Not So Crazy After All.

Take a Look at the PUMPKIN PAPERS!!! (honestly, if you can conceal papers in pumpkin, why not plum tomatoes?)

The second batch of material evidence in the Alger Hiss perjury trials, consisting of two strips of developed film and three undeveloped rolls that Whittaker Chambers had hidden in a hollowed-out pumpkin at his farm in Westminster, MD. On December 2, 1948, Chambers handed over the contents of the pumpkin to HUAC investigators to support his claim that Hiss had engaged in espionage for the Soviet Union. HUAC leaked to the press some of the Pumpkin Papers from the developed film, containing photos of State Department documents – and claimed that Hiss was their likely source.

Although the Pumpkin Papers were presented to the public at the time as evidence of the greatest conspiracy in the history of the nation, only the two developed strips of film were introduced at the Hiss perjury trials. One of the undeveloped rolls later turned out to be completely blank, while the two others proved to contain photos of Navy Department documents, which, far from being highly sensitive, were in fact accessible to the public at the U.S. Bureau of Standards library.

This is an article about the Pumpkin Papers, a real account of an attempt to conceal documents in a pumpkin. Although the notion of concealing papers in a plum tomato seems bizarre and unrealistic, it has been done, rather successfully, in the past. When I discovered this article about the Pumkin Papers and made the connection with the plum tomato idea, something in my brain told me that this was what Heller must have been thinking about when he wrote this part of the novel.