Midwestcon Incident

While there have undoubtedly been many "incidents" at Midwestcon worthy of note, this usually refers to a mid-1950s Midwestcon happening when Harlan Ellison supposedly waterbagged Jim Harmon, and Harmon, out of anger, retaliated by putting his fist through Harlan’s motel room door; the police were called by the motel management to haul Harmon away, and the attendees had to pass the hat both to pay for the door and to get Jim out of jail. This has become something of a fannish urban myth, what with many “first-person” tellings by people who were at that Midwestcon but who did not actually see it take place. (The traditional version of the story is told in Fancyclopedia 2 under Door.)

The truth is that Harlan didn’t waterbag anyone, he emptied a pitcher of water out his window so the “splat” would get the attention of Harmon and others who were, in Harlan’s opinion anyway, being loud and obnoxious. Since they were across the courtyard, not a drop got on any of them, but Harmon, who was inebriated, took umbrage anyway, charged up the stairs and knocked down Harlan’s door. Harlan only locked the door because a femmefan was in his room, reading the stencils for the next issue of his fanzine Dimensions, and he thought she might feel compromised if people talked/gossiped about it in subsequent fanzine tellings of the event (“to read his stencils“ might be read as “to see his etchings,” a euphemism at the time for seduction). But a number of years after the event, the femmefan in question wrote it up herself and thereby verified this account. But, as with other urban myths that have made it into legend, perhaps it all sounds better the way it was originally told.

See Door for Fancyclopedia 2's version of this event.

Contributors: Dr. Gafia