Fact Check

The Unexpected Inheritance

Man inherits large sum after his friend lied about their identities during a one-night stand.

Published July 10, 2001


Legend:   Two men traveling together check into a country inn run by a relatively young widow. One of the men ends up spending the night with the widow, and to avoid any future entanglements he deceptively gives the widow his partner's name before departing the next morning. The man never tells his partner about the incident, and a year later the partner receives an unexpected letter from a lawyer, informing him that the widow has died and left him the inn and a sizeable chunk of money in her will, in remembrance of the wonderful night of pleasure he gave her.

Example:   [Ní Dhuibhne, 1983]

Two men, John and Mick, went to Kilkenny for the day. Evening came and as they were enjoying themselves they decided they would put off the journey back to Dublin till the following day. They proposed to stay the night in the pleasant hotel they were in, which belonged to an attractive widow whom they were getting to know.

Cartoon of the legend

They spent an enjoyable evening in the bar and made their way to their separate rooms. However, when all was quiet, Mick made his way to the widow's room and would have been seen, if there were anyone to see him, returning to his room in the early morning. When they were leaving the widow called Mick aside. "Now I know," says she, "that you have put your names in the register, but I just want to be sure who's who," taking out a notebook and pen. Mick, a quick thinker, gave John's name and address.

Mick had forgotten all about Kilkenny until, nine months later, he had a telephone call from John, who seemed to be highly excited.

"Hello! Hello! Is that Mick? Listen, do you remember that outing we had to Kilkenny? Hello! To Kilkenny, yes. Well, I don't know what to make of it. I've had a letter from a Kilkenny solicitor. Do you remember that nice widow whose hotel we stayed in? Well, the solicitor says she has died and left me the hotel and a lot of money as well. I don't understand it."

Origins:   As folklorist Jan Brunvand points out in The Choking Doberman, "fantasies of unlimited sex and of sexual favors granted with no strings attached" are often accompanied by twists of fate or poetic justice in modern legends. In this tale, the two elements blend neatly: a man needlessly lies about his identity to a woman he sleeps with in order to avoid possible future entanglements; as a result, his friend, not he, reaps the unexpected rewards.

As for how old this legend is, its plot had been used so often by aspiring writers that it merited inclusion in a 1946 round-up of abused storylines:

[Young, 1946]

An attractive young fellow goes to Atlantic City, for a holiday. He meets a charming girl from Baltimore, and has an affair with her. He does not give her his right name — instead, he gives her the name and address of one of his friends in New York City. When he leaves, the girl is in love with him, but to him the girl is just another girl. And he never, of course, hears from her. The girl returns to Baltimore. A short time later, she dies — and leaves a large estate to the villain's friend.

It also appeared the previous year in a humor collection:

[Cert, 1945]

Two friends motored home from a fishing trip in Maine. On a lonely country road they encountered engine trouble. Who answered their knock at the nearest farmhouse? Right! The farmer's beautiful daughter. She gave them dinner and let them stay overnight. Six months later one of the friends received an ominous-looking legal document. A frown disappeared as he read it, and then he phoned his fishing companion.

"I say, Tom," he said. "Did you by any chance spend a little time with that beautiful farm girl the night our car broke down?"

"Why, yes," answered Tom sheepishly.

"And did you, in a moment of Machiavellian cunning, give her my name and address?"

"Now, don't get sore about that," broke in Tom. "Where's your sense of humor?"

"Oh, I'm not a bit sore," his friend assured him. "I just thought you'd like to know I heard from her lawyer. She died last week and left me the farm and $12,000 in cash."

Last updated:   9 July 2007

  Sources Sources:
    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Choking Doberman.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1984.   ISBN 0-393-30321-7   (p. 133).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Mexican Pet.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1986.   ISBN 0-393-30542-2   (pp. 127-128).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Too Good To Be True.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.   ISBN 0-393-04734-2   (p. 88).

    Cerf, Bennett.   Laughing Stock.

    New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1945   (pp.

    Ní Dhuibhne, Éilís.   "Dublin Modern Legends: Intermediate Type List and Examples."

    Béaloideas: The Journal of the Folklore of Ireland Society.  
Vol. 5; 1983   (pp. 55-70).

    O'Brien, Edna.   "Hers."

    The New York Times.   26 September 1985   (p. C2).

    Young, James.   101 Plots Used and Abused.

    Boston: The Writer, Inc., 1946   (p. 20)

    Reader's Digest.   "Laughter: The Best Medicine"

    August 1989   (p. 70).

  Sources Also told in:

    Fiery, Ann.   The Complete and Totally True Book of Urban Legends.

    Philadelphia: Running Press Books, 2001.   ISBN 0-7624-107404   (pp. 98-102).

The Big Book of Urban Legends

    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 122).

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