Out of all of the types of ritual-based urban legends we cover here at TGIMM — the tales that position themselves as games with a supernatural or paranormal bent, where you’re playing for the highest stakes possible — the most sought-after, inquired-about variety is consistently, without fail, the ritual games that transport you to another world.
Or at least, these games claim to do as such; I feel obligated to point out, before we go any further, that the vast majority of urban legend games and ritual-based stories typically filed under our Most Dangerous Games section are, in fact, just that: Stories.
But they’re fascinating stories — and they’re fascinating both in and of themselves, and for the very fact that we find them fascinating at all. Why are we so preoccupied with the possibility that, by performing a specific set actions correctly, at the right time, and in the right order, we might somehow spirit ourselves away to somewhere entirely… else?
I mean, I can think of a few answers to that question.
More than a few, really.
But here’s the really interesting thing: When I say “ritual games that transport you to another world,” what “another world” actually means isn’t always the same. Sometimes, it does mean what it sounds like — that the game allegedly brings you to an entirely different plane of existence. Sometimes, though, the definition is more subtle. Maybe it means we’re looking into another world. Maybe the other world is in our minds. Maybe the other world is nebulous. Heck, maybe it’s even another time, rather than another place.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
So: Here’s a list of 16 rituals games, divided by type, which — supposedly — will take you somewhere… other than where you are right now. They’re not the only ones out there, of course, but if you’re looking for some spooky reading, it’s a start. Links are provided to the rules.
Again, they’re just stories. Don’t actually play them; they won’t have the desired effect.
But do enjoy the sense of possibility. Because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? The “what if?”
Brave New Worlds
These games all purport to transport you somewhere else — literally: If performed correctly, you supposedly end up in a completely different world than the one in which you began. What’s not clear is exactly what the nature of this new world is. You might be dimension jumping; you might be going to the spirit world or somewhere “beyond the veil,” so to speak; or, you might be going… somewhere else entirely.
From a storytelling perspective, these rituals are often characterized by an element of the unknown: They often just… stop. This is often because, allegedly, there is no way to return to your original world — so no one has ever been able to tell us what happens after you arrive.
The Elevator Game
The Elevator Game, also commonly known as Elevator To Another World, is almost certainly the most well-known of the bunch; heck, I’ve covered it no fewer than four times just at TGIMM and in TGIMM-adjacent works alone. Originating in an East Asian country — likely Japan circa 2008 — it involves getting into the elevator of a building with at least 10 floors alone and visiting the floors in a certain order: First the fourth floor; then the second; then the sixth; then the second again; then the 10th; and then the fifth. After your visit to the fifth floor, you’re meant to press the button for the first floor — and if you do this, only to find the elevator beginning to rise to the 10th floor, then the ritual has succeeded: Upon arrival at the 10th floor, you’ll have the opportunity to get out and walk around a world that is… not your own.
There is a way to get back home again afterwards—but make absolutely sure that where you finish up is where you started. Don’t get back off the elevator on the ground floor unless you’re positive you’re in the right place.
Also: Beware the young woman who may or may not board the elevator at the fifth floor. She is not what she seems.
Closet To Another World
No elevator? No problem. Grab a couple of drinking glasses, a pitcher of water, pen and paper, and a cardboard box, get ready to do some light math, and climb into a closet. Doing so will put you on the path to performing the Closet To Another World ritual — another Japanese urban legend game that reportedly transports you to another plane of existence.
As it’s originally written, you’re meant to perform this ritual in a specific kind of closet: An oshiire (押入れ) — the variety of closet common in Japan equipped with shelves and a sliding door that’s meant to store futons. However, it’s probably safe to assume that, if you’re not based in Japan, any kind of closet to which you have access should work, as long as it’s big enough to fit yourself and all of the required supplies relatively comfortably.
Unlike the Elevator Game, the Closet To Another World ritual does not have a prescribed method for returning to your original world. As I noted in Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, some have suggested that performing the ritual in reverse might have the desired effect; however, this idea remains a theory only. All of which is to say: You’d better only make this trip if you don’t intend to come back.
