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The Quick 10: 10 Twilight Zone references in Disney's Tower of Terror

July 6, 2009
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Most people spent the weekend grilling out or boating or enjoying parades and fireworks; I spent mine refinishing our kitchen floor and watching The Twilight Zone marathon on SciFi (soon to be SyFy). I wasn't around for the first incarnation of the series, and I was too young to really appreciate the revival in the '80s. So, as blasphemous as it may be, my first real introduction to Rod Serling's fascinating mind was The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney World's Hollywood Studios (then MGM Studios). I got some of the sly references to Twilight Zone episodes on the ride just from being a bit of a pop culture freak, but now that I'm more familiar with the series (not just from the marathon), I realize there are tons of references. Each imagineer who helped develop the ride watched every single episode of the original series - that's 156 episodes - twice. Here are a few of my favorites:

tina1. Talky Tina. If you follow my Twitter at all, then you might already know that I think this is the scariest Twilight Zone episode ever. Starring Telly Savalas, the show is about a man whose stepdaughter has a doll that has it in for him. While it normally says things like, "I'm Talky Tina! Want to play?", it spews forth hatred for Mr. Savalas in the form of, "I'm Talky Tina and I'm going to kill you." It's truly creepy. And, terrifyingly, you can find Talky Tina sitting quietly on the couch in the lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, waiting for a new friend. I'd advise you to steer clear.

2. Caesar the Dummy. In "Caesar and Me," a ventriloquist starts to commit serious robberies at the insistence of his wooden partner, Caesar. Of course, we don't know if the ventriloquist has lost his marbles or if the doll is really alive, but we definitely find out at the end when the ventriloquist goes to jail and the dummy plans to run away with the girl who informed on his better half. Caesar is lurking in an especially spooky spot: after your elevator descends and you're waiting on the ride doors to open, look around the "elevator shaft." There's a display of old junk sitting in the dark like you're in the storage room of, well, an old hotel, and amongst the junk is the scheming Caesar.

3. Cadwallader. "Escape Clause" is about a man who makes a deal with the devil - he trades his soul in exchange for immortality. I don't need to tell you the end of the story to for you to get the reference - the devil calls himself Cadwallader. And after you check out the "inspection" certificate outside of the elevator you're about to get on, you might rethink your ride: it's signed by a Mr. Cadwallader and it's dated October 31, 1939. It's also certificate #10259, which stands for October 2, 1959 - the day the first Twilight Zone episode aired.

fremont4. Anthony Fremont. The episode "It's a Good Life" actually has a couple of references, although only one is intentional. The other was just necessary. You'll see what I mean in a second. The intentional reference is an old sign that advertises "Anthony Fremont and his orchestra, now appearing at the Top of the Tower" at the Tip-Top Club. In "It's a Good Life," Anthony is a little boy who mentally controls an entire town and makes them do what he wants. If they act outside of his wishes, he has the power to send them to "the cornfield," and no one comes back from the cornfield. It was part of the 1983 Twilight Zone movie, if it sounds familiar. So that's Anthony. "It's a Good Life" is also where the opening narration for the ride comes from. Rod Serling says, "Tonight's story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a m..." and from there, a Rod Serling impersonator takes over, personally selected by Serling's widow. "Maintenance elevator," is how the impersonator finishes the sentence, but Rod's original narration said, "map of the United States." Photo by Photobucket user brnder.

5. Nan Adams. Miss Nan Adams is a character in "The Hitch-Hiker," an episode from the first season of The Twilight Zone. Nan is on her way from New York to L.A. when she gets a flat tire. While she waits for a mechanic to fix it, she notices a strange man watching her. She's a bit rattled, especially when she continues on her journey and keeps seeing the man pop up in odd places along the road. When Nan calls home to check in with her mother, she is informed that Nan's mom had a nervous breakdown upon hearing of her daughter's death in a freak car accident. It's then that Nan realizes that she died in the accident when her tire blew out, and the man following her is actually Death. This makes the handwritten note you'll find in the Hollywood Tower Hotel's lobby rather humorous: "Miss Nan Adams
Reservations for Oct. 31 - Arrival delayed Hold Room"

THIMBLE6. A golden thimble. This one is exclusive to the Tower of Terror at Disney's California Adventure, as far as I know. In "The After Hours," a woman goes to a department store to find a birthday gift for her mother. She tells the elevator operator that she is looking for a gift and he takes her to the ninth floor and drops her off. There's nothing on the ninth floor, save for a single saleswoman who happens to have a single golden thimble - exactly what she's looking for. On the way back down, she notices a scratch on the thimble and heads to customer service to exchange it. The problem? Customer service calmly informs her that there is no ninth floor. If you think a golden thimble is just what your mother needs, the Hollywood Tower Hotel has just the thing in their gift shop... at least, according to the display case in the lobby.

