New York Street Games

Ringolevio [ring-uh-lee-vee-oh] is a children’s game which may be played anywhere but which originates in the streets of Depression era New York City. In some quarters this game is known as Manhunt which is really another game with different rules. Both are among the many variations of tag. Ringolevio requires close team work and near-military strategy.

There are two teams, each has its own ‘jail,’ perhaps a park bench or other defensible turf. Anyone on the pursuing side can catch anyone on the pursued side by grabbing hold of them and chanting ‘Chain chain double chain, no break away’ or (‘Ringolevio, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3’) If the person pursued breaks free at any point during this brief recitation, the person is not caught. If caught, the pursuer takes the prisoner to jail. The game ends when one team catches all the members of the opposing team.

Any free member of a team that has members in jail that is IN, can at any time, free all OUT team members in jail by barging into the jail without being caught, tagging the captives and shouting, ‘All in! All in! Free-all!.’ This means that all members of the team that were in jail are now free and have to be re-caught, as they are then ‘Back In’ the game.

In some variations of the game, the pursuing team cannot station any player of their team within line of sight of the jail. This is called ‘babysitting.’ The cry of ‘babysitting’ can be made by anyone in the jail who feels that any member of the opposing team is lingering near the jail and blocking their rescue. Coordinated attacks to free the jail often employ military strategy in their use of terrain and engage in flanking maneuvers and feints that resemble battlefield tactics.

One other variation allows that the players in jail could extend out of the jail by holding hands, making it easier to be freed by your teammates. ‘Electricity’ conducts the Tag of the savior to the last player tied to the jail through the chain of held hands.

Games often have set boundaries of how far from the jail pursued players can go. Some games have been played with citywide boundaries with up to 40 players. These games had rounds lasting for weeks with suspension of play for a half hour before, during and a half hour after school hours. Winners have been accused of going ‘off the block’ when their strategy left them undetected in a one ‘city block’ game. If you strike, ‘the pose of invisibility,’ you may go unnoticed in an obvious place.


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