The Fed Up Game
Although the Fed Up Game only made it to the internet in English fairly recently — I believe Saya Yomino’s 2018 version published at Saya In Underworld is the first English translation—it’s been around in Japanese at least as long as the Elevator Game: An early version of it can be found in a 2008 thread at 2ch/5ch that also features the Elevator Game. (It’s post number 10 at the link — scroll down and use Google Translate or Chrome’s translate feature to read a rough version of it in English.)
This game involves drawing a particular symbol on a piece of paper, writing the words “FED UP” (or, as it’s sometimes translated, “I’M TIRED”) in the center of the symbol, and then falling asleep with the piece of paper tucked under your pillow. When you awaken, you’ll find yourself somewhere… new. If all has gone to plan, of course. You’ll know, because the paper will be gone — not because it vanished, but because you’re now in a different world than it is.
Like the Closet To Another World ritual, the Fed Up Game should only be attempted if you have no intention of returning to your original world. There’s no way to get back once you’ve left.
The Black Telephone Game
Like so many of the Japanese ritual games that purportedly bring you to another world, the Black Telephone Game can be found in an early form on 2ch/5ch, where it was posted in December of 2008. By tying a piece of black cord to the handset of a black rotary telephone and performing a complex dialing procedure — one that involves traveling several rooms away from where you have the phone set up and returning to it multiple times — you can, it’s said, phone yourself into an alternate dimension. Or… something like that. You don’t seem to be able to do anything other than observe this alternate dimension through the windows of the room you end up in, so if you want to explore a new world, this one isn’t the one for you; however, the good news is that the trip isn’t permanent: You can come back by locating an eight-digit number somewhere in your environment and repeating the number to yourself until you find yourself back where you started.
(I haven’t covered this one on TGIMM itself yet, but it’s in Dangerous Games, for the curious.)
Also, fun fact: In 1933, home telephones were standardized in Japan by the Ministry of Communication. The device provided was known as a “black phone,” due to its construction — it was made of black Bakelite. The privatization of the general telephone network eventually led to the decline of the black telephone; however, it remains an icon of the Showa era, which might explain its use in this particular ritual game.
Staircase To Another World
Most of the sources I’ve found for what I’ve opted to call Staircase To Another World — usually titled something like, “How To Go To Another World By Stairs” — are Korean, rather than Japanese. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s limited to use in Korea, though; after all, the Elevator Game has been present in both places much longer than it has in the United States and other English-speaking regions. But in any event, you can find it on Korean social media and community sites like Instiz and Naver, where it seems to have be proliferating since at least 2011.
The building you choose to perform this ritual in must satisfy several specific conditions: The building must have at least five floors, and there must be at least three cases — one running up each side and one positioned in the center of the building — each with four flights of stairs apiece. It’s also possible that the building must have three different entrances — again, one on each side and one in the center — but it’s unclear to me whether that’s an absolute requirement or not. It’s generally recommended that the game be played in a school building, as these buildings typically satisfy all the necessary conditions.
To play, you must first enter the building on the right side and take the right-hand staircase to the third floor. Then go to the center staircase and go down to the first floor. Then go the left staircase and go up to the second floor. Now, return to the right staircase and go up to the fourth floor. Next, return to the center staircase and go down to the third floor. Then, lastly, return to the left staircase and go up to the fifth floor. Once you arrive, you should feel something… different. That’s the indication that it worked — that you’ve made it to another world. Just know that you might not be able to make it back afterwards.
The Train Ritual
I’m calling this one the “Train Ritual” for brevity’s sake, although the direct translation of its Japanese name — because, yes, this is another Japanese ritual game — is a little clunky in English: It’s something like, “How To Go To Another World By Using A Train.” It’s been floating around at least since 2014, although it might be older than that. (Like the Staircase To Another World, I haven’t done a deep dive into this one yet, although I plan to in the future. Again, I’ll update this piece whenever that happens.)
Unfortunately, you do have to be in Japan — specifically in Tokyo — in order to play this one. I also wouldn’t recommend playing it until it’s, uh, safe to take public transit again. (Y’all, I live in an urban area where public transit is typically a way of life, and I haven’t been on the Metro in literally a year. That’s the longest I have ever gone without setting foot on a subway train in my entire adult life — and given that I am, shall we say, Not A Spring Chicken anymore, that’s really saying something.)
