Read this story in the 1970's, probably in a "best of" collection.

A guy hears strange noises in his house/apartment, thinks it's maybe ghosts. Comes to realize he's hearing a tour guide (from the future? alien?) who is telling the tour group about various items in the room and how they relate to contemporary Earth life and customs. But everything is (humorously) all wrong. In particular, I recall, he points out a saxophone and says that it was for use in religious ceremonies.

Any leads?


1 Answer 1


"The Tourist Trade", a short story by Bob Tucker aka Wilson Tucker, first published in Worlds Beyond, January 1951, available at the Internet Archive. In the 1970s you might have read it in the anthology Tomorrow, the Stars edited by Robert A. Heinlein, or in an old copy of The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1952 aka The Best Science Fiction Stories: Third Series edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty.

The tourists are humans from the future:

"The twentieth-century man is now beginning his dance of welcome, a tribal ritual which has come down to him from the campfires of his ancestors who roamed the forests still hundreds of years away. I hold in my hand a musical instrument of this age called a saxophone, and presently I will blow a little tune which will summon his mate and child from the nether regions of the building in which they dwell. . . ."

Another short story on the same theme (annoying time-tourists from the future) but without saxophones, published almost simultaneously with "The Tourist Trade", is "Pawley's Peepholes" aka "Operation Peep" by John Wyndham, which was part of my (unaccepted) answer to this old question. "Pawley's Peepholes" was published in Science-Fantasy, Winter 1951, also available at the Internet Archive.

  • 1
    That's got to be it; thanks! Seems like I had the details contorted a bit, but that's what 50 years will do, I suppose. I also don't recognize the cover art of any of the books you pointed to, but whatever. Do you have a favorite charity I can make a donation to in appreciation of your help with this thing that has been bugging me for decades? Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 3:03
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    You can make a donation to the Red Cross. Does any of these covers ring a bell? isfdb.org/cgi-bin/titlecovers.cgi?190437
    – user14111
    Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 5:21
  • Is it possible that you read both "The Tourist Trade" and "Pawley's Peepholes" and are mixing up the two stories?"Pawley's Peepholes" appeared under these covers, and you can read it here.
    – user14111
    Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 8:59

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