'The Addams Family' Marks Half-Century Anniversary: Thing Is the Thing

·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Was it a robotic claw in a box? Some sort of puppetry? Or the actual appendage of a very tall co-star? If you guessed the third one, give yourself — c'mon, you see this one coming — a hand, because you have chosen the correct answer about Thing, the disembodied hand character on the classic TV sitcom The Addams Family.

Along with the infectious theme song (the snaps!), Lurch, and Cousin Itt, Thing is one of the best loved and oddest elements of the show, which, as the iconic opening song said, was all about the kooky, spooky, ooky goings-on at 0001 Cemetery Lane. And speaking of Lurch, the actor who portrayed him, the very tall Ted Cassidy, also regularly gave the show a helping hand (we can't help ourselves) by using his right one to portray Thing.

[Related: Pay a Call on 'The Addams Family' Mansion for Show's 50th Anniversary]

The 6-foot-9 Cassidy sometimes slipped his left hand into the various boxes in which Thing dwelled just to see if cast, crew, and viewers would notice, and, because of his impressive stature, portraying Thing wasn't always an easy gig. The actor had to remain below the camera, which often meant lying on his back with his hand inside a box and being wheeled from location to location on a trolley.

Lurch (Ted Cassidy)
Lurch (Ted Cassidy)

The character, who, like the rest of the TV family that celebrates its 50th anniversary on Thursday, originated in Charles Addams's New Yorker magazine cartoons. Initially depicted as a dark-haired figure who lurked around watching the Addams family, Thing became a hand figure in a 1954 cartoon. Thing has since been a hand in every Addams Family incarnation, including four TV series and three big-screen movies.

A childhood chum of Papa Gomez Addams (John Astin), Thing was a beloved member of the household and, um, a handy one. He poured tea, lit Gomez's cigars, delivered mail, played musical instruments, wrestled with Grandmama Addams (Blossom Rock), locked doors, and freaked out guests by shaking their extended hands with his unattached one. In short, he made prodigious use of his digits.

[Related: 'Bewitched' at 50: How Samantha Stevens Got Her Nose Twitch]

He even found the love of a fellow hand — named Lady Fingers — in the Season 2 episode "Morticia Meets Royalty," and Lady Fingers was also portrayed by an Addams Family regular: Carolyn Jones, who plays Morticia.

According to Stephen Cox's book The Addams Chronicles: An Altogther Ooky Look at the Addams Family, Thing's popularity continued well beyond the original series' two-season run. In the early 1970s, the character inspired a series of TV commercials for Bell Telephone's Yellow Pages, with the catchphrase "Let your fingers do the walking." A company in Cincinnati even sold a Thing coin bank, in which a hand came out of a box, snatched a coin, and stashed it inside the container.

Cox also shares a sweet anecdote about Thing's portrayer. Cassidy reportedly stashed one of Thing's boxes from the production, and when he died in 1979, he left the collectible to the son of Jackie Coogan, who portrayed Uncle Fester on the series.

One more sweet bit of ooky info: The Addams Family is being developed for another big-screen release, this time an animated flick written by Corpse Bride and Monster House screenwriter Pamela Pettler.