I imagine a lot of you are familiar with a little rhyme that I learned as a child thus:
The other day upon the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today;
Gee, I wish he’d go away!
I’ve run into slightly different versions from time to time, and when I saw one at Pepys’ Diary (which, incidentally, Cory Doctorow seems to think has been around for ten years) that ended “I do so wish/ He’d go away,” I thought I’d investigate and see if there was a canonical version. It turns out there is, it’s by Hughes Mearns, and it’s called (of all things) “Antigonish” (though it’s usually thought of as “The Little Man Who Wasn’t There”). As you might expect, Wikipedia has the full story; it bears that title because it was “Inspired by reports of a ghost of a man roaming the stairs of a haunted house in Antigonish, Nova Scotia” (which, by the way, is pronounced ant-i-go-NISH, main stress on the last syllable and lighter stress on the first; I am familiar with it from The Antigonish Review), it was written around 1899 but not published until 1922, it became a big hit in 1939 (as “The Little Man Who Wasn’t There”) for Glenn Miller (YouTube), and it “has been used numerous times in popular culture, often with slight variations in the lines” (many examples listed). The things you learn!