Internet Myth Turned Sinister: The Slender Man Crime

There are lots of mythical characters out there that scare children: Bigfoot, werewolves, and even Bloody Mary. However, the Slender Man legend is a little bit spookier. If you haven’t heard of him, you’re not alone. He is a new type of monster that was created on the internet whose story was circulating on the web. Kids everywhere heard the legend, but it was seemingly just a ghost story.

Payton Leutner / Morgan Geyser / The Slender Man.
Source: Facebook / USA Today / Pinterest

In 2014, Payton Leutner was lured into the woods by her so-called friends, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier. Payton was viciously attacked and almost died. The scariest part? All three girls were only 12 years old at the time, and the reason for their cruel crime? Slender Man told them to do it.

Here is the full story.

Best Friends Forever

Payton Leutner and Morgan Geyser met for the first time in fourth grade. According to Payton, she saw Morgan sitting alone, so she went over to say hi, and they immediately became best friends. Like all best friends, the girls loved to hang out after school, joke around, and have sleepovers. Morgan even gave Payton a cute nickname: Bella.

Payton and Morgan together in an old family photo.
Source: ABC News

It seemed so innocent, but this friendship would soon take a sinister turn. In her taped police interrogation, Morgan even stated that Payton “was my only friend I had for a long time.” So, what happened?

The Duo Becomes a Trio

The girls remained best friends, but two years later, a new girl joined their circle. In sixth grade, Anissa entered the picture, and naturally, Payton and Morgan’s friendship took a back seat. Payton told People that that was when “everything went downhill.”

Payton Leutner, Morgan Geyser, and Anissa Weier are sitting together in the cafeteria.
Source: ABC News

Morgan and Anissa were obsessed with a fictional internet monster named Slender Man. Payton was terrified of this mythical creature, but she went along with it anyway. She explained, “[Morgan] liked it and thought it was real. But I went along with it. I was supportive because I thought that’s what she liked.”

A Creepypasta Creation

So, you might be wondering who Slender Man is? I’ve heard of the Boogie Man and Bigfoot, but Slender Man is more of a modern-day legend. In 2009, the character was created in a spooky corner of the internet called Creepypasta.

The first Slender Man image.
Source: Creepypasta

A supernatural meme was then made for a Photoshop contest by Something Awful forum user Eric Knudsen (screen name: Victor Surge). Slender Man is faceless, tall, slender, and stalks children. The myth sparked digital stories and web videos, but the story that was once only on the internet turned real.

Payton Was Too Nice

Payton explained that there was a noticeable change in sixth grade when Morgan met Anissa. She told them that Slender Man scared her, but they didn’t care. Payton considered not being friends with Morgan anymore, but Morgan made her feel guilty, and she felt bad abandoning her.

A photo of Payton Leutner.
Source: Facebook

“Payton was such an empathetic kid,” Stacie Leutner told ABC News. “She recognized that Morgan maybe wasn’t the healthiest friendship to have. But if Payton wasn’t her friend, she wouldn’t have any other friends. So, she thought everyone deserved at least one friend.”

A Slender Man Interest Turned Into an Obsession

Morgan’s fixation with Slender Man continued to grow, and it appeared to Payton that Morgan and Anissa’s friendship was blossoming as well. They lived in the same apartment building and rode the bus to school together.

Sketches that Morgan Geyser made of the Slender Man in her notebook
Source: The Washington Post

“I didn’t like her [Anissa] at all,” Payton said. “I just hung out with her because I knew that Morgan really loved her as a friend. But she was always cruel to me. I feel like she was jealous that Morgan was friends with me and her.” Morgan, who was convinced Slender Man was real, and Anissa were a toxic combination.

Morgan’s Sleepover Party

In a 2015 interview with 20/20, Payton’s mother, Stacie Leutner, described how “it was a Friday night, and she was so excited.” It was Morgan’s birthday, and the three besties were celebrating with a slumber party. However, their typical night of braiding hair, pizza, and movies took a chilling turn.

Girlfriends Watching Television During Slumber Party
Photo by mark peterson/Corbis/Getty Images

Payton said that, in retrospect, it was different from all their other sleepovers because Morgan didn’t act like how she normally did, but Payton didn’t think much of it. The next morning, they all went to the park.

Slender Man Told Me to Do It

This wasn’t your typical morning stroll; the girls went to the park for a much darker reason. In her taped interrogation, Anissa said: “I was told if I didn’t do something, my family would be in danger.” The then-12-year-old claimed that she was so scared that if she didn’t listen to Slender Man, he would murder her family.

