Tag Archives: Game

Informant: Shut the box is a game I picked up from a friend. She just liked collecting wooden crafts and games she had in her childhood. I think she had this while in France? It’s been a while since I asked her about it.

Interviewer: Do you remember when she first told you about it?

Informant: I asked her about the game one Thanksgiving because it was out on a counter as one of those party games. It looked like a homemade set, I wanted to know if it was easy to make.

Interviewer: And then she was the one who taught you how to play?

Informant: Yes, it was a long game but a lot of fun.

Interviewer: How do you play it?

Informant: Well, you need 2 dice and the specially designed box. In the box is a row of numbers counting from 1 to 9. The object of the game, as the name suggests, is to shut the box. To accomplish this the player whose turn it is has to roll the dice and add up the dice to get a total. With that number in mind the player has to use the numbers in the box to make that same total, this is indicated by flipping the numbers in the box down. If a player rolls a total they can no longer make with the numbers in the box, that total becomes their score. If a player manages to flip all the numbers in the box down, they have won the game and have the satisfaction of shutting the box. If no one manages to shut the box, the person with the lowest score wins.

Interviewer: Is there a limit to how many people can play?

Informant: No, this game is played one person at a time so as long as everyone is patient you can have as many players as can sit ’round a table.

Background: My informant learned about and how to play this game from a friend on an unspecified Thanksgiving. It is now apparently played every year by both the informant’s friend and herself. It drew attention because it appeared homemade. When asked, the friend allegedly said that it was part of her childhood while growing up in France and wanted to share that memory with her children.

Context: It was a casual interview setting, playing games when the informant’s husband brought this specific game, prompting me to ask about its origin. This specific copy of the game was a handmade set by the informant’s husband.

Thoughts: There is something appealing about the game. There’s definite satisfaction in flipping the tiles down, and even more so when one is lucky enough to shut the box. A lot of the game seems to rely on luck and an understanding of probability.

For more instructions, please see: Allan, Sean. “How to Play Shut The Box: Games Rules, Strategy & Instructions.” SiamMandalay, 25, Sept, 2017.

The Ritual Game: One Man Hide-and-Seek

Interviewer: Okay so how do you play this game?

Informant: Well as the name suggests you have to do this alone, while everyone is out of the house, preferably. You take an old doll that you don’t like anymore, cut it open and remove all the stuffing. Then fill it up with white rice. Once the doll is totally full of rice, cut a hair from your head and poke it into the heart of the doll’s body. Then take a knife and prick a finger, doesn’t matter which one, and wipe the blood onto the rice protruding from the doll’s back. Once you’ve done that, take a bit of red string and sew up the back of the doll and cut it off with the same knife you used to prick your finger. Once it’s sewn up give it a name, and it has to be a name that no one you know has.

Interviewer: Sounds like you have to be very careful during all this prep work.

Informant: Oh yeah and we’re not even done yet. Actually playing the game is specific too. You then have to take the finished doll to a bathroom, run a shallow bath, and then place the doll in the water. Turn out all the lights in the house, finding a hiding spot and count to ten. You shouldn’t forget to take the knife with you when you go to hide. Say ‘ready or not here I come’ then go back to the doll. Repeat ‘I found you, I found you, I found you’ then ‘you’re the next it, you’re the next it, you’re the next it’ and tie the knife to the doll’s hand. Then go to hide again, it doesn’t have to be in the same place. If you make it to sunrise, you’ve won the game.

Interviewer: Do you get anything out of winning?

Informant: No, I don’t think so. You just get bragging rights.

Interviewer: What happens if you lose?

Informant: The doll kills you, supposedly. But if you need to stop the game, like if the doll finds you, it’s recommended that you always have a glass of salt water prepared to pour on the doll. When you pour the water, shout ‘I win, I win, I win’ then the game is over.

Background: One Man Hide and Seek was part of a film project that she was doing for school. She researched this game but does not remember which sites she learned it from or its origin.

Context: I was interviewing my informant for rituals that she learned about through research and hearsay from others. She was happy to tell me about this one since it resulted in one of her favorite movies that she made.

Thoughts: I severely doubt that the original reason for doing One Man Hide and Seek was just so one could have bragging rights, so it must have been a ritual for something else originally. I did a little digging online and found a site that suggests the ritual was originally posted on a ‘Japanese horror bulletin board.’

