Friday, February 22, 2008

A Muffled "Here"

Syracuse [NY] Herald-Journal
12 May 1983, p. A2

Inmate's attempt at trash dash smashed

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (UPI) -- Jail officials say they discovered an inmate hiding in a large plastic trash bag hanging to the bars of a cell, hoping he would get taken out with the trash.

The escape attempt by James Hughes yesterday ended when Sgt. Don Gallahue noticed he was one prisoner short during a head-count.

Gallahue said he knew five of the nine prisoners in the cell block on sight, but when he called the names of the other four on the list, only three replied.

He called Hughes' name a second time but got no response. On the third attempt he heard a muffled "here" from the area where the bag was hanging, and the inmate was found "hunkered down" amid the garbage.

Hughes is in jail awaiting trial on four counts of burglary and one of grand theft auto.

Paul Harvey, Jr., ed., Paul Harvey's For What It's Worth. NY: Bantam Books, 1992, p. 93.

For What It's Worth...

In a county jail in South Florida -- jail officials found a plastic trash bag hanging to the bars of a cell.

Inside was Jimmy Jones.

A prisoner who hoped he'd get taken out with the trash.

And he might have...

Except during roll call his reflexes took over.

And when the name Jimmy Jones was called...

From inside the bag came a muffled response: "Here."

May 12, 1983

[Apparently radio personality Paul Harvey based his humorous item on a current news report, but changed the prisoner's name. He also failed to mention that the name had been called more than once, an important detail that makes the prisoner's response not as reflexive as Harvey suggested.

It's uncertain how accurate the original report is -- the three times the prisoner's name was called is suspiciously folkloric -- but it must be recognized that Harvey's storytelling expertise turned it into a good numskull story.

See William Hansen, Ariadne's Thread, 136-8, for "tales about foolish fugitives who give themselves away by speaking."]