General Indoor Games

General Games - Tricks and Puzzles

General Games

Cross Questions and Crooked Answers

To play this game it is best to sit in a circle, and until the end of the game no one must speak above a whisper.

The first player whispers a question to his neighbor, such as: "Do you like roses?" This question now belongs to the second player, and he must remember it.

The second player answers: "Yes, they smell so sweetly," and this answer belongs to the first player. The second player now asks his neighbor a question, taking care to remember the answer, as it will belong to him. Perhaps he has asked his neighbor, "Are you fond of potatoes?" and the answer may have been, "Yes, when they are fried!"

So that the second player has now a question and an answer belonging to him, which he must remember.

The game goes on until every one has been asked a question and given an answer, and each player must be sure and bear in mind that it is the question he is asked, and the answer his neighbor gives, which belong to him.

At the end of the game each player gives his question and answer aloud, in the following manner:

"I was asked: 'Do you like roses?' and the answer was: 'Yes, when they are fried!'" The next player says: "I was asked: 'Are you fond of potatoes?' and the answer was: 'Yes, they are very pretty, but they don't wear well.'

Musical Chairs

This game must be played in a room where there is a piano or a source of music.

Arrange some chairs, back to back, in the center of the room, allowing one chair less than the number of players. Some one begins to play a tune, and at once the players start to walk or run round the chairs, to the sound of the music.

When the music stops, each player must try to find a seat, and as there is one chair short, some one will fail to do so, and is called "put." He must carry a chair away with him, and the game goes on again until there is only one person left in, with no chair to sit upon. This person has won the game.

The Traveler's Alphabet

The players sit in a row and the first begins by saying, "I am going on a journey to Athens," or any place beginning with A. The one sitting next asks, "What will you do there?" The verbs, adjectives, and nouns used in the reply must all begin with A; as "Amuse Ailing Authors with Anecdotes." If the player answers correctly, it is the next player's turn; he says perhaps: "I am going to Bradford." "What to do there?" "To Bring Back Bread and Butter." A third says: "I am going to Constantinople." "What to do there?" "To Carry Contented Cats." Any one who makes a mistake must pay a forfeit.


This is a very old game, but is always a very great favorite. The more the players, the greater the fun. The way to play it is as follows: The players sit in a circle and begin to count in turn, but when the number 7 or any number in which the figure 7 or any multiple of 7 is reached, they say "Buzz," instead of whatever the number may be. As, for instance, supposing the players have counted up to 12, the next player will say "13," the next "Buzz" because 14 is a multiple of 7 (twice 7)—the next player would then say "15" the next "16," and the next would, of course, say "Buzz" because the figure 7 occurs in the number 17. If one of the players forgets to say "Buzz" at the proper time, he is out. The game then starts over again with the remaining players, and so it continues until there is but one person remaining. If great care is taken the numbers can be counted up to 70, which, according to the rules before mentioned, would, of course, be called Buzz. The numbers would then be carried on as Buzz 1, Buzz 2, etc., up to 79, but it is very seldom that this stage is reached.

"Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?"

This is a capital game for a large party, for it is both instructive and amusing. Two sides are picked, one has to guess what word or sentence the remainder of the company has chosen. They go out of the room, and when the subject has been decided upon, return and ask a question of each of the other side in turn. The answer must be either "Yes" or "No," and in no case should more words be used, under penalty of paying a forfeit. The first important point to be found out is whether the subject is "Animal," "Vegetable," or "Mineral." Supposing, for instance, the subject chosen is a cat which is sleeping in the room by the fire, the questions and answers might be like the following: "Is the subject chosen an animal?" "Yes." "Wild animal?" "No." "Domestic animal?" "Yes." "Common?" "Yes." "Are there many to be seen in this town?" "Yes." "Have you seen many this day?" "Yes." "In this house?" "No." "Have you seen many in the road?" "Yes." "Do they draw carts?" "No." "Are they used for working purposes?" "No." "Is the subject a pet?" "Yes." "Have they one in the house?" "Yes." "In this room?" "Yes." "Is it lying in front of the fire at the present time?" "Yes." "Is the subject you all thought of the cat lying in front of the fire in this room?" "Yes." The subject having been guessed, another one is chosen and the game proceeds. The questions are limited to twenty, but it is hardly ever necessary to use that number.

"Hands Up!"

