Discoveries: Weird Children's Game

We all know that the children's game of "Ring around the Rosie" has been sung and passed down by children for nearly 700 years, spurred on by the repeated outbreaks of the Black Death in the 14th Century, up to the Great Plague of 1665.

Given that those innocent words and tune underscore a terrifying time in our shared history, it made me wonder about a children's game I found in an old newspaper article—just how did this game "Dead Child in the Woods" become popular?


Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 27 May 1900, page 4

In Philadelphia this game was known as "Miss Jennie O'Jones." The newspaper article reported that this gruesome game was performed daily in "almost every country schoolyard."

Each verse of the game takes Miss Jennie O'Jones from being sick, to having died, to being grieved for, and finally coming back to life as a ghost who then tags the next person and the rhyming game repeats.

Really strange.

It is weird how many children's stories and games are based on gruesome, grim events. Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, even Jack and Jill—all have a morbid side.

FREE Newsletter!

Get online search tips, exclusive offers and other helpful information to aid your genealogy research.

Corporate Information