Lie Detector

Lie Detector

Synopsis of Toy

“The Scientific Crime Game”

If, as your sweet and elderly neighbor lady was handing you milk and cookies for mowing her lawn, you slowly looked from her to the cookies and back again, then declared suddenly that she had wavy hair and a thick-ish lower lip, and that you were going to need to know where she had been the night before last and that possibly, even with a firm alibi, you wouldn’t be able to prevent her arrest—well, you had been playing Mattel’s Lie Detector board game. And probably playing too much, because the next time your confused and offended neighbor lady’s grass got long, she asked a kid from the other end of the block to cut it for her.

Developed in the early 1960’s, this game had the investigative bent of Clue, but it took the business of detection to much greater heights. There were twenty-four suspects instead of Clue’s six, and the interrogation process was much more serious—after junior sleuths questioned their suspects, they subjected them to the “Official Mattel Lie Detector” that came with the game!

But first things first. Before the game began, a “Guilty” card was chosen at random, and the stack of “Suspect” cards was divided up evenly among participating “Detectives” (between two to four could play). Everyone took turns interrogating the suspects—there was a picture of each potential bad guy on the game’s colorful box and also on the suspect cards. They were named after their jobs (the head waiter, the teacher, the playboy, the taxi driver, etc.) because good, objective detective work should never get personal.

Each of these suspects had one clue to proffer about the real Criminal’s appearance (the killer had large eyes, for example, or a mustache, or appeared to have been very angry), which was printed on the back of each suspect’s card. But as everyone who played the game knows, you couldn’t trust those cartoony twenty-four as far as you throw their card likenesses—no, sir. So the Detectives inserted each suspect’s card into the black plastic “detector,” and then stuck the Lie Detector wand through the hole in the card. If the suspect’s testimony was a lie, a bell rang and the needle on the machine pointed to “False.” And if he or she was actually telling the truth, the needle pointed to “True.” Now, each Detective turned down all the suspect cards in his stash that had even one of disproven physical traits.

Both “arrest” and “summons” cards were included also, so when a savvy sleuth was ready to make an accusation, he declared the name of whomever he thought was guilty and had a peek at the Guilty card in the detector machine. If he was on target, he was promoted to “Chief” and won the game. But if he wasn’t quite the Colombo he figured himself to be, he placed the Guilty card right back in the machine and the game went on without him.

Lie Detector was very popular in the 1960’s, and riding that interrogation wave, Mattel also released a version of the game called Spy Detector—with different artwork and a blue plastic detector, instead of black. Another revamped Lie Detector arrived in 1964, set in a TV studio and featuring color photos instead of cartoon suspects. Then Pressman Toys wanted in on the action in the 1980’s, issuing an updated version of the classic Lie Detector.

So, from that grasscutting neighborhood kid to the adult who was occasionally known to don an old trenchcoat from the hall closet and skulk around the house muttering things about ‘shifty perps’ and ‘court-admissible evidence,’ this game had a devoted and ever-suspicious board game following.

Release History of Toy

1960 - Lie Detector
1963 - Spy Detector

Sub Categories of Toys


Toy and Game Manufacturer

Mattel, Pressman

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