By this point, many of you are likely aware of what Momo is supposed to be. For those of you who are not, I’ll give you a brief rundown:
Momo is essentially a weird half-chicken half-woman knock-off muppet looking thing that issues challenges which, when not met, are accompanied by threats. There is a Wikipedia article on the Momo Challenge Hoax that you can read through if you’re so inclined.
The first time I saw it was in a news article posted by WGHP. My initial reaction was to be shocked for about half a second because it is pretty creepy looking at first glance. After that passed almost instantly, I realized just how stupid looking it was. That is a key factor in not being afraid of things like this.
I liken Momo to the Red Face guy in Insidious. The first couple times he shows up, he’s in the background and in a scene where the intention is a jump scare that very briefly shows him. Both scenes are creepy, with the jump scare one doing an effective job at making you…well…jump. Seeing him briefly can be unnerving but at the end of the film, you see him full-on quite a bit. This takes down the fear factor significantly because you can see how unscary he actually is. It also helps that the specifical effect wasn’t the best, which decreased his rating in terror from 8 to about 2.
Momo is the same way. My son was scared of her because he only saw her briefly. He would never look at a picture of her for more than enough time to know he was seeing a picture of Momo. To him, it was something terrifying and he had invented a complete idea of what she was going to do.
Momo on Youtube
The first time my son saw Momo was during a video he and his sister were watching on Youtube. As the Wikipedia article indicates, she was being inserted into videos for children on Youtube in order to terrify kids. The second she showed up in a video, my 5-year-old son started screaming his head off.
For a few days, he was convinced that Momo was going to get him in his room at night. It took a lot to get him to sleep but eventually, I came up with a rather unconventional method that worked. It is one that is unlikely to work for anyone else except maybe Don Coscarelli’s kids.
As usual, I started by talking about the problem. I quickly learned that talking to my son and explaining that Momo isn’t real was not working. He would tell me that he knows it isn’t real. That said, it didn’t seem to matter. Not being real was not a factor in whether or not Momo would get you.
Stopping Momo using my son’s imagination
I decided that I needed to work within his universe of thought. Being a fan of the Avengers, my son has a lot of Avengers toys and a big Marvel poster on his wall. This gave me an idea.
I lined up all of his Avengers action figures, some of which are almost a foot tall, across the top of his 9 cube shelf that we use to hold a lot of his clothes. I told him that if Momo even tried to get him, the Avengers would beat her up. He has a lot of them but I added to it by telling him that the superheroes in the Marvel poster would even come out to protect him.
This didn’t work.
My son was convinced that Momo would beat them all and eventually kill them. Considering we had recently watched Infinity War, he knew that the Avengers could be defeated and killed off. I needed something different.
I left the room and came back with a framed picture that I put on a shelf above the one that was holding his Avengers. In the frame is my signed photo of Angus Scrimm, the actor who played The Tall Man in Phantasm. My son has seen this photo before and just refers to it as “the creepy guy from that movie” that I like. He’s never actually seen Phantasm, but he knows the sphere and Angus are both part of it (I have a regular size sphere and the Christmas ornament Mondo put out a few years ago).
Before he could ask, I explained to him that The Tall Man would protect him. He began to protest again, saying that Momo would get him. To this, I was quite ready to defend against.
I told him that The Tall Man is different. She can beat him but it won’t matter because there are more of him. In the final film, we found out that there is essentially an endless supply of “Tall Men” waiting in his dimension. If you get rid of one, another one comes through. That explained why he never really went away in previous films, no matter what you did to him.
I repurposed this for my son and explained that even if she did beat him, another would come and get her. I explained it in a funnier way to get him to laugh and bring him around, which worked. By the end, he was convinced that Angus was going to keep Momo away because there was an infinite number of him so even if he lost, he would eventually win.
A few months go by and he’s still good. He isn’t afraid to go to sleep anymore because a horror movie villain is protecting him. Yes, I know how that sounds but to him, that isn’t the case. In his head, a guy from a movie I like is keeping the bad thing away. It doesn’t matter that he has never seen the movie to know what The Tall Man is actually doing, my repurposed version turns him into a protector. Because of that, the fear of Momo was gone, for a while at least.
