Was Peanut Butter Really Used to Make Mister Ed “Talk”?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Mister Ed was made to talk through the use of peanut butter on his lips (in the alternative, through tiny electric shocks).

Mister Ed has had a surprising amount of false stories surrounding the series. One notable one was about Mister Ed being a zebra (he was not).

A tougher nut to crack was the story that Mister Ed was made to talk through the use of peanut butter on his lips (an alternate version I’ve seen some places is that he was made to talk through slight electric shocks – that is not nearly as popular as the peanut butter story, though).

Is it true?

This was always tougher to disprove, mostly because the story came straight from Alan Young, who played Wilbur on the popular series, which aired from 1961 to 1966.

Young, though, presumably was just trying to cover up the real truth (why, I do not know), which was that Ed was gotten to “talk” through the use of a piece of nylon that was placed in Ed’s mouth (under his lips). Originally, the piece of nylon would be pulled by a string, which would result in Ed (the horse’s actual name was Bamboo Harvester – he was voiced by Allan Lane) trying to get the nylon out, which would, of course, look like he’s moving his lips.

Over time, I understand that it got to the point where the string was not even needed and Bamboo Harvester would try to remove the nylon on cue. The horse was so well-trained that it let the piece of nylon stay in its mouth without trying to remove it unless commanded to.

After years of denying it (or offering up the alternate solution that the nylon was just used to make Ed turn his head or whatever), Alan Young fessed up a couple of years ago and admitted that he had just invented the peanut butter story for interviews (again, I don’t know why).

So there ya go!

The legend is…

STATUS: False

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

2 Responses to “Was Peanut Butter Really Used to Make Mister Ed “Talk”?”

  1. Wait. You mean he couldn’t actually talk? What a scam.

  2. ParanoidObsessive on July 4th, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Young, though, presumably was just trying to cover up the real truth (why, I do not know)

    My guess would be because he thought that admitting to the fact that they got the horse to “talk” by constantly irritating its mouth with nylon might bother animal rights groups or people sensitive about animal cruelty, even if it wasn’t actually doing any real or lasting harm (and honestly, I have no idea whether or not it was or wasn’t). Maybe he thought the idea of claiming the horse was actually enjoying a bit of delicious peanut butter would make the story more… (wait for it) palatable.

    ~pause for groans from audience~

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