Wink murder

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Murder Wink
Players 4 or more
Setup time less than 5 minutes
Playing time Approx. 2–20 mins per round
Random chance Low
Skill(s) required Stealth, bluff, creativity

Wink murder is a party game or parlour game in which a secretly-selected player is able to "kill" others by winking at them, while the surviving players try to identify the killer. The game is also variously known as Killer, Murder in the Dark, Lonely Ghost[1] and Killer Killer. The practical minimum number of players is four, but the spirit of the game is best captured by groups of at least six players or more.


In each round of play, one player is secretly assigned the role of "murderer", perhaps by handing every player a playing card with a particular card signifying that the recipient is the murderer. The murderer has the ability to "kill" other players by making eye contact and winking at them. If a player is winked at, they must count silently to five before feigning sudden death, and either lying on the floor where they died, or silently leaving the playing area.[2]

If a player suspects they know the identity of the murderer, they may raise their hand and announce "I accuse", without naming their suspect. At this point, the game pauses and the accuser asks for somebody to second their accusation, again with neither naming a suspect. When they have a seconder, both of these players simultaneously point to their suspect; if they are both pointing to a player who admits to being the murderer, the game ends. Otherwise (if they are pointing to different players, or to an innocent player) the accusers are both eliminated as if they had been murdered. Players are forbidden from communicating their thoughts on who the murderer might be, and players who are not the murderer are not allowed to wink.[2]

The objective of the murderer is to murder as many people as possible without being caught.[2]


In one variant of the game, sometimes played by children as a class activity in primary school, another player, unaware of the murderer's identity, is assigned the role of "detective". All other players sit in a circle around the detective, whose objective is to correctly identify and accuse the murderer, minimising the number of murder victims. A limit is often imposed upon the number of accusations the detective can make. In this version of the game, players other than the murderer and detective do not know the murderer's identity, and have no role to play in the game other than to die noticeably if winked at.

Harpo Marx in his book Harpo Speaks described a version of this game at the home of Alexander Woollcott, called "Murder". Lots are drawn to choose a District Attorney, then drawn a second time to choose (known only to him- or herself) a Murderer. The D.A. leaves the house and the social evening proceeds as normal. As soon as the Murderer is alone with someone, he says to that person "You are dead". The victim must immediately feign death until discovered, then the D.A. is summoned and questions the suspects (everyone) as to where they were, what they were doing, and with whom. The D.A. then uses deductive reasoning to solve the case. Marx said he played the Murderer once, and wrote the deadly phrase on a piece of toilet paper. His victim, Alice Duer Miller, pulled it down and properly "died" on the toilet, but grade-school dropout Marx was immediately identified when she was found; he had written "You are ded".


The "Deadly Handshake" variation has players walking around and routinely shaking hands as though greeting one another at a party, and the murderer kills by using a special handshake, such as tickling the victim's palm. It is recommended that victims do not "die" immediately, but take a few steps or shake hands with one or two other people before doing so.[3]

In "Lonely Ghost", a player may challenge the murderer (the "Lonely Ghost") by approaching them and asking them directly.[1] In another variant of the basic game, a player may simply point to their suspect and call out their accusation.[4] If the accuser is correct, they win the game, otherwise they are eliminated. In some variants, a wrongly accused player is also eliminated.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "National Geographic – Lonely Ghost". Retrieved 2013-07-12.
  2. ^ a b c Collard, Mark (2005). No Props: Great Games with No Equipment. Project Adventure, Inc. ISBN 9780934387057.
  3. ^ Farmer, David (2007). 101 Drama Games and Activities. p. 44. ISBN 9781847538413.
  4. ^ a b "Wink Game". Retrieved 2013-07-12.