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"The Slender Man has always been there. Always. He didn't appear in the woods. The woods grew around him."
1987: A kidnapped child says he was rescued from his kidnapper by a glowing man in an impeccable black suit.
1997: A barn burns to the ground, and the firefighters on the scene see a tall, suited man lurking off in the forest.
2007: Two escaped felons turn themselves in, terrified by "that guy in the woods".
US Marshal Lucas Davenport knows all three cases well, because he was involved in each one. A small patch of woods north of the Twin Cities has long had a reputation as being haunted, even back to the 1800s. Stories talk of a tall man, well dressed, with indistinct features. Some say he's an angel, or a devil. But nobody in the area doubts he's waiting and watching.
But now three young girls have been kidnapped, in a strange replay of the kidnapping from thirty years before. Time is running out for them, and all Lucas knows is that the bail-jumper he's chasing is probably the one responsible. But the path he's following is leading him back to an all-too-familiar patch of woods.
Worse, he's been teamed up with a pair of bumbling FBI agents. One is skeptical that there's anything out there. The other is downright insane, more interested in the thing in the woods than the criminal case. Lucas is going to have the limits of his ability and his patience tested if he hopes to bring the missing girls home alive.
And the whole time, he can't help but feel that someone's watching him, judging him, waiting...
April 1, 2017
Explaining the Joke Ruins the Joke
by Roswell Camp
Way way back in the 90s, I made an X-Files fake cover for April Fools' Day. It was, I guess, the very first April Fools cover, but it got no traction and no notice. I got a few emails about it , and a few laughs were exchanged, but that's it. I don't even know what the synopsis was anymore. A Mayan temple under Minneapolis? Something like that? It was ridiculous, whatever it was .
So now that the April Fools' Day covers are a thing , it was just a matter of time before I come up with an X-Files one. I had no ideas, and at some point I thought slenderman and BAM that was it. "Slender Prey" had to be a thing. It practically writes itself .
Now, a lot of Sandford readers probably don't know who or what Slenderman is. Long story short: it was a deliberate attempt by an online forum to build a creepy urban legend . It took on a life of its own these things tend to do that  and became truly wonderful. And horrible. A good mix for the internet.
If you really want to know more about Slenderman, just... go to Google and look it up. There's lots to look up. Not all of it is pleasant. In fact, very little is. So... yeah, you've been warned.
Anyway, Slenderman fits perfectly into a Minnesota North Woods environment. It also fits perfectly into the X-Files look-and-feel, for those episodes in the early seasons. It would have been an awesome thing. And yes, I've got an entire plot in my head for the story, and I know who (or what) Slenderman is in this context, anyway and I'm not telling .
1. I still remember one particular email to this day . One reader saw it on her very first visit to the website. They assumed that the entire website was a joke site that the author's son had put up as an insult, and so she fired off a quick email to say how disrespectful it was and how awful a person I was for making fun of my dad like this. I responded with, "Look, okay, it's April Fools' Day, and this is literally up for one day, and the author's okay with it." I never heard back. Whatever.
2. While the tone and feel of the X-Files was deadly serious most of the time, so so many of the plots were pants-on-head bonkers. Finding a secret Mayan temple under Minneapolis would have been a completely normal non-mythos episode. First or second season, I can totally see it.
3. I think it became official when someone from Putnam wrote in to ask what I was planning for April Fools', because the entire marketing department was looking forward to it. Or something like that.
4. Click here to be redirected to a relevant comment on a completely different page, causing you to lose your place.
5. Some people might be annoyed by that description, as it's so abridged that it's inaccurate. Still, it's mostly true: some people decided to make an urban legend, and they sort of succeeded.
6. A similar thing is Zalgo, and it's even got a similar origin someone deliberately coming up with something creepy. But in the case of Zalgo, there was one person who started it as a one-off joke, and then it spread out of control. Again, research it at your own risk.
7. Yeah, it's Mulder. That's the big twist. Surprise.
8. A quick note to people who write in to criticize things. If you're mean whether deliberately or just because you're an asshole all the time those letters get remembered forever, even if they're wildly inaccurate. Someone wrote in asking why the author abandoned Milo and the koi. I wrote back saying that they were thinking of Johnathan Kellerman instead and not John Sandford. I got a response saying that I was a worthless idiot . I still remember that.
9. Well, except they didn't say it quite so politely as that. Seriously, someone wrote in specifically to insult me, and they do so from a position of being so utterly and completely wrong that there was no reason for me to take it seriously. And yet, it's still that kind of message that sticks with me years later.
The X Files is a registered trademark of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (now 21st Century Fox). The use of logo at the top of the cover (and the nature of this work as parody that's generating no money whatsoever) falls under both fair use and protected speech. Slenderman is technically copyrighted but the origin of Slenderman on a public forum, mixed with the fact that many people contributed to said creation, means that "it's complicated" is a huge understatement.
5 April 2018
The Prey series, the Virgil Flowers series, the Kidd series, The Singular Menace, The Night Crew, Dead Watch, The Eye and the Heart: The Watercolors of John Stuart Ingle, and Plastic Surgery: The Kindest Cut are copyrighted by John Sandford. All excerpts are used with permission.
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