Please see “One-Man Hide and Seek / Hide and Seek Alone.” Know Your Meme Accessed March 20, 2020

The Ritual Game: The Midnight man

Informant: It’s some ritual that was apparently used to punish bad people somewhere in Europe. The ritual starts at 3 AM and you need a candle, a piece of paper, and your front door. You write your name on the piece of paper then put it outside the door under a lit candle. Knock on the door 12 times and make sure it is EXACT, and make sure to get the last knock to stop at 3AM. Then open the door, pick up the paper and the candle and the game has begun. It lasts until 6 AM, so it’s only three hours but you have to keep your candle lit for all that time. The Midnight Man will try to blow out the candle or scare you into dropping it. Your candle is your only source of light so it’s pretty easy to get super scared. If your candle goes out and you cannot relight it within 5 seconds then surround yourself in a circle of salt and sit there until morning. Do not under any circumstances turn on a light! Both of these things are ways of forfeiting the game but that doesn’t mean the Midnight Man leaves. He haunts you until you complete the game.

Interviewer: So what do you get for winning the game?

Informant: I think you get to make a wish and it will comes true.

Interviewer: So what happens if you lose?

Informant: He kills you, obviously. [laughs]

Background: My informant had done research into different dark ritualized games such as this for a film projection she was doing. She did not end up using this game as the final inspiration for her movie.

Context: My informant and I were staying up late on the night of the 19th, just finishing playing video games together. We were walking through the house in the dark and she tried to scare me with this scary ritual, saying that she was going to do it.

Thoughts: I imagine the combination of sleep deprivation, lack of light, and the general atmosphere of being in an empty house would make for a fun time. Apparently this can be played with multiple people at one time so you could probably mess around with each other a great deal. With that in mind, I suspect this actually could have been a punishment ritual, though I am unsure where it would be used. The game could be turned into a form of psychological torture to get people to confess to crimes by making them think a demon was coming to kill them anyway.

School Game- Spundalele

Context: My informant grew up in Texas during the ‘70s. In elementary school during integration, he was one of the few white students transferred from a white school to a black school. He recalls a game the black students taught him called Spundalele. The first time someone “spundaleled him” he was surprised and angry because he didn’t understand it was a game. Once he understood, he and the other white students quickly adopted the game and played it every day. He says it was one of his first interactions at his new school, and it was a game that quickly brought together the white and black students. 

The Game: M: “Basically, if you have something in your hand, and somebody knocked it out of your hand, said ‘SPUNDALELE!’, and then picked it up before you could…it was theirs and you don’t get it back. Well I mean you can take it back under violence, but that’s not really part of the game.”

To Play:

  1. Find someone with something in their hand
  2. Knock the object out of their hand and onto the floor
  3. Shout “spundalele”
  4. Attempt to pick it up before they can
  5. If you succeed, you get to keep the item
  6. If you fail, they get to keep the item

The game works best if everyone knows the rules before playing

My thoughts: The concept of this game is strange to me; why would you play a game where people take each others’ things? But as an elementary school student in the ‘70s, you probably aren’t carrying anything of great value. Integration was a dramatic change to schools in the south, so if this game brought people of different races together, it sounds like a good game to me.

Bloody Mary

Informant: “So you go into the bathroom, turn off all the lights, look into the mirror and say, “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary,” three times and by the third time, you turn on the light and there will be like a scratch on your face…and you’re haunted.”

Collector: “Cool. Is it only in the bathroom?”

Informant: “It needs, uh…. I’m pretty sure. I mean all I ever heard was the bathroom one, like going into the bathroom and it needs to be pitch black.” 

Background: The informant is my twenty-two year old sister. She learned this piece from friends while attending Catholic elementary school in San Diego, CA. She is an avid metal and alternative music fan with a love of body modifications including tattoos and piercings as well as horror films. 

Context: The piece was collected during a casual at-home interview. I asked the informant to share this piece because I have multiple childhood memories of her performing the ritual.

Analysis: This game/ritual is fairly common among young women and was very popular at our Catholic elementary school among both genders. While many folklore scholars have posited that this game is entrenched with female puberty and menstruation, I believe this piece was also integrated with our conceptions of the “Virgin Mary” as a human and yet divinely endowed, liminal character. Other variations and meta folklore suggest multiple different interpretations as to who “Bloody Mary” refers to. To both me and my sister in Catholic school, the only Mary we could conceive of was the Virgin Mary and the story became a sinister way to expose the contrast between the benevolence and kindness expressed within Catholicism with the strict, harsh realities of the institution we were a part of. My sister later added that the game never worked for her because she never completed it in total darkness, suggesting that although the ritual may not manifest in a supernatural encounter for everyone that participates, people still believe. 

