What is the momo?

Baby Blue

Blue Baby Blue is an urban legend about a strange game that kids play in bathrooms. If you perform the ritual, they say an evil ghostly infant will appear in your arms. This urban legend is related to the myth of Bloody Mary.

To play “Blue Baby Blue”, you have to go into the bathroom on your own, turn off the lights and lock the door. Then you stare into the mirror, hold out your arms like you are rocking a baby and repeat the words “Baby Blue, Blue Baby” 13 times without making a mistake.

If you do it right, you will suddenly feel the weight of an invisible baby in your arms. The baby will get heavier and heavier as it grows larger and larger. You will feel it scratching your arms.

Before it gets too heavy, you have to quickly take the invisible baby, flush it down the toilet and run out of the bathroom. If you don’t do it fast enough, a hideous woman will appear in the mirror. She will yell “Give me back my baby!” and scream loud enough to break glass. If you are still holding the baby, she will kill you.

Some people believe the woman is Bloody Mary and she murdered her own child when she shattered a mirror and used a piece of broken glass to stab him to death.

According to the urban legend, a group of girls found out about the blue baby story and decided to try it out. They didn’t believe it would work, so they sent their friend Laura into the bathroom on her own. She turned the lights off and closed the door behind her. Laura put out her arms and started chanting the phrase “Blue Baby, Baby Blue”.

All of a sudden, a baby appeared in her arms and began scratching her. Laura was scared out of her wits and had no idea what to do. She wanted to drop it and run, but she was afraid of what might happen. She just stood there holding the invisible baby as it grew heavier and heavier. Suddenly, she caught sight of something horrible in the bathroom mirror and screamed in terror.

When Laura’s friends heard her screaming, they tried to open the bathroom door, but it was locked. Finally, they managed to run to a friends’s house to get help. When they broke open the door, they found Laura lying dead on the bathroom floor. Her eyes had been scratched out. They couldn’t move her body because something large and invisible was pinning her to the ground.

All Paranormal Games That You Should Not Play

Poor Baby Blue never had a chance. Born into the world by a psychotic mother, he was destined to be a child of legend. Nobody knows his real name, only that his mother killed him with a piece of shattered mirror.

The ritual of Baby Blue, not unlike Bloody Mary, is set in the confines of a bathroom and you’ll need a mirror to try it (if you dare).

I suggest you take a friend if your heart is set on trying this out but make sure they know what they’re in for.

Enter the bathroom and fog up the mirror (breathe on it, turn on the hot water – however you like), once this is complete you should write the words “Baby Blue” on the mirror.

Step two is turning off the light (be brave, you have a friend with you!) and waiting for a few moments. Once you’ve waited for about a minute you should hold out your arms, just like you were carrying a baby in them.

You should then feel the weight of a baby on your arms, don’t freak out – keep him held safe and after a while you should pass him to your friend. Mind not to drop him, he doesn’t take kindly to this and will give you a little scratch. If you pick him up and drop him a few more times (who would be so clumsy?), the last thing you’ll ever see is the mirror shattering in front of you (your friend might want to run at this point, you’re a lost cause).

A second version of this legend has a slightly different ritual:-

Enter the bathroom with the lights already turned off. Stand in front of the mirror and say the words “Blue Baby” thirteen times, over and over again. Whilst reciting these words you should rock your arms back and forth as if you were holding a baby.

Once you’ve finished the thirteenth chant, a baby will appear in your arms and give you a little scratch. At this point, I suggest you drop the baby and run because not long behind him is his aforementioned psychotic mother. She will scream at you from the mirror “GIVE ME BACK BY BABY” and attempt to have you meet the same fate as her little treasure.

Even though every caution label and trigger warning screamed at me not to, and even though I knew what would happen to my head and my stomach if I did, I watched the video of the Jordanian pilot being burned alive by ISIS militants. (The video is not linked there, by the way.)

In another iteration of my existence, I’d like to join the well-intentioned ranks of Twitter users who advocate for ignoring the ISIS videos, but I haven’t. I’d like to say it’s not my fault, that a sickness inside me made me watch. That as a writer and editor, knowing about violence and death is, you could say, part of my job. It’s my duty to find and face the details.

