10 Facts About Clue for Its 70th Anniversary

Hasbro
Hasbro

Introduced in the United States in 1949, the board game Clue has gone on to become a perennial item in millions of closets all over the world. In this morbid murder mystery, players must move from room to room in a mansion to determine who did away with the victim—the unfortunately named Mr. Boddy—as well as the method and location of the crime. Was it Colonel Mustard in the library or Miss Scarlett in the kitchen? Was it a candlestick or a revolver? For more on the history of this detective diversion, keep reading.

1. Clue was invented during the UK air raids of World War II.

In the early 1940s, a British musician, fire warden, and munitions factory worker named Anthony Pratt was holed up in his Birmingham home during air raids. During these nights, he recalled the murder mystery games played by some of his clients at private music gigs as well as the detective fiction popular at the time from authors like Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie. Slowly, Pratt and his wife, Elva, turned the idea into a board game they could play while waiting out the raids. Pratt filed a patent for the game in 1944, which was granted in 1947; Pratt then sold it to UK games manufacturer Waddington’s. Owing to war shortages, it wasn’t actually released there until 1948.

2. Clue wasn’t always called Clue.

When Pratt sold his game to Waddington’s, he named it Cluedo, a blend of clue and Ludo, the name of a 19th century board game that’s Latin for “I play.” When Parker Brothers picked up the rights to the game in America in 1949, they shortened it to Clue since Americans had no knowledge of the Ludo game.

3. Early versions of Clue featured different weapons.

Pratt’s earliest ideas for murder implements were sketched by Elva and were originally a bit more gruesome. In his patent application, Pratt listed an ax, a cudgel (stick), a small bomb, rope, a dagger, a revolver, a hypodermic needle, poison, and a fireplace poker. The rope, gun, and dagger made it to the final game, along with three new weapons: a candlestick, a wrench, and a lead pipe.

4. Clue's Colonel Mustard was originally Colonel Yellow.

Pratt detailed 10 characters in total in his patent application: Doctor Black, Mr. Brown, Mr. Gold, the Reverend Mister Green, Miss Grey, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlett, Nurse White, Mrs. Silver, and Colonel Yellow. Not all the characters survived the process of simplifying the gameplay and were eventually whittled down to six. Colonel Yellow remained but got a name change to Colonel Mustard. Norman Watson, an executive director at Waddington’s, was wary of using the word yellow because it was military slang for cowardly, which made little sense for an enlisted man. (Watson, incidentally, had experience in cunning and clever gamesmanship, though it wasn’t relegated to a table. At the behest of Mi9, he had slipped escape tools and maps into board game packages that were delivered to British prisoner-of-war camps.)

5. There’s a Clue world champion.

In 1993, Peter DePietro and Tom Chiodo of the Manhattan Rep Company promoted a Clue world championship event in New York City. Part competition and part performance art, contestants played while interacting with actors dressed as Clue characters. Clues were doled out in dialogue and via music. The winner was Josef Kollar from the UK, who also came dressed as Colonel Mustard. Kollar won a trip to Hollywood.

6. Cluedo was a hit British game show.

In 1990, Cluedo was adapted into a game show in which two teams of celebrities would watch as guest performers—including David McCallum (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Tom Baker (Doctor Who), and Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous)—related clues in character. The show ran for four seasons.

7. There was a Clue musical.

You may recall the 1985 feature film Clue, which featured Tim Curry and others assuming the roles of the board game characters. But there’s also a stage version. Clue: The Musical opened in Baltimore in 1995 and fleshed out some of the tortured relationships of the ensemble that lead to the nightly murder of Mr. Boddy. Audience members were invited to pick three oversize cards that would identify the murderer, weapon, and location. Clue world champion promoter DePietro wrote the book; Chiodo wrote the lyrics; Wayne Barker, Galen Blum, and Vinnie Martucci composed the music. The musical went on to be performed in more than 500 cities around the world.

