The Charlie Charlie challenge is a demonic modern incarnation of the Spanish paper-and-pencil game called Juego de la Lapicera (Pencil Game). Like a Magic 8-Ball, the game is played by teenagers using held or balanced pencils to produce answers to questions they ask. Teenage girls have played Juego de la Lapicera for generations in Spain and Hispanic America, asking which boys in their class like them.
Originally described on the Internet in 2008, the game was popularized in the English-speaking world in 2015, partly through the hashtag #CharlieCharlieChallenge. On 29 April 2015, an alarmist tabloid television newscast about the game being played in Hato Mayor Province of the Dominican Republic was uploaded to YouTube, and the unintentional humor in the report led to the game trending on Twitter, crossing the language barrier to be played around the world.
In an early version of the game, two players each hold two pencils in the shape of a square, pressing the ends of their pencils against the other player’s. Like a Ouija board, it uses the ideomotor phenomenon, with players moving the pencils without conscious control.
The two pencil game involves crossing two pens or pencils to create a grid (with sectors labelled “yes” and “no”) and then asking questions to a “supernatural entity” named “Charlie.” The upper pencil is then expected to rotate to indicate the answer to such questions. The first question everyone asks by speaking into the pencils is “can we play?” or “are you here?” or “are you there?”
The top pencil is precariously balanced on a central pivot point, meaning that it can easily rotate on the pivot due to slight wind gusts, or the breathing of players expecting the pencil to move.
According to Caitlyn Dewey of The Washington Post, this game is valuable as an example of cross-cultural viral trends:
Charlie makes a killer case study in virality and how things move in and out of languages and cultures online. You’ll notice, for instance, a lot of players and reporters talking about the game as if it were new, when it’s actually—and more interestingly, I think—an old game that has just recently crossed the language divide.
Maria Elena Navez of BBC Mundo said “There’s no demon called ‘Charlie’ in Mexico,” and suggested that Mexican demons with English names (rather than, say, “Carlitos”) are “usually American inventions.” Urban legend expert David Emery says that some versions of the game have copied the ghost story La Llorona, popular in Hispanic America, but the pencil game is not a Mexican tradition. Joseph Laycock, a professor of religious studies at Texas State University argued that while Charlie is “most often described as a “Mexican ghost,” it appears that Christian critics reframed the game as Satanic almost immediately, due to their desire to “claim a monopoly on wholesome encounters with the supernatural.”
Several videos have appeared with teenagers trying the game, and getting shocking reactions.
However a player positioned the bible near the paper and Charlie refused to emerge.
Please don’t try this.