A photo of Anissa Weier in her room.
Source: Vine

So, what exactly did a fictional monster supposedly ask her to do? According to Anissa, he demanded that she and Morgan kill their friend Payton.

The Night Before

Payton had no idea what her “friends” had planned for her. The night started off with the girls skating at the local roller rink and getting frozen yogurt before the sleepover party. Looking back, Payton said she felt something was a little off that night:

Friends are falling asleep as they watch television at a slumber party
Photo by mark peterson/Corbis/Getty Images

“Something was strange because at our past sleepovers, [Morgan] always wanted to stay up all night because she could never do that at home,” Payton explained. “But on [the night of] the birthday party, she wanted to go to bed.”

Plan A

Morgan and Anissa were later found walking in the woods, headed to Slender Man’s house. This was when questions came up. Did they honestly believe Slender Man was real? Were they crazy? Or just plain evil?

Three little girls are standing in the woods.
Source: Reddit

Morgan confessed to the police that “Anissa tried to knock Bella (Payton) out. Bella got all mad and stuff, and I was pacing in circles.” Payton stayed with the girls even after they attacked her. That’s when Anissa and Morgan led Payton into the woods… where they finished the attack.

She Didn’t See It Coming

“Once I look back on it, I was like, that is really weird,” she said. “Why didn’t I see something? Why didn’t I notice something was weird? But I’m not blaming myself at all. Because who could ever see something like this coming? Nobody could ever see something like this coming.”

A photo of Payton Leutner.
Source: ABC News

Morgan and Anissa both confessed to investigators that they planned to kill Payton in her sleep right before changing the plan to do it at the park in the morning. “I remember waking up,” Payton said. “They had already gone downstairs on the computer, so I went down with them. We had doughnuts [and] went to the park.”

Going for a Morning Walk

Payton said that it was Morgan’s idea to go to the park in the morning. Normally, she wouldn’t be allowed to go without an adult. However, since it was her birthday and she was with her friends, her mother let the girls go by themselves.

The park where the three girls went for a walk that morning.
Source: CBS News

Once they got to the park, their plan to kill Payton changed once again. Anissa told detectives that she suggested they go for a stroll and play hide-and-seek in the woods nearby. “They just wanted to go on a walk,” Payton recalled. “And I didn’t think much of it. It’s just a walk. It’s in Waukesha. What bad stuff happens in Waukesha, Wisconsin?”

A Twisted Game of Hide-and-Seek

Unfortunately, she needed to worry about strangers; she needed to worry about her so-called best friends. “Anissa told me to lie on the ground and cover myself in sticks and leaves and stuff to hide, in a sense,” Payton explained.

Payton Leutner is giving a tv interview.
Source: People

Payton thought this was an innocent game of hide-and-seek, but Morgan and Anissa had other plans. Morgan brought a kitchen knife from her home and used it to horrifically stab Payton continuously. As for Anissa, she stood there watching. So, are they cold-blooded killers? Or total psychopaths? I’d say both.

A Premeditated Attempted Murder

Reports on the exact details vary because Morgan and Anissa gave different stories during their interviews. Each girl pointed the finger at the other one when discussing who originally came up with the idea.

Anissa Weier in the interrogation room is posing for her mug shot.
Source: Reddit

But one thing was for sure: Morgan repeatedly stabbed Payton with a kitchen knife while Anissa stood there and watched. Morgan said to a detective, “I have wanted to hurt people before, but they’re not nice to me. So, they deserve it.” That’s a disturbing statement coming out of anyone’s mouth, let alone a 12-year-old’s.

A Vicious Attack

The girls stabbed Payton on “her chest, and abdomen, and arm and leg,” according to Brian Huckstorf, a doctor at the Waukesha Memorial Hospital. She had five wounds on her arm, seven on her leg, and the rest were scattered throughout her torso. Payton spent weeks in intensive care and left with 25 scars.

A cut in the shirt that Payton was wearing from one of her many stab wounds.
Source: Waukesha Police Department

She was lucky to be alive. Can you imagine going to a friend’s sleepover in sixth grade and have your friends stab you? It’s no surprise Payton has trust issues. Thankfully her wonderful and supportive family was there to help her recover.

Finding Strength

Payton doesn’t remember every detail from her vicious attack, which is a benefit. She feels a sense of relief not knowing because reliving those traumatic memories would make this heartbreaking situation even more devastating. Unfortunately, what she did remember clearly was that her friends did this.

