I Am Curious (Wiki)


I'm pro-Wikipedia. I think it's an inspiring example of bottom-up collaborative creation. Knock it for its inaccuracies, and I'll reel off the usual defenses: Sure, it isn't completely reliable, but there are thousands of eyes monitoring it. When someone makes an obviously inaccurate edit, someone else will usually pounce to fix it. In the meantime, the uncertainty encourages a different, more skeptical sort of reading.

That said: Boy, but some weird crap manages to slip through the cracks there. From the entry on Curious George:

As stated in an interview, the book Curious George Takes a Job was inspired by a true story. A boy, whose name is not known today, was born in Hamburg in 1909 with Down's Syndrome. He was institutionalized by his parents, condemned to a life at the facility.

When the boy was 15, he escaped from the institution and fled into the city streets. Hungry and in search of food, he found the briefly unattended kitchen of a restaurant, where a cook found him playing with the food and eating it. The cook, intrigued, put him to work to clean dishes, and took him home that evening. Within the following days, the cook arranged with a friend to have the boy wash windows at an office building.

The boy's work went well at first. But in one office, he found colored paints. He used them to paint a mural on the wall of the office. The tenant returned to his office after a lunch break to find the boy busy painting, and he started to chase after him. The boy jumped out a third-story window, breaking some bones.

The story made local headlines. After several weeks of hospitalization, the boy was formally adopted by the cook, and he later became the star of an amateur movie. He was recognized in the coming years as a talented artist. Some of his artwork was sold by the renowned bookseller, A.S.W. Rosenbach.

Tragically, his identity, art, and other details of his life were lost in the ravages of World War II, and he is believed to have been put to death by the government of Nazi Germany.

That passage has been part of the article for over a year. During that time, the page has not suffered from an absence of attention. There has been a long-running battle about whether George is an ape or a monkey. There have been arguments over the political subtexts of the stories. There have been efforts to add obviously phony info to the entry, prompting editors to leave comments like this one:

I seriously doubt "Curious George Gets AIDS" was one of the books. I don't want to change it myself since last time I made a minor edit I was banned from making any further ones by Wikipedia.

Yet that shaggy-dog story about Curious George Takes a Job is still there. No one has even suggested that it be sourced with a citation stronger than the vague "As stated in an interview."

It is my power as a Wikipedia reader to make the necessary changes myself. But a bizarre and funny passage like that one deserves to be immortalized, so I'm blogging it instead.

Bonus links: A communiqué from the Curious George Brigade.

Fr. Archimedes Aloysius Anarchy's Curious George fan fiction, including such unforgettable tales as Curious George Goes to Jail and Curious George Does LSD.

A Curious George true crime story.

Curious George meets rave culture: