7 Facts About Jenga

Chris Jackson, Getty Images
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Since the early 1980s, players all over the world have tested their nerves and tried to maintain a steady hand while hovering around Jenga. The deceptively simple rules of the building-block game require participants to try and withdraw a single piece from the tower of 54 blocks and place it on top. As the structure grows, it threatens to topple over. The player who pushes things too far and extracts that fateful support beam loses. For more on the game that’s sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, keep reading.

1. Jenga's inventor didn’t know she had invented Jenga.

Sabrina Ibrahim works to break a Guinness World Record of 30 levels in 'Jenga' in 11 minutes and 55 seconds in London in 2005
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Leslie Scott was born in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and spent her youth moving to cities across Africa. In the 1970s, Scott’s family often played with her brother’s amassed pile of building blocks, using them to build a swaying tower that would crumble if they weren’t careful. The family loved the game so much that they eventually ordered professionally-crafted bricks from a carpenter. It wasn’t until later on that Scott realized the game had been conceived within her household. “It was only when I moved to Oxford that I realized this wasn’t something everyone did,” Scott told the Somerset County Gazette in 2010.

In Oxford, England, Scott worked at Intel as an internal game designer to help employees learn new skills. In her spare time, she held dinner parties for friends. When they kept insisting on playing the “game with bricks," Scott decided to bring the game to market. Jenga—which is Swahili for “build”—was launched in the UK in 1983 and in Canada in 1984.

2. Jenga nearly bankrupted inventor Leslie Scott.

The early sales of Jenga were not encouraging. Because Scott was paying for production herself, the game’s lack of success had personal consequences. At one point, she told the Oxford Times in 2009, she contemplated selling both her house and her shares of Intel to help continue funding the game. Fortunately, her family backed the idea. Her then-partner agreed to be a guarantor on a loan, and Scott’s mother agreed to put her house up as collateral for a second loan.

Their trust was rewarded when the game appeared at the 1986 Toronto Toy Fair; Scott received orders for 400,000 copies. When Hasbro's then-chief executive Alan Hassenfeld saw the game, his reaction was: "We just have to have it." He quickly bought the distribution rights for the United States.

Jenga was released in North America in 1986 and became an immediate hit, though Scott’s deal left a lot to be desired: Scott has said she receives just 20 percent of the royalties on the game, an amount she said comes to about five cents for every $10 Jenga earns.

3. Jenga owes a debt to Trivial Pursuit.

A student attempts to break a Guinness World Record of 30 'Jenga' levels in 11 minutes and 55 seconds in London in 2005
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

The games couldn’t be more different: Jenga requires fine motor skills, while Trivial Pursuit requires a memory warehouse of knowledge. But according to Scott, Jenga might not have taken off if Trivial Pursuit, which launched in the U.S. in 1983, hadn’t been such a success. “I was extremely lucky that I launched Jenga just after Trivial Pursuit had hit the big time and the toy trade was actively looking for the next big board game,” she said.

At the time, the toy industry was heavily into electronic diversions, including the recently-released Nintendo Entertainment System. When Trivial Pursuit proved there was still a market for analog games—it sold 15 million copies in 1984 alone—Jenga was able to wedge a foot (or a block) in the door.

4. Jenga blocks aren’t identical.

While they may look similar, Jenga blocks have subtle differences in dimensions to make their construction less stable. Each brick is a different size and weight so no two games are alike.

5. There’s a world record for the tallest Jenga structure.

A student competes to break a Guinness World Record of 30 'Jenga' levels in 11 minutes and 55 seconds in London in 2005
Getty Images

In 1985, Jenga sales representative Robert Grebler pursued competitive play, stacking increasingly large towers of blocks. That year, he was able to complete a 40-layer structure consisting of three blocks per layer. According to Hasbro, it’s believed to be the tallest on record. He was apparently two blocks into the 41st layer before the structure became unstable. The official Jenga website indicates it’s actively seeking someone to beat the record.

A different, potentially more impressive feat was accomplished in 2019, when Tai Star Valianti of Pima, Arizona, managed to stack 353 Jenga blocks on top of one single upright block. The achievement earned Valianti a Guinness World Record.

6. There’s a Louis Vuitton version of Jenga.

Tired of playing Jenga with primitive wooden blocks? In 2019, luxury fashion label Louis Vuitton introduced a Jenga game made out of plexiglass. The set, which is simply called a "monogram tower" on LV's website, retails for $3050.

