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Claim: The ghostly image of a boy who died in the apartment where Three Men and a Baby was filmed can be seen in the finished movie.
Origins: The unusual image at a window appears when Jack Holden (Ted Danson) and his mother (Celeste Holm) are walking through the house Jack shares with his two buddies. As Mrs. Holden plays with the baby girl left who was left in the three men's care, a human figure can be glimpsed standing behind the curtains of a background window at the left-hand side of the screen. A rumor has persisted for several years that this figure is the eerie image of a boy who was killed in the house where this scene was filmed.
The most common form of this rumor claims that a nine-year-old boy committed suicide with a shotgun in the Three Men and a Baby house. (A detail obviously inspired by the jagged black outline created as the curtains move away from in front of the figure's left-hand side. The black portions of the figure form an outline that does resemble a shotgun standing on its end, barrel down.)
Other variations merely mention that a boy died in the house, without specifying how. The dead boy's despondent parents supposedly moved out after their son's death, and the house was rented or bought by a film studio, who allegedly used it for interior scenes of Three Men and a Baby. More detailed versions of the rumor have the boy's mother suing the film studio after they refuse her request to remove the image from the film, and/or making the rounds of television talk shows (Oprah, Geraldo, 60 Minutes) to repeat her strange tale of woe. Even wilder versions have the mother spotting her dead son, dressed in his burial clothes, in the film. In stock folkloric fashion, the mother immediately goes insane and has to be confined to a mental institution, where she has remained ever since.
As usual, the truth is much more mundane. The figure behind the curtains is a "standee" (a stand-up cardboard cutout used for advertising displays) of Ted Danson, dressed in a top hat, white shirt, and tails. The standee prop was created as part of a story line involving a dog food commercial in which Danson's character (an actor) appears, but references to the figure were cut from the finished version of the film.
(The standee shows up once more in the film: Ted Danson is standing next to it when the baby's mother comes to reclaim her child.) The figure was accidentally left in front of a window on the set by a propman and thereby "sneaked" into the background of one scene. Additionally, all indoor scenes were shot on a Toronto soundstage -- no real structures were used for interior filming.
As with most rumors involving strange or hidden images in popular films (such as The Wizard of Oz and The Lion King), this wild tale originated after Three Men and a Baby was released on home video. The rumor first gained widespread notoriety in August 1990 and spread like wildfile in the media and on the Internet in the following months, just as the film's sequel (Three Men and a Little Lady) was about to hit the theaters. The cynical among us might wonder whether the studio itself had something to do with the creation and/or propagation of this rumor, as the combination of supernatural mystery and the boost of a sequel propelled Three Men and a Little Lady to a new record for video rentals.
Beck, Ken. "Mighty Regis Was Once Frogman of the Pacific."
The Tennessean. 30 June 1996 (p. S43).
Ebert, Roger. "Of Pierced Ears and Plastic Fish."
Chicago Sun-Times. 6 December 1992 (p. 3).
Manning, Anita. "Spreading Legends on a Global Scale."
USA Today. 16 November 1990 (p. D1).
Terry, Carol Burton. "TV Line."
Newsday. 2 December 1990 (TV, p. 57).
People. "A Nation Hits the Pause Button . . ."
24 December 1990 (p. 89).
Last updated: 2 June 1997
Claim: The Ohio Players' recording of the song "Love Rollercoaster" includes the scream of a murdered woman.
Examples: [Collected on the Internet, 1996]
The cover of the album ("Honey" by the Ohio Players) depicts a nude model kneeling atop what appears to be a sheet of glass, dripping honey all over herself from a ladle suspended above her head. The original UL was that the glass was actually Fiberglas (or some other synthetic), which reacted chemically with the honey, bonding her skin, like Superglue, to the Fiberglas. Freeing her ripped the skin off her legs, and her career as a model was ruined. Sooooo... she just happens to burst in to the recording studio while the Ohio Players are recording "Rollercoaster," and starts threatening to sue the band for everything they're worth. The band's manager stabs her to death right there in the control booth, and that's the scream you hear in the song.
[Collected on the Internet, 1996]
Remember the "classic" song "Love Roller Coaster" by the Ohio Players? Well the rumor going around the Passaic, NJ YWCA was that one of the screams in the song was that of a real woman being murdered. Apparently, the song was recorded in the band's apartment, and a woman was being killed by an intruder.