Anyway, to play this game, first, you have to gather 10 grains of rice. Then head to Akihabara in Tokyo and take the Hibiya line — a Tokyo Metro line (as opposed to a JR line or a Toei line) — from Akihabara Station to Kayabacho Station. Get off the train at Kayabacho Station; walk towards Hatchobori and, if you see a pillar of salt, break the salt; and then hop on the Tozai line — another Tokyo Metro line — and take it to Takadanobaba Station. Get off the train at Takadanobaba Station and, again, if you see some salt, break it. Then jump back on the Tozai line and return to Kayabacho Station. Here, exit through the ticket gate, but don’t go too far. Look for the stairs at the station exit labeled 4A and place your 10 grains of rice beneath the staircase. Then get head back into the station, board the Hibiya line, and take it Tsukiji Station. If you see salt for a third time, break it; then board the Hibiya line again, and… that’s it. If you do this, you’ll apparently be on your way to another world.
Exactly what happens next remains unknown.
A Peek Into The Unknown
These rituals don’t lift you out of your own world and place in another one; rather, they provide a window through which you can view another world, without actually needing to set foot in it. There are pros and cons to be a multi-dimensional voyeur, though — so tread carefully all the same.
How To Use A Mirror As A Window To Another World
Posted to the r/ThreeKings subreddit in 2012 under the name Peek-A-Boo, the Mirror Window ritual, as I sometimes abbreviate it, does what it says on the tin: It (supposedly) lets you turn a mirror into a sort of interdimensional portal so you can get a peek at a world other than your own. There are plenty of intricacies to it, but what it ultimately amounts to is lighting a candle in front of a mirror at 3:33am and then closing your eyes, while you’re facing the mirror. You need to be so close to the mirror that your nose is almost touching the surface — but whatever you do, do NOT let any part of yourself actually touch the mirror once the candle has been lit.
This is very important.
Because that’s the thing about windows: When they’re open, you can do more than just see out them. You can also reach through them… and so can anything that might be waiting for you on the other side.
Ritual To Experience The Other Side
The “Ritual To Experience The Other Side,” which arrived on the Creepypasta Wikia in 2013, bears a number of similarities with the Mirror Window ritual. The setup is much the same — a dark room, a mirror, a lit candle — as is the result: It gives you a look at the titular Other Side (whatever that means to you).
There’s a key difference, though: Whereas in the Mirror Window, you’re to avoid touching the mirror at all costs, you must necessarily touch the mirror in order for the Ritual To Experience The Other Side to work — specifically, you must lay the flat of your palm across the surface of the mirror at a key point.
In both cases, you’re generally permitted to observe the world you see through the “window” for as long as you like — but it’s not recommended you do it for too long.
Also, note that for this one, there’s a risk that whatever you see won’t be kept within the boundary of the “window” you’ve established.
It might… bleed into the world you call your own.
The Worlds Inside Your Own Mind
Some rituals transport you to another world that isn’t physical, but is rather mental — that is, it’s a world inside your own mind. In some ways, these games may be considered a tiny bit safer than those which claim to transport you somewhere else entirely; after all, your mind is your own — that is, you’re not going somewhere that’s completely new or unknown to you.
Then again, there are still risks. You might, for instance. have something hiding in the back of your mind that’s better left there, unnoticed. Your mind might be yours, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your friend.
Doors Of Your Mind
Like the Elevator Game, Doors Of Your Mind is probably both one of the most well-known ritual games It goes by many names — Black Door, White Door; Red Door, Yellow Door; the Game of Seven Doors; and so on — and might well be several decades old: Some recollections of it date it back at least to the mid-1990s.
Format-wise, though, it’s always pretty much the same, with a few differing details, depending on which flavor you’re going with: The game requires two players — one to travel and one to guide — and utilizes a chant or a story, spoken aloud, to ease the traveler into a hallway that exists in their mind. Once they’ve arrived in the hallway, the traveler can make their way down it, opening — or choosing not to open — the many doors lining it on either side. Whatever is inside these doors might reveal something about yourself to you — but so might whether you choose to open them, or even whether you’re able to open them.
There are dangers, though:
Avoid the room with the clocks.