8. Clue got a makeover in 2008.

Doing away with the elegant aesthetic of the original, Hasbro (which owns Parker Brothers) decided to revise the game in 2008 to reflect more contemporary themes. The murder takes place at a celebrity party, with rooms including a spa and a theater; characters got revised backgrounds. Colonel Mustard morphed from a military man to a football hero; Professor Plum became a dot-com billionaire. Some weapons disappeared, while three new weapons were added: a trophy, ax, and baseball bat. The "retro" original is still available.

9. Clue killed off Mrs. White.

No one ever stays dead for long in Clue—unless you’re Mrs. White. In 2016, Hasbro decided to off the murderous housekeeper in favor of a new character, Doctor Orchid, a scientist who isn’t above bludgeoning someone with a candlestick. It was the first time a character in the game had ever been permanently retired.

10. The creator of Clue didn’t profit all that much from it.

In the late 1990s, Waddington’s sent out a press release soliciting information about Pratt. After selling 150 million Clue games, they wanted to see if they could locate its creator. Pratt had largely fallen out of sight since the 1960s, when his patent on the game lapsed and he stopped receiving royalty payments. He received no royalties on U.S. or international versions of the game, choosing instead to sign over those rights in 1953 for 5000 pounds (then about $14,000). He was unaware that the game was already a hit in the States.

Pratt tried to create two other games—one revolving around a buried treasure and the other about a gold mine—but was unsuccessful. In 1990, he gave an interview in which he expressed no bitterness over missing out on a fortune. “A great deal of fun went into it,” he said. “So why grumble?” He died four years later at the age of 94.

10 Historically Disappointing Time Capsules

eag1e/iStock via Getty Images
eag1e/iStock via Getty Images

Unearthing a time capsule should be an exciting affair, a chance to see mysterious items hand-picked long ago as apposite examples of a bygone era. Unfortunately, these buried tubes of old garbage rarely live up to the hype.

"Ninety-nine percent of time capsules will remain boring as hell to the people that open them," says Matt Novak, who runs Gizmodo's Paleofuture site. Novak is a self-professed time capsule nerd who has seen enough capsule disappointments to keep his hopes in check. "Time capsules are both optimistic and selfish," he tells Mental Floss. "Optimistic in the sense that they represent a belief that not only will anyone find them sometime in the future, but also that anyone will care about what's inside."

Time capsules as we know them are a relatively new invention that became famous in 1939 with the burial of the Westinghouse Time Capsule at the World's Fair. This highly publicized capsule, which is not scheduled to be opened until the year 6939, contains both quotidian items and extensive writings on human history printed on microfilm (along with instructions on how to build a microfilm viewer). It was an ambitious project, with engineers specially designing the capsule to resist the ravages of time. Most time capsules, however, aren't equipped to be buried underground.

"Burying something is literally the worst way to preserve it for future generations," Novak says, "but we continue to do it." Contents are routinely destroyed by groundwater, so most time capsules reveal little more than trash chowder.

Still, Novak holds out hope for "rare one percenters—those time capsules that not only have something interesting inside, but also survived their journey into the future without turning into mush." The following 10 time capsules, however, fall firmly in the remaining 99 percent.

1. Derry, New Hampshire comes up empty

Just this week, residents of Derry, New Hampshire gathered at the local library to witness what they hoped might be an important moment in the town's history: the opening of a 1969 time capsule, which they believed might include some memorabilia from famed astronaut Alan Shepard, who was a Derry native. Instead, they found ... nothing. Absolutely nothing.

"We were a little horrified to find there was nothing in it," library director Cara Potter told the media. While there's no written record of exactly what was inside the safe, we do know that the time capsule had been moved a couple of times over the past several decades. And that the combination was written right on the back. "I really can’t understand why anyone would want to take the capsule and do anything with it,” Reed Clark, a 90-year-old local, told the New Hampshire Union Leader. But local historian Paul Lindemann says that, "There very well may have been valuable items in there" (including something of Shepard's).

2. The past comes alive in Tucson

In 1961, Tucson, Arizona's Campbell Plaza shopping center—the first air-conditioned strip mall in the country—celebrated its grand opening. To make the event truly memorable, developers buried a time capsule beneath the mall, forbidding anyone from opening it for the achingly long time period of 25 years.

