Previously: Charlotte’s Web.
Like a lot of the games that we’ve examined here at TGIMM, The Answer Man — also sometimes known as The Phantom of the Answer or The Answer Phantom — is said to originate in an east Asian country; in this case, it’s ostensibly Japan, although I haven’t located any Japanese sites featuring the rules (yet, at least).
This 4chan thread from 2013 states that The Answer Man has been “circulating among Japanese kids for over 10 years,” which suggests that it dates back to the early 2000s. Given the technological requirements of the game, this fact makes sense, although I’ve been unable to verify it conclusively. For what it’s worth, the game also appears in another 4chan thread from a year earlier, in 2012 — making it the earliest version of the game I’ve been able to find, at least online — although there’s no mention of the decade-long timeline here. Interestingly, I also found a number of Indonesian sites laying out the instructions for the game; most of these posts also date to around 2013 or 2014.
The Answer Man has a lot in common with games like The Raven Man, The Red Book Game, and The Knockertell in that you play it for a particular reason: To get information. However, knowledge doesn’t come free, so be prepared for a trade-off.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
As always, play at your own risk.
- 10 participants.
- 10 cell phones. Burner phones are recommended (see: Ending The Call, Step 4).
Making The Call:
- Begin at any time and in any place.
- Gather all 10 participants in a circle.
- Each participant should give their phone number to the person to their right — that is, each participant should be able to call the person to their left.
- On the count of three, all participants should call the person to their left.
- If all 10 participants receive a busy signal or the call goes to voicemail: The ritual has failed; do not proceed. If this outcome emerges, try again later.
- If nine participants receive a busy signal or the call goes to voicemail: The ritual has succeeded; you may proceed. If this outcome emerges, one participant’s phone call — and only one — will be answered. This participant will hear a voice begin to speak on the other end.
- The participant whose call was successful may ask the Answer Man a question.
- The participant should listen carefully to the answer.
- After the Answer Man has given his answer, he will in turn ask a question of the participant.
- The participant MUST answer this question. The answer must be honest, truthful, and correct.
- The participant may repeat this process as many times as they like.
Ending The Call:
- When the participant has received all the information they require, they may end the call by telling the Answer Man they must go.
- The Answer Man may attempt to keep the participant on the line, possibly by offering information for free. Do NOT stay on the line. The participant should repeatedly state their need to end the conversation.
- If the participant is persistent, the Answer Man will say good-bye and hang up. At this point, the call has been terminated.
- After the call has been terminated, immediately destroy all cell phones used to conduct the ritual.
It is recommended that participants save the phone numbers required for Making The Call, Steps 3 and 4 to their contacts list for easy dialing.
It is recommended that one participant be designated the “Counter”; this person will issue the countdown signaling when the phone numbers should be dialed in Making The Call, Step 4. It is also recommended that this person clarify, in advance, what “on the count of three” means: That is, whether all participants press “call” as the number three is spoken, or whether all participants press “call” in the moment immediately after the number three is spoken.
It is NOT recommended that participants who have successfully called the Answer Man pass the phone around the circle or allow multiple participants to ask questions. There’s a reason the Answer Man picked up that particular call; he’s not content to talk to just anybody.
It is NOT recommended that you put the Answer Man on speaker phone.
Do NOT fail to destroy all cell phones used to conduct the ritual as soon as possible after the ritual’s completion. Even if you’ve hung up — or even if you were among the nine who were unable to connect in the first place — you never know what might try to call you back.
Concerning The Answer Man’s Offer:
Do NOT accept the Answer Man’s offer for free information in exchange for staying on the line. He is a master at exploiting loopholes; he will find a way to ask you a question, and he will find a way to make it a requirement for you to answer that question. When this question comes, it will be far more difficult than any of his preceding questions; indeed, it will likely be impossible to answer. Should you fail to answer — as he intends by extending this offer — see below.
Concerning The Answer Man’s Questions:
Do not fail to answer the Answer Man’s questions. Do not lie, either directly or by omission. Do not answer falsely. Do not answer incorrectly. If you fail to answer any question put to you by the Answer Man, you may feel a mild tingling sensation in a particular part of your body — a finger, a toe, a hand, a leg; anything is fair game. This is how you will know you have failed; this is the price of your failure.
And when, some days or months or even years on, you lose that part of your body — by accident, by illness, or by some other means — you will know that he has collected his fee.
A Final Note:
Do not hang up on the Answer Man.
He doesn’t like that.
Please don’t copy or republish this post on other sites. Linking to it or sharing the URL is fine (and encouraged!), as is writing your own unique version of the game, but copying/pasting, republishing, or otherwise reproducing the text of this piece in its entirety or near-entirety on other websites without permission isn’t.
[Photo via Indi Samarajiva/Flickr]