Except my beat is not international terrorism. And it wasn’t until I’d seen the screenshots—and the warnings about how graphic the video was—that I started to think about it, what it might look like. About what this pilot’s life had been like. What his death had been like.

Brianna Snyder


Brianna Snyder is an editor and writer for the Times Union in Albany, New York. She’s also an editor for the news site Kicker. Follow her on Twitter @briannaLsnyder.

Whether or not a person should have access to this kind of footage is well-trodden territory for many arguments related to freedom of speech. Media want clicks and shocking, provocative content gets clicks. Protectors of hearts and heads think such content is harmful and shouldn’t be available. Proponents of The Truth say if you’re censoring, you’re not telling the whole story. Last week, Piers Morgan wrote in the Daily Mail that everybody should see the videos, saying that for him, watching them “allows me to feel such uncontrollable rage that no amount of reasonable argument will ever temper it.” The Internet is the perfect place for all these positions, because all of them can exist in one huge, confusing space. You have access to anything you want, but you get to decide what to look at, and here’s where all of it is, so stick to your position. Or don’t.

Of course, it’s possible to know of what’s going on without exposing yourself to explicit violence. Traditional news outlets like the New York Times offer a sanitized, mostly safe description using vaguery and euphemism. But that’s a tease, too. And just how much teasing of a bad thing can you do before your audience wants all of the bad thing and more? Images can be stark and terrifying, but they also naturally provide a kind of curiosity gap, especially when video is available. And I’m deeply, disturbingly stuck in that curiosity gap.

It happened a little while ago: I’d never even heard of BestGore.com until that story about the Cannibal Cop. You remember that story from last year? The guy had a fetish for cooking and eating women, and he sought out realizations of that fantasy online, reportedly at sites like BestGore.com. Which made me go, “Oh, what’s at BestGore.com?”

Which is not really the question I was asking. The question was: What does it look like when a woman is cooked and eaten? And then the question becomes: What does it feel like to be cooked? And if you knew, after you were dead, that you had been eaten, what kind of humiliation and devastation would you feel?

Those are the questions I assume I’m looking for answers to when I dig my way through search results into the disgusting depths of BestGore and LiveLeak to watch James Foley’s decapitation and Muath al-Kaseasbeh’s immolation. I turn my laptop away from my husband, mute the volume, and let the horror make my head go dizzy and my stomach turn upside-down. Sometimes he catches me.

Last night he said, “What is wrong with your face? Why do you look like that?”

I guess that’s what I look like when I watch a man beaten brutally with a tire iron, then moved on to his side to be stabbed dozens of times around his spinal cord, which will not immediately kill him (the snarky commentary explains in the video description) but will leave him conscious for more torture before he eventually succumbs to his bludgeoning.

Why do I do this to myself?

Here’s the thing. I am not a fan of horror movies. I hate violence on TV. I refuse to watch “Game of Thrones” because of what people tell me is unprecedented levels of brutality. For a while, I wondered why a “Game of Thrones” decapitation makes me turn my head, but then I dedicate minutes to searching and finding a video of Nick Berg having his head sawed off.

I am not alone.

Studies have explored these inclinations. Some suggest that we want to be prepared for the worst, so the implausibility of horror movies moves us to consider abstract environments from which we might someday be able to escape, if we’re prepared.

Thing is, when it is fiction it is escapism. Kenji Goto’s decapitation is not. It is the very opposite of escapism. It’s hyper-reality and it is devastating.

Here’s what I think when I choose to face this hyper-reality from the comfort of my home: How are Foley and Goto and Daniel Pearl so calm before they’re gored? Are they on drugs? Could their murderers be humane enough to sedate them before cutting into their necks? Or are they so psychologically battered from captivity that they’re paralyzed?

I guess I’m just so scared of death that I’ve become obsessed with looking at it and trying to understand it. How much it will hurt. How sad and scared and furious I’ll be when I die. I’ve watched maybe a hundred of the worst kinds of deaths and I still can’t find peace with the knowledge that I will die—and maybe horribly. Car crash. Plane crash. Home invasion. Homefire. Cancer. Mass shooting. And maybe I shouldn’t be at peace with that. These people certainly didn’t get to be.

