In a world where we amuse ourselves with personal digital assistants and children interact with GameBoys and PS2s, it was fun to go back in time and see what families and friends did for amusement before these items existed, and even before the advent of television or radio.
As a child, I remember playing parlour games such as musical chairs, charades, or ‘Blind Man’s Buff’, which was one of the most popular games. The game was played by adults and children especially at birthday parties and other social gatherings. Although I have been unable to find the origin, I understand a similar game was played during medieval times, suggesting the game is more than 500 years old.
Many of these games were brought from England and mainland Europe to America by families seeking a better life in the New World. Some of the games were adapted and softened such as the last line in Ring a Ring of Roses. In England, the last line of the game is, “All fall dead.” In America, the ending,” All fall down.”
As I researched the origin of Blind Man’s Buff (some people say “Bluff”) I wondered if other games such as Marco Polo and Hide and Go Seek also derived from the original Blind Man’s Buff game. The games are very similar in nature particularly Hide and Go Seek; although in this game the main participant (the seeker) has only to cover his or her eyes while counting to a specific number designated by the group.
Blind Man’s Buff is usually played in a closed room with about eight to ten people. One person is designated to be blindfolded and, after a scarf is tied around their eyes, he or she is spun around three times to disorientate them. This gives the other participants a chance to scatter and move around the room. The blindfolded player then makes their way around the silent room with his or her arms outstretched as they try to ‘feel’ one of the other participants. As they make their way around the room, the blindfolded person naturally bumps into furniture or knock lamps down, much to the amusement of those attending the party. The squeals of laughter sometimes lead the seeker to an individual who, once caught must then become the seeker themselves and so the game continues.
During 1888, the press referred to the game of Blind Man’s Buff to embarrass and humiliate the police force who had been unable to arrest Jack the Ripper. Although the police arrested several men, they were quickly released for lack of evidence. A cartoon was published by Punch Magazine showing the police as the “blind man” which was obviously meant to shame the police. It depicts a London policeman in uniform with a scarf around his eyes. His arms are outstretched in an effort to catch any individual who may fall into his grasp. On the wall there is a poster with the word “Murder” as its title. Unsavory characters surround the policeman and tease him. The caption beneath the cartoon reads: Blind Man’s Buff (As Played by the Police.) “Turn round three times and catch whom you may.” The Ripper was never caught.