So how did we get here? After all, this is not exactly the natural state of things. Do you really think people standing in line to see Shakespeare's latest joint would go medieval on anyone who rolled by screaming "Brutus killed Caesar"? Of course not. They were too busy trying to replace all the people who vanished during the Black Death. As film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum pointed out in 2006, novels and plays would historically put spoilers right in their titles and chapter headings. You had to if you wanted to get anyone to read them, what with all that plague business occupying everyone's minds. And they say modern people have no attention spans.
Maybe another plague would do us all some good.
According to AMC, the idea of the spoiler as we know it today dates to 1960 with the release of Psycho, when Hitchcock warned viewers not to reveal the big plot twists to anyone who hadn't seen the film. Of course, the idea of the twist ending goes back much further than that. Probably the most famous one ever occurred 20 years earlier, in a little movie you might have heard of called Citizen Kane -- and people apparently had zero qualms about revealing it to anyone willing to listen. One review from 1941 (the year the movie was released) spells it right out.