Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Unintentionally Creepy Toys of the 80s and 90s


Creepiness is a pretty vague concept. You can't quite put your finger on it, but for some reason someone or something makes you feel a little bit uneasy. As a child, there were certain toys that I was sure were live and in action when I wasn't looking. Not in a cute, Toy Story way, but rather in a oh-my-God-they're-going-to-kill-me-in-my-sleep sort of way.

Perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration. I doubt these toys were actually out for blood, but they did seem potential candidates for ascendance to global domination. Their cuteness only mollified us, pacifying us for their inevitable toy rebellion. You didn't quite know when or where or why, but somehow, at some point, these placid little plushies were going to turn on us.

While none of these toys have actually confirmed my panicky suspicions, I remain on edge whenever I see their glassy little eyes staring at me with what is supposed to be innocence but more closely resembles blind, spare-no-prisoners ambition. I won't be fooled, creepy toys. I'm onto you.


Teddy Ruxpin



Geez, even this commercial is terrifying. At what ad agency are the idea people sitting around, asking each other, "What kid does not love a Frankenstein-style reanimation with the probes and the levers?" I'm guessing these ad people have never even seen a child, or else they would know that this is not the way to their story-loving hearts.

My uncle bought one of these for my sister back when they came out. He was so excited to finally see her reaction when she ripped off the Happy Birthday wrapping paper. Unfortunately, that reaction was irrepressible panic. She screamed, she cried, she hid under a table. Eventually I inherited the thing, and we were pals while it was light outside. As soon as the sun went down though, you can bet Teddy was shackled to a table in the playroom.



Furby



We've all heard urban legend-style horror stories of these things developing personalities or talking after their batteries had been removed. Furbies were intelligent toys built to learn and grow each time you interacted with them, meaning they became more and more capable of global domination with each passing play-date. One day they're learning basic words, and the next they're conquering militarily significant regions of Turkey. Scary.

Furbies are, of course, inherently creepy by design. Those giant, blinking eyes and moving mouth are enough to make even the most scare-proof among us a little bit jittery. A friend of mine had a Furby that mysteriously turned itself on in the middle of the night, babbling happily from its secluded location on the shelf. This, of course, marked the end their toy/owner relationship. After an ill-fated attempt to light the thing on fire, we settled for a proper burial in the dumpster behind the mall. I'm pretty sure it still knows where I live.

To read the full post on Furbies, click here



Puppy Surprise



The puppy dolls themselves aren't so inherently creepy as is the action of reaching up inside of them and rifling through their baby-filled innards. These hollow stuffed animals contained an indeterminable number of babies (that was the surprise) that you could extract by unhinging a velcro flap in its nether regions. The toy was cute, yes, but I always felt a little dirty after shoving the babies back in for storage.


To read the full post on Puppy Surprise, click here



Creepy Crawlers



I'll admit it, these gooey insects made the list largely on moniker alone. I mean, the word creepy is right there in the name. How could I exclude them? They were, to their creepy credit, stomach turning in their own way. I wasn't afraid my oozy bugs would come to life, but was more just generally grossed out by their existence. I don't like real centipedes, so why do I delight so much in playing with semi-solid gelatinous ones? It's one of life's little mysteries.

To read the full post on Creepy Crawlers, click here




My Size Barbie



What more could you want from a doll than the chance to share clothes and tiaras? My Size Barbie stood at around three feet tall, so "My Size" is pretty relative. Sure, now I tower over the thing, but back in the day she was like a peer. We could sit around for hours chatting about the latest fashions in ball gowns and whether or not they'd ever make a My Size Ken so she wouldn't have to die plastic and alone. Well, she'd probably be plastic regardless, but you get the idea.

Looking back, this thing scares the crap out of me. It's like a little person.



Glo Worms



Introduced in the 80s, these Glo Worms were supposed to serve a surreptitious nighttime function as a nightlight for wimpy children. The idea was that you put your kid to sleep with the cute little snuggly worm and its internal glow would somehow comfort them in the night. I don't know if you've ever woken up next to a glowing doll, but the effect is pretty eerie. What was cute during the daytime becomes a sort of radioactive alien life force cohabiting in your bed, shining its unnatural light from a mysterious place deep within its plush frame.




