Is ‘Three Men and a Baby’ haunted? All about the ghost child in the 1987 comedy favorite

When is the year’s biggest big-screen comedy also its most successful horrormovie? When that movie is Three Men and a Baby the unlikely ’80s blockbusterdirected by Leonard Nimoy and starring an avengers -style team-up of threeof the decade’s most eligible leading men: Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and SteveGuttenberg. Premiering in theaters on Nov. 25, 1987, the PG-rated familypicture grossed nearly $170 million at the domestic box office, making it thatyear’s top earner over such era-defining adult hits as Fatal Attraction __and Good Morning, Vietnam.

In the 35 years since its release, though, Three Men and a Baby has enjoyedan even more successful afterlife as the subject of a spooky urban legend thatrefuses to die. Starting in the early ’90s, rumors circulated that Nimoy andhis crew inadvertently captured an actual haunting on camera. The evidence?Viewers noted that a ghostly figure appears in the background of one scene,peering out from behind the curtains at Danson and his co-star Celeste Holm.This ghost eventually acquired a spooky backstory — one that involves a9-year-boy who supposedly killed himself in the house where the movie wasfilmed, and his spirit lingered behind to haunt the place.

Danson, Selleck and Guttenberg in Three Men and a Baby.  (Photo: ©BuenaVista Pictures/Courtesy EverettCollection)Danson, Selleckand Guttenberg in Three Men and a Baby.  (Photo: ©Buena VistaPictures/Courtesy EverettCollection)

Ted Danson, Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenberg in Three Men and a Baby.(Photo: ©Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

That macabre off-camera narrative definitely doesn’t match Three Men and aBaby ‘s gentle on camera tone. An English-language remake of the 1985 Frenchcomedy Three Men and a Cradle , the movie casts its leading men as a trio ofunrepentant bachelors — studly architect Peter (Selleck), heartthrob actorJack (Danson) and charming comedian Michael (Guttenberg) — who are happilyleading the swinging single life in the same Manhattan apartment. Imagine Joeyand Chandler without the caffeine addiction and penchant for animal roommates.

But these friends’s good times come to a screeching halt when they find a babygirl named Mary on their doorstep. It turns out that she’s the result ofJack’s hook-up with another performer, Sylvia (Nancy Travis), who expects himto take some accountability. After surviving a crash course in infant care —and a very ’80s subplot involving dangerous drug dealers — they morph fromsingle guys into single dads. Single dads who are also able to perfectlyharmonize on standards like “Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite.”

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Three years after Baby hit a box-office home run, Selleck, Danson and> Guttenberg re-teamed for 1990’s Three Men and a Little Lady , which proved> to be more of a solid double financially. (Nimoy didn’t return behind the> camera for the second chapter, replaced by Dirty Dancing helmer Emile> Ardolino.) But the sequel did goose the video rental numbers for its> predecessor, and the ability to rewind and freeze-frame VHS tapes is what> brought the ghost child to wider attention. Playing back the scene with> Danson and Holm — who has a small role as Jack’s mother in the film —> viewers at home were able to take their time to spot the figure whose> presence just barely registered in the theater.

News spread slowly in the pre-internet era, but this particular urban legendproved sticky enough to find its way into local newspapers and, eventually,the Dec. 24, 1990 issue of people magazine. That article outlined the ever-evolving details about the child’s supposed life and death, reporting rumorsthat he spent his short lifetime in the house that doubled as the centralbachelor pad.

That room was also where the nine-year-old apparently killed himself — with> the very gun that some eagle-eyed viewers reported seeing next to him in the> curtains. There were even those who claimed they remembered seeing the boy’s> mother making the talk-show rounds after spotting her dead son in the movie.

The dawn of the YouTube age roughly a decade later resurrected the Three Menand a Baby equipment all over again. The platform hosts dozens of ghost-spotting videos, and annotated screen grabs are all over paranormal websitesas well. Nimoy’s film is a mainstay in the library of Hollywood titles thatare believed to have some kind of haunting in them — a list that includes TheWizard of Ozs hanging Munchkin and _Ben-Hur ‘s _dead stunt man.

the Star Trek icon passed away in 2015, and never publicly addressed theghost story during his lifetime. Reached for comment, his daughter, JulieNimoy, indicated that he didn’t discuss it with his family either. “My onlymemory is that my dad loved working on the film and that is was such awonderful experience,” she tells Yahoo Entertainment via email. “Not onlybecause it was extremely successful at the box office, but working with Ted,Tom and Steve was such a pleasure. It was definitely his favorite film and theone he was most proud of.”