7. To Serve Man. It's one of the most famous Twilight Zone episodes ever - aliens come to Earth, but it's almost too good to be true: they help people end war, they show them how to produce enough food so that no one will ever go hungry, and they are all around-fabulous. They even offer to send humans to their amazing planet free of charge, just to open up a free exchange of sorts. The Earthlings find a book belonging to one of the aliens, and, not totally trusting them, decide to go on a covert mission to decipher the book. It takes them years, but they finally figure it out: the title of the book is To Serve Man and it's chock-full of delicious recipes. Apparently the humans didn't notice that no one ever came back from the aliens' planet. The book is now on display in the library in the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

meredith8. Broken Glasses. Poor Henry Bemis - his wife and boss just won't let him sit down and read in "Time Enough at Last." On his break at work as a bank teller, he sneaks down to the vault and shuts himself in so he can read in peace and quiet where no one will see him or taunt him. While he's in there, an H-Bomb goes off, leaving him as the sole survivor. He's picking through the remains of the town when he finds the public library. Delighted, he stacks up all of the books he's going to read. Just as he is about to sit down to enjoy them, his glasses fall off and shatter on the cement, leaving him utterly blind. And now you know the story behind the shattered glasses underneath the television in the library of the Tower at California Adventure (rumor has it they're in Orlando too... anyone seen them?).

9. Chalk Marks. Before Poltergeist, there was "Little Girl Lost." A couple wakes up and hears their daughter calling for help but can't seem to find her anywhere. She's fallen into another dimension - the Twilight Zone, if you will - and they do everything they can to find her, including chalking off entryways on the wall (which is how they eventually find her). Someone has been looking for that otherworldly dimension in the boiler room of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, because there are similar chalk marks on the wall there.

morgue10. Room 22. Another DCA exclusive. In "Twenty-Two," Miss Liz Powell is a stripper who has been committed to a hospital because she's on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Every night she has a nightmare that she wakes up and hears a nurse outside her door. The nurse motions that Liz should follow her, so she does - down to the morgue in the basement. The nurse pops up from inside the dark room and says, rather wickedly, "Room for one more, honey." Liz is finally given the clearance to go home and arrives at the airport to check in, where it turns out that she's on Flight 22. As she climbs the stairs to board the plane, a stewardess steps out, smiles coldly, and says, "Room for one more, honey." Liz screams and runs back into the airport and watches from the window as the plane takes off - and explodes (a little Final Destination, right?). At DCA, Room 22 is located by some out-of-order elevator doors. Word to the wise: trust the sign.

If you could throw in whatever TZ reference you wanted to, what would it be? I think I might throw in an old traveling salesman-style suitcase with junk in it to reference "One for the Angels." It's an episode starring Ed Wynn as a traveling salesman who has to pitch a sale to Death in order to save a little girl's life. Ed Wynn did a lot of work for Disney, including voicing the Mad Hatter and laughing on the ceiling in Mary Poppins, so I think it would be fitting. Share yours in the comments!

