"The Thing" is a novelty song written by Charles Randolph Green and recorded by Phil Harris. In it, Harris tells a story about finding a box floating in a bay. He opens the box and thinks whatever is inside is grand, but soon finds that everyone else in the world is repulsed by its contents and, because of that, by Harris himself.
He takes the box to a pawn shop, a hobo, and his wife. None of them want anything to do with it or with Harris. Even in death he finds rejection as Saint Peter orders him to take the box down to Hell rather than into Heaven.
We never find out what's in the box. Harris never even actually calls it "the thing." In the chorus, every time he comes close to naming it, three loud drum sounds interrupt his singing.
The song predated the 1958 birth of the Billboard Hot 100, so it didn't chart on that particular list. Billboard was around at that time, though, and had lists for Best Sellers in Stores, Most Played by Jockeys, and Most Played in Jukeboxes. At various points in December 1955, "The Thing" held the #1 spot on all three charts.
The year the song debuted, NBC-TV ran a Christmas promotional campaign implying that the thing in the box was the drive to help needy people - essentially, the Christmas spirit.
Ray Charles covered the song on his 1964 album Have a Smile With Me.