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For other uses, see Hide and Seek (disambiguation).
Meyerheim Versteckspiel.jpg
A 19th-century painting of three children playing hide and seek in a forest (Friedrich Eduard Meyerheim)
Players 2+
Age range no limit
Setup time <90 seconds
Playing time no limit
Random chance Very Low
Skill(s) required Running, Tracking, Hiding, Observation

Hide-and-seek or hide-and-go-seek is a children's game in which a number of players conceal themselves in the environment, to be found by one or more seekers. The game is played by one player chosen (designated as being "it") counting to a predetermined number while the other players hide. After reaching the number, the player who is "it" attempts to locate all concealed players.[1] The game is an example of an oral tradition, as it is commonly passed down by children to younger children.

The game can end in one of several ways depending on the geographical location in which the players learned about the game originally, and other cultural factors as well. In the most common variation of the game, the player chosen as "it" locates all players, the player found last is the winner and is chosen to be "it" in the next game. In other versions, after the first player is caught or if no other players can be found over a period of time, "it" calls out "Olly olly oxen free" (or "all outs, all in free" or many other variations) to signal the other hiders to return to base for the next round. Some versions in eastern Massachusetts, Base is referred to as "Ghouls" with players trying to reach Ghouls safely without being caught. When reaching Ghouls, players would call out "My Ghouls 1,2,3." In yet another version, when players are caught, they help the "it" seek out others.[2]

Different versions of the game are played around the world, under a variety of names.[3] One derivative game is called "Sardines", in which only one person hides and the others must find them, hiding with them when they do so. The hiding places become progressively more cramped, like sardines in a tin. The last person to find the hiding group is the loser. A. M. Burrage calls this version of the game 'Smee' in his 1931 ghost story of the same name.[4]

In one variant, once all hiders have been located, the game then becomes a game of tag where the "it" chases after all the other players and the first person tagged becomes the "it".

In a second variant reserved for only the truly advanced children's game participants, all players hiding may move from one location to another to avoid being caught. To begin this version, the player being designated as being "it" must first count to 20 and then sing their ABCs before seeking out the hiding players.

A third variant inverts the game, and is also known as "Ghost in the Graveyard". In it, the person who is "it" (considered to be the ghost) hides. The rest of the participants remain at a predetermined location known as "base" where they are safe from the ghost. The participants close their eyes and begin slowly counting out the clock hours (one o'clock, two o'clock, etc.) until they reach midnight, when they cry out, "The Witching Hour!" Then rise and look for the ghost. Once the person is found by one of the seekers, that seeker yells, "Ghost in the Graveyard!" and all the participants race back to base. The ghost attempts to catch one of them. If s/he does, then the person who is caught is now the ghost and the game continues. If no one is caught, then the person playing the ghost must continue in that role until s/he catches someone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Trafton, J. Gregory; Schultz, Alan; Perznowski, Dennis; Bugajska, Magdalena; Adams, William; Cassimatis, Nicholas; Brock, Derek (August 2003). "Children and robots learning to play hide and seek". Naval Research Laboratory. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  2. ^ Ollie Ollie oxen free, World Wide Words, Michael Quinion
  3. ^ "hide-and-seek". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 22 December 2012. 
  4. ^ The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories, OUP 1986.