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This Week's Best Amazon Deals You Can Still Get
April 30, 2017
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As a recurring feature, we share some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. These items were the ones that were the most popular with our readers this week, and they’re still available.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers (including Amazon) and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

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Portable Chargers RAVPower 16750mAh External Battery Pack 4.5A Dual USB Output External Phone Charger Battery Bank Power Bank (iSmart 2.0 Technology) for Nintendo Switch, iPhone 7, Galaxy S8 - Black for $27.99 (list price $99.99)

WizGear Universal Air Vent Magnetic Car Mount Holder with Fast Swift-Snap Technology for Smartphones and Mini Tablets, Black for $7.99 (list price $19.99)

Firstbuy Multi Device Bamboo Charging Station Original Electronics Charging Station & Organizer for iPad, iPhone,Tablets, Smartphones &Cords Organizer Stand&Other Gadgets,Strong Build of Eco Bamboo for $23.99 (list price $69.99)

Apple Watch Band, 42mm iWatch Band Strap Premium Vintage Genuine Leather Replacement Watchband with Secure Metal Clasp Buckle for Apple Watch Sport Edition (Black) for $20.99 (list price $28.99)

Syncwire iPhone Charger Lightning Cable 3.3ft -[Apple MFi Certified] Series - Sync & Charging Cord for iPhone 7 Plus 6S Plus 6 Plus SE 5S 5C 5, iPad 2 3 4 Mini Air Pro, iPod -White for $8.99 (list price $20.00)

VicTsing Shower Speaker, Wireless Waterproof Speaker with 5W Drive, Suction Cup, Buit-in Mic, Hands-Free Speakerphone - Army Green for $18.99 (list price $24.99)

LilGadgets CarBuddy Universal Headrest Tablet Mount (For 7"-11" devices such as iPad, Galaxy, Note, Fire, Nook, and Surface tablets) for $15.95 (list price $27.95)

Portable Chargers Intocircuit 11200mAh Power Banks 4.8A Dual USB Output Battery Pack External Battery Bank for Smartphones Tablets - iPhone 7 Plus / 7 / 6s / iPad, Bluetooh Speakers and more, Gray for $15.99 (list price $22.99)

iClever BoostCube 4.8A 24W Dual USB Travel Wall Charger with SmartID Technology, Foldable Plug, White for $10.99 (list price $29.99)

SoundBot SB510 HD Water Proof Bluetooth 3.0 Speaker, Mini Water Resistant Wireless Shower Speaker, Handsfree Portable Speakerphone with Built-in Mic for $14.95 (list price $20.16)

Anker PowerLine+ USB-C to USB 3.0 cable (6ft), High Durability, for USB Type-C Devices Including the new MacBook, ChromeBook Pixel, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nokia N1 Tablet, OnePlus 2 and More for $15.99 (list price $25.99)

Anker PowerCore+ mini, 3350mAh Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger (3rd Generation, Premium Aluminum Power Bank), One of the Most Compact External Batteries for $13.99 (list price $39.99)

Bluetooth Headphones, Hussar Magicbuds Best Wireless Sports Earphones with Mic, IPX7 Waterproof, HD Sound for $26.99 (list price $169.99)

iMuto 20000mAh Portable Charger Compact External Battery Power Pack Power Bank with Smart LED Digital Display and Smart Charge (Black) for $23.99 (list price $29.99)

Trianium Armband For iPhone 7/6/6S Plus, LG G6 G5, Galaxy s8 s7 s6 Edge, Note 5 (fits Otterbox Defender / Lifeproof case) ArmTrek Pro Sport Exercise Running Pouch Key Holder for $12.99 (list price $20.97)

SENSO Bluetooth Headphones Wireless Sports Earphones - w/ Mic, IPX7 Waterproof, HD Stereo Sweatproof Earbuds, for Gym Running Workout, 8 Hour Battery, Noise Cancelling Headsets for $37.97 (list price $169.99)

Anker PowerCore 10400 Portable Charger with PowerIQ for iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy and More (Black) for $29.99 (list price $49.99)

Oliasports Fidget Cube Relieves Stress & Anxiety, Black for $2.50 (list price $29.00)

LEGO Classic Creative Supplement 10693 for $13.99 (list price $19.99)

CardNinja Ultra-slim Self Adhesive Credit Card Wallet for Smartphones, Black for $7.44 (list price $12.99)

KITCHEN

Sandwich Cutter Taidea Best Adorable Animals Pocket Bread Cutter, Hand Tools Sandwich Kit for $9.99 (list price $39.99)

Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill for $34.99 (list price $44.99)

Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W for $99.99 

Plater Fast Defrosting Tray - Defrost Meat or Frozen Food Quickly Without Electricity, Microwave, Hot Water or Any Other Tools for $18.90 (list price $32.90)

