Text Transcribed from Informant
“Going on a treasure hunt
X marks the spot
three straight lines
and a dot, dot, dot.
A pinch, a squeeze, a tropical breeze (exhales and flutters fingers)
blood gushing, blood gushing
According to my informant, he learned this “game” in elementary school. Generally a student will say the text above outloud, while using their fingers to act out the actions being described in the rhyme. When asked for his interpretation, my informant replied that this rhyme, and other rhymes like it, are called “giving one the shivers,” and that it was a popular folk game he played as a child.
When my informant starting telling me about this folk game, I immediately remembered playing it in my own childhood. I think the goal of the “game,” as well as its name “giving the shivers,” references what we now call ASMR. I find it fascinating that my informant and I grew up in completely different places; and yet, we still shared this childhood memory with the textual context being nearly identical. I think this folk game also speaks to the near universality of ASMR sensations, as well as adolescent inclinations to trying and recreate a head tingling sensation that doesn’t quite have a term for it.
Text Transcribed from Informant
“X marks the spot (He draws an x on his partner’s back), a circle and a dot (he draws a circle on back of his partner and then pokes his finger where he drew the circle), up the river (he runs his fingers up his partner’s back), down the river (and then he runs his fingers down his partner’s back), cootie shot! (he then gently tickles his partner’s back) Cold breeze (he gently blows on his partner’s neck), Tight squeeze (he squeezes partner’s shoulders), egg….(he puts his fist on his partner’s head) Smashing…down your head (he pulls his hands down around his partner’s head)”
Just like the “giving one the shivers” game, my informant learned of this custom/game in his elementary school years. Generally a student will say the text above outloud, while using their fingers to act out the actions being described in the text. When asked for his interpretation, my informant replied that this motion and speech based game, and other games like it, are called “giving one the shivers,” even though this specific one is titled “X Marks the Spot.” He often played this game as a child, either reciting the words to other students and pretending to have nefarious creatures crawl up their backs, or having the game recited to him and motions done upon him. However, when comparing this specific “shivers” game to the three others documented in the archive, my informant says he partook in this one “the least.”
Like the three other shiver games my informant told me off, I believe this game to be a sort of “proto-ASMR” type of experience. While I remember certain shivers games in my own childhood, this particular one was new to me. I find it surprising personally how many of these “shivers” game my informant was aware of, as I only remembered one or three from my own past. I found all of these “shivers” games to be particularly unique forms of folklore, and am genuinely curious about the future of them.