Living with Slenderman
January 11, 2018 1:07 PM   Subscribe

On March 31, 2014, two girls attacked a third in an attempt to ward off a future attack from Slenderman. Hazlitt provides an overview of the aftermath. posted by disconnect (31 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
WARNING: This is not an easy read, for anyone who has trouble handling descriptions of violence, stabbing, attempted murder, etc. Give this a pass.
posted by Fizz at 1:32 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


previously.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:38 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


The takeaway that I had not read in other accounts of the case: Morgan (one of the girls who stabbed Bella) had been hallucinating since she was very small, was immediately diagnosed with early-onset schizophrenia in jail and was denied treatment for 18 months in prison as her condition deteriorated and she became frankly psychotic. As a little child, she had hallucinated a Slenderman-like figure whose return she'd always dreaded; these hallucinations appear to have precipitated the whole situation.

It's not that I fault the victim's family for insisting that they want the two girls locked up for life; I can't even imagine how I would feel if someone hurt someone I love like that. That's their feelings, not what should happen. But everyone else in this case - the Reaganite judge, the townspeople, the jail staff and doctors - seems to belong in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, just cartoonishly inhumane.
posted by Frowner at 1:44 PM on January 11 [80 favorites]


Since this happened, I've been reading news articles when I notice them, hoping it would make sense. This is the first one that I've read that mentioned the schizophrenia AT ALL.
posted by tofu_crouton at 1:46 PM on January 11 [18 favorites]


She was schizophrenic??? Early-onset/childhood to boot? Jesus fucking christ!

This has not been part of the narrative around this story at all.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 1:52 PM on January 11 [13 favorites]


Sometimes you think that humans are just no good. Modern schooling and literacy and relative peace and enough to eat, and people still act just straight out of some grisly medieval "burn the witch" scenario. All these "Christians" and they can't muster up six ounces of compassion amongst them.

I mean, the case was obviously spun as "evil weird little girls are too stupid to understand that the internet isn't real, weird poor parents do a bad job" because it's the perfect confluence of misogyny and anti-working class sentiment. "Being nerdy" may be mainstream and popular and we all love to "nerd out" about Lego or comics or whatever, but actually being different is still hated, especially if you're a girl.
posted by Frowner at 1:57 PM on January 11 [35 favorites]


Actually, the schizophrenia has been a part of the narrative ever since the Beware of Slenderman documentary came out in 2016. And not in a good way.
posted by all about eevee at 1:59 PM on January 11


Nurse Ratched is alive and well, I'm afraid.
posted by 256 at 2:01 PM on January 11


Revolting.
posted by bq at 2:09 PM on January 11


Actually, the schizophrenia has been a part of the narrative ever since the Beware of Slenderman documentary came out in 2016. And not in a good way.

Dare I ask?
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 2:27 PM on January 11


you’d think even the most law and order person would want her to be treated (in adult prison), if it really was about safety and deterrence. why not just give her medication? willfully driving a child deeper into madness, is it meant as a punishment? it’s lovecraftian, i can’t understand it at all.
posted by vogon_poet at 2:31 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


The takeaway that I had not read in other accounts of the case: Morgan (one of the girls who stabbed Bella) had been hallucinating since she was very small, was immediately diagnosed with early-onset schizophrenia in jail and was denied treatment for 18 months in prison as her condition deteriorated and she became frankly psychotic. As a little child, she had hallucinated a Slenderman-like figure whose return she'd always dreaded; these hallucinations appear to have precipitated the whole situation.

I would have guessed she has narcolepsy, which I think Dylann Roof has, and that William Blake also had.

In fact, that's still where I'd place my bet unless it's specifically ruled out.
posted by jamjam at 2:43 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Morgan's father also has schizophrenia.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:56 PM on January 11


The attitudes of the people in Waukesha around mental illness were, I guess, not surprising, but my god, so discouraging to read.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 3:08 PM on January 11


So much of the shittiness of the US legal system seems to be attributable to the idea of electing judges and prosecutors.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:24 PM on January 11 [18 favorites]


if it really was about safety and deterrence. why not just give her medication?

