Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Challenging Charlie

photo courtesy Channel 2/CBS Chicago
" Charlie...Oh Charlie!"

Parlor games have always been popular entertainment among the masses. Enjoyed in the Victorian Era in Great Britain and The United States, games like Are You Moriarty? or Charades filled the evenings of family and friends before the advent of television and radio.

The Ouija Board was first introduced as an innocent  parlor game by Elijah Bond in 1890, when contacting the spirit world was still a paranormal oddity that peaked the curiosity of the middle and upper classes. The Ouija and other talking boards didn't become popular until the Spiritualist movement adopted them as a means of divination and a tool to contact deceased loved ones. This interest increased very specifically during World War I. Grieving relatives wanted to speak to soldiers who died in the trenches, to assure themselves the spirits of their loved ones were doing well on the Other Side. There have been many adaptations and types of talking boards since, and the Ouija Board continues  its popularity today.

As to more simplified versions of the talking board, such as the Charlie Challenge, which is currently a "thing" among teenagers on social media. (Actually, there have been some reports through news agencies that the Charlie Challenge has been around in some form since as far back as 2004.  ) The way the 'challenge' ( read that as taking a dare) is played is by constructing a crude grid and using two crossed pencils as an indicator. As urban legend goes, Charlie is a Mexican demon that is summoned by calling, " Charlie, Charlie...Come  out and play." The premise of the game is that Charlie will answer questions through the use of the grid. Failing to properly say your farewells to Charlie evidently pisses him off and allows him to hang around causing all sorts of havoc in your life.
Like many other games of this sort, its popularity is boosted by the titillation caused by the power of suggestion.  Let's face it- this sort of thing is skewed toward a young demographic. Teens are particularly keen to this type of mind game; being scared silly by something slightly taboo and occult is ingrained in our psyche.

The claims that the game is  an old Mexican tradition has been refuted outright. And I have to ask: why is this entity named Charlie? Not very Mexican sounding to me. Why isn't he named Juan or Carlos or Xavier? Or something more exotic, since Mexican demons tend to hail from the Mayan and Aztec civilizations? It may be stretching it a bit, but the word 'Charlie' in urban slang ( drug culture references aside) is to be a best friend, a loyal friend, someone who is always there when you need them. To be a 'Charlie' is a more personalized version of 'Dude'. I can see how some adventurous teens might think a spiritual entity-particularly one who presents itself as being friendly-could easily earn this distinction. Having the ability to call an entity into being with the simple words, "Charlie, Charlie...Do you want to come out and play?" is mind-blowing, no matter what your age. There is no complicated ritual, no special tools other than a couple ordinary pencils and some paper. As humans, it appeals to our concept of self-importance and pride. It  bumps up our morale and deepens our self absorption.

The most logical explanation of what is making the pencils move is physics; the pencils cannot sit perfectly still atop one another due to their design. They will move with the slightest vibration or breath. It has even been said that they have been moved with kinetic energy of the participants. The stories that accompany this  bit of dabbling maybe be just the stuff urban myth are made of...or not. Remember that  'urban myths' is a modern  Aesop's Fables. It is outrageous and contains elements of shock or horror, and has a moral at the end.  Urban Legends are usually of obscure origin and has little supporting evidence. It spreads spontaneously through word of mouth-and most specifically on social media. Reason and logic tells us it is nothing but silly stories.

There are always some stories that go beyond accepted reality that are pretty convincing and unexplainable. They are more often retold by those with highly suggestible imaginations. I haven't heard of any personally that I would put stock into, but the fact that  most of these stories have a negative outcome is reason enough to err on the side of  caution. One of the most memorable sayings in occultism is " Don't call up what you can't put down." It's good advise, especially when you are involved in activities employing unseen and unknown forces.

So while I'm betting that The Charlie Challenge is probably just so much fun and games, I cannot say that with certainty...and it has raised a few questions for me because it echoes something I in an  interview by paranormal expert Rosemary Ellen Guiley. At the time she was talking about her collaboration with demonologist Darren Evans researching the Zozo Phenomenon. 

Since the 1980s a spirit entity that calls itself Zozo has been popping up during divination sessions, specifically when using  talking boards, pendulums and automatic writing; the entity has also identified itself by other Z-names, and occasionally as "Mama". According to Evans, who is considered to be an expert on dealing with these particular spirits, these entities appear friendly at first, but have "dangerous agendas".  His research has uncovered evidence of Zozo being listed in an 18th century French dictionary (citing an example of possession) as a harmful demon. He also gives an example from an early20th century Greek tourism book that states the name "Zozo" is used in reference to the 
Another possibility as to the true identity of "Charlie"?
Okay, it's a joke. A bad joke.
the Assyrian-Babalonian demon Pazuz. The demon communicates most frequently through talking boards, at first appearing to be friendly and helpful to gain the trust of those making inquiry. It holds the interest of those participating in the session by providing personal information, and seems to be attracted to young females and those with psychological disorders. Rosemary Ellen Guiley has also given grave warning concerning this particular entity: " Zozo appears to cause psychological problems, poltergeist activity, and the ability to linger around in the physical world."

Is a dangerous demon from an ancient culture masquerading as the amicable Charlie? Is that the actual challenge-to unmask who's actually there? All I can tell you is one can never be too careful when interfacing with unseen/unknown forces, and I can not stress using caution during encountering spirits. Even when it seems to be a harmless parlor game.Or a marketing stunt for a movie.( Want to know where Charlie really comes from? It's a movie called The Gathering. Yep. The whole thing was another one of those viral social experiments...or so they say).

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