Victor Surge is the original creator of Slender Man, the mythical Internet character who inspired Wisconsin 12-year-olds Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier to stab their friend in Waukesha woods on Sunday. Surge was the first to make a Photoshopped image of Slender Man, submitting it to a forum called Something Awful (SA) in 2009. From there, Internet users created backstories and more manipulated images of the character, and it grew to become an Internet pop-culture sensation.
Here’s what you should know about the man behind the meme.
1. Surge’s Real Name Is Eric Knudsen
Slender Man is an internet urban legend created by Something Awful forums user Eric Knudsen in 2009. – BI
— mmnjug™ (@mmnjug) June 3, 2014
On June 8, 2009, Knudsen submitted this picture to a paranormal Photoshop contest held by the Something Awful (SA) forum. The competition asked people to manipulate ordinary photos into scary paranormal images that could pass as authentic. The creators of these images added background information and captions to make their creations seem more believable.
Eric Knudsen uses the name Victor Surge on Internet forums. While he says he sometimes receives emails about the character, Knudsen is rarely recognized for the legacy of Slender Man. This isn’t surprising, as the stories behind the figure were written by many different people who were intrigued by the original tentacled man Knudsen thought up. In an interview with a Slender Man blogger, Knudsen said:
I don’t spent a lot of active time on the Internet since I usually have a lot of real-life stuff going on.
2. He’s ‘Heartbroken’ Over the Incident
A source who identifies himself as a former coworker said on Wednesday morning that Knudsen is “heartbroken over this and deactivated his Facebook account this morning.” The source said that Knudsen feels horrible about what happened, and describes him as a saint and genuinely wonderful person.
NBC reported Knudsen’s official statement regarding the stabbings.
I am deeply saddened by the tragedy in Wisconsin and my heart goes out to the families of those affected by this terrible act.
Knudsen posted the above picture in June 2009 with the following caption:
One of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze. Notable for being taken the day which fourteen children vanished and for what is referred to as “The Slender Man”. Deformities cited as film defects by officials. Fire at library occurred one week later. Actual photograph confiscated as evidence. – 1986, photographer: Mary Thomas, missing since June 13th, 1986.
On June 11, he added another photo and created a longer backstory to accompany his original images. LeechCode5, another SA user, then posted a photo of Knudsen’s Slender Man in front of a burning building that he had edited himself. Two days later, another user, TrenchMaul, used SlenderMan for his own story, and the character has continued to exist in paranormal forums ever since.
3. He Was In Nagasaki When He Created Slender Man
Knudsen’s former coworker says the Slender Man creator is American and from the Chicago area, but was living in Nagasaki at the time he used Deviant Art and created the images. The source said he was with Knudsen the afternoon he created the Slender Man images, and described the afternoon as “boring.” Knudsen is now 33 -years-old and lives with his wife and toddler in Florida.
The last entry from his Deviant Arts profile on April 3, 2014, concerns Slender Man copyright issues:
Commercial use of this property is not up use or exploitation by any parties without permission. (See section “copyright” on the Wikipedia entry for Slenderman) Thank you for your understanding!
Knudsen’s personal gallery includes the original Slender Man images he submitted to the SA forum in 2009.
4. Knudsen Didn’t Intend for Slender Man to Go Viral
In an interview with a Slender Man blogger, Knudsen seems shocked by how popular Slender Man grew to be. The interview took place on August 31, 2011, a time when Surge had recently started reviewing fan’s contributions to the Slender Man legacy. He admitted that he threw together the original Slender Man photos in about 15 minutes. Surge “just started putting things together” using what he personally found to be creepy, and the type of horror that intrigued him. The interviewer asked him if he had any interest in making a blog or lengthier story for the character, to which he responded:
I’ve thought about it but I don’t have time. I didn’t expect it to move beyond the SA forums. And when it did, I found it interesting to watch as sort of an accelerated version of an urban legend
Knudsen’s former coworker also commented on the original Photoshopped images.
He just made those initial images for that Photoshop thread and was really surprised when the Internet took it and developed it into this whole big thing (basically none of which he had any hand in.)
5. His Idea for Slender Man Was Inspired by Stephen King
In an interview with a blogger, Knudsen is asked what inspired him to create Slender Man. He said he was heavily influenced by Stephen King’s short stories, H.P. Lovecraft, and William S. Burroughs:
I feel the most direct influences were Zack Parsons’s “That Insidious Beast”, the Steven King short story “The Mist”, the SA tale regarding “The Rake”, reports of so-called shadow people, Mothman, and the Mad Gasser of Mattoon. I used these to formulate asomething whose motivations can barely be comprehended and causes general unease and terror in a general population.