Stiff as a Board Light as a Feather Game

‘Stiff as a Board, Light as a Feather’ has been an unspoken staple for sleepovers for years.

You won’t be surprised to know that this game has been played for centuries.

It is thought of as a supernatural game where a single person is lifted solely by the fingers of 4 to 5 surrounding individuals. It couldn’t get spookier than this.

Or can it?

Is it a power of suggestion, magnetic forces, magic, or a combination of muscle tension, distribution of weight, and balance?

You are going to find that out soon!

A Quick Refresher

If by any means you have forgotten how this game was played or have no idea about it, let me give you a basic and quick refresher.

This game has to be played by a minimum of 5 people.

One person has to lie motionless on their back on the ground with their arms crossed over their chest.

Essentially, he/she has to mimic that they are laying in a coffin.

The rest of the people have to kneel around the motionless person and have to slide their index and middle fingers from each hand under the body.

Whoever is leading the group will tell a story about how the person in the middle died and than begins the chant to bring their spirit back.

The chant being; Light as a feather, stiff as a board.

Everyone in the group will chant this together as they slowly raise their hands and baanggg! The person actually begins to float in the air.

As creepy as it sounds, it is actually true.

Rules of ‘Light as a Feather’

If you truly want to play the game effectively, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.

Right Setup Matters

First things first, you have to get them set up right.

Find a flat surface where you can accommodate all your friends.

Ask a friend (who is going to pretend to be dead) to lay flat on the ground with their arms crossed over the chest. It is a good idea to place a blanket or some pillows underneath for comfort as well as protection.

All other friends as lifters should sit beside the laying person. If there are four people, 2 people should sit at each knee and 2 should sit at each should.

If you have a fifth person, they should sit at the liftee’s head. Then it comes to finding the leader of the group.

Mostly, it is the host but you can choose anyone who is familiar with the game. The host must fully understand the game and should be able to guide other members effectively.

If the leader is a bit theatrical, it adds to the spooky and supernatural feel of the game. Clasp your hands together and release your index and middle finger.

These will be the only two fingers you guys will use to lift up the person lying in the center. Place these fingers underneath the liftee’s shoulders, knees, and head (in the case of a fifth person).

Now, you should do a test lift. It is just a trial. Avoid any special setup. Most people won’t be able to lift at this point or at least lift the person significantly higher.

That’s is when the leader will come in and inform the group that the body has become possessed that is why they are unable to lift the body.

Now, you need to get serious and do business.

Master the Trick

Dim the lights or turn them off if you want to add more drama. Add candles and a bit of spooky music if you like.

The leader will narrate the story of how this person died. Make sure that the person laying is perfectly still with their eyes shut.

You have to repeat in union: ‘Light as a feather, stiff as a board’. Some individuals use a variation: ‘Light as a feather, strong as an ox’.

Repeat this over and over again. As you chant, slowly start to lift the person laying in front of you. Believe it or not, this time around, you would be able to lift the body with ease.

Don’t get freaked out and take out your hands as your friend will drop. Slowly lower them to the ground and continue to recite the words.

That is when the leader will command the spirit to exit the body.

Congratulations! You have completed the trick successfully.

History of the Game

The game has been around for a very long time.

Certainly longer than you could have imagined. According to Cosmopolitan, the first record of the game was found in the 1600s.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The mention of the game was found in the diary of British Naval Administrator and Member of Parliament Samuel Pepys.

His friend witnessed four little girls playing this game in Bourdeaux in the exact same way as we play it today.

The Pepys wrote about it in his diary along with the chant that accompanied this performance:

Voici un corps mortHere is a dead body
Raide comme un bâton, Stiff as a stick,
Froid comme le marbreCold as marble
Léger comme un esprit,Light as a spirit,
Lève-toi au nom deJésus-Christ!

Lift yourself, in the name of Jesus Christ! The next record of this game was found in the book: The Magician’s Own Book (1857).

The account differs from Pepys’ and showcases a slightly different version than played by the girls.

As per this account, the heaviest man in Venice, Italy sits in a chair. Six other persons are asked to lift him but are unable to do so.

Then, they do coordinated hand clapping along with synchronized inhalations and exhalations and lift the chair with the help of their forefingers with ease.

The same phenomena have been described as a form of spiritualism or séance and even considered anathema by certain religious groups.

Widely, it is simply known as the spooky game along the lines of Bloody Mary and ghost stories at sleepovers. The game also made an appearance in the film; The Craft (1996).

The story follows the story of four high school students who are interested in witchcraft and arcane experiments. One of such experiments is ‘Light as a feather, stiff as a board’.

In this movie, the girls do a similar version of the game described in Pepys’ diary. 

Of course, the movie involved special effects that are used to show the person levitating above the hands of the lifters which doesn’t occur in a real-life scenario.  

The Science Behind ‘Light as a Feather’

You can believe in spirits and magic all you want but it eventually comes down to a science.

It is a combination of timing, poor memory, and the natural underestimated strength of fingers. Here is what is happening here.

A bunch of people is lifting a person in the air with their tips.

As you are using two fingers, you might think to yourself: ‘it is nearly impossible’.

But hold on a second, your fingers are stronger than you think.

Moreover, when a whole bunch of people is lifting a body with their fingers, it can add to the strength and make it easy.

The spooky atmosphere, chanting adds to the drama and we are unable to think it through.

All of it combined makes a perfect recipe to ignore physics and believe in witchcraft.

Timing, Weight Distribution, and Fallible Memory

Here is what is actually going on:

Timing

During the first, trial attempt, everyone is lifting at different times and hence is unable to do so. In the second attempt, all of you are lifting the weight at the same time due to timed rituals and chanting. An effort timed well is fruitful.

Weight Distribution

When you and your friends are lifting at once, at most you’ll be lifting 20 to 40 pounds per piece. It is definitely something you do often.

Ever tried carrying super-heavy plastic grocery bags to your apartment because you didn’t want a second trip from the car?

We all have been there.

Your fingers are stronger than you think. If the subject is laying super still (stiff as a board), it makes the lifting process even easier.

Here are some more Scary Games to Play

Fallible Memory

Most of us did this ritual during sleepovers as children.

What does this mean?

Well, your memories can truly start playing tricks on you. Hence, the levitation gets higher and the subject feels much lighter.

All in all, the entire ordeal feels spookier.

When we think of the memory as an adult, those memories are fuzzier and influenced by a lot of the stuff we read or see in a movie. Have you tried this game ever?

If not, will you try it?

If you did it with your friends, were you able to lift the presumed dead person or not?

Let us know in the comments section below. We would love to hear all your interesting stories.  

About Brandon Hall

Hi! I am Brandon. Writer and content creator for PA, specializing in phenomena that is sometimes beyond normal scientific understanding. My mission is to help guide people seeking answers in a positive and enlightening way.

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