Tag Archives: humorous riddle

Riddle – backpacks in the desert


“Two men are in a desert and they both have backpacks on. One of the two is dead. The guy who is still alive has his backpack open and the guy who is dead has his backpack closed. What is in the man’s backpack who is dead?”

                        “A parachute.”


HW is a 20 year old who was born and raised in Southern California. She now works at a restaurant in the Southern California area. She originally heard this riddle from her grandfather when she was a kid. He used to give her riddles and would give her a dollar if she could come up with the right answer. My informant said “he wasn’t usually out all that much money. I usually only got them when I had heard it before.” I had met her for coffee where she told me this riddle.


This riddle has a typical structure. It asks a question after granting information, but not enough to totally understand where the riddle is going. Often, riddles even provide too much information to throw people off the right answer. In this riddle, you might think the desert is an important clue, but it really could be set almost anywhere. This riddle has a little bit of humor in it as well. Everyone may not find it funny because of its use of death as a comedic technique. The barrier to understand this riddle is relatively low because anyone who understands English and how parachutes work can understand it. However, the younger the audience is, the less likely it will be an appropriate riddle or one that could be understood. My informant cannot remember how old she was when she heard it, but she does know that she understood it once she heard the answer. Riddles are often given to children and told by children for fun and to test how clever someone is based on how good they are at solving them. Often though, people who have heard the riddle before are likely to get the answer, whereas if someone hears a riddle for the first time, it is much harder to get the answer right away.

Electricity Riddle

Main Performance:

HG: Basically you’re in this, like, house that’s like a labyrinth, or whatever. Um… and there’s no electricity and its like dark and whatever, and there’s these doors. There’s these three doors, um… I’m gonna tell you the doors and you pick, actually.

Me: Ok.

HG: So the first one, there’s Red Door, Blue Door, and Green Door. Which one do you pick?

Me: Blue Door.

HG: Ok, um… and then there’s door one, two and three. Which one do you pick?

Me: One.

HG: One? Ok, and then there’s pink door, white door, and black door. Which one do you pick?

Me: White.

HG: White? Ok, um… then there’s five doors. One with a picture of a giraffe and the other four are just one, two, three, and four.

Me: Three.

HG: Ok… Lotta people pick the giraffe door but that’s ok.

Me: *Laughing*

HG: And then finally there’s three more, its just sky door, grass door and moon door.

M: I’ll go with moon door.

HG: And then you’re presented with three options, you finally enter this room and um… they are all ways to die, basically. The first way is to enter a cage with a lion in it. The next is you have to hang yourself. And then the last one is an electric chair. Which one are you picking?

Me: The electric chair.

HG: Aw yeah why’s that

ME: *Laughing* Because there’s no electricity in the house!

HG: *Laughing* Aw f*ck you

Background: The respondent heard the riddle in middle school to the best of his memory. He is from New York City.

Thoughts/Analysis: I had definitely heard a riddle with the same sort of punchline before the informant had told me his riddle, but I didn’t realize it until he said the last option. To someone who hasn’t heard the riddle before, it is supposed to rely on the complex steps that the riddler walks the subject through before arriving at the final decision. You are thinking about so many things throughout the course of the riddle that you forget one of the basic things about the house. In the performance of the riddle, the informant took many “thinking” pauses between each of my decisions to try and signal to me that he was thinking about the path that I was taking in order to throw me off.

Going Through Doors Riddle

JK: Ok, so, it’s a blackout and you’re walking along uh street uh a dark neighborhood street and you see one little cottage that is lit up by candlelight so you go inside and there’s a red door and a purple door. Which one do you go through?

VG: The red.

JK: K, so you go through the red door and you are presented with two more doors. There’s a brown regular looking door and there’s uh- polka dot door. Which door do you go through?

VG: The brown.

JK: You go through the brown door and you are presented with two more doors…it’s a black door and a white door. Which door do you go through?

VG: The white door.

JK: Ok, so you go through the white door and you come out of…the s- into uh- a space brightly lit by candles and there’s a couple there and they’re very angry that you broke into their home and you can either choose death by uh their dogs who will tear you apart or you can choose death by electric chair. Which one do you choose and why?

VG: I choose electric chair-

JK: Why?

VG: Because it’s faster.

JK: Nah-

EM: I know what this is- can I answer it?

JK: Yeah.

EM: Cause- wait there’s no electricity right?

JK: Yeah, you choose the electric chair because the power is out.

(Everyone laughs)

VG: Dammit.



Location of story – N/A

Location of Performance – Different student’s dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, afternoon


Context: This performance took place between 2-3 people who were working on a film project together for class. This story came in response to my question if anyone had time to talk before the film shoot to talk about traditions specific to school, festivals, holidays, and riddles. JK and I had just met recently on this project. His story had just followed two about high school traditions.


Analysis: My favorite part about this performance is that the other person in the room, EK, had heard of this riddle before. Moreover, EK’s question about whether she can spoil the end demonstrates the universally understood pressure to let the one being challenged demonstrate their wit. I was actually nervous participating in this performance because historically, I am not very good at riddles and whenever I “fail” I always feel socially inferior. It may seem silly, but my anxiety only confirms the social implications of these riddles.