I like to think I’m not like the commenters on BestGore—who call murdered women “bitches who deserved it” and LOL at “incompetent” Mexican drug lords who have to switch knives partway through a decapitation because theirs aren’t sharp enough to cut through the neck tendons of their victims. But I am like them. I am clicking. I am driving traffic. I am letting the creators of these videos know their headlines are SEO-engineered effectively. I’m part of the problem. Am I “informed”? Am I, like Piers Morgan, enraged beyond reasonable argument? Am I going to enlist in the military?

I think not. I’m just scared.

There’s a part in the Muath al-Kaseasbeh video, just before the fire reaches the cage, when al-Kaseasbeh puts his hands together in what I assume was prayer. If it was prayer, did it help him through the agony and the terror of his death? I hope it helped. And for the people who loved him who also watched the video—and God I hope they didn’t—I hope it brought them some small comfort.

I know I am contributing to the humiliation and dehumanization of the victims whose deaths are caught on video. Knowing that millions of people— including your family and your friends and your enemies—will watch what should be your private, natural death must be an added psychological torment. And I can’t apologize enough to them for contributing to it. My guilt doesn’t absolve me of my voyeurism. It only makes me more a part of these victims’ abuse and pain. I’m doing what the bad guys want us all to do, which is: watch.

The moment a man is shot to death in front of horrified subway passengers

Chilling video shows the moment a man is shot to death in broad daylight on a Queens subway platform.

The disturbing footage, shared on Facebook, shows two men wrestling on the floor Sunday with a third person in a blue coat at the southbound 7 train at the 90th Street station.

Other commuters yell and frantically try to pull the trio apart, but the two men keep beating the person in the blue coat and attempt to pry something from his hand.

A bloodstain can be seen next to the yellow line on the platform.

After a couple of seconds, one of the men, wearing a multi-colored scarf, stands, holding what looks like a revolver.

Six gunshots can be heard.

The person in the blue coat stumbles and appears to have been hit — as the person taking the video runs into a train.

The victim of the shooting hasn’t been identified yet. Cops say the victim was arguing with two men on a southbound 7 train and the dispute spilled out onto the platform.

Police are looking for two persons of interest in the shooting. It’s unclear what the dispute was about and whether the attackers knew their victim.

Additional reporting Tamar Lapin

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

After a ProPublica investigation into the death of a teenager in Border Patrol custody, House Democrats are ramping up pressure on the Trump administration to explain how six migrant children died after entering the U.S.

“I find it appalling that (Customs and Border Protection) has still not taken responsibility for the deaths of children in their care,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Thompson said that while some of the children’s deaths may not have been preventable, Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency that first deals with children who cross the border, seems “all too quick to pat themselves on the back for their handling of children last year. These deaths happened under their watch. I remain skeptical that real changes have been made.”

The Homeland Security border subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday to examine the administration’s efforts to treat sick migrant children. The six who died in government custody between September 2018 and May 2019 were the first such deaths in a decade.

ProPublica’s December investigation into the death of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in a South Texas Border Patrol cell, raised concerns about actions by Border Patrol agents and contract medical personnel and whether the agency was truthful about the circumstances of the teenager’s death. The boy died on the floor of his cell on May 20, and a surveillance video obtained by ProPublica showed he was left alone for hours as his illness worsened.

Carlos was the last of six children to die. Three children died from flu-related complications, one died of a massive bacterial infection and two died from chronic conditions they had before crossing the border, according to autopsies and other medical reports.

A spokesperson for CBP, the Border Patrol’s parent agency, said the department has made sweeping changes at the border in the past year. About 300 contract medical personnel work any given day at 40 border stations, up from 20 trained medical providers in December 2018, the spokesperson said.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General in late December issued one-page findings on the December 2018 deaths of two Guatemalan children. Investigators “found no misconduct or malfeasance by DHS personnel” in the deaths of Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, and Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8.

“The inspector general’s one-page summaries on the investigation into the December 2018 deaths are clearly insufficient. Congress has yet to get a full accounting of how the investigation took place and how the inspector general came to its conclusions,” Thompson said.

The inspector general rejected Thompson’s criticism, saying the agency has fully briefed his staff on the investigations.

