Sadly, there are enough cases of deaths and near deaths of children and teens to even make a list like this, and that's largely (if not mostly) thanks to the internet. With all of the online dares and challenges going around lately, the youth of today are quite likely to stumble upon some of these ridiculous online games and to play them.
That being said, there are still plenty of the good, old-fashioned, in-person dares going around as well. Between dumb kids daring other dumb kids to do dumb stuff and the influence of the internet, it's no wonder that lists like this exist. According to one Emergency Room doctor who's seen more than his share of young people lost to things like foolish dares, it's become "survival of the stupidest," especially when you consider situations where kids even know they will, in fact, lose their life and still choose to partake. Combine that with the fact that every minute, 72 hours of videos are uploaded onto YouTube, essentially guaranteeing that no one can control what kids see and decide to emulate, and there's little hope that kids and teens will not come across a dare or challenge or something deadly online that they will want to try.
Following are 15 tragic stories of kids and teenagers who took a dare, whether online or in person, and who died or nearly died because of it. If anything, let these people's stories be a lesson in what not to do and what to teach our children not to do when it comes to online "games," peer pressure, wanting to impress others, and downright naivety.
15 Honors Student Dared to Subway Surf
14-year-old Eric Alvarez of Harlem, New York, was killed while subway surfing to impress his friends in 2003. They were egging him on to do it on his way home from Chelsea High School at 4:00 PM in October of 2003. He tried to pull off the stunt on the top of the second to the last car on a moving train at the 14th Street Station, but his head struck a cement beam, and he fell onto the tracks and was run over by the subway train. He was killed instantly. It sounds horrific, and it also sounds slightly out of character for an honor student who was known for being a computer and math whiz. Eric's aunt, Haydee Alvarez, said, "Eric was extremely smart, too smart for what happened to him. I'm in extreme shock that he would even try something like that." His friends say he was known for being a prankster, not a daredevil, and several were shocked that he would attempt such a foolish stunt -- dare or no dare.
14 8-Year-Old Dies After Drinking Boiling Water on a Dare
Recently, a little girl named Ki'Ari Pope made headlines because, at the age of eight, she died after taking a dare to drink boiling water through a straw last March. The Boynton Beach, Florida girl had taken a dare from her cousin after they saw someone doing this on a YouTube video (it turns out the people on the video were only pretending to drink it). Ki'Ari died more than four months after the dare because of complications from it. She had had a tracheotomy and emergency surgery to remove scar tissue from her windpipe, which left her with difficulty breathing and talking. Then, one night in July, she stopped breathing. She was rushed to the hospital and died at the hospital 40 minutes after arriving. The Hot Water Challenge encompasses all sorts of behavior with scalding water, not just drinking it. Videos have surfaced of participants throwing boiling water on one another, sticking their hands in boiling water, and more.
13 Drowned in the Thames After Dare to Swim
There was a 15-year-old boy named Dominick Naylor, whose life tragically came to an end after he drowned in London's Thames River. He and a friend were dangling their feet in the river one day in September of 2016, and according to another friend that was with them, they kept daring each other to go further and further into the water. Dominick ended up going very far out into the river, and he began to panic because he couldn't swim. His friend, Will, who had been the one daring him, swam out to help him, but Dominick had gone under and he couldn't be seen. Also at the riverside when the incident occurred was Dominick's uncle, who said, "He was here one minute and gone the next. He just disappeared. I was here the moment they pulled him out of the water -- it was horrendous." It's thought that Dominick got tangled in the weeds and thus couldn't free himself to try to swim. He was pulled from the river after a frantic two-hour search.
12 America's First Blue Whale Victim
You've probably heard of the macabre Blue Whale Challenge, which sees its participants self-mutilate and do other dark challenges daily. The 50th challenge is suicide. This challenge is suspected of being behind hundreds of deaths globally, especially in Russia and Brazil. But 15-year-old Isaiah Gonzalez was from San Antonio, Texas, and he died in July after committing suicide as part of the last dare of the Blue Whale Challenge, something his family is sure was to blame. Isaiah hung himself in the closet, and propped up on a shoe was his cell phone, broadcasting his suicide. He, along with a 16-year-old girl from Atlanta, is thought to be the first Blue Whale victim in the United States. 130 deaths in Russia have been attributed to what one former Blue Whale participant who survived called "psychological manipulation." He was supposed to throw himself off of a 20-foot building in Moscow for his 50th task but backed out. The college student says playing their game, you become "like a zombie."
