Jordan asks if Charlie, Charlie is a game or witchcraft

Friday 03/07/2015

Amman - Charlie, Charlie are you here?”

The latest internet craze comes in the shape of a simple trick: Using two pencils and a piece of paper to contact the world of the dead.

The game’s star is an alleged Mex­ican child demon named “Charlie” who supposedly has the ability to answer any type of dark and scary question “yes” or “no”. It’s a scary trick that is enough to send shivers down the spine as it mixes simplic­ity with witchcraft and black magic belief.

Called Charlie, Charlie, the game’s ability beyond the world of the living takes players further by confirming its existence and refus­ing to leave until it decides to.

Charlie, a supposedly evil spirit, has invaded Jordanian households, catching parents, clerics and the government off guard.

The game is taught in many Jor­danian schools, where teachers generally think it’s fun, not neces­sarily evil.

However, student Omar Najjar, 10, said he was “terrified” by the game.

“My friends started to call for this Charlie and when the pencils moved, we started to scream. Older guys with us asked me to stop or else Charlie will kill us,” he said.

Manal Haltih, 32, a mother of three, said the game has become so popular that “it’s getting out of hands to stop it”.

One day in late April, Haltih said her 8-year-old son returned from school “shivering and very scared”.

“That day, I knew about the game,” she said. “He couldn’t sleep for four nights, so I had to sleep next to him explaining that this is just a game.”

Christian clergy concur.

Roman Catholic priest George Shweihat said Charlie, Charlie is a game, like many predecessors, that is just a fad.

“This game is just like a fashion statement,” he said. “It comes and goes after a while until something else comes up creating another craze on the internet.”

Muslim clerics declined com­ment, clearly awaiting clearance from the government, which is yet to answer parents who are demand­ing that the game be outlawed.

The Charlie, Charlie experiment requires two pencils balanced on top of each other as a cross and one piece of paper drawn on it a grid with “yes” and “no” in boxes, ex­plained Khetam Odeh, an Amman high school English teacher, tutor­ing third-graders.

She said players usually start by asking “Charlie, Charlie are you here?” and the pencil moves to­wards the “yes” box, supposedly announcing the arrival of the spirit.

To play the game, Charlie must al­low it and, perhaps scarier, players need Charlie’s permission to stop, Odeh said in an interview. She said she was not sure what happened if players leave without “permission” but she heard rumours that children were hurt if they did. Odeh said she learnt the game from the internet and taught it to her class before she came to suspect it is evil.

Eighth-grader Ibrahim Abbas, 15, said: “It’s a fun game, like watching a horror movie. I play it with my friends.

Although you know it will scare you and gives you nightmares, you still watch it.”

He said he was aware he was “contacting” evil spirits and insist­ed he had “no qualms with that at all”.

“It is a crazy game and technol­ogy contributed to spreading it like wildfire,” said Ruba Massoud, from Amman’s AsSamiah high school.

“Students are filming and pub­lishing it on YouTube or their social network accounts, creating some kind of a cult that so far we cannot stop,” Massoud said.

The origin of Charlie Charlie is vague, but online media reports claim it started in 2008 with a You­Tube video titled Jugando Charly Charlie. However, the two-pencil version started in 2014 and was made popular by Twitter as #Char­lie Charlie Challenge.

Other reports suggested the game’s popularity took off when four Colombian students were taken to a hospital suffering from “mass hysteria” after playing the game. A video of them went viral. After that the craze quickly spread across the world.

Some say the popularity of the game picked up with the 2015 hor­ror film The Gallows, which has a scene with actors playing the game.

There are two versions of the game, although the principle is the same — the demon is there. In ad­dition to the two-pencil-and-paper format, another version requires two players holding three pencils each in the shape of a square, said Odeh. “The pencils move involun­tarily and without the interference of the players when asked ques­tions” — the same method used in the Ouija board game, in which people consult a “spirit” by asking questions and moving a planchette to find the answer, Odeh added.

Child expert Najat Abbasi said teenagers “adopt dares easily and this game is a dare to many”.

“But calling an evil spirit in the privacy of your home needs courage and more so if you stay long enough to watch the pencils move,” she said. “Therefore, par­ents should also have the cour­age to explain that it is just a trick and there is no evil demon playing Q&A.”

Yet, the question remains: How do the pencils move, if the evil spirit of a child named Charlie is not doing it?

For Abbasi, there’s a simple sci­entific explanation.

“It all depends on gravity and the positions of the pencils with the slightest vibration, breath or wind movement. The pencil would move in a direction that looks like it is moving towards the yes/no an­swers,” she said.

“Because we tend to believe in supernatural things, we may then see the pencils moving towards ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

“It is like we want to believe that we saw a ghost somewhere”.