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A jack-in-the-box
Two boys playing with a jack-in-the-box in an 1863 illustration
Jack-in-the-box after Paul Gavarni.

A jack-in-the-box is a children's toy that outwardly consists of a box with a crank.[1] When the crank is turned, it plays a melody, often "Pop Goes the Weasel". At the end of the tune there is a "surprise":[2] the lid pops open and a figure, usually a clown or jester, pops out of the box. Some jack-in-the-boxes open at random times when cranked, making the startle even more effective.


A theory as to the origin of the jack-in-the-box is that it comes from the 14th century English prelate Sir John Schorne,[3] who is often pictured holding a boot with a devil in it. According to folklore, he once cast the devil into a boot to protect the village of North Marston in Buckinghamshire. In French, a jack-in-the-box is called a "diable en boîte" (literally "boxed devil").


  1. ^ Sobey, Ed; Sobey, Woody (2008), The Way Toys Work: The Science Behind the Magic 8 Ball, Etch a Sketch, Boomerang, and More, Chicago Review Press, p. 71, ISBN 1613743092. 
  2. ^ Hayes, Justin Cord (2012), The Unexpected Evolution of Language: Discover the Surprising Etymology of Everyday Words, Adams Media, p. 106, ISBN 1440542791. 
  3. ^ Vince, John (2008), Discovering Saints in Britain (3rd ed.), Osprey Publishing, p. 29, ISBN 0747804753. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Jack-in-the-box at Wikimedia Commons