I'm completely ignorant of the consequences of such difference in all those aspects of a criminal case.
posted by Iosephus at 8:41 PM on June 3


Either way, there is no contradiction whatsoever behind the idea that somebody would labor under a bizarre delusion, while also rationally pursuing goals related to such a delusion.

True.

12-year-olds are not adults, obviously, and they have still-developing brains and so on and so forth. But! Also! The level of credulity and delusion behind the idea that they could become acolytes of Slenderman is also very much not normal for a 12-year-old.

To put it another way -- that "But!" should be an "And!" Not only are these 12-year-olds, they are 12-year-olds who have a "delusion" that is "very much not normal". Both of these factors argue for trial as juveniles and/or as insane, and both militate against severe punishment.

Sorry if this is all a misunderstanding and you agree with all that -- I was just responding to your original Not really, no. which I took to be an argument that they were, and should be tried as, sane and rational.
posted by chortly at 8:48 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


This has been on my mind pretty much nonstop since I ran across this yesterday. When I was 12, I was in the 6th grade. It was only the year before, in 5th grade, that my friends and I became obsessed with aliens, talked about them all the time, and read everything we could get our hands on about them (pre-ubiquitous internet). Our weird obsession and fear/paranoia (we're talking Whitley Stribier-type coming-to-abduct-you aliens, I still have bad dreams about them) basically fed on each other until we were truly obsessed and I straight up began to hallucinate weird creepy shit that I was convinced was tied to aliens.

I don't really remember how we calmed down eventually, but this went on for a few months, and I still vividly remember how real it all felt to me. If we'd had the endless depths of the internet to accompany this obsession, I have no idea what would have happened. I was (clearly) a highly imaginative kid and it was pretty easy to get me to believe something; today I'm still a very incredulous movie-watcher and book-reader, I almost never see twist endings coming and I am much more likely to take what characters say at face value.

Our weird beliefs never went any farther than likely causing our parents some mild concern, but this really struck a weird chord with me and I can't stop thinking about it.
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:49 PM on June 3 [41 favorites]


Yeah, I super 100% believed in aliens at around that age, to a degree that, as an adult, is completely ludicrous. I probably wouldn't have actually stabbed someone over the conceit that aliens were going to take me to their homeworld, but yeah, I have dim memories of sincere belief in things that strike me as obviously not real as an adult.

When I was a teenager, Heaven's Gate happened, and there was a part of me that totally got it.
posted by Sara C. at 8:53 PM on June 3 [15 favorites]


To put it another way -- that "But!" should be an "And!" Not only are these 12-year-olds, they are 12-year-olds who have a "delusion" that is "very much not normal". Both of these factors argue for trial as juveniles and/or as insane, and both militate against severe punishment.

You seemed to have missed the "Also!" after "But!", as well as "None of that means they should be tried as adults, of course" and "I already said they shouldn't be tried as adults."
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:53 PM on June 3


I'm sorry, but my mind read this as "stabbed her nineteen times in order to prove their devotion to Enderman" and it just didn't make any sense to me.

Of course, it still doesn't make any sense, but at least Mindcraft isn't getting blamed.
posted by eye of newt at 8:58 PM on June 3


But in common law and Roman Civil Law they're quite old concepts. Children up until...

Wish we could go back to it. A nicely graduated scale, with provisions for exceptions? I want it back.
posted by tyllwin at 8:58 PM on June 3


Yeah, I super 100% believed in aliens at around that age, to a degree that, as an adult, is completely ludicrous.

Sure, but at least there's a not-small community of people who believe in aliens.

With regard to Slenderman...I mean, who really believes that Slenderman is real, let alone that you could actually, in the real world, become his acolyte by killing people? It's about as sane as thinking you could befriend Freddy Krueger by knitting him a sweater, both in the sense that this is obviously delusional, but also in the sense that there is not, AFAIK, a community of people out there to reinforce that belief.

Folie à deux indeed.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:59 PM on June 3


Am I overthinking it? Might it not be significant of a particular kind of interpretive orientation to the information we get about the world, to discuss such a topic in that way?

I think these girls experienced something like collective hysteria, and it's kind of odd to me that people are reproducing the fantasies while claiming that they're simply stating the facts or the rules of this myth. I guess I expected that more people would see this as a time to resist the spread of delusions, if that makes sense, though given America's tricky relationship with reality I really don't know why.

And again, nothing personal.
posted by clockzero at 9:00 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


You seemed to have missed the "Also!" after "But!", as well as "None of that means they should be tried as adults, of course" and "I already said they shouldn't be tried as adults."

...It's about as sane as thinking you could befriend Freddy Krueger by knitting him a sweater, both in the sense that this is obviously delusional...

Since we do seem to agree that they should be tried as children and probably as insane or delusional, that's all that matters to me. Sorry for any misunderstanding.
posted by chortly at 9:11 PM on June 3


Folie a deux was the first thing I thought; I've only seen Heavenly Creatures once, and I doubt I can ever see it again, because of the homicide scene.

IMHO, the bizarreness of the crime will be matched by the weird aftermath: the initial drive to try the girls as adults (talk about believing in fictions), and the coming backlash against not just Slenderman but all CreepyPasta (this afternoon, I imagined myself trying to explain the concept of Creepy Pasta -- and why it's called that -- to some of my colleagues).

I actually don't expect they'll ultimately be tried as adults (in part because they are white girls) ... and I'll go further and suggest that they actually can get past this, depending on what the hell was going on in their home lives. (Again, the Parker-Hulme case suggests that the girls could get beyond this -- and those girls were older than 12, weren't they?)

To sum up: Oh, world; why so fucked up?
posted by allthinky at 9:19 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


I have to wonder if these girls had bullied the victim before. She didn't try to get away or tell an adult when they tried to hold her down the first few times.

Also, is anyone else reminded of other relatively recent child murderers like the Jamie Bulger case? The main things missing are they don't seem to have planned it for months and no horror story like Slenderman. But perhaps it is a legal precedent (although international)?
posted by IndigoRain at 10:22 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


Part of me prefers to believe that they simply wanted to kill for pleasure, and that all this guff about Slender Man is just them naively fumbling for something like an insanity plea.

This was one of those weird moments where real life got to me before metafilter did; [insert clever name here]'s mom stopped over, and we were chatting and she was surprised that I hadn't heard this news, I explained that I was offline all day working on something. An extra weird thing is that this is one of the schools that [icnh] went to when she was a kid.

Personally, my guess is that this started off as a game; one of the girls reading about slenderman online, and allowing herself to be drawn into the culture because it was fun, not so much that she actually believed it (but never having been a 12 year old girl with access to the vast sea of knowledge and lies that are the internet, I'm willing to be totally wrong on this.)

Eventually the fun grew into immersing herself further and further into the mindset. I also bet that when all the facts come out, this will be one of those stories where one of the girls demonstrates the characteristics of a sociopath; lack of empathy, ability to charm others, etc. And the other girl will have just been pulled along into the scheme. We've seen this play out enough times that I don't think it's a stretch to think we'll see it here again as well.

Personally, I'm against charging them as adults. As new as these laws may be, we put them on the books for a reason, and as heinous as the crime is, they should probably be treated to see if there is any hope of rehabilitation; twelve is a long way from adult in every respect.

My thoughts go to the victim, her family, and the other students and families touched by this. It's one of those things that enters the mind as so horrible, it can only be fiction. But this is a good example of how reality can sometimes trump fiction for fuckedupedness.
posted by quin at 10:24 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


"Folie a deux was the first thing I thought; I've only seen Heavenly Creatures once, and I doubt I can ever see it again, because of the homicide scene."

I saw that movie at, like, age 12 or so and had remembered it as a New Zealand coming-of-age comedy. I put it on a couple years ago with my girlfriend; it was not the comedy I promised.
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 PM on June 3 [26 favorites]


The level of credulity and delusion behind the idea that they could become acolytes of Slenderman is also very much not normal for a 12-year-old.

Isn't it? I mean, why would this be so completely out of the realm of possibilities of normal? Do 12-year-olds not believe that they will one day marry the Justin Bieber of their particular generation or cultural setting? I don't see why 12 is must somehow be too old for fantastical delusions.
posted by rtha at 10:51 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


I'm surprised nobody seems to have mentioned it yet, but there is a significantly bigger story here than whether or not these girls believed in the Slenderman:
Police say the two girls waived their Miranda rights and gave statements after they were arrested. Asked by the Guardian why the 12-year-olds had been interrogated without a lawyer present, Captain Ron Oremus of the Waukesha police department said: "If they didn't request we're not providing it … That might happen at a different point when they're charged, that did not happen on our end."

Oremus said the girls' parents were called, and that when they arrived at the station they were informed that their children had waived their Miranda rights, but he did not know when in the interrogation process the parents were told.
Wisconsin girls charged in stabbing were questioned without lawyers (editorial and angry bolding, my own.)
posted by curious.jp at 10:51 PM on June 3 [57 favorites]


How can they even have waived rights as minors? Because they were still minors at that point. Are there lawyers in the thread who can weigh in, or link to relevant laws or statutes?
posted by rtha at 10:58 PM on June 3 [9 favorites]


I thought Slenderman was just a creepy dude that hung around being creepy? Is there a whole backstory I'm missing that he needs sacrifices and has opinions on anything?

Okay, so Slenderman was invented on June 10th (SA archives are down, but that link should work when/if they're fixed), and Marble Hornets came out on June 20th, but one of the more quietly influential things didn't happen until July 29th, when Just Another Fool, the first "Slenderblog", debuted. The format's a cliche now- a fake blog by somebody who encounters and is stalked by the Slender Man- but there's been dozens of shitty knock-offs, both JAF-style blogs and MH-style vlogs, and a bunch of these writers have tried to take the core Slender Man concept and put their own spin on it. So there's a bunch of half-assed mythology that probably looks pretty impressive to the kind of 12 year old who would be inclined to believe that monsters are real.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:20 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


I'm imagining in a parallel universe this thread is about these girls working as strippers. I'm imagining someone tried to defend the club owner being criminally charged by saying the girls had used fake IDs. I'm pretty sure everyone else would respond with "ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?! THEY ARE TWELVE YEARS OLD!" I'm confident that there are no set of circumstances that could convince us that these girls would have the capacity to make an informed decision about taking off their clothes for money. Why then, do some people seem to think that the circumstances of this case, whatever they may be, prove that they are capable of adult decisions, and therefore justify throwing them in a cage for the rest of their lives?

It reminds me of that Dave Chappelle bit "How Old is Fifteen Really?" Because you have to decide: how old is twelve? If I thought twelve was old enough for society to throw someone in a cage forever, I sure wouldn't have a problem with twelve year old strippers.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:40 PM on June 3 [37 favorites]


This is one of those times where I have to acknowledge that on certain issues I guess I'm more conservative than my fellow Mefites. I'm sure this is going to come off as more holier than thou than I intend, but I find it a little disturbing that we have been presented with a story where an innocent girl was brutally stabbed multiple times in a premeditated fashion and left for dead, and the primary concern of most commenters here seems to be that the girls who did it might go to jail for too long.
posted by The Gooch at 11:41 PM on June 3 [11 favorites]


I don't get how two obvious minors could've waived their Miranda rights, either. Looking at the pictures of them from the second link, it's not ambiguous that they're children. I thought minors couldn't even be talked to unless their parent/guardian said it was OK.
posted by sfkiddo at 11:42 PM on June 3 [6 favorites]


Christ. I don't understand why there is such eagerness to make excuses for these girls. I don't think they should be tried as adults, but what they did is sadistic and revolting regardless of any MRIs or slow moving prefrontal lobes or developing brains or whatever.

I have absolutely no idea what the fascination with "slenderman" is about and I'm shocked people find it so interesting. It just grosses me out.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:57 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


Also, is anyone else reminded of other relatively recent child murderers like the Jamie Bulger case? The main things missing are they don't seem to have planned it for months and no horror story like Slenderman.

Recent? That was in 1993, over 20 years ago.

As I recall, there were claims that the boys in the Bulger case had watched hundred of violent horror films (the judge mentioned this in sentencing), but I don't think that it was ever proven.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:12 AM on June 4


So they were hoping to live in the forest with Richard Simmons? That IS scary...
posted by Quasimike at 12:23 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


I find it a little disturbing that we have been presented with a story where an innocent girl was brutally stabbed multiple times in a premeditated fashion and left for dead, and the primary concern of most commenters here seems to be that the girls who did it might go to jail for too long.

