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Boy's Suicide Linked to Macabre Online Challenge

But media reports should be viewed with some skepticism
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2020 4:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – A boy's suicide has been linked to a possible online "horror challenge" enticing children to take their own lives—if, that is, such challenges even exist. ANSA reports that an 11-year-old boy killed himself Wednesday by jumping off a balcony at his family's home in Naples, Italy. Details are thin, but he left a note saying fear struck him in his final hours, and investigators "have not ruled out the hypothesis" that an online challenge led to his suicide. ANSA adds that the boy seemed "healthy" and "happy" and "practiced sport." Now Australia's News Network claims to have the contents of the boy's suicide letter: "I love you mum and dad," the boy reportedly wrote. "Now I have to follow the man in the black hood. I have no more time. Forgive me."

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By one theory the "man in the black hood" is really the online character Jonathan Galindo, who wears a creepy dog mask and entices children to complete tasks that appear mild at first—like "watch a scary film"—but grow increasingly dangerous and culminate in death. The New York Post is among sources comparing this to the "Blue Whale challenge," a similar suicide challenge that received media attention amid uncertainty about whether it really existed. A 2017 Radio Free Europe cast doubt on such reports in Russia, and Snopes views a similar "Momo challenge" with skepticism. But the fact-checking site notes that online "bullies and pranksters" might use the Momo character—a scary figure with bulging eyes—to "torment vulnerable youngsters" regardless of the whether the "challenge" exists per se. (Read more suicide stories.)

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