Murphy's Bed

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"Featuring Murphy beds: Charming to the unsophisticated."

Whether a simple hammock, couch, futon, or lawnchair, or a king-size bed or Cool Chair in a Big Fancy House, for most of us, where we fall asleep is the one place in the world we feel most secure. For the boot camp valedictorian, it's a source of pride along with his flawless uniform and clean rifle.

But woe to the Chew Toy, the Cosmic Plaything, The Woobie, the well-deserving Villain, or the victim of a particularly cruel fate or Kick the Dog moment. For them, no place in the universe is safe, especially where they least expect it. At the worst possible moment, snap! Covers go flying at unlikely velocities, mattresses fold like origami, and furniture morphs like a Transformer as it consumes its victims.

If it's a Comedy, Hilarity Ensues, and the lasting consequences will likely be limited to minor humiliation, a day spent peeling potatoes in Boot Camp, or a day shopping for a new bed. In a setting on the more realistic or dramatic side, serious injury may be the best that the poor victim can hope for.

Not to be confused with a Murphy bed (no possessive), although they provide a popular version this trope, slamming the victim into the wall to be discovered later on (quite possibly Squashed Flat).

Subtropes

  • Bear Trap Bed: a bed that folds in half like a clam shell, trapping the occupant between the raised head and foot.
Examples of Murphy's Bed include:

Comedic Examples

Comic Books

  • In the Tintin story "The Secret of the Unicorn", Professor Calculus builds a wallbed that opens and closes upon Thompson and Thomson repeatedly.

Fanfic

  • One Bag Enders story gets kicked off when the porn stash beneath Pippin's mattress gets so high that Merry rolling over in the bunk above him breaks Pippin's nose.

Film

  • This was a regular occurrence for The Three Stooges. They always put Curly (the heaviest of the stooges) on the top bunk for some reason. He'd also accidentally step on Moe and Larry's heads on his way up.
  • The Great Muppet Caper: This is a Running Gag.
  • Eddie Valiant, of course, uses his Murphy Bed against the Weasels in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.
  • It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: During the climactic fire-ladder scene, Phil Silvers' character gets thrown though a window and into an actual Murphy bed.
  • In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, the final sequence is set in Clouseau's bedroom, outfitted with a Murphy bed for a romantic tryst. It's The Pink Panther, so not only does hilarity ensue, but slapstick does also.
  • There's a whole comedy routine based on this in Mel Brooks' Silent Movie as as Mel's alcoholic movie director character tries unsuccessfully to operate one in a fleabag motel. At the end, he gets spun around, grabs the lighting fixture on the opposite wall by accident and tears the motel wall down.
  • Jason Robards uses one of these to seduce Britt Ekland in The Night They Raided Minskys. She's a virginal Mennonite girl who doesn't want to "do it" unless she gets "a sign from God," and the bed is rigged to lower as his Victrola plays "Hallelujah"...)
  • Roger Ebert's Movie Glossary claims that the "upper bunk guy sandwiching the lower bunk guy" thing happens in Black Sheep and Step Brothers.
  • The Matt Helm movies starring Dean Martin featured a bed that would wake Helm up by dumping him into a swimming pool.
  • The Fifth Element had the protagonist hiding the priest Cornelius in the bed in his apartment. When it slid back into the wall, it auto-cleaned it. So he was covered in plastic when the bed came back out.
  • In The Great Escape all the prisoners sleep in wooden three-tier bunks with the mattresses supported on planks. As these also supply the only readily available source of wood a scene halfway through has Hilts removing all but the bare minimum to make pit props for the tunnel. Enter Cavendish, who bounds onto his top tier bunk and proceeds to crash through all three levels to the floor.

Live-Action TV

  • Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies gets folded up into the hide-a-bed. By a monkey.
  • In Are You Being Served?, the episode "Friends and Neighbours" had hilarity ensue involving a Murphy-type bed that flipped up into the wall and launched the occupant into the next room when they yanked a cord, or lowered down when someone pressed a specified book on the shelf. Various jealous wives discovered various combinations of characters concealed in the bed when they unsuspectingly tapped said book.
    • And in "Camping In", there was a faulty Murphy bed where the cabinetry flopped down on top of the mattress rather than the mattress rising up into the cabinet.
  • Josh on My Name Is Earl dies in a Murphy Bed accident. Months before the episode aired, a poster on Television Without Pity commented on a fear of Murphy Beds, and during the episode, Josh was seen posting on the website using that screen name.
  • One was used as a hideaway in an episode of 'Allo, 'Allo!. It got stuck. With Mme Fanny and M Leclerc inside...
  • On Cheers, Sam unwittingly insults Carla's mother and is punished by being stuffed into the wall on the Murphy bed. Says Carla, "You cross Mama, you sleep in the wall."
  • In the Love, American Style episode "Love and the Vertical Bed", a wife uses a Murphy Bed to try to cure her husband of his phobic fear of beds. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In one episode of Home Improvement, Tim remodels Al's apartment to maximize usable space. One of his improvements is a motorized hide-a-bed operated by a remote control. Al gets this remote confused with the one for the TV, and ends up getting sent through the wall into the neighbor's bedroom. "Hey! I don't go in for that sort of thing!"
  • A famous scene in Three's Company involved Jack Tripper trying—and repeatedly failing—to get comfortable in a very tippy hammock.
  • In The Suite Life of Zack and Cody London is staying over at Maddie's and is shocked to discover that she sleeps in a pull-out bed. She later ends up trapped between the wall and the bed.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Calvin and Hobbes, this happens to Calvin and he imagines he is a fly trapped in a spider web.