My Twinn Doll



This video is more recent than the 90s, but I just couldn't deprive you of the creepiness. Seriously? Are you watching this? Run!


I'm all for self esteem and liking oneself, but to create an actual tangible doll version of yourself to befriend? A little creepy. Created in 1992, the process behind My Twinn is you basically send them a photo, choose your specifications (see more at their website here) and you get a doll that looks exactly like you within 3-4 business weeks. You can even buy matching outfits. I know we're supposed to be teaching kids how special they are, but $150 for an eerily twinned doll is probably overkill. You might as well have just gone for the pony. Sure, there's more cleanup involved, but you won't have to deal with your child's eventual raging narcissism. Sounds like a good deal to me.


No doubt the makers of these toys had the best intentions in mind when formulating these ideas, something just went a little haywire in the implementation. Some frontiers just aren't meant to be explored, or at least not by impressionable young children. It might seem cute at first, but don't be fooled--these toys will probably eat you in your sleep. Don't say we didn't warn you.

38 comments:

Badass Geek said...

These things were the stuff of nightmares as a kid. Especially Furbys (Furbies?). A toy that learns? No thanks.

KLo said...

All I could think of when reading this post was, thank goodness Furbies and Teddy Ruxpin didn't exist when the "Poltergeist" movies were made. Can you imagine them participating in the "toys coming to life" scenes???? A whole generation would need therapy ...

Cee said...

I am pretty sure Furbys were intentionally creepy. Whoever invented them was seriously disturbed.

Adorably Distracted... said...

Furby's scared the crap out of me! I was always afraid that since they could do all that, they had a mind of their own and could see me. or that someone planted a camera in them or something. so weird!

Scientific Housewife said...

I definitely owned a Puppy Surprise and Teddy Ruxpin but I'm glad I never got into Furbys, they were so creepy!

Sadako said...

How about an honorable mention to the littlest pet shop mom/babies that nursed via magnets? And when you picked up the mom dog/cat/bunny, the babies would stay attached? Okay, not as uncanny valley as the twins or my size Barbie, but still...weird!

Jaime said...

Furbies remain the freakiest, creepiest toys on the planet. I was convinced as a child that they were robotic Russian spies infiltrating our houses and would kill me in my sleep.

Smart Ass Sara said...

OK, I have to just say that my grandpa STILL has no less than 50 Furbies in their spare bedroom. And he loves them. I don't know if he really believes they are really or what, but when he turns them on- creep factor times a million. It really feels like they will invade. And some move. I swear to jesus- some of them move and it freaks me out.

And I have to say- my son loves his gloworm. What freaks me out are the toys that will start giggling in the middle of the night. For no reason. Especially when you hear it over a baby monitor.

Amber said...

To: Puppy Surprise
From: Amber
Re: my soul

You are terrifying. And slightly gross. Stop it.

short southern momma said...

Was I just a creepy kid or what?!?! I totally had most of those {which I am totally embarrassed of now! haha}

Hope your having a great day!

ali said...

Ha, I never had any of those toys growing up (though god knows I wanted them). As a kid I just felt deprived, now I feel relieved. Although, I can't blame anything now on the horrible memories of almost being eaten by a toy.

Jenn said...

oh man - so good. i remember the commercial for creepy crawlers and the little song "creeeeeeee-pyyyy crawlers".

The Girl in the Orange Background said...

I love this blog! I probably did not have any of these dolls, (and I'm a 90s kid), but I am very familiar with them. Your posts always make me laugh. I gave you an award on my blog, for Creative Blog :)
Click here to view the post

Samantha said...

My grandma got me a my twin doll when I was little. It didn't really look like me aside from the properly places moles. That thing has sat on the top shelf in my closet at my parents' house for years and I'm still creeped out thinking it's looking at me whenever I open the closet door.

