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Charlie Charlie Challenge: Summoning the Devil is No Harmless Game



Eugene Gan - published on 05/28/15

This viral (and diabolical) craze has all the trappings of an expertly executed marketing campaign

The latest Twitter/Facebook trend has participants summon a demon called Charlie #‎CharlieCharlieChallenge. It’s already reached millions (more than 2 million in 48 hours) and going by the numerous viral feeds, YouTube clips, and

posts, its main participants are children and teenagers.

The origin of this so-called game is unclear, though it has all the trappings of an expertly executed marketing campaign. I’m not saying it is, but it’s insidiously alluring all the same, with posts challenging others to try it even if they are skeptical of the paranormal. It’s “hilarious,” some say, “freaky fun.” There are appeals to curiosity: “Have you tried it yet? Do you think it’s real?” Other posts hype the sensationalistic with reports of strange and terrifying phenomena occurring when playing the challenge: from rattling doorknobs to scratching noises to hearing whispers in other rooms when no one was supposed to be there to seeing bizarre shadows and figures, it certainly has the trimmings of a horror flick. The craze has spread itself across a broad spectrum of online social media, utilizing the unique strengths of the various social media platforms to reach the masses in diverse ways. Many are
their experiences trying the CharlieCharlieChallenge, and posting to social media. Even the choice of words to get others to “play” the “game” is insidious: it’s a “challenge” and “harmless fun.”

To top it all off, the materials needed to summon the demon are easily available to school children. All that is needed is a piece of paper and two pencils. Players draw a cross on a piece of paper and label two yes’s and two no’s in the four quadrants formed. Then, placing the pencils in the form of a cross over the penciled cross, players repeatedly chant: “Charlie, Charlie are you here?” or “Charlie, Charlie, can we play?” – the various posts can’t seem to agree which comes first. If the top pencil swings to the “Yes,” players can start asking Charlie yes/no questions and the pencils supposedly move in response. All this is done to conjure a Mexican demon called Charlie or a ghost of the victim of child abuse (again, the various posts don’t seem to agree). When players want to stop, they are advised to go through the ritual of chanting “Charlie, Charlie, can we stop?” then wait for the answer of “yes” before dropping the pencils to the floor to break contact with the demon.

In a sense, it’s nothing new – a digital reincarnation of the Ouija board in many respects. I wanted to ignore this fad and not take the effort to write an article that might give it additional advertising, but the fact that it has reached so many, coupled with my goal to give God glory and sanctify souls through these articles I write, changed my mind. We need to be clear. Scripture reminds us that Satan — and along with Satan, devils, and demons — are real.

Our Lord warns: “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky” (Luke 10:18) and again: “Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour.” (1 Peter 5). St Paul tells us plainly: “Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:10-12).

The spiritual battle is real and we are participants, whether we like it or not, whether we’re aware of it or not. And just as a warrior goes through disciplined training before being thrust into battle, I wish that Spiritual Combat 101 could be a class (real life itself already constitutes the practicum) available to us because learning the enemy’s tactics and strategies is beneficial in our own spiritual warfare. Case in point here: Satan wants us to ignore the danger that associating with him (and by extension, devils and demons) entails. “It’s only a harmless game. It’s scary-fun.” He sows confusion, causing some to doubt his existence (this allows the enemy to fly under the radar) and others to see him as a hilarious cartoonish caricature (allowing us to let down our guard). In his book
Searching for and Maintaining Peace, Fr. Jacques Phillippe draws wisdom from the 1589 classic text The Spiritual Combat by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli and counsels:

“When individuals are close to God, love and desire to serve the Lord, the usual strategy of the devil is to cause them to lose their peace of heart, whereas God, on the contrary, comes to their aid to give them peace. But this rule is reversed for those whose hearts are far from God, who live in indifference and evil. The devil seeks to tranquilize such individuals, to keep them in a false sense of quietude…” (p.16)

Scientism, which is the “belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning to the exclusion of other viewpoints” is the other confusion being sowed and is equally provincial. In this case, it takes the form of discounting spiritual reality altogether. Yes, there’s certainly the possibility that it’s gravity moving the pencil, or one of the player’s breath, or knocking into the table however slightly, or the excitement and fear that psychologically make the player more suggestive to enviro-sensory input. But make no mistake: playing with Satan, devils, and demons is a very bad idea, even if done “innocently” and out of curiosity. It opens the door to powers that can and will harm the player. Playing with fire does indeed run the risk of getting you burned.

Scripture is clear about contacting spirits and demons: “Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortune-teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). The Catechism of the Catholic Church reiterates in articles 2116 and 2117, of which this is an excerpt: “All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons.”

Then there’s the need to address the thrill factor. Granted, seeking a thrill is in itself not an evil thing, but what’s the motivation? What’s the real need that players think summoning demons would fulfill? Are we so intensely bored with life and other physical beings – family and friends – that we resort to contacting spirits? Are we thrilled to live or do we live for thrills? Is boredom so much a part of our lives that it drives such thrill-seeking? Walker Percy has an insightful reflection in his book Lost in the Cosmos in which he contends that “boredom is the self being stuffed with itself.” We become so full of ourselves as a result of our rejecting God in our lives that when we are left alone with ourselves, we realize that we really aren’t so full of anything. Hence, boredom. We’re empty, nothing without God.

We would do well not to discount the invisible principalities and powers that seek to harm us. We would do well to educate ourselves about the realities of spiritual combat. We would do well to educate our young ones about the realities not visible to the naked eye. And meanwhile, if you know of others who are interested in contacting spiritual entities, I echo this priest’s advice: invite them to Mass.

St Michael the Archangel,
Defend us in battle,
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host,
By the power of God,
Cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits
Who prowl throughout world
Seeking to ruin our souls. Amen.

Dr Eugene Gan is faculty associate of the Veritas Center and Professor of Interactive Media, Communications, and Fine Art at Franciscan University of Steubenville in the United States. His book, Infinite Bandwidth: Encountering Christ in the Media is grounded in Scripture and magisterial documents, and is a handbook and practical guide for understanding and engaging media in meaningful and healthy ways in daily life.

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