News about the Momo Challenge is going viral again, as parents in England are reporting that they’ve seen the video showing up after children’s YouTube videos like Peppa Pig, Fortnite, or Minecraft. But just what are the origins of the game? Here’s a look at where it started and what the origin is of that creepy photo. (If you want to read about the Peppa Pig controversy, please see Heavy’s story here.)
The Photo Originated from a Japanese Special Effects Company & Was a Half-Woman/Half-Bird
The full-sized photo of Momo is still creepy, but you can see why the picture looks the way it does — it’s a half person/half bird. It’s a cropped version of a photo from a Japanese special effects company.
The photo that’s taken over the challenge is a cropped version that appears on WhatsApp and now reportedly on some videos too. The bird-woman sculpture was created by Link Factory, a Japanese special effects company, according to 9News. The sculpture was not designed by Japanese artist Midori Hayashi, as some inaccurate reports have indicated. Midori Hayashi said on Facebook that the Momo bird is not her bird. Her bio even reads: “No soy el autor de ese famoso pajaro. I am not the author of that famous bird.”
The Momo Challenge is not associated with Hayashi or Link Factory.
As for the photo itself, KnowYourMeme has said the photo was posted on Instagram by nanaakooo on August 25, 2016 when the sculpture was in an art gallery in Ginza in Tokyo. It was part of an exhibit about ghosts and specters, BBC reported.
At some point after that, the photo was taken from that Instagram post and used for the Momo Challenge. In July 2018, the photo was shared on Reddit’s subreddit called r/creepy, where it got 900 comments and 4,700 upvotes in 48 hours. At the time it was shared, the Momo Challenge was not mentioned.
The Person Who Created the Momo Challenge Isn’t Known, But It May Have Originated in Japan or Mexico
YouTuber ReignBot has mentioned that it’s difficult to tie down Momo to a specific user because the number associated with Momo changes and people often don’t get responses when they try to connect.
Some believe the challenge originated in Japan, 9News reported, but it’s also possible this is because the photo originated from Japan, as explained in the section above.
Others believe the Momo Challenge originated in Mexico. Mexican police said the “game” started in a Facebook group, La Republica reported, when members were challenged to establish communication with an unknown number. Users told authorities in Mexico that if you sent a message to Momo from your cell phone, it responded with violent and aggressive images.
In 2018, the challenge was especially popular in Spanish-speaking countries, lending to the theory that it originated in Mexico. The game has been reported in Mexico, Argentina, the U.S., France, and Germany, the BBC reported in 2018. But now in 2019, it’s spread to other parts of England.
Several phone numbers have been associated with Momo on WhatsApp, El Cuidadano Web reported in 2018. These include a Japanese phone number that starts with 813, a number from Colombia that starts with 52, and a number from Mexico that starts with 57.
This is a developing story.