And I find it a little disturbing that whenever anyone argues that criminal punishment shouldn't actually violate the Constitution, we are invariably accused of being insufficiently sympathetic to crime victims.

There's a reason why 4/10 of the Bill of Rights deals with the rights of the accused -- reasons that are pretty well on display in this thread.
posted by scody at 12:23 AM on June 4 [58 favorites]


What I want to find out is what effect sleep deprivation has on the developing mind and how it plays in here...probably far more damaging than a lot of things, given that teenagers / adolescents seem to need to sleep much longer and later than adults, and are cycled through patterns of getting up prematurely early (school days) vs. sleeping in for ungodly lengths of time (weekends and summer).

Around this age it becomes desirable for many people to stay up ridiculously late (ahem) and try to function the next day on 2-3 hours of sleep. The internet is an amazing stimulant and there's something intoxicating and squicky about reading creepypasta when you're starting to go into that delirious "shadows are moving around me" phase. Credulity rises...transient mania afflicts the "neurotypical" for how long before it becomes a part of their circuitry? I dunno, but I bet it has more lasting effects than many of the thing we fret about WRT "developing minds" and there doesn't seem to be a lot of concern that making teenagers wake up at 6AM could be a bad idea for their development even if they went to bed at 10PM, let alone the hours they can achieve with the help of cell phones, the internet, online chat (hoo-boy, that's the big one) and hell, their ADD meds if used improperly....I used to use the word "delirious" a lot to describe myself at 3AM as a teenager but I usually couldn't sustain it for multiple nights. I suspect it's easier for many to do this now. My stimulant of choice was merely Pepsi (and cigs, gah) until I started drinking coffee around 16.
posted by aydeejones at 12:24 AM on June 4 [13 favorites]


Christ. I don't understand why there is such eagerness to make excuses for these girls. I don't think they should be tried as adults, but what they did is sadistic and revolting regardless of any MRIs or slow moving prefrontal lobes or developing brains or whatever.

Who's making excuses? They are being tried as adults. They face 65 years in prison. They have already been named and their photos are all over the internet. I'm sure if a judge had the power to undo the stabbing, and had refused, we'd all be incandescent with rage about that. Sadly, this isn't possible.

Personally, I'm hoping that instead of being ruined, three twelve year old lives can be successfully be rehabilitated. Outrage isn't going to help one of them, but it might help the other two. Compassion isn't just for the innocent.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:28 AM on June 4 [15 favorites]


Hm, that article about the Bulger case mentions the Roald Dahl story "The Swan", which I remember being pretty horrific. I first read it as an adolescent and I remember totally empathising with the boy who was bullied and nearly killed. I wasn't bullied anywhere close to that extent but I found the story completely believable.

I know Dahl's story was fiction, though he seems to have experienced a certain amount of bullying and cruelty when he was at school in the 1920s-30s. But I think adults can forget just how cruel children can be to other children. Are they insane? Not necessarily, even if the cruelty wears the trappings of fantasy, fiction or make-believe. Just as there are adults who murder other adults, there are kids who murder other kids and know exactly what they are doing.

That being said, they are children and should be tried as children. Adult punishments are not appropriate. But my sympathies are firmly with the victim and the families.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:32 AM on June 4 [2 favorites]


the fact that lawyers try to fight for their clients to be tried as juveniles suggests there's some kind difference even is a system as fucked as ours.

It shocks me that anyone on here might think twelve year old girls belong in adult prisons.

Can I just clarify some things here? Being tried as a juvenile means that you are only held until you reach majority, 18, with some additional commitment options beyond that to 21 and in rare cases beyond that, but I'm pretty certain under Wisconsin law this requires a separate trial for recommitment (not a retrying of the case, mind you). I believe that constitutes a significant difference.

Being tried as an adult means that you will be given an adult sentence, but I'm also certain that in Wisconsin you will still be segregated with other minors in a suitable juvenile facility until age 18. Not in an adult prison.

Finally, there is in this case a probably higher than usual chance of a M'Naghten mental illness defense in which case civil commitment will be the end result and release up to medical professionals.

I'm just saying why bother identifying juveniles at all? I mean, what constitutes juvenescence excepting actual age?

It's not actually that binary. There is a whole boatload of case law regarding the criteria for being tried as an adult, and being waived into adult court is something that the defense has every right to legally challenge. In our adversarial system of justice sometimes something happens that involves an assertion that it's like this which just means the other side gets to rebut no, it's like that. The fact that they have been initially handled by an adult court is not a foregone conclusion for everything that happens from now on.

Those with grave concern for the rights of the minor accused here (this is not snark, I assure you) should take some comfort that the Supreme Court and courts more generally have been looking critically at the question of juvenile offenders and in particular juvenile sentencing.
posted by dhartung at 12:37 AM on June 4 [14 favorites]


Oh man, if we're talking about our own childhood experiences, I have to say that I can totally imagine having done something horrific like this if circumstances had aligned the right way. I was a fairly bright and highly imaginative child and I sometimes had trouble separating reality from fantasy. I remember being not much younger than these girls and, having binge-read a whole bunch of Trixie Belden books, fancying myself a detective solving "mysteries" around my school and neighbourhood which were of course entirely fabricated but which I half-believed in myself and, more to the point, was able to convince other children to believe in. There was also a war game some of us played around the same time which was sometimes genuinely scary - I think it's easier than some here might think to get carried away with that sort of thing, especially in a group with some people egging others on.

I mean, it's really scary to think that you could ever have been capable of something like this, feels much safer to imagine that this sort of thing happens because people are just evil. But it doesn't, does it? I mean, military training works because in the right circumstances, with the right kind of peer pressure, you can convince basically normal and reasonable people (adults, even) to kill other people.

Anyway, I can't fathom how these children are being tried as adults. They did a terrible thing. But so is the prospect of trying children, children who are likely highly rehabilitatable with the right care, as fully responsible adults.
posted by lwb at 12:45 AM on June 4 [11 favorites]


Trying a child as an adult is how the larger community abdicates their responsibility for so badly failing the child.
posted by klarck at 3:31 AM on June 4 [34 favorites]


When people want kids to be tried as adults, what it comes down to, I think, is that people have this idea that most violence is perpetrated by those who are inherently Bad People. They'll easily believe that a toddler who stabbed someone is likely to grow up to be a perfectly normal and productive adult, but they can't picture the fact that an adolescent could do the same thing and still, with help and support, turn out okay. That child has been rendered one of the Bad People and there are a lot of people who would prefer that all those Bad People were just plain locked up forever so they wouldn't disrupt lives for the rest of us.

I wish I knew, honestly, how to impress upon people that this isn't even true of adults, much less children. Not that there's nobody out there who's just a bad person, not that there's nobody who's genuinely dangerous, but that even actually murdering someone doesn't instantly turn you into a lifelong remorseless killer. It's like: Oops, this person's ruined, now, we'd better just throw them away and stop wasting resources on them. But that's not really how it works. These girls haven't done anything that actually establishes them as permanently damaged--but this process, now, is what determines how whole they actually emerge. It's important that it be conducted in a way that maintains their human dignity. They're children, not monsters, no matter what they did.
posted by Sequence at 3:50 AM on June 4 [20 favorites]


Whenever I hear of a case such as this all I can think is 'There but for the grace of god go I' (or the utterly irreligious version of that sentiment, in my case.) Children should not be tried as adults any more than a donkey or goat should be tried and executed in expiation-by-proxy of people's sins. It's barbaric, backwards and only too typical of the U.S.
posted by metagnathous at 4:05 AM on June 4 [4 favorites]


You all can rag on me all that you want. I was telling you my experience as a 12-year-old. And how I never would have thought that way. If you want to make me a scapegoat, go for it. And yes, I do think those girls should be tried as adults. They plotted. . . . I never plotted to stab anyone.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu


Is this the MeFi equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting "Nyah Nyah, I can't hear your facts and science!"?

And "scapegoat," really?

If so, maybe you're aging in reverse. No one said the girls in this case should be excused without dessert. You just continue to insist that because you were a good little kid, that proves all kids have the minds of grown ups.

You may have read classics at 12 (so did I, I was a Latin geek) but you didn't drive a car or travel abroad on your own or date 30 year old men. Your parents didn't trust you with your own gun. And I can nearly bet you did some stupid things that reflected an adolescent level of judgement.

So you are generalizing from the fact that you never killed anyone to a contravention of huge bodies of research across multiple disciplines, which makes yours an obtuse opinion, with no basis in fact. It's cold today, so there's no climate change. I never saw a dinosaur so the earth is 6000 years old. Etc.


The brain of a 12 year old is objectively more plastic and less capable of rational judgment than that of *the same individual* (not you!) at 18 or 29. You can look up fMRI images or large population studies or a vast clinical literature on the subject. How society treats moral agency in the course of development is variable.

Kids are capable of extreme violence, just like adults. When they commit it, it is less likely that they were exercising the sort of self-regulation and judgment we expect from adults. String 'em up if it makes you happy, or move to Iran and hang a child every day. But the question of moral/ethical/rational development is not a matter of opinion, yours or anyone else's.
posted by spitbull at 4:29 AM on June 4 [25 favorites]


Trying a child as an adult is how the larger community abdicates their responsibility for so badly failing the child.
posted by klarck


I regret that I have but one favorite to give.
posted by spitbull at 4:33 AM on June 4 [4 favorites]


[Guys, a reminder: unlike kids, our frontal lobes are presumably fully connected, so let's please keep this in mind even when discussing painful or difficult issues, and avoid making personal attacks, accusing each other of wanting to kill children, or just piling on so that it becomes all about one person rather than the posted topic? Thanks.]
posted by taz at 5:02 AM on June 4 [16 favorites]


I mean, why would this be so completely out of the realm of possibilities of normal? Do 12-year-olds not believe that they will one day marry the Justin Bieber of their particular generation or cultural setting? I don't see why 12 is must somehow be too old for fantastical delusions.

rtha, nobody is saying that 12-year-olds are "too old" for fantastical delusions, whatever that would even mean. What people are saying is, the delusions in this case are well outside of how 12-year-olds ordinarily think and behave, especially with regard to how 12-year-olds behave merely by dint of the fact that they are 12 years old. We are looking at mental conditions beyond simply "the state of being 12 years old". Hence, the references to folies à deux.

Seeing as how both of us believe that these children should be treated as juveniles, I'm honestly not sure what you're getting at. Are you saying that a 12-year-old who literally believes that they can murder their way into Slenderman's good graces should not be referred to an appropriately trained mental health professional?

Regarding Bieber, the differences are numerous and significant. Daydreaming is normal at any age. Justin Bieber is a real person. There is a huge conceptual difference between "one day I will marry Justin Bieber and we will live in a huge mansion" and "it is a confirmed fact that I am marrying Justin Bieber, not in the sense that this may one day happen, but in the same inevitable way that the school year will end in June".

There is also a huge community of similarly-aged girls who also love Justin Bieber. Contrast with how there is not a whole lot of community support for people who think that they can literally, physically become an acolyte of Slenderman through the act of murder.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:09 AM on June 4 [3 favorites]


I'm sure this is going to come off as more holier than thou than I intend, but I find it a little disturbing that we have been presented with a story where an innocent girl was brutally stabbed multiple times in a premeditated fashion and left for dead, and the primary concern of most commenters here seems to be that the girls who did it might go to jail for too long.

I equally have no interest in going down the holier than thou path, but I have no problem saying that locking up small children for the rest of their lives is straightforwardly a bad outcome. Damage has already been done, and causing more damage (especially permanently incarcerating people who are too young to fully know right from wrong in the adult sense of that) isn't going to make things better, satisfying though it is.

Maybe these girls are seriously, dangerously, wrong in the head and need to be treated in mental institutions for the rest of their lives. Or maybe they made some bad choices and should pay the cost of that in the criminal system (though that should be proportional to their status as children). I don't know the answer to that and hopefully if it is the first they can be diverted into the mental health system instead of the criminal.

I do wish we had a restorative justice approach in this country. Something was broken in their lives and I'd rather we spent money and time repairing that instead of just being punitive.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:38 AM on June 4 [5 favorites]


Sorry my comment got harsh. Some of us are even more appalled by vengeful state violence against children who commit crimes than by the crimes themselves.

