My New Favorite Demon: The Charlie Challenge

My New Favorite Demon: The Charlie Challenge May 27, 2015

“I hate the Bell Witch! I hate the Bell Witch! I hate the Bell Witch!”

According to many at my junior-high-school saying “I hate the Bell Witch” three times while staring into a mirror with the lights off would cause a ghost to appear. Reaching out through the mirror the Bell Witch allegedly liked to scratch the noses of those brave enough to summon her. Now that I think about it, I do remember one of my friends running out of a school bathroom with a scratch on his nose after playing the game . . . .

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Do I believe he was scratched by the Bell Witch? Of course not. I’m guessing he scratched himself (or someone near him did). It was dark in that bathroom, and it seems like the kind of thing an attention starved eighth-grader would do. Besides there’s very little evidence that a “Bell Witch” even existed. Kids love the supernatural, and generally it’s all rather benign. Urban legends like the Bell Witch bubble up every few years, and when they do, people generally over-react.

The latest supernatural-urban-legend involved a Mexican demon (or ghost) named menacingly enough, Charlie. Communication with Charlie is achieved using two pencils (one on top of the other) and a piece of paper divided up into four squares, two marked yes, and two marked no. The game begins with a chant of “Charlie Charlie can we play?” Charlie will answer by “moving” the pencil on the top towards one of the “yes” or “no” squares. If Charlie answers yes the game really begins and you can ask Charlie all sorts of yes and no questions. (For the record there’s no record of a “Charlie” as a Mexican demon anywhere before this game soared in popularity. Why Charlie comes from Mexico is most likely because Mexico is a bit more exotic than Iowa.)

Out of all the demonic games I’ve ever encountered the Charlie Challenge is one of the stupidest. There’s no demon or ghost being called, gravity is simply at work. You try balancing a pencil on top of another pencil . . . . eventually the one on top will fall or one of them will move. There’s nothing demonic, nefarious, or occult about Charlie. He’s simply the theory of gravity with a cute nickname.

Videos of the Charlie Challenge on Youtube and Vine are fun to watch, there’s a lot of shrieking and at first glance the phenomenon does look kind of creepy. It makes me want to be a believer . . . . but in this case, I just can’t do it. Besides, there are far more realistic (and cooler) ghost stories out there that have a much better chance of being true. I’ve read some tales of “weird things” happening after a Charlie encounter that I can’t completely explain, but weird stuff happens everyday. People are probably just more aware of it after a Charlie encounter, and it’s easier to pass the blame to a demon than Apple.

Of course there are people up in arms over Charlie. One of the bloggers on the Patheos Catholic Channel suggested that any kid caught playing The Charlie Challenge be taken immediately to confession:

If your child plays this game or has played this game, it will be important to go to confession immediately. Letting the devil in the door, even for silly reasons, is never something to take lightly.

I agree that talking to spirits is serious business, and is not to be trifled with lightly, but the Charlie Challenge is not an example of that. The Charlie Challenge is simply a new urban legend. Gravity is cool, and it’s even cooler when you pin its existence on a ghost.

One thing I do like about the Charlie Challenge is that it’s an engaging phenomenon attributed to occult forces. That may sound silly, but I love magical stuff in our society. Anything that makes someone wonder about the unknown is a good thing in my mind. Besides the United States was built on the back of occult and magical beliefs. The more things change the more they stay the same.

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