Note: Please don’t copy/paste, republish, or narrate this post on other websites, video platforms, etc. without permission.
Did you know that sometimes, ghosts hide in the hollow spaces between walls? You’ll know you’ve found a tongbyeok ghost — a wall ghost — if you knock on a wall and hear a hollowing-sounding thunk in that spot. And if you find one of these spaces, you can make a choice then: You can, if you like, play the Wall-Knock Ghost Game. With nothing more than a pencil and a piece of paper — and, of course, the hollow wall you’ve just found — you can gain access to information or answers to any questions you’ve got that you might not otherwise be able to reach.
If, that is, the spirit in the wall is feeling… chatty.
In the original Korean, the game is called Tongbyeok Gwishin (통벽귀신), which translates more literally as The Ghost In The Wall, or simply Wall Ghost. The gameplay is a lot like that of Charlie Charlie, although I’d argue it also has a bit in common with the Ghost Paper Challenge and Kokkuri-san, as well. It sees players drawing two symbols on a piece of paper, asking a series of yes-or-no questions, and the following the whims of a pencil to learn the answers to those questions.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
I’m not sure quite how old this one is, but its earliest still-accessible appearance on the internet occurred in 2015, when webtoon artist Horang utilized it in an entry for Naver’s summer horror webtoon festival for that year, Goosebumps. Horang is perhaps best known for the 2011 viral horror webtoon “Bongcheon-dong Ghost” (“봉천동 귀신”); that’s far from the only horror webtoon he’s created, though, and every single one of them is a bone-chiller.
“Tongbyeok Ghost” follows the plight a cab driver as he converses with a fare — a young woman — he picks up at Seoul Station; it’s this young woman who tells him about the ghost-in-the-wall game. In the one English translation of the webtoon I found, titled “Knock Knock,” she calls the game “Wall-Knock Ghost” — hence my decision to title it as such here — and details a few ways to play, some of which involve both paper and pencil and some of which use only the pencil.
It’s unclear to me whether the Wall-Knock Ghost Game was an invention of Horang’s specifically for this webtoon, or whether it existed beforehand; either way, though, it’s an extremely effective storytelling device made all the more shiver-inducing thanks to the unique animation effects characteristic of the webtoon format.
I won’t give away the rest of the story, but if you’re familiar with the many hitchhiking ghost legends floating around out there in the non-corporeal ether, that’ll give you something of an idea of what to expect. There’s more, though — much more.
In the years since the 2015 publication of “Tongbyeok Ghost,” the Wall-Knock Ghost Game has spread fairly widely on the internet in Korea, undergoing a handful of changes as it went. A version was published at Namuwiki in 2020, for instance, which incorporates asking the spirit for permission to play; additionally, videos featuring people playing it have been posted to YouTube dating back as far as 2016 and going all the up through the present, all of which have tiny differences between them. (For the curious, this one, dated January 2016, is the oldest one available.)
If you want to give the Wall-Knock Ghost Game a try, here’s how to play it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you — even though it’s simple, it’s still… likely not safe.
As always, play at your own risk.
- At least one principal.
- A wooden pencil.
- Paper. (See: Additional Notes.)
- A quiet room in which to play.
- Questions. Queries. Information you do not currently know, but which you seek. (See: Additional Notes.)
- Begin at any time.
- Go to the room in which you have chosen to play, bringing your supplies with you.
- Choose a corner of the room in which to begin. Stand at that corner.
- Now: Knock on the wall. What do you hear?
- If the wall sounds solid: This is not the correct spot to play. Do not proceed. Instead, take one step to the side, knock again, and listen. If you still hear only a solid sound, continue to make your way first along the wall in this manner, then, if necessary, around the other walls of the room, knocking with each step until you find the correct spot to play. (See: “If the wall sounds hollow.”)
- If the wall sounds hollow: This is the correct spot to play. You may proceed.
- Using the pencil, draw a line down the center of the piece of paper. On one side of the line, draw an O; on the other, draw an X.
- Place the piece of paper on the floor directly in front of the hollow portion of wall.
- Face the wall and hold the pencil vertically above the piece of paper.
- Now: Request permission to ask your questions. You may do so however you like; just be sure to address your correspondent by name — Wall-Knock Ghost, Tongbyeok Ghost, or Tongbyeok Gwishin are all acceptable monikers — as you do so, and, above all, be polite.
- After you have asked for permission, let go of the pencil and let it fall onto the paper below. Watch where it lands.
- If the pencil lands on the O: Permission has been granted; you may proceed. Pick up the pencil, and proceed to Asking Your Questions.
- If the pencil lands on the X: Permission has NOT been granted; DO NOT PROCEED. Apologize to your correspondent for bothering them, collect the paper and pencil, and exit the room. Destroy both the paper and pencil and dispose of the remains. You may try again another time, if you like, although it is NOT recommended that you try again at this same spot, on this same wall, in this same room.