Melissa said...

I had all of those! Creepy, yet so much fun!

lovelila said...

One of my best friends had a couple of Furbies, and I wanted one, too, until I somehow convinced myself that they came alive at night and watched you while you were sleeping... dun dun dun...

I wanted a MySize Barbie!! My parents never got me one, and then I was too tall for one, so FAIL!

Teddy Ruxpin, definitely creepy in retrospect. I never had one, but I think one of my cousins did.

Actually, I never had any of these toys. Maybe my parents thought they were too creepy...

Lauren Kelly said...

I soooo owned a furbie. I remember when those things first came out and they were impossible to find!!! ha

Melanie's Randomness said...

Omg the CREEPIEST thing in the world was a Furby when it's batteries were low. I swear to God it sounded like a demonic chant when it's slowed down. AHHH!!!!

JGIWC said...

OMG we were afraid of all the same toys. I had a nightmare that My Size Barbie came to life and stole all of my Hanukkah presents.

WhisperingWriter said...

I had most of those toys.

I still have my Furby. It was a needy thing. I eventually just shut it off.

Simply_Megan said...

My friend's furby did still talk after we took the batteries out! It was the creepiest thing. We would throw it in the closet and still hear it chanting "Furrrrbbbyyyy." *shudders*

Richard @ The Bewildered Brit said...

My favourite Furby Urban Legend is the one where some high ranking government official is at home talking on the phone about some top secret plans or something.

His child had left their Furby in the room, which learned all the words and the next day was going around repeating all these government secrets!

Molly said...

I have met exactly one person who WASN'T scared shitless of Teddy Ruxpin.

What about the talking Mother Goose doll? I still have mine in my parents' attic because my MOTHER loves it, but I think it's terrifying.

Kandace said...

my sister in law had a twin made of her older brother (my husband) when he was a baby. Could have been a diff company for all I know, but it was a life size infant made to look just like him. She carried it around for a while when she was 15 or so. She just thought it was too cool I guess...... She still has it somewhere last I heard.

Hanako66 said...

hahaha...my mom found a furby in the closet that was never opened and gave it to me last christmas lol!

Seattle Kim D said...

oh my gosh, I forgot how creepy Furby's are! My friend got one for Christmas and it would just start talking out of nowhere, without being touched or any other provacation, we swore it was possessed. Oh + puppy surprise - there's just something so wrong about that!

Jewels Diva said...

Dolls with eyes that moved freaked the shit out of me when I was little.

My nephew had a glo worm.

Do you remember the stories about cabbage patch kids coming to life at night and strangling their owners?

Unfortunately, Teddy Ruxpin is still around.

Anonymous said...

There was a Mickey Mouse version of Teddy Ruxtin too. We liked it when he red to us but come bedtime Mickey of the blinking eyes was shoved way down near the bottom of the toy box. I also found it slightly disturbing that you had to pull down his pants to insert the cassette.

Additionally, I think furbies really were planning to take over the world. My little sister got one for her birthday and a week or so of neglect later she picked it up again and it started smoking. Apparently it was defective and burned its own innards rather than managing to focus the destructive power outwards. My parents refused to take it back even if it was under warranty.

Mrs. M. said...

oh no! Just when i had completely forgotten about Furies!
Glo-worms though are another matter entirely. they are the business.

Martinis or Diaper Genies? said...

guess what, I think I have every last one of these. In fact, the creepiest I agree is puppy surprise. that shit is SICK.

Anonymous said...

if you want to see something that takes creepy to a whole new level search for "reborn baby doll"... holy shit.