7. Someone played Jenga with construction equipment.

A 2019 publicity stunt by construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar USA involved recruiting enormous excavators, telehandlers, and loaders in service of manipulating 27 8-foot-long, 600-pound custom Jenga bricks. The 28-hour game ended with 13 layers.

Disney's 10 Scariest Movies

Lynn-Holly Johnson, Bette Davis, and Kyle Richards in The Watcher in the Woods (1980).
Lynn-Holly Johnson, Bette Davis, and Kyle Richards in The Watcher in the Woods (1980).
Walt Disney Pictures

Disney: Known for catchy songs, cute animal sidekicks, brave Princesses … and occasionally scarring children for life. A lot of Disney’s more famously upsetting moments have to do with deathBambi’s mother and Mufasa’s father, for instance—but sometimes the studio goes plain horror movie with it. As Halloween approaches, here are 10 of Disney’s scariest movies.

1. Return to Oz (1985)

Return Oz establishes its “wait, what the hell am I watching?” cred early on, when Dorothy Gale—back in Kansas following her adventures in Oz—is shipped off to the doctor for a round of electroshock therapy to cure her insomnia and “delusions.” Dorothy is saved from her One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest fate and whisked off to Oz again, where she finds that the Nome King and Princess Mombi—Nicol Williamson and Jean Marsh, who also played the doctor and head nurse—have destroyed the Emerald City and turned most of its inhabitants to stone. Playing Dorothy in her first feature film role is Fairuza Balk, who would go on to star in perpetual Halloween favorite The Craft. Return to Oz is the only film directed by legendary editor Walter Murch, most famous for his work on Apocalypse Now.

2. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

The collected works of Ray Bradbury have been adapted into dozens of films, only a handful of which were written by the late author himself. The final feature film to be written by Bradbury is 1983’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, which in its first act is a typical, sweet—if somewhat dark—drama about two young boys growing up in a small town in the Midwest. Then a carnival rolls into town, and things get real messed up. Running the carnival is Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce), who grants the townspeople’s wishes in ways that … well, let’s just say they’re not very nice.

3. Mr. Boogedy (1986)

“Made-for-TV ‘80s movie about a gag gift salesman and his family” doesn’t scream terror, but Mr. Boogedy defies the odds to have some legitimately creepy moments. Granted, it’s not a subtle film: a family that moves into a dilapidated mansion in a town called called Lucifer Falls shouldn’t really expect to have an easy go of things. The mansion, believe it or not, is haunted by not one but three spirits: a widow, her child, and the eponymous Mr. Boogedy, who back in Colonial times sold his soul to Satan for a cloak that gives him magical powers. It’s Mr. Boogedy’s character design that gives the movie its biggest ick factor; the film’s makeup designer, Rick Stratton, would go on to win two Emmys. Mr. Boogedy’s cloak is eventually sucked into a possessed vacuum cleaner.

4. The Watcher in the Woods (1980)

Director John Hough’s The Watcher in the Woods isn’t only scary because it gives Bette Davis and current Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star (and then-child actress) Kyle Richards a decent chunk of shared screen time. Based on a 1976 novel, the film—like Mr. Boogedy—follows a family that moves into a mysterious house haunted by some mysterious presence. In The Watcher in the Woods, that presence is thought to be Karen, the long-disappeared daughter of the house’s owner, played by a collecting-those-paychecks Davis. Spoiler alert: There are actually two presences. One is Karen. The other is an alien. The original ending of The Watcher in the Woods actually showed the alien, but the effects were so bad that the premiere audience broke out laughing, causing Hough to reshoot the climactic final scene with the aliens as a vague blur of light.

5. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

Released in 1949, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is made up of two half-hour, kid-friendly literary adaptations, the first from The Wind in the Willows and the second from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Neither segment is particularly scary … up until the last few minutes of “Sleepy Hollow,” when the animators went all-out to make schoolteacher Ichabod Crane’s flight from the Headless Horseman a contender for Disney’s scariest scene. Clyde Geronimi, who with Jack Kinney directed the “Sleepy Hollow” sequence, would go on to co-direct Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, and 101 Dalmatians.

6. Pinocchio (1940)

Jiminy Cricket hopping around and The Blue Fairy singing “When You Wish Upon a Star” might be the most enduring images from Disney’s second-ever animated feature, but let’s not forget that Pinocchio could be scary when it needed to be. The film’s most potent bit of nightmare fuel comes in the scene where a bunch of children are magically transformed into terrified, crying donkeys so they could be sold away as slave labor. Looks like Disney had a taste for causing childhood trauma early on.

