Whenever the lights would go out, or it was a dark winter night, I loved to play Murder with my kids. It's a fun parlor game and only requires a candle (or artificial candle) and a few playing cards of any type.

Here's what you need:

  • five or more players (the more players, the more fun)

  • a few playing cards (you can use any cards or even make your own out of file cards)

  • a candle or artificial candle. I recommend using a candle in a container to prevent unnecessary catastrophe.

Here's how it's played:

  1. Select a particular card from among the cards to be the murderer. If you are using file cards, just mark a big "X" on one and leave the rest blank.

  2. Turn out all lights.

  3. Sit in a circle on the floor with the candle in the middle.

  4. Everyone holds hands.

  5. Shuffle and pass out the cards and then have everyone turn theirs over in a pile in the middle.

  6. Whoever gets the designated card is the murderer.

  7. There are two ways to murder: either squeeze the hand of the person on either side of you or wink at someone.

  8. Once the person has been winked at or squeezed, they quietly say, "I'm dead."

  9. They then let go of the hands of the people next to them and scoot back from the circle.

  10. Other players join hands, always maintaining a joined circle.

  11. Play continues until someone believes they have figured out the murderer. If they think they know, they say, "I have a suspicion."

  12. The player then says who they think the murderer is. If they are wrong, they are dead and leave the game. If they are right, the game is over and you may begin a new round.

  13. Each player must keep an eye out for what the other players are up to. Watch for winks and hand squeezes.

  14. The murderer should try to be as discreet as possible so as not to get caught too quickly.

  15. If the murderer is able to kill everyone off, he wins the round.

This game is lots of fun and teaches kids to be observant and use their powers of deduction. It is also a game that requires very little to play, doesn't use electricity (literally) and so can be played when the power is out, distracting them from the "oh, my word, what are we going to do now because we can't play Wii or use the computer" syndrome.

NOTE: This game can also be played in a more active mode. Everyone in the circle still draws a card, but now they disperse around the house, hiding in different rooms in the dark. The murderer goes from room to room seeking out victims and whispering in their ear, "You're dead." The victim then has to lie down quietly until someone finds them. The murderer tries to kill off as many people as they can before a victim is found. Once found, the person who finds them yells out, "Someone has been murdered!" and all gather to the original room and turn on the lights. The finder plays detective, asking questions that can only be answered "yes" or "no" until he comes up with an accusation. He then points to the suspect and asks them if they are the murderer. They must answer honestly. If the detective is right, the round is over. If they answer wrong, the round is still over, but they lose credibility in the subsequent rounds.

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