Anonymous said...

come on people what the heck is all of yalls problems? i had every toy on this list! teddy ruxpin came with a built in tape player and a book on caste. it was the modern leap frog for kids. it helped kids learn how to read. and the majority of toys made for kids are "learning" tools. Klo the whole "toys coming to life" comment, yes that was just plain stupid. everyone knows that toys cant really come to life. every kid in my neighborhood had a furby. no one complained bout being scared of it. and the glow worm, was just a cuddly night light for kids. it save the parents the cost of going out and buying both a night light and a stuffed animal. and who ever made the comment about the furby coming to life at night and watching you sleep, um didnt you know they came with a furny sleepy time bed you could put them in? all you had to do was place them in it pull the harness down and press the button and theyd fall asleep till you woke them up. "the camera" in the furby was nothing but a sensor that was sensitive to light and darkness. i think all of yall forgot bout the most terrifying toy/puppet/stuffed animal that carried into the 90s. ALF!

Anonymous said...

oh yea and wut was so creepy bout the my kitty surprise? the fact that it was pink or different colors? it was no different then anything that came from Dr. Sues. the my kitty surprise actually acted as a storage unit/ secret stash spot. definitely a whole lot better than stashing things under the bed or piling things into an over crowed closet. to of all who didnt have any of these toys, im sorry, bc yall must have been deprived!oh yea richard the only words that fury can learn are the words that are programed in it. furbies dont have a brain or ears,a furby is nothing but a mini computer with so much capacity.

Amanda-Beth said...

Furbys are a firy version of chucky more so first two sets not only did they learn they were glitched which made it more creepy. I had teddy ruxpin and glowworm when litter then when had furby that was destroyed intetionally by mebut loved teddy and glowworm adimtly glowworm wasn't daytime toy he was 1 ya left in bed and ya never did let teddy ruxpin face you at night when trying to sleep the glass eyes. I was offered 12 times to get puply susprise and every time told grandparents didn't wabt to stick my hane up its ew I couldn't eveb say but. Most are retivly harmless but I stand by fact furbys are fury chucky from movie Chucky. I've seen what they can do and please remeber early furbys did glide arpund as had wheels on bottom

Lady Edge said...

Great article! I had most of these toys and believe me, a learning toy is all good..until the lights go out! To the person who never felt like Teddy or Furby could come to life, We;; you must not have a very good imagination then because I LOVED my Furby but as soon as it started talking by itself, it was done!! I also turned my Teddy Ruxpin around because I always thought I would look up and see his eyes glowing! I had a VERY active imagination growing up. I made for fun times and the creepy toys were awesome ways to stay up scared with your best friend on sleepovers.

Jemma said...

I remember the night my Furby Toto came to life one night. Peacefully sleeping I was informed from the depths of my dark closet that "Toto hungry!" Toto met the back tires of my moms car the next day.

Al P said...

I remember all of these toys. None of them creeped me out at all, except, of course, furby. I was one of those kids that HAD to have one the first year it came out. I never had a problem with it until the day i went to my room to get something. AND THERE IT WAS. I placed it in the middle of my room earlier on (and had taken the batteries out, since they were dead) and out of nowhere, it did the thing where its ears and eyes moved while it talks and said, "Bye bye." Three things contributed to the absolute horror i endured at that time. 1. no batteries in it. 2. It did it the second i went in the room 3. I didnt have it long enough at that time to teach it to say that! I mean, i had an active imagination as a kid, but i did not make this crap up! I swear to this day and the rest of my life this really happened. Im going to look it up right now. To see if there was some sort of problem with the programming in the early ones.

Amanda said...

Furbys of yore did not come eith night night bed they had creepy internal natteries tje ones from 90's and idk if toy is inherently scare the crud out of you o if mine and my sister's where possed all I know os they scare the living daylights out of me. And they wjere both bludgened to death with a hammer. And I am not sure on propper plural either. I kimd of get why some ppl wjere affraid of teddy ruxpin personally I loved mine. What I didn't like and scared me was the amazing Ally doll from the 80's a little smaller then Cricket who is zmaller then Jill strangely eniuvh none of these three creepy dolls where related toy line. They are reason I understand the teddy rixpin fear they all talked via cassette. Glow worms weren't scary but where silly. I don't understand the my sized doll it wasn't unusual prior to 1990 for doll to be 2 -3 ft. Yea my twinn dolls are creepily detailed and way to expensive. Puppy suprise and kitty surprise where odd but not really creepy.

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