Clue — Analyzing the Board Game’s Murder Weapons

Recently, a writer from the online humor site Cracked contacted me with a fun proposal. JM McNab wanted to do a Cracked piece on how effective the murder weapons were in the board game Clue. You remember—the lead pipe, the rope, the knife, the wrench, the revolver and—who could forget—caving a guy’s head in with the candlestick.

JM McNab found me through a Google search. He was looking for an “expert” in murder weapons, and I fit his bill. We had a great phone conversation resulting in this Cracked article being published this past Sunday. With JM’s and the Cracked editorial department’s permission, I’m sharing it today on the Kill Zone:

Which ‘Clue’ Weapon is Best, According to a Former Homicide Detective

Since none of Monopoly’s property disputes end up with grisly stabbings on Park Place, and as far as we know, Candyland isn’t secretly littered with sugary corpses, no doubt the most thematically-intense family board game in history is Clue, in which players are tasked with solving the murder of “Mr. Boddy” in a remote, two-dimensional country manor.

Winning the game means puzzling out the identity of the murderer, which room the crime took place in, and which of six potential deadly weapons was used. Admittedly, this a baffling premise for a murder mystery story; after all, even a drunken party guest should be able to quickly eyeball between a knife wound and a strangulation, right? Yet somehow, all of these confusing elements were skillfully weaved together in the comedy classic that is 1985’s Clue.

So we couldn’t help but wonder; in the world of Clue, given these options, which weapon would actually be the best and most effective choice for the fictitious killer; the rope, the candlestick, the revolver, the wrench, the knife, or the lead pipe? To get to the bottom of this pressing issue, we spoke with Garry Rodgers, a retired homicide detective and coroner, as well as a current best-selling crime writer.

As Mr. Rodgers pointed out, the six weapons fall into different categories; the candlestick, wrench, and lead pipe are all “blunt edge objects,” whereas the knife is a “sharp edge object.” The rope is a “ligature” and the revolver, of course, is a “firearm.”

In terms of the first category, the weapons that could be used to bash someone’s head in, any of these could conceivably be used as an instrument of death – but as Rodgers points out, “human beings are notoriously hard to kill” and can “take a wicked beating.” Using any of these effectively, not to mention discreetly, would be difficult because it might require a lot of work, and the victim could conceivably become “defensive,” either by fighting back, or by just running away at the first sign of an attack. And no one wants to play a round of Clue where “Mr. Boddy bolted out the front door” is the solution.

Rodgers reasoned that if the killer was wielding a lead pipe, approached the victim from behind and “gave a good whack” they ”could probably kill them with one blow.” The same goes for the wrench if it was big enough, since you would need “enough bulk” to “transfer the kinetic energy” and land a fatal blow – although it might be “hard to swing.”

The candlestick was ranked by Rodgers as the worst of all the Clue weapons, since it’s oddly-shaped, could be difficult to handle, and wouldn’t result in a “sharp directed transfer of energy to a particular spot” the way, say, the pipe would. And while Rodgers has investigated cases involving every other Clue weapon, he couldn’t recall any real life murders involving  candlesticks – which, incidentally, doesn’t mean that there aren’t similarly wacky murder weapons in the real world. Rodgers described one case where someone was stabbed with an oyster shucker, and another where the victim was beaten to death with a “bag of frozen pork chops,” AKA the reverse-Rocky.

Then we have the rope, which also has its major issues. For one thing, the killer would have to “overpower somebody to be able to get that rope around the neck” and there would likely have to be “some element of surprise in it.” This is why most strangulations are manual strangulations, as in by hand, “to start off with … followed up by ligature strangulation.” In other words, killers choke their victims until they black out, then finish them off with the ligature. But still “strangulations take quite a bit of time,” which could be a big problem if you need to hurriedly duck into a secret passage and head back to the Conservatory before anyone notices you’re gone.

As for the knife, it’s certainly deadly, but “people can take a lot of slashings with a knife.” So in addition to the fact that “you’re going to have your victim screaming” there would be “blood all over the place.” Meaning that Prof. Plum would have a tough time maintaining his innocence with Mr. Boddy’s innards Jackson Pollock-ed all over his evening wear.

Rodgers concluded that the revolver, of all the Clue weapons, would be the “most effective.” And, really, if there’s a gun in the house, why is anybody running around bludgeoning folks with a candlestick? While it’s noisier than some of the other weapons, “you can easily muffle it by shooting it through a pillow.” Although the further away one is from the target, the less accurate the shot – and accuracy would be key to ensuring that Mr. Boddy goes down for good.

