Teens made headlines last week for taking part in the “Charlie Challenge,” a challenge where they were supposedly summoning a Mexican spirit, much like a Ouija board game, according to the International Journal Review.
But it seems the challenge was a viral marketing campaign created for “The Gallows” — a horror movie that’s due out later this year, World Religion News reported.
“This Charlie Challenge thing comes from a scene in ‘The Gallows,' a horror movie I will say no more about, other than it (was) filmed before this challenge started, they’re obviously behind the social media trend, and we still aren’t going to look up when this movie is in theaters or what it’s about,” Uproxx reported.
For the challenge, teens put two pencils on top of each other to create four boxes, where the words “yes” and “no” were laid out. Teens were told they could then call on a demonic spirit named Charlie to answer their questions. The challenge is very much like other haunted dares, like the Ouija board game, “Blood Mary” and “Candyman.”
The challenge caused worry among parents and religious groups alike. One Catholic priest warned teens not to participate in the game, since it encourages and promotes “demonic activity,” The Independent reported. Even a Vatican-approved exorcist warned teens against playing the game, according to World Religion News.
But, as World Religion News reported, the challenge isn’t real, and it’s just a way for “The Gallows” to gain attention ahead of its release. This is similar to a marketing campaign that happened in 1999 for the horror film “Blair Witch Project,” which created fake websites to make it appear like the events of the film were real.
The “Charlie Challenge” is similar to other recent social media challenges that have concerned parents rather than a real trend. As I wrote about in April, parents were concerned over their teens playing the “Game of 72” — a Facebook-based game that challenged teens to disappear from their families for three days without contact.
The “Game of 72” proved to be the result of Internet hysteria from parents, I wrote. Authorities across the United States and Canada warned parents that few teens tried the “Game of 72” and that there wasn’t much to worry about.
Both the "Game of 72" and the "Charlie Challenge" are like other viral social media-driven challenges that gained big followings in recent years. The “To the water or a restaurant” challenge from France last year asked social media users to either pay for a meal or throw themselves into a river, The Local reported. One teen drowned after he jumped into the water, according to The Local.
And the cinnamon challenge featured youngsters swallowing full scoops of cinnamon. Some teens were poisoned or sickened from the challenge, according to The New York Times.
All of these challenges have made parents worry about their kids' online social media habits. But experts agree that parents can keep their children away from these challenges by being more familiar with social media and how it works.
Parenting blogger Kay Wyma, who spoke to our own Chandra Johnson about parenting and social media, said parents who are more familiar with social media can have constant conversations with their children about online behaviors and teach them about troubles that may come their way.
"You have to walk the road with them. It’s like putting the oxygen mask on yourself first,” Wyma told the National. "If they’re telling me about their day, I’ll ask them how something made them feel. And if they’re holding their phone I’ll say, 'How does that make you feel?'"
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.