University of Wisconsin Press colophon



University of Wisconsin Madison crest that links to main university site

Association of University Presses member logo that links to main AUPresses site



Catalog Archive / Spring 2023

Digital Legend and Belief
The Slender Man, Folklore, and the Media

“A seminal work of digital scholarship that offers original insight, fantastic fieldwork, and meticulous explanation of a complex and challenging subject; written clearly, engagingly, and with authority.”
—Elizabeth Tucker, Binghamton University

What happens when legends go online?

The internet brings new urgency to the study of folklore. The digital networks we use every day amplify the capacity of legends to spread swiftly, define threats, and inform action. Using the case of a particularly popular digital bogeyman known as the Slender Man, Andrew Peck brings the study of legends into the twenty-first century. Peck explains not only how legends circulate in the digital swirl of the internet but also how the internet affects how legends seep into our offline lives and into the mass media we consume. What happens, he asks, when legends go online? How does the internet enable the creation of new legends? How do these ideas go viral? How do tradition and technology interact to construct collaborative beliefs?

Peck argues that the story of the Slender Man is really a story about the changing nature of belief in the age of the internet. Widely adopted digital technologies, from smartphones to social media, offer vast potential for extending traditional and expressive social behaviors in new ways. As such, understanding the online landscape of contemporary folklore is crucial for grasping the formation and circulation of belief in the digital age. Ultimately, Peck argues that advancing our comprehension of legends online can help us better understand how similar belief genres—like fake news, conspiracy theories, hoaxes, rumors, meme culture, and anti-expert movements—are enabled by digital media.


Author. Photo credit, Name. Andrew Peck, an assistant professor of strategic communication at Miami University, is the coeditor of Folklore and Social Media. He has published many articles and chapters on the folkloric figure known as the Slender Man, digital legends, internet memes, and fake news.




“Peck’s analysis of the Slender Man legend stalks the sinister figure through all his manifestations, from playful creation to a motive for murder. Digital Legend and Belief demonstrates that folklore is a vital force in virtual culture, and it is a revolutionary model for future discussions of internet-mediated traditions.”
—Bill Ellis, Penn State University



Download Cover: color | b/w

Download Author Photo: color | b/w

Request Review Copy

Request Exam Copy


Table of Contents


List of Illustrations
Introduction: Folklore for the Digital Age
1 Creation
2 Circulation
3 Commercialization
4 Ostension
5 Sensation
Conclusion: Lessons from the Slender Man


Of Related Interest


The Last Laugh
Folk Humor, Celebrity Culture, and Mass-Mediated Disasters in the Digital Age
Trevor J. Blank

The Paradox of Authenticity: cover depicting three people in traditional slovakian dress sitting on a staircase, the title text floating above the railing.

The Paradox of Authenticity
Folklore Performance in Post-Communist Slovakia
Joseph Grim Feinberg

Book Title

Larger images

July 2023
266 pp. 6 x 9
6 b/w illus.

Book icon
Cloth $79.95 S
ISBN 9780299343408
Shopping cart ADD TO CART
Review Cart