Corners

Corners is a folk game that is played with cups, ping pong balls, and beer. It is similar to beer pong in the general principle, with slightly different rules. There are two teams, with teammates on opposing diagonal corners across a table. Each corner has four cups arranged in a diamond, all touching and there is one cup in the middle. There is a beer split between each corner and a full bear in the cup in the middle. The concept of the game is that you and your partner share one ping pong ball and must take turns throwing into your teammate’s cups, across the table. If your teammate makes it in one of your cups, you take the ball out and pass the cup to your side for the opposing team to drink. While your team is drinking, neither you nor your teammate can throw the ball. Once all eight cups between the two teammates have been sunk, you must bounce the ping pong ball twice into the center cup to win. The informant plays this game with his fraternity brothers.

The informant learned this through other people in his fraternity house. These types of games differ from school to school and place to place. The informant is still in college, so regularly practices this game, except during the current pandemic. They find it a way to have fun with drinking in a way that is not associated directly with the alcohol content.

This game follows the basic formula for drinking games in college. I believe that it is as much to play the game as it is to drink. Although no one I have talked to plays this with anything other than beer and sometimes hard seltzer, it is preferred over just drinking. The game makes drinking have an interactive element in what otherwise could be considered a solo action. It also normalizes binge drinking by turning it into a harmless game, something that can be dangerous.

Kajabe Cancan

Informant: So I learned this game as a camper at the summer camp at Hume Lake it was called Kajabe Cancan. It was a game that we were never really taught to play, but it is very easy to figure out and it was a huge thing at this camp. Basically there’s a bunch of people, they usually do it by gender because it is so violent. Everyone stands in a circle, and they hold a piece of rope that is like a foot long between everyone. Inside the circle there is usually like 2-3 trashcans, like the big grey ones. The goal of the game is to be the last one standing. To get people out you had to make people let go of one of their ropes, or hit the trash can with any piece of their body. So basically, you are trying to throw around the person next to you to either rip the rope from their hand or toss them into the middle. It is a great forearm workout, haha. It is such a big thing at this camp that they have a night dedicated to it, like there’s a championship round. They form small groups and the winners of each group play a championship round, and whoever wins gets to sign a Golden trashcan. 

Interviewer: Did you ever win?

Informant: No, I got close though, haha. I made it to the championship round but got out pretty early. 

Interviewer: What happens when you get out?

Informant: Nothing really, you just sit out and join the people watching. You let your hands rest. It gets intense, some people got injured. 

Interviewer: What did this game mean to you?

Informant: Everyone always looked forward to it, it was always a really fun night. This was a church camp, so a lot of churches would go to this camp at once. People would train their campers before going to play because winning was like a huge deal. 

Background

My informant is a good friend and housemate of mine from USC and is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with a minor in Health Care Studies from San Dimas, CA. She says that a lot of her mannerisms and sayings come from growing up in San Dimas which she describes as being a very small town outside of Los Angeles that feels more midwest than the West coast. She attended summer camps throughout most of her life, starting as a camper and becoming a counselor in high school. 

Context

During our interview the informant let me know about the different games and experiences she had going to many camps growing up as both a camper and a counselor. One of the games that was brought up was Kajabe Cancan. 

Analysis

This game has a very competitive and physical nature, and I believe that it is fairly easy to play as you need participants, trashcans, and pieces of rope. In the context of the church, this folk game potentially served as a mini competition of all of the different churches who combined at this specific camp, gaining pride or brownie points if one of their campers won the championship. 

“One Up, One Down” Folk Game and Riddle

Main Piece

Informant: This is kind of a camp riddle and game mashup and it is called One up One down. I like it because it is difficult enough to take days to figure out, so people can spend time figuring it out. One person will run it, and will introduce the riddle. They are the keeper, of the uhh game I guess. It goes in a circle, and you have three options: two up, one up one down, and two down. And so like, each person will give one of the three and try to figure out the pattern that would consistently allow them to say the correct answer. The person in charge tells them if they are right or wrong, because they know the secret to the pattern. Then it keeps going in a circle, people guess, and the keeper tells them if they are right or wrong and it keeps going until people figure out the right answer. The correct answer is based on the orientation of their arms. So right now, I would be two down, because both of my hands are in my lap. But, if I left one hand on my lap and one to rest my chin on, the correct answer would be one up one down. Basically, people overthink and start trying to guess elaborate patterns, and you kinda just win when you figure it out and you usually can’t tell the people still figuring out what the right answer is. 

Interviewer: Where did you learn this?

InformantI learned this in high school during my freshman river trip, where we would canoe down the Colorado river for four days. It was a game my group’s guide taught us, and I didn’t get it until our bus ride back. It drove me crazy, but when I got it I felt so frustrated but like I was part of a secret club!

