Exploding cigar
An exploding cigar is a variety of cigar
A cigar is a tightly-rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco that is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Philippines, and the Eastern...

 that explodes
Explosive material
An explosive material, also called an explosive, is a reactive substance that contains a great amount of potential energy that can produce an explosion if released suddenly, usually accompanied by the production of light, heat, sound, and pressure...

 shortly after being lit. Such cigars are normally packed with a minute chemical explosive charge near the lighting end or with a non-chemical device that ruptures the cigar when exposed to heat. The customary intended purpose of exploding cigars is as a form of hostile practical joke
Practical joke
A practical joke is a mischievous trick played on someone, typically causing the victim to experience embarrassment, indignity, or discomfort. Practical jokes differ from confidence tricks in that the victim finds out, or is let in on the joke, rather than being fooled into handing over money or...

, rather than to cause lasting physical harm to the butt of the joke. Nevertheless, the high risk of unintended injuries from their use caused a decline in their manufacture and sale.

Although far rarer than their prank cousins, exploding cigars used as a means to kill or attempt to kill targets in real life has been claimed, and is well represented as a fictional plot device. The most infamous case concerning the intentionally deadly variety was an alleged plot by the CIA
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 of the US
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in the 1960s to assassinate Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

. Notable real life incidents involving the non-lethal ilk include an exploding cigar purportedly given by Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 to an acquaintance and a dust-up between Turkish military officers and Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

 after he pranked one of them with an exploding cigar.

Manufacture and decline

During the early- to mid-20th century, exploding cigars were a popular practical joke device, frequently advertised and mentioned in newspapers of the era. Despite their popularity, the history of the exploding cigar's development is apparently not well documented, including how, where and when they first appeared. The largest manufacturer and purveyor of exploding cigars in the United States during the middle of the last century was the S. S. Adams Company which, according to The Saturday Evening Post
The Saturday Evening Post
The Saturday Evening Post is a bimonthly American magazine. It was published weekly under this title from 1897 until 1969, and quarterly and then bimonthly from 1971.-History:...

, made more exploding cigars and other gag novelty items as of 1946 than its next eleven competitors combined.

The company was founded by Soren Sorensen Adams, dubbed "king of the professional pranksters", who invented and patented many common gag novelties such as sneezing powder
Sneezing powder
Sneezing powder refers to a group of powders or powder-like substances that induce sneezing when someone is exposed to them. This is usually done as a practical joke or prank to an unsuspecting victim....

, itching powder
Itching powder
Itching powder refers to a group of powders or powder-like substances that induce itching when applied onto human skin. This is usually done as a practical joke or prank to an unsuspecting victim....

, the dribble glass
Dribble glass
A dribble glass is a drinking glass that has holes hidden in the etched design.The purpose of a dribble glass is for pranks. When a person tilts the glass to take a drink from this glass, he ends up spilling the liquid on his clothing as the drink trickles through the holes.The dribble glass was...

 and the joy buzzer
Joy Buzzer
A joy buzzer is a practical joke device that consists of a coiled spring inside a disc worn in the palm of the hand...

. The largest New York based manufacturer of exploding cigars was Richard Appel, a German refugee from Nuremberg
Nuremberg[p] is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about north of Munich and is Franconia's largest city. The population is 505,664...

 who in or about 1940 opened a gag novelty factory on Manhattan's Lower East Side
Lower East Side
The Lower East Side, LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is roughly bounded by Allen Street, East Houston Street, Essex Street, Canal Street, Eldridge Street, East Broadway, and Grand Street....


By the time exploding cigars were being turned out by manufacturers such as Adams and Appel, the chemical explosive variety had fallen out of favor. According to Adams, the large scale switch to a non-chemical device occurred in approximately 1915 in the aftermath of a death caused by a homemade exploding cigar rigged with dynamite. Though exploding cigars were not normally rigged with dynamite but with explosive caps using a less powerful incendiary, following the incident, a number of U.S. states banned the product altogether. The replacement for chemical explosives was a metal spring mechanism, bound with cord—as the victim puffed away, the cord burned through causing the device to spring open, thus rupturing the cigar's end.

Prank exploding cigars have caused many injuries over their history. For example, in 1906 one Edward Weinschreider sued a cigar shop for an exploding cigar which burned his hand so badly three of his fingers had to be amputated. As has been observed by one legal scholar, "[t]he utility of the exploding cigar is so low and the risk of injury so high as the warrant a conclusion that the cigar is defective and should not have been marketed at all." Laws have been enacted banning the sale of exploding cigars entirely, such as Chapter 178 of Massachusetts' Acts and Resolves, passed by its legislature in 1967.

