Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: History of Cootie Catchers aka Fortune Tellers ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: History of Cootie Catchers aka Fortune Tellers
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: jurgy-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 29 Nov 2006 13:32 PST
Expires: 29 Dec 2006 13:32 PST
Question ID: 786718
When was the first "cootie catcher" created and by whom?  And what can you find
out about it's history and how it spread to the rest of the world?
Also, what other names are they called?
Subject: Re: History of Cootie Catchers aka Fortune Tellers
Answered By: kriswrite-ga on 29 Nov 2006 16:16 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello jurgy~

Thank you for the interesting question. I'd almost forgotten entirely
about these little home made devices that I used every day when I was
in grade school :)

As is the trouble with tracing the history of any ancient custom or
device, there are few clues, and many contradict each other.
Nonetheless, here is what we know:

According to a site offering cootie catcher instructions (Shimako
Dominguez Cootie Catcher Instructional Video: ), the earliest
mention of a game like cootie catchers was in the early 1600s in
Japan. This would seem to make sense, since the first origami (Asian
folded paper art) is said to have originated in 1680. (History of
Origami: )

But the exact origin of cootie catchers is not known. It's interesting
to note that "there is [an] earlier reference to similar ceremonial
and functional origami pieces - in one instance used to serve dried
spices." ( Shimako Dominguez Cootie Catcher Instructional Video )

The first mention of the cootie catcher game in Europe is in the early
17th century. It is not known if a European learned the game in Asia
first, or if the game developed on it's own in Europe. By the early
20th century, the game was firmly established and well known among
children throughout Asia, Europe, and North America.

Another website claims that Arthur Stone discovered the shape of
cootie catchers in 1939. "An Englishman, Stone was trimming American
notebook sheets to fit in his English binder when it occurred to him
to fold the strips of paper to make figures, one of which was the
trihexaflexagon (so called because it has six sides and three faces).
He elaborated on this model to create the hexahexaflexagon (six sides,
six faces)." (Flexigon History: )

It seems unlikely, however, that Stone invented the cootie catcher
shape. More likely, he helped popularize it in the Western world.

Other names for cootie catchers include "scrunchies" (in the UK),
"fortune tellers," "flippers" (see Listserve, Cootie Catchers:
), and "flexigons" ( Flexigon Fever: )

An article in Educational CyberPlayGround speculates on both the name
and the origin of the game: "Sue Samuelson traces the origin of
cooties in the Malay word kutu, meaning lice. She speculates that
returning WWII military personnel brought the word, and the idea,
back. It should be pointed out that cootie catchers and fortune
tellers take different forms, although they both use the nineteenth
century paper-folding construction for holding salt. The cootie
catcher typically has dots on one side that when folded disappear." (
Fortune Tellers or Cootie Catchers: )

A Wikipedia article says that "one surface [of the cootie catcher] is
blank, the other drawn with dots, the "cooties". The joke is to show
the blank side, then run the toy through someone's hair, revealing the
dotted surface. It's made so each surface looks the same apart from
the "cooties"." Hence the popular name for the game. ("the Cootie

Kind regards,



"cootie catcher" history

"cootie catcher" Origin
jurgy-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Great info-- you found WAY more info than I did.  (I guess that's why
you're a researcher and not me")  Thanks again, Jeff.

Subject: Re: History of Cootie Catchers aka Fortune Tellers
From: pinkfreud-ga on 29 Nov 2006 13:37 PST
Note to Researchers:

Another name for this little gizmo is "snapdragon."
Subject: Re: History of Cootie Catchers aka Fortune Tellers
From: tlspiegel-ga on 29 Nov 2006 18:24 PST
Here is some information on the other names they might be called:

"it seems they were just called "fortune tellers"

if you feel like making one:

Another name of it is cootie catcher. In Germany the figure is called
Nasenkneifer (nose pincher), Pfeffer und Salz (pepper and salt)or
Salznäpfchen (salt pot)."


"In Norway these are simply called a "Spå", which is the Norwegian
word for telling fortunes."


"Where I came from, both females and males made that toy. It was
usually called a "snapdragon."


"In origami books, it is often called a "Salt Cellar", because if you
place it on a table with the four points downward, it looks like a
four-compartment salt cellar."
Subject: Re: History of Cootie Catchers aka Fortune Tellers
From: kriswrite-ga on 06 Dec 2006 12:39 PST
Jeff, thank you for the great rating, and the tip! I'm glad I could help :)


Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy