If you go down in the woods today
December 7, 2017 2:22 AM   Subscribe

Out Came the Girls - Adolescent Girlhood, the Occult, and the Slender Man Phenomenon (previous)
posted by fearfulsymmetry (24 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Adolescent Moidering Goils are some fucked up shit...

The fact that this didn't stop at the 2014 case and just kept going bouncing between that and preexisting cases in pretty gritty detail... Murder... (or as Pauline wrote, moidering). Hot damn...

Prefrontal cortex development? Schizophrenia? Making pets of the Ants? Wow...

Pardon while I go hide the knives from my kids.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:24 AM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

What a fascinating read.

The Silent Twins
is another very interesting non-fiction work about twins June and Jennifer Gibbons who, like both Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, and Pauline Palmer and Juliet Hulme, constructed an elaborate fictional world around themselves and shut everyone else in the world out. June and Jennifer ended up in Broadmoor, and their story is both chilling and tragic.

I've never read any of Anne Perry/Juliet Hulme's books but this makes me morbidly curious. Looking forward to the discussion. Thanks for the link.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:31 AM on December 7, 2017

I didn't know Heavenly Creatures was based on a true story.

I remember adolescent friendship between girls who were isolated and concocted elaborate fantasy worlds. We made up ghosts. We talked in ob language. We freaked ourselves out playing light as a feather, stiff as a board. But we never tried to kill anyone. I don't know if I just lucked out that none of my friends were strong enough personalities and/or mentally ill enough to push us over the edge.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:41 AM on December 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I read a version of this on the Guardian Long Reads section during my commute this morning and thought it was pretty interesting. However, when I got to the bottom and discovered that the Guardian article was only an abridged version, I went to the VQR and read it all again. The full version is great—such intelligent and well-placed segues into other histories and contexts, such as fairy-tale and folklore. It's almost like the abridged version managed to remove the most interesting (and horrific) bits by trying to convert it into a more linear, Slender-Man-centred story.
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:59 AM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is absolutely fascinating. If I wanted to read an Anne Perry novel, are there any that stand out as particularly good?
posted by maurice at 5:53 AM on December 7, 2017

Very good article. I saw a really stupid SIXTY MINUTES episode about the Slenderman girls - the focus was on the Big Bad Internet that inspired them. No mention of the father's schizophrenia that I recall.
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:40 AM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

As an Anne Perry fan, who read her years before I knew she was Juliet Hulme, those of you who want to read her work thinking that she will have some special insight into murder will be disappointed. Her books are mostly set in London in the nineteenth century, though she has done a series that takes place during the First World War. Her strength is portraying that environment and the social issues of the day, not on deep psychology. She has two main series, one concerning Thomas Pitt, head of Special Branch, and his wife Charlotte, set at the end of the century and one concerning William Monk, of the River Police, and Hester Latterly, a Crimean War nurse, set in the middle of the century.
posted by dannyboybell at 6:50 AM on December 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

Reading this makes me want to give my five-year-old daughter a really long hug.
posted by Slothrup at 7:16 AM on December 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is absolutely fascinating. If I wanted to read an Anne Perry novel, are there any that stand out as particularly good?

I would start with the first Pitt novel, The Cater Street Hangman, which I think is also her first published novel. There is a WW2 series that you maybe don't need to read in order, but with the Pitt series and the Monk series, you will miss stuff if you don't read the books that introduce the characters.

I don't think you would have any inkling of Perry's history from reading these novels. This may contribute to the popular impression that Perry isn't sufficiently remorseful or that she got off lightly. As far as her punishment, she was sent to an adult prison for an indefinite period; it's perplexing to me that people think enough wasn't done to her by the criminal justice system. I attended a class she taught and came away feeling that she thinks about the crime every day of her life. She spoke of it without naming it directly, alluding to a "terrible mistake." I don't remember what context it came up in and don't know if it comes up most of the time when she speaks in public, but she seemed very genuine in her remorse.
posted by BibiRose at 7:41 AM on December 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

In going over the history of the woods and pagans/witches, the author skates over an important point. To the pagans, the forest and trees were sacred, the christian religion demonized these things as a way of suppressing the old ways. Likewise, pagans thought that women were to be celebrated as the source of wisdom (Athens is named after Athena, etc), whereas in the Abrahamic religions women are treacherous because they brought wisdom to mankind, hence the labeling of wise women (midwives mostly) as witches. When christians couldn't stomp out the old traditions, they gave them a veneer and co-opted them (Samhain/Halloween, Yule/christmas, Ēostre/Easter). Same with fairytales, now the forest and wise women are the villains of stories.
posted by 445supermag at 7:49 AM on December 7, 2017 [11 favorites]

A great read, sad and horrifying. This passage struck me:
One of the earliest entries into the Grimms’ original collection—one that would never make it into the later, popular edition—is a story called “How Some Children Played at Slaughtering.” Like all the Grimms’ folk tales, it is short and terse, and it goes something like this: In a small city in the Netherlands, a group of children are playing, and they decide that one should be the “butcher,” one the “assistant,” two the “cooks,” and another, finally, the “pig.” Armed with a knife, the little butcher pushes the pig to the ground and slits his throat, while the assistant kneels down with a bowl to catch the blood, to use in “making sausages.”

The kids are discovered by an adult, and the butcher-boy is taken before the city council. But the council doesn’t know what to do, “for they realized it had all been part of a children’s game.” And so the chief judge decides to perform a test: He takes an apple in one hand and a gold coin in the other and holds them out to the boy; he tells him to pick one.