In fiction

Both prank and intentionally deadly exploding cigars have been featured in numerous works of fiction, spanning many forms of media including literature, film, comics books, cartoons and others. A well known use of the exploding cigar in literature, for example, appears in Thomas Pynchon
Thomas Pynchon
Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. is an American novelist. For his most praised novel, Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon received the National Book Award, and is regularly cited as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature...

's 1973 novel, Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern novel written by Thomas Pynchon and first published on February 28, 1973.The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest...

. In it, the character Etzel Ölsch symbolically betrays his death wish by eagerly smoking a cigar he knows to be of the prank explosive variety. Other book examples include Robert Coover
Robert Coover
Robert Lowell Coover is an American author and professor in the Literary Arts program at Brown University. He is generally considered a writer of fabulation and metafiction.-Life and works:...

's 1977 novel, The Public Burning
The Public Burning
The Public Burning, Robert Coover's third novel, was published in 1977. It is an account of the events leading to the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg...

, where a fictionalized Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 hands an exploding cigar to Uncle Sam
Uncle Sam
Uncle Sam is a common national personification of the American government originally used during the War of 1812. He is depicted as a stern elderly man with white hair and a goatee beard...

, and Sherburne James' Death's Clenched Fist (1982), in which a Tammany Hall
Tammany Hall
Tammany Hall, also known as the Society of St. Tammany, the Sons of St. Tammany, or the Columbian Order, was a New York political organization founded in 1786 and incorporated on May 12, 1789 as the Tammany Society...

 politico of the 1890s is murdered with an exploding cigar.

Film examples include Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil Blount DeMille was an American film director and Academy Award-winning film producer in both silent and sound films. He was renowned for the flamboyance and showmanship of his movies...

's 1921 romance Fool's Paradise, wherein the main character is blinded by an exploding cigar; Laurel and Hardy
Laurel and Hardy
Laurel and Hardy were one of the most popular and critically acclaimed comedy double acts of the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema...

's Great Guns
Great Guns
Great Guns is a 1941 film directed by Monty Banks, and produced by Sol M. Wurtzel for 20th Century Fox starring Laurel and Hardy.- Plot :...

(1941), in which an exploding cigar provides running gag; the Elke Sommer
Elke Sommer
Elke Sommer , born Baroness Elke Schletz, is a German actress, entertainer and artist.-Career:Sommer was born in Berlin to a Lutheran minister and his wife...

 vehicle, Deadlier Than the Male
Deadlier Than the Male
Deadlier Than the Male is a 1967 British action film featuring the character of Bulldog Drummond. It is one of the many take-offs of James Bond produced during the 1960s but based on an established detective fiction hero...

(1967), where a murder by exploding cigar is a key plot element, in The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

' 1968 animated feature film, Yellow Submarine, where an exploding cigar is used to rebuff a psychedelic boxing monster, and the 1984 comedy Top Secret!
Top Secret!
Top Secret! is a 1984 comedy film directed by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker. It stars Val Kilmer , Lucy Gutteridge, Omar Sharif, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough and Jeremy Kemp. The film is a parody of the GDR era and Elvis films...

, in which Omar Sharif
Omar Sharif
Omar Sharif is an Egyptian actor who has starred in Hollywood films including Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and Funny Girl. He has been nominated for an Academy Award and has won two Golden Globe Awards.-Early life:...

's British secret agent character is pranked with an exploding cigar by a blindman.

Appearance of exploding cigars in the Warner Bros. cartoon franchises, Merrie Melodies
Merrie Melodies
Merrie Melodies is the name of a series of animated cartoons distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures between 1931 and 1969.Originally produced by Harman-Ising Pictures, Merrie Melodies were produced by Leon Schlesinger Productions from 1933 to 1944. Schlesinger sold his studio to Warner Bros. in 1944,...

 and Looney Tunes
Looney Tunes
Looney Tunes is a Warner Bros. animated cartoon series. It preceded the Merrie Melodies series and was Warner Bros.'s first animated theatrical series. Since its first official release, 1930's Sinkin' in the Bathtub, the series has become a worldwide media franchise, spawning several television...

 was fairly common, often coupled with the explosion resulting in the pranked character appearing in blackface
Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows, and later vaudeville, in which performers create a stereotyped caricature of a black person. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the proliferation of stereotypes such as the "happy-go-lucky darky...

