It’s not causing ripples on local social media – yet. And no sane person will want the diabolical Blue Whale to ever land on our shore.
- Game that brainwashes youngster over 50 days
- Self-harm and other scary challenges
- To win, commit suicide
Viral challenges come and go but none has been as dangerous as the Blue Whale, purportedly to be prevalent in Russia. Said to have been created by Philipp Budeikin in 2013, reports have cropped up in recent months of dozens of deaths related to this game.
Anton Breido, a senior official from the Investigative Committee in Russia, which is seen as an equivalent of the FBI, has a good insight into the Blue Whale.
According to him, Budeikin and his aides attracted children into Russian social media platform Vkontakte (VK) groups by using scary videos. Then they ascertained who would be the most affected by psychological manipulation.
The challenge is believed to involve brainwashing vulnerable youngsters over a period of 50 days.
“They gathered the children, then offered simple tasks which for some children were too boring or weird to complete. These ones were clearly too strong to be manipulated,” Breido said.
Scary tasks could include watching horror movies and waking at strange hours.
“Those who stayed were given much stronger tasks like cutting their veins, to balance on a rooftop, to kill an animal and post a video or pictures to prove it.”
According to Breido, most children left at this stage, with only a small group, who obediently went through all the tasks. The remnants were ready to follow whatever the administrators told them to do, no matter how strange or scary the tasks as they felt their position in the group was so precious that they were willing to do everything to stay in.
To win the game, the player has to commit suicide.
Whilst the Blue Whale has yet to be proven to be directly responsible for any deaths, Russian police are said to have launched a probe into the game sweeping across their country.
In 2015, Angelina Davydova,12, fell to her death from the 14th floor of a block in central Russia on
Christmas Day after logging onto a user group called ‘Wake Me Up at 4.20′ which had more than a quarter of a million subscribers before it was blocked. In the weeks before she died, the girl became convinced she was overweight and ate only light salads. She died 50 days after joining the group.
In December, Vilena Piven, 15, jumped from the 13th floor in Mariupol, Ukraine and died on the spot.
Her classmates said that she was shy and had been seen at school with cuts on her arms. She posted the view from the top floor of the building on her social network page and wrote: “The quest is over. There’s just one step to be made.”
Later she wrote: “I did not think that it would be so scary to jump. Just one step forward and everything is done. But this very step is so difficult to make.”
Before the jump, she wrote: “I’m scared, I’m afraid.” Despite this, she jumped.
In February this year, two teenage schoolgirls – 15-year old Yulia Konstantinova and 16-year-old Veronika Volkova – fell to their deaths from the roof of a block of flats in the Irkutsk region of Russia. It was believed they were involved in the deadly challenge, with Konstantinova leaving a note saying “End” on her social media page after she posted a picture of a big blue whale. Volkova also posted “End’ on her social media page.
In March, Anna K from Karsun was found hanged to death after becoming obsessed with the game.
Outside of Russia, a family managed to stop a 15-year-old girl from killing herself. She was said to have admitted signing up to play the game. She planned to commit suicide by throwing herself under a train but became so absorbed in the game that she confided in a relative, who alerted the police and health officials. The teenager was admitted to a hospital psychiatric unit in Barcelona.
Breido said investigations were difficult because the teenagers who were lured into committing suicide deleted all their correspondence in their social media accounts as instructed by the administrators.
However, crucial evidence was provided by one unidentified girl who completed all tasks up to the final stage of the game before giving up.
Narrating the girl’s journey, Breido said that she was given tasks which she completed easily before being selected to join a small group of teenagers where she came under Budiekin’s purview.
She was then invited to join a closed group, a night-time chat where you had to be up 4:20 am every night, resulting in weariness and decreased ability to make decisions.
“It was middle of a night, my alarm rang, I woke up and got straight to my phone.
“I had to watch videos with pictures flicking every two seconds of teenagers jumping off roofs, close-ups of bodies, bloodied mouths, pools of blood under bodies.
“It was accompanied by very unpleasant, haunting music with screams of animals and pets, and cries like children were being tortured.
“I felt so awful after watching them I wanted to do something physical to either myself or somebody, to kill, to destroy,” she said.
Any indication of wanting to leave was met with abuse and threats from the administrator.
“He shamed me for being weak and not feeling bad enough about my life. I had to watch until the administrator commanded me to stop and ordered me to erase everything,” she added.
Breido said, “Even an adult would have felt shocked in this situation. Our girl told us about another video, with very gloomy music, a black screen and then a flash of red, and a teenager that stood on a railway track being hit by a train – with music and screams and shouts that tear your heart to pieces.
“I felt bad even listening to her. She said that the videos strengthened her idea about suicide.
“Philipp told her that life was awful and that it would never get better, that she was not interesting, how her parents didn’t need her, that they would never understand her.
“Do something beautiful at least once in your life, he was saying, it is so good to die young. He was saying that she was special, a rare ‘selected one’ who could understand the truth.
“She felt that she was scared to make the final step, and Philipp immediately offered an alternative.
“You don’t have to jump off a roof or go under a train, he said. It’s okay to take pills, it’s painless.
“She set a timer for 20 May (2016), and asked him what would happen if she got scared.
“‘We’ll help you then’, he answered,” recounted Breido.
By a complete coincidence and luck, Breido said, she was noticed in time to be rescued.
He added that the victim went through a long psychological rehabilitation and speaks about her experience openly now.
Guilty Without Conscience
According to Russian state investigators, Budeikin confessed to the crimes when he told his interrogators that his victims were “happy to die”.
In a shocking interview, he said “There are people – and there is biological waste. Those who do not represent any value for society. Who cause or will cause only harm to society.
“I was cleaning our society of such people. It started in 2013 when I created F57 (online) community.
“I’d been thinking through this idea for five years. It was necessary to distinguish normal (people) from biological rubbish.”
He claimed that 17 youngsters have committed suicide, while another 28 were getting ready to do the same.
In St Petersburg on 10 May, Budeikin pleaded guilty to inciting the suicides of at least 16 teen girls via the Blue Whale challenge.
But this doesn’t look like the end game. What is worrisome is that Russian law dictates that he is allowed contact with the outside world. Authorities have been passing to him love letters from young Russian girls since his arrest in November last year.
The new twist to the game is that an app allegedly hacks into personal information on smartphones and then blackmails the youngsters into committing suicide. Whilst the suicide groups were for real on the Russian social media platform, the existence of the Blue Whale challenge app has yet to be confirmed.
Warnings on the deadly challenge have surfaced in the US, UK, Spain, Brazil and Central Asia. However, there have been no reports of any ‘sightings’ of the Blue Whale on local shores as yet. And let’s hope there will be none – ever.