Background

The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, and he is a senior at USC. Coming from Oxnard, CA he and his family are very connected with their Mexican roots and he has grown up practicing and identifying with many aspects of Mexican culture. He is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to many EDM festivals and aspires to do lighting design for different raves as well. He also identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community, comfortable identifying as a bisexual man.

Context

While on a road trip with some of our other housemates the informant taught us this game and began to play it with us. At the end of the trip, I was the only one in the group who could still not figure it out. During the interview I had him explain the rules and origin of the game. 

Analysis

I think this game is a great combination of a kinesthetic folk game mixed with a folk riddle, as there is a secret pattern you have to find out in order to comprehend the game as a whole. It is also inherently folklore as the rules are never shared, you either understand the pattern of the game or you don’t. Being intended for longer trips, it also proves to be a great way to pass the time as it could take a while for players to figure it out.

Bloody Mary

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (AH).

CB: “Can you tell me about Bloody Mary?”

AH: “Yes! So I learned about Bloody Mary when I was pretty little. I think that it was one of my friends in elementary school that taught me about it, but I don’t really remember honestly. But, uhhh…. The superstition was that if you went into the bathroom at night, traditionally you’re supposed to do it at midnight. But you go in and you flick the lights on and off again three times, and you say ‘Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary’ and she’s supposed to appear to you and kill you. 

CB: “So what does Bloody Mary mean to you?”

AH: “Bloody Mary was the very first folklore that I remember. I used to be scared shitless of Mary, whoever the fuck she was…. Oh! No! She wouldn’t kill you right away, her bloody severed head would appear in the mirror, and there would be blood in the sink, and then she would kill one of your family members the next night. That’s what it was!!”

CB: “But why do you think that piece of folklore is important?”

AH: “I just always thought it was kinda a way to keep kids out of the bathroom at night. I don’t know.”

Background:

Bloody Mary is a very popular tale or game that many of my friends and I have heard growing up. My informant and I discussed how the game seems to only ever be played by girls, and is very heavily associated with elementary school bathrooms. We compared versions of the story that we grew up with, and laughed at our fears. I had heard that the ghost was based on Mary Queen of Scots, and that she would haunt young girls because she was killed at a young age.

Context:

My informant called me with stories prepared after hearing that I had been interviewing other members of our family for folklore. We had a fun and casual conversation, exchanging versions of stories that we had heard growing up.

Thoughts:

Bloody Mary is a really common childhood game because it reflects young girls’ universal apprehension about blood and bathrooms. The fears associated with the game also reflect modern social portrayals of bathrooms as a dangerous space. Girls are taught from a very young age not to go to the bathroom alone. I grew up hearing stories about men hiding in women’s bathrooms to kidnap, rape, or murder the women who go in their. Because of this, girls begin to internalize this fear of bathrooms, particularly public bathrooms, at a very young age. This game reveals is a way for girls to channel and address their fears associated with a public school bathroom, often with the protection of their friends.

For another interpretation of Bloody Mary see “The Psychology of Extraordinary Beliefs” published by The Ohio State University. https://u.osu.edu/vanzandt/2019/04/17/bloody-mary-from-the-bathroom-to-the-laboratory/

Bubble Gum In a Dish

Context: 

This piece was collected in a casual interview setting on the informant’s living room couch . My informant (CH) was born in Pasadena, CA, but grew up in a very French household, learning English as her second language. All of her education has been in American schools, but she learned how to read and write French thanks to after school lessons her mom gave her and her older sister. She is currently a Sophomore in high school and enjoys horseback riding.

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant (CH) and interviewer.

Interviewer: Other than the classic “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” what’s another way you know of picking something based on a song?

CA: We had the bubble gum song! The girls started to use it in like, I don’t know, 3rd grade. We would sing it while going around pointing at someone in the circle. It went like this

Bubble gum, bubble gum, in a dish,

How many pieces do you wish?

*the girl who’s designated chooses a number, then they start counting to that number and who ever the last number falls on is it*

Thoughts: 

At school, the girls would use this song in order to pick out a girl when nobody volunteered to do something. For example, it was to see who would be the first person to chase others in Tag. This was a very fair and effective way to choose who would be “it” when we were young (around 6-8 years old) but once people started to figure out you can count who it would fall on so the person who chooses the “random” number can cheat, it started creating problems. For some reason, only the girls would use this song.

Annotation:

For different variations of the Bubble Gum Song, please follow this link: https://kcls.org/content/bubble-gum-bubble-gum-in-a-dish/