The Slender Man meme reminds me of a story my great-grandmother (who we used to call tiny grandma, since she was Yoda-ish) used to tell about a monster named Long Jack. I know Slender Man was started on Something Awful, but certain images and aspects remind me of that old ghost story.
I should caution that I didn't actually hear the story first-hand. When I was little, we lived for a while at my grandmother's house while my parents were sorting out a divorce. My great-grandmother lived down the road. The power would reliably go out during big winter storms in those days, and tiny grandma would come over and we'd sit in the fire and wait it out.
The old folks would tell stories and read books. I was only four or five, so tiny grandma would only tell the story of Long Jack after I fell asleep. My older brother and cousins would tell it to me later.
Now, tiny grandma and the rest of us live in the Pacific Northwest, way out in the boonies. She herself was an infant when her parents brought her out west. They were homesteaders.
There's an old dageurrotype of her as a child, standing with the rest of her class in front of a one-room log schoolhouse. There are huge, old growth trees behind her and lots of dark shadows. It's still very gloomy in the winter months in the PNW, even though the trees are much thinner these days.
Long Jack, whatever he is now, was originally a person. I don't know his real name. In that time in history, families lived by themselves in the woods, miles away from each other. However, there were a lot of people coming and going (other homesteaders, people looking for logging jobs, prospectors on the way to a gold rush, etc.).
There weren't hotels except in the bigger cities, either. When you slept, it was either in your own camp or some courteous homesteader would give you a place to sleep. Maybe violent crime wasn't an issue back then, or maybe people were more naive, but the guy who would become Long Jack was a murderer.
There had been a great string of murders in the region; whole families were slaughtered. Sometimes Native Americans would be blamed, as there were still some isolated Indian wars going on, but it didn't really look like that. It looked like people were inviting someone in and he ended up murdering them in their sleep.
Obviously, detective work wasn't big back then. In any case, sometimes it would be weeks or months before they discovered the bodies. The killer would be long gone by then.
I don't know if this one guy, Long Jack or whatever his name was, killed all of them. He did kill at least one family, though, and was caught (literally) red handed near the town of Bellingham, where my family is from.
They used to lynch people in those days. Usually it was black people. In the PNW, where there weren't a lot of black people, it was more often Chinese or East Indian men. Occasionally they lynched white men, even though they had a proper court system at the time.
It was risky to do and the vigilatntes did risk some blowback, especially for lynching white men. The local sheriff, John Larrabee, led the murderer out of his cell at night and took him out of town with a posse to some cliffs a couple miles outside the south side of town. They built a primitive gallows with an extra long rope, with the intent to hang him off the cliff extra high.
The hangman that day was a local eccentric by the name of Dan Harris. They picked him because he was a retiard sailor and knew everything there was to know about ropes and knots. He volunteered for the job, too. As a sailor, he had specifally been a whaler and had a morbid fascination with flesh and how to disassemble and render it.
If the posse had known that, they probably wouldn't have taken him on for the job. Dan Harris didn't just put a noose around the condemned man's neck. He put small nooses made of cord around each of his fingers and at the end of each cord was a heavy lead weight.,/p>
Around each wrist was a length of rope with a heavy stone. At each ankle was a rope attached to even heavier shoes. The posse watched Harris do all this, but they did not know what he was doing. Even Larrabee didn't have the forethought to object.
It came time to hang the man and somebody in the posse finally pushed. The man fell quickly to his doom. The posse expected to hear the sharp crack of a breaking neck, but all they heard was the sound of counting, in Harris' low voice. He had tied the noose to strange, not break. 1...2...3...4...
They heard a loud crack, almost like a shot. 7...8...9...10... Then they heard another. It wasn't the man's neck, but his legs dislocating from his hip. 14...15...16... They heard more pops and cracks. His shoulders dislocating, then his elbows followed by his ankles.
21...22...23... Then his fingers dislocated at each knuckle, sounding a bit like popcorn. Choking grunts could still be heard coming from the man; he was still alive and conscious throughout this. 36...37...38... Harris' voice became louder as his audience became more enraptured in the spectacle.
When he came to 43, there was the loudest crack of all. The makeshift gibbet broke and the murderer, all the weights, and rope went tumbling down the cliff face. His neck and limbs twisted and flailed into impossible angles. In the darkness, they could barely make out his corpse at the bottom. It was a horrific sight.
His limbs had all been stretched to awful, fantastical lengths, all intertwined with the ropes and each other. It was too dark to retrieve the body and, by the next day, animals had gotten to it and carried it away.
This is where my great-grandmother comes in. They used to tell her the ghost of Long Jack haunted those woods, abducting defenseless people if they so much as set foot there. They said that he would count as he stalked up behind you.
1...2...3...4... She heard him once, as she walked the long distance home from school one fall afternoon. 14...15...16... According to the story, you couldn't look back or he'd get you. You had to run as fast as you could, and ran she did.
21...22...23... The counting continued. It was like he was whispering, but it was still getting louder and it seemed he was right behind her. 27...28... She could hear his footfalls; his pace was much longer than her's - longer than any adult's.
She could tell from the rhythm that his legs were impossibly long. His arms and legs must be bending in some unnatural motion. She got to the door of their cabin...37...38...and slammed the door shut. Silence. She knew that if Long Jack had gotten to 43, she would have died.
There were other kids that got lost in those woods those days and they were never found. None of the adults ever mentioned Long Jack, but she had her thoughts to herself.
So that's the story of Long Jack, as my great-grandmother told it...or at least as my brother and cousins re-told it. I don't believe in ghosts myself, but I always liked the story. I haven't found any mention of such a murderer in the local archives but, then again, I wouldn't really expect to. Some of the other historic names, though, do check out...