Does Columbo’s Wife Exist?

Update 6/22/2020: The article now contains a clip of actor Peter Falk who thinks Columbo does has a wife but his massive family is nonexistent.
Update 6/25/2019: This article contains some updated information which I think proves she exists, check it out at the bottom

Columbo is one of the greatest characters to grace the small screen and is definitely among the top five detectives of all time. His soft personality combined with his loquacious attitude mixed with his attention to detail makes him a standout among other, harsher detectives. He lulls you in a sleepy sense of security and then nabs you with your guard down. Through his bumbling appearance, absent minded persona and his cheap-looking cigars, Columbo can trick the murderer into revealing details and lies that would otherwise be unnoticed.

One of the ways he does this is through his constant conversations about his adored wife, known simply as Mrs. Columbo. Columbo finds someway to bring up his wife to the killer when they are discussing about the victim, the murderer, or anything in general. This usually agitates the murderer and can then lead them to tripping on their own lies.

But let me ask you this, does Mrs. Columbo actually exist?

The answer seems easy to answer at first but once you think about it, you really have to question about her supposed existence. Just like last week’s article on the conundrum we faced towards the Batman-villain Poison Ivy and her diet, there’s more to this than it seems.

The thing is, we have never witnessed Mrs. Columbo before. We never see or hear her and yet she is one of the few reoccurring characters on the show due to her sheer presence brought by Columbo’s detailed descriptions of her life and personality. And it’s because of these intricate details that many have speculated that Columbo has made her up. It’s almost too coincidental that Mrs. Columbo happened to be a fan of Chef Paris or Maestro Benedict for instance. Columbo always has a right scenario for her to relate to the murderer’s life.

Unfortunately, to answer this riddle, we would have to dive into Columbo’s personal life, which is quite difficult given the show’s reluctance to allow us to accomplish that. It’s pretty funny actually. Many modern detective shows give us sooooo much information on the detective’s private life. They’re like an open book to us.

As such, it is these precious few moments of Columbo at his relaxed state that we must rely on. Particularly, before he meets the murderer and builds the slippery slope that will lead them to their demise.

One moment that we see this is in “A Stitch in Crime,” where Columbo briefly talks about his wife to a police officer before examining the body. Now, I find it hard to believe that Columbo would continue the Mrs. Columbo façade to a fellow officer. However, you could argue that he’s constantly on guard, so to speak, and he wants to be prepared when even a police officer murders somebody (which actually did happen in one of his episodes). Therefore, he can continue his shtick relentlessly without missing a beat.

A little bit more proof comes in the “Troubled Waters” episode where we see Columbo talking to his wife via a telephone. This is where we are getting into crazy territory if we were to assume that Columbo’s so devoted to having a non-existent wife that he keeps up this elaborate lie by talking to her on a telephone and lying to everyone on board that his wife won the both of them a pair of tickets to go on a cruise.

Thankfully, in that same episode, other characters have admitted they had seen his wife several times during the course of the episode. Granted, this is not total hard proof but I’m willing to be convinced by the evidence given in the examples I have mentioned and other that I haven’t. Columbo has a wife.

6/25/2019 Edit: A lot of people have commented on this article with their own hypotheses so read them when you get the chance but I found what I think is the proof that she exists in the episode “Identity Crisis.”  In this episode, Columbo’s murderer, Nelson Brenner, is a CIA operator who murdered a double agent.  In response to Columbo’s trademark persistence, the Brenner bugged Columbo’s home and revealed to him he knew many personal details about Columbo’s life. The scene is as follows

<Columbo is in Brenner’s lounge.  Brenner puts on “Madame Butterfly,” on his music box and its starts playing>
Columbo: “That’s ‘Madame Butterfly!’  That’s my wife’s favorite piece of music!”
Brenner: “I know!”
Columbo: “You know…?….you have my house bug…”
Brenner: “But since the Director met with you, I had it removed.”
Columbo: “…Just I’m glad my wife could know about that.”

Brenner has confirmed to us that Columbo’s wife does exist.  I would be HIGHLY surprise that if Columbo’s wife does not exist then Brenner would’ve revealed that information to Columbo or Columbo would have said it outright (“then you also know I don’t even have a wife…”).  I want to doubly stress this as Brenner has been intimidating and blocking Columbo almost every turn this episode.  He would’ve played this trump card (Columbo’s biggest lie) if it meant stopping Columbo from investigating him.

This piece of information gives me more confidence that his wife does exist.

As a bonus, here is a clip of actor Peter Falk from Inside the Actor Studio recorded in 1999 where he thinks Columbo’s wife exists.  Although this isn’t concrete proof it does play into how Peter Falk has been interpreting his character.



21 thoughts on “Does Columbo’s Wife Exist?

  1. jflower

    At the end of “A Friend in Deed” Columbo tricks the Deputy Commissioner into planting evidence in his own apartment. He talks about the apartment as if he lives there alone, and there is no sign of a women living there as well.

    1. Columbo Fan

      If you ever saw the comedy film, “Murder Can Hurt You,” which was a spoof on all the great TV/Movie detectives, you get to see “Mrs. Columbo” – but it really has nothing to do with the “real” Columbo Detective show series.
      Just thought I’d throw it out there about Lieutenant Frank Columbo’s wife, Kate! That’s her name… so she had to exist- even if we never saw her or heard her! That’s what made the show so fun! “Just one more thing!”

  2. Ralph

    Although not in the series, Peter Falk shows up in character at a Dean Martin roast for Frank Sinatra. I encourage every one to check it out. During the roast Culombo asks Sinatra for an autograph, please make it out to Lt. Colombo, better yet Lt. Colombo and Mrs. Colombo, no Mrs. Colombo and the Liutenant, just make it out to Rose.
    So Mrs. Columba does exist and her first name is Rose…who would lie to Sinatra.

