Previously: The Ritual Of Static.
Posted to both r/NoSleep and r/ThreeKings by Redditor u/kukla-ne-plach in December 2016, the Nesting Doll Game — also known as Уда́чная матрешка (phonetically: “Udachnaya Matryoshka”), or “Lucky Nesting Doll” — hails from Russia. According to u/kukla-ne-plach, who says they first heard about it at summer camp when they were around nine or 10 years old, it’s a dare frequently taken on by kids; in that respect, it sounds somewhat like Bloody Mary.
Notably, I haven’t been able to find the Nesting Doll Game anywhere else, either in English or in Russian — which means there are two possibilities here: If we assume that the background information provided by u/kukla-ne-plach is true, it’s been passed around verbally and hadn’t previously made it to the internet; or, if we assume that the background information is fabricated, then the whole thing is more along the lines of, say, 11 Miles (that is, it’s totally made up).
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
Both possibilities are equally likely, so in the absence of further information, go with whichever one you like the most.
In any event, although the concept of nesting objects is ancient, matryoshka dolls themselves didn’t come into being until the late 19th century. In 1890, Vasily Zvyozdochkin crafted the very first matryoshka set based on a design by Sergey Malyutin. The set included eight dolls, with the largest being a girl in traditional dress holding a rooster and the smallest being a baby. You can see what it looks like here — and you can even still visit it in person: It’s part of the collection at Sergiev Posad’s Toy Museum.
As far as I know, matryoshka dolls aren’t generally considered to be good luck charms; however, it’s said that if you play this game correctly, then you’ll be rewarded either with good luck or your fondest wish.
A note on clarity: In this set of rules, “matryoshka doll set” refers to one complete matryoshka, encompassing all of the dolls of which it is made, while “doll” refers to an individual doll within the set. I’ve also cleared up part of u/kukla-ne-plach’s original instructions: Although they frequently referred to “pieces” throughout their post, they noted in a later comment that by “pieces,” they meant the total number of dolls in the set, not the actual number of pieces that make up all the dolls.
Oh, and, uh… remember what I said about what happens if you play the game correctly? Well, do not play it incorrectly. Seriously. Don’t screw this one up. It’s going to turn out very badly for you if you do.
As always, play at your own risk.
- One principal.
- At least one full matryoshka doll set. It is recommended that you acquire several sets before you begin.
- A windowless room.
- A large mirror. The mirror should be affixed to the wall or otherwise capable of standing upright on its own. (E.g., do not use a hand mirror.)
- Candles. At least 10 is recommended, although it may be prudent to gather more (see: Making The Wish, Step 2).
- A lighter or matches.
- A writing implement.
- A supply of salt.
- A bin, large container, or garbage can. It is not necessary to use a bin liner or trash bag within the bin.
- A power object. A “lucky charm” is recommended.
- A wish or desire.
Choosing The Set:
- Begin at night.
- If it is not already present, set up the mirror in the windowless room.
- If it is not already present, position the bin inside the windowless room.
- Hang your power object/lucky charm on the doorknob or handle on the outside of the windowless room.
- Enter the windowless room with the matryoshka doll set(s), candles, lighter or matches, salt, paper, and writing implement.
- Close the door behind you.
- Pick up a matryoshka doll set, disassemble it, and count the total number of dolls — not individual pieces — within the set.
- If there are an even number of dolls: DO NOT PROCEED. Do not put the matryoshka set back together. Place all of the set’s pieces in the bin and cover them with salt. You may try again with a different matryoshka doll set, or you may abort the ritual. If you abort the ritual, you may also try again another time.
- If there are an odd number of dolls: You may proceed. Put the individual dolls back together, but do not nest them; each doll should remain separate.
Making The Wish:
- Arrange the dolls in a line in front of the mirror. Their faces should be turned towards the mirror.
- Position a candle behind each doll (see: Additional Notes).
- NOTE: If you do not have one candle per doll, DO NOT PROCEED. Abort the ritual, gather the appropriate number of candles, and try again another time.
- Light the candles using your lighter or matches.
- Turn off the lights. The only source of light in the room should be the candles.
- Face the mirror.
- Examine each of the dolls through the mirror (that is, examine their reflections). Look carefully. Memorize every detail of each individual doll. Miss nothing; observe everything.
- When you are absolutely certain you have memorized the appearance of each doll, turn your back to the mirror. You may close your eyes, although it is not necessary to do so. Slowly — deliberately — count to seven.
- When reach the number seven, turn around to face the mirror once more.
- If one or more of the candles has gone out: DO NOT PROCEED. Instead, continue directly to If Anything Should Go Wrong.
- If one or more of the dolls looks different from what you memorized: DO NOT PROCEED. Instead, continue directly to If Anything Should Go Wrong.
- If the smallest doll is in the same position it was before: DO NOT PROCEED. Instead, continue directly to If Anything Should Go Wrong.