“We stand by our investigations. On Jan. 10, 2019, the Office of the Inspector General provided the Committee on Homeland Security staff a comprehensive briefing on both investigations and our conclusions. We have also provided the complete reports of investigation to the committee, per the chairman’s request,” inspector general spokeswoman Erica Paulson said. She said complete reports can’t be made public because of privacy laws.

A committee spokesman said the inspector general’s office has declined to testify at Tuesday’s hearing.

Jakelin died of streptococcal sepsis two days after she and her father crossed the border in remote southwest New Mexico. Felipe died of flu complications six days after he and his father crossed the border in El Paso, Texas.

The DHS inspector general continues to investigate Carlos’ death. He died of flu complications in a cell in Weslaco, Texas, a week after crossing the border.

The DHS inspector general is not investigating the deaths of three children who died after being released from Border Patrol custody, a CBP spokesperson said.

Two of those children — a 10-year-old Salvadoran girl in September 2018 and a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy in April 2019 — died after being sent from Border Patrol to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. No autopsies were conducted, but the cause of death for each was listed as a chronic condition that predated their arrival.

An HHS spokesman didn’t respond to questions about whether that agency was investigating the deaths of those two children.

The sixth death involved a 2-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in El Paso in May, several weeks after he and his mother crossed the border. Both were released from custody while he was in the hospital. An autopsy found that the boy, Wilmer Josue Ramirez Vasquez, died of the flu and other respiratory and intestinal infections.

Every American must see this heartbreaking and horrifying video. Our government failed this child. He was ill and needed to be in a hospital, yet died in @DHSgov custody, on the floor of a concrete cell next to a toilet. It was a needless and tragic death. pic.twitter.com/JOnRYAY9Xg

— Rep. Veronica Escobar (@RepEscobar) December 6, 2019

Four of the six children who died were taken into custody by the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector. Rep. Veronica Escobar, an El Paso Democrat, said Trump administration officials have refused to provide her with information on the deaths of the migrant children, citing the need to protect internal investigations.

Escobar in July asked DHS and CBP to preserve videos of border detention facilities since December 2018 and asked for copies of videos of the detention of children and adults who died in custody. In November, Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan sent a letter to Escobar telling her that videos are routinely erased.

Morgan said the agency’s policy “does not specifically outline video recording standards.” He said that because of limited storage capacity, the agencies’ video systems overwrite recordings every 30 to 60 days.

Morgan said videos are preserved for investigations “where a death in custody occurred in a CBP controlled space.” Carlos was the only child to die in a CBP facility; the others died after being transferred to outside medical facilities.

“It’s disappointing, obviously, that my request that the videos be preserved isn’t being followed,” Escobar said. She added that other records of the deaths haven’t been provided by the Trump administration to Congress, which may have to use its subpoena power to obtain them.

[email protected] refused my request due to ongoing investigations.
Local jails are more transparent than our well-funded government facilities and agencies. That’s wrong for a number of reasons, but primarily because it doesn’t allow for accountability, justice or reform. pic.twitter.com/8oEMmcUd0y

— Rep. Veronica Escobar (@RepEscobar) December 6, 2019

ProPublica obtained video of Carlos’ death through a request under Texas open records laws to the Weslaco Police Department, which briefly investigated the boy’s death. CBP provided video of Carlos’ cell from the morning of his death to Weslaco police, though the video included an unexplained gap of more than four hours.

On Dec. 30, CBP released a new medical directive on the care of migrants in custody. The policy replaces an interim plan created in January 2019 in the wake of the deaths of Jakeline and Felipe.

“We take our responsibility to provide adequate health care to everyone in our custody extremely seriously and will continue to make adjustments and improvements as the situation changes,” the agency said in a statement.

But a leading public health expert said the medical directive is so vague that it is essentially meaningless.

“What they’re saying in the press statement makes it sound like things are moving and going on, but in the official document there’s nothing there to be able to parse out to say what are they truly going to do,” said Dr. Paul Spiegel, director of the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins University.

The directive calls for agents to tell migrants to report if they’re feeling sick. In a second phase, Border Patrol agents would provide a health interview to all migrants under 18. In a third phase, if funding is available, all children under 12 would get a medical assessment.

