The 10 Most Ridiculously Difficult Encyclopedia Brown Mysteries

By Rob Bricken in Daily Lists, Miscellaneous
Friday, July 10, 2009 at 7:56 am
5) The Case of the Black Horse from Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of The Jumping Frogs
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CASE: Stinky Redmond has just stolen Waldo Emerson's essay while on a carousel, but Emerson (there is no transcendentalist connection, but the essay argues for the flatness of the world) obtains the services of Encyclopedia Brown to get it back. Stinky says that he had been riding on the black horse with a foot off the ground, but he got sick since it kept going up and down and he had to get off the carousel. He then sat on the bench where Waldo's bag was lying, but claims he didn't take the essay inside. Waldo, on a white horse which was three horses in front of Stinky's, claims that he never saw Stinky on the carousel, and that when the ride ended all he witnessed was Stinky running like mad from the bench.

SOLUTION: In not so thinly-veiled racism, the criminal here is the black horse. Or rather, the rider of the black horse. Or rather, the person who said he rode the black horse. Because Stinky could not have been going "up and down" on the black horse since, with three feet on the ground, it's designed not to move at all. Everyone knows that only carousel horses with all feet in the air move up and down! And by everyone, I mean any kids who actually gives a shit about what the horse is doing other than looker fierce or fancy on a merry-go-ride.

4) The Case of Lathrop's Hobby from Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Treasure Hunt
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CASE: Tommy and Paul have stolen a sheet of Lathrop's prized toilet paper (don't ask) and Encyclopedia comes in to investigate. Tommy accuses Paul of hiding the TP in the garage; Paul says he saw Tommy folding something in the bathroom. They first search the garage. Encyclopedia looks through a pile of wood chips and paint cans by a vise on the workbench. Tommy and Paul watch each other as they search the shelves. Lathrop goes through the garden tools. Not finding the TP, they then check the bathroom, and find three pills in the wastebasket. They open the medicine cabinet, take down a silver pillbox, and find the TP folded in half eight times inside. Paul's accusation is seemingly validated.

SOLUTION: Tommy is innocent, since you can't fold anything in half more than seven times. Paul clearly used the vice in the garage to fold the TP to hide in the pillbox to blame Tommy. Of course! Using a cumbersome vice to fold a minuscule piece of paper in half an eighth time (while your friends patiently wait for you in the other room) makes so much more sense than hiding it in a book or under a rock. Or simply putting it in your pants and walking out of there. And why would toilet paper be a more lucrative object of theft than, say, jewelry or cash?

3) The Case of the Glass of Ginger Ale from Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch
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CASE: The blind violinist Rafino de Verona has just had his prized Stradivarius swindled by the dastardly concert master Hans Braun, who bets de Verona that he can enter the room, open a locked safe, take out a glass, remove the ice, pour into the glass a bottle of ginger ale, lock the safe, leave the room, and lock the door behind him, all without de Verona hearing him. De Verona, who prides himself on his ability to pick up even the quietest of sounds, accepts the challenge, but Braun, who prides himself in the less noble field of locked room puzzles, wins the bet when de Verona innocently opens the safe an hour later and finds the glass filled with ginger ale.

SOLUTION: Braun is crafty enough to blinker a blind man, but not the brilliant Encyclopedia, who determines that Braun had snuck in an insulated bag which keeps ice from melting, made innocuous comments to cover up the sound of the opening of the insulated bag, and then placed his own ice - made from ginger ale - into the glass instead of ice cubes made of water. Hans Braun never opened the safe, and the ice simply melted into ginger ale, which even the bat-like de Verona would not have been able to hear. In this Columbo-like mystery, no child knows what an insulated bag is, let alone that it prevents ice from melting. And even this is a patent lie; unless the bag is made of dry ice, the ice will only last marginally longer than if it was placed in a thermos, allowing Sobol yet another way to make America's children feel stupid.

2) The Case of the Window Dressers from Encyclopedia Brown Lends a Hand
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CASE: In one of the most bizarre books ever written by Sobol, a carnival of freaks has apparently descended on Idaville, creating mysteries for runaway elephants, exploding toilets, and "skunk apes." But the most outrageous mystery is this one Hector's department store. A group of four women walk by the detectives with a papier-mache bull. Two men carrying bullfighters costumes walk by, along with a large color poster of a bullfight. Three more men walk by holding plastic figures with female clothes, and bringing up the rear is a man holding several petticoats and a woman with a clothesbrush, saying the whole brigade are going to dress windows for a display of female toreador pants (all the rage in Idaville these days). Minutes later, gunshots are heard and the jewelry department has been robbed, but young Sally Kimball, Encyclopedia's pretty, non-sexual, and illogically powerful female companion, knows who the robbers are.

SOLUTION: The last two. But how? Well, petticoats are worn under skirts, not under pants, so the man carrying the petticoats was not really a window dresser, and instead scooped them up from a store counter to hide his gun; while he fired the shots, his partner grabbed the jewelry. Sally brags to Encyclopedia that he would never know this since he's a boy (and this is true); but would most girls even know this? Would most southern belles know this? Yes. Would most of middle America under 30 know this? Maybe (as you can see, most of these cases are educations in American Life for godless city folk). Would Asian children learning to read know this? No. But they'd learn what a petticoat is.

1) The Case of the Kidnapped Pigs from Encyclopedia Brown Saves the Day
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CASE: Lucy Fibbs and Carl Benton's pigs have been kidnapped to prevent them from winning the Idaville pet show, and Encyclopedia has been hired to investigate. Carl received a phone call that said the pigs would be returned after the show unharmed, but then the caller had to hang up because he ran out of dimes, so he gave Carl his number (ZA6-7575) to call him back. In an illogical conclusion, the caller is determined to be a child because a grown-up would have more money. The key suspects are the Hurricanes; one of their hats was left at the scene of the crime. Encyclopedia questions the Hurricanes, whose dogs are in direct competition with the pigs. Encyclopedia asks each of the members if they lost a cap. Harry (Hurricane?) says they all wear the same size, but says he hasn't worn his cap in a week; Flip says his is in the front closet and he wore it two days ago when it rained. Art says he loaned his cap to his brother, who went to Glenn City on Tuesday. Merle threatens to punch Encyclopedia. Everybody glares at Encyclopedia. Encyclopedia leaves. The pigs remain missing.

SOLUTION: Carl kidnapped the pigs, wanting to knock Lucy out of competition. Just before the pet show, he would have released his pig, Alfred, and claimed it escaped the kidnapper's clutches. Carl lied about the phone call since no phone dial has a letter Z. I'd bet you're looking at your cell phones now to find that Z. It's there, right under the 9. This case would only apply to those who possess very old dial or rotary phones without Zs on them, and that is simply impossible to solve today since all children over four possess cell phones. There isn't even a charm here like in some of Sherlock Holmes' dated cases where silencers were unheard of, and hands couldn't be checked for gunpowder residue, letting murderers simply place guns into the hands of the murdered for apparent suicides. Those were the days...
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