Most people think of folklore as something old – old stories, old superstitions. But folklore is an ongoing, ever-changing part of human society, we’re constantly adapting and creating it. Urban legends, internet stories, tales that grow bigger and scarier the more they’re told. Kind of like this one.
The nascent legend of the Smiling Man started off as a true story. This guy was walking home one night, he sees a man dancing up the sidewalk who happens to be smiling in a really weird way. He crosses the street. The Smiling Man does the same. And then just when he thinks whoever this crazy person is has decided to leave him alone, the Smiling Man makes a mad dash up the sidewalk toward him. He runs like his life depends on it, loses his pursuer, and goes home. But when he reports the incident on social media later, it isn’t long before someone posts a response – an apology from the smiling, dancing man himself. He was drunk, saw the other guy walking alone in the dark, and decided to have some fun. He’d never meant the man he was having this fun at the expense of any harm. Still, though, the story started being passed around, and so the Smiling Man – like Slender Man and others before him – ended up morphing from a drunken prankster into a fearful supernatural creature.