Avoid the old woman.
And avoid the man in the suit.
Also, don’t stay inside there too long; make sure your partner guides you back out within an hour. You wouldn’t want to get stuck inside your own head, now, would you?
The Eye Of The Giant
The Eye Of The Giant, which was detailed on r/NoSleep in 2014, is sort of like a more complicated version of Doors Of Your Mind. Instead of traveling down a hallway, you travel down a staircase, and instead of investigating different doors, you meet several giants (although it should be noted that you do have to open doors to meet each one) — but before you can actually do any of that, you have to create an extremely specific environment in which you’ll undertake the journey. Doors Of Your Mind, meanwhile, can be done at any time and in any situation, as long as it’s one in which you’re able to relax.
What the Eye Of The Giant has going for it that Doors Of Your Mind does not is that it doesn’t require an additional partner or guide — that is, you can play it all on your own. Of course, the trade-off is that, without a guide, you also don’t have anyone to bring you out of your mind and back into the physical world when time is up — or in the event that something goes wrong while you’re gone.
If the Eye Of The Giant is a more complicated version of Doors Of Your Mind, Purple Hearts is a simpler one — although it does involve more people. In that way, it’s almost like Light As A Feather, Stiff As A Board, except instead of “levitating” someone, the end goal is to lead someone into a world in their own mind — or, perhaps more accurately, a world in their dreams — and then back out again.
The chant to lead the “sleeper” into their dream is simple: The guide and any bystanders chant the words “purple hearts” repeatedly until the sleeper drops into a dream. Then, the guide leads the sleeper through their dream, encouraging them to describe where they are, what they see, and anything that might be going on around them. When the sleeper begins to describe seeing “purple hearts,” it’s time to wake them up and bring them back to the “real” world.
Purple Hearts is quite old, by the way; by my estimation — based on the limited amount of information about it available online — it may date back as far as the early ‘90s, or even the late ‘80s. I also haven’t ruled out the possibility that it might be a hyper-regional game, which may explain why there’s so little information about it floating around.
Oyayubi Sagashi, or the Thumb Game, has a very different feel from the other “journey into your own mind” games featured here — namely because it’s said to be actively dangerous to play.
Interestingly, most of what’s available about the background of Oyayubi Sagashi is tied to the Japanese horror novel bearing the same name. Published in 2003, it was written by Yusuke and features the consequences suffered by a group of friends who played the titular game together as children. Yamada has said that he drew his inspiration for this novel from a game he himself played as a child — but it’s not clear whether the prevailing version of the game that’s detailed all over the internet today is, in fact, that same game, whether it’s Yamada’s invention, whether it’s something that grew directly out of the novel and took on a life of its own, or whether it’s something else entirely.
Although Oyayubi Sagashi is dangerous, it’s not difficult—or at least, it’s not difficult to begin: All you have to do to get the ball rolling is to gather together a group of friends, stand in a circle and grab onto each other’s thumbs, and then imagine a particular environment. Once you’ve done that, though, the stakes shoot through the roof: The rules of the game claim you’ll soon find yourselves in the environment you’ve imagined — and now, you’ve got to find a severed thumb hidden somewhere within that environment as soon as possible.
But whether or not you find the thumb isn’t actually where the danger lies. You see, although it seems like the environment to which you’re transported might be a mental landscape… it might not. It’s… not really clear.
The danger lies in whether you’re able to enact the procedure required to return to your original location before time runs out. Because if you don’t, you might not return — and to those you left in your original world, you’ll simply seem to have vanished like a puff of smoke.
A handful of ritual games exist that see you taking a journey through an unfamiliar landscape. I know, I know — that’s what all of the games and rituals on this list are meant to do, right? Well, yes and no. What separates these games from the others included here is that there isn’t exactly a clear delineation between where one world ends and the other begins — a definitive point at which you leave your original world and enter the second.
There’s no decisive step off an elevator car; there’s no moment when the view of a mirror sharpens into a view through a window; there’s no transition from wakeful consciousness into a meditative or sleeping state. You simply… make the journey, and as you go, it gradually becomes clear that you’re somewhere else.
Or are you?
