Just when you thought the world couldn’t possibly be going any more bonkers, enter the latest YouTube craze: the Carolina Reaper Challenge.
The Guinness Book of World Records deemed Carolina Reapers the hottest peppers in the world in 2013, with an average hotness rate of 1,569,300 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), the unit used to measure the pungency of peppers. And while the newly discovered “Dragon’s Breath” pepper might have superseded that record with a reading of 2.48 million on the SHU scale, Carolina Reapers are still hot AF. (By way of comparison, the more common habañero pepper is about 350,000 on the SHU, and the jalapeño that we all know and love measures a mere 8,000 SHUs.)
So, yeah, why in hell anyone would want to go near these hella spicy mofos is absolutely baffling. But we know YouTube is full of fools looking to make a million bucks off of doing totally inane things, so here were are. Over the past year, YouTube has exploded with videos of people eating these peppers, then proceeding to jump around like idiots, screaming and crying because they ate the world’s hottest peppers. Soon after, you get to watch them chug gallons of milk to ease the pain; others just go ahead and vomit up the peppers (yes, onscreen, for all our viewing pleasure).
Then, of course, these adorable YouTubers not only ask you to subscribe to their channel, but challenge you, too, to try the Carolina Reaper Challenge — filming yourself while doing it so that the whole world can partake in your mouth-and-stomach-on-fire misery.
Hard pass on that.
But if you think that no one in their right mind would play along with this crap, that’s where you are dead wrong. Not only do these videos have literally millions of views, but kids all over seem to be willing to take these YouTubers up on their challenge. After all, YouTubers are basically celebrities to the tween/teen cohort.
Last year, at a middle school nearby, a group of kids apparently took the challenge. Someone had brought the peppers to school, and during recess, the kids — seemingly not knowing what the heck they were exactly — happily devoured them. A lot of them. Minutes later, kids were puking blood, and according to reports from middle school parents, ambulances were called to the scene because some kids were in such bad shape that they needed medical attention.
Not cool. Scary AF.
At the time, I thought this was an isolated incident, but it turns out my town’s middle school was not the only one to be hit by this ridiculous (and downright dangerous) new trend.
Tonya Fox, a Scary Mommy commenter, recently shared the story of her 12-year-old’s experience with the reapers. Fox shared that she was called to her son’s school by the nurse, and that multiple students were crowded into the nurse’s office with horrible symptoms, including vomiting and painful, burning rashes caused by the peppers.
“He […] looked like his dog had died,” wrote Fox, describing her son. “His eyes were red and swollen. He had spittle on his shirt and seemed to be drooling out of every possible orifice from the neck up.” According to Fox, the principal explained to the parents this whole thing was part of the Carolina Reaper Challenge that was going around and that a student had brought a big old bag of them to school.
At first, Fox laughed her ass off at the whole thing, until she realized that some of the peppers’ oils had rubbed off on her, leaving her with burning, inflamed skin that made her pretty much look like she got badly beaten up.
“Several hours later, my eyes began to burn,” says Fox, who explains that even the slightest contact with these freaking peppers can “light your skin on fire.” Her symptoms persisted for a few days after the fact. “I had black eyes and what looked like blisters underneath,” she says.
Jesus effing Christ, if this story doesn’t just make you want to ban YouTube in your house forevermore, I don’t know what will. But even if our kids never watched another “challenge” video in their lives again, the buzz is out there, and so it seems pretty important that we sit our kids down and tell them that consuming some strange pepper as part of a challenge, a dare, or anything else is not a good idea.
When I had the “Carolina Reaper Challenge Talk” with my tween, I added the details about vomiting up blood, which I’m pretty sure sealed the deal for him.
Beware, too, that there seems to be emerging yet another idiotic challenge around these peppers: the #onechipchallenge. Apparently, a chip company called Paqui Chips has infused Carolina Reapers into their product, making it that much easier to consume those little bastards. And the company seems to be succeeding in luring people to try the challenge.
Newscasters from KWGN Denver recently took the #onechipchallenge, and it was as scintillating as you might imagine, with one newscaster named Natalie having the pleasure of vomiting on live TV.
And just last week, Shaquille O’Neal accepted the challenge on a Facebook Live session of “Inside the NBA,” guaranteeing everyone present that he was so tough he wouldn’t even “make a face” while consuming a Carolina Reaper. While Shaq seemed to have fared better than most, he definitely did made a face.
All jokes aside, the bottom line is this: Tell your kids to stay the heck away from these damn peppers.