  3. cfan

    What about the episode with the movie star who lived on the set? Columbo called his wife and didn’t she talk to the movie star?

    1. john collins

      That was “Requiem for a Falling Star” He did call his wife but she was out and the movie star only talked to his brother in law George.

    2. john

      That episode was Requiem for a falling star. He called his wife to have the movie star say hi. The brother in law George answers and says she is not home

  4. Thomas Purtzer

    I would really love to meet Mrs. Columbo!! I believe she exists and must be quite a character to put up with how Columbo dresses. I lived in the LA area for a decade and cannot imagine wearing a rain coat all the time. Remember that Mrs. Columbo bought him a new coat but it looked horrid and was too small! He got rid of it. I used to have an old corduroy coat that my wife detested and eventually got rid of it. So I would love to meet Mrs. Columbo and ask her what she thinks of her husband’s strange taste in clothing, Tom Purtzer

  5. Charlie M.

    I just watched the troubled waters episode. At the very end, one of the ships crew members, the guy that escorted the murderer to the police boat(also plays the crazy British colonel from Hogans Heroes) is trying to find Columbo because his wife is also trying to find him while Columbo himself is trying to find her. She had just boarded a boat leaving for the Mexican shore, and Columbo and the crazy colonel have a joke about him calling it a ship instead of a boat, referring to a joke earlier in the episode, and that’s the end. Proof!, that Mrs. Columbo does exist.

  6. Kelly Penn

    Ah, and there there was the TV mystery series actually titled “Mrs. Columbo” starring Kate Mulgrew as the title character. Anybody else remember this?

    1. hpc

      Apparently you and I were the only people, I stumbled across this thread (now *years* later) and am very surprised nobody else mentioned this excellent performance!

  7. aHEMagain

    I suspect that Columbo’s wife didn’t exist. Consider the way police officers & other detectives treat him with kid gloves, very deferential, almost like he’s fragile.
    What if Columbo was brilliant, with an outstanding track record, and one quirk. He’s nuts. All of the cops know it, and play along because he’s brilliant. Of course a police detective with an imaginary friend for a wife wouldn’t fly today, but it was a different time.
    The TV series Monk played with this as well. Give a watch to a couple of episodes and see what you think.
    John Collins (above) brought up the other possibilty indirectly. There’s no Mrs. Columbo, there’s another “Mr. Columbo”. George, the “brother-in-law” IS Mrs. Columbo. Perhaps too contemporary, but I’ve known people in the 70’s who did the exact same thing, before “coming out” became common.
    Anyway, it’s an intriguing puzzle, likely unsolvable.

  8. Bob J

    There was an episode where Columbo and his wife were taking a cruise on a ship that she won in a contest. Though she wasn’t actually shown, he lost track of her and described to the purser what she looked like. “Her hair is in a bun” he said. The purser then remembered seeing her….

  9. R.J.A.

    Well. I think it’d be that she does exist just not all the stories that he tells actually existed. Also don’t forget there was another episode where she had a target on her back out of revenge and they had to fake her death.

  10. Amused

    My feeling about Columbo has always been that he’s a widower or that, perhaps, his wife is terminally ill. The show is maddeningly ambiguous about his home life, but it often teases these possibilities. Columbo keeps wearing the same clothes, he often looks disheveled, he eats poorly — incidentally, the series was made and takes place in an era which placed a strong emphasis on a wife’s responsibility to take care of her husband’s wardrobe, appearance and diet — and in the rare moments when he’s allowed to be himself around someone he trusts, he appears very lonely (this especially comes across in scenes after he’s just adopted a dog), even depressed. He seems to have little interest in anything that isn’t connected to his job (again, other than the dog). There is an undercurrent of deep sadness in Columbo, and it probably has something to do with Mrs. Columbo.

    In “Greenouse Jungle”, Columbo brings his wife’s African violet to the murderer, who happens to be an orchid lover. Columbo says that his wife loves the plant, but no matter what she does, she can’t seem to get it to thrive. This I took to be subtext for Mrs. Columbo either being dead or dying, or indeed, Columbo’s own desperate affection for her and his inability to let go (if she’s dead) or make her better (if she’s ill).

    In light of all this, I don’t think the single line in “Identity Crisis” definitively proves Mrs. Columbo is alive and well. It’s possible that the really damaging secret that Brenner discovered wasn’t Mrs. Columbo’s musical tastes per se, but that Lt. Columbo is a tortured man who still talks to a woman who’s not there and plays her favorite music. That said, it’s possible over the show’s run there were differences of opinion among the writers about what to do with Mrs. Columbo, and this is one of the reasons she’s a source of such ambiguity.

  11. Miguel

    In the episode “It’s all in the game” with Faye Dunaway, he mentions his wife early in the episode to her in his usual manner, but later Dunaway seduces him a bit (or maybe not) with kisses and gifts. The episode partly doesn’t “work” because you know Colombo has a wife. He never says hey I can’t do this I have a wife to Dunaway or to his restaurant buddy who eggs him on regarding his feelings for Dunaway. This episode made me question whether his wife is real or not which brought me here.

  12. Fonzie

    Season 5 Episode 6. Columbo is rowing the small boat in the end of the episode and one cop ask, where are you rowing Columbo and Columbo reply, to my wife at the yacht club. 🙂

  13. Jon Bolder

    In “R.I.P. Mrs Columbo”, the cop phones his wife at the end (she has flu) and the photo frame he’s holding opens, giving us a glimpse of her picture.


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