. Some examples include: Bacall to Arms (1942), wherein an animated Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was an American actor. He is widely regarded as a cultural icon.The American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema....

 gets zapped by an exploding cigar leaving him in blackface, 1947's Mississippi Hare
Mississippi Hare
Mississippi Hare is a Looney Tunes cartoon short produced in 1947 by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese, released in 1949.-Plot:In the story, Bugs Bunny, asleep in a cotton field, is picked up by his cottony tail and bundled into a shipment put on a riverboat going down the Mississippi River...

, where the character, 'Colonel Shuffle' likewise ends up in blackface after the explosion, 1952's Rabbit's Kin
Rabbit's Kin
Rabbit's Kin is a Merrie Melodies short produced in 1951 and released on November 15, 1952. It was directed by Robert McKimson and written by Tedd Pierce. The animators who worked on this cartoon included Charles McKimson, Herman Cohen, Rod Scribner and Phil DeLara. The music was scored by Carl...

, in which Pete Puma offers Bugs Bunny
Bugs Bunny
Bugs Bunny is a animated character created in 1938 at Leon Schlesinger Productions, later Warner Bros. Cartoons. Bugs is an anthropomorphic gray rabbit and is famous for his flippant, insouciant personality and his portrayal as a trickster. He has primarily appeared in animated cartoons, most...

 an exploding cigar (true to form, Bugs Bunny turns the tables on the hapless feline, placing the cigar in Pete's mouth after he is dazed and lighting it with expected results), and 1964's Dr. Devil and Mr. Hare
Dr. Devil and Mr. Hare
Dr. Devil and Mr. Hare is a Warner Bros., Merrie Melodies theatrical cartoon short released on March 28, 1964, starring Bugs Bunny and the Tasmanian Devil. It was directed by Robert McKimson. It was produced by David H. DePatie. The cartoon was animated by Ted Bonnicksen, Warren Batchelder, and...

, where the Tasmanian Devil
Tasmanian Devil (Looney Tunes)
The Tasmanian Devil, often referred to as Taz, is an animated cartoon character featured in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes series of cartoons. The character appeared in only five shorts before Warner Bros...

 successfully gets Bugs Bunny to smoke an exploding cigar, resulting in blackface again.

Other media examples include television appearances such as when Peter Falk's Columbo must solve an industrial magnate's death by exploding cigar in the episode "Short Fuse" (1972), in a season four episode of the United States television, CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

 crime drama, CSI: NY
CSI: NY is an American police procedural television series that premiered on September 22, 2004, on CBS. The show follows the investigations of a team of NYPD forensic scientists and police officers as they unveil the circumstances behind mysterious and unusual deaths as well as other crimes...

titled Child's Play, wherein the forensic team investigate the death of a man killed by an exploding cigar, and in a 1966 episode of The Avengers
The Avengers (TV series)
The Avengers is a spy-fi British television series set in the 1960s Britain. The Avengers initially focused on Dr. David Keel and his assistant John Steed . Hendry left after the first series and Steed became the main character, partnered with a succession of assistants...

entitled A Touch of Brimstone; in video games such as Day of the Tentacle
Day of the Tentacle
Day of the Tentacle, also known as Maniac Mansion II: Day of the Tentacle, is a 1993 graphic adventure game developed and published by LucasArts. It is the sequel to the 1987 game Maniac Mansion...

where the player can offer George Washington an exploding cigar; and as a stock device by the Joker
Joker (comics)
The Joker is a fictional character, a comic book supervillain published by DC Comics. He is the archenemy of Batman, having been directly responsible for numerous tragedies in Batman's life, including the paralysis of Barbara Gordon and the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin...

 in Batman comic books. For example, in Batman
Batman is a fictional character created by the artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger. A comic book superhero, Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27 , and since then has appeared primarily in publications by DC Comics...

#251 (1973) entitled The Joker's Five-way Revenge, an exploding cigar is used by the Joker to decapitate a man.


CIA plot to assassinate Castro

In the late 1950s under Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

's presidential administration and in the early 1960s under John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

's, the CIA had been brainstorming and implementing plots to assassinate Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

, going as far as enlisting the help of mafia
The Mafia is a criminal syndicate that emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in Sicily, Italy. It is a loose association of criminal groups that share a common organizational structure and code of conduct, and whose common enterprise is protection racketeering...

 leaders such as Johnny Roselli
John Roselli
John "Handsome Johnny" Roselli , sometimes spelled John Rosselli, was an influential mobster for the Chicago Outfit who helped them control Hollywood and the Las Vegas Strip. Roselli was also involved with the Central Intelligence Agency plot to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the early 1960s...

 and Santo Trafficante, Jr.
Santo Trafficante, Jr.
Santo Trafficante, Jr. was one of the last of the old-time Mafia bosses in the United States. He allegedly controlled organized criminal operations in Florida and Cuba, which had previously been consolidated from several rival gangs by his father, Santo Trafficante, Sr...

 to assist in carrying out their plans. Many assassination ideas were floated by the CIA in the covert operation which was dubbed "Operation Mongoose
Cuban Project
The Cuban Project was a program of Central Intelligence Agency covert operations developed during the early years of the administration of President of the United States John F. Kennedy...