One of Payton Leutner's sandals is seen discarded in the woods where she was stabbed.
Source: Waukesha Police Department

After Morgan stabbed Payton with the knife, she and Anissa left her for dead in the woods. Injured and bleeding, Payton found the strength to crawl out of the woods, where someone found her. “I got up, grabbed a couple of trees for support, I think. And then just walked until I hit a patch of grass where I could lie down.”

A Bike Rider Saved the Day

That Saturday morning, a man named Greg Steinberg went for a bike ride. Apparently, he took a different route that day through a bush that was chained off. Luckily, he rode by Payton, who was lying in the grass after crawling her way out of the woods, where she had been viciously stabbed.

A close-up of a man holding a phone as he pushes his bike along the path.
Photo by Oscar Wong/Getty Images

She stopped Greg asking, “Can you help me, please. I’ve been stabbed multiple times.” Steinberg called 911 immediately and gave her some water. On the call, you can hear him comforting Payton, saying, “Honey, he’s coming. They’ll be here any minute.” An ambulance arrived shortly after.

Breaking the News to Her Parents

A uniformed police officer approached the Leutner home that Saturday morning. According to Stacy, her mind immediately went to “Something has happened to somebody that I love.” Both parents explained that they were “blindsided.” They rushed to the hospital minutes later.

Payton Leutner’s parents during an interview.
Source: ABC News

This is reportedly what happened next: The girls went through the woods on a quest to find Slender Man, now that they had done what they were told to do. The fictional mansion where Slender Man mythically dwells is apparently located someone in Wisconsin’s Nicolet National Forest. “We tried to find Slender Man,” Meghan admitted to an investigator.

A Strong, Lucky Girl

When she arrived at the hospital, Payton remembered her mother and nurses counting her stab wounds. Stacie told ABC News, “I said, ‘You’re gonna be OK. It’s gonna be fine,’ but I could see that she was covered. Her arms and her legs and her abdomen, they were covered in stab wounds.”

Payton Leutner being evacuated to the hospital following the attack.
Source: Tumblr

The doctors performed emergency surgery and were stunned by Payton’s critical injuries. The wounds on her arms and legs only hit soft tissue, but the stabs to her torso hit major organs: One went through her diaphragm, damaging her liver and stomach. The other one missed her heart by a millimeter. “If the knife had gone a width of a human hair further, she wouldn’t have lived,” Dr. John Kelemen, who operated on Payton, said.

Did They Catch Them?

Payton said that when she woke up after six hours of surgery, she worried about where her attackers were: “I remember the first thing that I thought after I woke up was like, ‘Did they get them? Are they there? Are they in custody? Are they still out?’”

Morgan Geyser handcuffed in the interrogation room after the attack.
Source: The New York Post

She was relieved when police told her they were caught. Payton was dealing with the pain from her attack and surgery. She used whiteboards to communicate because it was difficult for her to speak. She even had a tube in her lungs because she couldn’t breathe on her own.

Emotional and Physical Trauma

As you can imagine, her recovery was both emotionally and physically difficult. She said she was so terrified after her attack that she would sleep in her parents’ bed at night. She was afraid to be alone. Payton said she still sleeps with a pair of scissors next to her under a pillow, “just in case.”

Payton Leutner is standing in her backyard with a T-shirt that says, “Nope. Not Today.”
Source: Facebook

When Payton found out why Morgan stabbed her, the motive didn’t really surprise her. The girls tried killing her to please the fictional character of Slender Man and prove that he was real.

An Evil Plot

“After I heard why she did it, I was like, ‘Well, this doesn’t surprise me at all because she believed so hard in this thing that she would do anything for it,’” Payton said. What did surprise her, however, was that the girls confessed immediately and told police they had been planning it for a while.

The backpack found with the weapon Morgan used on Payton.
Source: Waukesha Police Department

Payton didn’t realize the extent of it: “It was a little shocking to me that they had this big, huge plan they had been working on for months.” Can you imagine 12-year-olds plotting a murder?

Getting Back to Normal

Since her vicious attack, Payton has tried to get back to a normal life which wasn’t easy, especially with the notoriety of the case and the years of litigation. Understandably, it’s very difficult for Payton to trust others, especially when it comes to new friends.

