When I was a child I read a science fiction short story by Mark Twain (died 1910) in which a television was important to the plot, solving a murder, I think. And if my memory serves me correctly it was a sort of television phone. As I remember, when I read it I was young enough to be confused about how much of it was real.

If my memory is correct, the story was set in Austria-Hungary.

Can anyone identify that story?

  • M.A. Golding, Is there anything I can add to my answer to improve it for you?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Aug 9, 2021 at 11:41

1 Answer 1


"The London Times of 1904". A copy is available here as well as likely in other locations on the Internet.

In "From The London Times of 1904", The Author Mark Twains dabbles in Science-Fiction, talking about a fictional Telectroscope, a fictional device invented by the year 1904, which would allow a person to send information, images and other amazing things through the use of the already widespread telephone wires. In effect, he predicted the invention of the Internet, albeit being off by a few decades.

The inventor of the Telectroscope, Szczepanik, disappears, and a body resembling him is found in the basement of Clayton, who had quarreled with him. Clayton is exonerated just before the lever is pulled on the gallows when the narrator, trying to divert himself while watching the coronation of the emperor in Peking, spots Szczepanik in the crowd.

How had he come to disappear from among us? It was easily explained. He had not grown used to being worldfamous, and had been forced to break away from the lionizing that was robbing him of all privacy and repose. So he grew a beard, put on colored glasses, disguised himself a little in other ways, then took a fictitious name, and went off to wander about the earth in peace.

As for the corpse, Clayton's "feeble" and "far-fetched" explanation must in fact have been correct. The body's resemblance to Szczepanik and discovery after the inventor's disappearance were nothing more than extremely unlucky coincidences.

Such is the tale of the drama which began with an inconsequential quarrel in Vienna in the spring of 1898, and came near ending as a tragedy in the spring of 1904.

Found with a search for mark twain videophone

  • 16
    This must've been after he time travelled to the future to visit the USS Enterprise... Jul 30, 2021 at 13:16

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