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A Legendary Camp Fire Tale : The Ghost in Three Men and a Baby

By: - March 21, 2016
Category : 80's, Urban Legend

Over the years, a lot has been written on details surrounding the infamous “Ghost Boy” from the 1987 classic, Three Men and a Baby. Despite the fact that so many people have discussed it, it seems some skeptics still exist. Let’s dive in to see if we can sift through the clutter and give the rumors a rest…

The Backstory

Selleck, Guttenberg, and Danson sing to their baby Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Selleck, Guttenberg, and Danson sing to their baby Credit: Touchstone Pictures

In 1987, Three Men and a Baby opened in theaters nationwide. The film was hugely successful, and played on the popular premise of role reversals— three ill-equipped male bachelors are given the task of taking care of a newborn baby.

To give you an idea of just how commercially popular this film was it grossed $167 million dollars on a $16 million budget. With the average price of $3.91 a ticket..that’s a ton of tickets. I know it seems arbitrary to throw this in, but I’m giving context to how many people have actually seen this movie!

Now for the exciting part — about an hour into the film — there’s a scene where Jack Holden (played by Ted Danson) is showing his mother around his New York loft. As they pass the left side of the screen, there appears to be an outline of a rifle behind the curtains. Forty seconds later, when they circle back around, you can see a human figure that appears in the window sill.

Ghost Boy In Window

The “Ghost” in the window.

News first broke about this story right on the heels of the sequel, Three Men and a Lady, in 1990. A lot of people were skeptical it was just the studio trying to re-introduce the first film to draw audiences, but none-the-less video rentals skyrocketed. Video stores were booked out for weeks. Everyone wanted to see a ghost captured on screen. Because the video quality of VHS was so poor, the theory was never debunked, and the rumors continued.

              apple-macintosh-IIfxThe internet was only for something people with $10,000 computers had access to in 1990, people were so enamored over the possible video footage of a boy’s ghost even the studio (Disney) put out a magazine article trying to end the debate on December 24, 1990.

It wasn’t until more recently that the debate picked back up. With HD everything and screen grabs aplenty, the ghost boy was once again back in the limelight and flooding the internet.

The Facts

It has been said that a little boy who lived in the apartment where the crew filmed, accidentally fell from the window ledge. Other surmised that the boy was playing with his father’s shotgun, and accidentally grabbed the trigger. The parents moved out after grieving and refused to visit. (Supposedly how the crew was able to get the location for so cheap.) However, the film was actually filmed at the Kleinburg Sound Stage in Canada.There was never a New York loft the child haunted. Furthermore, the eerie image you see in the frame is actually that of Ted Danson’s character himself. It’s a cardboard cut out from a dog food commercial he was in ( he plays an actor in the film.) I know it’s probably just as scary to see a cutout of Ted Danson behind drapes, but it is indeed him.

The "rifle" appears when they first walk by the window.

The “rifle” appears when they first walk by the window.

A spokesperson for Touchstone Pictures (which was Disney’s clever way of making less-family friendly movies without having to jeopardize their squeaky clean image) Steven Feldstein, tried to put the lid on the ghost story stating that it was actually a deleted scene the filmmakers accidentally left out, and thus why there is a random cardboard cut out of Danson in the final edit.

Danson's cardboard cutout

In subsequent releases of the film, there is a deleted scene with Ted Danson looking at his own cutout. But —

A lot of people still felt this wasn’t a sufficient answer because the cutout was a lot of shorter in the window, and doesn’t appear there when they first walk by. Many people wrote to People demanding more answers, stating they weren’t buying the “theory.” After several people did screen captures, and YouTube videos, a lot accepted it was filmed at a different angle, the deleted scene theory, and just chalked one up to Urban Legend Folklore.

Although it’s pretty obvious to me to be a cutout, it is a great urban legend that will be forever be cemented in history. I tried to grab the video from YouTube, but I think Touchstone didn’t want it up there as most version have been taken down. If you’re interested I highly recommend checking it out for yourself. I’m sure the debate will live on, but hopefully I shed some light on the facts. Part of me also wishes you could see a ghost. How cool would it be to tell your friends you can see a ghost in a major studio film?!

Also published on Medium.