Payton is posing alongside her brother.
Source: Facebook

“She has friends, but initially, even with those friends, she kept them at arm’s length,” according to her mother. “And for a long time, even trusting family members was hard for her.” Payton said she thinks about her ex-best friend’s mom, Angie Geyser, with sympathy.

Still Has Compassion

“I’ve thought about what she is going through and how hard it must be for her,” Payton explained. “Because I’m sure a lot of people are trashing on her and hating her. And saying that it was her fault, she raised [Morgan] wrong.”

Morgan Geyser is embracing her mother on the couch.
Source: Facebook

“It wasn’t [Angie’s] fault, Payton continued. “Morgan’s schizophrenic. There is nothing that she could have done to stop that or control that. It was not her fault.” Payton clearly has a mature and compassionate perspective about a horrible thing that happened to her. She is just grateful to be alive, but her attitude is impressive.

Schizophrenia Diagnosis

In 2016, Morgan’s mom revealed that while her daughter was in custody, she was diagnosed with early onset schizophrenia. During a 2015 hearing, a forensic psychologist testified for the defense, saying that Morgan’s father was hospitalized multiple times due to mental illness when he was a teenager.

A handcuffed Morgan Geyser is being escorted into court by an officer.
Source: USA Today

Stacie Lautner said that she thought about the mom and dad on the other side. “I was angry for a long time, especially [at] Morgan’s parents, knowing that Morgan’s dad had schizophrenia… for a long time, I thought they were maybe just in denial and ignoring her symptoms. But I’m not angry anymore because I recognize that they’re going through their own hell.”

Charged and Sentenced to a Mental Institution

Both Morgan and Anissa were charged as adults with first-degree attempted intentional homicide. Anissa pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, and in 2017 a jury found her not guilty by mental disease or defect. As for Morgan, as part of her plea agreement, in 2018, she was convicted but found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Anissa Weier is sitting in court.
Source: Flickr

Both girls were sentenced to a mental health institution. Morgan got up to 40 years, and Anissa got up 25 years. Payton is aware of the public debate about whether or not they should have been tried as adults, but she herself doesn’t question if their cases should have been handled in juvenile court.

Attempted Murder Is an Adult Crime

“Adult crime in adult court,” Payton explained. “If they had stolen a candy bar, sure, that’s a child. But you tried to kill somebody. That’s an adult crime.” Payton never wants to see or speak to Morgan and Anissa ever again and said what Morgan did to her is “probably unforgivable.”

Anissa Weier’s mug shot / Morgan Geyser’s mug shot.
Source: Pinterest / Facebook

Payton knows that Morgan is eligible to petition the court for release from the mental institution but said she’s not worried about her eventual release: “If she ever tried to come by me, she would go right back where she was.”

Thank You for Trying to Kill Me

Stacie Leutner revealed her own reservations about Morgan’s potential release: “I don’t know that I’m comfortable with her being released right now. I know that their sentences were up to 25 and 40 years, and if that’s how long it takes, then that’s how long it takes.”

A photo of Payton posing in her backyard in a sundress.
Source: Facebook

When Payton was asked what she would like Morgan to know, she even surprised herself with the answer: “I would probably, initially thank her. I would say, ‘Just because of what she did, I have the life I have now. I really, really like it, and I have a plan. I didn’t have a plan when I was 12, and now I do because of everything I went through.”

Payton Is Doing Much Better

“I wouldn’t think that someone who went through what I did would ever say that,” Payton admitted. “But that’s truly how I feel. Without the whole situation, I wouldn’t be who I am.” To everyone who has been following her story, she is “very grateful for all the love and support.”

Payton Leutner is looking off into the distance triumphantly.
Source: Twitter

Payton wants everyone to know that she is doing well and has continued to heal. She hopes to move on and “put everything behind me and live my life normally.” A spokesperson for the family said they watched Payton go from a victim to a survivor. “Now she’s a young lady with a really bright future… [She has] great grades, great friends. She’s got so much to live for, and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of her life is.

Get Out While You Can

As for the fictional Slender Man, Payton says she has advice for moms and dads whose kids don’t understand the difference between what’s real and fake on the internet: “Parents need to talk to their kids directly saying, ‘This is not real. This is fake.’”

A little girl is holding the hand of the Slender Man in the woods.
Source: Pinterest

She also gave toxic friendship advice for kids, which she wished she knew as a 12-year-old: “Get out before something bad happens to you. Even if you’re guilted into it if you’ve been friends with them for years… if you feel something is bad, you need to get out while you still can.”