The walls and furnishings in Nadia’s room, 16, resemble those of any other high school teen. Her real name is not Nadia; her identity is being kept at her family’s request to preserve her memory and privacy.
A gorgeous artwork hangs on the wall next to the bed, and the bookshelf is brimming with books, trinkets, and childhood photographs. A recent piece of art beside the full-length mirror features a printed photograph of a blue whale placed on a hand-painted background.
This young lady is a gifted artist, sister, daughter, and friend. No one who knew her expected her to commit suicide one May morning. Nobody who knew her could have foreseen what happened after she died.
Marty, her distressed brother, began searching through her belongings for signs almost immediately. In the sketches and journal entries, I observed an intriguing pattern, which comprised a small sketch of a female with a Russian name underneath.
An Internet search for the name found the story of Rina Palenkova, a 17-year-old girl who committed suicide in Russia in November 2015 after posting a “farewell” selfie. The photo went popular on the Russian social network VK.com, and the publicity surrounding her death led to the revelation of her alleged involvement in an online campaign known as “Blue Whale.”
Marty continues his investigation, recalling a blue whale image pinned next to the mirror in his sister’s room. He glanced through his sketches and discovered numerous pages of whale drawings and magazine clippings with the words “I am a blue whale” stuck on them, as well as self-mutilation drawings, a suicidal statement with farewell words, and a message written in Russian from Multiple Entries.
While Nadia’s family was looking into the Blue Whale connection, they came across an online suicide challenge that allegedly began in Russia two years ago. Suicides linked to blue whales have been reported in Central Asia, Europe, and South America since then. This thought appears to have influenced Nadia’s suicide, which looks to be the first in the United States. In early July, the Washington Post reported on another young suicide in Texas that was considered to be tied to blue whales.
The “game” supposedly lasted more than 50 days and was run by online administrators. Curators assign tasks to players each day and require them to submit photographic verification of accomplishment of each assignment as well as keep their communications discreet.
Philip Budeikin, a 21-year-old psychology student, is one human who may be linked to the blue whale. According to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, he was arrested in November. In a news release, the St. Petersburg District Court acknowledged that an investigation into allegations of “incitement to suicide” was ongoing. According to a news release from the investigation committee, Budeikin admitted to designing the game and utilizing the social network VK.com to push 15 to 17 teens to commit suicide.