Last year, the Ice Bucket Challenge took Facebook and other social media by storm. This year’s online “trend” is far more disturbing. Called the “Game of 72,” the alleged Facebook “craze,” as some European media outlets have labeled it, consists of teens daring each other to disappear for three days — that is, 72 hours — without letting their families or friends know where they’ve gone, and without being found.
But is the Game of 72 for real, or just a bizarre internet hoax? That’s what police in Britain want to know after two teenage schoolgirls there vanished on Friday, setting off a massive hunt for the pair.
On Monday, police in the English county of Essex found Siobhan Clarke (above left), 14, and her 15-year-old friend Sammy Clarke (not related, pictured above right) safe and unharmed. Essex officers also arrested 22-year-old Kieran Hartley-Anderson in connection with the girls’ disappearance.
Hartley-Anderson was reportedly a friend of the girls, and they were on their way to meet with him when they went missing Friday — but while the police have so far said nothing, neighbors of the now-recovered girls say that rumors in the area link the disappearance to the Game of 72.
“We heard the girls went missing and that it might be part of this new craze in the area,” said resident Jo Gillette. “Apparently they’re dared then suddenly they disappear without a trace, without telling their parents or anyone else. It’s a really worrying game to be playing in this day and age. The poor parents of those schoolgirls, they must have been worried sick.”
The speculation that the Facebook “Game of 72” trend may have been behind the disappearances followed a similar disappearance of a 13-year-old girl in France last month.
Identified in the media only as “Emma,” the girl reportedly admitted that she vanished because she was playing the bizarre “game.”
“It’s looking [at] images on the internet that I fell on this game,” the girl was quoted as saying. “It is to start as long as possible and to frighten parents. Initially, it is believed that it is fun but in the end, it is ridiculous.”
According to French police, “Emma” refused to give up any further details of where she went during her disappearance, or what she did during the days she was missing.
The Game of 72 “craze” has supposedly now spread to North America, with police in Vancouver, Canada, and the Greater Boston area in Massachusetts warning parents to monitor the online activity of their kids, to stop them from playing the game.
Parents need to be aware of a new “game” traveling around social media involving teens daring each other to vanish for 72 hours #Gameof72
— Revere Police (@reverepolice) May 1, 2015
But is the Game of 72 a real threat, or some sort of macabre hoax or out-of-control rumor — as one expert, Magali Duwelz, believes? French police have so far been unable to find any evidence of the Game of 72 online — except for alarming posts by frightened parents worried about the supposed Facebook craze.
[Images: Essex Police]