Charlie Charlie Challenge – Charlie Charlie are you there? Hype and Pavlov-reactionsPOSTED: 06/1/15 11:03 PM
St. Maarten – Churches, government and schools are in uproar about the latest internet hype: the Charlie Charlie Challenge. Described as a ‘demonic game’ by some and ‘pretty lame and boring’ by others it has nevertheless inspired churches to warn against the game while governments and schools have banned it, as if a trick with two pencils could cause irreparable damages. An overview of what is really going on.
Caitlin Dewey, who writes about internet culture for the Washington Post dissected the urban myth that popped up around the Charlie Charlie Challenge already a week ago. Dewey notes that the game is “an urban legend of sudden and inexplicable popularity” that surged to the top of global social media charts the weekend before last. She drily notes that the game has been around for “much of eternity” in the Spanish language. In other words: nothing new, but in the meantime the Charlie Charlie Challenge has been tweeted more than 1.6 million times – and probably much more by the time the ink on this page is dry.
The game itself is baffling in its simplicity. Draw an X on a piece of paper and label two of the quadrants with ‘yes’ and the other quadrants with ‘no’ – as shown in the illustration with this article. Then place two overlapping pencils on each axis of the grid and cross them in the middle. Then you say, Charlie Charlie are you there? Followed by a question like, (according to Dewey), “is one of my friends going to die soon?” or (according to us) ‘is the Gumbs Cabinet ever going to appoint the two missing ministers?’ Anything goes and it is not hard to think of some unprintable questions too. Then, the top pencil is supposed to start turning and end up pointing either to a yes or a no field on the paper.
Dewey notes that Charlie Charlie has a long history as a schoolyard game in the Spanish-speaking world. Kids have played this game in Spain for generations, she wrote. So why is it suddenly a problem now?
Dewey wrote that “the latest bubble seems to have begun in late April in the Dominican province of Hato Mayor when a local TV news station broadcast a very alarmist (and unintentionally funny) report about the “Satanic game” overtaking local schools.”
From there social media users in the Dominican Republic began tweeting, Instagramming and Vining about the game and by the middle of last month, Charlie Charlie was trending on Dominican Twitter. When a 17-year-old girl in Georgia Instragrammed her game and attached the #CharlieCharlieChallenge hashtag to it, all hell broke loose: it resulted in more than 1.6 million tweets – and counting.
Dewey notes with the right level or irony that those who don’t have Vine (or Instagram for that matter) are too old for Charlie Charlie.
The author notes that the origin of the Charlie character is unclear. In the Spanish speaking world he is either a child who omitted suicide, the victim of a fatal car accident or a pagan Mexican deity who now convenes with the Christian devil. According to Maria Elena Navez of BBC Mundo there is no such character as a demon called Charlie in Mexico.
Dewey concludes that Charlie Charlie is “yet another example of the power of the teenage Internet. Write off their little games as silly, sure – but we never trended ‘Bloody Mary’ or Ouija board.”
Stephany Tihanyi, a gifted painter who lives in Grand Case, made short shrift of the Charlie Charlie hype with a post on Facebook. “Demonic teen game taking over SXM teens? Since most teens are too stupid or – for a better word – too young, immature an inexperienced for critical thinking, let me help you out. It’s a game developed by teenagers and advocated by the makers of the Vine smart phone app. It’s pretty lame and boring as games go. It’s not even imaginative, it is not associated with any urban legend; it was made up as a part of a marketing campaign.”
Tihanyi notes “that Freddy Kruger is not coming out of the clothes closet to get you. Children really need to go outside and play, collect stamps, look at nature or something. Really!”
The painter remembers that back in the day “people believed bull like music was taken over by demons that left you cool evil messages when you played a song backwards. We had homemade Ouija boards that were much scarier. We also scared ourselves with games like, don’t step on the cracks in the pavement or else something bad is gonna happen, but we were not trending then. Oh, and by the way kids, you have to use #H2 pencils, it doesn’t work unless you use #H2 pencils, lol.”
In the meantime, the Sint Maarten United Ministerial Foundation (SMUMF) and the Federation of Churches of French Saint Martin (FEDOC) take a less aloof approach towards the Charlie Charlie Challenge.
Pastor Wycliffe Smith sent out a press release on behalf of the two organizations that begins with the all-telling line: “The latest craze on social media is a game that encourages young people to contact a demon spirit by the name of Charlie.”
“Some schools have reported about children who have been haunted by fear and have not been able to sleep after playing the game,” the press release states.
The two church-organizations discussed the Charlie-issue during their monthly prayer breakfast. In the press release, they issue “a strong warning to parents and teachers about the dangers of this demonic game. Once children open the door to the occult there is no telling what can happen.”
The press release contains some examples of what apparently did happen: children were afraid to go to sleep, they displayed disruptive behavior, heard voices, saw objects moving and heard “sinister laughing.” In Antigua, the release claims, “children even fainted and started having seizures. Some children even attempted to jump out of the school bus.”
The churches “strongly encourage parents to instruct their children not to play the game” and say that teachers should discuss the game with their students “and warn them about the dangers of dabbling in the occult.”
There is also an advice: “If parents, teachers or community leaders notice any paranormal behavior in a child, they should pray with that child and plead the blood of Jesus Christ over his or her life. In the gospels of Mark 16:17 and Luke 10:19 Jesus gave us authority of demons and therefore you are able to break that satanic influence in the life of your child or student.”
Pastors of both organizations are willing to go to schools or homes to pray with children and counsel parents, teachers or community leaders. (For information call 580 94 74 or 590 590 87 52 20).
According to a second press release from the church-organizations, the governments of St. Lucia and Antigua and Barbuda “have joined others within the region to ban the game in school.” On Friday, the Seventh Day Adventist Primary School in Cole Bay and St. Dominic High both banned playing the game.
The Seventh Day Adventist School even warned parents in a letter “that the game is evil and can result in the student’s behavior being negatively affected with fear or aggression.” The school will call parents whose children persist in playing the game at school and ask them to pick up their child.
In Antigua, students caught playing the game face expulsion. Warnings have also been issued in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. The Government of St. Maarten has not issued a public statement about Charlie Charlie yet.