The ‘Witch Doctor Drums’ is one of the puzzles of the museum.
The Witch Doctor Drums puzzle has the potential to be one of the more aggravating puzzles. It is located in plain sight in
the Shaman/Witch Doctor room, almost in the same position a guard would be of the door it opens. It is set up as a stereotypical witch doctor, holding a mallet fashioned out of what appears to be a skull and bones. The figure is surrounded by four drums, each one marked with a two to three letter word representing their tone.
What gives this puzzle the potential to be so aggravating is how it works. The puzzle is to hit the correct combination of drums to trigger the door to open. With the four tones being TA, BA, RAM, and BO, that gives four choices for each beat. There is also no set length for how many tones it will take to open the door, but the end of the chain is signified by replacing the mallet.
While one might not think that four tones is too much, the possible solutions can be determined this way.
As you can see, since the length would remain unknown, for up to ten tones, that makes it a total of 1398100 combinations. If one could do a combination every two seconds, it would take over a month to do all those combinations. This could be lowered if one introduces the condition that the tone and preceding tone can't be the same. Then the combinations play out like this.
This means a drastic drop in the number of possibilities, and for up to ten tones, it makes a total of 94476 combinations. Again, by doing one every two seconds, it would take over two days to test every combination. Also, this number is less than one percent of the previous total of combinations. Also, with the increase in tones, and possible combinations, it would take an amazing memory to keep track of them all.
This puzzle is a variation of the old finding the proper combination type of puzzles. Usually with puzzles like this, there is
a hint that allows the person trying to solve the puzzle an easier way to solve it, or it is purposely kept simple. Since it has no defined length, I have a hard time believing that either Merrick or Beth had solved this puzzle without help. I have not seen any clues that lead to the solution, except for the proper combination given by one of the two teenagers.
Real Life Examples
It is no surprise that versions of this puzzle exist in a much simpler state elsewhere in the world. One of the most famous instances of this puzzle is The Pricing Game 'Safe Cracker' on The Price Is Right. This game uses the simplest version of combinations. Three numbers, in three positions, with no repeats. This leaves a total of six possible combinations. If repeating digits would have been allowed, it would have been a total of twenty-seven combinations. If the restriction of no duplicate digits next to one another, then the possible combinations total twelve. As you can see, the puzzle becomes easier when restrictions are put on it, like definite length, no duplicate items at all, or if that is not possible, no duplicates next to one another.