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'They're onto us, leave now!'

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796682.  Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:30 am Reply with quote

In one episode oF QI Stephen Fry talks about someone (a famous Author?) who as a joke wrote a number of annonymous letters containing nothing but a message that said, 'They're onto us, leave now!'.

He helivered it to a number of his friends, one of whom must have taken the advice and was never seen again.

Who was the letter writer?

Ian Dunn
796683.  Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:36 am Reply with quote

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was actually Jo Brand who brought the subject up and the message actually was: "We are discovered. Flee immediately."

796744.  Wed Mar 16, 2011 3:32 pm Reply with quote

Thanks Ian, very impressive. I joined this site just to post that one message and am amazed by the speed of the response, great stuff, much appreciated :-)

Ian Dunn
796754.  Wed Mar 16, 2011 4:09 pm Reply with quote

That's alright. Please feel free to ask the site any more questions, or to share anything you think is quite interesting.

796787.  Wed Mar 16, 2011 6:01 pm Reply with quote

I think it's one of those stories that did the rounds long before Conan Doyle.

Check about halfway down the second column on this page from 1876 there's a bit titled "SUDDEN SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL".

As for Conan Doyle's association with this story, check halfway down the third column from the right from this page from 1897, titled "Fly at once".

805177.  Mon Apr 11, 2011 8:40 pm Reply with quote

Mark Twain is, also, attributed with this; he said that he sent a telegram to 12 men, all of whom fled immediately. It stated:


I had a good laugh from CB27's first link, three paragraphs down from "Sudden Spread of the Gospel"--

According to a Louisville paper, this is the way a Kentucky candidate for office greets a voter: "Howdy, howdy, howdy!" "Howdy!" "How do you do!" "Tollable." "How's all!" "Tollable." "Your folks well!" "Tollable, how's yourn!" "Tollable." "Neighbors all well!" "Tollable; how's yourn!" "Tollable." "All for me this time!" "Sorter tollable."

810294.  Thu Apr 28, 2011 6:09 am Reply with quote

I cannot get at CB27's link so this may be the same thing, but this was part of the Holmes story "The Gloria Scott"
Arthur Conan Doyle wrote:

a short note scribbled, as you see, upon a single sheet of gray paper.
'The supply of game for London is going steadily up,' it ran.
'Head-keeper Hudson, we believe, has been now told to receive
all orders for fly-paper and for preservation of your hen-pheasant's life. '
"I daresay my face looked as bewildered as yours did just
now when first I read this message..............And then in an instant the key of the riddle was in my hands, and I saw that every third word, beginning with the first, would give a message which might well drive old Trevor to despair. It was short and terse, the warning, as I now read it to my companion"

" 'The game is up. Hudson has told all. Fly for your life.'

This may be nothing of consequence, but I always like to excercise my Holmes scholarship when I get the chance.

811413.  Sat Apr 30, 2011 8:42 am Reply with quote

This story always reminds me of the author (I think either Thurber or Perelman -- it's the sort of thing either of them would do) who, as an experiment, sent 10 or 12 randomly chosen friends a telegram saying simply CONGRATULATIONS. Only one got in touch to ask why he was being congratulated.

812570.  Mon May 02, 2011 2:18 pm Reply with quote

I did the "All is discovered." text once before. I got a one word answer of "How?", but I suspect they were just playing along. People today aren't into as much subterfuge as once they were.


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