If you haven’t heard from a young person about the latest teen fad that’s sweeping the internet, involving two pencils, chances are you will soon.
The “Charlie Charlie challenge” is a game trending on social media, in which people, predominantly tweens and teens, use a grid of Yes/No answers drawn on paper, and two lead pencils balanced on top of each other as a type of ‘dial’. They then use a chant to supposedly summon and speak to a demon named Charlie.
For most, it no doubt starts out as a bit of fun, as curious teenagers test what they believe is a harmless game. But judging by the terrified screams from some who’ve filmed their “Charlie” experiments and posted their videos online, it’s less fun if the pencil actually moves of its own accord.
Some are dismissing the phenomenon as a trick of gravity, yet many teens are left scared after seeing a well-balanced, hexagonal pencil move with no apparent help. With the fad now reaching Australia, Christian leaders are speaking out, calling on young people to avoid the game and offer their friends something far better.
Why Avoid the Charlie Charlie Challenge?
There are many who believe the “Charlie Charlie” game is a harmless joke, with numerous media articles making fun of it, Youtubers creating parody videos, and scientists explaining it away with arguments about air movements, gravity, the power of suggestion, and sneaky teens blowing on the pencils. Christian commentators, though, are warning young people to avoid it.
Jim Holbeck, formerly known as Canon Jim Holbeck, was a leader of the healing ministry at St Andrews Anglican Cathedral from 1988 to 2006 and spent many years praying and counselling with people – including those who had been involved in occultic or demonic practices. He told Hope Media that activities with supernatural connotations, such as the “Charlie” game, or Ouija-boards and séances, could involve real spiritual forces and lead to harm or an unhealthy preoccupation.
“I would encourage people not to try this because people do get hooked on it,” he said. “People can get addicted to these games and then find it very hard to break that addiction, and lose a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong, losing touch with reality.
“There’s lots of spiritual influences around us, some are good, some are bad, and some are quite dangerous. The devil hates humans and is out there to steal, kill and destroy, and will do that with kids’ lives,” he said. “If you give the devil a foothold he can take advantage of it.”
Hope 1032 breakfast announcer Dan Widdowson said he was concerned both as a parent and in his role as a youth pastor.
“Regardless of whether you think this is supernatural or not, the idea of conjuring up spirits for fun is not helpful,” he said.
“My concern is that experimenting with something that’s in a grey area, makes us actually walk further towards the dark end of the grey.”
What If My Child Has Played The Charlie Game?
Christian psychologist Leisa Aitken said that if parents or youth leaders had a young person who was curious about the game or had tried it out, it was best not to be alarmist and respond with knee-jerk reactions, but to have a conversation.
“The main mistake that parents make is getting too intense over this – banning it or setting it up as spiritually evil without discussing first,” she said. “The rule of thumb with teenagers is to stay neutral and curious in the beginning, in the hope that this will lead to a conversation. The more we panic and assume the worst inside our own heads, (for example, ‘my child is now into the occult!’), then the less likely it is that we will have calm and helpful conversations.”
Jim Holbeck agreed, saying the best response was to steer young people away from it with sensitivity.
“If a child has been involved, you’ve got to take it seriously, because it’s a serious thing,” he said. “I don’t think it’s good to rubbish your kids’ friends about it, as kids are very loyal to their friends. But instead, tell them that what they’re doing is not helpful and steer them away towards something else.”
How To Have The ‘Supernatural’ Conversation With Kids
Ms Aitken said when it came to teen crazes, parents should get informed first, rather than railing against the fad without any real knowledge. In the case of the Charlie Charlie challenge, she suggested parents have a conversation addressing questions like:
- What do you find interesting about this?
- What do you think is really going on?
- Some say the fad is being used to market a horror movie – does this make you more or less inclined to see horror movies? (Consider the Bible’s teaching on thinking about things that are good)
- What do you think about how this fits with what the Bible teaches us?
Why The Fascination With The Supernatural?
According to Ms Aitken, young people who develop an interest in the ‘other worldly’ are seeking to find out if there’s more to life than just the tangible. She believes this is not an unhealthy curiosity in itself.
“This is a curiosity to be engaged with” she said, “as it can lead to great spiritual conversations if headed in the right direction.”
Jim Holbeck added that people dabbling more seriously in supernatural activities were often searching for significance and power: “Often people feel insignificant, and to be involved in something supernatural may help them to feel ‘I’m a significant person’. They’re also looking for power. There is power in the supernatural, and when people get involved in the occult they become open to power that they think they can use – but in the end it uses them, like any addiction, and then they can’t control it.”
Jesus, The Antidote To Demonic Forces
In his time as a healing minister, Mr Holbeck said he had prayed with numerous people who believed they had an evil influence in their lives.
“There was a time a few years ago when it seemed everyone was talking about evil spirits, I think it was at the time of movies like Paranormal,” he said. “People would come to me in the Cathedral saying ‘I think I’ve got a demon, could you please toss it out,’. So I would first get them to repent of having been involved in whatever they had tried. I would then get them to renounce their involvement, saying something like ‘I want nothing of that’.
“And then I would ask them to receive Jesus and submit to him as lord and saviour of their life, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and go on to becoming who God wants them to be. Lots of people gave their lives to Christ and were set free from these things.”
Pyschologist Says Teens Are Facing More Subtle Evils
Ms Aitken said she believed fads like the Charlie Charlie Challenge should be kept in perspective.
“While of course, I agree that dabbling in the occult is dangerous, for the most part, I think that Satan has other far more powerful but subtle weapons to turn teenagers away from God than dodgy internet videos,” she said. “For example materialism, pornography, defining self by appearance or peer approval, and so on. Parents need to be willing to have similar conversations about these topics rather than [focussing on] the more sensationalised one of demonic powers.”
Origins Of The Charlie Charlie Game
According to a Fairfax report, the Charlie Charlie challenge has emerged from a combination of schoolyard games with supernatural connotations, including the Juego de la Lapicera, which originated in Spain. In April 2015, a TV news crew in the Dominican Republic broadcast a report about the game being played in school playgrounds, which seems to have sparked a viral conversation on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram – thanks to the addition of a humble hashtag.
Marketers have then jumped on board, with one promoter using the meme to its advantage to advertise an upcoming new horror film.
“Jesus Jesus” A Unique Christian Response To Charlie Charlie
Joshua Feuerstein, a Christian evangelist in the USA, has responded to the Charlie Charlie trend, calling on fellow Christians to spread the hope of Jesus by using testimonies hashtagged with #JesusJesus.
“Let people know if you want to come into the spirit world, come through Jesus,” he said. “He’ll give you grace, peace, love, hope, mercy and forgiveness.”