A strange new game is taking over Twitter, fuelled by speculation that its players can connect with a dead Mexican spirit known as Charlie.

I was surfing the internet and came across this, the internet's newest trend, also known as the Charlie Charlie challenge. Simply put, the participants try to summon a Mexican demon and get its advice by asking yes or no questions and the "demon" responds by spinning a pencil into the yes or no section.

After first hearing about the challenge, I was very skeptical that there was a demon that was spinning the pencils. But, after seeing many videos with people doing this challenge and the pencils actually moving, I'm starting to wonder if this so called Charlie Charlie challenge has actually the potential to summon some supernatural forces.

Now, I have two questions about this:

a) Is there good evidence that that this supernatural "demon" exists?

b) Are there alternative, naturalistic explanations to explain the apparent movement of the pencils?

  • 12
    If there wasn't a 15 character limit on comments, I'd just say "No". (Stolen comment from "Does black magic work") May 26, 2015 at 20:37
  • 3
    Can you add a link for the claim? By the way, I'd file this one with Ouija boards.
    – HDE 226868
    May 26, 2015 at 20:38
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    When you word your question, consider how it might be meaningfully answered. Asking if there is a supernatural spirit called Charlie is not something that can be proven empirically. Requiring evidence for disproof is difficult. Proving that some people might, for example, use the age-old magic trick of blowing on a light object to make it move without hands, to fool their friends, doesn't mean that ALL the pencils moved or that ALL of the pencils were moved due to this oh-dear-how-much-more-obvious-can-we-make-it-and-yet-you-assume-supernatural-as-the-most-plausible technique.
    – Oddthinking
    May 26, 2015 at 21:05
  • 4
    The challenge is real. The demon is optional. You blow on the pencil. The real trick is getting a bunch of people to scream on cue. May 27, 2015 at 6:42
  • 4
    There is a standing reward offer of one million US dollars for proof of any supernatural event including demons, spirits and ghosts. So as long as the reward is not collected I don't believe in demons or ghosts (it would be big news if it was, even attempts to collect tend to become big news).
    – slebetman
    May 28, 2015 at 7:09

1 Answer 1


Snopes has an article on the "Charlie Charlie Challenge" and they point out that, at the least, the origin is a bit silly:

Prior to May 2015, few mentions appeared on the Internet of any practice fitting the description of the Charlie Charlie Challenge. If Mexican folklore featured it at all, it was a well-hidden secret; the BBC quoted a regional correspondent about the dubious ancient origins of the game (noting that "Charlie" is not a Mexican name, nor does any known folkloric entity of that culture resemble the one summoned):

Some have claimed that it has been revealed as an attempt at viral marketing for a film named The Gallows. It's also possible that the marketing team for The Gallows appropriated the meme.

As to how it works, it's the ideomotor phenomenon at work, the same thing behind automatic writing, Ouija boards, and pendulum divination:

The ideomotor response (or "ideomotor reflex"), often abbreviated to IMR, is a concept in hypnosis and psychological research. It is derived from the terms "ideo" (idea, or mental representation) and "motor" (muscular action). The phrase is most commonly used in reference to the process whereby a thought or mental image brings about a seemingly "reflexive" or automatic muscular reaction, often of minuscule degree, and potentially outside of the awareness of the subject.

Basically, no matter how still you try to keep your hands, they twitch. The more you notice the twitch and try to still it, the greater the twitches get. From there, you get into various debates as to whether people subconsciously pick out answers in their motions, or if all meaning comes from interpretation. In versions where there's ostensibly no forces acting on it (such as setting it on the table), it's due to the fact that everything is moving and vibrating unless you do very specific controls on the environment, and once an object starts moving in a direction, random motion is likely to keep it moving that way until it is stopped, such as by friction. And, of course, that's assuming that no one at the table is doing a seance trick of intentionally influencing the motion by jiggling the table or blowing surreptitiously.

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