Obviously the average 12 year old is not likely to kill someone. I'm not saying these girls have *no* moral agency. Just that trying them "as adults," if you favor such, does not mean they *are* adults. It means you don't consider their scientifically provable psychological immaturity to be relevant to the question of their moral agency.

And some of us wish western societies would not return to such a premodern view of childhood criminality. It helps nothing. No future child will be deterred from violence by these girls getting life sentences.
posted by spitbull at 5:40 AM on June 4 [2 favorites]


My first reaction to this (apart from horror) was "how, if they had access to the internet, did they not come across repeated evidence that Slenderman was not real?". But of course this is delusion, what an astounding example of confirmation bias at work.
posted by Catch at 5:44 AM on June 4 [2 favorites]


Plenty of 12 year olds believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus too.

Or God, for that matter.
posted by spitbull at 5:45 AM on June 4 [6 favorites]


It means you don't consider their scientifically provable psychological immaturity to be relevant to the question of their moral agency.

The way the science is being argued here is I think a total misapplication of the research. rtha's original quote says nothing about moral agency or even credulity, it simply points out that children aren't the greatest at evaluating consequences*. I don't think juveniles should be tried as adults, but it's bad form to press-gang brain research into a rebuttal of the proposal.

Children believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and God because people they trust, the people they look to to make sense of the world, talk and act as if these things were real. In the case of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny this is usually just adults harmlessly play-acting their belief, but in the case of god many adults really do believe and structure their lives around that belief.

* Which doesn't really make sense in this case as these girls seem to have considered the consequences quite thoroughly.
posted by um at 5:53 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


What people are saying is, the delusions in this case are well outside of how 12-year-olds ordinarily think and behave,

This has been said at least a couple of times, and I still don't know if it's actually true. It's being said as if it's true: I'm asking if it is and if there is evidence or studies of this kind of delusion being well outside the norm for kids this age. I don't know what the norm is, so I don't know what's well outside of it. Clearly, kids this age aren't murdering their friends all over the place, but to believe a fictional character is real, and to want to go live in that character's world - that doesn't seem outrageously and impossibly peculiar, especially for 12-year-olds.

And of course they should both be getting mental health treatment. I'm not arguing with you on that front. I just don't know why or how I should believe their delusion being "well outside" normal just because someone says it. But it's deraily and maybe doesn't matter so much.
posted by rtha at 5:54 AM on June 4 [2 favorites]


this is where believing in the possibility of demonic possession comes in very handy. How this would be interpreted in my circles is this: girls dwell on things that were kind of creepy opening up their minds to the paranormal and or demonic.......and something took advantage of it.

as to how this should be handled, darned if I know.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:05 AM on June 4 [3 favorites]


Rtha, people are saying that this is out of the ordinary because it is indeed true that it is wildly uncommon for 12-year-olds to murder their peers in order to satisfy the wishes of fictional characters. It is not abnormal to *want* to go live with a fictional character, but it is conceptually very different - and indeed abnormal! - to literally *believe* (and to act upon the belief) that you can murder people to actually become a fictional character's acolyte, especially when there is not even a preexisting subculture to share and reinforce your beliefs.

Put another way, what is your actual "bar" for normalcy? What criteria would one have to meet for you to accept the fact that some behavior is abnormal? I mean, would you agree if I were to tell you that it is abnormal to go to a typical job interview while wearing a feces-sodden bunny suit? If not, why not? Are you just generally opposed to the idea that anything could be considered to be sane, ordinary, and/or normal?
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:10 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


I've been on the Internet for a long time and I've seen some strange stuff, but this Slender Man thing flew right past me. Then again maybe I'm not it's target audience.
posted by jonmc at 6:14 AM on June 4 [3 favorites]


this is where believing in the possibility of demonic possession comes in very handy.

Well, if we had demons, then we wouldn't need Slenderman, now would we?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:17 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


If only they had believed in Splendorman instead.

Or even in Splendaman or Steviaman: think how sweet they would have been!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:17 AM on June 4


Rtha, people are saying that this is out of the ordinary because it is indeed true that it is wildly uncommon for 12-year-olds to murder their peers in order to satisfy the wishes of fictional characters. It is not abnormal to *want* to go live with a fictional character, but it is conceptually very different - and indeed abnormal! - to literally *believe* (and to act upon the belief) that you can murder people to actually become a fictional character's acolyte, especially when there is not even a preexisting subculture to share and reinforce your beliefs.

FWIW, I thought Rtha was simply responding to a perceived implication that such beliefs/actions were so far outside the bounds of average as to be unbelievable ... that is, some folk seem unwilling to entertain the possibility that these kids did have these beliefs, and so it's important to point out that it's not too much of a step epistemically (although a huge one morally) to actually kill somebody to garner the favor of a fictional entity.

Just to be extra provocative, I'll note that many adults kill other adults every day, in different parts of the world, for 'fictional' entities like states, ethnicities, divinities, and territorial identities. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying these kids are just like police, gang members, or soldiers, but from the most arid perspective, what separates them from 'understandable' homicide is the number of folks who share their commitments to abstraction, maybe?

And for kids who are looking for something to be guided by or be faithful to, etc., it seems that almost anything can serve that role.
posted by allthinky at 6:21 AM on June 4 [6 favorites]


I'm sure this is going to come off as more holier than thou than I intend, but I find it a little disturbing that we have been presented with a story where an innocent girl was brutally stabbed multiple times in a premeditated fashion and left for dead, and the primary concern of most commenters here seems to be that the girls who did it might go to jail for too long.

The thing about prison is that it's a violent system, and it perpetuates violence. Prison doesn't rehabilitate people and it doesn't prevent crimes. In fact, "tough on crime" laws increase recidivism. It's not hard to figure out the mechanism, here.

It's really sad that this girl got stabbed 19 times and almost murdered. We can't undo that; but we can try to figure out how to make it less likely that it will happen again.

Want to prevent the next little girl from getting stabbed? Consider a more humane justice system, better mental health care, and maintain moral indignation at people who would throw away the key.
posted by entropone at 6:31 AM on June 4 [3 favorites]


I could not believe how much detail there was in the statements to police, but as mentioned above, the girls waived their Miranda rights. I've had DON'T TALK TO COPS drummed into me for the last several years and I just cringe every time someone does. I hope the confessions get thrown out. If the victim hadn't survived and the perpetrators hadn't been found right away, I'd wonder if it was a West Memphis Three type of situation.
posted by desjardins at 6:39 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


yeah, i tell my nieces and nephews all the time, don't talk to cops and call me if you don't want to call your parents. all the same, it seems a hard job to teach kids to trust cops in some situations and not in others.
posted by nadawi at 6:46 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


[A couple of comments deleted. This isn't the place to carry over arguments about whether the Elliot Rodger murders were misogynistic or not.]
posted by taz at 7:03 AM on June 4




My first reaction (aside from it being so awful and everything) – having heard of Slender Man previously on the TL;DR podcast – was: how did these kids not know Slender Man’s a hoax? I've always assumed that the ability for hoaxes to play out in ways that leave them lingering and cabalistic was snuffed out out by the internet – that a Paul is Dead-type hoax couldn't exist today.
posted by thursdaystoo at 7:16 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


how did these kids not know Slender Man’s a hoax?

Think of it this way: lots and lots of adults believe that global warming is a hoax and that vaccines will give your kids autism, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I remember seeing a study that 30% or something of adult Americans believe in ghosts (or maybe it was the devil). There are tons and tons of ghost and cryptozoology "reality" shows on TV. So it's not unthinkable at all that a 12 year old would believe in a mythical creature.
posted by desjardins at 7:22 AM on June 4 [15 favorites]


Parker and Hulme served only a few years; one of the pair has gone one to become a bestselling novelist, and neither has committed such a crime again.

Parker went to a borstal, but Hulme was sent to a grim adult prison where people were still being hanged. She served "only" five years, but at that age that's a pretty long time, especially considering it was "at her Majesty's pleasure." i.e. indefinite and it was at hard labor. She repented-- she became a Mormon in fact-- and had what would probably be considered overall a good outcome for someone who committed that kind of crime as an adult but I still think it is shocking that she was treated as an adult in all but the length of the sentence. Which again she was not aware of ahead of time; for a while hanging was actually a possibility.

Gitta Sereny's Cries Unheard: Why Children Kill: The Story of Mary Bell is 14 years old, at deals with a crime from the 60s, but iI think it is still relevant reading.
posted by BibiRose at 7:23 AM on June 4 [5 favorites]


Trying a child as an adult is how the larger community abdicates their responsibility for so badly failing the child.

How were these kids failed by society ? They were middle class white kids in the middlest class whitest suburb in Wisconsin. When Paul Ryan talks about problems in "Urban culture", the community these kids were in forms his baseline for comparison. Indeed - when you run as a tough on crime republican these are your voters.

These kids didn't fall through any cracks. Indeed - this girls have had every benefit a regular American can expect from society, and still they chose to do this.

Let's see how "tough on crime" a white prosecutor is to a couple of well represented, relatively rich, white little girls from a white suburb. My wager - these kids ain't got nothing to worry about.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:24 AM on June 4 [10 favorites]


I find it a little disturbing that we have been presented with a story where an innocent girl was brutally stabbed multiple times in a premeditated fashion and left for dead, and the primary concern of most commenters here seems to be that the girls who did it might go to jail for too long.

If it's any consolation, there's really not much to say about the victim besides "That's fucked up," so conversation will (probably) naturally tend toward a discussion of the natures and the motives of the alleged assailants. And given that the alleged are 12 that discussion is likely to revolve around the nature and ethics of the deserved punishment.

This may be reasonable, but I'm not entirely clear on why.

I think there's a conversation to be had on the effects of internet reinforcements on all kinds of aberrant behavior, but really, you can't see why a discussion of twelve year olds trying to kill to supplicate a fictional character might focus more on the aberrant behavior than a discussion of a 23 year old claiming to kill in the name of a philosophical/political point of view? Is this something that you genuinely don't grasp?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:27 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


On preview I see one of the comments I responded to has been deleted. Oh, well. Feel free to delete half of my comment if desirable.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:36 AM on June 4


I'm starting to think that no one should be tried as an adult.
posted by malocchio at 7:41 AM on June 4 [7 favorites]


In this case there is a tendency to discuss the assailants' apparent mental illness and largely ignore their belief in the Slender Man myth.

This may be reasonable, but I'm not entirely clear on why.


Here's a start: Misogyny is a powerful force that the majority of people (not just men) buy into and it permeates nearly every aspect of our social and personal lives. Slenderman, not so much.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:44 AM on June 4 [2 favorites]


What happened here was horrible. The victim's life, if she survives, will never be the same. Her family is surely devastated.

The point is, for me, that the behavior is *so far outside* the normal bounds of (normal) childhood fantasy and cruelty, so "Lord of the Flies" as to inspire the question, "where were the adults?" If there is moral agency here, it surely lies with the families of the attackers, their school systems, their psychologists, if they had them (or the lack thereof, if they didn't), and yes, the internet as a social domain that we now know is very dangerous for some children as it currently is conceived.

I do not believe a 12 year old child is capable of "murder," only of "homicide." There are 12 year old child soldiers in Africa and Syria right now killing dozens of people with AK47s. I don't hold them as responsible as their adult colleagues. Children have impressionable, plastic minds (as do many adults, but not as much by definition). Adults can bend children's minds with ease.

This crime is horrible, but punishing the perpetrators like adults, as was said above, abdicates responsibility on the part of the adults, who are responsible for the development of moral agency in children.
posted by spitbull at 7:47 AM on June 4 [5 favorites]


"No," she answered, "We haven't heard anything. But, you know, they're a week ahead there, so." WHAT?

This. This this this. This kind of thinking from a 12 year old is exactly where I went when I heard about this case. The 12-year-old in my house, a few years ago, came home with a nonsensical story from her new school. In theory she had all the smarts and facts she needed to know the story was nonsensical, yet she believed it.

Whether or not these girls literally believed in a magical kingdom they could gain entrance to by killing a person, there was a social gain in a virtual world that would open a virtual door to a new set of conversations that they likely believed we're happening without them, and they wanted in.

Not so different from adults. Despite what everyone believes about how we're living our modern lives based on hard science and objective data, adults make decisions about what's real and what's not based on intersubjective, social needs all the time. Kids see that. They're asked to engage in it themselves (by adults and other kids).