[Collected on the Internet, 1996]
Someone brought up something to me yesterday regarding a 70's song called "Roller Coaster". I don't remember a thing about the song, but I do remember my brother telling me (I was about eight or younger at the time), that a scream in the background of the song was recorded inadvertantly, and was actually a cleaning woman screaming as she was stabbed during the recording of the song.
Variations: The site of the murder varies: an apartment (adjacent to the one in which the band is recording), just outside the studio, in an adjacent studio, inside the control room, and within the studio itself.
The identify of the dead woman also varies: an unknown victim, a cleaning woman, the girlfriend of one of the group members, or the model who posed for the album cover.
Some versions of this legend claim that the scream is a real but pre-recorded one (taken from tapes of inmates undergoing shock therapy at a local institution or a 911 emergency call).
Origins: It's a metaphor: love as a roller coaster ride. Both involve their fair share of screaming, so when the Ohio Players recorded their 1975 hit "Love Rollercoaster," they naturally incorporated a real scream into the track. In the 1970s you couldn't just do something like that simply because it made sense, though, so it wasn't long before wildly improbable stories about the origin of the scream began to circulate by word of mouth, aided by an army of disk jockeys eager to pass along a juicy (if apocryphal) anecdote.
The rumors that postulated the scream was a real one taken from an external source (a psychiatric hospital or 911 emergency tape) were the more plausible ones. Other explanations had the band recording in an apartment building (where a woman was conveniently murdered next door), microphones picking up the scream from a violent crime committed outside the recording studio (so much for that "soundproof studio" idea), or a band member stabbing his girlfriend (or a cleaning woman) to death in the studio as the tape rolled (presumably hoping to be the first person to simultaneously hit #1 on both the Billboard singles chart and the FBI's Most Wanted list).
The most outrageous rumor had to do with the cover of the album on which "Love Rollercoaster" appeared. Entitled Honey, the album's daring (for its time) outer cover featured a nude Playboy model lapping honey from a jar with a clear plastic spoon, while the inner gatefold sleeve pictured her covered with the sticky golden liquid.
According to the legend, the model was horribly burned by the honey (because it was heated to make it flow more freely) or suffered excruciating pain when it was removed (because it was actually a form of liquid plastic that took huge chunks of her skin with it when it was removed), and her screams of agony are what is heard on the finished product. (Apparently the Ohio Players were experimenting with rush record production techniques that had the recording of the album's music occurring in the studio simultaneous with the creation of the album's cover art.) A related version had the badly scarred model show up at the studio to demand compensation for her injuries just as the band was recording "Love Rollercoaster," and their manager deftly handled the situation by killing her on the spot.
In truth, the scream in question does seem a bit out of place: it's a feminine voice amidst a group of male singers, it's buried low in the mix, and it does sound like the cry of a woman in terror rather than that of a "thrilled-to-be-scared" amusement park customer. It's not hard to imagine how easily people receptive to rumor could be convinced that this sound didn't belong on the track, but had inadvertently slipped in.
The real source of the scream -- and the origins of the rumor -- were explained by Ohio Player Jimmy "Diamond" Williams:
There is a part in the song where there's a breakdown. It's guitars and it's right before the second verse and Billy Beck does one of those inhaling-type screeches like Minnie Ripperton did to reach her high note or Mariah Carey does to go octaves above. The DJ made this crack and it swept the country. People were asking us, 'Did you kill this chick in the studio?' The band took a vow of silence because that makes you sell more records."
As Mr. Williams suggests, mystery and scandal is good for record sales and radio play, so why ruin a good thing by 'fessing up to the truth? Instead, take a "vow of silence" and watch the money roll in.
Cromelin, Richard "New Kids in Town: Garage Funk from a Midwest Mob."
Los Angeles Times. 23 August 1987 (Calendar; p. 89).
Vincent, Rickey. Funk: The Music, the People, and the Rhythm of the One.
New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996. ISBN 0-312-13499-1.
White, Adam and Fred Bronson. Billboard Book of Number One R&B Hits.
New York: Billboard Publications, Inc., 1993. ISBN 0-8230-8285-7.
Last updated: 18 May 2000