Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Bats In The Belfry

Posted by Elyse Bruce on September 8, 2010

In 1995, HersheyPark located in Hershey, PA opened up a kissing booth labeled “Bats In The Belfry.”  While it may seem an odd name for an amusement park exhibit or ride that’s just 15 years old, the phrase “bats in the belfry” itself is just a bit older and believe it or not, it doesn’t come from across the pond either.

All the early citations are from American authors and date from the start of the 20th century. For example,  the Ohio newspaper the  Newark Daily Advocate reported this in October 1900:

To his hundreds of friends and acquaintances in Newark, these purile [sic] and senseless attacks on Hon. John W. Cassingham are akin to the vaporings of the fellow with a large flock of bats in his belfry.”

American author George W. Peck, in his Peck’s Uncle Ike and the Red-Headed Boy, circa 190 wrote:

They all thought a crazy man with bats in his belfry had got loose.”

American writer Ambrose Bierce,wrote a piece for Cosmopolitan Magazine in July 1907 that stated:

He was especially charmed with the phrase ‘bats in the belfry‘, and would indubitably substitute it for ‘possessed of a devil’, the Scriptural diagnosis of insanity.”

So if you haven’t been able to find the phrase “bats in the belfry” in any literature from the 19th century and earlier, don’t let it drive you batty.  It’s a relatively new addition to the English language.

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One Response to “Bats In The Belfry”

  1. You rock Elyse…. I can use this opening a conversation with a line form Paul Blart mall cop…. Fun fact for you and then onto the bats in the belfry..

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