There are a fair number of people who are, for lack of a better word, psychiatry skeptics. (Maybe we need an "anti-vaxxer"-like term.) It's pernicious, and exists in a nexus of difficult-to-rationally-discuss topics in our society, particularly when it arrives through the criminal justice system.

Sadly (for someone not receiving treatment), schizophrenia is actually one of the better-understood and more-treatable severe mental illnesses, and has an outcome profile under treatment that's comparable to heart disease. So this is a case where that attitude is objectively, verifiably wrong.

There are, however, mental illnesses that aren't especially treatable (or, at least, the treatments currently used don't seem to work especially well), plus a socially-defined line between what we decide is mental illness and what we decide is criminal behavior, the placement of which is only loosely coupled to what responds to treatment, historically.

The whole system is a fucking shambles and it's hard even to get experts to agree what we should do about it — this (very good) Manhattan Institute panel discussion is something I've thought about over and over since I heard it a few months ago. About the only thing people seem to agree on is "more money" (but not where it should go) and "the public should be better informed" (but not about what).
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:27 PM on January 11 [14 favorites]


A lot of people still think of mental illnesses as basically things you need to bootstrap your way out of, even serious things like schizophrenia. Mine are less severe, but I've had genetic testing done and one of my problems is I have a gene that makes serotonin uptake a problem. So I literally have a physical, genetic condition as one of the reasons behind my depression and various mental illnesses. But I still get the "JUST DO YOGA! ESSENTIAL OILS! HAVE YOU TRIED NOT BEING SAD?! I WAS SAD BUT THEN DECIDED TO BE AWESOME! BOOTSTRAPS!" treatment.

And then there's the skepticism of the townspeople towards an insanity plea because "Heh, why wouldn't you say you're crazy and go to plush jail rather than REAL PRISON?" because we got decades of conservative propaganda about an insanity plea meaning you're just going to a light security paradise spot that's basically a vacation.

Likewise, a friend of mine from high school...well, I don't know the particulars as to why, but he killed his parents. He was found mentally incompetent and went to treatment. The treatment facility is under orders to clear out beds, though, so as soon as he showed improvement, he was declared competent to stand trial and shipped back to the local jail for holding. There he deteriorated from lack of treatment and was found incompetent again, so he was shipped back to treatment. And he's spent the last 5 years or so bouncing back and forth between facilities.

Mental illness, like physical illness, is a moral thing and people love looking for causes, from bad parenting ("COME ON what kind of parent doesn't know their kid is seeing things?!") to, in my friend's case, smoking marijuana in high school, to prove the just world fallacy.

The only reason we don't burn witches anymore is nobody has really pushed to. I'm old enough to remember the Satanic Panic of the 80s and that's just for starters.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:45 PM on January 11 [25 favorites]


Tangential, because it's about a boys' prison, but Wisconsin is pretty fucked up when it comes to juvenile offenders. (Warning: stories of physical and sexual abuse and a picture of someone after a beating.) Also: At Wisconsin Juvenile Prisons, Children Face a Nightmare of Solitary Confinement and Abuse
posted by AFABulous at 7:11 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


I couldn't finish reading the article.

Why was this child charged with a crime rather than immediately given care and hospitalized? Why was she sent to a holding facility where she was barely allowed to see her parents, and then only with bars between them and rules stating that she couldn't be touched by or hug them? Why was she in jail with adult offenders? Brought into court in fucking chains, my god. I'm so aghast at the cruelty and thirst for punishment within the Wisconsin system and, I'm sure, elsewhere in an America poisoned with racist fears of "super-predators". There is some deep river of sadism running here, a twisted satisfaction in causing anguish and humiliation. The boot on a human face forever.

