Identify approximately 1 out of every 8 people in your group to be ‘ghosts.’
Ask the ghosts to stand aside for a few moments.
Invite the rest of your group to randomly distribute themselves throughout a specified area, then stand still and close their eyes.
Challenge the ghosts to eliminate as many of the others in the group by attempting to stand directly behind one person (at a time) for 10 or more seconds.
If a ghost can remain undetected for 10 seconds, they are entitled to tap the person gently on their shoulders to announce their presence (to eliminate that person.)
If the presence of a ghost is detected in advance, the unsighted person will call “IS THERE A GHOST BEHIND ME?”
If the call is correct, these two people swap roles, otherwise, the accuser is eliminated.
Continue play until everyone has been eliminated or the time limit for the ghosts to perform their task has expired.
How To Play Narrative
As a summer camp counsellor, I was always looking for activities that would calm the kids down before they went to bed. When things were particularly desperate, I pulled this exercise out.
Randomly or otherwise volunteer a small group of people to be the ‘ghosts.’ One ghost per eight or so people seems to work pretty well.
Ask your ‘ghosts’ to stand aside for a moment, as you invite the rest of your group to scatter evenly throughout a specified area. Once positioned, ask everyone (other than the ghosts) to close their eyes and not move.
Next, invite the ghosts to silently enter the area and wander in and out of the others (with eyes wide open.) Their challenge is to eliminate the rest of the group by standing directly behind one person at a time for ten seconds without being noticed (by the other.)
If ten seconds pass, and they remain unnoticed, the ghost will gently tap the shoulders of the unknowing suspect. At which point, the unknowing normally shrieks and jumps in the air with surprise. The shrieker is now eliminated and will stand off to the side to enjoy watching others get caught by surprise too. Or not.
If someone suspects that a ghost is behind them, they may ask “IS THERE A GHOST BEHIND ME?” If they are correct, the ghost and accuser swap roles, ie the ghost now closes their eyes, and the accuser becomes a ghost. However, if they are wrong, the accuser is eliminated. Yep, the stakes are high.
It’s not as easy at it sounds. Creaking floorboards, shallow breathing, sniffles, perfume, etc have brought undone many a sneaking approach.
Continue play until everyone has been eliminated, or set a time limit for the ghosts to accomplish their task.
Practical Leadership Tips
To be fair, the ghost needs to be within a metre or two of the unsuspecting prospect to be called out.
Ensure the tapping is gentle. It’s often shocking enough to be tapped, we don’t need to harm people in the process.
An area fitted out with wooden boards or linoleum works best. Carpet tends to be too soft to pick up any ghostly movements.
The estimation of ten seconds for some people can be a little warped, often breezing past much quicker than the actual passage of time. Call this out if necessary.
You could integrate Ghost as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively in different situations and to achieve goals.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits of play and having fun. In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully detect a ghost speaks to the benefits of being mindful (ie focusing on just one thing for a period of time,) but I wouldn’t push this too far.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Ghost could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Time Limit: Give your ghosts a limited amount of time to perform their task. Two to five minutes is normally suffice.
Five Chances: Allow up to five accusations of “IS THERE A GHOST BEHIND ME?” This curbs the enthusiasm of those who are lazy and just want to make nearby ghosts wary.
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Highly sensory, interactive & absorbing group game.
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We are told that when we close our eyes, our other senses such as hearing are heightened. I think this is true, but I believe it takes some time to develop. This next exercise will provide you with many opportunities to develop this innate skill…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun group game:
What did you notice about this exercise?
What was the funnest part of the game?
What sensations did you experience? Why?
What was the most challenging part of sneaking up to another person?
If tapped, did this surprise you? How did you react?
What strategies did you employ to be more successful?
The inspiration for Ghost, and many more fun community-building games, was sourced from the following publication: