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Witch In The Well
By Thom Holbrook

   Some kids might like their games of tag or hide and seek. Me, I liked the funkier games like Witch In The Well. Itís sort of a variation on tag if you get right down to it but the tag part is almost beside the point. Itís really more of an acting thing. More play than play.

   The game is literally a mini-play for four or more kids with everyone playing a part. One kid plays the parent, two play the kids and the last kid plays the witch in the well. With more than four kids I guess you could pad it out with an extra parent and some extra kids. Seems to me we almost always ended up with four kids when we played.

   The "witch" takes her position in the "well", wherever that is chosen to be. In our case it was always the phone pole in front of our house down near the road (we lived on a dead end street so no worries about traffic). Then "Dad" and his "kids" took their position in their "house". Again, in our case, that meant the front porch of our real house. The rest of the game went word for word the same way every time. Dad would turn to the kids and say...

Dad: Iím going downtown to smoke my pipe and I wonít be back till Saturday night. And donít get into the brown sugar and butter.

   Why this? I dunno. Thatís the line. Seems dad was kind of a bad parent, apparently abandoning his kids for maybe several days to go smoking in town. The kids are goofy too because they apparently just jones for brown sugar and butter. The minute dad leaves, thatís what theyíre after.

   Dad leaves to go to town. The kid playing dad acts this by going for a walk around the house. Once heís gone itís the kidís job to start miming that they are just eating like crazy. Now the idea is you donít know when dad is coming back so you need to just pig out. Itís all play but there really was this sort of excitement as to when dad would get back and catch you.

   He always caught you. Thatís a set part of the game. The kid walking around the house Ė Dad - would sometimes go slow, sometimes run like the wind. He/she would try to mess with the time of the walk to maximize the surprise of Dadís return. Likewise, that kid would want to make a good entrance. Maybe hide around the corner for a minute in case someone looked around if he was coming. Then when the kid looked away he run in fast to maximize the surprise.

   Dad would run in saying something like, "Ah haaaa!!!" The kids immediately hide their hands to conceal the evidence of their butter/sugar madness. Dad strides powerfully up to the kids.

Dad: Let me see your hands.

Kids: No.

Dad: LET ME SEE YOUR HANDS!!!

   The kids show him their hands. Dad lightly smacks their hands.

Dad: Dirty, dirty! (one "dirty" with each hand smack) Go wash them in the well.

   Now, the witch finally gets some action. The kids walk down to the "well". Just as they get to the well, the witch jumps out (from behind the phone pole), yells, "Arrrrr!!!" and chases the kids back "home". Actually the witch only fakes chasing them. Once they turn tail the witch goes back into the well. The kids run "home" yelling in fear.

Kids: Daddy daddy! Thereís a witch in the well!!!

   Here dad could kind of make up his lines. He basically has to get across that what the kids are saying is crazy. The kids can argue back a little too. Then dad orders them again to go wash their hands. Example:

Dad: What are you nutty? Thereís no witch in the well!

Kids: Yes there is there really is!

Dad: Youíre drunk! Thereís no witch in the well.

Kids: Weíre not drunk! Weíre hopped up on sugar and loaded up with raw butter but, really, there is a witch in the well.

Dad: I donít believe you, now go wash your hands!

   So the kids go back to the well. The same thing happens with the witch chasing them home. Once again the kids tell dad there is a witch in the well. This time dad is a bit more reasonable and agrees to go with them to the well. The kids always yell the same thing but Dad can vamp a bit.

Kids: Daddy, daddy, thereís a witch in the well!!!

Dad: Alright, Iíve had enough of this. Letís go down to well and see whatís going on.

   They all head down to the well, the kids cowering a bit behind dad. Now when they go down the witch isnít hiding but instead just sort of hanging out. Back to the hand and fast dialogue.

Dad: What are you doing in my well?

Witch: Smoking my pipe.

Dad: Why are you smoking your pipe?

Witch: To make ashes?

Dad: Why are you making ashes?

Witch: To sharpen my knife.

Dad: Why are you sharpening your knife?

Witch: TO CUT OFF YOUR HEADS!!!

   At that point the witch rushes at everyone and the game becomes a quick game of tag (but with a heck of a freaky backstory) with the first victim being the person who next has to play the witch.

   Itís an awesome if bizarre little game. Itís like folklore as a game. I always did wonder where it came from. Like, have kids been playing this for forever? Are we the only nutballs playing it or is it the yard game equivalent of an urban myth with kids all over the place knowing the game and playing it and no one knowing how kids everywhere somehow know this strange game?

   And it is weird game. Every character in it is a piece of work. Dad leaves his kids alone for days so he can smoke. The kids are gluttons who eat raw brown sugar and butter. The brown sugar I get... but butter??? The witch isnít even right. I mean at least the witch is true to form. The witch is supposed to be the scary villain and is. So sheís bad but sheís supposed to be. But even sheís off. I mean... sheís a witch. Youíd expect an evil spell or something. But no. This witch smokes a pipe and attacks with a freshly sharpened knife. There is nothing in there that says "witch". Itís weird and creepy... which actually works to make the game scary.

   I guess Witch In The Well was horror for kids too young for actual horror movies and such. And I guess today kids are more likely to get their scare jones from some horror video game. But Iím telling ya, Witch In The Well is all the scary gaming I need.

Poobala.com Main Page/Thom Holbrook's Hollywood Homepage/ Email Me
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