Sitting in the Junior High school cafeteria the other day, I was bemused by the the following special announcement.
"Attention students. Some of you have been engaging in the game called Charlie Charlie Are You There. Let me remind you that this is not an acceptable or appropriate activity during your lunch break, or during school hours for that matter..."
I try to stay on top of new fads, but this one was unfamiliar to me. So I asked another instructor about it.
"It's some sort of game played with a paper grid and pencils. I think they ask questions about the future."
"No, they're trying to make contact with the dead," someone chimed in. "And then the pencil moves and some of these kids get scared."
The teacher across from me nodded. "We now have students crying, who are afraid to be in the hallway or go to the bathroom by themselves."
Since no one seemed to really know the details, I did a little digging when I got home from work that day. Multiple sources state that it's been around for at least 6 or 7 years, but really took off via social media as participants filmed themselves and posted it using the tag #CharlieCharlieChallenge. A grid is drawn with yes, no, yes, and no in four corners. Two pencils or pens are laid in the shape of a cross on the grid. Then a participant says either "Charlie, Charlie, are you there?" or "Charlie, Charlie, can you play?" and waits for the pen/pencil to move. Just about all sources say that the game is calling upon a "Mexican demon" named Charlie and similar games played with pencil and paper. (Isn't it strange how dozens of entities quote the same information, but can't point to a single definitive source?)
I did, however, finally track down a notation on Wikipedia stating that the game was engineered to promote an upcoming movie called The Gallows. (I have no idea if it's true or not.)
At any rate, the "game" has caused consternation among schools, some parents, and even the Vatican.
"The problem with opening yourself up to demonic activity is that it opens a window of possibilities which is not easily closed." - Father Stephen McCarthy of Saints John Neumann and Mario Goretti Catholic High School in Philadelphia was quoted as saying by The Independent.
I have no intention of weighing in on the existence of spirits, demons, communication with the dead, or any sort of religious beliefs. I agree that schools should squelch this sort of activity during school hours; good luck with that, however, as strictures against giving wedgies, texting during class and farting games seem to be relatively difficult to enforce. Besides, making it "forbidden" will just add to the air of fear and suspense that already surrounds it for some kids.
There's nothing new about children scaring each other or themselves, and dabbling in magic, superstition and the occult. Remember Huck and Tom with the dead cat in the graveyard? And the Ouija board has been around since 1890 (although it began life as an adult parlor game). I don't know about boys, but girls have dozens of ways to predict who their future husbands will be. We used to say the alphabet while twisting an apple stem; whatever letter was said when the stem snapped was the first letter of your future husband's last name. When I was in Girl Scouts, we would sit in a circle at night and try to "levitate" someone. Then there were the hundreds of scary stories, urban legends, and half-baked theories about missing persons or abandoned properties that we would recite and embellish until someone would scream and the Scout leaders would shut us down for the night.
Charlie Charlie has spread further and faster due to the "viral" nature of the internet, but rest assured that one day it will fade...to be replaced by some other method for kids to scare themselves silly. It seems to be human nature.
What about you? Have you heard of this game? Any memories of doing spooky stuff as a kid?
*Just as an aside, after writing the first paragraph of this post my computer inexplicably crashed. Charlie, Charlie, are you...