Chuck Foley and Neil Rabens invented the game Twister while working for a design company in St. Paul, Minn. Originally released by the Milton Bradley Company in 1966, the game has gone on to sell millions of copies worldwide.
The two hold the patent for the invention, which quickly became a phenomenon. People still play Twister today and have more options than ever, including an inflatable version of Twister that is perfect for outdoor events.
Foley and Rabens both hold the patent for inventing the game, called “Apparatus for Playing a Game Wherein the
Players Constitute the Game Pieces.” The two-page application for the patient was filed April 14, 1966 and awarded July 8, 1969.
The first page of the patent shows the iconic mat with circles on it, as well as the spinner that people use to determine what appendage they have to move, and to where. The choices are right and left foot and right and left hand. The places include the rows of blue, red, green and yellow dots. So, typical moves are, “Left foot, green” or “Right hand, red.”
The idea was simple: get people tied up in knots. The first person to fall loses. The game was originally designed for two, but could also be played with more. Foley and Rabens originally called it Pretzel, but Milton Bradley changed the name to Twister.
The game might not have become the phenomenon it became – selling three million copies in the first year alone – if not for late night host Johnny Carson.
After the release of the game in 1966, the inventors and Milton Bradley weren’t sure if they had a hit on their hands. Some store owners expressed concern that people wouldn’t have interest because Twister was so different from other games. Sales started slow.
But in a show aired in 1966, Carson played the game with Eva Gabor on “The Tonight Show.” Sales took off and the game became a constant in pop culture, and on family gaming shelves, for decades to come. People now try to break records for the most people playing Twister at once.
Although he holds the patent as co-creator of Twister, Foley never received any royalties from sales of the game, according to the New York Times. His son told the Times that Foley ended up receiving about $27,000 in a negotiated payout. The Times did not report on what Rabens was paid.
Foley had other inventions in his life beyond Twister, according to the Times. He also invented an automatic latching mechanism for the cattle pen on his grandfather’s farm not long after grade school and worked on the team that developed the automatic cocktail shaker.
Foley and Rabens ran a game design company together into the 1970s. Later, Rabens wrote children’s books and launched a business where he made custom signs and murals. Foley continued to invent, including toy handcuffs and Un-Du, a liquid that removes adhesives. Foley died in 2013. Rabens died in 2020.
The legacy they left behind is a great game that continues to delight people even to this day, no matter what version they play!