Lodge L9OG3 Cast Iron Round Griddle, Pre-Seasoned, 10.5-inch for $14.29 (list price $24.00)

Lifewit Height Adjustable Pan Pot Organizer Rack, 5-Tier Kitchenware Cookware Holder for $24.99 (list price $49.99)

Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid Food Storage Container, BPA-Free Plastic, 6-Piece Set for $6.18

BlenderBottle Classic Loop Top Shaker Bottle, Clear/Green, 28-Ounce Loop Top for $6.99 (list price $7.99)

Modern Innovations 16 Inch Stainless Steel Magnetic Knife Bar for $16.95 (list price $29.99)

Yummy Sam Lid and Spoon Rest, Utensils Lid Holder in Silver for $8.99 (list price $10.19)

6 Reusable K-Cups - Refillable Stainless Mesh Coffee Filter Pod for Keurig 2.0 and 1.0 Machines by STYDDI for $9.99 (list price $16.99)

Meat Tenderizer By Checkered Chef. Best Hammer/Mallet Tool/Pounder For Tenderizing Steak,Beef And Poultry. Solid Metal Construction With Rubber Comfort Grip Handle. 100% Dishwasher Safe. for $10.87 (list price $19.95)

Fat Ninja Extra Large Roll Up Dish Drying Rack (19.8 x 14in) Over the Sink Stainless Steel Tier Drainer including Set of 2 Microfiber Kitchen Towels for $16.77 (list price $28.99)

Rubbermaid 17.3 Cup FreshWorks Produce Saver Food Storage Container, Large, Green for $11.24 (list price $16.99)

ISSIKI JAPAN Professional 8 Inch Chef's Knife, High Carbon Stainless Steel, Sharp Cutlery, Ergonomic Handlefor $29.99 (list price $125.00)

OXO Good Grips Nylon Potato Masher for Non-Stick Cookware for $6.99 (list price $9.59)

Norpro Honey/Syrup Dispenser for $15.99 (list price $34.35)

Corelle Livingware 12-1/4-Inch Serving Platter, Winter Frost White for $7.97 (list price $13.01)

Bellemain Stainless Steel Measuring Cup Set, 6 Piece for $18.95 (list price $24.95)

Cuisinart CIL22-30HR CastLite Non-Stick Cast Iron Fry Pan with Helper, 12-Inch, Red for $49.95 (list price $62.29)

Culina Fine Mesh Stainless Steel Strainers, Silver, Set of 3 for $7.99 (list price $12.99)

Top Rated Bellemain Cooling Rack - Baking Rack , Chef Quality 12 inch x 17 inch - Tight-Grid Design, Oven Safe, Fits Half Sheet Cookie Pan for $11.95 (list price $18.95)

Baker's Secret 1061483 10-by-16-Inch Nonstick Cooling Rack, Set of 2 for $6.00 (list price $19.99)

Prepworks by Progressive Berry Keeper for $7.99 (list price $9.49)

Prepworks by Progressive Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Keeper - 1.9 Quart for $9.96 (list price $11.99)

Oster TSSTTRJBG1 Jelly Bean 2-Slice Toaster, Grey for $29.99 (list price $34.99)

Prepworks by Progressive Lettuce Keeper - 4.7 Quart for $11.99 (list price $12.99)

Norpro Stainless Steel Commercial Potato Ricer for $27.84 (list price $43.99)

Stainless Steel Kitchen Funnel with Removable Strainer/Filter for Essential/Cooking Oils, Flask Funnel for Transferring of Liquid, Fluid, Dry Ingredients & Powder, 5- Inch,Silver - HOXHA for $9.98 (list price $23.68)

POPCO Silicone Microwave Popcorn Popper with Handles for $9.99 (list price $34.99)

VonShef 7- Egg Electric Cooker Stainless Steel with Poacher & Steamer Attachment for $19.94 (list price $34.99)

ChefLand 3-Compartment Microwave Safe Food Container with Lid/Divided Plate/Bento Box/Lunch Tray with Cover, Black, 10-Pack for $6.78 (list price $19.95)

DRAGONN Zester Grater Sharp Stainless Steel Blade with Black Handle, Safety Cover and Rubber Footings for $9.95 (list price $19.95)