The company in this game must divide, one-half taking seats on one side of the table, and the other half on the other side; the players on one side being called the "guessers" and the players on the other side being called the "hiders." A button or any small object is produced, and the hiders have to pass it from hand to hand, under the table, so that those sitting opposite may not know who holds it. When it is hidden, one of the guessers cries out, "Hands up!" Immediately the hiders must place their closed hands on the table; the guessers have then to find out which hand holds the button. If successful, the hiders take their turn at guessing. The person in whose hand the button is found must pay a forfeit.

Hunt the Ring

For this game a long piece of string is required. On this a ring is threaded, and the ends of the string are knotted together. The players then take the string in their hands and form a circle, while one of the company, who is called the hunter, stands in the center. The string must be passed rapidly round and round, and the players must try to prevent the hunter finding out who holds the ring. As soon as he has done this, he takes his place in the circle, while the person who held the ring becomes the "hunter."

The Feather

Having procured a small flossy feather, the players sit in a circle as closely together as possible. One of the party then throws the feather as high as possible into the air, and it is the duty of all the players to prevent it from alighting on them, by blowing at it whenever it comes in their direction. Any player whom it falls upon must pay a forfeit.

It is almost impossible to imagine the excitement that is produced by this game when it is played with spirit, and the fun is not altogether confined to the players, as it gives almost as much enjoyment to those who are looking on.

Thought Reading

This is a very good game, which always causes considerable amusement, and if skillfully carried out will very successfully mystify the whole company.It is necessary that the player who is to take the part of thought-reader should have a confederate, and the game is then played as follows:

The thought-reader, having arranged that the confederate should write a certain word, commences by asking four members of the company to write each a word upon a piece of paper, fold it up in such a manner that it cannot be seen, and then to pass it on to him. The confederate, of course, volunteers to make one of the four, and writes the word previously agreed upon, which is, we will suppose, "Ohio."

The thought-reader places the slips of paper between his fingers, taking care to put the paper of his confederate between the third and little finger; he then takes the folded paper from between his thumb and first finger and rubs it, folded as it is, over his forehead, at each rub mentioning a letter, as O, rub, H, rub, I O, after which he calls out that some lady or gentleman has written "Ohio." "I did," replies the confederate.

The thought-reader then opens the paper, looks at it, and slips it into his pocket; he has, however, looked at one of the other papers.

Consequently he is now in a position to spell another word, which he proceeds to do in the same manner, and thus the game goes on until all the papers have been read.

The Farmyard

This game, if carried out properly, will cause great amusement. One of the party announces that he will whisper to each person the name of some animal, which, at a given signal, must be imitated as loudly as possible. Instead, however, of giving the name of an animal to each, he whispers to all the company, with the exception of one, to keep perfectly silent. To this one he whispers that the animal he is to imitate is the donkey. After a short time, so that all may be in readiness, the signal is given. Instead of all the party making the sounds of various animals, nothing is heard but a loud bray from the one unfortunate member of the company.

Cat's Cradle

Take a piece of string and knot the ends together and slip it over your hands, as in Fig. 1.

Next wind the string round your hands, not including the thumb, as in Fig. 2.

Slip the second fingers through the string on your hands and you have your cat's cradle, as in Fig. 3.

You must now ask a second person to put his thumbs and first fingers through the cradle, as in Fig. 4.

Draw out the string and take it under the cradle, and you will have Fig. 5.

Slip the thumbs and first fingers again into the side pieces of the cradle, draw the string sideways and take it under the cradle, and you will have Fig. 6.

Now curl the little fingers round the string, slipping one under the other as shown, and draw out the side pieces.

Slip the thumb and first fingers under the side string, bring them up the middle, and you have your original cat's cradle again.

The Magic Whistle

All the players but three stand in two rows facing each other. One player sits at the end of the two rows, another leads a third player into the room and makes him kneel down before the player who is seated, and who is called the President.

The President then proceeds to make all sorts of "magic" passes over the kneeler's face, back, and hands. While he is doing this, the boy who led the victim in fastens a whistle to his coat. It must be slung on to a piece of string or tape, and fastened very loosely, so that it can be easily grasped and yet will not knock against the wearer's back.

The whistle is then blown by the boy who attached it, and the kneeling boy is told to rise and search for the magic whistle. The players who stand on each side must hold their hands before their mouths and pretend to blow whenever the whistle is blown, which must be as often as any one can get a chance without being found out.

The victim will search all along the rows trying to find the magic whistle, and it will be attached to his back.