I don't know why or how they got themselves to such a violent place. I don't know whose storytelling they were persuading themselves and each other to buy into -- but i don't think they have to be mentally ill to do it. I think what's so terrifying is how not very far from all our routines of thinking they are.

A word of caution about arguments that kids' brains are so very different from adults'. There's a large measure of compassion in that viewpoint here, but 99.99999% of the time, ideas of difference from a medical/physical point of view serve to further limit the rights of those identified as "different." (Having said that - I don't think they should be tried as adults either.)
posted by vitabellosi at 7:47 AM on June 4 [7 favorites]


People must be held accountable for their actions, except in cases where they are so far beyond 'regular' functioning that they cannot 1) perceive reality clearly 2) reasonably understand the consequences of their actions. Mentally ill and severely intellectually challenged people fall into this category. 'Under duress' or 'temporary insanity' also come into play.

These girls may turn out to be pretty mentally ill, in which case #1.

They are children, and this is what is up for debate in #2 "do you try them as adults." By 12 you should know that killing people is bad. You probably can't understand the full ramifications of your actions (jail for 20 years, a mother's grief, liberty & rights of people in a just society etc.) but you should know that dead is dead, and killing is wrong. You should at least know that.

You can argue all you want 'studies show brain development not complete until....' but shit I didn't feel like a fully capable person until sometime in my 30s! And I'm still learning. So at what point am *I* responsible for my actions?

I still don't think they should be tried as adults (not at 12) but to say 'but they're children!' as if to excuse their ability to cognize, to understand, to have impulse control especially related to killing, well that is insulting to the intelligence of children all over.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:49 AM on June 4 [5 favorites]


Wait, is there any sort of social justice ideal that is served by considering children as "not different" from adults? Unlike any other sort of difference that is used to oppress or divide or marginalize, we were all children once. It's a difference we all share, to wax paradoxical.
posted by spitbull at 7:50 AM on June 4


So at what point am *I* responsible for my actions?

18 years old, under the laws of most developed nations. There's a reason for that. It's an approximation of a certain level of average maturity.

12 is a long way from 18.
posted by spitbull at 7:51 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


Also, I think a more accurate phrase would be "considered fully responsible for my actions."

"Fully" is important.
posted by spitbull at 7:55 AM on June 4 [3 favorites]


Thanks to the Internet, I recently found out that Exene (from X) is someone who believes that the Isla Vista shootings were a hoax. Apparently, there are also people out there (I think she is one as well but my eyes fell out in astonishment so I couldn't read that post on fb) who believe that the shootings at Sandy Hook were a hoax.

Never underestimate how many people truly believe completely absurd things and act accordingly, including acting totally against their own interests.
posted by rtha at 7:58 AM on June 4 [16 favorites]


18 years old,

That's a glib answer, come on. Think about it. When you do you say to someone of teenage-persuasion "you are now 100% responsible for every single one of your choices" and then expect them to make good decisions from there on?

At 12 years old they can't be completely abdicated from responsibility. They're considered responsible for their home work, and other chores. You can't not hold these girls responsible for their actions; you can't judge them as you would an adult either. It is a grey scale. They may not clearly think about the consequences of their actions, but they decided to kill and then they carried out the plan. It's just physics. Who stabbed their friend? They did. They physically did it. That's black & white. The grey is how well they understand what it meant.

on preview, yes I like your 'fully' modifier
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:00 AM on June 4


How were these kids failed by society ? They were middle class white kids in the middlest class whitest suburb in Wisconsin.

So, people's lives really are more complicated than this. People are more than just their socio-demographics. As a child you can be failed by the adults and the community around you even while having all these advantages. Unless you have intimate knowledge of these girls' lives, you really can't know either way.
posted by lwb at 8:05 AM on June 4 [14 favorites]


Obviously these girls are accused of a horrible crime, but in all sorts of discussions regarding trying juveniles as adults, it seems to me that our culture has a lot more hostility directed towards children than there used to be. I'm not thirty yet--do older people feel the same way about this?

Looking at the cultural artifacts of the 20th century, there were certainly moral panics about jazz and Reefer Madness and juvenile delinquency, but I don't get quite this sense of hostility directed at the youth-as-youth. There was more--pity, I think? An idea that it was sad they were harming themselves? I think that by the '90s it had changed, and I'm sure there's a lot of reasons for it (race, war on drugs, culture wars of the '60s).

Or maybe it's a psychological backlash, in our culture, at this idea that children are supposed to be more intensively nutured, more taken care of (more spoiled, some might say), and have a more central & empowered role in the family--and this generates displaced hostility? Certainly, pre 19th-century there were cultures that thought children were inherently sinful, but they didn't seem to especially fear or hate them for this--harsh discipline seemed more about keeping the child out of hell than holding society together. And it seems like before the rise of the juvenile justice system, young criminals weren't considered especially horrible--just criminals like other folks.

Maybe I'm projecting, or maybe this hostility did exist for a while and it's only with the rise of internet comments, etc. that it became more visible.

We certainly still have discussions about harmful culture (just as people did about jazz, Leopold & Loeb, school shooters), and we still have discussions about protecting children from this culture, but there seems to be this weird idea now that children have a lot more moral agency than they used to. Is it from things like horror movies with child villains?
posted by Hypatia at 8:09 AM on June 4 [4 favorites]


The parents of the victim are expected to make a statement today (not sure when, but these things tend to happen around noon).
posted by desjardins at 8:10 AM on June 4


I recently found out that Exene (from X) is someone who believes that the Isla Vista shootings were a hoax.

Because I've enjoyed her work in the past, it pains me to say that Exene Cervenka is a flaming nutball. I followed her twitter feed for a while and finally unfollowed her because jeeze ...
posted by octobersurprise at 8:13 AM on June 4 [6 favorites]


"this is where believing in the possibility of demonic possession comes in very handy. How this would be interpreted in my circles is this: girls dwell on things that were kind of creepy opening up their minds to the paranormal and or demonic.......and something took advantage of it."

I don't think that you can solve one delusion with another.
posted by klangklangston at 8:25 AM on June 4 [8 favorites]


That's a glib answer, come on. Think about it.

No its not. Legal responsiblity != responsibility. Children are legally responsible as adults in the US when they are 18.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:26 AM on June 4


I wonder if their parents were devout xtians?

Email addresses connected to Matt Geyser were various forms of 'ILOVEEVIL' and sometimes included '666' at the end
posted by 0 at 8:45 AM on June 4


PEDANTRY regarding the reference to the M'Naghten Rule upthread: Wisconsin does not use the M'Naghten Rule. This is Wisconsin's equivalent. As always, insanity pleas (and their equivalents) are not simply tests as to whether somebody is "insane". It's not enough to merely be delusional: if I kill somebody because I think that Sonic the Hedgehog will reward me in gold for my sacrifice, then that's not in and of itself any "better" than if I had done so because an actual mob boss had really offered me real money. The Sonic Killer would still understand what murder is, and that murder is wrong.

On the other hand, if a cognitively impaired man uncomprehendingly kills a caretaker merely because he was startled - or if a woman kills her baby because she sincerely thinks that Satan has replaced her baby with a false idol, which must be destroyed in order to restore her real baby - then we're back in the territory of this kind of defense. Note that, in both of my examples, the defendants arguably lack the proper mens rea for murder. Insanity pleas aren't the same thing as simply failing to meet the mens rea element, but they're often related enough conceptually.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:45 AM on June 4 [6 favorites]


18 years old,

That's a glib answer, come on


I don't believe it is glib at all. It's legally enshrined in the statutes of hundreds of states and counties and nations and institutions as the age of majority.

It is in fact the technically correct answer to the question of when we punish people as "adults" for the vast majority of crimes, infractions, and malfeasances. As someone pointed out above, it was a hard won standard that only arose over the last century, along with parallel movements for universal education, the end of child labor, and other such non-glib dependencies on the concept that a child is not morally responsible for her/his actions in the same full sense as an adult, a principle which requires some sort of working definition the law can use of "adulthood." And as others have pointed out above, if children are the same as adults morally, then they should vote, be allowed to drink, serve in the military, and make a damn living already.

If you want to argue this is a Victorian distinction that romanticizes childhood, you would hardly be the first. It certainly is intertwined with a literary and cultural notion of childhood as a time of innocence, and deeper theological ideas (and of course intuitive moral sensibilities, for anyone who has spent time around children, which is all of us). But in the last century we have also discovered, in minute and multiply confirmed detail, that children develop basic cognitive, physical, emotional, and interactive competencies over time, through defined developmental stages (that indeed do not end at 18 or even 30, but begin to harden around 18 or so -- try learning a language as a 34 year old and any 9 year old can kick your ass, let alone a 3 year old). There is in fact a biocultural basis for our exemption of children from full moral agency or the expectation of self-sufficiency. Our entire society is founded on this notion, in a practical sense.

I think the rush to charge children "as adults" is related to relatively recent historical events and a cynical political cashing in on "tough on crime" responses to repugnant events (it also has a lot, historically, to do with classing black children as more "adult" than white children, another subject but not directly pertinent here).

To me the idea of locking a 12 year old girl (I'll use the singular to make the point) up in a prison cell for the rest of her life, no matter what she did or why, is morally repugnant. That doesn't mean I advocate shrugging our shoulders or not punishing her in any way. But she needs help, and she's *young enough* to change, maybe. That "maybe" is important too. She could not have had the same conception of the consequences of her actions as she would have at 18 or 34. We need to make the distinction, I feel, to be true to the principles of our society, as well as to be just.

Many of us oppose capital punishment even more for convicts who are mentally ill or developmentally disabled than we do for fully competent convicts, without respect to the severity of the crime. And rightly so. A developmentally disabled convict on death row is often described as having "the mind of a 12 year old" in appeals of the sentence. That's not just a figure of speech. It implies a limit on moral reasoning.
posted by spitbull at 8:46 AM on June 4 [7 favorites]


In Mexico, the cult of Santa Muerte has grown in popularity and visibility over recent years.

Grown-ass adult men, narcotrafficantes*, pray to La Santissima to protect them from their enemies bullets, and to guide their own bullets into their enemies. Of course, both sides are often praying to her for protection and aid. Devotees crawl on the ground for long distances to demonstrate their devotion.

There are grown-ass adult men involved in international drug smuggling and murder praying to the incarnation of Death dressed in a wedding gown to perform direct, worldly interventions on their behalf.

And people have problems believing a couple of 12yos were willing to commit ritual murder in order to appease an internet boogeyman?
---

* La Santissima is also seen as a protector of the LGBT community, prostitutes, the outcast, unacceptable, and those in need of protection FROM violence. Because Death is not judgmental; in the end she accepts everyone into her embrace, without distinction. And until she comes, many pray for her benevolence.

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:51 AM on June 4 [18 favorites]


These girls may turn out to be pretty mentally ill, in which case #1.

Isn't the very fact that they committed this act reason enough to assume that there are issues of mental illness at play? Or at the very least, highly aberrant brain function?
posted by graphnerd at 8:54 AM on June 4


0: "Email addresses connected to Matt Geyser were various forms of 'ILOVEEVIL' and sometimes included '666' at the end"

I was all ready to go "AACH DAILY MAIL LINK NO" but if any of that is true this is less mental illness and way more "12-year old exposed to things that were taken WAY to far," with perhaps a side dish of "parent being somewhat nonchalant due to their own interests."
posted by Big_B at 9:04 AM on June 4 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, but my mind read this as "stabbed her nineteen times in order to prove their devotion to Enderman" and it just didn't make any sense to me.

Of course, it still doesn't make any sense, but at least Minecraft isn't getting blamed.


Hmm. BRB, I need to call the Daily Mail.
posted by Leon at 9:10 AM on June 4


We've had more than one discussion on stuff we believed that was wrong. Our examples are mostly funny, but still, it's related: people often aren't as questioning as they should be.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:25 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


What do we know about girls who kill? Summary: They're rare (8% of juvenile killers are female), they mostly kill people they have relationships with (boys kill strangers much more often) and as a result of interpersonal conflict (boys kill adjunct to other crimes), and they mostly don't use guns (boys do).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:31 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


This is so wild. As quin mentioned up thread, I went to that school. Of course it was 25 years ago, so not much of my experiences likely apply. I do know that bullying was ignored back then (but wasn't it for a lot of people at that time?) It also doesn't surprise me that the school was supposed to monitor iPad usage, but didn't. This is Walker's Wisconsin, budget cuts across the board have left schools understaffed and teachers overworked.