Accuweight Digital Multifunction Food Meat Scale with LCD Display Perfect for Baking Kitchen Cooking, 11lb Capacity by 0.1oz, Tempered Glass surface, Black for $9.49 (list price $49.99)

Best Ice Cube Trays - 2 Large Silicone Pack - 16 Giant 2 Inch Ice Cubes Molds for $12.99 (list price $29.99)

Banana Hook - Ripen Bananas Naturally with Under Cabinet Banana Hanger / Banana Holder. Self-stick and Adheres Under Cabinets. for $6.00 (list price $11.99)

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The Original Hayden Autosoap - Premium Automatic Touchless Soap Dispenser - Fingerprint Resistant Brushed Stainless Steel - Hand Sanitiser compatible - (NEW Waterproof Base!) for $29.00 (list price $69.95)

Organize It All 2-Tier Shelf with Towel Bars (1753W-1) for $14.25 (list price $30.02)

Pregnancy Pillow, Full Body Maternity Pillow w/ Contoured U-Shape by Lavish Home, Back Support for $33.49 (list price $99.99)

AmazonBasics Wood Suit Hangers - 30 Pack, Natural for $20.82 (list price $23.99)

InnoGear IG-100ml-OD Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser for $29.28 (list price $35.43)

VonShef 8 Piece Set 4 x Placemats, 4 x Coasters, Natural Slate for $17.95 (list price $49.99)

Adjustable Heavy Duty Bed Sheet Grippers Holders Cover Suspenders (Set of 4) for $8.99 (list price $11.99)

Mellanni Bed Sheet Set - Brushed Microfiber 1800 Bedding - Wrinkle, Fade, Stain Resistant - Hypoallergenic - 4 Piece (Cal King, White) for $32.70 (list price $59.99)

VonHaus 600W 2-in-1 Corded Upright Stick & Handheld Vacuum Cleaner with HEPA Filtration - Includes Crevice Tool & Brush Accessories for $44.95 (list price $79.99)

AmazonBasics Microfiber Sheet Set - Queen, Dark Grey for $16.98 (list price $19.99)

GORILLA GRIP Rectangle (35-Inch-by-16-Inch) Non-Slip Machine Washable Bath Mat, Blue for $12.99 (list price $29.99)

AcuRite 02081M Weather Station with Jumbo Display & Atomic Clock for $40.01 (list price $49.99)

Ziraki Memory Foam Lumbar Cushion - Premium Lumbar Lower Back Pain Lumbar Pillow, Protect and Soothe Your Back - Improve Your Posture - Soft & Firm Balanced Lumbar Support Pillow for $15.95 (list price $29.99)

Equinox International Queen/Standard Size 17 X 25-Inches Shredded Memory Foam Pillow with Removable Bamboo Soft Pillow Case for $15.95 (list price $39.99)

Royal Classic Kitchen Towels, 15-Pack, 100% Natural Cotton, 14 x 25 inches (15 Pack) for $13.97 (list price $29.99)

HOPDAY Wash Bags, Delicates Mesh laundry Bags, Super Premium Quality Bra lingerie Protection Washing Drying Bag with Rust Proof Flow Zipper, Set of 6 (3 Medium & 3 Large)-Black & White for $9.89 (list price $19.99)

LiBa Mildew Resistant Anti-Bacterial PEVA 8G Shower Curtain Liner, 72x72 Clear - Non Toxic, Eco-Friendly, No Chemical Odor, Rust Proof Grommets for $10.99 (list price $29.99)

Habor Digital Hygrometer Thermometer Indoor Humidity Monitor with Temperature Gauge Humidity Meter for $10.99 (list price $17.99)

Whitmor 6779-3044 Double Rod Freestanding Closet with Steel and Resin Frame, 45.2 by 68-Inch, Silver for $40.16 (list price $47.99)

Lysol Disinfecting Wipes Value Pack, Lemon & Lime Blossom, 240 Wipes (3 Packs of 80 Wipes) for $8.97 (list price $13.99)

NMR 9087 Pink Floyd Dark Side Decorative Poster for $5.37 (list price $8.95)

HEALTH AND BEAUTY

Nerdwax Stop Slipping Glasses as Seen on Shark Tank for $10.99 (list price $14.99)

