The 13th Floor

Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board: How to Play and Why It Really Does Work!

Anyone who has ever been a 10-year-old girl likely played “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board”. This required slumber party game for adolescent females was pretty much a right of passage into teen-hood along with bad makeovers and calling boys you like on the phone and hanging up.

A few weeks ago, I found myself explaining the mechanics of the game to a group of bewildered guys who apparently had never seen THE CRAFT or had sisters. As I explained the mystical incantation behind this parlor trick, one of the guys cut me off by saying “yeah, but does it really work?” Yes! Yes, it does in fact work. Here is how you play as well as several theories on why this game allows you to seemingly levitate your friends.

The Point of the Game: 4-5 of you will be able to lift a friend with just two fingers each. You try the first time and discover he or she is way to heavy and about to break your fragile fingers off. But yet, after a simple incantation and mystical chant, you will be able to lift your friend with just two fingers, almost like they are levitating or a spirit was lifting them up.


How to play:

1- Dim the lights. Candles are a nice touch or flashlights.

2- Have one person lay down flat on the floor, arms crossed over their chest as if dead.


3- Then 2 people sit on either side (shoulders and knees work best). If a 5th person is lifting as well, have them sit at the head. Everyone should sit on their knees so you can easily stand up to levitate your friend.

4- Start by having everyone place two fingers one each hand under the person laying in the center (middle and index finer). Go ahead and try to lift them while they are completely conscious. It will be near impossible.

5- One person is the group leader. This person will then tell the story of how the individual in the center is about to allow the spirit of a dead person to enter their body, effectively becoming corpse-like. The narrator should instruct the body in the center to slowly become stiff like a corpse, and because their body and spirit are now open to supernatural influences, an outside spirit will enter and allow the body to become light.

Grungy photo of feet with toe tag on a morgue table

6- Then the narrator says “light as a feather, stiff as a board”. Gradually the other people should start repeating it, except for the body in the center- they stay dead and stiff, eyes closed.

7- After chanting several times, begin to lift the body off the floor, still with just two fingers per hand. You will now be able to lift the body with little to no effort. Stand up, and extend your arms upward. It will be effortless. But don’t stop chanting or the spell will be broken, and the person will go back to their normal weight crashing to the ground.

8- Keep chanting “light as a feather, stiff as a board” until the body is lowered safely back down to the ground. Then ask the spirit to leave the body and tell the person they can now get up.

 How it works:

There are a number of theories about why the game works so well, well enough to amaze countless pre-teen girls into thinking that they had somehow evoked a dead spirit or suddenly become super strong.

Theory 1- Group Focus

The first time you try to lift your friend, the group lacks focus. Usually there is giggling and skepticism, especially if you are a bunch of 10-year-old girls amped up on Diet Coke and pizza. Plus, your friend in the middle is likely still very awake and nervous about what is about to be done to them. By the second time you attempt the lift, everyone is highly tuned into the task at hand, incredibly focused on the act of lifting. The chanting helps to unite the movements. And the weight will likely be more evenly distributed about all of the participants.

Theory 2- It’s All About the Tension

Ever tried to lift a mattress? Sucks, right? A mattress is completely limp and just because you can hoist up one side with ease does not keep the other side from flopping on the ground. But yet, something of a similar weight- say the bed’s box spring- seems a lot easier to carry. That is because the material is doing a bunch of the work for you. Whereas the mattress has no structure and just slumps when not supported in all places, the wood or metal allows you to pick up just one section, and the rest will follow maintaining the shape. The same rule applies to your “dead” friend laying in the middle of the group. Upon the first attempt, they are relaxed. Just because you try to wedge your two fingers under their shoulders and push towards the heavens does not mean the rest of their body will follow. But after the incantation, they are stiff and focused. Without realizing it, they are doing a lot of the work for you by keeping their muscles rigid allowing you to lift them with only a few points of contact.

Theory 3- You Really, Really Want It To Work!

When sitting in 12-year-old Dakota’s dark basement giggling but trying not to wake up her super lame parent’s, there was something special happening. We really friggin wanted this to work!! It was awesome. It was something bigger than us, something mystical and unknown. Whereas I now approach mysticism and ghosts with immediate skepticism, during those formidable years the idea that we could in some way evoke a spirit or super powers was monumental. Thus, we were more likely to try a lot harder the second time. Our united goal of preforming this spiritual task helped vault that body skyward!

Theory 4- Satan Did It. 

OK, it was all just witchcraft. Maybe the devil. 10-years are some evil beasts. And your friend is really possessed the spirit of a dead person. Hail Satan!

Supposedly, the game dates all the way back to the 17th century England and was first seen during plague outbreaks. Some thought that being levitated would help keep the disease away. For another, mystical ancient party trick that is currently played by 10-year-old girls to scare the hell out of each other, check out our instructions on how to evoke The Midnight Man or Nightmare Man here.

One human skull on old open book against dark background