If you’re on Twitter at all, you’ve probably seen your feed fill up with teenagers terrified of pencils. It’s called the Charlie Charlie Challenge, and basically what you’re seeing is a fad catch on in real time.
Okay, so what’s the idea?
First, divide up a sheet of paper into quadrants, and write “yes” and “no” in two of each. Sharpen two pencils, and stack them in a cross form, one on top of the other. Get a friend and have them chant with you “Charlie, Charlie, can we play?” If the pencil moves towards yes, you’re supposedly in contact with a spirit named Charlie, who helpfully answers questions. If the pencil points to no, you have just learned a valuable lesson about the laws of physics and random chance.
Oh, also, when you’re done, you’re supposed to say “Charlie, Charlie, can we stop?” or… well, you can probably guess that doesn’t end well.
Like any urban legend, it depends on who’s telling the story. In some variations you find online, he died of child abuse. In others, it was a car wreck. Either way, he’s a dead kid who apparently has nothing better to do in the afterlife than take calls from the living.
Where did this idea even come from?
Supposedly, Mexico, although it’s not clear whether that’s the actual country of origin or if it was just something tacked on by the nature of urban legends. I’m inclined to say the latter, since Charlie isn’t exactly a popular name in Mexico. It does seem to be adapted from a children’s game called Six Pencils, which shares a lot of similarities with dowsing and far more opportunities to troll your friends. Although, again, whether that actually originates in Mexico is anyone’s guess; most of what I found was white people claiming it was Mexican.
People aren’t seriously freaked out by this.
Parodies are thick and fast:
I would say it’s more for the laughs than anything else. At least for the teenagers. For the media outlets and grown adults that are feeding the frenzy and should really know better, well, that’s another matter.
Also, somehow, in the media’s telling, Charlie has become a “Mexican demon.” Take from that what you will.
Okay, but that pencil does move. How does that work?
The way the pencils are laid out, they’ve got minimal contact with each other. In addition, especially if you’re using the classic Ticonderoga, they’ve got a slick, glossy paint. A light object with little traction can pretty easily move when resting on another light object with little traction. Seriously, lay them out and blow on the result, it’ll move. Or, you know, lift the desk with your knee; we’re talking pretty basic stage magic here.
And this is what the internet does for fun?
Hey, as dumbass fads go, it’s better than the Rubbing Alcohol Challenge.