The Tomahawk Story,_1956.jpg

When Alec Guinness was filming The Swan in North Carolina in 1955, someone gave him a tomahawk purchased at a local fairground. Guinness thought it too heavy to take with him, so as he was departing he paid a porter to slip it into Grace Kelly’s bed.

Years later, while performing in London, he found the tomahawk in his own bed.

This meant war. Guinness bided his time until the princess visited America on a poetry tour, then he contacted the English actor with whom she was traveling and persuaded him to leave the tomahawk in her bed. (“Do you know Alec Guinness?” she asked him the next day. “No, I’ve never met him,” he said.)

Guinness thought no more about it until 1980, when he visited Hollywood to accept an honorary Oscar and found the tomahawk in his hotel bed. He waited until Kelly’s next tour of England and arranged to have it left in her suitcase.

She died in 1982, so that was the last laugh. There was no one to share it with — in 25 years, neither of them had ever acknowledged that this was happening.

Why Can’t I Find Amanda Hugginkiss?

Imaginary patrons of Jersey City’s Tube Bar paged by owner Louis “Red” Deutsch at the request of telephone pranksters John Elmo and Jim Davidson in the mid-1970s:

  • Al Coholic
  • Al Kaseltzer
  • Al Kykyoras
  • Ben Dover
  • Butchie Pantsdown
  • Frank Enstein
  • Holden McGroin
  • Imov Irgin
  • Jim Nasium
  • Joe Mama
  • Mike Ocksmall
  • Moe Ronn
  • Oliver Closeoff
  • Rufus Leakin

Elmo and Davidson recorded Deutsch’s earnest pages and the wild, vituperative threats that followed when he realized he’d been had. In the 1980s the tapes began to circulate among professional sports leagues and eventually found their way to animator Matt Groening … who turned them into a running gag on The Simpsons.


‘Well, it was a quite shocking, I must say — there was blood everywhere!’ Alfred Hitchcock began suddenly from the rear of the elevator. We were in the New York St. Regis Hotel, heading down to the lobby. There was as light flush to his cheeks from the several frozen dauquiris he had just drunk in his suite. The elevator had just stopped and three people dressed for the evening had joined us, and immediately Mr. Hitchcock had started to speak, sounding as though he were in midsentence and projecting in that careful and familiar TV tone of his.

He went on, ‘There was as stream of blood coming from his ear and another from his mouth.’ The people had recognized him immediately, but now they seemed purposely to avoid looking at him. He went right on, gazing beatifically ahead of him as the elevator stopped again and another well-dressed couple came aboard: ‘Of course, there was a huge pool of blood on the floor and his clothes were spattered with it — Oh, it was a horrible mess.’

No one on the elevator, it seemed, was breathing. ‘Blood all around! Well, I looked at the poor man and and I said, “Good God, what happened to you?”‘ At that point the elevator doors opened onto the lobby, and Hitchcock said, ‘Do you know what he told me?’ and then paused. After a moment, and quite reluctantly, the other passengers moved out of the elevator and then looked back at the director as we walked away.

After several foggy moments, I asked, ‘Well, what did he say?’ and Hitchcock smiled benevolently, taking my arm, and said, ‘Oh, nothing — that’s just my elevator story.’

— Peter Bogdonavich, Who the Devil Made It, 1997

Sighs and Whispers

Frustrated with the intertitles in silent films, Charles Pidgin invented a better solution in 1917: The performers would inflate balloons on which their dialogue was printed. “The blowing or inflation of the devices by the various characters of a photo-play will add to the realism of the picture by the words appearing to come from the mouth of the players,” Pidgin wrote. Even better, “the size of the speech may be increased with the increase of various emotions depicted on the screen.”

It’s not too late to implement this.

Cat Snap

Harry Whittier Frees did a booming business in novelty postcards in the early 20th century, posing animals in human situations, including props and sets.

“I take occasion to give my personal assurance that all pictures appearing in this book are photographed from life,” he wrote in 1915’s The Little Folks of Animal Land. “The difficulties encountered in posing kittens and puppies for pictures of this kind have been overcome only by the exercise of great patience and invariable kindness.”

The Happiest Place on Earth

Yes, it’s The Rescuers, and yes, that’s a topless woman in the window.

Disney discovered her in two frames of the film’s 1999 home video release, but apparently she’d been there since the film’s premiere in 1977.

The studio recalled 3.4 million videotapes and released a cleaned-up version two months later. If they know who did it, they’re not saying.

The Triple Deal

Take any twenty-one cards, and ask a person to choose one from them. [Deal] them in three heaps, and ask the person who selected the card in which heap it is placed. Gather them up, and put the heap containing the chosen card between the other two. Do this twice more, and the chosen card will be found the eleventh from the top.

— Alfred Elliott, The Playground and the Parlour, 1868

No Comment

A good American misprint was the following, which is warranted as true and genuine. It occurred in the proof-sheets of a scientific treatise. The sentence, as written by the author, ran as follows: ‘Filtration is sometimes assisted by the use of albumen.’ This came out as: ‘Flirtation is sometimes arrested by the use of aldermen.’

— Patrick Maxwell, Pribbles and Prabbles, 1906

“A Good Catch”

The following is a good catch: lay a wager with a person that to three observations you will put to him, he will not reply ‘a bottle of wine.’ Then begin with some common-place remark, such as, ‘We have had a fine, or wet, day to-day,’ as it may be; he will answer, of course, ‘a bottle of wine.’ You then make another remark of the same kind, as, ‘I hope we shall have as fine or finer to-morrow,’ to which he will reply, as before, ‘a bottle of wine.’ You must then catch him very sharply, and say, ‘Ah! there, sir! you’ve lost your wager;’ and the probability is, if he be not aware of the trick, he will say ‘Why, how can you make that out?’ or something similar, forgetting that, though a strange one, it is the third observation you have made.

— Samuel Williams, The Boy’s Treasury of Sports, Pastimes, and Recreations, 1847