In the fiscal year 2020 funding bill for DHS that passed in December, Congress directed CBP to develop a medical policy that included clear metrics to determine if detention conditions were creating a public health crisis. The “explanatory statement” for the appropriations bill also calls on CBP to develop a “peer review process for deaths in custody.” The Dec. 30 medical directive doesn’t mention metrics or a review process when migrants die in custody.

The CBP spokesperson said the agency “is working with DHS headquarters, multiple federal agencies and other stakeholders to address the items noted in the FY20 appropriations bill.”

Filed under:

  • Immigration
  • Trump Administration

With her bulging eyes, stringy hair and sadistic smile, Momo quickly slid into our nightmares. Images of Momo, a deranged looking woman’s torso perched on a body of a bird, have spread quickly as the “Momo challenge,” became news. While the challenge appears to be a hoax, there’s still something about Momo that makes our skin crawl.

“There are two kinds of creepy. The Momo thing gives us both,” Frank McAndrew, a professor of psychology at Knox College in Illinois, told TODAY. “That is what makes it especially creepy to people.”

Why does Momo make us shudder? TODAY

The spread of the Momo challenge first started in South America last year and reportedly started popping up in the Northern hemisphere this year. Allegedly, Momo appears in the middle of children’s YouTube videos and encourages them to do increasingly risky things and take photos of it. But on Twitter, YouTube said it simply cannot find any evidence of it.

We want to clear something up regarding the Momo Challenge: We’ve seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube. Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are against our policies.

— YouTube (@YouTube) February 27, 2019

As articles about the challenge spread, people have been forced to look at her face and shudder at the sight.

Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.

One reason she causes chills? People don’t like things that look unrealistically human, what’s known as the uncanny valley. Think wax figures, ventriloquist dummies, realistic dolls or humanoid robots. While Momo’s face is exaggerated, she’s still human in all the wrong ways.

“Consciously, you know this thing isn’t a human. You are left in a conflicted state of being with some impulses telling you to interact with it and some impulses that are telling you not to,” McAndrew said.

‘Momo challenge’: How to protect kids from disturbing internet game

Feb. 28, 201904:07

People also don’t know what Momo is. She has unusually-sized human features but her body is also part bird, part woman.

“We don’t like not being able to understand what something is,” McAndrew said. “We find it unsettling.”

Another reason Momo seems so scary is because she’s mysterious, which could make her a threat.

“You don’t know if there is something to be afraid of or not,” he said.

When people can’t tell whether something is a risk, they often react with fear. Take a person who doesn’t make eye contact or has unwashed hair or dirty clothes: The brain wonders if something is wrong from these signals.

“It is this uncertainty of danger,” he said. “People want clarity. Is this a thing I should worry about?”

Momo combines all these elements, which makes her seem super terrifying.

“It is associated with this kind of harm, this serious threat to children,” McAndrew said. “You are left wallowing in discomfort.”

Photo: j_s_rock via Instagram

Back in 2016, a statue called “Mother Bird” designed by a Japanese special effects company, Link Factory, was displayed at the Vanilla Gallery in Tokyo. In another world, you’d probably never have heard anything about “Mother Bird.” No offense to its creators. But for reasons I can only explain as “because the internet,” the bird — with its eerie eyes and strange proportions — took on another life online. It’s now known as Momo, a creepy internet meme paired with so-called “challenges” — essentially dares ranging from silly things to self-harm — sent via WhatsApp and Facebook. The gist is you have to do whatever Momo — or, really, the person sending you the Momo image — says, or else Momo will come for you and your family and curse you. The final step in the process is, according to urban legend, killing yourself and filming it.

In 2018, a 12-year-old girl in Argentina died by suicide, hanging herself in her family’s backyard. Some reports claimed the girl took her own life as part of the Momo challenge. This was never confirmed, and there have been no deaths in the United States connected to the meme. Which makes it a little strange that we’re once again talking about Momo in 2019. Strange, but given the way the web works, not that surprising.

