Prior to the advanced technology we have today, the kids of New York City played heavily in the streets. Whether it was freeze tag, manhunt, running around in the Johnny pump, double dutch or hopscotch, city kids always found creative ways to play. The game of skully is one of the most iconic street games New York City has seen. Since the 1950s, kids of New York City have been melting crayon, clay or wax into bottle caps to create their playing pieces. With chalk, players would draw out the skully board on the sidewalk or asphalt:


Below are the rules of skully:

Make a skully board with chalk on a patch of available and relatively smooth street or sidewalk. The board consists of 13 numbered boxes, 1 through 12 on the periphery of the board, and a box labeled 13 in the center surrounded by a “dead man’s zone” or “skull.”
Start at a line outside the skully box and aim for the “1” box, flicking your bottlecap with your finger. If you get it in (without it touching any line), you keep your turn and shoot for the next box. You can also advance a box by hitting the cap of an opposing player. If you’re close to another player’s piece, you can try to blast the piece halfway down the block with your own. In some neighborhoods, you can replace your cap with a special heavy one (like from a juice or peanut butter jar) for this purpose, though you couldn’t do this if someone calls “no blasting allowed.”

After going from 1 to 13, you have to return, going from 13 to 1. After completing the full journey, you shoot back into 13 and then navigate the “skull,” shooting your piece in the forbidden “dead areas” of the skull while declaring your new powers (“I am a killer diller”).

From this point on, you hunt the other players. Only you (or other killers) can safely go within the skull. If you hit another player (3 times consecutively), they’re out of the game. If they hit you, they become a killer too (or, if you decide beforehand, they’re out of the game). The last person left wins.

Thought not as popular, skully still remains a cultural staple in New York City. Check out a very hood tutorial of the game below:


  1. Played it in late 50’s. Melted crayons into bottle caps. Good times in east New York.

  2. We called it Skelzie and played it in Queens, NY in the 70’s. I remember melting crayons in the bottlecaps. Best game ever!!

  3. In Harlem in the early 60’s we played Skeelez in the street while the girls did Double Dutch. Skeelez was the game of skill and bragging rights. Just have you favorite bottle cap with its special features. It was the best of times in the city.

  4. The early ’60’s in Brooklyn on a hot day you carve the box in the street with a popcycle stick and put the asphalt in the bottle caps after fixing the bottle cap dent with Dads hammer.

  5. Back in the 50s and 60s we played skully in Yorkville, Inwood, and Washington Heights, Great times but hard to find bottle caps today

  6. Beer caps work like soda Caps. Lots of fun. Like hit the top of another top. Hopscotch, Jax’s, pick up sticks, jump rope, Red Roover, Red light, Green light 1, 3, 3. Ring-a-Levio, Tag__All outside moving games

Leave a Reply