Children’s Folk Game: Bloody Murder

Context: The informant recalls playing the game in his early childhood in the open fields of the west. The game would have to be played in a very rural area, with few to zero houses around. Two teams would form in order to play the game, one would have a “base” while the other would go out and hide in the field. The team at the base would stay within the base for a twenty-four-second count without looking to give the other team time to hide. The main purpose of the game was to hide as deep in the field as you could if you were on the other team. This way the base team would be forced to go deep into the fields to find you, and if they spotted you they would yell “bloody murder”, which would cause the hiding team to chase the entire base team back to their camp. If someone on the base team got tagged by the hiding team then that individual would switch teams. This process would go on until one team had all members and there was no one left on one of the teams. The informant noted that the hiding team did not have to wait until a base member yelled bloody murder in order to run after them.

Analysis: Looking at this game from all accounts, one gets the sense that this folk developed around groups of children whose fathers went to war during the twentieth century. The tactics of the game mimic a lot of war tactics used during guerrilla warfare, and thus one can conclude that the children put together “bloody murder” from the circumstances their fathers were undergoing during wars. In a strange way, perhaps even an adult incorporated this among children in order for them to learn or be introduced to war tactics, this way the children would grow up familiar with the basics of guerrilla warfare. This ensures that the upcoming generations of the American military would have strong, knowledgeable soldiers and leaders. When looking from another lens, this game could have also been a bonding activity amongst children who had absent fathers on account of the war, and thus bonded with one another through “bloody murder.” Children’s folklore tends to be anti-constitutional and is spurred by their inner creativity and the hardships they faced from being institutionally controlled.