Often, viral online panic gets a second life. A recent example: in 2018, headlines all over the place declared that kids were once again snorting condoms up their noses as part of the “Condom Challenge.” Spoiler: they weren’t. The Condom Challenge was a fleeting viral stunt performed by a number of YouTubers in 2013 and, for some reason, people decided to start worrying about it again five years later with no evidence of its recurring. That’s what’s happening this week with Momo, which first reemerged in the U.K. and has since made its way across the pond.

Much like the Condom Challenge, there seems to be no clear origin point for the return of Momo. A Facebook post, subsequently also shared on Twitter, claims that Momo is back and being hidden inside seemingly innocuous YouTube videos to lure children to hurt themselves. (A recent report from the Washington Post highlighted videos in which clips of suicide instructions were spliced into children’s videos on the platform.) But the post does not contain any links to such videos. And none of the news outlets reporting on the so-called trend have been able to point to any either. (A cursory search led me to many clips warning against these videos, but no actual examples.)

In a segment from WPTV News in Florida, newscasters attempt to explain Momo, inaccurately identifying it as the “latest trend” and pivoting to methods for talking to your kids about safe online behavior. “If you see this on your kid’s phone, there’s no good coming from that,” a “technology expert” explains, pointing at ASL — short for Age/Sex/Location — from a list of internet acronyms. That’s useful information, but it has effectively nothing to do with Momo. Police in Northern Ireland attribute the return of the challenge to “hackers looking for personal info.” This is also unlikely.

There are so many actual things to worry about when it comes to keeping kids safe online. Last week, YouTube deleted hundreds of channels and millions of comments in an attempt to combat the child predation problem it has had for years. There are channels devoted to creating videos that look just like cartoons kids watch — think Peppa Pig — but instead contain twisted and violent content. The list goes on and on. Momo is not on it.

Update 6:34 PM: YouTube published a statement regarding Momo content. “After much review, we’ve seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube. Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are clearly against our policies, the Momo challenge included. Despite press reports of this challenge surfacing, we haven’t had any recent links flagged or shared with us from YouTube that violate our Community Guidelines.” The statement also noted images of Momo are not against YouTube Terms of Service, but they are banned from YouTube’s Kids, the platform’s app for children.

It is the most talked about viral scare story of the year so far, blamed for child suicides and violent attacks – but experts and charities have warned that the “Momo challenge” is nothing but a “moral panic” spread by adults.

Warnings about the supposed Momo challenge suggest that children are being encouraged to kill themselves or commit violent acts after receiving messages on messaging service WhatsApp from users with a profile picture of a distorted image of woman with bulging eyes.

News stories about the Momo challenge have also attracted hundreds of thousands of shares on Facebook in a 24-hour period, dominating the list of UK news stories ranked by number of interactions on the social network.

There have also been claims that the material has appeared in a video featuring Peppa Pig among YouTube’s content aimed at children.

But the Samaritans and the NSPCC have dismissed the claims, saying that while there is no evidence that the Momo challenge has initially caused any harm itself, the ensuing media hysteria could now be putting vulnerable people at risk by encouraging them to think of self-harm.

The UK Safer Internet Centre called the claims “fake news”. And YouTube said it had seen no evidence of videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge on its platform.

The NSPCC said there is no confirmed evidence that the phenomenon is actually posing a threat to British children and said they have received more phone calls about it from members of the media than concerned parents.

A Samaritans spokesperson was similarly sceptical, saying: “These stories being highly publicised and starting a panic means vulnerable people get to know about it and that creates a risk.” They recommended media outlets read their guidelines on reporting suicide and suggested press coverage is “raising the risk of harm”.

“Currently we’re not aware of any verified evidence in this country or beyond linking Momo to suicide,” said the Samaritans spokesperson. “What’s more important is parents and people who work with children concentrate on broad online safety guidelines.”

Child safety campaigners say the story has spread due to legitimate concerns about online child safety, the sharing of unverified material on local Facebook groups, and official comments from British police forces and schools which are based on little hard evidence.

While some concerned members of the public have rushed to share posts warning of the suicide risk, there are fears that they have exacerbated the situation by scaring children and spreading the images and the association with self-harm.

“Even though it’s done with best intentions, publicising this issue has only piqued curiosity among young people,” said Kat Tremlett, harmful content manager at the UK Safer Internet Centre.

