01 Aug A Game of Tag
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"A Game of Tag"Written by
Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
In 2017, a certain video appeared on Youtube.
The phone recording presented a busy intersection in a rather large city, probably in the United States. The circumstances indicated the situation took place during rush hours on March or April, as people were wearing light coats and some snow was still visible along with blooming trees and grass.
The recording starts with screaming.
You can hear distant cries. Few people are seen running and even from a distance, it is clearly a panic rush, with lots of scuffling and pushing aside. There is a sense of confusion and uncertainty in the air. Among the obscured noises, one clear “What’s going on?” can be heard. The video is good quality, but shaky, as the person holding the phone is trying to get closer to the commotion.
Around the tenth second the chaos starts spreading. Pedestrians are now moving faster and more people are running. If it wasn’t for the crowd on the crossing, some would definitely got hit by a car as they are reckless and focused on getting as far as they can. The faint sound of police sirens can be heard at the moment. The phone user is now more or less 40 feet away from the center of the ruckus, getting a nice panorama shot. Two seconds later there is a scream somewhere very close. Mass hysteria ensues.
When the timer hits nineteen seconds, a girl in a green hoodie emerges from the right corner of the screen.
She is unnoticed by the camera person. The crowd is thinner where she appeared and she easily navigates among the pedestrians. You can see she is somewhere around her early twenties, has long black hair that covers half her face and seems less distracted than anybody else, holding her hands in her pockets and hunching as if having back problems. People are now running around her. When she gets closer to the center, a fifty-something man in a wool jumper turns in her direction. He says something muffled and the subtitles below read “Do you know what’s going on?” Before any of the viewers start wondering why this random voice is subtitled, as nothing else is, the girl says something in response, then releases her hand from her pocket and touches the man on the shoulder.
The camera notices the sudden movement in the corner and zooms at the scene, where the man starts twitching frantically as if having a seizure. Something happens to his face as it starts getting red and blistering. Three seconds later and the phone’s owner cries (it’s a guy) “Oh my fucking god! Oh fuck! Oh fuck!” as the man falls to the ground, with an unnaturally swollen chest. The nearby passersbys watch this in fear, only to start screaming and running away.
The crowd, now knowing the source of the panic, began spreading, a vast wave of bodies that flooded the street, stopping vehicles. Some people run past the camera person, the phone catches glimpses of their horrified faces. We can also start noticing other phones recording the commotion. The police arrives, their flickering lights appear somewhere in the corner. The girl is now in focus, she walks toward another person and touches them. It’s a teenage boy, who makes choking gestures and starts bleeding from his mouth as his chest bloats to giant proportions. Two other boys, probably his friends, scream and try to run away, but one is snatched by the girl. He stumbles onto the ground, red and choking blood; the other one cries so loud it can be heard above the noise. Someone, a young woman, in the general confusion, bumps into the girl. She falls to the ground, not moving. The girl then proceeds to leap towards every person she is able to. She touches them and each one ends up the same way. After touching about four more people, for a brief second, she looks in the direction of the camera, grinning widely.
The video is one minute four seconds long and has over six million views. The comment section consisted mostly of “WTF” and “Is this real?”, but many were not really convinced: some shouted it was fake, there were few who believed it was one of those pranks used to promote new horror movies (and in a very bad taste, they added); trolls were joking they would bang her either way.
This was the most popular video of the happening. Overall, there were over fifteen original recordings, all shot from different angles and moments.
After the incident, the girl in the green hoodie was nowhere to be found.
The event received media coverage all over the world, but the fact that people died after being touched was barely mentioned. Most news reports described it as a biological attack organized by terrorists and that the girl in the green hoodie was using either some kind of gas or syringe filled with toxic chemicals. This blatant lie wasn’t overlooked by the Internet, as millions of commenters shouted that no gas nor syringe was present during the event and witnesses actually saw that a simple touch would turn a person into a blood-choking red mess. The media, however, refused to accept this explanation and turned a blind eye to the accusations.
