12-Year-Old Boy Burns Cross Into His Back (Graphic Image in Post)

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an unnamed boy participated in what is evidently a growing trend among young people called the “Salt and Ice Challenge.” It has apparently become so wide-spread that officials at a Philadelphia middle school sent out notices to parents warning them about the activity.

Here’s how it works: Participants wet their skin, cover it with table salt, and then press an ice pack over the salt to cause intense burning.  In this case, the boy’s twin brother did it to him for 20 minutes… this was the result (sorry!):

The thing is, I watched a few videos of people doing this challenge (time I will never ever get back) and everyone seemed to be doing smaller spots on their arms or just holding the ice in their hands — painful I’m sure, but nothing like this.  The day after this boy had this cross burned into his back, his mother took him to the hospital with second degree burns.

Because the boy’s identity is being withheld, I don’t know much about the boy’s religious background, but what do you think? Do we chalk this up to “boys will be boys” or is this a case of religion driving people to extremes?

(via The Good Atheist)

About Jessica Bluemke

Jessica Bluemke grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Ball State University in 2008 with a BA in Literature. She currently works as a writer and resides on the North side of Chicago.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

     Do we chalk this up to “boys will be boys” or is this a case of religion driving people to extremes?

    This is a huge case of religion driving people to extremes.

  • guest

    Wow, this is a thing? This was a popular thing among the girls at my school in my tiny town when I was around 11/12yo..so around 1990 or so.

  • Matt

    Um … where the hell are the parents?!

  • Edmond

    Looks like the Hyperion cruciform parasite.

  • Bradm

    “Do we chalk this up to “boys will be boys” or is this a case of religion driving people to extremes?”
    You don’t chalk it up to either because you don’t know one way or the other.  It’s pure speculation.

  • Matt B

    It seems like a new take on cutting. Teenagers have some odd fascination with putting themselves through pain. If this kid weren’t religious I bet he’d still have self mutilated in some other way.

  • http://northierthanthou.com/ northierthanthou

    It’s a damned shame. He’ll remember that error his whole life.

  • http://carpescriptura.wordpress.com/ MrPopularSentiment

    Parents – even very involved parents – can’t be around 24/7. And when we’re talking about teenagers, parents have to wean their kids off themselves. It’s not like a parent can constantly hover over their offspring, protecting them from every boo-boo or mistake, and then expect them to be competent adults at 18. 

    Kids do stupid stuff – kids of both genders. When I was 16-17, a couple girlfriends and I heated chains and then pressed them to ourselves. I have a very visible scar on my hand from that little episode of “experimentation.” It wasn’t a cross, but it might well have been. I was into that sort of crap at that age. It wasn’t about being religious, but rather the immature symbolism of it. So yeah, I wouldn’t read too much into this as religious expression. Rather, I’d say it’s just an expression of a teenager going through the normal (and stupid) teen phase of self-destruction. 

  • Margaret Y.

    It’s on his BACK. That means he had help with this!

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    how does someone do that to their back by themself?

  • Alexandra

    I think it’s a case of people are idiots.  Girls, boys, religious, not religious, people do stupid shit. 

  • Phil Bellerive

    A new version of self-flagellation. 

  • http://flyinthefingwine.blogspot.com Mara

    I think we can chalk it up to “kids that age will be kids that age.”  Seriously, we all did stupid crap like this when we were kids.  Art class fountain pen tattoos, and drinking mouthwash anyone?  Don’t forget snorting Tang, hyperventilating to pass each other out and lighting everything on fire.

  • Ian T

    30 years ago kids didn’t do this kind of crap. 

  • Anonymous

    How can we “chalk it up” to religion driving people to extremes or boys will be boys without the story of why he did it? That would answer that question, to which we could have an intelligent discussion. I don’t get why this is an article.

  • 0xabad1dea

    probably just another kid his own age

  • Aaron Harmon

     But Ian said that kids did not do this 30 years ago. 20 years, sure, but not 30.

  • rlrose328

    Wow… and I thought running away with a carnival at 18 years 1 day was wild.  Snorting Tang?  Really?!