7. “The Skeleton Dance” (1929)

Spooky and cute: Why not both? The 1929 short “The Skeleton Dance” threads the needle deftly, with its depiction of a quartet of skeletons dancing around a graveyard maintaining the goofy tone that marks most of the early Disney shorts while still providing an ample dose of the shivers. “The Skeleton Dance” was drawn by Ub Iwerks, who several years earlier had designed Mickey Mouse.

8. Fantasia (1940)

Most of the segments in Disney’s Fantasia are markedly un-creepy—unless you consider ballet-dancing hippos disturbing, which makes a fair amount of sense—but with “Night on Bald Mountain,” Disney went full dark and stormy night. Set to the title song by composer Modest Mussorgsky, the film depicts the ancient Slavic deity Chernabog (whose name means “black god) calling all sorts of assorted demonic creatures to him before being driven away by the rising of the sun. Bela Lugosi served as a live-action reference for Chernabog, spending a day at Disney Studios striking a series of ominous poses. Nothing that Lugosi provided was ultimately used, as animator Bill Tylta was unimpressed by it.

9. The Black Cauldron (1985)

The Black Cauldron was an infamous failure for Disney, earning a mere $20 million domestically against a budget that made it, at the time, "the most expensive animated feature ever made.” With the film, Disney ditched the songs and lighthearted feel that marked its animated features up to that point in favor of a darker fantasy epic; notably, The Black Cauldron was the first Disney animated feature to earn a PG rating. Though it’s notoriously regarded as a flop, there’s one area in which The Black Cauldron is quite successful: making its villain, the Horned King, absolutely terrifying. Even the way he dies is nightmare-inducing: The magical black cauldron that the Horned King hoped would give him power to take over the world with an undead army instead melts his flesh off. It’s a bit more gruesome than the typically death-by-falling most Disney villains get.

10. Hocus Pocus (1993)

Initially released in 1993 to middling box office returns (Disney made the odd choice to release this Halloween-themed movie in July), director Kenny Ortega’s Hocus Pocus has gone on to achieve cult status. Omri Katz, since retired from acting, stars as Max Dennison, who with neighbor Allison and younger sister Dani must defeat the Sanderson sisters, a trio of witches who were hanged during the Salem witch trials. One of the witches was played by Sarah Jessica Parker, whose ancestor Esther Elwell was accused of being a witch in 17th-century Salem; she escaped execution when prosecution from witchcraft was done away with.

9 French Insults You Should Know

Rawf8/iStock via Getty Images
Rawf8/iStock via Getty Images

Ah, France—internationally synonymous with fine wines, fashion, and elegant cheeses. As it turns out, the country is home to some pretty fine insults, too, as the list below demonstrates. If you need some more ways to express your distaste in a foreign language, we've also got you covered with insults in German. (If historical insults are more your speed, you can peruse these old English insults, or learn how to level a sick burn like Teddy Roosevelt.)

1. Va te faire cuire un oeuf // "Go cook yourself an egg."

Figuratively speaking, this means “leave me alone.” Historically, the idea is that men would criticize their wives cooking dinner, who would then respond, "Go fry yourself an egg"—reminding their mates that they're incapable of cooking anything other than an egg.

2. Bête comme ses pieds // "You are as stupid as your feet."

The feet are the furthest part of the body from the brain, so supposedly, the most stupid. Besides, have you ever seen smart feet?

3. Péter plus haut de son cul // "To fart higher than your ass."

If you have gas in your stomach and try to expel it above your behind, you will fail. It's just too ambitious. This phrase means that a person is arrogant, or thinks they are able to do impossible things. They're a show-off, basically.

4. Poule mouillée // "Wet chicken"

Chickens are not known for their bravery. Especially when it rains, they try to hide, as ridiculous as that may be. A wet chicken is someone who is afraid of everything.

5. Mange tes morts // "Eat your dead."

You use this insult when you are very mad at someone. The original meaning is "You have no respect." It's said to have started among the Yenish people—a European ethnic minority with nomadic origins.

6. Sac à merde // "Bag of sh**"

No need for explanation right? Speaks for itself. Often used while driving.

7. Tête de noed // "Knot face"

Someone stupid. Literally, the knot refers to the tip of the penis, but in essence the term has a meaning similar to (but even ruder) than the English dickhead.

8. Couillon/Couillonne // "Little testicle"

A relatively mild insult that means something like "idiot" in English.

9. Con comme une valise sans poignée // "As stupid as a suitcase without a handle."

What good is a suitcase if you can't carry it? In a similar vein, "con comme un balais" means "as dumb as a broom."

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