Was Count Istvan Teleky on The Andy Griffith Show a real person?
“Count Istvan Telesky exists!”
Goober flips off the lights at Barney's command in an unforgettable scene of The Andy Griffith Show episode "Three Wishes for Opie."
What we're watching is one of the very few flashback scenes ever depicted on this show. By a magic lamp's candlelight, we watch Deputy Barney Fife, with Goober on one side and Floyd the Barber on the other, try to summon a supernatural phenomenon he truly believes exists.
At one point, Goober throws powder on the candle flame, and Floyd, spooked, asks, "Who’s that?"
"Count Istvan Teleky," Barney says knowingly. He's convinced that Count Istvan Teleky is the name of the spirit who inhabits the magic lamp.
Floyd gets even more nervous.
"It sure is dark in here," the barber says. Goober agrees, but Barney has other ideas.
"Let's let him drift around a bit first," Barney suggests.
Barney spends the whole episode insisting that Count Istvan Teleky exists. If you've loved this fifth-season episode of The Andy Griffith Show for years, perhaps you, too, have asked yourself at some point: Was Count Istvan Teleky a real person?
Well, we figured that October might be the perfect month to look into this Mayberry mystery from one of the spookiest episodes of the show!
And it turns out that, yes, there really was a "Count Istvan Teleky."
Records on genealogy websites show that a Count Istvan Teleky was born in 1602 in Szék (now Sic) to a Count Mihaly Teleky and Anna Garázda. Ancestry.com shows an Istvan Teleky born in nearby Cluj-Napoca (formerly Kolozsvar) in 1735 to a Count Mihaly Teleky and Klara Bethleni. Actually, it was a common name for noblemen in the Teleky family in the region throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.
Now, these Count Istvans weren't very famous in history. You could say the one born in 1735 was really just a boy from a small town in Transylvania. But his dad, Mihaly Teleky was the Chancellor of Transylvania, and you know what a chancellor does? He's a top lawman. So in a way, Count Istvan was the Opie to Mihaly's Sheriff Andy!
In "Three Wishes for Opie," the count gives Opie three wishes, but he only grants Barney one wish in this scene.
"All right, I don't want to make it too tough," Barney says. "I'm gonna wish for a new finger-printing set we've been needing around here." He says he sent for one about six months ago, but nothing ever happened.
"Let's hope you get it!" Floyd says optimistically.
But then a door slams and Barney blows out the candle. Loud footsteps are heard clomping in the dark. Another door slams.
Barney's initially too scared to check it out, but he musters his courage and goes. That's when he sees the fingerprint set.
With shaking hands, he lifts the machine, the very thing he wished for, and returns to where Goober and Floyd are.
"Gentleman," Barney says, "I have the following announcement to make: Count Istvan Telesky exists!"
There's no way to know if the writers of The Andy Griffith Show actually named the count for sure after this Count Istvan Teleky, or if we as superfans are just reading way too far into it, but there is one thing that surely the show writers stumbled upon when naming this character.
The Teleky family hailed from the Romani region of Transylvania, which is known for two businesses: horse-trading and fortune-telling. It's where the gypsies came from who audiences read about or saw in other famous fictional works like The Hunchback of Notre Dame or The Tempest.
So it's likely that the name Teleky was selected while looking into the historical culture of fortune-telling and gypsies communicating with spirits to write this spooky episode because Teleky was a ruling family in the region.
Or maybe Count Istvan Teleky was just really fun to say? We'll never know for sure, but what we do know is, Barney's encounter with Count Istvan Teleky is sitcom magic – one of those great scenes from a memorable episode that makes the audience wish that they could find a magic lamp and visit Mayberry.