Edge of a building

‘Blue Whale Challenge’: Eerily Like This 2016 Stephen King Suicide Thriller

Over the past few days, reports ABC, a horrifying new trend (or maybe “social epidemic” is an apter term) entitled “The Blue Whale Challenge” has enveloped the internet in a wave of morbid fascination. Everyone agrees it’s scary that anyone would orchestrate or participate in the twisted “suicide game” the challenge presents, but what is not discussed nearly as much is the eerily similar plot from a 2016 novel by Stephen King and its possible connection with the tragic phenomenon.

computer hacker in hoodie
To the horror of many parents and school officials, the Challenge has spread rapidly as of late through social media. [Image by Anyaberkut/iStock]

The Blue Whale Challenge, writes Computerworld, begins with the download of an app. When a user downloads the app, which they might do just to see what all the hubbub is about, it will immediately hack into the user’s phone and harvest any personal information, such as private exchanges or contact info for family and friends. This information will be used to blackmail the user if they do not adhere to the terrifying requests the app makes once opened.

The app gives the user one request per day, and the requests escalate until, on the 50th day, the app tells the user to kill him or herself. The user must obey the commands on threat of their info being leaked or their loved ones injured if he or she refuses.

It’s pretty horrific stuff, and what makes it even scarier is that the Blue Whale Challenge, which originated in Russia but has apparently spread around the Western World, is so popular on social media. It reportedly takes advantage of vulnerable teens who want desperately to embrace a new viral trend.

The game’s creator, Philipp Budeikin, was recently apprehended but did not seem sorry about the plague he had unleashed on the world. In fact, BBC explains, he called his victims “biological waste” and claimed his Blue Whale Challenge app was “cleansing the world” by having them take their own lives.

It is positively eerie how closely Budeikin and his Blue Whale Challenge parallel Brady Hartsfield and his suicide-inducing mobile game “Fishin’ Hole” from 2016’s End of Watch, a supernatural detective novel by Stephen King.

Firstly, and most obviously, the goals of both apps are the same: to get the users to kill themselves. The app also goes after vulnerable and often socially stigmatized teens in both cases.

Second, both “Fishin’ Hole” and the Blue Whale Challenge are purveyed via a mobile device. The blue whale app appears on smartphones (it has apparently been banned from the Apple App store but is still accessible on Android phones or by rooting any phone) while the slightly more old-school version Stephen King wrote about takes place on a Zappit, a fictional brand of computer tablet.

Thirdly, both app names — “Fishin’ Hole” and “Blue Whale Challenge” center around aquatic creatures that use fins to glide through the water. In case you’re interested, the latter gets its name because of the popular conception that blue whales sometimes intentionally beach themselves to commit suicide. Also, many recent reports of the Challenge’s popularity spreading to the US and UK say that victims are sometimes told to carve the image of a blue whale into their own skin. The Stephen King app gets its name from the fact that it hypnotizes the user with a tranquil scene of fish swimming in a pond in order to make them more suggestible.

Admittedly, the version from End of Watch does not force the victims to commit increasingly heinous acts for 50 days before it strikes. It also utilizes supernatural means to hypnotize the victim and identify and exploit their most intimate insecurities, while the Blue Whale Challenge app assigns an actual administrator (known as a “master” in the app’s lingo) to each “player” in order to get to know them.

Still, the similarities almost seem too great to ignore, especially given the fact that End of Watch came out less than a year ago. Budeikin has not made any direct reference to King’s book, but it does not seem unlikely it was one of his inspirations.

That is not to say the Blue Whale scourge is in any way King’s fault; just because some horrible crime appears in a book does not mean anyone should actually attempt it.

Hopefully, the increased awareness of the Challenge that will come as a result of its recent exposure online will help bring its spread to a screeching halt, as it has already been responsible for the deaths of at well over 130 teens worldwide, according to The Sun.

[Featured Image by TzahiV/iStock]