Doctor's Best High Absorption Magnesium Dietary Supplement, 200 mg per 2 tablets, 240 Tablets for $15.37 (list price $29.99)

Bvlgari By Bvlgari For Men Eau-de-toilette Spray, 3.4 Ounce for $38.77 (list price $88.00)

Colgate Wisp Portable Mini-Brush Max Fresh, Peppermint, 24 Count for $3.41 (list price $7.99)

NIVEA Smooth Daily Moisture Body Lotion 16.9 Fluid Ounce for $4.99 (list price $7.99)

Gardinesca Beard Oil for $12.99 (list price $31.99)

Foot Soak with Tea Tree Oil and Epsom Salt - 20 oz - Tea Tree Essential Oils Foot Bath for $14.95 (list price $21.95)

"Touch Me" Dry Skin Body Brush - Natural Bristle for $6.99 (list price $14.99)

ArtNaturals Aromatherapy Top 8 Essential Oils, 100% Pure of The Highest Quality, Therapeutic Grade for $16.95 (list price $20.00)

Daily Power Scrub Facial Cleanser For Men - 8 OZ - Face Wash + Energizing Toner + Exfoliating Scrub All-In-One - Natural & Certified Organic Ingredients for $24.95 (list price $39.00)

Arabica Coffee Scrub 15 oz, Anjou Body Scrub with Honey, Sea Salt, VB, VE for $8.99 (list price $35.99)

Gillette Fusion5 ProGlide Men’s Razor Blades 8 Refills - Packaging May Vary, Mens Razors / Blades for $29.97 (list price $35.71)

Active Wow Teeth Whitening Charcoal Powder Natural for $24.99 (list price $29.99)

Bed Head Deep Waver for $19.90 (list price $27.99)

Maybelline Baby Lips Moisturizing Lip Balm, Cherry Me, 0.15 Ounce for $2.79 (list price $4.49)

Gillette Series 3X Action Shave Gel, Sensitive, 7 Ounce (Pack of 6) for $12.48 (list price $23.94)

Crest 3D White Luxe Whitestrip Teeth Whitening Kit, Glamorous White, 14 Treatments - Packaging May Vary for $34.40 (list price $44.99)

Philips Norelco Bodygroom Series 7100, BG2040 for $59.95 (list price $69.99)

Tweezerman LTD Stainless Steel Mini Slant Tweezer (Colors May Vary) for $9.19 (list price $14.00)

Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Exfoliating Daily Scrub, 5 Oz for $4.78 (list price $7.69)

Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge (2 sponges in each pack) for $8.24 (list price $10.99)

GNC Mega Men Energy & Metabolism Tablets, 90 Count for $9.99 (list price $22.99)

Dial Antibacterial Deodorant Bar Soap, White, 4 Ounce Bars, 10 Count (Pack of 3) for $14.64 (list price $18.93)

Nexcare Absolute Waterproof First Aid Tape, 1-Inch x 5-Yard Roll (Pack of 6) for $20.28 (list price $28.54)

BESTOPE Blackhead Remover Pimple Comedone Extractor Tool Best Acne Removal Kit for $9.99 (list price $19.99)

OFFICE, SCHOOL, AND CRAFTS

Honey-Can-Do TBL-03539 Portable Laptop Lap Desk with Handle, Blue, 23 L x 16 W x 2.5 H for $16.24 (list price $26.99)

MagniViz Magnifying Glass with Light and Stand - Handheld or Hands Free LED Lighted Magnifier (3x) - Bonus Cloth for $8.99 (list price $19.99)

Kate Spade New York "Let's Do Lunch" Business Card Holder for $19.00 (list price $20.00)

SUDEE STILE Colored Pencils 120 Unique Colors (No Duplicates) Art Drawing Colored Pencils Set with Case with Sharpener for $23.99 (list price $95.96)

ALEX Toys Little Hands Ready Set Paste for $6.49 (list price $12.00)

Officemate Designer Paper Clip Dispenser with Heavy Duty Magnet, Clear (93695) for $9.45 (list price $12.18)

ALEX Toys DIY Wear So Many Headbands, 10 headbands for $13.54 (list price $29.50)

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Warner Bros., IStock
History
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When the FBI Went After Mad Magazine
April 29, 2017
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Warner Bros., IStock

In a memo dated November 30, 1957, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation identified as “A. Jones” raised an issue of critical importance: "Several complaints to the Bureau have been made concerning the 'Mad' comic book [sic], which at one time presented the horror of war to readers."