The boy chooses the apple—laughing as he does, because in his mind, he’s gotten the better deal. Still operating by a child’s logic, he cannot be convicted of the crime. The judge sets him free.
I think, if anything, we've gotten worse at dealing with child criminals.
posted by languagehat at 7:58 AM on December 7, 2017 [12 favorites]

As an academic folklorist, practicing witch, and former young girl I am Not Impressed by this article but I also don't want to read all the way through it to give it a solid critique. I think the thing that's setting me off most of all is the ~~spooky mystical~~ vibe the author is giving to events and stories that have solid explanations within their own cultural contexts, cribbing facts and impressions from various traditions as she goes. She is talking about concepts that folklorists have specific words for-- legend-tripping and ostension, in particular-- in a way that is uninformed and is erroneously sure of the uniqueness of these events. This article provides more context on Slenderman, folklore, and moral panics than I can give here, although here's a pull quote:
"In this article I focus on these discourses, rather than the
texts of the Slender Man Mythos itself, to emphasize that it is human
actors, not narratives or characters, that are ultimately responsible for
real-world actions. Folklore is emphatically not to blame."
posted by mystikspyral at 8:47 AM on December 7, 2017 [7 favorites]

Same with fairytales, now the forest and wise women are the villains of stories.

I was very uncomfortable with the kinda-sorta-Jung aparté as well, and the positive interpretation given to Pauline's painting having a dead tree in the center. That's... not positive.

It is a great piece, but it would be even more powerful with inclusion of the full history of the demonization of nature, especially as related to women. Place that alongside puberty being a head-on crash between innocent (as society sees it) childhood and HOLY FUCK NOW YOU ARE A DEMON WITCH physicality mixed with hormones. Because that's the message society sends to what-it-defines-as-women: your body is evil and your very nature is evil and fuck nature it only serves to service us just like you.

Maybe if we had more positive and supportively widespread coming-of-age stories surrounding gender, bodies, and nature, it would be less of a psychological minefield. Those stories need to be diverse. Right now it's so starkly black and white.
posted by fraula at 9:12 AM on December 7, 2017 [7 favorites]

At 12 I wouldn't have murdered anyone, but I did believe, more with hope than faith, in crystals, auras, "energy", spirits, ghosts and that things could happen if only you believed enough. Problem was I had "responsible adults" telling me all this was true. It was the 80's.
posted by The otter lady at 10:06 AM on December 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

Part of the breathless nature of the piece might be that it's from Alex Mar, whose book, Witches in America, is great fun but has received significant censure from the Pagan community for (probably) being full of hyper-exaggerated tales and possibly falsehoods. So the very entertaining spooky mystical vibe is par for the course with her.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:08 PM on December 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

Actually sticking a knife in your friend seems way beyond what some crummy urban myth can explain. I secretly believed in some mad witchcraft things when I was a teenager, but the prospect of stabbing someone would have reactivated my brain.
posted by Segundus at 1:34 PM on December 7, 2017

What a interesting article. I already had read about the Slender Man case but not with this amount of detail about the girls. I rarely think about this now as a adult but I too had a shared fantasy world with another girl. When we were 11, 12 my best friend and I convinced each other that we were witches. We had dormant powers that we believed would someday magically manifest. We did "rituals" with candles and flowers. It is difficult to acess now as a adult woman how much I really believed in it, but certainly part of myself had a strong hope that it would be true. Our fantasy had nothing to do with violence but is strange to think about how similar my experience was to these described in the article. We too were socially isolated young girls and in the cusp of puberty. Powerless in reality but with such gradiose fantasies.
posted by ireneadler at 2:41 PM on December 7, 2017 [10 favorites]

This immediately reminded me of the unnamed girl's secret journal from Arthur Machen's "The White People":
I have a great many other books of secrets I have written, hidden in a safe place, and I am going to write here many of the old secrets and some new ones; but there are some I shall not put down at all. I must not write down the real names of the days and months which I found out a year ago, nor the way to make the Aklo letters, or the Chian language, or the great beautiful Circles, nor the Mao Games, nor the chief songs. I may write something about all these things but not the way to do them, for peculiar reasons. And I must not say who the Nymphs are, or the Dôls, or Jeelo, or what voolas mean. All these are most secret secrets, and I am glad when I remember what they are, and how many wonderful languages I know, but there are some things that I call the secrets of the secrets of the secrets that I dare not think of unless I am quite alone, and then I shut my eyes, and put my hands over them and whisper the word, and the Alala comes. I only do this at night in my room or in certain woods that I know, but I must not describe them, as they are secret woods.
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:45 PM on December 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

It’s an age defined by a raw desire for experience; by the chaotic beginning of a girl’s sexual self; by obsessive friendships, fast emotions, the birth and rebirth of hard grudges, an inner life that stands outside of logic. You have an undiluted desire for private knowledge, for a genius shared with a select few. You bend reality regularly.

The things this piece recounts that are allegedly typical and essential for adolescent girls...Aren’t those just...stereotypes?

Btw I find the piece eerily reminiscent of Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, in its breathless fetishizing of girl ‘strangeness’ and violence.
posted by The Toad at 5:02 PM on December 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was a bit shruggo on the folkloric flourishes, but the detail on the case was interesting and the author does a good job tying the previous cases together with this incident. I feel so sorry for all the parents here.
posted by harriet vane at 2:49 AM on December 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

The things this piece recounts that are allegedly typical and essential for adolescent girls...Aren’t those just...stereotypes?

I dunno, it rang very, very true for me. I don't know that I would have gone so far as to stab anyone, but then again most teenaged girls don't.
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:53 PM on December 10, 2017

Not essential, but definitely typical. I suspect a lot of it is generated as a response to the looming inevitability of having the patriarchy take over your life in ways that aren't obvious when you're just a kid. So depending on how patriarchal your surroundings are, any individual might have these things to a greater or lesser degree.
posted by harriet vane at 3:38 AM on December 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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