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By Brett A. Starr on May 9, 2022

hangman pic.png

Do you remember playing the “Hangman” game?
Trying to guess the letters of a name
Incorrect guesses form a gallows’ frame
After which a figure’s body parts came

But where did this concept originate?
In the 17th century they did articulate
A prisoner when facing death, he might
Demand “The Rite of Words and Life” 

The prisoner was strung upon a five-legged stand
The executioner thought of a word he’d planned
A blank space was drawn for every letter
Correct guesses made the doomed chances better

To obtain life, but there was a catch
Each incorrect guess, a leg was detached
Complete the word and the prisoner was freed
Five wrong guesses – he hung indeed

This game, you see, had dark beginnings
A stark contrast between losing and winning
As time would pass this word guessing game
Appeared in classrooms, obviously not played the same

This simple game was fun to do
The inquisitor would then provide a clue
The answers were often a word or phase
This guessing game became a craze

In 1976 Milton Bradley proclaimed
A “Risk-Your-Neck” exclusive board game
A dial advanced the development
Of a hangman’s famed predicament

About the same time a TV game show
Was created by Merv Griffin, you know
It is still played nearly every day
But “Hangman” is definitely not its name

No, it is not “Jeopardy”
With answers in a question form you see
Instead, this well-known TV game
“Wheel-of-Fortune” is its claim to fame

I hope you enjoyed this history
About an everyday game on TV
It makes me remember my childhood times
Playing Hangman, now preserved in rhymes


Footnote: As I was curious about the origin of the game show “Wheel-of-Fortune,” I found that it was based upon the hangman game. This in turn was preceded by the European “Rite of Words and Life” option offered to death row prisoners in the 17th century. Discovering these types of things fascinates me.

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