Tricks and Puzzles

Any one who wishes to play a trick or show off a puzzle should test it privately, before attempting to show it before company, for often, owing to some slight error, the trick may at first prove a failure, whereas a little practice will soon make one perfect.

The Dancing Egg

Get a hard-boiled egg and place it on the reverse side of a smooth polished plate or bread-platter. If you now turn the plate round while holding it in a horizontal position, the egg, which is in the middle of it, will turn round also, and as the pace is quickened, the egg will move more and more quickly, until it stands up on one end and spins round like a top. In order to be quite sure that the experiment will succeed, you should keep the egg upright while it is being boiled, so that the inside may be hardened in the proper position.

The Magic Thread

Soak a piece of thread in a solution of salt or alum (of course, your audience must not know you have done this). When dry, borrow a very light ring and fix it to the thread. Apply the thread to the flame of a candle; it will burn to ashes, but will still support the ring.

The Swimming Needles

There are several ways of making a needle float on the surface of the water.

The simplest way is to place a piece of tissue paper on the water and lay the needle on it; the paper soon becomes soaked with water and sinks to the bottom, while the needle is left floating on the top.

Another method is to hang the needle in two slings made of threads, which must be carefully drawn away as soon as the needle floats.

You can also make the needle float by simply holding it in your fingers and laying it on the water. This, however, requires a very steady hand.

If you magnetize a sewing-needle by rubbing it on a fairly strong magnet and float it on the water, it will make an extremely sensitive compass; and if you place two needles on the water at the same time, you will see them slowly approach each other until they float side by side, that is, if they do not strike together so heavily as to cause them to sink.

The Bridge of Knives

Three knives may be supported by their handles in the following manner: Place three glasses in a triangle, each side of which must be about the length of one of the knives. The blade of the first knife should rest on the blade of the second, by passing over it near to the point where the handle and blade are joined; the blade of the second passing in the same manner over the blade of the third, which is to be made to rest on the blade of the first. The handles being then carefully placed upon the glasses, a bridge is formed strong enough to bear a considerable weight.

To Balance a Coffee-Cup on the Point of a Knife

The articles necessary for the performance of this trick are very simple, a dinner-fork and an ordinary sized cork being all that are needed. Fix the cork firmly in the handle of the fork, then stick the fork into it so that two prongs shall be on each side of the cup handle, and slope the fork in such a way that its handle will come under the bottom of the cup. The heaviest weight being thus brought underneath, you can hold the cup on the point of a knife, if you very carefully find the exact place on which it will balance.

As the surface of the cup is usually glazed, the hand which holds the knife must not tremble, or the cup will slip off.

You may also obtain the same result by using two knives instead of a fork.

The Obstinate Cork

Take a small cork and ask some one to blow it into a fairly large sized, ordinary bottle that has a neck.

This seems to be quite an easy matter. The one who tries it will probably blow as hard as possible upon the little cork; but, instead of going into the bottle, as expected, it will simply fall down. The harder the puffs or blows, the more obstinate the cork will appear to be; and even if the effect of blowing gently be tried, it will be of no use; the cork will not go into the bottle, much to the amusement of those who are watching. The reason why the cork will not go in is this: The bottle being already full of air, when the cork is blown, more air will be forced into the bottle, and consequently the air inside will be greatly compressed and will simply force the cork back. The following is a simple way of overcoming the difficulty: Instead of trying to force the cork through the compressed air in the bottle, just the contrary should be tried, that is, some of the air should be sucked out of the bottle; this being done, the bottle will become partly emptied, and when the outside air rushes in to fill up the empty space, it will carry the cork with it to the bottom of the bottle.

Six and Five Make Nine

This is a simple little puzzle. Take eleven strips of cardboard, lay six of them at exactly equal distances on the table, and ask one of the company to add the five other strips and yet only make nine. It is done by placing six of them parallel to each other—the others are used to spell out the word nine.

The Vanishing Dime

Stick a small piece of white wax on the nail of the middle finger of your right hand, taking care that no one sees you do it. Then place a dime in the palm of your hand and tell your audience that you can make it vanish at the word of command.You then close your hand so that the dime sticks to the waxed nail. Blow on your hand and make magic passes, and cry "Dime, begone!" Open your hand so quickly that no one will see the dime stuck to the back of your nail, and show your empty hand. To make the dime reappear, you merely close you hand again and rub the dime into your palm.

To Light a Snowball with a Match

Roll a snowball and put it on a plate. While rolling, contrive to slip a piece of camphor into the top of it. The camphor must be about the size and shape of a chestnut, and it must be pushed into the soft snow so as to be invisible—the smaller end uppermost, to which the match should be applied.