The rumour mill appears to have created a feedback loop, where news coverage of the Momo challenge is prompting schools or the police to warn about the supposed risks posed by the Momo challenge, which has in turn produced more news stories warning about the challenge.

Tremlett said she was now hearing of children who are “white with worry” as a result of media coverage about a supposed threat that did not previously exist.

“It’s a myth that is perpetuated into being some kind of reality,” she said.

Momo graph

Although the Momo challenge has been circulating on social media and among schoolchildren in various forms since last year, the recent coverage appears to have started with a single warning posted by a mother on a Facebook group for residents of Westhoughton, a small Lancashire town on the edge of Bolton. This post, based on an anecdote she had heard from her son at school, went viral before being picked up by her local newspaper and then covered by outlets from around the world.

The supernatural “Momo” image, originally from an artwork made for a Japanese horror show exhibition, has been circulating on the internet for several years but last summer became attached to unverified claims that teenagers were being prompted to kill or harm themselves by messages on WhatsApp.

Many campaigners in the child safety sector have been reluctant to issue statements for fear of fanning the flames of the story but are changing direction after seeing the sheer number of dubious stories written to attract clicks on the issue.

Hundreds of separate articles have been written on the topic by British news websites in the last three days, dominating the most-read lists on tabloid news sites. These include explainers for concerned parents on how to protect children from the supposed risks of the challenge and claims about the acts that children are supposedly committing after seeing the images. Celebrities such as Stacey Solomon have weighed in and expressed their concerns, creating even more justifications for headlines.

Multiple police forces have issued formal warnings about the supposed risks of the Momo challenge, in addition to hundreds of schools. In one example, a Hull primary school posted on its Facebook page an unsourced claim that clips of the Momo challenge image are “hacking into children’s programmes”, with no evidence of what is meant by this claim.

A YouTube spokesperson said the claims were completely false: “Contrary to press reports, we have not received any evidence of videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge on YouTube. Content of this kind would be in violation of our policies and removed immediately.”

Several outlets, including the Mirror and many local newspapers, have also claimed that the Momo game has been linked to 130 teen suicides in Russia, with no supporting evidence.

An identical claim was made in 2017 about a similar supposed viral suicide craze called Blue Whale, which was also linked to exactly 130 teen suicides in Russia. This figures came from a much-criticised single report in the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, with later reporting suggesting that not a single death could be conclusively linked to the game.

“We almost need to stop talking about the issue for it to not be an issue any more,” said Tremlett.

  • In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email [email protected] In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

The bogus “Momo challenge” internet hoax, explained

Images of a demonic chicken lady are stoking panic across the globe, with warnings of a dangerous “suicide game” that targets children on social media. But behind the hysteria linked to the so-called “Momo challenge” is an issue far more revealing: This urban legend is likely little more than a hoax fueled by media reports and parents’ fears about their kids’ online activity.

It’s no wonder why the Momo challenge has been able to capture the fears of adults with a mythical force that’s persisted for months. The headlining image for the “challenge” is undeniably creepy — the stuff of nightmares for children and adults alike. It’s as if someone combined Voldemort with a bug-eyed version of the girl from The Ring and inexplicably decided her cleavage should transition into oversize chicken legs.

And the underlying challenge, with its messages supposedly encouraging kids to commit violence and self-harm, would be far more harrowing — if there were any discernible evidence proving this is actually a problem.

Experts say there is no indication that children are being driven to suicide since the story went viral. YouTube said previously it had no evidence of videos promoting the challenge, and it’s since demonetized content featuring the signature Momo image that has cropped up since the hysteria bubbled into the mainstream.

We want to clear something up regarding the Momo Challenge: We’ve seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge on YouTube. Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are against our policies.

— YouTube (@YouTube) February 27, 2019

The Momo challenge is hardly the first suspected craze to seize on the anxieties of adults — just look to past panic over supposedly dangerous teen trends that ended up being an overblown internet hoax. And as is the case for many spurts of viral panic, the Momo challenge has been elevated into a global phenomenon, not because of the stories shared by victims themselves but by the worried adults trying to protect them.

What is the Momo challenge?

According to lore, the Momo challenge is a viral game shared on messaging services like WhatsApp that goads young children into violence or even suicide. Images of the devilish bird-lady supposedly pop up with creepy messages and commands that are said to escalate to extreme violence and horror.