- If the smallest doll has fallen over or otherwise moved: You may proceed.
- Using the writing implement, write your wish or desire on the piece of paper. Then fold the paper up an odd number of times.
- Open up the second smallest doll — that is, the smallest of the dolls which is capable of opening — and place the folded paper inside.
- Set aside the smallest doll (the one that cannot be opened).
- Reassemble the matryoshka set, leaving the smallest doll out. (The folded paper has effectively taken the doll’s place.) As you put the set back together, make sure all of the dolls are facing the same direction, and that both pieces of each doll are lined up properly. Do NOT assemble the set with any pieces misaligned, or with any dolls facing a different direction from the others.
- Extinguish the candles.
- Open the door and leave the room, taking both the reassembled matryoshka set and the smallest doll with you.
- NOTE: If the power object/lucky charm is no longer hanging from the doorknob of the room, vacate the premises immediately. See: If Anything Should Go Wrong.
- If you previously discarded one or more matryoshka sets by placing them in the bin and covering them with salt, enlist a person you trust to retrieve the bin from the room and dispose of the discarded sets.
- Within an hour of leaving the windowless room, burn the matryoshka set except for the smallest doll. Burn it completely until it is nothing more than ash.
- When you go to bed that night, place the smallest doll under your pillow.
Reaping The Rewards… Or Paying The Price:
- When you wake up the next morning, look under your pillow.
- If the doll is gone: You have successfully completed the ritual. Pay attention in the coming days; your wish will soon be yours.
- If the doll is present: Your wish may not come true, but you have still succeeded in some small way. Keep the doll; it may bring you good fortune.
- If the doll is present, but looks different from how you remember it: Listen carefully:
Did you well and truly memorize each and every detail of each and every doll? Really? Did you? Or did you… fake it? Did you notice something different about one of the dolls in Making The Wish: Step 8 and continue anyway? Did you ignore a candle going out in Making The Wish: Step 8 and continue anyway? Did you disregard the position of the smallest doll in Making The Wish: Step 8 and continue anyway? Did you find your power object or lucky charm to be missing and continue anyway? Did you put the matryoshka set back together incorrectly? Did you lack the appropriate number of candles? Did you play with an even-numbered set?
You did, didn’t you?
You should not have done that.
At best, you now find yourself facing a year’s worth of poor luck. Anything you wish for will not come true. Anything you attempt will fail. Anything you desire will remain far from your grasp. And at worst? It… doesn’t bear thinking about.
You can burn the doll if you like, but there is no guarantee that doing so will have any effect.
But you have only yourself to blame.
Ideally, your location should be empty of all other people, pets, etc. before you attempt to play. If you are not able to clear the space out, instruct them not to interrupt you — no knocking on the door to the room, no making additional noise, and absolutely no removing your power object/lucky charm from the doorknob.
The room and mirror requirements may be easily satisfied if you have access to a bathroom with a vanity mirror and lots of counter space. However, it is not recommended that you perform this ritual in your own home. See: If Anything Should Go Wrong.
The correct setup for the matryoshka dolls, the mirror, and the candles in Making The Wish: Step 2 should look like this:
Concerning The Matryoshkas:
Newly purchased matryoshka sets may be used; however, they are not recommended. The ritual is much less likely to succeed with a brand new, store-bought set. Older is better; if you can, acquire yours through a garage or rummage sale, a thrift store, or an antique store. Better yet, use a set that has been passed down to you from an older family member — but do NOT “borrow” someone else’s set without asking for permission to do so first. Make sure they know that there’s a chance you’ll have to burn or otherwise destroy the set when you ask.
The rewards are greater when the game is played with a large set filled with many dolls; however, the risk is also much greater. The more dolls there are, the more details you must remember.
DO NOT play this game with a matryoshka set containing an even number of dolls.
If Anything Should Go Wrong:
Should your game be interrupted at any point, or should you encounter any red flags, immediately enact the following procedure:
- Extinguish all of the candles.
- Do NOT turn on the light.
- Grasp the doorknob and close your eyes.
- While you are holding the doorknob with your eyes shut, repeat the following phrase seven times: “Я не хочу играть.” (Phonetically: “Ya ne hochu igrat.” English translation: “I do not want to play.”)
- Open the door and exit the room. Do NOT take anything with you, and do NOT return.
- If the power object/lucky charm is still attached to the doorknob: Enlist the help of a person you trust to place all the dolls and sets in the bin, cover them in salt, remove them from the room, and dispose of them completely.
- If the power object/lucky charm is no longer attached to the doorknob: Vacate the premises immediately. Do not return. Ever.
One Last Warning:
If, at any point, you notice that one of the dolls has begun to look like you yourself…
…It’s already too late.
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[Photos via Schwoaze/Pixabay; Lucia Peters/The Ghost In My Machine]