They were middle class white kids in the middlest class whitest suburb in Wisconsin.

This is so embarrassingly true. When I was at Horning, one black girl was there for one year. High-school had one black kid as well.. Wisconsin is so extremely racially segregated. I can't imagine it's changed much in the intervening years. Though, it's not quite fair to say it is the most middle class... The district encompasses some poorer areas of Waukesha. In that respect, there is some strange mixture of poor and middle class.

Apropos of nothing, I'm always fascinated by the number of people who forgot the way they thought during their childhood. Many people remember being a kid as having the same thought processes as they do now as adults. I've pondered this numerous times, and even theorized that perhaps it has something to do with having kids, being that my parent friends never seem to understand the motivations of their kinds, and remember themselves as never acting that way. Childless, I'm usually able to recall not only the dumb shit I did, but why I thought that way.

It's just a theory, but I see there is the "I remember what it was like being a kid" vs "I was just as I am now" crowd.

Like someone mentioned up thread, I really believed in aliens around that age. I was also really into the occult. And I had planned on running away to Nevada and taming wild horses, which I really believed I could do. (on foot, no less!) a friend of mine was also really into the occult, and we burned more than one stuffed animal in some crazy idea of some sort of fantasy. And God damn it if I wasn't going to be a rock star in a band. For real.

I didn't murder anyone, but it was pretty clear I didn't have a solid grasp on reality that adults do. Neither did any of my peers. Because kids brains are still developing.

I do think the Daily Mail's focus on the father's macabre decor is unfair. There is a culture of people in that age group that grew up with Hot Topic, Invader Zim, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and that ilk that treated dark imagery with irreverence. The stuff that freaked their parents out was the stuff that they grew up adoring. I know many of these parents, and their kids aren't out murdering anyone. It's a counter-culture, and a really low bar to go after. I'm guessing that like so many tragedies of this nature, the parents had no idea their kids weren't just being silly.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:28 AM on June 4 [17 favorites]


being that my parent friends never seem to understand the motivations of their kinds, and remember themselves as never acting that way. Childless, I'm usually able to recall not only the dumb shit I did, but why I thought that way.

It's more of an individual thing than that. I've got two kids and am constantly amazed at how incompetent most adults are, parents and non-parents alike, when it comes to remembering what it's like to be a kid, and appreciating just how inchoate and even almost hallucinogenic the real lived experience of childhood and adolescence can be. Kids are not fully formed little adults only waiting to flower into their true selves from birth. They are little chaotic systems, oscillating and adapting.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:40 AM on June 4 [19 favorites]


saulgoodman, your suggestion is probably closer to the truth. I am just constantly gobsmacked that people forget what being a kid was really like, and how different from their current selves it was.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:49 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


When I was that age, I was super into those "unsolved mysteries" books--ghost stories, the Bermuda Triangle, psychic powers, etc etc etc. I poured over them for hours, and I could recite facts and figures about the Brown Mountain Lights or specific occurrences of poltergeists. The Unsolved Mysteries television shows came along later and were pretty pedestrian by my standards..

My friends and I had an extensive mythology of personal ghosts. We each had our own ghosts. They followed us around and communicated with us. Our mythology included physics as well--they weren't just made of ectoplasm, but "splatoplasm" as well (I just checked DuckDuckGo, and there are no instances of 'splatoplasm' on the internet. until now. Hello, childhood friends who found me through a search engine). Our ghosts were not malevolent to us, but we still sometimes scared ourselves in telling these stories.

We also played Bloody Mary and Light as a Feather. When we played those games, at least one person would get totally freaked out.

What I am saying is that we didn't always distinguish between fantasy and reality, and I don't think we really could at all times, and I don't think that's that unusual for 12 year olds.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:08 AM on June 4 [23 favorites]


Your comment reminds me of a slumber party I attended where someone threw up on the ouija board.
posted by desjardins at 11:16 AM on June 4 [9 favorites]


When I was about thirteen, maybe fourteen, I was afraid that ninjas might be stalking me. I had no particular objective reason for thinking that anyone was really stalking me for any reason, but I was so struck by the mere idea of someone who was so highly developed at being sneaky and deadly that there was no effective way of defending against them that I couldn't rationally assess the actual possibility. And, yeah, I was a smart kid, reading at a college level, blah blah, but I was also pretty isolated and imaginative and had some friends who insisted that ninjas were real. I'm rather struck by the fact that the girl who seems to be the instigator of this incident could have friends sleep over once a year.

With regards to the people who thinks that it's justifiable to try these tweens as adults based on the severity of the crime, I'd just remind you that hard cases make for bad law, and if you think that this precedent won't be used to railroad kids into prison for crimes that they didn't commit, you're living in a fool's paradise. The West Memphis Three were convicted on the basis of a coerced confession from the one with an IQ in the low seventies, and the Central Park jogger case similarly sent five young men to jail by coercing confessions out of them, and in both cases, the prosecutors still stand by their work even though the young men were freed. We don't yet know whether what the papers report is what actually happened, or if that's simply what the cops wanted the girls to say, and got them to say it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:23 AM on June 4 [7 favorites]


> I'm starting to think that no one should be tried as an adult.

I agree! But it will come with several hundred quibbles and howevers attached (one of which is that hoping for it to happen is as realistic as hoping for an Easter basket from the FSM--or hoping to spend your life with slenderman in his castle. As this thread makes perfectly clear, many have strong opinions about what the wrong thing to do is in cases like this but nobody has a clue what the right thing to do might be. Three middle-school girls are friends and have just shared a sleepover. Two of them then take the third to a wooded park and do their best to carry out a long-premeditated plan to kill her violently. They leave her behind bleeding from nineteen stab wounds.

IS there a right thing to do? What on Earth would it look like?

Turn them over to the juvenile justice system while they remain juveniles and expect them to be rehabilitated? That's obviously not the right thing. First because it's an entirely inadequate response to the third girl's human right to have the violation performed upon her lead to a commensurate consequence, and see that commensurate consequence take place. The same goes for the violation of those who love her, and of anyone who has a daughter. What child or parent would trust a society that does not feel compelled to do any more than that? (there's really not much to say about the victim besides "That's fucked up," earlier in this thread; if she had been raped instead of merely stabbed nineteen times you people would find a great deal to say about her.) Second, because the actual existing juvenile justice system to which her friends would be entrusted (not, that is to say, someone's imagined ideal juvenile justice system which ought to exist) is not up to such a challenge. Even for kids who have merely shoplifted rehabilitation seldom happens.

Turn them over to the adult criminal justice system? That might help with one problem, the problem of inadequate response. But it's obviously not the right thing to do, for other reasons thoroughly set forth in this thread. The two are not legal adults and may not buy alcohol, may not drive, may not vote, may not even sign a cell phone contract. In the everyday sense of adulthood we all understand that different individuals mature at different rates and that there have been 12 year olds who have, under pressure of great need, borne adult-level responsibilities well and honorably; and conversely there's no shortage of people who do not grow up no matter how old they live to be. But the law draws an arbitrary bright line between between those who have reached the age of majority and those who have not, and these two 12 year olds have not. (Yeah, yeah, "but we're going to treat them as if, because reasons." As I have stated in other threads, legal fictions are where the law goes mad.) But all thought of maturity aside, the adult criminal justice system is widely acknowledged by Left and Right alike to be broken. Is there any reason to think it would or could find the right thing to do here, and do it?

Involuntary medical incarceration in some sort of institution? Is there any more reason to hope for a good outcome from that than from ordinary incarceration in a prison? These girls did their stabbing in Wisconsin and so would probably be sent to Taycheedah Correctional Institution in Fond du Lac. I see little information about Taycheedah other than about the general effects of budget cutting in Wisconsin (not, of course, good.) But it does not look like the infamous Bridgewater State Hospital in famously enlightened Massachusetts has been cleaned up since the exposes (which have been going on since Frederick Wiseman's first documentary, Titicut Follies, 1967) started appearing. It's so easy to cry "They need help!" But when it comes to actually helping, the criminally insane appear to be less of a priority, most places, even than the ordinarily criminal. If that's possible. Believing that help will be given in one kind of correctional institution faster that in another kind strikes me as just about like believing My Little Pony is real.

So what's left? Doing nothing? I can't think of a single argument that doing nothing is the right thing to do (though one or more of y'all may be cleverer than me.) Doing nothing and letting vigilante vengeance take its course? Even I am against that.

In a case where even the least terrible alternative (your choice as to which one that is) sucks so bad, I simply can't see what to argue for or what to hope happens.
posted by jfuller at 11:27 AM on June 4 [3 favorites]


Shortly after James Bulger's murder (warning: murder of a toddler) Andrew O'Hagan wrote a thoughtful autobiographical piece about just how close he and the boys he grew up with came to hurting other, weaker children. The thrust of the essay is how capable children are of unthinking, casual violence, in the absence of adult supervision. About half the essay is available here:

Watching those boys on camera brought into my head a flurry of pictures from my own boyhood. At that age, we were brimming with nastiness...Torture among our kind was fairly commonplace.

And he continues: It's not that any of us were evil...Yet now and again people would get into things that you sensed were about to go over the edge, or were already over it. My memory tells me that that point was much more difficult to judge than I'd now like to think.

Warning: it is in some parts a harrowing read. It is also valuable personal testimony about potential outcomes for young people, good and bad. Outcomes, that is.

More recently O'Hagan has written about the re-arrest of one of James Bulger's killers
, and it is pertinent to the event being discussed on this page.

In 1993, there was no liberal orthodoxy to apply to the case, and there isn’t now. Yet we should still think about Boy A and Boy B, who only became known to us as Robert Thompson and Jon Venables when the judge in the original trial proved over-zealous in meeting press demands that the boys be named and their likenesses published. There isn’t another country in Europe where two ten-year-olds in trouble would have been exposed like that, and it directly led to them requiring new identities and protected lives. It now looks as if Boy B was unable to cope with that in the long term, and his new criminal activity, however sexual and however violent, will be horrifying to the same degree that it is consistent in a man with his experience. If he has been looking at child pornography, as alleged, or getting into knife fights, as also alleged, then we might acknowledge that this is what routinely happens in the lives of adults who lost their childhoods, who were abused themselves, who can’t go home again, and who might be condemned to spend their lives in a cycle of harm and rescue. The question, therefore, is as much ‘what else did you expect?’ as ‘how could he?’ You can’t magic his kind of trouble away.

And can I just say this is no way any sort of plea that there should be no punishment for the two girls in Wisconsin. But imo it is senselessly wasteful and unproductively cruel if the punishment results in them spending their lives in gaol.
posted by glasseyes at 11:27 AM on June 4 [11 favorites]


Can someone explain the rationale behind trying nonadults as adults?

When you're up for election. (It's in TFA.)
posted by mrgrimm at 11:34 AM on June 4


Just found the full O'Hagan essay from 1993.
posted by glasseyes at 11:36 AM on June 4


thursdaystoo: how did these kids not know Slender Man’s a hoax?

Eh, when I was only a little younger than that, my best friend and I thought that we could go to the Digital World from Digimon and that only by the strength of our continued belief in the face of overwhelming evidence that Digimon was a fictional story would we be able to meet our Digimon. The fact that the girls believed in something that was never presented as other-than-fiction is not the part of this story that makes me go "what."
posted by capricorn at 11:48 AM on June 4 [2 favorites]


if she had been raped instead of merely stabbed nineteen times you people would find find a great deal to say about her.

jfuller: Since I am no doubt one of "you people" (lovely turn of phrase), I would like to say that if two twelve year olds raped another twelve year old I would not want the perpetrators to be tried as adults because I don't think that juveniles should be tried as adults for all of the reasons enumerated extensively already in this thread.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:49 AM on June 4 [16 favorites]


(there's really not much to say about the victim besides "That's fucked up," earlier in this thread; if she had been raped instead of merely stabbed nineteen times you people would find a great deal to say about her.)