Other iterations of the story claim to feature the terrifying image spliced into children’s programs like Peppa Pig or video games like Fortnight in videos posted to YouTube. Even more news reports say the challenge has spread to Snapchat.

But the reality is it’s a viral hoax.

The signature image for Momo — the possessed-looking chicken lady — predates pretty much every report of the supposed challenge and appears to have nothing to do with the viral sensation. It is a statue called “Mother Bird,” made by artist Keisuke Aisawa who works with the Japanese special effects company Link Factory. Images of the statue from a gallery display first began circulating as early as 2016.

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台風だから幽霊の絵見てきた 幽霊はいいぞ #幽霊画廊 #猫将軍

A post shared by さとう【生ビール嫌い】 (@j_s_rock) on Aug 22, 2016 at 7:13am PDT

The challenge itself was likely cooked up on a creepypasta subreddit that catalogs horror urban legends. An image of the “Mother Bird” sculpture was uploaded in July 2018, and from there, the myth of “Momo” took hold.

Panicked parents, social media, and local news reports are largely driving the hysteria

Last year, news reports started cropping up in Latin America warning of a “WhatsApp terror game,” starting with a suspected suicide of a 12-year-old girl in Argentina. Police never confirmed a connection to the challenge. But then other reports of a supposed suicide pact emerged out of Colombia, hinting at a broader viral risk — though that also remains unconfirmed. Again, months later, authorities in Mexico reported that children were being targeted and threatened by “El Momo” on Facebook.

By September, stories of the challenge starting capturing the attention of police and the press in the United States.

Momo made its comeback in 2019 after panic swept across the United Kingdom. Schools began issuing stern warnings to parents; police said some videos encouraged young children to “take a knife to their own throat.” Within a matter of days, it evolved into a wholesale craze in the US.

An impassioned post from the Twitter user Wanda Maximoff took off with tens of thousands of retweets before the account was eventually suspended. “Warning! Please read, this is real,” the tweet read. “There is a thing called ‘Momo’ that’s instructing kids to kill themselves,” the attached screenshot of a Facebook post reads. “INFORM EVERYONE YOU CAN.”

Kim Kardashian elevated the story, asking her 129 million Instagram followers to pressure YouTube into taking down the supposedly harmful videos. A flurry of TV reports, along with both local and national news, began breathlessly advising parents on ways to “protect kids from a disturbing internet game.”

Lost in any coverage, however, were any examples of the authenticated versions of the Momo challenge, including screenshots of “threatening messages” or confirmed videos promoting violence.

The Momo challenge is little more than an urban legend. But the panic points to fears of myth turning into reality.

It shouldn’t be too surprising that a viral urban legend (and likely hoax) targeting kids would be able to sweep the globe.

The internet can be a hellscape of unsavory experiences for anyone; parents face the added challenge of wrestling with how to adequately protect their kids without being overbearing. Indeed, inappropriate content often does make it past automated platform security and monitors — just look at YouTube’s persistent struggle with combating child exploitation, online bullying, or extremist conspiracies.

But the hysteria likely wouldn’t have reached its current level of viral infamy had it not been for Slender Man. In the summer of 2014, two 12-year-olds lured a fellow sixth-grader into the woods and stabbed her 19 times, allegedly in hopes of conjuring a dark, mythical being known as the Slender Man. The violent attack became a cultural touchstone defining the power of internet culture in its ability to warp belief systems and reality. It was also used as a cautionary tale for parents around the globe.

But more often than not, seemingly innocuous internet jokes and memes are being taken out of context or dubbed as dangerous trends regardless of whether they actually exist. As the Atlantic’s Taylor Lorenz pointed out this week, there’s a host of so-called “deadly teen crazes” that have circulated widely, only to later be debunked.

The Momo challenge has similar trappings as the “Blue Whale challenge,” which was another supposed online suicide game with a series of tasks spread out over 50 days. That internet “game” was ultimately found to be bogus, along with several other waves of panic, like those that falsely suggested hordes of kids were eating Tide Pods or snorting condoms.

None of those were the real problem. Neither is the Momo challenge.