Scared of Momo Again
Each year, my children go to stay with my ex-wife over the summer. This year while they were there, my son regained his fear of Momo. I’m not sure why that happened but it was pretty glued to him this time. Unfortunately, Angus wasn’t going to be of any help from 1,000+ miles away.
When they got back, I started working on trying to get rid of the fear again. It was much more difficult this time. The photo of Angus still worked for sleeping but my son was now more afraid than ever. What I needed to do was defuse Momo at the source rather than find another thing to use to defeat her inside his imagination.
I started looking at photos of Momo to find some way to shut this thing down. The more I looked at it, the more I realized how ridiculous it was. The thing has chicken legs (or arms) and huge feet. It looks like some kind of discount-mart muppet. The more I noticed the more I tried to explain to my son about how goofy it actually looked.
At the time, he still would not look at the picture. He was pretty terrified. When I pulled it up on my phone, he covered his eyes and left the room. Trying to show him the picture to explain was not going to work.
A thought popped in my head of a way to undo the fear by having him help me Photoshop a Momo picture and make her look silly. He liked the idea and wanted to give her big ears and a mustache, but then realized he would have to actually look at the picture. That caused him to stomp the brakes on the idea and insist that I make the picture myself first and then he would look at it.
Elmomo to the rescue
My son watches Sesame Street so of course, he knows who Elmo is. While we were watching TV, I started telling him that Momo is just Elmo’s weird cousin. I said it in a way to make him laugh, then kept going from there. I told him that we should create a picture of Momo as Elmo, which he also thought was funny. I pulled my phone out to see if anyone had already tried this, which of course, someone had.
The picture I found was badly manipulated, which actually made it better. If it was more realistic, it wouldn’t have been as funny to him when he looked at it, which he did for a few seconds before realizing what he was doing. Before he turned his head away, he was smiling because he thought it looked so silly. I pointed this out and had him look again. We both laughed at it and I started showing him some other pictures while I tried to find more silly ones. He started pointing out her weird legs to me, which I reminded him was something I told him about a week or two ago.
One picture we found was Momo coming out of a toilet. I told them that I guess Oscar the Grouch lives in a trashcan on Sesame Street while Momo lives in a toilet. He thought that was hilarious.
I also showed him a picture of a disassembled Momo, which I explained to him last week was something that had been done because kids were scared of it. I told him it would be pretty hard for her to come after him now without any legs or even a body. He laughed about it at the time but was still not convinced until Elmomo broke the chain of fear.
Now he thinks she’s hilarious looking. I told him that if he sees something scary like that, you can make it stop being scary by looking at it and finding silly or goofy things about it. We sat there doing that with Momo and the various terribly made masks that are available. Some of them are incredibly bad which made it even easier to make fun of. One had eye placements that weren’t symmetrical and eyeballs that were looking in different directions. That was clearly one that had minimal effort put into it.
Know your kid
The best way to deal with things like this is by knowing your kid and what will work on them. For my son, making something funny works well. Even when I put the photo of Angus in his room, I made it funny for him. I used humor in the way I talked to him and described that The Tall Man would just keep coming back over and over again and Momo would never be able to win. Explaining that she would end up saying “Why are there so many of this guy?!” when he kept coming back made my son laugh. And that’s what I needed to happen, he needed to laugh about it.
While I was writing this, I had the story from WGHP pulled up, which I linked above. He walked into the room and saw the picture, laughed and asked me why I had Momo on my computer. A week ago he would have screamed bloody murder and fled the room.
I told my son that I was writing about him not being afraid of it anymore. He laughed again and then started asking me why there was a grayed-out photo of her behind the main one. I explained to him that a lot of photos are done that way now when there isn’t a wide one available. He made a joke about how the one in front is keeping away the one in the back.
I posed the idea that maybe she’s a good guy who saves kids from Brussel sprouts. He has no idea what those are but found it funny anyway.
Eventually, we settled on her being someone who tries to juggle with one foot while eating cheeseburgers, but she can’t fit them in her mouth. I can’t really explain how we came up with that, but we also refer to her as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Chicken.