In the TV series Thing was a disembodied hand, that moved from one box or container to another. According to Wikipedia "Thing apparently has the ability to teleport from container to container, almost instantly". There is no reference given for the teleport so presumably that is just a figure of speech indicating the speed of movement rather then the method.

What is the canon explanation for how Thing moved around from one container to another? I can imagine several Fantasy and SciFi explanations, but am looking to identify the canon mode.

  • I always thought it moved inside the walls, just using the boxes for entry/exit. Were they ever on tables or something too small for it to fit inside?
    – Izkata
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 17:03
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    Per Wikipedia "He accompanies the family on drives by riding in the glove compartment, and in one episode, where Gomez appears in court, he emerged from Gomez's briefcase." so it would need to be magic, science, dimensional, .... Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 17:07
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    Couldn't he just move between objects when the camera isn't looking?
    – DampeS8N
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 17:09
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    I thought those unexplained things were much of the charm of the TV series. It's not just Thing whose speed was impressive; Lurch did that too. (Whenever Addams rang the bell pull, Lurch always immediately stepped into view asking "You rang?")
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 12:55
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    I don't have the quotes available right now, but I distinctly remember at least two episodes making a reference to "Thing's tunnels". I always assumed this meant there were tunnels running throughout the house that allowed it to travel.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 16:38

3 Answers 3


My reading is that no in-universe explanation is needed (and that one would in fact be undesirable) because the character of Thing is (in the TV series) a metafictional joke: the viewing audience is intended to understand that Thing is not really a disembodied hand but is of course played by an actor, the rest of whose body must have space to be hidden.

Therefore Thing always has to pop out of a box or opening of some kind, which can be used to conceal the actor's body. And that's the joke.

Metafiction is a literary device used to self-consciously and systematically draw attention to a work's status as an artifact. It poses questions about the relationship between fiction and reality, usually using irony and self-reflection. It can be compared to presentational theatre, which does not let the audience forget it is viewing a play; metafiction forces readers to be aware that they are reading a fictional work.

WP: Metafiction

So an in-universe explanation would actually break this joke, because the real-world limitation on Thing's appearances - that there must always be space for the rest of the actor's body - is the joke.

If one adds an in-universe reason why Thing always pops out of a box, or if one starts to explain how Thing moves from one place to another, then the joke is broken, because one no longer needs to take into account the Addams Family's "status as an artifact"; if there are in-universe reasons for Thing's limitations then they are no longer an ironic reference to the Addams Family's status as a fictional TV show.

This is a "breaking the fourth wall" joke; asking for an in-universe explanation is like asking for an in-universe explanation of how Ferris Bueller makes letters appear in mid-air - there isn't one, and if there were then it would be intrinsically unsatisfying:

"Faking out parents" text-to-viewer from movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off

In the Addams Family movie the makers do completely break the joke by using special effects to make Thing actually be a disembodied hand, because the movie is (compared to the TV series) tone-deaf and about as subtle as a brick. IMO.

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    Can you offer any evidence of this, other than your own opinion? The OP was looking for a canon (in-universe) explanation, not just a description of the trope.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 21, 2014 at 20:43
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    Hi @Richard, yes, I saw your identical comment on the previous answer. I'm trying to expand on that answer in response to your comment, by explaining why a "canon (in-universe) explanation" isn't necessary or desirable, hence my first sentence: "no in-universe explanation is needed (and ... one would in fact be undesirable) "
    – A E
    Commented Dec 21, 2014 at 20:45
  • @Richard, I didn't link to a TV tropes page.
    – A E
    Commented Dec 21, 2014 at 20:47
  • There must be an in-universe explanation somewhere. This answer doesn't provide that. I'm happy to discuss this further with you in chat,
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 8:45

The boxes are only exit points

We see Thing pulling stuff into the boxes which are way too big for the visible part of the box. I was not able to find out whether these tunnels extend through the tables on which the box is placed or of they are, in a TARDIS-like way, a property of the box itself, but this rules out teleportation. Here is an example of Thing pulling something way too big into one of his boxes:

Thing receiving a nail file

In Season 1, Episode 23: Thing is missing, Morticia and Gomez open one of his boxes and comment on how deep it is. In fact, they apparently can't make out the bottom of the box.

MORTICIA: Thing? (Echoes) Thing... Thing... Thing...
GOMEZ: (Whistles, the sound echoes as well).
MORTICIA: Sounds empty!
GOMEZ: I'm going to get to the bottom of this! (looks inside the box) If there is a bottom to it.

Morticia and Gomez looking into one of Thing's boxes

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    Argh, the incorrect aspect ratio of these screenshots hurts my eyes.
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 10:00
  • Sorry, I only found the episode mirrored on an ad-infested page. That's the best I could do!
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 10:19

Through the principle of "no one knows what happens once the door is shut". This is followed in various cartoons. Tom and Jerry and Scooby Doo are a few to name. The room or box (in the case of Thing) must have a door. Once you have shut the door the said cartoon character has the option to come out of any other shut door. Note how Thing can not emerge from a box that doesn't shut closed. In the case of Scooby Doo and the mystery gang, multiple versions of them can pop out from different doors for a while, but must converge back into instance within a stipulated time.

Let's quickly bounce to Matrix Reloaded. The backdoors. Each of these doors are actually shortcuts between two locations. While for the rest of the minds in the matrix these are regular doors, Seraph/key maker know the secret links and hence use the knowledge effectively to move between them.

Now put the two ideas together and voila.

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    Can you offer any evidence of this, other than your own opinion? The OP was looking for a canon (in-universe) explanation, not just a description of the trope.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 21, 2014 at 19:50
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    Hmm, I guess we'll get understanding on this phenomenon the minute we understand how Wile E Coyote manages to survive the fall off that cliff every single time.
    – John
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 5:46
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    Actually, there's a canon explanation for that from Chuck Jones; "No outside force can harm the Coyote — only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products" + "The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. Since a fall would qualify as significant harm, it can't harm him significantly.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 8:43
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    Isn't that one of the rules of early (humorous) cartoons? That they do not follow many of laws of the real world's physics? Or is there a canon explanation to how the road runner is faster than a coyote, or how a coyote can hold up sign boards in English, walk on two legs, let gravity affect him after he waves goodbye. In a similar fashion, how a severed hand shows the possession of a brain to keep logical and motor functions running?
    – John
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 9:40
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    Many of the elements of humor in early cartoons was because of inexplicable nature. It's so bizarre, it's funny. The movement through doors along with a whole bunch of other things in Adam's Family simply fall into that category, I believe there was no canon explanation, else the humor would seize to exist :(
    – John
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 9:51

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