Ok, let's have an argument about the hypothetical sides hypothetical people might take over a hypothetical crime.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:36 PM on June 4 [7 favorites]


Let's not, but for the sake of argument, let's suppose we did...
posted by logicpunk at 12:46 PM on June 4 [8 favorites]


It doesn't surprise me that twelve-year-olds would believe something that isn't true. It does surprise me, though, that a hoax manufactured for the internet could expand to the point that twelve-year-olds would eventually encounter it and believe it to be true. The point I was unsuccessfully trying to make had to do with hoaxes surviving post-internet in a way that I’d just assumed wouldn’t be possible -- it didn’t have anything to do with kids and their credulity. (I assumed the internet changed hoaxes; I didn’t assume it changed kids.)
posted by thursdaystoo at 12:46 PM on June 4


First because it's an entirely inadequate response to the third girl's human right to have the violation performed upon her lead to a commensurate consequence, and see that commensurate consequence take place.

I don't quite know what you mean by commensurate justice, so maybe I'm misreading you, but many justice systems are in place just to ensure that all the factors in a case are taken into consideration. You have a lot of those in any situation: there's not just the victim's rights, but what is better for society, mitigating factors (such as age, mental competency), etc. It's not just about giving people 20 years somewhere because that's what the victim or their family want to happen (well, at least, it shouldn't be) - that's why they don't get to hand out the sentence, though their desires may be taken into consideration.

In dealing with children or anyone without full mental competency placing the retributive element front and centre doesn't seem to me to do anything at all except make those who think the legal system should be about retribution feel a lot better, which is not, IMO, the point of a decent justice system. It certainly won't stop 12 year olds from doing horrible things because they don't think about consequences like adults (and it doesn't even stop adults, either, much of the time). And this applies no matter what the crime, not just when it's crimes we don't find reprehensible. (And, no, my feelings about this wouldn't change if they were accused of rape.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:58 PM on June 4 [2 favorites]


It does surprise me, though, that a hoax manufactured for the internet could expand to the point that twelve-year-olds would eventually encounter it and believe it to be true.

I'm a little surprised that people find this to be surprising. I'm in my 30s and remember a time when the internet didn't exist as a popular medium. But for someone who is twelve, the internet is eternal. It's no more special that Slenderman was invented online than it is special that slasher style psycho killers* were invented for the movies.

I mean, sure, one can easily read the Wikipedia entry on Slenderman and discover its provenance as a fictional creation. But it's possible that these particular girls didn't, or that they read it with a skeptical eye that already believed Slenderman was real, or really any other answer to why people believe things that are easily verified as hoaxes/fictional. They're hardly the only two people not to take the cold light of day as an answer.

*We acknowledge that Jason, Freddy Krueger, etc. don't literally exist and are fictional characters, but just think of the number of people who straight up believe that this type of violence is pervasive and worth being concerned about.
posted by Sara C. at 1:00 PM on June 4


It does surprise me, though, that a hoax manufactured for the internet could expand to the point that twelve-year-olds would eventually encounter it and believe it to be true.

Well, part of the deal with Slenderman (and creepypasta in general) is that it's often presented as a thing analogous to "found footage" movies like Blair Witch Project. Not "here's a scary story I wrote, and illustrated with Photoshop", but "here's some weird photographs I found in the woods behind my house, and then I got a phone call..."

All it takes is for one kid in school to run into it, think it's cool, and start spreading the link around. Eventually it gets to a kid who doesn't get that it's not actually a true story.
posted by rifflesby at 1:04 PM on June 4 [2 favorites]


jfuller: "First because it's an entirely inadequate response to the third girl's human right to have the violation performed upon her lead to a commensurate consequence, and see that commensurate consequence take place."

This is not a human right. (And really, a major driver of the state monopoly on justice is to remove tit-for-tat vengeance-taking and replace it with measured -- not necessarily commensurate -- punishments.)

jfuller: " What child or parent would trust a society that does not feel compelled to do any more than that? "

Uh ... as someone with children and someone who works on children's policy issues (in education) and someone who hears cases of juvenile offenses in expulsion proceedings, I am WHOLEHEARTEDLY IN SUPPORT of a society that works to rehabilitate childhood offenders and am frankly unwilling to trust one that prosecutes children as adults. Moreover, since there are actual studies on these things, I know that it's better for everyone in society -- better for offenders, better for victims, better for families, better for the community -- when juvenile justice is rehabilitative (and restorative) rather than punitive.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:16 PM on June 4 [14 favorites]


Doesn't surprise me at all. When Blair Witch came out, I worked in the "Young Adult" section of a library (title interesting now, as yes, it would include 12 year olds), and we had kids every week come in looking for books about the Blair Witch. I had many who didn't believe me when I told them it was completely fictional. "So you don't have any books on it then? Can you order some?"
posted by agregoli at 1:17 PM on June 4 [2 favorites]


That's interesting, since when that movie came out, I assumed that the "Blair Witch" part of it was based on some local folklore I wasn't familiar with because I didn't grow up around there.

I figured that, while obviously it's a fictional movie, and obviously there is no literal supernatural creature called the Blair Witch who really murders hikers, there probably was some pre-existing urban legend/folkloric character that the whole thing was based on. So there could totally be books about the Blair Witch, just like there could be books about Slenderman.

The distinction being (as someone who was an adult when Blair Witch came out), just because there's a book about something doesn't mean it's "real". Which is something I remember not getting at all, as a young teenager. Like, the library having nonfiction books about UFOs, to me, implied that there was some veracity to the claims of people who'd supposedly seen them.
posted by Sara C. at 1:44 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


I had college-age friends, legitimately smart people, who had taken it at face value that Blair Witch was actual found footage. And, I mean, they deserved some serious ribbing for credulity in the face of media productions but it's not like the folks promoting Blair Witch at the early stages of that whole phenomenon weren't running with precisely that angle as hard as they could.

Media literacy is an acquired skill. Cynicism and critical deconstruction of narratives is too. Being spooked by scary or startling shit is a big part of our animal heritage. I'm venturing no claims about the decision to knowingly commit violence or the nature of delusion or whatever, but, yeah, kids buying into scary shit that intellectually speaking we know is actually made-up bullshit shouldn't really be that surprising, even if it's hard to draw a line from that to a concretely horrific outcome like this one.
posted by cortex at 1:52 PM on June 4 [13 favorites]


I don't think these twelve-year-olds should be tried as adults, for all the reasons other posters have mentioned. Restorative justice is the way to go here - including intensive individual and family therapy.

If these girls were, for instance, calling Slender Man their boyfriend, marrying him on the astral plane, and summoning him through an ouija board - that is normal tween/early teen behavior. It was so common when I was twelve to worship pop stars, fictional figures, etc. because they seemed more fun, glamorous, and exciting than the boring people in our everyday suburban lives.

But it's really not normal for twelve-year-olds to murder one another. Something had to have gone wrong in their families and/or communities, which is why I think that family counseling is a crucial part of the restorative justice. I agree with "they're kids, for god's sake, don't lock them up and throw away the key," but I do not agree with the idea that these were sweetie pies from happy, nondysfunctional homes, who just had an obsession and an off day. Killing isn't something normal kids do.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:06 PM on June 4 [5 favorites]


I do not agree with the idea that these were sweetie pies from happy, nondysfunctional homes, who just had an obsession and an off day.

I'm not seeing anyone in this thread who has asserted anything even approaching this.
posted by scody at 2:29 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]


Killing isn't something normal kids do.

True, and I don't think anyone is calling these girls little darlings, but... I once worked with a woman whose kids I'd met and thought were very lovely children. One Monday she came into work and told me she'd been a wedding over the weekend which had a lot of kids there under 10. She noticed that the children had all disappeared and it was very quite and she left the reception (in the garden a fancy, fancy hotel) and found the kids all gathered around another child they'd decided to stone. They were all pretty cheery, including the kid in the center, the potential stonee. Her comment? 'Children are monsters sometimes.'' And these were all the kids of nice middle-class parents, all quite ready to stone another child. (Though they were younger, so even less cognizant of what the consequences of such an action were.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:46 PM on June 4 [6 favorites]


None of the links seem to have mentioned this, but here in Wisconsin, there are specific laws about trying children as adults. Specifically, 938.183(1)(am)
(1) Juveniles under adult court jurisdiction. Notwithstanding ss. 938.12 (1) and 938.18, courts of criminal jurisdiction have exclusive original jurisdiction over all of the following:
....
(am) A juvenile who is alleged to have attempted or committed a violation of s. 940.01 [First-degree intentional homicide.] or to have committed a violation of s. 940.02 [First-degree reckless homicide.] or 940.05 [Second-degree intentional homicide.] on or after the juvenile's 10th birthday.
(small text in square brackets added)

I'm not sure if that allows for any waiving of Miranda rights by minors.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 2:51 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


Relationships among adolescent girls have the tendency to be so freaking weird that I don't have as hard of a time believing this happened as I wish I did.

I remember being 12 as being involved in this incomprehensible game of shifting alliances, and desperately clinging to the friend who would stay your friend. (And then realizing that that friend was plotting or talking against you behind your back.) Throw in a charismatic personality to be a ringleader and convince a meeker, needier girl that Slenderman is real and all we have to do for him to take us away from here is sacrifice so-and-so, and hell, I can absolutely imagine that resulting in months worth of closed-door planning sessions and giggle-fests that strengthen the bond between the charismatic girl and the one desperate for friends. Or between two girls desperate for friends, who have found a comparable weirdness in each other and are buoyed and relieved by it.

None of that is to say that what they did was in any way justifiable. I'm just saying that if you experienced that shit and those relationships as a 12-year-old girl (like I did, only with Jesus substituting for Slenderman), it's not terribly hard to imagine something like this happening at the extreme end of it.

I don't know how to fix that, because it involves changing the inexplicable, undefined, and unprescribed social structure that seems to develop at that age. Lord knows I still don't understand it in middle age, but I still see it happening with my cousins' kids.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:18 PM on June 4 [20 favorites]


Mudpuppie, that actually hits upon something I've been wondering. The media keeps talking about how the girls planned to murder their victim for months. And yet, it's not allowing for the very real possibility that they likely started out with a much less sinister, more fantastic idea that evolved into something real. It's horrible, but its doubtful that they said several months ago "Okay, we're going to kill a person to get in good with slenderman, let's figure out how to do this." We're going to find type of forethought wasn't there. This wasn't another Columbine. This was tragic and gross, and something that went too far.

Their need to prove slenderman was real also reminded me of the child from The Walking Dead. You know which one.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 4:32 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]


Exactly, [insert clever name here]. When I was probably in sixth grade, the girl next door (whom I had grown up with) was two grades ahead of me. Despite the fact that I was two years younger, she still hung out with me and talked to me at school and that not only gave me a weird kind of street cred ("she's friends with an 8th grader!), it also meant I had an ersatz protector who was farther up the chain than I was. (On reflection -- and I only just realized this a few years ago -- she was always kind of a wicked person who wrapped herself in a good-girl, Sunday school image.)

I remember being in her room one weekend afternoon and she was telling me about this girl in her class who was just so weird and gross. This girl a) happened to be the daughter of one of our small school's teachers and b) lived a few blocks away from us. As I remember, her main complaint against this girl was that, aside from being "weird" (in an undefined way), she actually filed her toenails to little points. Imagine that! You should see her in the locker room when her shoes are off! She's so weird!!

This somehow made the girl next door then resolve that we should start prank calling the weird girl. Because she was so weird! So we did.

She also told me that I should make the calls, since they were in the same class and her voice would be recognized. So I did.

This went on for weeks or months. Don't remember. Our strongest common bond at that point was sitting in one or the other's bedroom and talking about how weird the weird girl was and guess what she did yesterday?? and then calling her house. I don't know if it struck me as wrong. What I did know was that an older girl was paying attention to me, and this thing we were doing was something she and I -- and only she and I -- shared, and that none of the girls my own age who were shunning me could say that.

After it became clear to this girl's family that the calls were a pattern, her parents bought a whistle and would blow it loudly into the receiver while we stayed mute and stifling giggles on the other end of the line. When that failed to work, they switched to an unlisted number. I think at that point we might have just stopped, but I don't remember all that well. We might have kept on torturing her and her family in other ways.

My point is that I never, ever would have done any of that on my own. And even as we were doing it, I didn't understand why -- only that the older girl next door was also wiser and must therefore be right and plus she's my friend and look at me I have a friend who's an eighth grader, so why not?

THIS is why this story doesn't surprise me as much as I would like it to. And I am so, so sorry for that girl who was the victim of whatever immature, stupid game they had going between them.

