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Slenderman is the first full and authoritative account of the attempted murder of a twelve-year-old girl, Payton “Bella” Leutner, by two of her classmates, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on May 31, 2014. It also explores the subsequent trials and incarceration of the two girls, who were prosecuted as adults despite their young age, and the mental health aspects of the case, as one of the girls was later diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia.
The victim, Payton Leutner, gave her first public interview to ABC News in 2019 and the New York Times wrote about the release of Anissa Weier in September 2021: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/11/us/slender-man-anissa-weier-release.html. Much of the detail in Slenderman is new and explored in-depth for the first time, drawn from interviews with the figures in the book as well as court testimony, police records, and countless other sources.
Kathleen Hale first wrote on this story in 2018 for Hazlitt and spent time researching and reporting the case in Waukesha; she grew up 30 minutes away from the city. She has spoken directly to many of the major players in the story, their families, and those who knew them.
Combining rigorous investigation with a frightening and heartbreaking depiction of the misunderstandings of these girls, Slenderman explores many substantial themes, including the conformity of the Midwest, the trials of adolescence, the dangers of a lack of mental healthcare, the power of online memes, and the injustices of the U.S. judicial system, especially the way that minors can be tried as adults for certain crimes in certain states.
Slenderman will appeal to listeners of true crime podcasts like Serial and S-Town as well as to readers of full-length narratives, particularly ones where the crimes being investigated overlap with mental health issues, such as I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker, and The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg. We will approach some of these writers and others for pre-publication endorsements.