- If the pencil lands somewhere else: The answer is inconclusive; do not proceed. Pick up the pencil and ask again. You may ask until you receive a definitive answer if you wish, although note that, should the pencil continue to land elsewhere, the answer should be interpreted as NO. In this case, follow the procedure laid out in “If the pencil lands on the X.”
- NOTE: “Somewhere else” includes landing on the line between the O and the X, missing the paper entirely, etc. Do not proceed unless you have received an affirmative response indicated by the pencil landing firmly on the O symbol.
Asking Your Questions:
- You may now begin asking your questions. Follow this format for each question: While holding the pencil vertically above the paper, address your correspondent by name; ask your question; then drop the pencil and watch where it lands.
- If the pencil lands on the O: The answer to your question is YES.
- If the pencil lands on the X: The answer to your question is NO.
- If the pencil lands somewhere else: Your correspondent either does not know or does not wish to answer.
- You may ask questions for as long as you like, or until your correspondent indicates that they no longer wish to play.
- NOTE: Indications that your correspondent no longer wishes to play include, but are not limited to:
- The pencil repeatedly landing on the X regardless as to the question asked
- The pencil repeatedly landing somewhere else;
- The pencil answering a straight-forward question such as, “Wall-Knock Ghost, do you still wish to play?” or “Wall-Knock Ghost, do you wish to leave?” with an unequivocable YES or NO.
- NOTE: Indications that your correspondent no longer wishes to play include, but are not limited to:
- When the time has come to bid farewell, you must first request permission to end the game. As when you requested permission to ask your questions, you may do so however you like, so long as you ask politely, and address your correspondent by name as you ask.
- After you have made your request, drop the pencil and watch where it lands.
- If the pencil lands on the O: Permission has been granted; you may now end the game. Proceed to Bidding Farewell: Step 3.
- If the pencil lands anywhere else: Permission has NOT been granted; DO NOT PROCEED. Retrieve the pencil and ask again.
- NOTE: “Anywhere else” includes landing on the X, landing on the line between the X and the O, missing the paper entirely, etc.
- Do NOT end the game until the pencil lands on the O — that is, until you receive DEFINITIVE PERMISSION that you may leave.
- When you have received permission to end the game, thank your correspondent for their time and say goodbye. Collect the paper and pencil. Dispose of the paper. You need not dispose of the pencil, although you may, if you wish to do so.
Regarding the playing space: It is recommended that you clear the room in which you wish to play of all non-players before beginning. However, this is not a requirement. Should you choose to play with non-players present, ensure that they will not interrupt you at any point during the course of the game. Should you choose to empty the room first, similarly ensure that you will not be interrupted by those outside the room while you play: Do not permit non-players to enter the room, knock on the door, or otherwise distract you until you have finished playing and safely ended the game.
Regarding your questions: Should you choose to play precisely as written above, you must ask only yes-or-no questions. If you wish to ask questions other than yes-or-no questions, see: Variations On A Theme.
Variations On A Theme:
This game is highly adaptable may be played in a number of different ways. You may, for instance, make any of the following adjustments, if you like:
- Use different symbols or words: Instead of writing O and X on the paper, write “YES” and “NO” in the language of your choice, or use any two symbols of your choice to represent YES and NO answers.
- O and X are the default options due to the use of the gongpyo (공표) in Korean. Similarly to the maru (丸) used in Japanese, the gongpyo is used to indicate affirmation — for instance, a teacher may mark an answer on a student’s exam with an O symbol to indicate that the answer is correct. The opposite of the gongpyo is an X mark, which indicates negation.
- In this game, the O and X symbols are repurposed to indicate YES and NO answers; however, you may substitute the words “YES” and “NO” in whatever language you like for the O and X marks. You may also substitute any other symbols for the O and X marks — a check mark and an X mark; a plus sign and a negative sign; a doodle of a thumbs-up sign and one of a thumbs-down sign; etc. As long as both you and your correspondent are clear on the meanings of the words or symbols written on the paper, you may use whatever you wish to signify YES and NO responses.
- Ask multiple choice questions instead of yes-or-no questions: To ask this kind of question, instead of writing O and X on the piece of paper, write the different possible answers to your query. Then, ask the question. Whichever option the pencil lands on indicates the answer to your question.
- Play with multiple players, and ask questions comparing and contrasting these players: For instance, if you are playing with one other person for a total of two principals, you may ask questions such as, “Which of us will score better on Thursday’s test?” or “Who will receive a promotion at work soon?” When you drop the pencil, pay attention to which player it points to or lands in front of. This player is the answer to the question.
If you do NOT find a hollow portion of wall during Requesting Permission: Step 4, DO NOT PROCEED.
If you do NOT receive permission to ask your questions in Requesting Permission: Steps 8 and 9, DO NOT PROCEED.
If you do NOT receive permission to end the game in Bidding Farewell: Steps 1 and 2, DO NOT PROCEED.
You have been warned.
Follow The Ghost In My Machine on Twitter @GhostMachine13 and on Facebook @TheGhostInMyMachine. And for more games, don’t forget to check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available now from Chronicle Books!