  • http://carpescriptura.wordpress.com/ MrPopularSentiment

    Yes, they did. At best, you might say that they didn’t do this kind of crap 100 years ago, but that’s just because they were too busy working to help support their families.

  • http://carpescriptura.wordpress.com/ MrPopularSentiment

    Bullcrap. My dad, who was a kid 50-60 years ago, did all sorts of stupid self-harm crap (mostly involving old staples like drugs and alcohol). Self-destruction has been normal for teens for a very long time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    Chalk it up to religion? Yes and no.

    The kids I see (and I’m talking about a middle school, here, although it is an alternative school) with tattoos up and down their arms, on their hands, and on their necks, are also painfully and permanently marking themselves.  Some of them have crosses, but most have a wide variety–nicknames, parents’ names, flowers, and decorative flourishes.   It’s not all about religion.

    No, they don’t have second-degree chemical burns.  But otherwise, the urge to mark yourself and go through a rite of passage seems similar.  Adolescents want to test themselves, generally.

  • CoboWowbo

    ” In this case, the boy’s twin brother did it to him for 20 minutes… ”

    Both brothers weren’t smart…

  • CoboWowbo

    ” In this case, the boy’s twin brother did it to him for 20 minutes… “

  • Earl G.

    Wow, never done any of that.  I must have been a really boring kid.

  • http://flyinthefingwine.blogspot.com Mara

    Neither have I–but I knew plenty of kids who did.

  • Glasofruix

    Do i smell a future Darwin award recipient?

  • Grizzelda3

    I don’t know anyone who did anything like that? where did you grow up??

  • Grizzelda3

    I don’t know anyone who did anything like that? where did you grow up??

  • guest

    the burn is in the shape of a cross. obviously his religion had a lot to do with it.

  • Ken

    Dumb asses will be dumb asses.

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

    It seems other kids are doing it and this one just happened to burn a cross into his skin instead of something else.  It’s kids being stupid, not religious nuttery.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I have a scar on my hand that used to be a happy face in a box.  It’s over 25 years old by now, but you can still see the outline.  It had nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with depression.

    We don’t know all the motives here, but the religious symbol could be distantly secondary in my opinion.

  • Anon

     What?!  Where did you grow up?  What a fucking degenerate.

  • Alchemist

    Do we chalk this up to “boys will be boys” or is this a case of religion driving people to extremes?

    Yes and yes.

    Yes, kids do dumb shit ALL THE TIME. they’ll use ink and a needle to tat themselves, they’ll drink until they pass out, they’ll sniff petrol (gasoline) or glue. I never did those things myself, but some kids do.
    The only difference here is that this kid chose a blatantly religious symbol and decided that if he was going to bring the crazy he might as well bring it big time.

  • Alchemist

    Opps, not quite done (bloody phone).

    As to the question of religious motivation it seems obvious to me. I mean, what are the chances an atheist kid or Hindu kid would use a cross?

  • Jackie

    I read this story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the other day.  The kid, his brother and a friend did this in the middle of the night, during a sleep-over.  It was 3 AM and Mom was fast asleep.  So what if it’s a cross?  I think it was kids being stupid and had little to nothing to do with religion.  Mountain/molehill… 

    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/web-salt-and-ice-challenge-leaves-boy-12-with-cold-injury-642583/

  • Deven Kale

     Oh memories: Setting a local brush field on fire (luckily put out quickly… By my own father. EEK!); Blowing Tang or Pixie Stix all over the kitchen out of my nose, and then having a nose-bleed for half an hour. That stuff was painful. Good times, good times…

  • Jackie

    Another friend was involved, too.  It’s in the original Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story. 

  • Deven Kale

    The fact that this was done to him by his twin brother, combined with my own knowledge of how far sibling rivalry can go, makes me wonder if this was even the kids own choice in the first place. Sadly, it’s an unfalsifiable proposition, because the kid is 12 and at that age especially, they may not be willing to say somebody else forced them into it for fear of looking weak, or being a “rat” or “narc” or whatever they call it these days. All I can say is, I hope that this kid chose it himself, because otherwise he’s going to have some severe psychological trauma.

  • Rynomoore

    Do we know he did it because of religious conviction?

