Light as a Feather Stiff as a Board, Bloody Mary, and Other Creepy Sleepover Games
Bone-Chilling Sleepover Games?
When we were kids we would do all sorts of silly things to scare ourselves at sleepovers. Most of us were content with telling scary ghost stories while the others twirled their hair and squeezed the covers around them for comfort. Some of us branched out a little with our curiosity into the unknown...or perhaps it was the peer pressure to participate in a spooky, seemingly harmless sleepover game.
Whatever the reason behind trying these things, we did them nonetheless. Sometimes ending in giggles, sometimes ending with hair-raising results. But what are the origins to these creepy sleepover games? Are these games based on fact or fiction? Are they merely urban legends or is there a deeper truth behind each one of them? Should we allow our children to play these morbid and macabre games? Let us find out...
Light As a Feather, Stiff As a Board...
Have you ever played Light As a Feather, Stiff As a Board? If you have played, then you know just how freaky it can get. If you haven't played, then let me explain it to you.
Light As a Feather, Stiff As a Board is a game that is played at sleepovers where four or more people gather around a person who is lying or sitting down and try to levitate them into the air using only their index and middle fingers (you can actually watch a dramatization of this in the movie The Craft). There are different versions of how to play the game, but the most popular is to sit around a person who's lying on the floor and chant the following altogether:
"She's Looking Ill,
She's Looking Worse,
Light as a Feather
Stiff as a Board."
The last two lines are repeated as many times as it takes to lift the person into the air with ease. Some people swear this works the first time, while others claim it takes a few times to succeed in lifting a person. Once success is attained, the entire group of girls usually get scared or mystified by the idea that they have made a friend levitate. There is actually a very logical and scientific explanation to the end-result of this game; however, when it happens it is rather shocking.
But where does this creepy sleepover game originate? Was it made up as an urban legend in recent decades or does it have a deeper, more frightening history behind it? We can actually trace this sleepover game back to the fourteenth century, according to some historians and folklorists. It can be traced back to the time of the plague in England in the 1300s. Death was all around children, and because they didn't fully understand it they would come up with ways to make light of it. One of those ways might have been to play macabre games such as "light as a feather" or even "ring around the rosey".
So as you can see, this creepy sleepover game is based in historical fact...whether it actually works is up to the player(s) brave enough to try.
Mirror Games: Bloody Mary and Candyman
Probably the most frightening sleepover game I ever played as a child was Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary is a sleepover game in which the player(s) will use a mirror in a dark bathroom to "contact" a grisly ghost such as Bloody Mary or Candyman. The idea is that a player will go into the bathroom or dark room, keep the lights off, and repeat either Bloody Mary or Candyman's name a certain amount of times. Then once the name has been said enough, the lights are turned back on and either Bloody Mary or Candyman will appear in the mirror. In some even scarier versions, Bloody Mary and Candyman are said to come through the mirror to kidnap and/or kill the child calling her/him up.
Are these creepy sleepover mirror games brand new to urban legend or are they based on a practice much older? If we look at the folklore and mythology surrounding mirrors themselves, we can see that the practice of using a mirror to contact the "other side" dates back hundreds if not thousands of years. Catoptromancy (or mirror scrying) is the practice of reading one's future using a mirror. This practice dates back to Ancient Greece and beyond. The person was said to either see events or actual spirits in the mirror depicting his/her future. Often this practice was centered around whether the person reading the mirror was going to live through an illness or die.
Mirrors are also said to be doors to another dimension or to the spirit world. Similar to the new Hollywood film "Oculus", some old ghost stories claim that mirrors have the ability to trap wayward spirits. Perhaps the idea of Bloody Mary or Candyman's ghost being in the mirror comes from this very old superstition. Bloody Mary was indeed a real person in England, a queen in fact. Is the Bloody Mary sleepover game based on her existence or someone else entirely? Do these things actually exist inside of mirrors or is it our own imagination and eyes tricking us into seeing things? I'll let you decide for yourself...
The Ouija Board and Seances
Many of us are guilty of using a ouija Board at sleepovers. We thought it was a game...Milton Bradley and Toys R Us told us it was a game. But then we found out it wasn't a game. Ouija Boards were first mass-produced in the 1800s, but have become so mainstream that you can find one in almost any Walmart or toy store in modern times...adding to the accessibility for young people having sleepover parties. Unfortunately, the Ouija Board is a "game" that many people find out they do not want to play, much less even see, after "playing" around with it.
Is the Ouija Board as harmless as some of the other creepy sleepover games or does it have an even darker past? The Ouija Board is a tool to be used in a séance, traditionally. It is used to "call up" the dead or other spirits, if you will. At least this was the original intention of the design for the "game". Are we sensing a pattern with these sleepover games...death, perhaps?
But back to the Ouija. For many years after the Ouija Board was being sold in stores, no one knew its actual origins. But researchers have found that the Ouija Board came straight out of the time of Spiritualism in the Victorian age...which was a religion based on contacting and seeking the help of the dead (to put it simply). People would gather in groups to perform séances and talk to crossed-over loved ones, sometimes seeking the assistance of a "psychic medium" during the séance. While this may seem very strange to us now, back then it was considered a little more understandable as the average life span was about fifty years. People just wanted to hang on to some kind of hope that there was life after death...so they would try to contact their dead loved ones.
The problem with children using an Ouija Board and holding séances at sleepovers is that they often do not know what they are getting themselves into. They think it will be a thrilling game, but in many cases the game turns out to be a nightmare. Mediums alive today say that the Ouija Board is "too broad" of a channel for spirits and other negative energies to come through. Others say it's not spirits that are talking through the board, but the players' subconscious mind(s). But whatever the case, one has only to research "scary experiences with the Ouija Board" online to see that the Ouija Board is really and truly no game to be messed around with. The same goes for séances of any kind...
Cat Scratch, Concentrate, and More
In addition to the already bone-chilling sleepover games discussed above, there are others out there that kids play in order to scare the heck out of themselves at sleepovers. While I never played these as a child, these games are all over the internet and seem to have a cult following among adolescents.
Cat Scratch is a game that involves a person telling the other person a three scary stories about a cat. When the third story is done, the person yells "cat scratch!" three times and supposedly the person at the receiving end of the story will find claw marks on their back...without anyone ever touching them. The origins of this game are unknown...but seem to be more of an urban legend from modern times than dating back to ancient times.
Concentrate is another scary sleepover game that focuses on death (shocker there, I know). It involves one person telling another person a creepy story involving death, one that repeats and adds more terrifying things to each climax. Then at the end the person pushes the receiving player and they are supposed to see a color. Whatever color they see will correspond to how that person will die. Very weird, I know. Also I could not find an origin for this game either. It seems many of these were made up by kids in order to scare other kids, more so than being based in fact or mythology.
Should we encourage or discourage our kids to play these creepy sleepover games? You and I both know that children are going to find ways of doing things and be exposed to these things no matter what we say. All we can hope is that they are responsible with their decisions whenever they are not at home. It is completely natural for children to be intrigued by scary games and stories; however, just be aware if they become obsessed with any of these things such as the Ouija Board.
© 2015 Nicole Canfield