When 1986 finally rolled around, another celebration was held for the capsule's unearthing. Three television crews captured the moment when workers, accompanied by a former Tucson mayor, excavated the capsule and cracked it open. Archaeologist William L. Rathje was on hand, and he later reported its contents as "a faded local newspaper (in worse condition than many I’ve witnessed being excavated from the bowels of landfills) and some business cards."

3. Bay City makes peace with its waterlogged history

In 1965, workers at Dafoe Shipbuilding Co. in Bay City, Michigan buried the “John F. Kennedy Peace Capsule.” It was to remain buried for 100 years—until city council members got antsy in 2015 and ordered for it to be unearthed five decades sooner than originally intended.

When crews unsealed the giant capsule, they found it was totally drenched: The shipbuilders responsible for sealing the capsule couldn't prevent it from taking on water. Many of the items were paper ephemera that didn't survive their 50-year submersion.

Non-paper items that could be identified included, according to MLive.com, “an old pair of lace-up women's boots, large ice tongs for carrying blocks of ice, a slide rule with a pencil sharpener, a pestle and wooden bowl, a centennial ribbon, a coffee grinder, a filament light bulb, an old non-electric iron and lots of Bay City Centennial plates, a 1965 Alden's Summer Catalogue, papers from Kawkawlin Community Church, and booklets from the labor council.”

4. Westport Elementary's too-successful capsule

In 1947, the superintendent of Westport Elementary School in Missouri buried a time capsule that wasn't to be opened for another 50 years. He left a note detailing this fact, but he forgot to include any information about the capsule's location. When it came time to retrieve it, no one knew where to start digging. ''We're calling it a history mystery,'' said a teacher who was tasked with finding it. She had little to go on, as the school's original blueprints—like the capsule itself—were lost.

5. The smell of history on Long Island

For its 350th anniversary in 2015, the residents of Smithtown in Long Island, New York opened a time capsule that had been buried in front of town hall in 1965. An unveiling celebration was held, and a crowd of more than 175 gathered to watch town officials dressed in colonial costumes dramatically reveal its contents.

These included, according to Newsday, "a proclamation of beard-growing group Brothers of the Brush, papers, and paraphernalia from the town's 300th anniversary events, a phone book, an edition of The Smithtown News, pennies from the 1950s and '60s, a man's black hat, and a white bonnet.”

Town residents and officials alike came away unimpressed. "I would have thought those folks would have used a little more imagination and put some artifacts from that time in the time capsule," Smithtown's then-supervisor Patrick Vecchio said.

Kiernan Lannon, the executive director of the town's Historical Society, told Newsday, "The most interesting thing that came out of the time capsule was the smell. It was horrible. I have smelled history before; history does not smell like that. It was the most powerfully musty smell that I've ever smelled in my life."

6. A time capsule worse than going to class

In 2014, New York Mills Union Free School District students filed into an assembly hall to watch the opening of a 57-year-old time capsule. The capsule, buried under the school’s cornerstone, was revealed to contain "a 1957 penny, class lists, teacher handbook, budget pamphlet, and letterhead." In a video of the unearthing, you could hear stray boos from disappointed students who expected much more than letterhead.

7. Norway's anachronistic treasure trove

The residents of Otta, Norway had been eagerly awaiting the day when they'd get to open a package that had been sealed in 1912 and given to the town's first mayor in 1920, along with a note: "May be opened in 2012." Townspeople hoped it contained oil futures, while historians optimistically predicted relics from a 400-year-old battle.

The parcel was opened at the end of a lavish ceremony that featured musical performances and speeches. The crowd, which included Princess Astrid of Norway, had to wait 90 suspenseful minutes (in addition to the 100 years since 1912) before they got down to business.

The Gudbrandsdal museum's Kjell Voldheim had the honor of opening the package. Inside he found ... another package. Inside that package were miscellaneous papers, and Voldheim narrated for the crowd as he pored through the items. “Oye yoy yoy," he said ("almost in exasperation," according to Smithsonian), as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing. Included among the lackluster documents were newspapers dated from 1914 and 1919, a few years after the package had presumably been sealed. While deemed authentic, the find was nonetheless confusing.

