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Three Men and a GHOST

A Ghost in the Bassinet? The rumors fly on 3 MEN AND A BABY (plus, a reader response that might SOLVE the mystery...see below)

Well here's a fun film mystery. Read the following Savant letter, about some bizarre visuals in the 1987 film, 3 MEN AND A BABY:

"This really isn't a question, but more to see if you know anything about it. Along the same lines of the hanging munchkin in Oz. In the 1980's movie, "Three Men and a Baby" there is a scene inside a house. In one continuous shot, a boy appears in the curtains of a window and then on the next pass there appears to be a shotgun where the boy used to be. The "Urban Legend" is that a boy committed suicide with a shotgun in the house, and this was his ghost. I have watched this scene numerous times, and there definitely is a boy in the window. Dunno about the shotgun, it's kinda hard to tell. Anyway, its probably just some boy that snuck in on the set or something, but its interesting to see none the less. Here is a website with a few screen shots of the scenes:

If you know anything else about this, I would love to hear about it."

Thanks, Ryan Haney

And this one too, which is even more descriptive:

"Well, the mysterious figure appears at one hour and one minute into the film. When Ted Danson's character [Jack] persuades his mother to come visit in hopes of helping out with the new bundle of joy. As she picks the child up out of the bassinet and they are walking, the camera pans left and the figure appears in the background out on the terrace veranda balcony. Supposedly this boy was murdered in the apartment when it were first built, circa 1920, and yes, he does appear to be wearing clothing of the era. But it could also be a very short young - looking stagehand. It does not appear as an apparition or transparency. The figure does appear suddenly though and it is a little unnerving while on the screen. Decide for yourself, and have fun.

Dr. Kenneth Collin Seib University of Florida and Baylor U.

Unlike the ridiculous (boo!) but circulation-building (yea!) Hanging Munchkin myth, this 3 MEN AND A BABY mystery has a real basis. Savant hasn't seen the film for himself, but Jamie and Gregg's URBAN MYTHS WEBSITE has some very clear screen grabs that clearly show the boy in the curtains, and he doesn't look like any short stagehand to me. He wouldn't pass for a Munchkin either, you wise-***'s. Savant recommends a peek, as the site is refreshingly free of propaganda, either superstitious or conspiracy -related.

There is a boy in the window, and what looks like a gun a bit later. And the boy is so blatant and obvious, there's no chance that he accidentally got in the shot and wasn't noticed.

There is plenty of precedent for people caught on camera who weren't supposed to be there. Take a look at THE FLIM FLAM MAN (the widescreen cut shown once and awhile on cable). In a closeup of Sue Lyon sitting in her car talking privately with Michael Sarrazin, the driver's windwing window reflects a clear image of a stagehand. He steps awkwardly away, right in the middle of the shot. Clearly this was seen in dailies, but the shot was used anyway, probably because of the performance in the take, or a schedule that would not permit a reshoot. In any case, the whole audience picked up on the flaw and laughed when I saw the film new ... in other words, this is no flub found by crawling frame by frame over the film on video.

It's possible that the boy in the window got into the film the exact same way, was always there, and was left in because the scene was inconvenient to reshoot.

If the movie were edited on video (in 1987, this is possible) it would be believable to Savant that the boy could have been missed in the projected dailies. All watching might have been concentrating on the performances. Unlikely, but believable. Films whose dailies are only on tape are difficult to edit properly: you never can tell if a scene is slightly soft of focus, finely scratched, or has shutter flicker. Worse, problems like props out of place, cables or boom shadows, might be unnoticed on tape, yet jump out at you when the film is finished and projected. And worst of all, in many tape transfers one cannot tell for sure if the frame line is accurately pictured. When cutting on an actor's entrance into the frame, it is possible to make the really embarrassing cut of an actor entering twice.

If 3 MEN AND A BABY were edited on video, then, it is possible that the boy in the window just didn't call attention to himself and snuck through the editing process. All that means is that he 'accidentally' got all the way through postproduction without being spotted. I think he had to have been spotted all along, and director Leonard Nimoy considered his presence an irrelevant flaw he could live with. After all, even on the screen grab the boy sticks out like a Thumbus Soreus.

Look closely at the boy in the screen grab. You can see his silhouette through the curtains, and he seems a little oddly-shaped. His body doesn't taper, but instead goes straight down from the shoulders, as if he were really a clothes dummy, with a cape hanging from it. In the screen grab, at least, he seems very short for a boy with that kind of haircut, but a bit too broad in the beam. It is possible that the boy is really an optical illusion, like the monsters that children see in their rooms when the lights are low, that congeal out of laundry flung over a chair. Could the 'head' be something else? Possible, but, well, it sure looks like a boy to Savant.

Maybe it's a cardboard cutout of a boy. The darkness on the left side of the boy's face would not seem natural, given the light pouring in from the window behind. Also the gun in the second screen grab looks more to me to be a silhouette of whatever forms the boy's pants in the previous shot. This would seem to be easily discernable if one watched the movie instead of just looking at these grabs, which is all Savant has done. If the shot is a moving camera scene, it would seem to be easy to tell if the 'gun' is a real object or a virtual one formed by the curtains around it.

These observations probably scream 'ghost' to the already - convinced. The Urban Myths site is well-named ... as soon as some quizzical anomaly shows up, the buzz on the street has ghosts and curses, suicidal specters and phantom evidence, coming out our ears. So far the ghost tale of a boy's shotgun suicide occurring in the house used for filming, seems to me to be just another good story concocted to fit the facts. How do we know the scene wasn't shot on a soundstage?

I like this mystery. At least there are some facts to it, as opposed to the completely mind-numbing Munchkin fiasco. Savant welcomes more input, Mr. Nimoy, perhaps, or a crewmember? If I were Mr. Nimoy, I'd stay mum, and see if the cassette sales went up!

FLASH! THE GHOST SOLVED? An Email received 3/20/99:

Hey Glenn .Regarding the Three Men and a Baby myth about the little boy, it's a cardboard cutout of Ted Danson. There was originally a plot line having to do with him selling dog food, but that is the only thing that made it into the final cut.

There are screen grabs of cut scenes showing this at

Apparently all filming was done at a soundstage, so the boy killing himself in the apartment thing doesn't work, either. I know it's no fun to debunk the myths, but somebody's gotta do it! Keep the articles coming, they're terrific!

Josh Maki

That very astute website almost accounts for the ghost image.

Savants guesses hit upon the idea of the image of the boy being a cardboard cutout, and the gun being a negative silhouette, so I suppose I should claim victory. Savant even doubted the scene was shot in a real and hauntable house, which turned out to be a correct call. But the truth is that this mystery has actually been known since 1990, and solved for years! Savant should have been a lot more hip to the news on this one.

One quibble: the website clearly and convincingly states its case for the ghost being a cardboard cutout BUT the cutout shown in their screen grab isnt a very good match for the image in the window. The way it looks to Savant, cutout #2 is wearing a Top Hat, and the one in the film is not. And the second cutouts arms are spread wide, another obvious mismatch..

More likely than not, the simple answer to this is that there was more than one cutout involved . But since this one seems so neatly wrapped up, I thought I'd do my part to keep the Ghost-Chasers guessing.

Thank you, Josh Maki (and others), for this instantaneous response!

Got a Thing for freakish visual phenomena in movies?
Read Savant's fearless exposés:

The Hanging Munchkin   and  Sullivan's Corpse.

Text © Copyright 1999 Glenn Erickson

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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