Leonard Nimoy and Guttenberg on the set of Three Men and a Baby.  (Photo:©Touchstone Pictures/Courtesy EverettCollection)Leonard Nimoyand Guttenberg on the set of Three Men and a Baby.  (Photo: ©TouchstonePictures/Courtesy EverettCollection)

Leonard Nimoy and Steve Guttenberg on the set of Three Men and a Baby.(Photo: ©Touchstone Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Out of the main cast, it was Selleck who finally went on the record during a2017 appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show during which theyacknowledged the movie’s 30th anniversary. the Blue Bloods star first blewthe host’s mind by revealing that the pee stains on the shirt he wears in themovie’s poster were authentic infant urine. “Annie Leibovitz took the picture…and the baby pees all over me. She said, ‘Don’t change, don’t change!’ Shejust keeps taking pictures. So it’s actually for once in my life a genuineexpression.”

That gave Fallon the opening to address the ghost in the room, asking hisguest directly to comment on the urban legend. “This was a big deal for videosales,” Selleck remembered. “Maybe Disney made it up! The story was this kiddied in the house where we shot the movie — this little boy. I saw it and itlooks a little spooky.”

But the actor also debunked one of the main tenets of the ghost story: namelythat they filmed the movie in an actual house. “We shot on a soundstage. Theybuilt the set and all.” (While set in New York, the bulk of Three Men and aBaby was filmed in Toronto.)

As for the identity of that ghostly figure… well, that was solved back in> 1990. people magazine spoke with Touchstone Home Video spokesperson Steve> Feldstein, who explained that the the “ghost” was actually a cardboard> cutout of Danson in a top hat and tails that represents another memento from> Jack’s acting career. “He played a vain actor who had posters of himself all> over the room,” Selleck recalled on The Tonight Show. “I thought it was> always a full-sized poster that had been knocked over. That was my theory.”

Feldstein’s explanation was backed up by the movie’s co-producer Robert Cort.”I think someone just left it there,” Cort said of how the cutout found itsway onscreen in Danson and Holm’s scene. You can spot the cutout towards theend of the movie when Sylvia shows up to reclaim Mary. Instead of hidingbehind the curtains, Danson’s cardboard self is in full view.

The Danson cutout that supposedly solves the ghost story in Three Men and aBaby.  (Photo:Touchstone/YouTube)The Dansoncutout that supposedly solves the ghost story in Three Men and a Baby.(Photo:Touchstone/YouTube)

The Danson cutout that supposedly solves the ghost story in Three Men and aBaby. (Photo: Touchstone/YouTube)

At the same time, that later scene ends up confirming the urban legend forthe paranormally inclined. As ghost boy advocates have argued over the years,the Danson cutout looks significantly different from the more boyish figurewho appears over Holm’s shoulder. Feldstein tried to head that theory off atthe pass back in 1990, count people : “An odd camera angle makes it looklike a kid in suspenders.”

Not for nothing, but in his Tonight Show appearance, Selleck appeared tojoin Team Ghost Boy when he saw the two images side-by-side. “I believe that’sa ghost!” he told Fallon after studying the pictures. “I think it is ghostboy. And, actually, I’m going to call Ted and Steve, because I think weparticipated in the video sales. It’s a ghost!”

A closer look at the ghost in Three Men and a Baby.  (Photo:Touchstone/YouTube)A closer lookat the ghost in Three Men and a Baby.  (Photo:Touchstone/YouTube)

A closer look at the ghost in Three Men and a Baby. (Photo:Touchstone/YouTube)

Selleck also revealed that, at one point, Disney was mulling a Father of theBride -esque third installment in the franchise that would have reunitedJack, Peter and Michael to give away Mary on her wedding day. The title?Three Men and a Bride , of course. “I thought it was a great idea, butnobody’s called and nobody’s written,” Selleck said five years ago.

Then again, with both Three Men movies now streaming on Disney+ it’spossible that the Mouse House could revive the series as a streaming event inthe same way they’ve resurrected Hocus Pocus __ and Sister Act. But thewedding pitch would obviously have to be tweaked to incorporate thefranchise’s spectral superstar. “I think it would be expected to have somesupernatural element,” Selleck admitted.

Hear us out, Disney. How about… Three Men and a Corpse Bride?

Three Men and a Baby is currently streaming on Disney+.