Attached to the document were pages taken from a recent issue of Mad that featured a tongue-in-cheek game about draft dodging. Players who earned such status were advised to write to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and request a membership card certifying themselves as a “full-fledged draft dodger.” At least three readers, the agent reported, did exactly that.

Mad, of course, was the wildly popular satirical magazine that was reaching upwards of a million readers every other month. Published by William Gaines, who had already gotten into some trouble with Congress when he was called to testify about his gruesome horror comics in 1954, Mad lampooned everyone and everything. But in name-checking the notoriously humorless Hoover, Gaines had invited the wrong kind of attention.

The memo got several facts incorrect: Mad had switched from a comic book to a magazine format in 1955, and it was Gaines’ E.C. Comics that had “presented the horror of war” in other titles. Despite getting these crucial pieces of information wrong, Jones didn’t hesitate to editorialize: "It is also of interest to note that…it is rather unfunny.”

The agent recommended the Bureau’s New York offices “make contact” with Mad’s headquarters to “advise them of our displeasure” and to make sure “that there be no repetition of such misuse of the Director’s name.”

Less than a week later, the Feds entered the hallowed hallways patrolled by Alfred E. Neuman. Their New York office would later report to Hoover directly that they had met with John Putnam, the magazine’s art director. (Conveniently, Gaines was not in that day.) Putnam told the agents he regretted the magazine using Hoover’s name and that nothing malicious was intended:

Putnam said that the use of the membership card and the name and address of the Director at the end of the game was referred to in their business as a 'gag' or 'kicker' in the same way that a comedian like Bob Hope or Milton Berle might use it.

Putnam swore that Mad would never again take Hoover’s name in vain; Gaines sent off a letter of sincere apology to the Director.

The Smoking Gun

Just two years later, in January 1960, Agent A. Jones was forced to file a second notice about the shenanigans at Mad. A recent issue had made not one, but two derogatory mentions of Hoover, including one in which he is blatantly and disrespectfully portrayed as being associated with a vacuum cleaner, “The Honorable J. Edgar Electrolux”:  

Obviously, Gaines was insincere in this promise…and has again placed the Director in a position of ridicule…it is felt we should contact Gaines…and firmly and severely admonish them concerning our displeasure…

It was by now clear Mad was not only polluting young minds, but that Gaines had absolutely no regard for the honorable Hoover’s position.

In June 1961, the FBI’s worst fears had been realized. Detailing an investigation into a Seattle-area extortion attempt led to the following:

Investigation … resulted in gaining admissions from the victim’s 12-year-old son and an 11-year-old companion that they had gotten the idea of preparing an extortion letter after reading the June issue of 'Mad' magazine.   

Working in concert with the Buffalo field office, the FBI determined another letter had been sent by a young boy demanding money in the style of a recent issue’s extortion advice. And there was a third under review that was sent to the agent of some professional wrestlers.

Mad was quickly becoming the scourge of the federal government. The FBI suggested the magazine be brought to the attention of the Attorney General for “instructing [readers] to deliberately violate the Federal Law.” They tried reaching out to Gaines, who was on vacation. (Time and again, Gaines simply not being in the office when called upon seemed to confound the FBI.)

Agent A. Jones, having exhausted all attempts to reason with these irresponsible anarchists, filed one last memo:

Despite assurances, they have continued to publish slurring remarks about the Bureau. In view of this situation, it was deemed useless to protest all such irresponsible remarks to a magazine of this poor judgment and capriciousness … we will have to wait and see if our action will result in increased discretion by this publication.

Poor A. Jones was unable to put an end to Mad’s reign of terror. But the magazine redeemed itself somewhat. In the 1970s, when the Bureau was trying to suppress the influence of the Ku Klux Klan, an agent suggested they copy and distribute a sticker from the magazine that read, “Support Mental Illness—Join the Klan!”

Hoover said no.

Additional Sources:
The Smoking Gun.

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS