On 29 July 2011, a YouTube channel named “Tulpa Effect” uploaded a vlog where a woman named Marissa explained that her boyfriend, Roger, had acquired a new obsession: Slender Man.
“He reads these forums, and he looks online, at the YouTube videos… and originally, he was talking about wanting to make a Slender Man video,” Marissa said. Roger fixated on Slender Man so much, he decided to try recording fake footage for a video. Naturally, he tried roping his girlfriend in on it, so Marissa got a camera for Roger. That’s when suddenly, Roger claimed that he no longer had any interest in Slender Man any more. Actually, from that moment onward, Roger seemed to change somehow:
According to Marissa, Roger’s change of heart had to do with him learning about the “Tulpa Effect”, which is a common theory on how Slender Man came to exist. As we all know, Slender Man isn’t actually real… but, his myth postulates that people can make him real if they’re not careful. Here’s the Slender Man Wiki:
A Tulpa is a thoughtform, or being created from the collective thoughts of separate individuals. The concept of Tulpas is theoretical in nature and originates from Tibetan mythology, where Tulpas are described as extra bodies that were created from one person’s mind in order to travel to spiritual realms. The Tulpa Effect is the name given to the unintentional creation of a Tulpa based on collective belief of a being with similar traits.
The thing is, even though her boyfriend says he’s done with Slender Man at that point, she can still see him reading about Slender Man all the time thanks to his web history. So, in an effort to understand what the hell was going on with him, she started recording herself talking it out on YouTube, as well as recording Roger in secret. She starts learning how to use a camera and edit video just to talk to other people about the weird things she’s started to experience since she and her boyfriend took an interest in Slender Man, and the entire thing is a ride:
The original video is somewhat meandering, with Marissa getting distracted by her friends as well as sudden trains of thoughts. Tulpa Effect doesn’t really pick up until about the third video, when odd things start happening on-camera. For some, this will be a turn-off, but I found that the slow burn added an air of authenticity to the whole thing: Rationally, I know everything in the video series is bullshit. But it’s recorded in this effortless, unintentional way — it’s like a cross between The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield.
Nothing feels like a performance in Tulpa Effect, and the ample downtime where the videos explore Marissa and Roger’s relationship just work somehow. You become invested in the two. Can they survive as a couple when clearly something is haunting them? What exactly is happening to them, anyway? Is the implication that Roger is making Slender Man real, or that Roger is partially becoming Slenderman himself?
Slender Man doesn’t even appear until like a dozen videos in. Tulpa Effect keeps viewers hooked through more subtle means, like sudden video and audio glitches, unsettling scenery and the realisation that Marissa may not be as reliable of a narrator as she claims to be. Midway through the series, Marissa namedrops Roger’s own YouTube channel, arkhamsdoorstep, where apparently he’s been recording footage of his own throughout the entire ordeal.
Roger’s clips are shorter than Marissa’s, more Vine-like in their brevity, but they’re also way creepier. Roger keeps seeing things in the dark, teleporting to places he’s never been to before. Worse, he starts to notice Marissa is starting to lose it too.
The updates became less frequent as they go on, and the Tulpa channel was completely silent for two years. Earlier in 2016, however, it sprang back to life with new updates. I binged it all in one evening, and it’s one of the best horror things I’ve seen all year. I feel terrified even now, as I type this, despite knowing none of it is real. Part of it is the narrative set-up: The YouTube delivery makes it all seem genuine. Part of it is just the idea of the Tulpa Effect on its own, which, while not new, is still very effective. What happens when you try not to think about something? You just think about it more, of course. Slender Man becomes a thought virus here, which is real enough for the purposes of horror.
You can check out Tulpa Effect here. It works best if you start at the beginning and go in chronological order. Good luck!