Charlie Charlie: The Science of Summoning Demons with Pencils for Fun and Profit

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Sorta transcript:

Charlie, Charlie is a newly popular game in which people film themselves summoning a demon using two pencils and a piece of paper. I have to say, this is such an improvement over demon summoning when I was a kid, when you had to use at least four crystals and a pint of goat blood to even get a demon’s attention.

The game works like this: put two pencils in a cross, one on top of the other, and put them on top of a sheet of paper with yes/no quadrants written on it. Ask for Charlie Charlie to play, and the top pencil will rotate to the appropriate answer.

Word on the street is that the demon is an ancient Mexican boy, a myth probably created by someone who knows nothing about Mexico. Or demons. If you’re summoning a ghost named Charlie, it’s less likely to be a Mexican demon that will murder you than an adorable English toddler who will bite your finger.

So if it’s not a Mexican demon moving the pencil, what is it? Well, consider that a pencil balanced on top of another pencil isn’t the most stable configuration in the world. It’ll most likely move if you just leave it there for long enough, but whispering a question in its direction will definitely encourage it to lose balance.

You can use a similar trick to convince your more gullible friends that you have psychic powers. James Hydrick claimed to have the ability to move a pencil across a table, and when he went on TV to demonstrate this ability to Bob Barker on That’s My Line, skeptic James Randi pointed out that if you balance a pencil just right, it’s impossible to keep it from moving just do the normal currents of air in the room.

Hydrick also claimed to be able to flip the pages of a phone book with his mind, which Randi maintained was done using the same trick as with the pencil: blowing on them. Randi offered Hydrick ten thousand dollars if he could move a phone book page without disturbing a bunch of styrofoam pieces around it. Hydrick suddenly found that his power failed him. Too bad for him, but there’s a chance your friends at summer camp won’t be that bright, so feel free to use his trick to further baffle your friends who are freaked out by Charlie Charlie. And then tell them how it’s done. Spread critical thinking, not gullibility.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. Anyone who watches “Supernatural” knows the only proper way to summon a demon is to slit some poor bastard’s throat, fill a chalice full of his blood, and say some Latin words.

  2. Rebecca Watson

    As to be expected our Christian fundy friend, Pat Robertson and his fellow nuts at the 700 club have something incredibly stupid to say about this!

    1. It’s not cool, but it totally works and lets you see the future and levitate. I’m beginning to think Pat Robertson doesn’t know cool.

  3. By the way, is there a Spanish version of the name Charlie, because if this demon is supposed to be from Mexico, wouldn’t that name have made more sense?

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