." The most infamous was the CIA's alleged plot to capitalize on Castro's well known love of cigars by slipping into his supply a very real and lethal "exploding cigar." A November 4, 1967 Saturday Evening Post article reported that during Castro's visit to the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 in 1966 a CIA agent approached New York City police chief inspector Michael J. Murphy with a plan to get Castro to smoke an exploding cigar.

While numerous sources state the exploding cigar plot as fact, at least one source asserts it to be simply a myth, and another, mere supermarket tabloid fodder. Another suggests that the story does have its origins in the CIA, but that it was never seriously proposed by them as a plot. Rather, the plot was made up by the CIA as an intentionally "silly" idea to feed to those questioning them about their plans for Castro, in order to deflect scrutiny from more serious areas of inquiry.

Whether true or not, the CIA's exploding cigar assassination plot inspired the cover of the October, 1963 issue (#82) of Mad Magazine
Mad (magazine)
Mad is an American humor magazine founded by editor Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gaines in 1952. Launched as a comic book before it became a magazine, it was widely imitated and influential, impacting not only satirical media but the entire cultural landscape of the 20th century.The last...

. The cover bears the headline, "You'll Get a BANG out of this issue of Mad Magazine", and features a painting by Norman Mingo
Norman Mingo
Norman Theodore Mingo was a commercial artist and illustrator. He is most famous for being commissioned to formalize the image of Alfred E. Neuman for Mad....

 depicting Castro in the act of lighting a cigar wrapped with a cigar band
Cigar band
A cigar band is a loop made of paper or foil fitted around the body of a cigar to denote its brand or variety. Although origins of the device are the subject of several legends, modern historians credit a European immigrant to Cuba named Gustave Bock with invention of the cigar band in the 1830s...

 on which is drawn Alfred E. Neuman
Alfred E. Neuman
Alfred E. Neuman is the fictional mascot and cover boy of Mad magazine. The face had drifted through American pictography for decades before being claimed and named by Mad editor Harvey Kurtzman...

 with his fingers plugging his ears, awaiting the explosion. An exploding cigar is also featured on the poster for the Channel 4
Channel 4
Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority , the station is now owned and operated by the Channel...

 British Documentary, 638 Ways to Kill Castro
638 Ways to Kill Castro
638 Ways to Kill Castro is a Channel 4 documentary film, broadcast in the United Kingdom on November 28, 2006, which tells the story of some of the numerous attempts of the Central Intelligence Agency to kill Cuba's leader Fidel Castro.-Production:...

, which shows Castro with a cigar in his mouth that has a fuse projecting from the end and a lit match approaching.

Ulysses S. Grant's delayed gift

According to a 1932 Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

 story, U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 gave one Horace Norton, the founder of a defunct college in Chicago, an exploding cigar soon after being introduced to him, but the "joke" wasn't revealed until many years later.

According to the story, unaware of the nature of the gift, Norton saved the cigar, keeping it on display in his college's museum. Years later, when the school was shutting its doors for good, the alumni thought it would be a fitting gesture to smoke the cigar at the college's annual reunion. The honor was given to Winstead Norton, Horace's grandson. During the sober speech he was presenting, Winstead lit the cigar, and after two puffs, it exploded. A 1952 news report contradicts one detail, holding that the explosion ultimately occurred at a family reunion rather than the alumni affair noted.

Ernest Hemingway

Reportedly, Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

, urged on by a group of journalists with whom he was drinking at the Palace Hotel bar in Rapallo
Rapallo is a municipality in the province of Genoa, in Liguria, northern Italy. As of 2007 it counts approximately 34,000 inhabitants, it is part of the Tigullio Gulf and is located in between Portofino and Chiavari....

, Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, presented an exploding cigar to one of four bodyguards of Turkish general İsmet İnönü
Ismet Inönü
Mustafa İsmet İnönü was a Turkish Army General, Prime Minister and the second President of Turkey. In 1938, the Republican People's Party gave him the title of "Milli Şef" .-Family and early life:...

. When the cigar "went off", all four guards drew their guns and aimed at Hemingway. He apparently escaped without any grievous bodily injury.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.