Hooded Man Ritual
I suspect that the Hooded Man Ritual, which was posted to r/NoSleep in 2014, might be derived from the Black Telephone Game; it seems to share some DNA, requiring the tying of pieces of black cord to the handset of a rotary telephone and a procedure involving a detailed dialing sequence.
However, that’s where the similarities end: Rather than changing the world around you — or, perhaps, picking you up and dropping you down into a different world — this ritual summons a sort of supernatural cab driver, who will pick you up at your home and then drive you through a landscape that… doesn’t seem to belong to the “real” world. It can dreamlike; it can even be relaxing. But no matter how the experience might go, you’re not, at any point, to panic, get out of the cab, or speak to anyone else who might be in the cab with you — other than the driver, that is, and even then, only to tell him that you’ve reached your destination.
To break the fourth wall for a moment, the Redditor who originally posted the ritual did later re-emerge and clarify that it was “completely made up” by them. This is almost certainly true of all the rituals in this section — that is, that they’re all pieces of short fiction, rather than games actually capable of being played — but oh, what stories they are!
Playing 11 Miles is both simple, and not. On the surface, all you need to do is get into your car, drive until you locate a specific road (you’ll know it when you find it), and then continue to drive down that road until you reach the end. If you do it successfully, you’ll be granted a wish — but doing it successfully is… not nearly as easy as it seems.
There are rules, you see — rules for what you can and can’t do as you drive each of 11 miles. You’ll also encounter some things that might be more difficult to deal with than you might think. You’ll need to ignore the many distractions you’ll encounter, not all of which will appear outside the car. You might lose power. You might have to close your eyes. The drive is not safe, and is therefore not recommended, no matter how much you desire your wish to come true.
Or at least, that would be the case if it were real. Like the Hooded Man Ritual, 11 Miles is a piece of fiction; it is, however, a particularly powerful piece of fiction, unnerving in its language and incredibly engaging in its style.
It’s anyone’s guess where the road actually is — by which I mean which plane of existence, or even between which places of existence.
Like 11 Miles, Lightless City is all about finding the right obscure path to travel down — in this case, an alley in a city, as opposed to a road in a forest — experiencing a terrifying and inexplicable new environment, and getting something you desire for your trouble.
But this time, the desire isn’t just a wish. It’s revenge on someone you believe has wronged you.
And the price isn’t just a journey into the Lightless City.
It’s all of eternity in the Lightless City.
Is revenge really worth… that?
I’d argue no, and — as is always the case with ritual games and legends that wish harm on other people — cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone play this game. But hey, the good news is that you probably won’t be able to play this game, as it’s a fictional tale that ranks among some of the oldest in creepypasta history. It’s so old, in fact, that it was originally posted to a GameFAQS board that appears no longer to exist. Fun fact: It’s credited to KI_Simpson, who also wrote the infamous “Dead Bart” creepypasta.
Time, Not Place
Not all “worlds” are about locations. Some are about… something else.
Time, for instance.
Like this one:
We’ll close out with one more Japanese ritual which, like so many others, I’ve identified as dating back to at least 2008 and probably originating on 2ch/5ch (and in the same threads detailing rituals like the Elevator Game and the Fed Up Game, at that). But Kurokami’s Technique, which can also be interpreted as meaning the Black God Ritual, is a little different than its fellows; rather than transporting you to a different world, it claims to transport you to a different time.
That’s right: It’s — allegedly — a time travel ritual.
The trickiest thing about Kurokami’s Technique is determining when to perform it: You have to consult a very specific kind of calendar — one based off the lunar calendar, not the Gregorian calendar that’s pretty much the standard global calendar today — and pick a date satisfying particular conditions on which to play. Once you’ve done that, though, all you really need to do is write the date to which you’d like to travel on (yes, on) a candle, light the candle, hold your breath for a moment, and, at 12:01am precisely, repeat a specific chant over and over and over again until you determine you’ve completed the journey.
Unsurprisingly, there’s no way to reverse the ritual; once you’ve traveled back in time, the only way to get back to whatever the present was when you left is by living all that time again and arriving at it naturally.
Also: When I say travel back in time, I mean it — this ritual cannot be used to travel to a time through which you haven’t already lived.
Don’t try it.
You don’t want to know what happens if you do.