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How One British Soldier Turned a Parlor Game into Clue

Since its introduction in the 1940s, Clue has proven—over and over again—that murder can be quite fun.

The game, which also inspired the 1985 cult film of the same name, centers on deducing who killed Mr. Boddy (known as Doctor Black in the original British version). The first player to guess the weapon, suspect, and room of the crime, tucked away in a small envelope in the center of the game’s board, wins.

Board game lore has it that Englishman Anthony Pratt refined the idea for the game while on night patrol during World War II. He described it as a variation of a murder mystery parlor game he used to play with friends, and saw it as a way to reinvigorate his peers' social lives.

''Between the wars,'' he once said, ''all the bright young things would congregate in each other's homes for parties at weekends. We'd play a stupid game called Murder, where guests crept up on each other in corridors and the victim would shriek and fall on the floor.’' The war—and its associated air raids and blackouts—put a stop to these regular gatherings. “It all went, 'Pouf!' Overnight, all the fun ended," he later recalled. "We were reduced to creeping off to the cinema between air raids to watch thrillers ... I did so miss the partying and those awful games of murder." 

Pratt wasn’t necessarily a dark soul. Mystery and detective themes were having a moment in popular culture, as authors Agatha Christie's and Raymond Chandler's sleuths captured the public's imagination. Party games, like the one that inspired Pratt, were commonplace; legions of children and adults were trying to follow in Sherlock Holmes' footsteps. (Early versions of Clue's game boxes touted it as the “great detective game” and featured a Sherlock character.) 

In 1944, Pratt applied for a patent for his game. (His application reportedly boasted illustrations drawn by his wife, Elva.) According to Ann Treneman, author of Finding the Plot, Pratt initially called his game “Murder,” inspired by the era’s favorite mystery genre. The game eventually went by Cluedo in the United Kingdom, a spin on the Latin word for play, "ludo," which was also the name of a then-popular game in Britain.

Pratt’s board was “marked out to depict the ground floor of a house” with eight or 10 rooms, according to his patent. The cast of 10 characters included a Doctor Black, Mr. Brown, Mr. Gold, and Miss Grey. There was also a Rev. Green (who was defrocked when the game came to America), a Nurse White (she became a Mrs.), and a Colonel Yellow, who was renamed Colonel Mustard. The weaponry was far more grim, and included a bomb, a syringe, and poison. His map had a layout similar to the one known by American fans of the game, but included a “gun room” in between the lounge and the dining room. In the original patent, Pratt planned to have his victim be a rotating character. But by the time it got into production, Doctor Black had become the permanent victim.

Pratt sold his design to Waddingtons, a British company that also published Monopoly in England, and by 1949, production for Cluedo was underway. At first, according to Treneman, Cluedo sales were weak, leading Pratt to sign over all overseas royalties to the game for £5,000—that's around £124,000, or $200,000, today. By doing so, Pratt missed out on millions of dollars in royalties. (The British patents eventually lapsed, too, which means the royalties from domestic sales disappeared as well.)

Initially, the sum he earned allowed Pratt to return to his first love: music. As a young man, Pratt had dropped out of school in order to play piano aboard various ocean liners. Using his Cluedo funds, he began touring with his cousin Paul Beard, who was then the leader of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. But the money soon ran out, and Pratt was forced to return to his pre-Clue work as a patent clerk—and to fade into relative obscurity. 

In later years, Pratt's daughter Marcia admitted that her parents almost never discussed the iconic game her father had invented. “My mum was angrier than he was about it,” she revealed in 2009. “In those days you didn’t go to financial advisers or agents. Ordinary people like us didn’t even know they existed.” Her father was more at peace with the decisions he had made: “He felt we’d had a good time for a few years on the back of the game. He didn’t court the recognition and we weren’t penniless but I can’t help thinking the money would have made my parents’ final days so much more comfortable.”

In 1996, as part of a celebration for Clue's 150 millionth sale, Waddingtons executives attempted to track down Pratt. They could not find him. Authorities began an official search, even establishing a hotline for tips, according to The New York Times

Ultimately, Pratt was located—in a cemetery. An undertaker called in to report that two years prior, Pratt had died peacefully at the age of 90. Miss Scarlet (in the Billiard Room, with the Candlestick) was exonerated.  

Nearly 70 years later, Clue remains as popular as ever, remaining relatively the same in terms of technical game play as it was in the '40s (although illustrations have been swapped out or updated along the way to make it feel more "contemporary.") Today, much like its Parker Brothers sibling Monopoly, a wide variety of Clue games now exist, including sets paying tribute to The SimpsonsFamily GuySeinfeld, and Scooby Doo, just to name a few.

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Mister Rogers Is Now a Funko Pop! and It’s Such a Good Feeling, a Very Good Feeling
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It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood for fans of Mister Rogers, as Funko has announced that, just in time for the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the kindest soul to ever grace a television screen will be honored with a series of Funko toys, some of them limited-edition versions.

The news broke at the New York Toy Fair, where the pop culture-loving toy company revealed a new Pop Funko! in Fred Rogers’s likeness—he’ll be holding onto the Neighborhood Trolley—plus a Mister Rogers Pop! keychain and a SuperCute Plush.

In addition to the standard Pop! figurine, there will also be a Funko Shop exclusive version, in which everyone’s favorite neighbor will be wearing a special blue sweater. Barnes & Noble will also carry its own special edition, which will see Fred wearing a red cardigan and holding a King Friday puppet instead of the Neighborhood Trolley.

 

Barnes & Noble's special edition Mister Rogers Funko Pop!
Funko

Mister Rogers’s seemingly endless supply of colored cardigans was an integral part of the show, and a sweet tribute to his mom (who knitted all of them). But don’t go running out to snatch up the whole collection just yet; Funko won’t release these sure-to-sell-out items until June 1, but you can pre-order your Pop! on Amazon right now.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Cost Plus World Market

Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

man-shaped tea infuser
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That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

Buy on Amazon.

2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

astronaut tea infuser
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This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

Buy on ThinkGeek.

4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

Buy on Amazon.

5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

Buy on Amazon.

6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

Buy on Amazon.

7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
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This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

Buy at Cost Plus World Market.

8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

Buy on Amazon.

9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

cracked egg tea infuser
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Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

Buy on Amazon.

10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

Buy on Amazon.

11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

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12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy chomping on your mug to worry about humans.

Buy on Amazon.

13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

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14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

Buy on Amazon.

15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

Buy on Amazon.

16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

Buy on Amazon.

17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

Buy on Live Infused.

18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

Buy on Amazon.

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