Video Games

  • In The Sims 2, the Murphy Bed has a small chance of killing a weak Sim that tries to open it while in a very poor mood.
  • There was a grim (but funny) example of this in The Curse of Monkey Island, where a Murphy bed was pulled down to reveal... a skeleton.
    • The Monkey Island example also had a boarded-up hole in the wall behind the bed, implying that somebody had been sent through the wall by being stuck in a Murphy bed.
      • The hotel owner was never entirely certain what happened to the last guy who stayed in that room. For several nights after he checked in, there were bloodcurdling screams all night long. He was glad when they stopped, but he never saw that guest again.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • A Couch Gag in The Simpsons had Grandpa being folded up in the couch bed so that the family could sit down.
    • Also, Homer has had his fair share of mishaps involving the hammock in the backyard.
      • In particular, a Treehouse of Horror vignette involving a hammock that would produce clones of whoever got tangled up in it...which Homer uses to his advantage. (Until said clones cause trouble.)
  • Happened in a Robot Chicken episode featuring a family of WWF fans.
  • Anastasia: Vladimir, The Big Guy, gets the top bunk on a boat, which sags so low Anya's puppy Pooka can hardly move.
  • Subverted in Lilo & Stitch: The Series: Pleakley appears to weigh almost nothing, whereas Jumba is at least as big as two grown men. Guess who gets the top bunk. Yet all that ever happens is that Jumba's bunk sags a little, not even enough to annoy Pleakley.
  • A variation occurs in Chicken Run: as the chickens dismantle the coop to build an airplane, one chicken removes the nails off her nest, and it falls on top of her lower bunk mate.
    • This is a Shout-Out to a similar scene in The Great Escape, where half the slats in the upper bunk had been removed to shore up the escape tunnel.
  • The Jetsons, of course.
  • There's a classic Mickey/Donald/Goofy cartoon that involves our heroes traveling in a remarkably automated mobile home. Donald's peacefully sleeping in bed, but Mickey hits a control, and the bed (it's on a sort of shelf) folds into the wall. Donald gets folded too, then pops out another hole fully dressed.
  • Wallace and Gromit: Wallace's bed tilts upward and runs him through a Rube Goldberg device to get him dressed. The malfunction part comes halfway through The Wrong Trousers, when Gromit hides in it to spy on Feathers McGraw, and it ends up activating by itself.
  • There's a Donald Duck cartoon where just putting up a hammock is proving impossible.
  • Tom of Tom and Jerry has terrible things like this happen to him whenever he's trying to mind his own business and just relax outside in a hammock, usually courtesy of Jerry or Spike.
  • Whenever Goofy is planning a semi-relaxing activity outdoors, he takes a lawnchair, and invariably somehow ends up tangled in it. It's happened to Donald Duck a few times as well.
  • Snoopy battles an unruly lawnchair, as well as other furniture, in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.
  • In Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy Eddy attempts to hide a diary in a lawn chair. It kept snapping open.
  • Cow and Chicken spent almost an entire episode trapped in unecessarily complex but failure prone chair.


Serious Examples

Film

Literature

  • Not the murder method, but in Ellery Queen's The French Powder Mystery the body is hidden in a Murphy Bed that was part of a department store window display. When the demonstrator got to "see how easy this is to open?", the corpse popped out.
  • The Wilkie Collins short story "A Terribly Strange Bed" plays with this version in a gruesome way: drunken gamblers sleeping off their night's debauchery in a room above the casino, the bed is a four-poster whose top part hides a second mattress which is lowered by a mechanism to suffocate them.

Tabletop Games

"{{[[[Odd Job Gods]] The Power of Blankets}}] turns his banal Estate into a ubiquitous source of strangling cords and suffocating gags. He is a driven man-if he can still be called a man at all- and there was a time when he slew a cradled child to bring down the police [...] and force his enemy's hand."

Real Life

  • Truth in Television: A Russian woman kicked the bed, triggering its spring-loaded change back into a sofa, killing her husband who was lying on it.