February 12, 2006

"FLEE AT ONCE — ALL IS DISCOVERED."

"Both Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle supposedly sent similar telegrams to a dozen prominent men, all of whom packed up and left town immediately."

From a nice piece about telegrams, which have been discontinued.

23 comments:

DavidV said...

Ha! Should Congress ever need to be evacuated quickly, all that security would have to do is deliver a little note with those words to each congressman.

Balfegor said...

Haha. I have received a telegram exactly once -- when being informed that I had been accepted to the college I eventually attended.

This college was all of five blocks or so from my home, and I had been taking courses there for two years already, so it was not a great surprise. But I suppose they wanted to do something a bit special. It was rather fun. And I certainly remember it.

Drew W said...

I liked that Times piece on telegrams, too.

I've been told by people of my parents' (WWII) generation that a Western Union deliveryman ringing your doorbell brought on an overwhelming sense of dread. Whether in wartime or not, my elders told me, a telegram delivery usually meant that someone had died.

But thank heavens for notable exceptions. Looking through some old family photos and mementos, I found a telegram addressed to me on the day in 1959 when I was born. It had been sent by friends of my parents', and bore a sweet message welcoming me into the world.

I seem to recall attempting something like that in the 1980s, on the occasion of a new arrival, but at that point, Western Union was calling them “Mailgrams,” or something similarly uninspiring.

Jacob said...

The other funny joke telegraph to send is

"IGNORE PREVIOUS TELEGRAPH - ALL MAY YET BE WELL"

vbspurs said...

Mark Twain's telegramme to Dick Cheney:

"At least unlike Dan, you can spell quail. You just can't shoot it right."

Come on, give me a break here. Like SNL would do it better.

Cheers,
Victoria

Wade_Garrett said...

I really liked that piece. I wonder how the text-message has effected this generation's ability to write prose. Some of those telegrams are hilarious. Could you imagine Mark Twain using 8 for "eight," R for "are," or U for "you?"

lindsey said...

I wish they'd tell us which people received the "Flee at once..." telegram.

David said...

One of the most chilling telegraph stories happened a few weeks after D-Day, in Bedford, VA:

link

W said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
W said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Johnnymac said...

This story sounds fictional to me. However, it could have been suggested by a bit in one of the Sherlock Holmes stories: 'The "Gloria Scott" '. Holmes decodes a seemingly nonsensical message to read: "The game is up. Hudson has told all. Fly for your life."

Johnnymac said...

Johnnymac said...

This story sounds fictional to me. However, it could have been suggested by a bit in one of the Sherlock Holmes stories: 'The "Gloria Scott" '. In it Holmes decodes a seemingly nonsensical message to read: "The game is up. Hudson has told all. Fly for your life."

Johnnymac said...

Apologies for the double post.

Gaius Arbo said...

What is the quotation from the Titanic doeng in there?

That message wasn't sent by telegraph.

David said...

Titanic message..sure it was! (sent by telegraph)...radiotelegraph, International Morse Code.

Freeman Hunt said...

What a great article. Thanks for pointing it out. The "flee at once" telegrams were awfully clever. I also liked the "?" and "!" telegrams.

Jack said...

The attribution to two different authors is a classic indication of an urban legend. Also the key word "supposedly" from the article.

Joel Gratz said...

I am curious if anyone knows if the phrase "flee at once - all is discovered" was a phrase in popular use at some time? I have my doubts about the accuracy of the suggestion that Canon Doyle sent such a telegram. The main source of that phrase I believe (unless it once was in popular use) was in Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men" which was written after Doyle was dead.

BrianOfAtlanta said...

While in contrast, only 20% of the general public believes the NSA is listening in on their phone conversations. The general public needs to get with the program, obviously.

James Baker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

I received an actual telegram from my parents the first time I went away from home. I was with my high school band competing in the Knoxville, Tn, Dogwood Arts Festival's band competition. We were staying at the aging (on its last legs, really) Andrew Johnson hotel. Western Union was certain my mother was confused about Tennessee history and changed the address to the Andrew Jackson hotel. I still got it before our first competition and it was a surprise and a great example of how my stoic Appalachian mother could be thoughtful and loving. I still have the telegram, yellowed withe age.

wonniesuke said...

Fascinating article. I read the ,all found out, flee at once, attributed to doyle in john bakers book & it was stated as fact so did a little internet investigation and found this article & read all the interesting commentaries. Also i loved the telegram that looks original from louis armstrong to be cool as iim a big fan of his music!

wonniesuke said...

Fascinating article. I read the ,all found out, flee at once, attributed to doyle in john bakers book & it was stated as fact so did a little internet investigation and found this article & read all the interesting commentaries. Also i loved the telegram that looks original from louis armstrong to be cool as iim a big fan of his music!