11 Teen Jumps to Death at Mall
Earlier this year in February, a 17-year-old daredevil named "Johnathan Chow" died after performing a stunt for a Snapchat video. While it was not an outright dare, he was doing it to please viewers and prove that he could. At the Singapore Mall that day, Johnathan jumped from a balcony, intending to land on a ledge just below. But the plasterboard couldn't support his weight, and he fell four floors to his death. The friend that was with him, identified only as Ruth, told reporters that he came up with the idea while they were clothes shopping, and told her to film him. She told TODAY, "We both thought the ledge was made of concrete, but when he jumped, he fell straight through. I knew it was dangerous, but before I could stop him, he already jumped over. I swear I wanted to jump over, too, but I knew it was too late."
10 Dared to Die
The very recent death of 14-year-old Ankan Dey is most likely another Blue Whale Challenge suicide. The boy was from India, and his friends told police he had been playing the Blue Whale game online. He was found suffocated by a plastic bag in his bathroom just a few days ago. Ankan's father, Gopinath Dey, said, "He returned from school on Saturday and sat in front of the computer. When his mother, Sampa, called him for lunch, he said he will first have bath [sic]. When he did not emerge from the bathroom for quite some time, we broke open the door and found him lying on the floor motionless. We rushed him to the hospital where he was declared dead." Ankan was from the town of Anandpur, West Bengal State, India. Although Russia and Brazil have had the biggest problem thus far with the Blue Whale Challenge, India is now also experiencing its share of Blue Whale deaths.
9 Blue Whale Strikes Again
Finally, we have the sad story of 14-year-old Manpreet Sahans, who committed suicide as part of the online Blue Whale dare. He was the first in his country of India to do so, followed shortly by Ankan Dey (see number two on this list). Manpreet jumped off a building in Mumbai in late July. It was revealed that he had been searching for ways to kill himself (usually a victim is told how to do so by the Blue Whale game) and even told his friends he would not be coming to school on Monday. When he was about to jump, a neighbor saw him walking on the edge of the terrace and called out to him. He did not respond, and by the time the neighbor got help, Manpreet had jumped. No one in his life saw this coming, although they do admit to noticing a change in his behavior the last few days of his life.
8 Teen Beats Girlfriend with a Rock to Win Breakfast
This is a particularly gruesome story of a 16-year-old boy who battered his girlfriend to death with a rock... on a dare. While this is not a crime that led to his own death, it was a crime that started out as a sort of dare and resulted in the death of a 15-year-old girl. Sentenced to a minimum of 14 years for the crime, Joshua Davies of England was dared that he wouldn't go through with killing on-again-off-again girlfriend Rebecca Aylward, 15. If he did go through with it, the friend texted that he would buy him breakfast. So, Joshua did it, smashing her skull in with a rock. He had lured her into a wooded area near his home, and she had been excited to go, even dressing up in a new outfit because she thought they were getting back together. Joshua had previously joked with friends about killing her after their first breakup, telling them plots like poisoning her with foxglove or throwing her off a cliff. His friends said they never actually took him seriously until it was too late. Joshua was not found to have psychiatric problems yet was never apologetic and even smiled when he was found guilty.
7 Drinking Dare Turns Deadly
Way back in 1997, Chicago teenager Elizabeth Wakulich took a dare that would end her life. Sadly, her story is far from the only one of its kind, as the dare was to guzzle alcohol. The Junior Varsity cheerleader was dared at a party to chug the remainder of a bottle of 107-proof Goldschlager, which is a cinnamon schnapps. It was about a quart of alcohol, which she drank, and then, she went to sleep. At about 1:00 PM the next day, a friend noticed she was unresponsive and called 911. Almost 12 hours after taking the bet that had earned her $80, Elizabeth's blood alcohol level was at 0.381 percent, and she was pronounced dead at the hospital. A pathologist at the medical examiner's office said that alcohol becomes lethal in the 0.400 to 0.500 range, so if she had drunk the Goldschlager at 2:00 AM, which she had, her blood-alcohol level at that point would've been about 0.600 percent, which was more than high enough to kill her.
6 Teen Dared to Set Himself on Fire
Thankfully, this tale is one that doesn't end in the death of a child, but it very well could have. And the youngster no doubt learned his lesson after being severely burned. Deltona, Florida teen Russell Gortzig, 13, had watched a YouTube video and decided to emulate it, which included allowing his friend, 15-year-old Pierre Marco, to dump gasoline all over him. Then, Russell's friend dared him to snap on his lighter, so of course, he did. He later told a news outlet that "a combination of the spark and fumes caught his shorts on fire," and he was hospitalized with severe burns. His mother blamed YouTube, which seems pretty silly since YouTube cannot possibly screen all of its videos for anything a child might decide to try and do. Plus, the teens obviously knew how dangerous it was, hence the fact that it was a dare. They at least knew there was a risk of him catching fire, and hopefully, the fact that he did was enough to knock some sense into him.
