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Charles Foley, 82: Inventor put a twist into playing games

  • Article by: MARY LYNN SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 27, 2013 - 9:41 AM

He spent a lifetime inventing and creating. But it was the Twister game that brought him the most fame.


Charles Foley

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Right foot red. Left hand yellow. Left foot green. With the twirl of the spinner, the body contortions begin.

To a 10-year-old boy, it’s a wrestling match. For a couple of college students, it’s the spark for romance.

Twister, the “game that ties you up in knots,” has endured for nearly 50 years, pushing even the shy to be bold.

It worked for Julia Allen, a St. Cloud University freshman in 2010.

“Just by following the rules of the game you get closer to people. You get more comfortable. And if things get awkward, oh well, whatever, it’s the rules,” Allen said. With the spinner directing hands and feet to colored circles, Allen and freshman Landon Brolin stretched, reached and became entangled. He fell. She won. And on Jan. 24, 2015, they’ll wed. Twister will be part of the festivities.

Charles Foley figured games were more fun when people interacted. When they took off their shoes, they relaxed. With that, Foley helped bring Twister to life.

“We weren’t particularly impressed,” said Mark Foley, the inventor’s son. As kids, Mark Foley and his brothers saw competition in the colored circles. “It got out of control real fast … We didn’t really get it.”

Neither did a lot of other people when Twister first hit the market. But in May 1966, Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor got entwined on the Twister mat. Sales soared and some dubbed it “sex in the box.”

Growing up in Rochester, Gregg Elliott thought it was just a kid’s game. But years later, flipping through old family photos, there were his parents and their friends — big ‘60s hairdos, drinks and cigarettes in hand, bodies twisted up on the family room floor.

“There are a lot of things we did at those parties that you don’t know,” Elliott recalled his 80-year-old father saying. “And then he smiled.”

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