The Time Curious George Got High

Curious George lives up to his reputation.
Curious George lives up to his reputation. / Spencer Platt/Getty Images

From his first appearance in 1941, the children’s book character Curious George has delighted young readers with his various escapades. Created by H.A. and Margaret Rey, the titles have sold well in excess of 30 million copies and are generally seen as innocuous juvenile adventures.

There are exceptions. According to Snopes, George was once curious enough to experiment with a controlled substance.

The page confirmed the authenticity of a post by Reddit user iknownuting that was titled “Curious George getting high in a children’s book that I have.” (The discovery has been posted on Reddit periodically over the years.)

George’s substance abuse was featured in the 1947 book Curious George Takes a Job, the second in the series. On the page in question, Curious George is in the hospital after breaking his leg. Coming across a bottle of ether, he decides to take a whiff.

“Suddenly his head began to turn,” the caption reads. “Then he felt as if he were flying. Then rings and stars danced before his eyes, then everything went dark…”

George is roused by his friend, the Man in the Yellow Hat, who throws him in the shower to sober him up.

Ether was a common anesthetic in the 19th century, used to sedate patients undergoing medical procedures. Crawford Williamson Long became the first doctor to use it in 1842, administering it before removing a tumor from a patient’s neck. It was also a recreational drug favored by physicians, who would participate in “ether frolics,” parties in which ether was huffed and much fun was had.

George was not the only kids’ character to experiment with the inhalable substance. In “Water, Water Every Hare,” a 1952 Warner Bros. cartoon, Bugs Bunny and a mad scientist engage in a fight while high on ether.

You can view the Curious George page in question on the Internet Archive here.