Three Men, a Baby, and a Ghost
In a medium where special effects are designed to make people think they’re seeing the real thing, it figures that someone would start a rumor about a real thing that looks like a special effect. Well, not exactly, but keep reading.
The 1987 Disney/Touchstone comedy, Three Men and a Baby, starred Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, and Steve Guttenberg, and was deftly directed by Leonard Nimoy. Based on a 1985 French film called Three Men and a Cradle, it concerned three carefree bachelors who gain an overdue sense of personal responsibility when somebody leaves an infant on their doorstep.
But it wasn’t the infant on the doorstep that made people race to see the film again (and later rent the video); it was the “ghost” of a young boy standing in a window in the back of one of the rooms. Or was he?
“Let me tell you the story as I recall it,” Leonard Nimoy explains, still amused and amazed at how the urban legend got started.
“The film had been in release for several weeks and was quite a successful movie when I heard—and I don’t remember exactly where or how—that a lady had contacted the press somewhere in the U.S. and said that she had lived in that apartment in which the movie took place, and that she had a son who had died in that apartment, and she was quite convinced that the ghost of that son appeared in one of the scenes in the film.
It was an intriguing story, so I looked at the footage. To begin with, the apartment never existed. It was a totally fabricated set designed by Peter Larkin and built on a soundstage in a suburb of Toronto. The lady … could not have lived in that apartment, because it was not real. But it captured the look and feel of a New York apartment on the upper West Side facing Central Park West; we had a backing outside the window [showing] Fifth Avenue on the other side of the park. It worked.
The scene to which she referred took place in the bedroom of the Ted Danson character. The character was developed to be a narcissistic actor, quite self-obsessed, and we decided to decorate his room with a lot of memorabilia from his own work. We had made for us, in Toronto, a standee cutout of Ted in a top hat and tails as though this were from a play that he had been in, and was used in the lobby of the theater. That standee, which was maybe five feet tall, was put [behind] the window that overlooks Central Park West and there was a gauzy curtain draped over it.
In one particular shot, as the camera panned across the room, it looked as though there was a ghostly figure behind that drape. It was totally accidental. But the press had fun with it, I had a lot of inquiries about it, it was not a real apartment, it was not a real ghost, and that’s the whole story.”
No stranger to publicity after playing the role of “Spock” on the indestructible television and motion picture series Star Trek, Nimoy wonders where such rumors start, but dismisses the possibility that the ghost was a marketing stunt.
“I have to believe that this lady was serious,” he says compassionately. “I think [she] really believed that this was an apartment that she had lived in, and in which her son had died. It wasn’t a prank. It was somebody who was caught in this obsession and had to tell somebody about it. I would suspect that somebody in publicity might have enjoyed the fact that it was out there, that some people who had already seen the film might be motivated to go back and see it again, or buy the video. [But] I’ve never run into anybody who had enough imagination to try to pull that off.”
Moon Landing Hoax
Despite the success of the U.S. space program, some people are still not convinced that astronauts landed on the moon. They maintain that the whole thing was a special effect shot inside a Hollywood studio, probably directed by Stanley Kubrick, and that rocket ships still aren’t capable of leaving Earth’s atmosphere, let alone achieving interplanetary travel. (Given the recent funding cuts to NASA, it’s possible that some of these people have been elected to Congress). Strange thing is, these are the same people who buy the supermarket tabloids and report alien abductions. Go figure.