The Dancing Pea

For this trick, take a piece, two or three inches long, of a stem of a clay tobacco pipe, taking care that one end is quite even; with a knife or file, work the hole at the even end larger, so as to form a little cup. Choose the roundest pea you can find, place it in the cup, and blow softly through the other end of the pipe, throwing back your head while you blow, so that you can hold the pipe in an upright position over your mouth.

The pea will rise, fall and dance in its cup, according to the degree of force you use in blowing, but you must take care not to blow too hard, or you may blow it away altogether.

The Balancing Spoon

Place a half-opened penknife on the edge of the table and hang a large cooking-spoon by its hook on to the knife, just where the blade and handle join. Place the spoon so that its inner (concave) side is facing the table and, after swinging for a little while, the knife and spoon will keep still in perfect balance. Even if you fill the spoon with sand it will not fall, so long as the heaviest point is under the edge of the table.

The cooking-spoon is hung on to the half-opened penknife where the blade and the handle join, and you can now place the end of the knife-handle on the tip of your finger, on the edge of the table, or on the rim of a glass which is standing near the edge of the table, and your knife and spoon will balance perfectly, without falling over.

The Force of a Water-Drop

Get a match and make a notch in the middle of it, bend it so as to form an acute angle, and place it over the mouth of a bottle.

Now place a dime or other small coin on the match and ask any one to get the coin into the bottle without touching either the bottle or the match.

This is very easy to do. Dip your finger in a glass of water, hold it over the place where the match is notched, and let one or two drops fall on this point. The force of the water will cause the sides of the angle to move apart, and the opening thus become large enough to let the coin fall into the bottle.

The Sentinel Egg

This trick requires care and patience. You must lay a piece of looking-glass on a perfectly even table; then take a new-laid egg and shake it about for some time until the white is well mixed with the yolk. In this condition it is possible to balance the egg on its end and make it stand upright on the glass. This trick is more certain to be successful if you are clever enough to flatten the end ever so slightly and evenly, by giving it a gentle and unsuspected tap.

The Coin Trick

Take a coin in each hand and stretch out your arms as far apart as you can. Then tell your audience that you will make both coins pass into one hand without bringing your hands together. This is easily done by placing one coin upon the table and then turning your body round until the hand with the other coin comes to where it lies. You can then easily pick the coin up, and both will be in one hand, while your arms are still widely extended.

The Wonderful Pendulum

If you fill a wineglass with water and place a thick piece of paper over it so that no air can get in, you will find that you can turn the glass upside down without spilling a drop of water, because the pressure of the air on the outside will keep the paper from falling off. It is on this principle that the present pendulum is to be made. Take a piece of cardboard larger than the mouth of the glass; pass a cord through a small hole in the center of the card, and fasten it by means of a knot on the under side, then carefully cover the hole with wax, so that no air may get in.

Place your cardboard over the glass full of water, and by making a loop in the end of the cord you can hang the glass from a hook in the ceiling without any fear of its falling off. In order to make sure that no air can get into the glass, it is wise to smear the rim with tallow before laying the cardboard on.

The Revolving Pins

Take a piece of elastic which is not covered with silk or wool, and through the middle of this stick a pin, which you have bent as shown in the illustration.

Now hold the elastic between the thumb and first finger of each hand and twirl it round, stretching it a little at the same time. The rapid movement thus caused will make the revolving pin look like a glass object, and if you have a strong light falling on the pin and a dark background behind it, the resemblance becomes very much stronger.

After a little practice you will be able to represent many things in this way cheese dishes, vases, champagne glasses, etc.; and if the bent pin should fall into a horizontal position while revolving, on account of its shape, you can tie one end to the elastic with a piece of white thread, which will not in any way interfere with the workingThis trick looks well in a darkened room, when the pin is illuminated by a ray of sunlight coming through a hole in the window shutter.

The Mysterious Ball

This seems to be a plain wooden ball with a hole bored in its center, through which a string is passed. The ball will move lightly up and down this cord, but let some one who knows the trick take the string in his hand and it becomes quite a different matter; the ball will move quickly, or slowly, at command, and, if told to do so, will stand still until ordered to move on again.

The reason for this peculiar behavior is that inside the ball there are two holes, one of which is quite straight, while the other is curved, and turns out of the straight hole.

It is through this curved passage that the cord is passed, and you can easily see that to regulate the movements of the ball, it is only necessary to hold the string more or less tightly. If you hold the cord perfectly tight, the ball will not be able to move at all. The ball can be purchased at any top shop.

The Man with His Head the Wrong Way

Put on a coat and vest so that they fasten behind. Then fix a mask over the back of the head and a wig over the face. The effect is very curious.

To Find an Object While Blindfolded

To play this trick, you must take one of your friends into your confidence. Borrow a watch and put it in your pocket, and then ask your audience to sit at the end of the room, blindfold your friend, and lead him outside. Now say: "Ladies and gentlemen, if you will give me some small object to hide, I promise that the blind man will find it, although I shall not even tell him what he is to look for, and I shall lower the gas, so that if the bandage should slip, he will still be unable to see." A key, pencil, or any small thing having been handed to you, lower the gas and proceed to hide the object, at the end of the room, mentioning where you have put it, but not mentioning that you have placed the watch close beside it. You then request "Silence" and lead in the blind man and ask him to begin his search. He is guided, of course, by the ticking of the watch, and knows that whatever he finds close to it is the object hidden. When he calls "Found," he must slip the watch into his pocket. You then turn up the gas and quietly ask your audience if they do not think your friend is a very clever fellow?

Chinese Shadows

Here is a simple way of making shadow pictures: Place a candle on the table and fix a piece of white paper on the wall at the same height from the ground as the light is. Now place some non-transparent object, as, for instance, a large book, between the candle and the paper, and on one side of the table place a mirror so that it will reflect the light of the candle on to the paper on the wall. If you now put little cardboard figures between the candle and the mirror, a shadow will be thrown on the white paper and you can move your figures about just as you please.

Hand Shadows

It is very difficult to explain how these shadows should be made, but you must bear in mind the fact that it is necessary to stand between the lamp and the wall, and extend your arms so that the shadow of your body does not interfere with the picture shadows you intend to make with your hands. The illustrations given will show you how to make two very good shadow pictures, but the fun of the game is for several people to make up pictures of their own, and see who can succeed in making the best.

The Game of Shadows

For this game you require a white sheet to be hung up at the end of the room. Then the "shadow-makers" take up their places on low stools behind the sheet. There must be only one lamp in the room, which should be placed about six or seven feet behind the "shadow-makers." Then the "shadow-makers" drape themselves with shawls, or anything handy, and take their places so that their shadows are thrown upon the sheet. They must, of course, try to disguise themselves, so that the "shadow-seekers" may not be able to guess their identity. By loosening the hair and letting it fall over the face, a girl may appear like a man with a beard; bending the finger over the nose gives one a very queer-looking hooked nose in the shadow, and entirely alters the appearance of the face. Covering one's self up in a sheet and then extending the arms gives one the appearance of a large bat. As soon as a "shadow-maker's" identity has been guessed he must take his place as a "shadow-seeker," and the one who guessed him becomes a "shadow-maker." The penalty of a glance behind the sheet on the part of the "shadow-seeker" is to pay a forfeit.

Think of a Number

Tell some one to think of any number he likes, but not to tell you what it is. Tell him then to double it. When he has done that, let him add an even number to it, which you must give him. After doing this, he must halve the whole, then from what is left, take away the number he first thought of. When this is completed, if he has counted correctly, you will be able to give him the exact remainder, which will simply be the half of the even number you told him to add to his own.

Living Shadows

In order to make these, you must stand in the corner of the room, near a mirror. Let some one hold a light behind you, so that the shadow of your head and shoulders will be thrown upon the wall, and also that the reflected light from the mirror will fall at exactly the same spot as the shadow of your head.

If the mirror is now covered with a piece of thick paper, from which two eyes, a nose, and a mouth are cut out, the effect shown in the drawing will be produced. In order to make the shadow still more lifelike, cut out two pieces of paper, fasten one over the mirror, and move the other over it. In this way the eyes and mouth of the shadow may be made to move.

To Guess the Two Ends of a Line of Dominoes

For this trick a whole set of dominoes is required, the performer taking care to hide one of the set, not a double, in his pocket. The remaining dominoes should be shuffled, and placed according to the ordinary rules of domino games, and the performer undertakes to tell, without seeing them, the two numbers forming the extremes of the line, set during his absence from the room. The numbers on the extreme ends of the domino line will be exactly the same as the numbers on the domino which the performer has in his pocket. If he is asked to repeat the trick, he should be sure to change the hidden domino, or he may chance to be found out.

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