No real explanation was given to the deaths as well. According to medical authorities, the victims had been dead before any help arrived. For a few days only a range of symptoms were presented to the public: skin lesions, obstruction of the lungs, eye inflammation, etc. as the official cause of death was still unknown. However, two days after the incident, a post was published on an anonymous messageboard. The creator claimed to be one of the morgue attendants that were examining the bodies. He or she felt obliged to tell the truth about the condition of the bodies, but were shut down by their supervisors in order not to spread panic. They explained that the cause of death was asphyxiation caused by severe pulmonary injuries, which explained the bleeding and swollen chests. OP expressed their shock as they have never seen such amount of damage caused in such a short time. They also added that that the victims were exposed to aflatoxins. Aflatoxins are cancerous chemicals often found in corn, walnuts or peanuts, to name a few, that, especially when improperly stored, can lead to liver cancer and other horrible things such as hemorrhage. According to OP, the amount of aflatoxins in the bodies was twenty times larger than in normal instances of an aflatoxin poisoning, which caused severe damage to their livers. The list of symptoms goes on: throat injuries, internal bleeding, dermatitis, sore and bloodshot eyes, etc. developed to a very serious stage. “The effects are similar to being exposed to black mold for a prolonged period of time” wrote the anonymous user and never responded to any of the comments. Although people were skeptic, the post gained a lot of attention.
For a few months, Youtube became flooded with reaction videos and theories. Conspiracy theorists believed the girl in the green hoodie was a governmental experiment gone wrong, a real-life SCP or even Pestilence, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The girl even gained her own cult following, becoming an Internet meme. She was dubbed Rosie, in reference to “Ring Around the Rosie,” as it was a nursery rhyme about the Black Death.
But this was not the first time Rosie appeared on the Internet.
In 2011, a Youtube video appeared, with a title written in Japanese (which could be Google translated as “DEATH on the Streets Japan WEIRD GIRL Found???”), depicting an intersection in a suburban area seen from a third floor balcony. People are running away and screaming, the camera is focused on the girl in the green hoodie in the middle of the street, monitoring the surrounding chaos. She keeps her hands in her pockets and this time her face is hidden under the hood. Around her lie bodies, like a macabre version of petals surrounding a flower bud. You can hear the cameraperson talking with someone next to them – their voices are pitched to an almost chipmunk-like squeak – but unless you know Japanese, you can’t make out what they are saying. After almost two minutes of footage, Rosie leaves the scene before the police arrives.
At the time, people believed it was fake as there was never any media coverage of the event. No one knew where it had taken place nor who recorded this. However, after the incident in 2017, I, the person who remembered the Japanese video, decided to create a subreddit about it.
“I first encountered the Green Hoodie Girl aka Rosie video yesterday and couldn’t shake off the feeling of deja vu. I searched my old Youtube playlists and found an old Japanese video from 2011 (link below). I’m certain this is the same girl even though you can’t see her face. The hoodie is the same. I want to know if these are related somehow. Does anybody have any information concerning any of the videos? Has someone ever seen this girl before?”
The first response appeared two days later. “When I first saw that video, I was freaked out because I had a very similar experience two or three years ago. I was sitting on a bench in a park. There was not many people and, walking, jogging, etc. I was on my phone, waiting for a friend, but when I raised my head I noticed a girl in a green hoodie. She bypassed me without any interest and I only remembered her because she had a big smile on her face which I thought was cute at the time. After that I stopped paying attention, but a few minutes later I heard a scream. I ran to see what happened and I found an older guy laying on the ground with a really red face and a swollen chest. I thought he choked on something, so I called 911. It took them some time to get there, besides I was scared right out of my mind at that time, so I can’t remember if the girl was even there. But seeing all the bodies on the video reminded me of that guy – and the girl that passed me by with a smile on her face. If this is the same girl, I think I’ll go mad. She would have touched me if she wanted to.”
The post gained a lot of replies, but one was more interesting than the others. The user shared a blurry photo of two dead horses near a fence – their barrels swollen, with patches of red skin in between the fur. They were positioned in a way that you couldn’t see their faces, but I could imagine their eyes were bloodshot.