  • http://twitter.com/HumanistTweeter Humanist Tweeter

    “Do we chalk this up to “boys will be boys” or is this a case of religion driving people to extremes?”
    Neither, because there is insufficient evidence to support either hypothesis. If forced to comment, I’d say that it is a mixture of the two, but given the propensity of teenagers to do dumb shit, had they not been religious it would have been a different symbol. Hmm, saying that though, how do we know these aren’t atheist kids, and the brother was playing the ‘ultimate’ prank? 

    Never ceases to amaze me how readily people forget the dumb shit that they and their peers did when they were young. 

  • JohnnieCanuck

    If you don’t have memories of you and your peers doing dumb and dangerous stunts, just ask some of your co-workers for their stories. I was amazed when the subject came up at a coffee break.

    One guy tried melting aluminum in the basement fireplace using a vacuum cleaner’s exhaust while the parents were out… When they got home, the paint on the wall upstairs had turned brown and the dense smoke from it filled the top half of the room. How much longer this could have gone on until the flammable gases exploded was not determined. He survived this and his experiments with CO2 cartridge bombs to become an electrical engineer.

    He wasn’t the only one with stories, but I’d say his topped the others.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Cutting isn’t just some weird fascination with pain. Some self-injurers use it as a coping method. I speak from experience, though it’s not something I really like to discuss out in the open. 

  • Sindigo

    I remember doing all those except the tattoo, though friends did. I also set fire to the local brush field, arm wrestled with people holding open compasses in the “landing zones” and threw rubble at each other off a roof. I’m sure I could think of other things if I really tried.

  • Tom

    I’ve never considered “boys will be boys” to be an adequate excuse for anything.  And I’m male.  It is a valid explanation, but an explanation is not an excuse.

    Yes, people of this age do stupid, irresponsible, dangerous things. 
    It’s an unfortunate but apparently unavoidable part of the process of becoming a responsible adult
    who thinks their actions out properly.  I did clueless, moronic things
    for no good reason myself when I was younger that I’m now deeply ashamed
    of, the worst of which could have easily killed someone very dear to
    me.

    But “boys will be boys,” or “we all did it” is not an appropriate or sufficient response.  That it’s
    common for people of a certain age to do reckless, idiotic, nonsensical
    things, does not mean we should treat it as acceptable, or fail to
    condemn it.  Yes it happens, but we shouldn’t just say something so blasé and then do nothing else.

    I’m not saying this shouldn’t be forgiven.  What I am saying is that,
    whether or not this was religiously motivated, this kid also needs to
    learn that he’s been a fucking idiot, and that the responsible people
    around him consider him to have been a fucking idiot, even as they
    forgive him.

  • The Other Weirdo

     It’s true, I used to set stuff on fire all the time, but never out of malice. It was always an experiment of some sort for me. Once I accidentally set my hair on fire. But I have never purposely hurt myself. I always knew that it wasn’t acceptable behaviour. Not at school, not at home, not with friends.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jdhatred JD Stockman

    I want to say this is just kids being twits and a cross just popped up a “cool looking” or “at least useful”. I don’t think it is religious fervor so much as societal vision of what is acceptable. I do tattoos and one thing that sometimes comes up is “well this might piss off my parents and they cut me off” which will lead them to want either something to their parents or to god so it would possibly sway them from feeling upset. But I digress. It could very well be some fanaticism. Without knowing directly from them, it is speculation either way. This aside, it is certainly obvious signs of brainwashing. Crosses are hardly rebellious. 

  • Tom

    Damn, I assumed too many things about the story and strayed a little too close to possible victim blaming there, given that other people were apparently involved – the actual burned kid could be just a victim here.  More details needed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=645690699 Rachel Holierhoek

    Snorting tang?  Heck, they were snorting smarties (aka Rockets in other parts of the world) in my town and anything else they could crush.  I tended to avoid the stupid shit that might cause permanent harm.  Like the scars this child is going to have.  

    This is self-injury and is a mental health concern.  I hope he gets the help he needs.  

  • http://twitter.com/LegendaryAsshol Balzan Cauckinand

    I think the boys brother forced it upon him. Nobody will deliberately let themselves burn for 20+ minutes. There’s something wrong with that brother.


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