Momo is a nickname given to a sculpture of a young woman with long black hair, large bulging eyes, a wide smile and bird legs. Pictures of the sculpture are associated with an urban legend involving a WhatsApp phone number that messages disturbing photographs to those that attempt to contact it, linked to a game referred to as the Momo Challenge or Momo Game. Similar to the Blue Whale Challenge, many have accused the suicide game of being a hoax.
In 2016, the sculpture was created by the Japanese artist Keisuke Aiso (Aisawa) from the special effects company Link Factory and placed on display at the Vanilla Gallery in Tokyo, Japan. On August 25th, 2016, Instagram user nanaakooo posted a photograph of the sculpture (shown below).
Pictures of it subsequently became an urban legend on the Spanish-speaking web and was associated with "a phone number that could be added to WhatsApp."
On July 10th, 2018, Redditor AlmightySosa00 submitted a cropped picture of the sculpture to /r/creepy, where it received upwards of 4,700 points (89% upvoted) and 900 comments within 48 hours. On the following day, AlmightySosa00 shared another photograph of the sculpture.
On July 11th, YouTuber ReignBot uploaded a video on the viral photographs of the sculpture titled "Exploring The Momo Situation," which discussed the urban legend and investigated several WhatsApp phone numbers associated with it (shown below). Within 24 hours, the video gathered upwards of 96,000 views and 3,700 comments.
On July 11th, an unknown Redditor posted an inquiry about the spreading pictures in /r/OutOfTheLoop subreddit.
On July 25th, 2018, the Buenos Aires Times reported that police were investigating if the WhatsApp "Momo Game" was involved in the suicide of a 12-year-old girl in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The police delivered a statement saying they discovered WhatsApp chats on the girl's phone, leading them to believe her "intention was to upload the video to social media as part of a challenged aimed at crediting the Momo game." On August 2nd, Fox News reported on the news, referring to the WhatsApp game as the "Momo suicide challenge," comparing it to the Blue Whale Challenge. On August 8th, YouTuber Repzilla uploaded a video titled "How the Momo Challenge uses Psychology to Kill," which referred to it as a "suicide challenge" similar to the Blue Whale Challenge (shown below).
On February 25th, 2019, the Scottish news site The Herald reported that Lyn Dixon, a mother from Edinburgh, Scotland, claimed her eight-year-old son was told by person using the Momo image to hold a knife to his neck.
"He showed me an image of the face on my phone and said that she had told him to go into the kitchen drawer and take out a knife and put it into his neck. We've told him it's a load of rubbish and there are bad people out there who do bad things but it's frightening, really frightening."
The following day, the Twitter account for Northcott School in Hull, England tweeted that they had become aware that the Momo challenge was "hacking into children's programmes" on Kids YouTube, including content displaying Fortnite gameplay and Peppa Pig episodes (shown below).
Also on February 26th, Twitter user @BreeDaAuraGod_ tweeted a picture warning parents about the Momo challenge (shown below). Within 24 hours, the tweet gained over 11,700 retweets and 8,400 likes.
Warning! Please read, this is real pic.twitter.com/980jS0FU12— Wanda Maximoff (@BreeDaAuraGod_) February 26, 2019
On February 26th, 2019, YouTuber Redsilverj uploaded a video about the Momo Challenge (shown below). Within 24 hours, the video garnered more than 540,000 views and 480 comments. That day, Snopes published an article titled "How Much of a Threat Is the Purported ‘Momo Challenge’ Suicide Game?", which noted that many were speculating the challenge "may be far more hype or hoax than reality."
Also on February 26th, Kim Kardashian posted an Instagram story about Momo videos on YouTube, along with the caption "@youtube please help!!" (shown below).
"Contrary to press reports, we’ve not received any recent evidence of videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge on YouTube. Content of this kind would be in violation of our policies and removed immediately."
Statue Destruction and Creator Interview
On March 3rd, 2019, British news outlet The Sun published an interview with the creator of the statue Keisuke Aiso (Aisawa). In the interview, Aiso said that he felt somewhat responsible for images of the statue being used in the hoax.
People do not know if it is true or not but apparently the children have been affected, and I do feel a little responsible for it. I feel like I am in trouble but it’s all out of my hands.
Aiso also revealed that he threw away the statue after it started rotting.
It was rotten and I threw it away. The children can be reassured Momo is dead – she doesn’t exist and the curse is gone.
On February 28th, The Daily Dot reported that internet users have been making attempts to turn Momo into a positive meme, with Photoshop edits making the image appear less scary, wholesome fan art and positive messages imposed over the photographs. For example, on February 28th, 2019, Twitter user @NexpoYT posted two wholesome memes featuring the character, with the tweet gaining over 400 retweets and 1,700 likes in one day.
Another tweet by user @ambermruffin gained over 70 retweets and 1000 likes in one day.
BuzzFeed Newspaper Cover
On March 6th, 2019, BuzzFeed released a limited-edition newspaper at select subways in New York City, which prominently featured an illustration of Momo with hearts in her eyes on the cover. That day, the @BuzzFeedNewsArt Twitter feed posted an animated GIF of the newspaper (shown below).
If you're around Union Square in NYC, you can grab a copy of the
buzzfeed</a> newspaper we designed! Amazing illustrations from <a href="https://twitter.com/kelseyrushing?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">kelseyrushing,
ebencom</a>, & <a href="https://twitter.com/Benkothe?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">Benkothe, and photos by
bubaczery</a>: <a href="https://t.co/JRbCF2gO7N">pic.twitter.com/JRbCF2gO7N</a></p>— BuzzFeed News Art Dept (BuzzFeedNewsArt) March 6, 2019
On July 10th, 2019, Deadline reported that Orion Pictures and Vertigo Entertainment would partner on a film based on the Momo Challenge viral hoax as well as Keisuke Aiso's sculpture. The film would be produced by Taka Ichise, who produced the 2017 adaptation of Stephen King's It.
According to the report, the film may rely on both the viral story of the Momo Challenge and the basis for the sculpture "the legend of Ubume, a venomous, child-snatching bird of Japanese folklore."
Some online criticized the idea of a filmed version of the story. Twitter user @EleanorxNeale wrote, "as if they’re making A MOMO MOVIE this is both the best and worst news i have heard all day" (shown below).
Twitter user @PrincessTekki took even greater offense writing that the story had already had adverse effects on the sculptor. They wrote, "It's sad enough that Momo was destroyed by her own sculptor out of grief, but now people want to make a movie about how 'evil and scary' she is when she was meant to be a nice spirit[…]So even if the image or creepypasta scares you, please remember that Momo is an innocent piece of art despite her appearance. And that she deserved better than to be associated with suicide and death" (shown below).
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