8. New Zealand's rare find

In 1995, a 100-year-old capsule thought to contain historical documents was opened by hopeful scholars in New Zealand. According to The New York Times, "all they found was muddy water and a button.”

9. Michigan's capitol mess

The Michigan State Capitol celebrated its 100th birthday in 1979, and officials marked the occasion by opening a capsule that had been buried beneath the building's cornerstone. While the itemized list of the capsule's contents was intriguing—"1873 newspapers, a state history, a history of Free Masonry, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, a silver plate inscribed with Lansing officials’ names, and other papers on specialized topics"—it wasn't included in the actual box. The actual items that were buried wound up being destroyed.

“They’re in very bad shape,” Robert Warner, the late director of the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library, said. Water damage had ruined the fragile paper documents, and Capitol anniversary revelers had to gamely celebrate a box full of sludge.

10. Keith Urban's time capsule confusion

Australia's Pioneer Village Country Music Hall had been left in disrepair, which is what made the discovery of a plaque on its grounds in 2014 so exciting. Perhaps there was promise buried beneath the abandoned venue. Hidden behind overgrown vegetation, it read:

Pioneer Village Country Music Club
10 yr Time Capsule
Placed by Mayor Yvonne Chapman
This Day 4th July 1994
To be Re-opened 4th July 2004

As recounted by Paleofuture, the capsule's opening was a decade overdue, though fans who used to frequent the music hall said they already knew what was inside: a photo of a young Keith Urban. The musician got his start at Pioneer Village, and the photo was buried to celebrate the local star.

Oddly, a different capsule from 1994 was discovered on the music hall's abandoned grounds in 2013. Keith Urban fans eagerly opened it, thinking they had found the photo, but were left disappointed when it proved to be empty. So, by process of elimination, a photo of Keith Urban had to be in the more recently discovered capsule. Unless there's a third capsule, in which case they should probably just give up and buy a Keith Urban photo on eBay.

This story has been updated for 2019.

The 25 Best Colleges in America

Vasyl Dolmatov/iStock via Getty Images
Vasyl Dolmatov/iStock via Getty Images

The college decision process is always a tough one, but review site Niche's annual rankings of the best colleges in America make it easier for prospective students (and their parents) to narrow down the choices to find the best fit. The 2020 list takes a variety of factors into account, including student life, admissions, finances, and student reviews. But the most important factor in their methodology, comprising 40 percent of a school's overall rating, is academics, which, according to the Niche website, looks at "acceptance rate, quality of professors, as well as student and alumni surveys regarding academics at the school."

Taking the number one spot on Niche's list for the second year in a row is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed by Stanford University in the number two spot (again, for the second year in a row). Six of America's eight Ivy League schools made it into the top 10.

Here are the 25 Best Colleges in America for 2020, according to Niche's rankings.

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology // Cambridge, MA

  1. Stanford University // Stanford, CA

  1. Yale University // New Haven, CT

  1. Harvard University // Cambridge, MA

  1. Princeton University // Princeton, NJ

  1. Duke University // Durham, NC

  1. Brown University // Providence, RI

  1. Columbia University // New York, NY

  1. University of Pennsylvania // Philadelphia, PA

  1. Rice University // Houston, TX

  1. Northwestern University // Evanston, IL

  1. Vanderbilt University // Nashville, TN

  1. Pomona College // Claremont, CA

  1. Washington University in St. Louis // St. Louis, MO

  1. Dartmouth College // Hanover, NH

  1. California Institute of Technology // Pasadena, CA

  1. University of Notre Dame // Notre Dame, IN

  1. University of Chicago // Chicago, IL

  1. University of Southern California // Los Angeles, CA

  1. Cornell University // Ithaca, NY

  1. Bowdoin College // Brunswick, ME

  1. Amherst College // Amherst, MA

  1. University of Michigan // Ann Arbor, MI

  1. Georgetown University // Washington DC

  1. Tufts University // Medford, MA

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