(The girl we prank called is currently the chief of surgery at a well-renowned hospital, by the way, which I am strangely grateful for.)
posted by mudpuppie at 6:09 PM on June 4 [23 favorites]


Kind of like the Milgram experiment, mudpuppie, but with many more reasons to want to please the 'authority figure'.
posted by asok at 1:32 AM on June 5


It's not just girls. We all have these stories, I'll bet. For me, 12 years old and trying to fit in with the bad kids (at the time I didn't grok that they were also the working-class kids, just that they had long hair and smoked cigarettes and dope and listened to Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin and were the antithesis of the well-off jocks who bullied smart, wise-assed, faculty brats like me in our college town) and that by growing my hair long and playing electric guitar well and smoking and cutting class and committing usually minor infractions with aplomb, I could run with this group (who seemed older even when they were my age) and enjoy the protection of their herd against the jocks. Which believe me, I relied upon. The dirt balls, as they were derisively known by the well scrubbed upper middle class jocks, gave me a sense of power and belonging that I didn't get from being a straight A student (and now I recall intentionally tanking some of my own grades by missing quizzes or not turning in work *just* so I would not stand out too much as a "brain," although the fact that I could/would help these tough guys with their homework, which was designed to make them feel small and stupid -- ah class in America! -- got me a little more respect than the average "brain.")

It wasn't all innocent, though, and at least twice under peer pressure from the older, tougher 9th and 10th graders (older brothers of friends who supplied our dope and cigarettes and beer), I did things that in retrospect give me chills, so dangerous were they to myself and others. Neither was a direct act of violence (well, arguably one could have been so construed had it resulted in injury, which thank god it didn't). But I can still recall the feeling of "I have to do this or I will have no credibility with these guys I want to be liked and protected by."

A 12 year old boy is a raging mass of hormones, insecurities, and illusions about his own competence. Both when I threw that rock and when I lit that fire (all I am going to reveal), I felt I had no choice, and I felt exhilarated when I proved I was a badass and willing to risk getting in big trouble (it didn't occur to me I was risking other peoples' lives). My only fear was that I would chicken out in front of the guys.

Either could have ended with tragedy, newspaper stories about how smart middle-class boys go bad, and -- these days I'm sure -- calls to try me as an adult and send me to jail. In reality, no one got hurt, and not too much got damaged. But just a few factors stood between that and catastrophe, and I wasn't controlling for them.

Instead, being smart and middle class and white and a Latin/Music geek, and never having been caught at much (related to my demographic profile, I got away with shit my dirt ball friends did not), I ended up going to an Ivy League college, getting a PhD, having a productive career teaching young people, and never again committing an act of even incipient instigating conscious violence again. I wasn't scared straight either, I just grew up.

That rock could have hit its target, caused a major accident, killed people, and my life would have been put on a totally different course, even had I not gone to jail as "an adult" for my idiotic prank.

How many of us can honestly say we made no shitty or dangerous choices as a child that *could* have escalated into something much worse, for which people might insist we be punished "as an adult" solely because of the heinous quality of the outcome of our actions?

I think it's a profound point that those who say "I could never have been violent/a bully/ mean/ reckless as a child" are projecting their adult consciousness back to a time when it didn't yet exist. None of this is meant to excuse an armed, plotted assault, which is a long way from throwing a rock or prank calling, of course, just to mitigate the argument that there's no difference between a 12 year old who commits violence and even that same person as an adult.

Kids are weird, suggestible, desperate to fit in and have friends, bullied, and prone to escape into fantasy lives that are not so clearly distinguishable, for them, as for adults. Some kids are also exposed to violence or violent imagery in ways that disturb or override their explicit moral educations. Some of the most violent kids are those who experience violent abuse themselves. Do they all need to be locked up to protect us from them, or is it worth trying to save them for a productive life? At what point does it become *entirely* and *irredeemably* their fault if they know no other way to act?

18 seems reasonable to me based on my own memories of my moral development. 16, even, was the age at which no amount of peer pressure or desire for acceptance would have let me release that rock or spark that lighter. Before that, I'm pretty sure I was more sheep than wolf.

This drifts away from the crime in question, but it goes to the general trend of treating kids who do violent things "as adults." And again, in my view, doing so is proof that the actual adults are not in control of their own raging emotions.
posted by spitbull at 4:36 AM on June 5 [12 favorites]


The two Wisconsin girls, however, face up to 65 years in prison.

Each? What? How the fuck does it serve society to send two twelve year olds (insert all the stuff about juvenile brain development above) to prison until they're seventy-seven years old? That is just so severely fucked up I don't even know where to start.

their identities revealed in the paper

Also seriously fucked up. Here in Soviet Canuckistan we have something called the Young Offender's Act (may have been renamed recently, can't remember), which exists specifically to interpret the Criminal Code of Canada through the lens of 'was a minor when the crime was committed.' Part of the Act really, really makes sure that the identities of children under 18 may not be published at all, because of the lifelong effect a stupid decision as a teenager could have if everybody knew about it. Records get inaccessibly sealed at 18 (though I believe police can see only "was charged under the YOA" without any details; I could be very very wrong on that point).

Even if these two obviously very broken girls get tried and sentenced as juveniles, they will never be able to get away from their crime. That is bad for them personally and bad for society in general; exactly how does one survive in society when anyone can Google your name and find out you were an attempted murderer at twelve?

FWIW, I too see some kind of delusion acting here. Whether that is an indication of mental illness qua mental illness or it is an artefact of the plasticity with which children--and since when have we not considered 12 year olds children?--interweave fantasy with reality is unclear, and can only be competently addresssed by mental health professionals.

Either way, the notion that they should spend quite literally the rest of their lives in prison for this is barbaric. You are throwing away the possibility that they can be rehabilitated in favour of making sure they cannot be. And what, exactly, do they do in 65 years when the only life they've known is behind bars and they suddenly have to live in the real world again? Personally, I'd be surprised if they didn't commit suicide in under a week.

What disturbs me is how many people would be perfectly okay with that happening. (Not laying accusations at anyone in this thread; obviously lots of people like these barbaric try-as-an-adult laws).

Gotta echo what's been said above: if you're going to try children as adults, you must therefore logically give them all the same rights as adults. That we don't let 12 year olds drive or join the armed forces or have sex or be in pornography or buy guns or vote pretty damn clearly indicates that we, as a society, understand that 12 year olds are qualitatively different in their ability to understand consequence and responsibility than 16/18/21 year olds are. Sure, those ages are relatively arbitrary (and I for one would be much happier to see the drinking age reduced to 16 and the driving age raised to 18 or 21), but nevertheless the point is stark and clear: we regard 12 year olds as very different.

Police say the two girls waived their Miranda rights

How the actual fuck can two minors waive those rights? They can't (to steal an example from above) even sign a cellphone contract. How on earth can they possibly waive perhaps the most important legal right the USA possesses? My understanding has always been that Miranda rights for minors can only be waived by parents or legal guardians. Am I wrong on that point?

Compassion isn't just for the innocent.

Quoted for the motherfucking truth.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:15 AM on June 5 [4 favorites]


It's strange to me the number of people comparing this to a teenage prank or drunken joyride or something. Even little kids know hurting each other is wrong, let alone 12-year-olds -- there are plenty of psychological studies that show that moral development starts surprisingly early.

If someone hasn't figured out that repeatedly stabbing someone is very, very wrong by the age of 12, something is catastrophically wrong with their mind. It's sad, but that's the fact. And people whose minds malfunction this way should not be allowed back into society unless there's an extremely high level of confidence that the problem has been fixed.
posted by shivohum at 7:27 AM on June 5 [3 favorites]


fffm, apparently there are certain crimes in Canada, if committed near majority (15-17, I think), where the crimes are sort of semi-sealed -- they can be used against you in court if you are charged further as an adult who commits more crimes, but aren't open to the public. I don't entirely follow the rules, but it's something like that.

I'm good with a bright line rule of 18, but even if you want to have the option of going to adult court for 17 year olds (which will be very effective at continuing inequality), these girls are 12. They aren't even teenagers yet. Do they need help? Of course they do. But if you look at the Parker/Hulme case, neither of those girls killed anyone again; these two aren't doomed to be serial murderers.
posted by jeather at 7:37 AM on June 5


shivohum, I for one am not "comparing" the assault under discussion with my teenage "pranks," just using those "pranks" (which could have led to heinous outcomes) to exemplify the way a 12 year old mind can discount consequences or be swayed by peer pressure.

I can assure you I knew it was "wrong" to do the things I described above. The problem was that I didn't evaluate its "wrongness" with any accurate sense of risk or consequence.

No one here, and certainly not me, is minimizing the crime these girls appear to have committed. It's horrifying and shocking that girls that age could act in such a way, and it's in fact quite rare, which is one reason everyone is fascinated by the story. Cruelty and bullying that falls just a little short of this, however, appears to be fairly common (think of all the stories of girls in this age range driven to suicide by cyber bullying, for example, which seem to never stop). "

The perpetrators certainly deserve serious consequences that will change the course of their lives and place a high burden on them to rejoin society. But we do not throw away children, even those who do horrible things, if we are true to the principles that make children the responsibility of adults. We are all responsible for what these girls did, in some sense; the adults directly in their lives are definitively responsible. We must make sure they never commit violent acts again, but we must try to protect them as children, as well.

There's no justice in locking them up and throwing away the key, only vengeance, and I'm even going to bet the victim's family will mostly see it that way. People who want revenge on 12 year olds need to introspect.

I also don't see anyone in this thread actually calling for locking them up forever, to be fair. But indirectly, that's what calling for trying them as adults is calling for. And I could see a future where they never knew true freedom again (a lifetime of court-mandated psychological treatment and monitoring, for example), but could still do something functional and redemptive with their lives.

The philosophical debate about moral agency is a matter of opinion, as long as it is a debate based on facts. Chief among those facts is that children are objectively different from adults in terms of their ability to evaluate risks, consequences, and the line between reality and fantasy. If you see some acts as so fundamentally heinous that these conditions don't matter in assessing moral agency, that's of course a matter of opinion. But it's contrary to the central institutional basis of modern western culture.
posted by spitbull at 8:20 AM on June 5 [4 favorites]


shivohum, I for one am not "comparing" the assault under discussion with my teenage "pranks," just using those "pranks" (which could have led to heinous outcomes) to exemplify the way a 12 year old mind can discount consequences or be swayed by peer pressure.

These "pranks" can get really sticky sometimes, crossing the line into much more sinister behavior surprisingly easily. No time to tell the story properly, but in high school, I knew a kid whose innocent prank drew in literally 30 or 40 other kids who over a period of a year almost daily stalked and harassed a grown man relentlessly. It ended up almost causing a serious tragedy, with one kid's car window getting smashed out with a baseball bat. Most of the kids involved didn't even know or care what they were doing. They were just bored and susceptible to peer pressure. There was also an elaborate, fictional mythology around the whole thing that made it easier for the kids to get caught up in pretend play to justify what they were doing to themselves.

Kids in the 12--18 age range are even less stable and have less self-control than younger kids, due to the intensity of the hormonal chaos of puberty.

Again, even our more backwards, scientifically ignorant selves were wise enough in the past to recognize all these realities and make distinctions in the law to account for them. I'm really getting sick of just how constantly people want to keep reopening and torturing long settled questions like this these days. It's making us more and more incoherent as a culture the way we keep reopening what should be settled matters.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:35 AM on June 5 [3 favorites]


None of this is meant to excuse an armed, plotted assault, which is a long way from throwing a rock or prank calling

Yeah, it really, really is. There's a huge difference between doing something that could result in harm, and planning and executing a murder that takes quite a while. Even Leopold and Loeb got cold feet after the first blow. They stabbed their victim 19 times. That takes a while. That's not a 12-year-old not thinking of consequences, that's not pretty much just like bullying, that's pure sadism.

And I wouldn't be so quick to assume they're having Slenderman delusions. Lots of murderers come up with crazy stories in the hopes of an insanity defense. All the careful planning, and care they took in not revealing their plans, suggests fair amount of rationality, and the sociopathy involved in the crime means we should assume they are trying to manipulate the media. And doing a pretty impressive job of it!

Compassion isn't just for the innocent.

Ah, and we're back to Elliot Rodgers. Except that Rodgers was someone with very clear mental illness, hopelessly broken according to everyone who knew him, utterly incapable of rational thinking. These kids are exactly the opposite: privileged in every way, well cared-for, seemingly perfectly healthy except for their willingness to keep stabbing a screaming little girl. The fact that most online commenters see Rodgers as everything that's wrong with manhood, and these kids as victims of the system, says a lot about the different vectors along which privilege operates.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:38 AM on June 5 [2 favorites]


My understanding has always been that Miranda rights for minors can only be waived by parents or legal guardians. Am I wrong on that point?