All that being said, were one to attend a secluded country manor with murder on their mind, the ideal weapon would be … none of the Clue weapons. According to Garry Rodgers, the Clue murderer’s best course of action would have been to simply dose the victim with a little bit of poison, which is bafflingly not an option in the game. Of course, Clue obsessives may recall that poison was added as a weapon in the expanded version of the game, 1988’s Clue Master Detective – but then again, so was a horseshoe, which is just as goofy as a candlestick.

Kill Zoners — Who can name the six original suspects in Clue (without Googling them)? And if you were realistically rewriting the game ala 2022, what murder weapons would you retain, what would you change, and with what?

40 thoughts on “Clue — Analyzing the Board Game’s Murder Weapons

  1. Oddly enough, I’ve never been invited to a country manor, an inexplicable oversight. This is a stellar analysis of dangerous weapons, with the possible exception of the horseshoe. I should point out, however, that the horseshoe is most dangerous when left still attached to the horse. Admittedly, it’s rather unwieldy in that configuration, but many a man can testify that it is, indeed, deadly. Could testify, if still amongst the living. Easy-peasy. “Come out to the stable, Mr. Boddy. I have something to shew you!” Silver Blaze, your accessory, won’t talk, I’m certain.

    • Terry, I have to admit I had to Google the suspects. Even though I played Clue a lot as a kid, for the life of me I couldn’t remember Mrs. White. BTW, was that Betty White?

      • I remember the color of the pieces, which is pretty much a giveaway for their names. I don’t think Mrs. White had a first name, so feel free to call her Betty.

  2. I love the candlestick, but I never thought of it as a blunt object. I always pictured it fully lit and lighting things on fire. An elegant weapon. Everything else (except the revolver) is so gauche.

      • “Elegant” could apply either to a murder weapon or to a solution to the murder.

        elegant (ˈɛlɪɡənt) adj
        1. tasteful in dress, style, or design
        2. dignified and graceful in appearance, behaviour, etc.
        3. cleverly simple; ingenious: an elegant solution to a problem.
        –Collins English Dictionary

  3. Know the suspects and loved the movie.

    I am a knife person. And thanks to a post to TKZ, I can now cut you and you won’t be getting back up. My tux, sadly, will also be a victim, oh well.

    I have my grandmother’s Shabbas candlesticks. All brass. Not as easy to swing as a pipe but might already be in the room.

    The addition, softball bat. Aluminum alloy, designed to deliver maximum energy to a sweet spot. Isn’t going to break. Available at the closest Walmart. Pick up a box cutter while you are there. You should always have a backup.

    • I wonder why they didn’t include a good old hammer, Alan. I’ve seen a fair number of hammer murders and it’s a very effective weapon. Readily available and gets the job done fast.

      • The base of the candlestick would deliver a rather high impact psi. (I’d suggest removing the candle before attempting this, to avoid wax burns, evidence-laden wax spatter.)

        In general terms, the ubiquitous hammer might prevent allegations of premeditation, if it were sitting ready at hand in the parlor, say, atop the piano, for example. This applies, as well, to the various gadgets found about the manor. The gardener’s shed gives promise of more creative cuisine at dinner, but would, alas, show premeditation.

  4. Fun post, Garry. Thanks for bringing back good memories of family games. I haven’t played Clue in years. I remember some, but not all, of the suspects.

    Like Cynthia, I think of the candlestick as an elegant weapon. I have a couple in my house that I’m sure would be just as effective as a wrench or a lead pipe. (Who has lead pipes sitting around, anyway?)

    • I’m going to make it my mission today, Kay, to phone some plumbing shops and see if you can still buy a lead pipe. You certainly can’t buy lead gas or paint anymore.

    • An Americanized version of the game would involve a baseball bat. I have steel plumbing pipes in my tool shed. The joy of owning a home almost 100 years old in parts. Lead is no longer used, and copper is too soft to be an adequate weapon. PVC is too plebeian to be a murder weapon.

  5. Very entertaining article, Garry! You were a terrific expert witness.

    While I played Clue as a kid, I can only remember the name of one of the suspects off the top of head. He was always suspicious to me. If I were rewriting the game for 2022, I’d keep the gun, knife, lead pipe, and wrench. I’d add in poison, and then, jut because there needs to be a ridiculous murder weapon, I’d put in my favorite gonzo one from Midsomer Murders, a huge cylinder of blue cheese, and make sure that the mansion had a cheese cave, because the manor owners had to monetize.

    Have a wonderful day my friend!

  6. In one of my novels, I had someone try to beat another person to death with a brick. After three hits, they didn’t have the stomach to continue, and the victim survived. The human body is remarkably resilient.

    A really nice, antique candlestick has a leaded bottom. Used just right, it would leave a nasty mark. It certainly would frustrate any cat trying to push it off the end table. I’d grab the candlestick near its base and punch with it as a last ditch defense.

