I've just watched a Castle episode (S07E12) and this (pencils in the ceiling) scene (at 06:05) made me feel nostalgic, and smile.

A screenshot from the episode

I know another similar scene from The X-Files [1]. Mulder's office was full of them. Was the scene in Castle a reference to The X-Files?

I thought it might be a reference to The X-Files, because I didn't come across it (pencils in the ceiling) anywhere else (TV Shows, movies, etc.).

This might be a more common thing, but me not being a native English speaker, and not living in a English speaking country might have limited my exposure to such occurences.

So are there more occurences of this in other TV Shows, movies, or maybe real life examples in the past? Does it have a history?

1 Answer 1


This is an example of Art Imitates Life but that's not the TVTrope link you need.

This is the TVTropes link you deserve Object Ceiling Cling

Basically, in storytelling, it's a comedic effect to have things stuck in the ceiling and maybe fall after.

However, there are specific pencil references in that link:

Live-Action TV

An episode of Coach featured Luther in Hayden's office throwing and sticking pencils up into the ceiling to the point it was literally covered in them. When Hayden kicks Luther out of his office he slammed the door causing all the pencils to fall down.

In Dharma & Greg, episode 1, Greg is shown in his new law office throwing a couple pencils at the ceiling. The camera pans up to show a couple dozen pencils already stuck in the tiles above his desk. Later, he throws one more pencil above his head, only to have all the others fall out of the ceiling onto him.

How I Met Your Mother: Marshall, Barney, and Ted are throwing pencils at the ceiling. One falls and bounces up Barney's nose, which Marshall calls a miracle.

Combination of Live-Action TV and Real Life: Late Night with David Letterman. Viewers know of Dave's tendency to flip pencils up out of view coming out of commercial break. Studio audience members get to see the result; the fake acoustic ceiling above the desk is peppered with pencils, and his accuracy is epic (I went to half a dozen shows and he didn't miss once).

The X-Files: episode "Chinga", Mulder spends his spare time throwing pencils into the ceiling over his desk.

The very last one is probably the one you reference in your question. HIMYM (the other show was probably contemporary to Castle) but Coach was late 80's and Dharma & Greg was early 90's

The link goes on further to

Real Life

Kids in school launch pencils up at ceilings which have small holes just small enough for the pencil to stick in

Office workers who work in buildings with fake ceilings often throw pencils into the ceiling, as the fake ceilings are often as weak as cardboard. Parodied in [a] Bud Light commercial.

It is a visual cue of boredom, ennui; in Spanish we say "ocio" where in English there is a saying "Idle hands are the Devil's tools". Not sure where in the world you hail from, but there may be an international equivalent you are familiar with.

  • I see you are from Turkey, alas I'm not very familiar with the culture there. The few people I have met from your lovely country are awesome and I would expect you are as well in real life. Still hope my explanation make sense to you.
    – m1gp0z
    Oct 28, 2019 at 21:53
  • I see what you did there :) I'm eliminating Dharma & Greg because it says it started in 1997 on IMDb. X-Files started in 1993, so I'm guessing X-Files did it first. That leaves Coach. I better find that exact Coach episode, otherwise my mind won't rest. Though I also need to find the scene/episode in X-Files. In any case, I'll just secretly pretend that I never asked this question and assume it was a reference to X-Files :) (Besides there was two other (if not more) references to X-Files in the show that I remember. So the third make sense.)
    – akinuri
    Oct 29, 2019 at 8:44
  • Yep, I am. I can say that pencil/ceiling thing is alien to me/us. I'm glad you have such a good impression about the country and its people (well, at least few); and your answer was more than enough :)
    – akinuri
    Oct 29, 2019 at 8:45
  • 1
    FYI, the proper term is dropped, suspended, or hung ceiling, not "false ceiling".
    – T.J.L.
    Oct 29, 2019 at 19:01
  • 1
    As an aside... the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama has a full-scale Space Shuttle mock up, including the foam-covered external tank. Pencils stick in that, too. ;)
    – T.J.L.
    Oct 29, 2019 at 19:07

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