In some quick googling I did a couple days ago, it appears that yes, minors can waive their rights! Or, a state may pass a law that disallows them being able to waive, but outside of that, there is no overall law that says they are incapable of waiving. Which I think is fucking crazy.

Caveat: So not a lawyer.
posted by rtha at 8:41 AM on June 5 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it really, really is. There's a huge difference between doing something that could result in harm, and planning and executing a murder that takes quite a while.

Bullshit. All it takes to stab someone is the length of time it takes to stab someone. I was once in a middle school classroom in which all the kids in class piled their textbooks into the middle of the classroom and were actively trying to find a way to light them on fire while the teacher's back was turned to the class. And no, it wasn't a joke. If anyone had had a lighter handy that day, there would have been one more horror story about kids run amok on the nightly news that week. Kids at that age contemplate a lot of really destructive behavior

All the fantasizing about Slenderman and constructing fantasy stories is actually pretty normal adolescent behavior. That it crossed the line into tragic behavior is tragic. These 12 year old girls are not "the evil thing that is wrong in the world and must be fixed at all costs." They're just tragically messed up kids growing up in a tragically messed up society. Punishing them more harshly out of some exaggerated sense of injustice will fix exactly zero things that need fixing.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:05 AM on June 5 [4 favorites]


The subject of the developing adolescent brain has been brought up. But let's expand the discussion.

Right now the subject of "free will" as it applies to humanity in general is being questioned by neuroscientists. Brain scans demonstrate that when you lift your arm, the parts of the brain that physically move the limb light up before the cognitive, decision making part of the brain does. We experience the sensation of "I have decided to lift my arm" and it happens. It's is quite possible that our experience of "free will" and agency in determining our actions is somewhat of an illusion that our brain plays on us.

But we as western society (and particularly our justice systems) are quite invested in the notion of culpability, that deep down inside our brains there is (metaphorically) a little person at some sort of cockpit responsible for what we do. That we have a soul, that somewhere at the bottom of all this brain activity that we subjectively experience there is somewhere a Someone who can be blamed and punished when something is done that we as a society deem "wrong". That there is a self, a person, an identity in front of who's desk the buck stops.

The people who clamor for the "punishment to fit the crime" comes from the notion that
A: we as human adults have free will
B: if one "chooses" to commit what society calls a crime, one must be held responsible for that choice.

And what if free will is just an illusion we've convinced ourselves of? People are beginning to espouse the idea that reason may have evolved in order to win arguments rather than to find the truth.

We've already established that the adolescent human brain isn't done developing yet. Hell, people used to believe that adults didn't develop new brain cells, and that notion is on its way to the dustbin of scientific history.

The ones who wanna see these girls get 65 years are trying to punish the little soul-shaped homunculus they believe lives inside their brains because THAT'S who needs to be punished. That's who made the choice.

But what if that homunculus is an illusion & what is in there is a tightly pack complex of instincts and experiences that runs on autopilot while convincing us that we are something more that that?

What if there actually is no ghost in the machine? Who are we punishing, why are we punishing them, and to what ends?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:10 AM on June 5 [6 favorites]


All it takes to stab someone is the length of time it takes to stab someone.

Comparing stabbing a girl 19 times to lighting a book on fire is ridiculous. One stabbing, I would maybe buy it as adolescent shenanigans gone wrong. But 19 times? Try doing anything 19 times in a row. Try fucking chewing 19 times before swallowing. Now try doing it while someone is screaming and begging you to stop. That's not impulsiveness. That's sadism.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:27 AM on June 5 [2 favorites]


That's not impulsiveness. That's sadism.

So they should be tried as adults and locked up until they're in their 70s? Is that the goal here, to your mind?
posted by rtha at 9:38 AM on June 5


My point is the physical acts themselves only take a second to commit, and once they're done, they're irreversible.

Things that were only shared fantasies a moment before become terrible realities.

Teenagers are the worst equipped humans for understanding this and performing realistic risk analysis because they are extremely susceptible to the influence of their fantasies, emotions and peer pressure. We already know this with a degree of certainty you rarely find in the sciences.

So why are we debating this again now just because a new case confirming the long established wisdom came up?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:38 AM on June 5 [4 favorites]


PBZM, that's not really a new concept. (about time the neuro-nerds caught up to us, though) It seems like any science, when they look real close, find that there's no room for "free will" in our deterministic environment.
posted by rebent at 9:55 AM on June 5 [1 favorite]


when they look real close, find that there's no room for "free will" in our deterministic environment.

First, it's nonsense that our environment is deterministic. It's not. It'd be a fine argument if science was still driven by strictly deterministic models of the world, but it's not. Determinism is not the thing that matters on this issue anymore. The Compatibilist argument on free will persuasively makes the case that determinism is not inconsistent with the possibility of free will even if it were the case that science agrees we live in a strictly deterministic universe (which it doesn't).

IMO, there's only really room for free will in the considered examination of one's beliefs and attitudes and in longer-term planning/strategizing of the kind mature humans can do thanks to reflective consciousness and forethought. That's my own view anyway. There's a form of free will, yes, but not necessarily in the moment, unless you've prepared ahead for the moment.

(From a certain point of view, it's just obvious we don't actually choose how we act "in the moment" because as neurologists will tell you, there's a lag-time between when events actually happen in physical reality and when we consciously experience them; in a very literal sense, we're always looking into the past when we consciously reflect on what we're doing in the present. But at least in the case of mature adults with a relatively stable identity construct, what we do in the moment is influenced by the long-term beliefs and attitudes we hold, so we're responsible for those. Kids not as much so.)
posted by saulgoodman at 10:05 AM on June 5


So they should be tried as adults and locked up until they're in their 70s? Is that the goal here, to your mind?

I don't have enough information to make that decision, and neither do you. It will depend on their current state of mind– unlikely to be represented by their pretty obviously manipulative statements to authorities– and on the recidivism rate of juvenile violent offenders, which is unfortunately not collected in many states and poorly tracked through the US (yes, Parker and Hulme didn't reoffend, but that's two anecdotes). What data we do have (see page 243) is not encouraging---a 55% rearrest rate, though of course that includes a lot of kids whose crimes don't at all resemble this one. It will also depend on what "tried as an adult" vs. "tried as a juvenile" means in this state.

But should they be automatically released at 18, as juvenile trial means in many states? Christ no. They're demonstrated potent sadism, far in excess of normal pre-pubescent irresponsibility, and releasing them without being very sure they've been adequately rehabilitated (and have support outside) is just inviting them to torture and murder more girls.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:21 AM on June 5 [1 favorite]


I find it hard to believe that anyone charged with attempted murder is "automatically released" when they reach 18. Cite, please?
posted by agregoli at 11:10 AM on June 5


I'm not even close to reading the whole thing yet, but this PDF

Treatment of Juveniles in the Wisconsin Criminal Court System: An Analysis of Potential Alternatives

Authors:
Breann Boggs
Brad Campbell
Justin Martin
Saul Wolf

Prepared for the Wisconsin Joint Legislative Council


sure has an attention-grabbing first paragraph:
Wisconsin juveniles as young as 14 can be waived into adult court. Seventeen-year-olds and others involved in certain crimes are automatically tried as adults. This has been the case since 1995, when the state of Wisconsin changed its juvenile code and transferred responsibility for juvenile delinquents and offenders from the then Department of Health and Social Services to the Department of Corrections. Since the change, the recidivism rate for 17-year-olds prosecuted in adult criminal court has been measured at 48 percent, much higher than for juveniles in the juvenile correctional system or adults in the adult correctional system. Time and data constraints did not allow for a statistical analysis of why this might be, but the report provides evidence that legislators should re-examine Wisconsin waiver laws and treatment options available to the most troubled juvenile offenders.
posted by rtha at 11:17 AM on June 5 [4 favorites]


I don't have enough information to make that decision, and neither do you. It will depend on their current state of mind

What are you talking about? We all have enough information to make the decision on whether they should be tried as adults, and their current state of mind doesn't enter into it at all.

They're twelve years old.

I could see this as a shades of grey "what is maturity really" conversation if they were 17, or hell, even 15-16.

But twelve year olds are children. These girls are not even considered part of the demographic for Teen Wolf. They're not old enough to have Facebook accounts.

Was this crime terrible? Yes. Is it arguably not just an impulsive bad choice, seeing as they stabbed another girl 19 times? Sure. But they're still twelve year olds, and thus, yes, they should be tried as the juveniles that they are.
posted by Sara C. at 11:31 AM on June 5 [8 favorites]


Wisconsin is one of the toughest states when it comes to punishing children the same as adults. A 1995 state law requires prosecutors to file adult charges in homicide or attempted homicide cases if the child is at least 10. Twenty-eight other states have similar laws, although their minimum age is no younger than 13.
[MSN article]
posted by desjardins at 11:38 AM on June 5 [2 favorites]


So they should be tried as adults and locked up until they're in their 70s? Is that the goal here, to your mind?

I don't have enough information to make that decision


Yes you do. They're twelve. That's all the information anyone in the universe needs to make that decision.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:20 AM on June 6 [7 favorites]


A 1995 state law requires prosecutors to file adult charges in homicide or attempted homicide cases if the child is at least 10.

We could just put this in the dictionary as the definition of "barbaric". WTF?
posted by maxwelton at 11:05 AM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Victim released from hospital
posted by desjardins at 5:10 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


That's fantastic news. Thanks for updating.
posted by spitbull at 5:02 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Recent? That was in 1993, over 20 years ago

Well, it is more recent than the Parker-Hulme case anyways. And they were released and we can now see what is happening since they were. As I recall, there hasn't been much news about Thompson, but Venables has been in trouble repeatedly since (including for child pornography) and is also on his fourth identity.

Their release was in 2001 when social media was just barely getting started. Even back then Jamie's mother got an anonymous tip with Thompson's location. She was unable to bring herself to confront him but how many vigilantes do we have today who would gladly attack these girls in 6 years? And Venables has had his identity revealed repeatedly, although he was responsible for that at least once. How much more now that we have Facebook and other sites with face recognition software? Locking the girls up for a longer time may be a way to protect them. Not an ideal way, but a way.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:44 PM on June 7


But should they be automatically released at 18, as juvenile trial means in many states?

Sounds about right to me.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:15 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


If 12-year olds are adults, then good luck the next time you and your 12-year old public defender face 12-year old jurors and a 12-year old judge.
posted by agog at 10:19 PM on June 8 [8 favorites]


There has been another attack, this time a 13-year-old girl trying to stab her mother to impress Slender Man.

To those of you familiar with the Slender Man mythos - any idea where these kids are getting the notion that SM wants him to stab people for him? Is that in any of the stories?
posted by jbickers at 1:33 PM on June 9


Another interesting question: why (so far) is it tweenage girls, and not boys? Do boys take longer to act out irrational violence? (I mean that as a serious question)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:43 PM on June 9


To those of you familiar with the Slender Man mythos - any idea where these kids are getting the notion that SM wants him to stab people for him?

AFAICT this was a notion of the original girl/pair, and the subsequent media panic has spread the idea.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:39 PM on June 9


For the second case, all we have is the mother's own assertion that Slenderman was significantly "involved". The daughter had been a fan of the Slenderman mythos, but we should be very careful before tying those ties too tightly. With no disrespect whatsoever meant towards this latest victim, it can be a temptingly facile leap to blame violence on such a singular factor. Even if there is a connection, the causal link may run in the other direction: somebody with dark impulses may simply enjoy dark, spooky, mysterious things.

Compare with the documented phenomenon of how many pedophiles wind up being huge fans of Star Wars and/or Star Trek - not because those things made them that way, but because a "deviant" would probably find a great deal of solace and fascination in a rich fantasy world.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:57 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Slender Man has jumped out of the fictional realm now, like the Poltergeist leaping from a television, and the news is the highway it took to get there.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:31 AM on June 12


Oh, it's like New Nightmare.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:19 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


And two 11 year old boys are now in juvenile detention centres (for reasonable amounts of time) after planning to kill some classmates.
posted by jeather at 7:37 PM on June 22


'Slender Man' Stabbing Suspect, 12, Deemed 'Not Competent' In Mental Evaluation
posted by scody at 11:01 AM on July 2


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