Jessica Fletcher is NOT allergic to radishes: a Wikipedia cautionary tale

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It all started on the Murder, She Wrote subreddit: a Reddit user posted a question asking “Was Jessica Fletcher Allergic to Radishes???”

This piqued my interest since (just like the original poster) I couldn’t recall this allergy ever being mentioned on the show. But, apparently, multiple people online have mentioned this as fact. Being a naturally curious person, I immediately jumped on Google to figure out where this information was coming from. One of the top hits was the Wikipedia page for “Jessica Fletcher”, which included the following sentence:

“Once Jessica almost met a deadly fate at the hands of her own nephew, Grady, who served her a salad containing radishes without realizing she is so strongly allergic to them that one mouthful could mean instant death.”

This sentence appeared on the “Jessica Fletcher” Wikipedia page from August 2012 until June 2021.

I immediately spotted a problem with this sentence (and with the article in general): there were no citations indicating which episode/book/source this information was coming from. (As a one-time academic, I was already used to cautioning my university students about this.) And yet, it was clear to me that many other people have taken this sentence as fact and shared it on their social media or personal pages.

The only thing I could do is use the “View History” function on Wikipedia to determine when this sentence was added to the article and who added it, and proceed from there. This took me all the way back to August 10th 2012, and an unregistered user who was only identified by their IP address. By checking the user’s “talk” page, I learned that this same user was accused of vandalizing (i.e. adding fake information to) many other Wikipedia articles. Clearly, anything added to a Wikipedia page by that user should be mistrusted.

After almost nine years of appearing on the Wikipedia page, the falsehood regarding Jessica Fletcher’s radish allergy was finally removed thanks to another Reddit user who was following the original discussion. (Although I do wonder whether, after so many years, the damage of misinformation spreading may have already been done.)

But the story doesn’t end there!

When I did even more digging, I learned that this same user had also tried adding the falsehood about Jessica Fletcher being allergic to radishes to the same Wikipedia page all the way back in July 2006. (At the same time, the person even added the same claim to a section on “Radishes in popular culture” in the Wikipedia page on “Radishes”.) But perhaps because the addition to the “Jessica Fletcher” page was done in an obviously ridiculous fashion (listed under it’s own heading that simply stated “Radishes!!”), the sentence was removed within a few months.

A screenshot from the “Jessica Fletcher” Wikipedia article from July 2006.

But when I read the most recent version of the Wikipedia article on “Jessica Fletcher” more closely, I noticed at least one other questionable claim:

“Perhaps her most notable experience was encountering a Mr. Potts who preferred to be called Mr. Bond—he did at least have an Aston Martin DB6, in which Jessica herself ended up racing to the rescue.”

The sentence as it appeared on July 10th 2021.

For something that is described as a “most notable experience”, it’s curious that I don’t remember the character of the Aston Martin-driving Mr. Potts/Bond at all. This information first appeared on the Wikipedia page on April 8th 2006 due to a user named Deepshark5, and at the time included some additional commentary:

“Perhaps her most notable experience was encountering a Mr. Potts who preferred to be called Mr. Bond – he did at least have an Aston Martin DB6, which she proceded to race to the recue with and drive – despite the fact that for spy gadgets all it has were windscreen wipers !”

The original sentence from the April 8th 2006 addition.

Astute fans of the show will notice that the original form of this sentence makes it clear that it cannot be true — Jessica Fletcher doesn’t drive!

But just like the “radish” rumor, this falsehood about Jessica Fletcher’s experience with Mr. Potts had also been picked up by other people and disseminated. Notably, it appears that it even made it into print! The chapter on Jessica Fletcher in the 2010 book Icons of Mystery and Crime Detection by Mitzi M. Brunsdale includes the following:

But now that I have discovered this information, I’m honestly not sure what can be done with it.

I decided to write this post after being encouraged to do so by my husband. Obviously, my hope is that this will encourage fans to (1) think critically before they share things they read on Wikipedia, and (2) help keep the Wikipedia articles factual. This second point is of course the most difficult because there will always be trolls who think it’s amusing to vandalize Wikipedia articles with misinformation.

This is actually one of the biggest reasons why I started my website—I wanted a place to document trivia about Murder, She Wrote that I knew I could verify, and where I and other fans could identify exactly which episode that trivia came from. Which is why I’ll always be grateful for other fans who comment on my posts and pages, and who point out whenever there is something I may have missed or misrepresented.

Thank you!

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