    A horseshoe used in the fist like a roll of quarters would improve a punch, but it would take a big guy to do much damage. On a horse, it’s not that deadly either. I walked around the corner of my stable, and a horse who shouldn’t have been there bucked backward, and hit me in the thigh. I flew about five feet and hit the ground. The legs were numb for a minute, and I was shaken pretty badly, but I got up and limped away. The horse was extremely apologetic.

    Only on very rare occasions like when a horse fears for its life in very small quarters or it’s very, very p*ssed will a horse stomp someone to death. Prey animals like horses prefer not to put their hooves into something squishy like a human body which would cause them to fall.

    And in the spirit of CLUE, the sequel to KNIVES OUT, GLASS ONION will be in the theaters on November 23 for a short time then it will go to Netflix.

      • If you know horses and are totally Zen, horses with just a few exceptions aren’t dangerous. During a number of disasters, people have remarked about my calmness. I learned that with horses. If you freak out around a prey animal that weighs over a thousand pounds, you can die.

  7. Ahh…Garry, you certainly were my knight in shining armor on this head-achy morning. Too much on my plate today, and that makes me cranky.

    But you made me laugh. So glad you were able to post this…loved this one:

    Meaning that Prof. Plum would have a tough time maintaining his innocence with Mr. Boddy’s innards Jackson Pollock-ed all over his evening wear.

    Played Clue as a child and with my own younglings . . . many good memories.

    I think I’d add my mother’s 16 inch cast iron skillet. I’d have to get in close, though, and behind the victim. And could I swing it? Hmm…

    And for sure I’d add that new-old poison that seems to be so popular these days.


    The problem with that, though, is that it is sooo dangerous. I might end up with more victims than I planned for, including myself. Not cool. And it’d be tiresome to acquire it, seeing as how I don’t know any dealers.

    I guess I should stick with the skillet. My mother, bless her, swore by it.

    Thanks for the laughs, my friend!

    • Disney’s Tangled brought the cast iron skillet the recognition as a weapon it richly deserves. I am sure more than one domestic violence case ended with a swift swing of momma’s frying pan.

    • Good morning, Deb. As an experiment, I wrote a blog post on my site about how easy it was to order fentanyl over the internet. I found a place called the Silk Road in Pakistan where I could buy enough fentanyl to kill 100 people for under 100 bucks.

  8. There was a real homicide in 1958 dubbed The Candlestick Murder. John Mahon bludgeoned Jack Dobbins to death. According to the Charleston newspaper, Dobbins’ “head was bloodied from repeated blows near the left ear” and the weapon was a brass candlestick holder found in Dobbins’ arms. Autopsy revealed that he had been struck nine times resulting in the fracturing of his skull in three places. Coroner said there were no signs of struggle, suggesting a surprise attack. The guy who did it was found not guilty.

    • “The guy who did it was found not guilty.” Kristy, I had 25 years on the police force with 20 on the serious crimes/homicide section. I never heard of the guy who did it being found not guilty. NOT

      • I didn’t want to go into all the details of the investigation and trial here — using up your space, hence the link — but Mahon confessed to police and on the witness stand, where he claimed he “hadn’t meant to kill Mr. Dobbins.” There was a media circus surrounding the case because both men were gay and in 1958, well, you can imagine. Part of Mahon’s defense was that the dead man had made advances to him, and the prosecution tried to cite robbery as a motive for the murder. Solicitor Theodore D. Stoney claimed that in the case of Dobbins it would have been a robbery as “some people preyed on persons of abnormal behavior to get money”; this was a reference to Dobbins’ sexuality.

        Mahon appeared in front of the all-male jury to testify. He was later found not guilty by the jury under the argument of self defense that was presented by the defense.

        Here’s a link to a better story that gives more details and context of the homophobia of the day.

        • Thanks for the links, Kristy. You’ve got my interest up – I might dig into this and do a post on it on my home website. Thanks again for a great lead!

  9. Such a fun post, Garry! There have been real-life candlestick murders (and trophies, also oddly shaped). I never knew they added poison and horseshoe to the game. Perhaps it was after my time. As a family, we loved Clue! And yes, I remember all the suspects. 😊

    • Did you get Mrs. White, Sue? Even Rita, who is a walking Trivia Pursuit diva, missed her. We had to ask Google. BTW, I didn’t know there was a revised game with more weapons. I wished they would have asked me – my suggestions would be chainsaw, grizzly bear, and manipulated falling space debris.

  10. Thanks for the fun post, Garry. Fascinating reading the possible results of each choice of weapon. I would think, convenience, availability, and spontaneous versus pre-planned murders determines weapon choice. Some obviously more effective than others.

    I slways look forward to your input here on The Kill Zone and your blog. 🙂

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