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You may think you know what happened in the Slender Man Stabbing. Here's the story behind the salacious headlines

Morgan Geyser leaves court after being sentenced to 40 years of institutional confinement at Winnebago Mental Health Facility.
Rick Wood
Morgan Geyser leaves court after being sentenced to 40 years of institutional confinement at Winnebago Mental Health Facility.

Nearly a decade ago, a stabbing in Waukesha stunned the community and made international headlines. It became known as the Slender Man stabbing, named for an internet meme that morphed into an ideology for two 12-year-old girls who stabbed and nearly killed their best friend in a wooded area in Waukesha.

The incident ignited a discussion about unmonitored internet access, Slenderman: Online Obsession, Mental Illness, and the Violent Crime of Two Midwestern Girls, interrogates the public perception of the crime and challenges how the court treated these children with serious mental health issues.

Author Kathleen Hale explores what happened before and after the stabbing and the misinformation that still lingers about the assailants, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weir.

Geyser had early onset schizophrenia, which manifested in visual hallucinations. They began when she was three-years-old, but was never diagnosed and as she entered puberty her disorder intensified. Weir had an undiagnosed learning disability, which interfered with her ability to recognize fiction from folklore. When Weir discovered Slenderman and other, similar stories on Creepypasta.com, she viewed them as real. Through this shared obsession of Creepypasta characters, the children became convinced they had to murder their mutual friend Payton Leutner, in order to save their families.

Despite their young age, the two girls were tried as adults. In the State of Wisconsin, children as young as 10-years-old are considered adults if they're accused of a violent crime.

"All juvenile resources that were available to the other kids in jail during Morgan and Anissa pre-incarceration were not available to them. They did not receive therapy. They did not receive a social worker. And then, most significantly, mental health resources were withheld," explains Hale.

As a result of mental health resources being withheld, Geyser was denied medication for her persistent and deteriorating schizophrenia for 19 months, causing irreversible brain damage.

"During this period of psychosis that Morgan was locked up in jail and was not receiving antipsychotics, she lost the ability to read and do basic math. And that's child abuse," Hale says. "They gave her an inhaler for her asthma, but they would not give her antipsychotics to address the schizophrenia that was ravaging her mind."

The two girls were found not guilty by reason of insanity, but Hale says the two girls were continually re-traumatized throughout the process by a system that didn't account for their young age or their mental disorders. Geyser remains incarcerated at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute, and Weir is out on conditional release.


Joy Powers is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Robert is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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