A Classic Prank From Edgar Allan Poe And Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Regardless of whether or not this actually happened, it would be great to attempt to device a 2013-appropriate version. io9 writes:

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was supposedly the orchestrator of a cruel joke. One night, bored and idly toying with wicked thoughts, he decided to send a note to five of his friends. The note would be delivered anonymously. It would have no signature, and would contain no information. It would only say, “We are discovered. Flee!”

At his next dinner party, his social circle was abuzz with the sudden, and total, disappearance of one of the people he sent the notes to. The person was never heard from again.

But the story didn’t start or end with him. Edgar Allan Poe also was said to have done such a thing. He might even be said to be the better author to pair with the story, since he had more of a devilish sense of humor. Actually, neither man probably did this. The story of the notes is an old joke going back centuries. Supposedly it was used by politicians of one party to get members of the other party to flee before an important vote.

It is just a joke, but there’s a reason why it’s associated with so many mystery authors and so many tests of virtue. What better than such a note to illuminate the secret lives that some percentage of the population are living. This is one of the few jokes that I would love to see turned into a sociological survey. What percentage of the population, were they to receive such a note, would take the advice?

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  • Haystack

    I think it might be more interesting to send a notes reading “I know what you did. Meet me at X,” and see how many people show up suspecting one another of blackmail.

  • alizardx

    that might make an interesting mass mailing on the Net.

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