The Charlie Charlie challenge is a game trending right now which is not a new game but has been around for a while. It is a recent embodiment of the Spanish paper and pencil game named Juego de la Lapicera. Like a Magic 8-Ball, the contest is played by youngsters utilizing held or balanced pencils to generate replies 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. But where did the game originate?
Origin of the Charlie Challenge
Various articles and tweets claim the game’s origins are in Mexico. The game originates from Spanish-speaking countries mostly Mexico and was called Juego de la Lapicera. For instance, one of the vastly retweeted videos about Charlie Charlie Challenge indicates a prominent Mexican beer category and the Spanish words for “yes” and “no”.
There’s just one dilemma. The event has nothing to do with Mexican folklore.
“There’s no demon called Charlie in Mexico,” says Maria Elena Navez of BBC Mundo. “Mexican legends often come from ancient Aztec and Maya history, or from the many beliefs that began circulating during the Spanish conquest. In Mexican legend, you can discover divinities with titles like Tlaltecuhtli or Tezcatlipoca in the Nahuatl tongue. However, if this legend started after the Spanish triumph, I’m sure it would’ve been named Carlitos (Charlie in Spanish). Mexican demons are usually American inventions,” she says.
How to play the game
We can see how many people are participating in this game with the hashtag #CharlieCharlieChallenge. For those who don’t know how this game is played, here is a detailed explanation of the game.
Charlie Charlie is a game played with two pencils, in a form of a cross, balanced on top of each other and placed on a piece of paper bearing the words, Yes and No. When played, it is believed to invoke a demon who answers all your questions, causing the pencils to move to face either of the two words
You first draw an X on a piece of paper, and label two of the resulting quadrants “no,” and the other two “yes.” Thereafter, you place two overlapping pencils on each axis of your grid, crossing them in the middle. To begin the game, say “Charlie, Charlie, are you there?” and ask a question. An example is will I pass my exams.
The demon will shift the pencil to the position it wants giving the player the desired answer.
Thoughts on the game
Whether a demon is really invoked is yet to be known, but interpreting the event as a traditional Mexican means to summon a demon is possibly a means to make it sound dreadful or meaningful.
Maria Elena Navez of BBC Mundo says that 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.
Andrew Griffin wrote in The Independent that the game is perhaps scarier than a Ouija board because it doesn’t have the same explanations. With those boards, players have to keep hold of a glass while it moves around the table – so it’s not difficult to imagine that people might be pushing it around without knowing it.
David Emery argues parsimoniously that when simple scientific explanations can sufficiently explain why a phenomenon occurs, there’s no reason to assume supernatural forces are at work. Despite simple scientific explanations being offered by science journalists, these are less readily available in mainstream news outlets.
Kate Knibbs, writing in Gizmodo, described the game as a Vine -ready pastiche of kitsch occultism that has the familiar pull of pareidolia where people interpret patterns as having a meaning.
Psychological suggestion can lead people to expect a particular response, which can result in thoughts and behaviors that will help bring the anticipated outcome to fruition – for instance by breathing more heavily.
Chris French, head of the anomalistic psychology research unit at the University of London says that human agent detection leads people to see patterns in random events and perceive an intelligence behind them. He argues that divination games involve magical thinking, saying “Often the answers received [in divination games] might be vague and ambiguous, but our inherent ability to find meaning – even when it isn’t there – ensures that we will perceive significance in those responses and be convinced that an intelligence of some kind lay behind them.”