The user wrote: “I live in a family farm in the outskirts of France, where we breed horses. Over five years ago we found two of our mares dead just like this. We thought it was some wild animal, as we live close to a forest, but there were no bite or claw wounds. We called a vet, he did an autopsy and claimed the horses had a severe case of mold poisoning and we should check our stables as quick as possible. Our stables are well-maintained, but we checked every nook and cranny just in case – not even a speck of mold. Besides, there were several other horses in the paddock, healthy and unharmed. For years I believed the two dead ones had to eat something toxic until I saw the video on Youtube with Rosie (the green-hooded girl). I couldn’t believe my eyes, because the victims had the same symptoms as our mares back then. Then I found the post of that autopsy technician who described the cause of death: asphyxiation from severe black mold exposure. Fucking mold exposure. I don’t know if she killed my horses, but the symptoms were exactly the same. There is a path next to the paddock, right near the fence where our horses were found.”
People were horrified after seeing the photo – you can kill a man and no one bats an eye, but animal cruelty is, fortunately, less tolerated on the Internet. Many hypotheses appeared before someone posted another video. He wrote an introduction in broken English, but I managed to make out the general sense. Apparently OP used to work at a bar and some night while on shift he heard screams and gunshots coming from outside. He was too scared to check as it was a really nasty neighborhood and after about ten minutes everything went silent. The next day he and his boss checked the video surveillance. I watched the footage he uploaded: in the dim glow of the entrance lighting, two men ran through the street. One disappeared from the shot, but the other one was quickly snatched by someone whose face was hidden under a hoodie. The captured man twitched erratically before falling on the ground motionless and the hooded figure quickly followed the one who escaped. It was dark, the footage had a very low frame rate and was really bad quality, but many agreed, me included, that the attacker was rather short for a man, didn’t use any weapons and was wearing something resembling a zip-front sweatshirt of uncertain color. What really bothered me was the mention of gunshots – as it was a CCTV footage, no sounds were recorded, but if someone was shooting, Rosie, if it really was Rosie, didn’t seem to be affected in any way.
Over the span of a few months, my subreddit has grown over three times in size. People shared their own experiences and posted photos and videos they found. There were a few who decided to make Youtube documentaries about Rosie, based on all the uploaded material. And there was a lot to find: we received video recordings from airports, stores or streets all over the world. The number of photos depicting dead, swollen bodies was remarkable. Some people claimed to spot Rosie, even taking pictures inconspicuously, but in most cases there were a false alarm or faked. Theories started popping up like mad. Even Rosie’s popularity grew, as she received a lot of fanart, very often disturbing in more ways than one.
“I think she is misunderstood. maybe that smile is fake & she is really suffering. I want to help her.” One of the users wrote and received a quick reply “you are a f*cking idiot you know that?
But what really shook me up was a photo that was posted about five months after I created my subreddit. The user described it only in one sentence “I didn’t make it”.
The photo presented Rosie from behind, without her hood on, her hair hanging from her shoulder as she was leaning against a brick wall. At her feet lay a boy, maybe eight or nine years old, probably of Middle Eastern descent. He was curling up, as if trying to hide inside himself, and was looking at Rosie with sheer terror in his eyes, his face red from crying.
There was no background story to this, no one could recognize the place nor the boy. People who clearly didn’t read the post started accusing the one who posted it for just staying there and taking pictures and were reminded to read descriptions first. The photo stayed in my mind for a long time, the boy’s face haunts me to this day.
I quickly connected the dots and began my own investigation. I started posting videos of me trying to solve the mystery of Rosie. I tried to dig information about her real name, origins and possible relatives, but to no avail. I contacted police departments in countries Rosie was reported in. Despite evidence I presented, she was never caught or even seen. In a Skype interview with a police officer who witnessed the 2017 incident he said “we kept hearing about a girl in a green hoodie, but we never found such a person. No personal information, no address, nothing. We send police notice all around the country. Whoever she was, she disappeared without a trace.”
Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to find anything. It seemed as if Rosie came from nowhere and could appear and disappear wherever and whenever she pleases. Sometimes when I check all the evidence, I start doubting myself. Blurred photos, easily manipulated and staged videos, accounts of people that might be lying or simply gullible. I might be up to something, but maybe it is all a wild goose chase and I need to stop believing in everything I see on the Internet.
But I can’t stop worrying. All the videos and written accounts of other people described locations that were remote or barely inhabited. The 2017 video was actually the first time Rosie was seen in a more crowded, populated space.
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