Both girls-- both children-- deserved care and therapy and medication. They acted out of mental illness and should have been properly treated as mentally ill. I know that their victim nearly died, that she will carry the scars and memory of the attack for the rest of her life. But crushing the girls responsible won't change the past, or take back her wounds. Forgiveness would be a way forward for all three, but the Wisconsin would rather bring down the whole weight of state retribution on them. What a mean and bitter thing.
posted by jokeefe at 8:20 PM on January 11 [9 favorites]


The 2014 fpp about this, in case anyone needs anymore wtf.
posted by rtha at 8:43 PM on January 11


Bohren sounds like a real piece of shit.
posted by gucci mane at 11:07 PM on January 11 [9 favorites]


I wish we could stop conflating forced hospitalization with a gentle, caring alternative to jail, especially for minors. It's a lot of things, and it's better than jail like.......most things are, but it's not that. The girls deserve care, whatever form that takes, but "properly treated as mentally ill" is something that happens in situations like this as a pleasant surprise and never a given.

This makes me so sad. I wish it surprised me.
posted by colorblock sock at 11:45 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]


So much of the shittiness of the US legal system seems to be attributable to the idea of electing judges and prosecutors.

The lawyers lacking accountability make it a trifecta in Wisconsin. At least California was willing to toss Geoffrey Gnadt VS Wisconsin: Where driving around with no pants while drunk was not a deterrent to keeping a bar card. (bail jumping is also not a reason to have your card pulled)

Heck, one of the CEOs of a top law firm acts as a part-time Judge and the conduct is so bad in this firm people with Shareholder status went and quit about 3 weeks after the bad conduct was internally reveled. That slot opened up after the previous one quit over the conduct.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:37 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Thank you for posting this.
posted by meemzi at 7:27 AM on January 12


Whenever a heinous crime is committed a decision is made "Is this person crazy or is this person just evil?" It all comes down to crazy or evil. Certain people (you know who) are always evil, others get to be crazy.

Whenever I look at these heinous crimes people commit though, I always have to wonder what truly sane person could possibly do something like that?

If the criminal justice system were focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment this discussion wouldn't even be necessary. But since the criminal justice system IS about punishment and everyone calls for blood, this question is the deciding factor in who gets treatment/care/sympathy and who gets thrown into the dungeon to rot.
posted by yonega at 10:03 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Not sure if they mentioned that Waukesha County is the reddest in the state, and their election processes leave something to be desired. I've traveled to or through there hundreds of times but I sure wouldn't want to live there.
posted by AFABulous at 12:52 PM on January 12


Unfortunately, too many people deny mental illness exists. If they do acknowledge it, it's with a contemptuous sniff. "Oh, that's no excuse. They knew right from wrong." With mental illness ignored in this fashion, the result is "lock 'em up and throw away the key!" I've found people adamently into punishment-no-rehabilitation-burn-the-mf-already especially resistant to entertain any idea that mental illness should be any sort of mitigating factor whatsoever within a criminal trial. It's like trying to talk to a wall.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 8:32 PM on January 12


the general idea of having a separate criminal justice outcome for mentally ill offenders (to the point where they don't understand what they did), and having them committed and re-examined every 6 to 12 months, subject to judicial discretion, is an ok one. certainly better than having them sentenced as ordinary offenders.

but the problem is having elected judges doing this, especially in high profile cases. the judge in this case was an absolute fucking disgrace, making her recite the crime at sentencing even after he knew he was going to ok a plea deal of insanity. what a sadist.

in my opinion, there should be specially trained judges who do mentally disordered committment hearings, appointed by a board of state supreme court justices and mental health experts. the girl Morgan should've been committed and medicated immediately on arrest.
posted by wibari at 10:05 PM on January 12


What is happening to these two girls is not justice.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:21 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I re-read the 2014 comment thread. It's different from this one. I don't say this to judge (who knows what I would have said in 2014 if I'd happened to comment), but... the known facts there and here aren't so different, I don't think, as should do this -- between "reported to have schizophrenia" and "have to assume a pretty good chance there's psychosis involved". It's sobering to read.
posted by away for regrooving at 2:43 AM on January 18




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