Truth or Dare-A History of Horrific Games
Blumhouse asked us if we wanted to play Truth or Dare. This, It Follows, riff showed us what happens when social media, young people and a contagious demon that infects people all go to Mexico for the weekend. It wasn’t always successful but it sure reminded me what it was like to be young. In honor of this game gone wrong let’s look at the slew of other games that no child should ever play.
Ring Around the Rosie
Ring Around the Rosie A pocket full of PosiesAshes, Ashes we all fall down.
Every child has played this once or twice. I know what you are thinking how is this a scary game? It’s not so much scary as it is macabre. Recent years have brought the resurgence of the myth that this is actually a nursery rhyme about The Bubonic Plague. The rosy ring is the reddened appearance of the skin, posies symbolize the flowers carried in the pockets of plague victims to mask the stench of decay, ashes symbolize the sneezing of plague suffers and of course, falling down is death. This has been debunked by a whole host of people including Snopes. However just the whiff of something that disturbing is going to taint an innocent game. The first printing of this rhyme was several hundred years after The Plague swept through Britain making it almost certainly just an urban legend. The truth is likely that this nursery rhyme came out of sneaky necessity. Strict Protestants in the nineteenth century enacted bans on dancing and non secular music. What’s a town that only wants to dance going to do? Hold a high school prom, I mean invent a childhood game that is acceptable at “play parties”. This game allowed people to dance even if it was hidden behind child’s play. Regardless of the actual origin the next time you sing those words you will think of the plague, I guarantee it.
Bloody Mary- This game has many different variations but they all include looking into a mirror in a darkened room and saying her name. Some alternatives call for the name to be said at midnight, some at 3:00 am. The use of a candle is sometimes called for and the number of times her name should be repeated changes often as well. The most common practice requires nothing but a dark room, a mirror and a strong dose of courage. This story is thought to be the spirit of several different women. The first is Britain’s Queen Mary I. She was a childless woman who had a nasty habit of burning people alive and publicly executing large numbers of her enemies. A second theory is Mary Worth who was executed during the Salem Witch Trials and is back for revenge. A third option is Elizabeth Bathory the Blood Countess who is the first recorded female serial killer in history. She is known to have tortured and killed hundreds of people during her lifetime. More disturbing accounts of her life tell of blood baths to retain her youth. In any case, I don’t want to see anything in the mirror except for myself looking back. If you would like to read more about the terrible but fascinating story of Countess Bathory there’s a really great book on Amazon. If you have a scary Bloody Mary story tell us about it on Twitter using the #BloodyMary2018.
Charlie Charlie-The English version of this game burst on the scene several years ago after being played for years in Spain and other Spanish speaking parts of the world. Grab a piece of paper and two pencils. Write yes and no in all four quadrants and then create a plus sign in the middle of the paper with two pencils. Now ask whatever pressing question that comes to mind. Think DIY Ouija. It’s so convenient these demon/ghosts allow themselves to be summoned in such easy ways instead of the super complex way the Winchester boys show us each week on Supernatural. It’s a wonder we all aren’t running around being talked to by Captain Howdy. The trouble begins for players of this game when they forget their manners and quit without saying “Goodbye”, you know kind of like your Grandpa does when hanging up the phone. Once Charlie feels slighted he follows you around and does random things like scratch you or bring you bad luck, like a spectral black cat. Giving voice to the paranoia several girls in Tunja were hospitalized for mass hysteria in 2015 and a parody website reported hundreds of deaths as a result of playing the game. This story was proven to be a hoax(even though it never claimed to be real) but only after the damage was done. According to a whole host of folks Charlie is either a young child who died via suicide or another form of violent death or a Mexican demon. There does not appear to be any Mexican demons named Charlie so I feel more confident in the child mythology. More scary than any supposed hauntings is the power of viral marketing to drive a story. All it took was one clever hashtag to launch this game which had previously languished for years in obscurity. That should scare us more than anything.
Soup can telephone- As any child from the eighties can tell you if you take two cans, punch holes in the bottom and connect them with string you can talk to another person through the cans. For all you younger people it was like our cell except it didn’t have facebook or twitter, which actually makes them way better. Evidently this game has a sinister version that has a ghost communicate through the cans. Apparently this only works if you have ghosts around, go figure. Next time you are in a haunted house, asylum or penitentiary dig those cans out of those old boxes and get to talking you never know who might talk back. A second more modern version of this game requires ten friends who all have cell phones, so like everyone. You each call the person to the left of you. In theory, everyone should get a busy signal. Occasionally someone gets the Answer Man who will answer any questions asked but he gets to ask one in return and some questions should just never be asked.
Three Kings– A Reddit special that will truly haunt your dreams. It first appeared on the subreddit/no sleep authored by user FableForge. It since has spawned an entire subreddit of its own that details experiences and additional games. This one is very real and very scary. More an exercise in self hypnosis than ghost hunting it nevertheless is terrifying. A complex set up of mirrors, chairs, candles and dark spaces require plenty advance notice and planning. A glimpse into a shadow world is the payoff. Most of the games on Three Kings are thought experiments like Torsion Fields. The brainchild of Russian Youtuber Korney it combines the best of all good scary stories, fear, uncertainty and enough ambiguity to classify anything as an otherwordly response. Some are out and out demonic summoning rituals like The Shower Man. Detailed instructions that involve lots of unpleasantness like fasting and cold showers are used to create an environment where anything could happen or be believed to have happened. The scariest part of this subreddit is the users themselves. There are plenty of people just lurking hoping for a quick scare but there are even more who truly believe. Their absolute guttural fear will stick with you. Word of warning this is not just a casual peek behind the curtain it is an all consuming deep dive into the freaky. Enter at your own risk and read the original post below.
From games played hundreds of years ago to high tech games played in the dark. Each has it’s place in our culture and it’s charm. The ever changing digital landscape means we have access to more and more of our fellow humans experiences. In an era of instant information, games like these are fast evolving into cultural phenomenons. What will be next? The shadow man? Tweet your experience with #shadowman and see just how connected we all are.
As the Television Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.