5 A Strange Game of Highway Chicken
This near-tragedy took place in Victoria, Australia near Melbourne. An 18-year-old young man was basically dared by his "friends" to run straight into oncoming traffic on a freeway at night. So, he did just that, and when a car finally came along in the middle of the road that night, this unnamed man ran toward it in nothing but his underwear. The news article about it in the local paper summed it up like this: "[An] 18-year-old South Morang man is in the Royal Melbourne Hospital after he was struck by a Toyota Hilux on the Tullamarine Speedway near Flemington just before 1:30 AM. He had been playing 'chicken' on the freeway on-ramp as a dare when he was hit, police said." The vehicle was totaled, but miraculously, the teen survived his strange version of Chicken, which is usually two cars speeding toward each other to see who swerves first -- not a person and a car.
4 Teen Wrestles a Crocodile After Being Dared to Jump in the Water
Australian teen Lee De Paauw, 18, almost died as a result of a crocodile attack. In March of 2017, Lee was reportedly dared to jump into the Johnstone River in North Queensland, Australia. It was 2:30 in the morning and dark, and the crocodile latched onto his arm almost as soon as he jumped into the water, which is in an area known for its crocodile population. Lee managed to escape the croc and probably its death roll and drowning of him by punching it in the head but sustained severe arm injuries in the process. According to one news outlet, the predator was a four-foot long saltwater crocodile, which is one of the most dangerous in Australia and is responsible for the deaths of at least eight people since 1985. But by punching the animal and with the help of his friends, Lee was able to escape what turned out to be a deadly dare, although he had also been trying to impress one of them, a British backpacker named Sophie Paterson. He literally fought a crocodile for her, and she later went on a date with him, a happy ending to something that could have (and probably normally would have) ended much differently.
3 Drinking Soy Sauce on a Dare Leads to Coma
Although the teen who drank too much soy sauce on a dare is technically almost 20 years old, he's still a teenager and behaved quite like a child, so he earns his spot on this list. An unnamed 19-year-old Virginia college student drank more than a quart of soy sauce on a dare and suffered a sodium overdose that put him in a coma and nearly killed him. His coma lasted for three days, and he was lucky to not have any permanent neurological damage when he woke up. Death from a sodium overdose is very rare, but it can happen. In ancient China, one way people committed suicide was by salt overdose. According to a case study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, when the body has a salt imbalance in its fluids, a condition known as hypernatremia occurs. "Severe hypernatremia can result in excessive sodium in bodily fluid, which causes excess water to flow into cells to balance sodium levels. While some cells can handle the swelling, in brain cells, the excess swelling can lead to neurological damage or death. Other symptoms include mental confusion, convulsions, fatigue, and nausea."
2 Dared to Jump Into a Puddle That Was Actually a Sinkhole
A teenager known only as Lakeem was the "star" of a video that went viral in 2013. In the parking lot of a Family Dollar that day, a group of guys dared Lakeem to jump into what appeared to be a normal puddle. But it was no ordinary puddle as Lakeem quickly learned. It turned out that it was actually a hole of unknown depth, and when he jumped into it, he became completely submerged in water and almost drowned, according to nydailynews.com. The video was titled "My Friend Almost Drowned at Family Dollar!" and was posted to YouTube, where it soon went viral. Lakeem's friends insist they all thought it was a normal puddle and that they were filming the jump because Lakeem had just gotten new shoes, and they thought it was funny. Who knows what the real story is? But the important thing is that Lakeem is ok, and he didn't become yet another victim of teenage stupidity.
1 The Eraser Challenge Nearly Kills 13-Year-Old Boy
One of the many online challenges around nowadays is called the Eraser Challenge, and the participants must rub an eraser against their skin while having to do or say something, like reciting the alphabet and coming up with a word for each letter. Then the kids compare their burns after getting to the letter Z. It doesn't sound as bad as some of the games we've heard of, like the Choking Game or the Hot Water Challenge, but one unidentified 13-year-old boy from Chico, California nearly died from playing it. In 2015, he reportedly contracted strep toxic shock from the germs on the dirty eraser. Kids are not aware that their skin is not sterile and erasers are not clean. Therefore, rubbing an eraser hard and fast on your skin can cause a severe infection, including staph or strep skin infections. The Chico boy was left fighting for his life after taking this challenge that he probably thought was just for fun.
Sources: washingtonpost.com, abcnews.go.com, chicagotribune.com