The Choking Game: Are your kids playing?

Reporter: Stefanie Silvey
New Media Producer: Nick Storm

It's called the good kids high. A game where kids cut off each other's oxygen to the point of passing out. It can cause a brief euphoric high, but also much more.

If you think this is a rare thing that's not happening here. Think again.  14 News  talked to numerous young people all over the Tri-State area. While a few hadn't heard of it, the majority had and many had tried it themselves as young as the sixth grade.

It's called a variety of names, the choking game, the pass out game, space monkey, ghost. No matter what it's called, it's important to know it can kill you.

Kids as young as elementary school are playing it in groups. Some play it alone. It's happening in your home, at school or on the bus. Children choking each other for a quick euphoric high.

"Your cutting off the lack of circulation to your brain and then once it kind of reopens it is a real rush," says, deputy coroner, Annie Groves.

Instead of that high, some get injured. Some get twitches and seizures, and worse.

Paula and Dennis Brandsasse moved from Evansville to Murray Kentucky, for what they thought was a better life for their three youngest children. "The 11 months that she lived in this house were the best 11 months that we had," says Dennis.

The children seemed to be doing well. "She was a straight-A student, in the band," says Paula.

But their oldest was also an adventurous risk taker and tomboy. "There was times that she needed to be afraid of something, but she wasn't afraid of it,"says Dennis.

The Brandsasse's say their daughter Kelsey had brought up the choking game when a classmate of hers had died just a month earlier.

Dennis Brandsasse, says, "It scared me. That's when I tried to convince her that when you pass out you don't automatically start breathing, sometimes it doesn't work."

They never thought she was playing the game until march 5th, 2007. "I had looked in the far right corner of the shed and that is where I seen her sitting on the floor," says Dennis.

March 5th started off a typical day. Kelsey ordered her class yearbook at school and paled around with friends. Once home she heated up a burrito and made a pitcher of tea. She set the VCR to tape her favorite shows to air later that night, but she never got the chance to watch them.

"I could see the belt clearly around her neck and everything kind of clicked of what I was dealing with, "says Dennis.

His youngest daughter made a frantic call to Paula at work who could only make out two words of the message. "Kelsey's dead."

"We miss her every day. The house is so much quieter without her," says Dennis.

The Brandsasse's buried their 14-year-old daughter in a jersey donated from her favorite football team the Indianapolis Colts.

Dennis says, "So all her friends got to see her in her jersey and she got to take it with her."

It wasn't until after her death that Kelsey's friends told them she was probably playing "the game" as she had done before.

"It is just the same as Russian roulette, just not with a gun," says Paula. "I don't want anymore to know what I'm going through. I don't want any new friends that way. I want them to keep their kids."

Kelsey is not alone; There are more than 100 children ranging age 6 and up who are listed as being seriously injured or killed by the choking game, many are from Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana.

Despite that new videos are posted daily on sites like Myspace and You-Tube of kids choking each other and themselves for fun.

Todd Seibert of the Evansville police, says, "This is the first time I've heard about this type of high."

14 News showed the videos to detective Todd Seibert who is a school liaison officer in Evansville. He says those participating in this game could face prosecution if things go wrong.

"Not only are you going to face criminal charges but you are going to have to live with that for the rest of your life, knowing that something you did when you were basically young and dumb," says Seibert.

Deputy coroner Annie Groves says while there are no current confirmed deaths in Evansville from the choking game, she's concerned it is only a matter of time. "Anytime it's back on the rise nationally, probably within five or six months we'll start to see it rise here in Vanderburgh County," says Groves.

The Brandsasse's say their daughter's decision effected so many lives. They are angry at their daughter for the choice she made.

Paula says, "yeah I get mad at her, I get mad at her."

And they say they live daily with anger at themselves, for not seeing the warning signs before it was too late. "We're hoping that some other children , that we can save some other kids lives so that their parents don't have to live this nightmare that we have to live every day, all day long, every day," says Dennis.

There are definitely warning signs with this game you can look for. Marks on the neck, frequent bloodshot or dilated eyes. Belts, shoelaces, or ropes lying around in unusual places and an unusual curiosity about asphyxiation.

Most importantly talk to your children. Ask them if they've heard about it.  If you would like to read more about the choking game click on the links below: