Before Professor Plum, Miss Scarlett and Colonel Mustard gathered on a game board to claim their first victim—wielding a revolver, a rope or a lead pipe -British musician Anthony Pratt was watching murder-mystery scenarios unfold in European country mansions, where he played piano. Long before that game board became a global multi-million-seller and was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame, Pratt was taking mental notes as guests in these elegant homes play-acted dastardly crimes involving skulking, shrieking, and falling ‘dead’ to the floor.
Years later, during World War II, Pratt recreated those murder-mystery parlor games in miniature, as a board game called Murder! (later Clue). The longtime Birmingham resident, who worked in a local munitions factory during the war, invented the suspects and weapons between 1943 and 1945, as a way to pass the long nights stuck indoors during air-raid blackouts. His wife, Elva, assisted, designing it on their dining-room table.
By that time, Pratt had become something of a crime aficionado. HIs daughter Marcia Davies said her father was an avid reader of murder fiction by Raymond Chandler and others. “He was fascinated by the criminal mind,” Davies said of her father. “When I was little he was forever pointing out sites of famous murders to me.”
In 1947, Pratt patented and sold it to a U.K.-based game manufacturer named Waddington’s and its American counterpart, Parker Brothers. But because of post-war shortages the game was not released until 1949—as Cluedo in England and Clue in the United States. In both versions, the object is for players to collect clues to figure out the murder suspect, weapon and location. The game took place in a Victorian mansion. The victim’s name? Mr. Boddy.