Then came a Sucker Upper

One of the things I love most about the holidays is spending time with my siblings, their kids, and our parents. We play games and reminisce on our childhood because, apparently, our current state of affairs are not nearly so hilarious. The Kids (Chris’ two and Noelle’s two) listen to us talk; by this point, they can recite the stories for us. Their favorite walk down memory lane is about our favorite childhood game. “We want to play Sucker-Upper!” they’ll cry, as we, the grown-ups, argue over some technicality in that long-ago pastime.

There are four of us (Bedot, Noelle, Chris and I) and I’m the oldest, making me the ring leader. I am pretty sure I came up with most of this game though no one remembers why it started or what the original goal had been. Mom forbade us playing it, but it was super fun and we disobeyed her command at every opportunity. Oh, you’ve never heard of Sucker-Upper? That’s probably because we made it up.

Instructions For Playing Sucker-Upper


  • One long staircase, preferably a walled-in stairwell leading to a basement.
  • Pitch-black darkness (you may need towels to plug any light coming from under doors or around windows)
  • Stupid children


One kid is the Sucker-Upper, the monster that sucks-up children. (We may have gotten that idea from watching the cats freak out over the vacuum cleaner.)

All the other kids are victims

The Sucker-Upper lurks at the bottom of the stairs and can only come three stairs up but is allowed to reach beyond that. If the Sucker-Upper grabs a kid and can get that kid to touch the bottom landing, that kid has to go to “jail” (in our case, it was the bathroom around the corner) and they have to stay in there in the dark because everything has to stay pitch black. They can have a flashlight or night light but that’s it.

It then becomes the mission of the leftover children to rescue the kids from jail but to do so, they have to sneak past the Sucker-Upper and make it down the hallway and into the jail without getting caught. And they have to do this in darkness. Silently. 

This game only works when some of the children sacrifice the slowest child to the Sucker-Upper so that there’s an objective. That’s where the argument on how this all started in the first place begins: what was the original goal? Noelle says the it was to get to Mom & Dad’s bed and the kid who did that got to be the next Sucker-Upper which was supposedly a coveted position probably because I was always the Sucker-Upper and told them that it was a coveted position. But some of us think there may have been a different goal originally. I was actually probably trying to kill my siblings, or something.

Chris was great at this game. He’d spider crawl over me, bracing himself via his hands and feet on the walls of the stairwell. And he was smart – he’d usually be on a mission to rescue Bedot who almost always got caught (sacrificed) within the first minute and he’d have Noelle create a distraction so I couldn’t hear him as he leapt from above me to the carpet behind me then snuck down the hallway. Of course, he ran the risk of Noelle freaking out at the top of the stairs because she was alone in the dark with the Sucker-Upper waiting to get her, but about half the time, his plan worked. The other half of the time, I’d catch him and drag his squirmy little body down the last three stairs to plant him firmly on the landing, often getting kicked in the face for my monsterly efforts.

This is usually where Mom chimes in, stating she was worried we’d get hurt dragging each other down a bunch of stairs in the darkness. Obviously, she was a paranoid parent; we all survived and look! The next generation is dying to play this game. If any of us still had darkened stairwells, it would happen. Sorry, kids. Blame Grammie and Poppa; they’re the ones who moved to a split-level with no scary stairs.


Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, My Dearly Beloveds, White trash childhood

12 responses to “Then came a Sucker Upper

  1. abrielolive

    I play this too but my version is with the animals of the house and a vacuum.
    It’s the look of sheer terror that makes it so much fun! 😀

    • Yes. I know. They tell me about it all the time. They say you are an abuser and that they hate you except for when you’re not terrorizing them. And then they love you.

  2. I can attest to the awesomeness of playing on darkened stairwells, as well as the fun of spider crawling on the walls. The inspiration MIGHT have been the creepy echo you get in a stairwell with a wall on each side. It’s strange and otherworldly, and makes kids come up with creepy ideas. Just ask my brother, who was victim to numerous unprovoked stairwell attacks over the years.

    • Oooooh….you might be on to something there. I just assumed we were insane and somewhat stupid children, but maybe it did have more to do with the horror-movie/danger aspect and we were just training ourselves for life.
      In your case, was it your younger or older brother who was attacked on scary stairs?

      • In my case it was my older brother. We had a walled-in stairwell with a strange useless shelf at the far end, and I would spider-crawl up to the shelf and lie in wait. He was too big to fit on the shelf, so retaliation wasn’t a worry for me. Until I got down from the shelf, that is…

        • Oh my freakin’ A! If we’d have had a useless shelf…man. I can’t even imagine the possibilities! You were SO LUCKY! Well, until you were beaten to a pulp after coming down from not-so-useless-after-all shelf, I mean.

  3. OHMYGOD! I WANT TO GO TO THERE SO BADLY!!! I had a wicked, evil, shit-eating grin on my face the entire time I read this.
    We didn’t have a creepy stairway that we could have played this in and that makes me very sad. The closest I got to that was hiding under the stairs to the basement at my Grandma’s house and grabbing someone’s ankle when they came down.
    Other than that, we would play a game where we would get into our sleeping bags (the cheap character one that were slippery on the outside) and take turns hopping toward the stairs. The goal was to see who could land the funniest, while still managing to slide down the stairs.
    Eventually, it got to a point where one of us would sit by the top and trip whoever was hopping in order to make it more cartoon-ish.

    I’m pretty sure that I may have been trying to kill my siblings too.

    • Killing siblings is part of a healthy childhood, I think. Well, maybe not healthy for the siblings, now that I think about it.

      We did the sledding-down-the-stairs-on-our-pillows-inside-the-pillowcase trick, too. But we weren’t allowed to use the sleeping bags on the stairs because my mom was obviously abusive.

      OMG, I HATED it when people grabbed my ankles on the wooden cellar stairs. I made it a habit to stomp down those stairs as hard as possible in order to stomp on any hands that might be coming at me. It never worked and I’m lucky I didn’t break a stair and fall through. But it was SO SCARY! Like, pee-my-pants-giggling scary!

  4. I wish I had a dark staircase, just so I could play this game! (though I’d probably pee my pants in scared anticipation of being caught by the Sucker-Upper) Made up games are simply the best! You and your siblings rock!

    • I also wish I still had a dark staircase because I’d invite everyone over to play. I’m always surprised at how many people want to be involved in this game once I’ve explained it; I guess there are just a lot of fun-loving (insane and lacking in a healthy sense of self-protection) people out there!
      OH! And thank you for reading and commenting! I feel very loved now. 🙂

  5. As a grown-ass woman, I was TERRIFIED reading this story. How did you know the monster under the stairs wouldn’t grab you while you were playing? THAT’S EXACTLY HOW A SCARY MOVIE WOULD START!! Omg…. I need to go to bed now.

    • Well, I think that was the whole point of the game – we didn’t have those slatted stairs where someone could reach out and grab your ankles. We had normal stairs. They were even carpeted. So the only way to induce terror (and rug burns) on the basement stairs was to turn out all the lights and play this game.
      And now that I think about it – that may be why I was always the Sucker-Upper. I HATE being scared, but I LOVE scaring (and scarring).

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