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Deadly 'game' hits close to home (Alaska)
Fairbanks News-Miner ^ | April 11, 2006 | Amanda Bohman

Posted on 04/11/2006 6:57:42 PM PDT by Graybeard58

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - Two weeks ago, 13-year-old Andrew Freeman arrived home from a wrestling banquet and went to his room. It was almost 9 p.m. and his mother thought he went to sleep.

But the next morning, Sharon Freeman found her son dead, and within days she was warning other parents about a game she had never heard of, until it took her son's life.

"I was sending out e-mails to everyone and pretty soon I was getting them back from people throughout the U.S.," she said.

"It's soon," she said of the timeframe for a grieving parent to spring to action. "I am numb, but I have to get this out because I don't want another parent to have to go through it."

Alaska State Troopers investigated Andrew Freeman's death and determined the North Pole Middle School student died while playing the so-called choking game, which involves blocking oxygen to the brain to achieve a feeling of euphoria.

Now public school officials and the Freeman family are asking parents to warn their children about the activity, which is believed to claim anywhere from dozens to 1,000 youths' lives a year across the country.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District mailed an informational letter this week to parents of children enrolled in grades 4-12.

The Freemans are helping plan student gatherings at North Pole Middle School later this month to address the problem. Sharon Freeman wants the risks of the activity taught in heath classes, she said.

Children refer to the so-called choking game using a variety of euphemisms: Rush, Pass Out, Choke Out, Cloud Nine, The Fainting Game and The Funky Chicken to name a few.

Death results from accidental strangulation when a victim faints and his or her brain continues to be deprived of oxygen.

According to, a Web site dedicated to warning parents about the activity, at least 26 people have died from accidental strangulation so far this year after playing the game. A 13-year-old boy from Virginia and a 21-year-old man from West Virginia reportedly died the same day as Andrew Freeman.

Last year, at least 67 people between the ages of 9 and 25 died from the activity, according to the Web site's unofficial tally.

"It sure isn't a game," said Ernie Manzie, principal at North Pole Middle School. "Kids don't realize the dangers of it until something like this happens."

Manzie plans to set aside part of a school day to assemble the school's 500 students in groups to discuss the choking activity and its consequences. The Freemans are helping.

Andrew Freeman's death hit the school hard, the principal said. Students erected a memorial bulletin board, which was taken down after Andrew's funeral.

"Young kids that age, I don't think they give a lot of thought to death," the principal said. "When it happens, it really jars them."

Sharon Freeman said any youth is vulnerable to trying the choking activity. She described her son as a normal boy who wrestled, belonged to the chess team, earned As and Bs and planned to attend college.

"Andrew played a game, and the game took his life," the 42-year-old mother of two said.

Kent Freeman said the choking activity is something he never would have suspected of his son, who he described as "kind of a wimp" when it came to things that might be painful.

In hindsight, Freeman said there may have been indicators that his son had tried the activity at least once before but he didn't know the signs or even that the choking game existed.

"Sure, we talked about 'Don't smoke, don't drink, don't do drugs,' but what you don't know about, you sure can't talk to your kid about."

Freeman said education about the activity should be a relatively simple matter. Parents should drive home the fact that this game could result in death.

"Kids don't always see all the outcomes, but a parent can, and it's a simple message," he said. "Education is the thing."

Signs a child is engaging in the activity include unexplained neck bruising or marks, bloodshot eyes and frequent complaints of headaches. Strangulation deaths from the choking activity are sometimes mistaken for suicides, according to informational Web sites.

A school district spokeswoman did not know if any other children in the Fairbanks area have died in recent years playing the game. An official with the district for more than 20 years said he had not heard of previous deaths.

Kent Freeman said that from what he has heard from others since his son died, the game is known by children in the schools and others have done it, or are doing it.

That's what the Freemans want other parents to know.

"I just, I don't want this to happen to someone else," Sharon Freeman said. "If I can help prevent that, that's what I want."

TOPICS: Local News

1 posted on 04/11/2006 6:57:43 PM PDT by Graybeard58
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To: Graybeard58

A cop who is a DARE officer told me the fifth graders were asking him a few weeks ago about auto-erotic asphyxiation. He was shocked that 11-year-olds knew about this. When he asked them where they'd heard of it, they told him they saw it watching CSI.

2 posted on 04/11/2006 7:00:34 PM PDT by SittinYonder (That's how I saw it, and see it still.)
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To: Graybeard58

A very sad case, condolences to this family.

I know what the choking "game" is, but what the heck is a "wrestling banquet"?

3 posted on 04/11/2006 8:13:47 PM PDT by jocon307 (The Silent Majority - silent no longer)
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To: Graybeard58

We lost a child last week in my community to this deadly game. He was only 13. I couldn't bring myself to go to the funeral.

4 posted on 04/11/2006 9:45:07 PM PDT by swmobuffalo (The only good terrorist is a dead terrorist.)
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To: jocon307
but what the heck is a "wrestling banquet"?

Maybe an end of season affair that is given to the wrestling team.

5 posted on 04/11/2006 9:46:59 PM PDT by Graybeard58 (Remember and pray for Sgt. Matt Maupin - MIA/POW- Iraq since 04/09/04)
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To: Graybeard58

"Maybe an end of season affair that is given to the wrestling team."

Oh, ok, that makes sense. I was thinking "professional" wrestling. But what you say makes more sense.

6 posted on 04/11/2006 9:51:43 PM PDT by jocon307 (The Silent Majority - silent no longer)
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To: Graybeard58

I remember a form of this when I was in elementary school in the late 50's.

You would take deep breaths and hyperventilate for 15-20 seconds and then someone standing behind you would put their arms around you and squeeze your chest as hard as they could until you passed out and collapsed.

Nobody ever died, though.

7 posted on 04/12/2006 7:50:43 AM PDT by chaosagent (Remember, no matter how you slice it, forbidden fruit still tastes the sweetest!)
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To: chaosagent

The victims typically are squeezing something other than the chest ...

8 posted on 04/12/2006 7:55:15 AM PDT by TomSmedley (Calvinist, optimist, home schooling dad, exuberant husband, technical writer)
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To: Graybeard58

There should be a thread about the North Pole Middle School arrests for a plot to murder pupils, teachers, cut the phone lines, and escape to somewhere. It has been on the news locally for several days and is only now hitting national news. Fairbanks was rated the fourth most violent city in the US last year, but the city fathers maneuvered to have it removed from the list on a technicality. There is a culture going on here among the kids, all of whom are impressed with firearms and snowmachines.

9 posted on 04/23/2006 1:09:38 PM PDT by RightWhale (Off touch and out of base)
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To: TomSmedley

Well this child was my sons best friend, and he was NOT "squeezing something other than the chest" thank you. What he was doing was not AEA (auto erotic asphyxia)it was to get a head rush or high.

10 posted on 04/29/2006 1:27:53 AM PDT by amynorthpole
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To: amynorthpole

please accept my apology. I am sorry for your family's loss.

11 posted on 04/29/2006 6:44:24 AM PDT by TomSmedley (Calvinist, optimist, home schooling dad, exuberant husband, technical writer)
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