Twelve-year-old Payton Leutner thought her two friends were acting strangely the night of a sleepover in 2014. She never could have guessed, however, that she was about to be the victim of a meme-inspired attack. Years later, Morgan Geyser, one of the girls who carried out the infamous Wisconsin “Slender Man” stabbing, has lost an appeal to be tried as a child for the crime.
The Slender Man Stabbing
The bizarre incident happened in May of 2014, when Leutner was having a sleepover with 12-year-olds Geyser and Anissa Weier. While Leutner and Geyser had been best friends for years, Weier had only recently befriended Geyser — and didn’t get along with Leutner.
“I didn’t like [Weier] at all,” Leutner said in an interview with ABC News. “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.”
It was also around the time of Weier’s arrival that Geyser became obsessed with the “Slender Man” meme, according to Leutner. A fictional character created on the Something Awful web forums, Slender Man is a rail-thin, faceless man who wears a suit and stalks children.
At first Leutner indulged Geyser’s fixation. However, as her friend talked more about it, Leutner started to become uncomfortable.
“I told [Geyser] that it scared me and that I didn’t like it,” Leutner said. “But she really liked it and thought it was real.”
A Fateful Birthday Party
Tensions came to a head at a slumber party for Geyser’s 12th birthday.
“Something was strange because at all of our past sleepovers, [Geyser] always wanted to stay up all night because she never could at home,” Leutner recalled. “But on [the night of] the birthday party, she wanted to go to bed.”
Leutner was unaware that Geyser and Weier had been plotting to kill her for months at that point. According to a criminal complaint, the girls wanted to become “proxies” of Slender Man in order to prove his existence. In their minds, killing someone was the only way to achieve this.
The two originally intended to stab Leutner to death in the night, but Geyser later told police she “wanted to give [Leutner] one more day.” Instead, the two girls took Leutner to some nearby woods the next day. Pretending to play “hide and seek,” they had her lay on the ground and cover herself with leaves and twigs. They then stabbed Leutner 19 times before leaving her for dead.
Remarkably, Leutner survived, crawling out of the woods to a nearby sidewalk where a bicyclist discovered her and called for help. Meanwhile, police picked up Geyser and Weier hours later, still in possession of the knife.
A Tenuous Grasp On Reality
Interviews to determine if Geyser was fit to stand trial revealed a litany of delusional beliefs. In addition to her devotion to Slender Man, Geyser claimed that she could communicate with Voldemort and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She also professed to have Vulcan mind control powers and “once regressed into ramblings about a student in her class being a Pegasus,” according to a court-appointed doctor.
Throughout court proceedings, Geyser’s attorney lobbied for her to be charged with attempted second-degree intentional homicide, moving her case to juvenile court.
However, both girls were ultimately charged as adults with attempted first-degree intentional homicide. On August 12, 2020, Wisconsin’s 2nd District Court of Appeals affirmed Geyser’s charge, saying there was sufficient probably cause that she committed the first-degree offense.
Both girls now face lengthy commitments to state mental care facilities. Weier was sentenced to 25 years in state mental care, with a minimum three years in a facility before she can apply for outpatient care. Meanwhile, Geyser has been sentenced to 40 years in a facility, with the possibility of release if her condition improves.
Leutner has since made a full recovery and moved on with her life. Speaking to ABC News, she said if she were to speak to Geyser, “I would probably, initially thank her.”
“I would say, just because of what she did, I have the life I have now,” Leutner said. “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.”
Slender Man Stabbing Appeal — Sources
ABC News – “1 of 2 girls convicted in Slender Man stabbing loses appeal”
ABC News – “‘Slender Man’ stabbing victim speaks publicly for first time: ‘Without the whole situation, I wouldn’t be who I am'”