A 15 year-old boy was found hanging in his closet in his San Antonio, Texas home last weekend after playing the deadly “Blue Whale Challenge” game that involves youth completing dangerous tasks for 50 days with the final “challenge” being to commit suicide.
The Associated Press (AP) is reporting on the game which is suspected as being behind the suicide death of Isaiah Gonzalez, whose father found him hanging in his bedroom close on Saturday morning. His cellphone was nearby, propped up on a shoe to record his death.
Even though the San Antonio Police Department report does not mention the game, Gonzalez’ family say they have found evidence on his social media and communication with friends that he was participating in the game at the time of his death.
In addition, his sister Alexis, told San Antonion television station WOAI that a person behind the game had gathered personal information on her brother and was threatening to harm the family.
According to the Daily Mail, the Blue Whale challenge is named after the whale that is known to beach itself in an act of “suicide.” Participants in the game are assigned a task master who gives them a variety of often dangerous tasks to complete for 50 days. These tasks range from watching horror movies in the middle of the night to drinking bleach and photographing themselves while posing on the edge of a tall building. Participants are also asked to use a knife or razor to carve the shape of a whale on their wrist or leg. On the 50th day, the participant is expected to commit suicide. Evidence of completing these tasks is required and must be posted on social media. The online group linked to the fad has thousands of followers on social media.
In the wake of Isaiah’s death, his family discovered that he had been sending pictures of himself completing Blue Whale challenges to his friends and telling them that the final task would be to kill himself.
“They blew it off like it was a joke and if one of them would have said something, one of them would have called us, he would have been alive,” said Scarlett Cantu-Gonzales, Isaiah’s sister, to KSAT.
The challenge is believed to have originated on Russian social media. Earlier this month, SkyNews interviewed a young Russian university student named Oleg Kapaev who said he started playing the game because he was curious about it – and bored.
"I was skeptical about it, I couldn't believe anyone could actually kill themselves by playing it. Because I didn't believe it I guess, I decided to look for it,” he said.
The administrator of his Blue Whale group asked him questions such as “tell me how you want to die,” and assigned him increasingly grotesque tasks.
"They start psychologically manipulating you. It is very professionally done. You become a bit of a zombie," he said.
He was told that he was a better player than others and that he would become “happier faster” if he completed task number nine – to “jump from the top of a 20-story building in Moscow."
By now, he was sleep deprived and disorientated from watching horror movies all night and prepared to carry out the task.
"I didn't feel like I needed to kill myself," he said. "I felt I needed to complete the task. I only had this thought in my head - that I need to complete the task."
Thankfully, his parents discovered that he had purchased a plane ticket to Moscow and found several suicide-obsessed comments on his social medial page. They called the police who tracked him down and managed to detain him before he jumped.
Some groups in Russia believe more than 130 youth have played the game and ultimately committed suicide.
The Sun reports that Russian authorities arrested the inventor of the game, a man named Philip Budeikin, 21, in late 2016. At the time of his arrest, he admitted: “Yes, I did… and they died happy. I gave them what they do not have in real life: comprehension, communication and warmth.” He believed that he was "cleansing society" and that his victims were "biological waste."
The game has also been linked to Satanism. In a case involving a San Juan boy, whose family found him lying unconscious on the bathroom floor after a failed suicide attempt while playing the game, he is said to have promised never to play the game “because it is satanic.”
The Gonzalez family also claimed they didn’t believe Isaiah would ever play the game because, “It talks about satanic stuff and stuff like that and my son was never into that,” Jorge Gonzalez said.
Thus far, Gonzalez is the second parent this week in the U.S. to claim they lost a child due to the game. A Georgia woman spoke to CNN on Monday saying her 16 year-old daughter killed herself as part of the challenge but asked that their names not be revealed.
According to the AP, The Center for Missing and Exploited Children is aware of the challenge and is asking parents to report it on the center’s cyber tip line even if they don’t feel they have enough evidence to go to police.
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