9 Unintentionally Terrifying Old-Timey Children's Toys
Kids in the old days had it rough. When they weren't toiling in coal mines or sweeping chimneys or doing something else that almost certainly covered their rosy cheeks in picturesque soot, they had to go home and play with these friggin' nightmares:
In 1867, toymaker, inventor, and probable serial child murderer Charles M. Crandall created these stacking acrobat toys called Crandall's Acrobats. These leering, pasty-faced performers looked less like fun-loving tumblers mid routine and more like they were trying to combine themselves to form some sort of molestation Voltron. Their heads, bodies, arms, and legs were all interchangeable, so the police never quite knew which one was responsible for the abductions. (Trick question: They all were.)
Abductors and captives end up in the dismemberment piles.
We thought they might look less creepy when disassembled. We thought wrong.
When you go on vacation, you probably feel obligated to buy some kitschy souvenirs, like a key chain, or a silly T-shirt, or a wooden toy that looks like it was carved for use in an occult ritual.
This ritual grinds men into pasta.
What's that? Toys that almost certainly contain some sort of ironic curse aren't your idea of a fun little gift for the kids back home? Well, they were for 19th century tourists, who bought tons of them in the port city of Kobe, Japan. Kobe dolls were carved out of wood, featured a mechanism that made their mouths open or their tongues and eyes bug out, and may have been designed as a passive-aggressive response to imperialism. You know, for kids.
Paddy and the Pig
This is Paddy, and he's a triple threat kind of guy: a coin bank, a horrific Irish stereotype, and an unrepentant pig rapist. What, you're saying he's just catching that pig or, at worst, strangling it? Then try explaining what happens when you put a coin in the bank:
"I'm tasting your fear ... I'm tasting your soul ..."
If everything in this scenario is on the up and up, there is absolutely no reason for Paddy to stick his whole tongue out toward that pig's face just to take your coin. They could have made him extend his hand, they could have made him tip his hat -- hell, they could have made that pig's mouth open up in a death rattle when you hit the switch, and it still would have been less disturbing than Paddy extruding his grimy black tongue to lick the face of his latest porcine victim.
The Bones Family
This playbomination is a member of the children's building toy series called the Bones Family. They're kind of like LEGOs, except you build people instead of pirate ships, and one of the most vital pieces in every set is a burning but impotent hatred behind the eyes. Seriously, that skeletal cherub up there is one magical life-giving lightning strike away from an unstoppable murder spree.
If lightning's in short supply, it just needs an unknowing child's touch.
We're not sure what you're supposed to do with one once it's built, aside from offend God. So maybe you just abandon it and move on to building another: The family includes Skinny's sister, Ginny Bones; their dog, Ham Bones; and Trom Bones, the horse. Unfortunately, they've been difficult to find ever since the manufacturer released a recall notice that just read, "Burn them. Burn them all. Hurry, before it's too late!"
Mr. Potato Head
Mr. Potato Head hasn't always been the lovable subliminal advocate of plastic surgery that we know today. He began life in 1952 as a collection of 28 pieces that you were supposed to jam into your own fruits or vegetables. So it wasn't so much "Mr. Potato Head" as it was "Mr. Collection of Random Disembodied Facial Parts" -- the perfect gift for Little Timmy, who just can't seem to keep a cat alive.
Why, with an old-school Potato Head set, your options were limitless: You could have a Mr. Tomato Head, who appeared to weep blood when you stabbed his eyes into his face, or maybe a Mrs. Cucumber Head to teach young Suzy about her budding sexuality. We're not sure why every single set of facial features includes wide, unblinking eyes full of hypnotic terror, but here you go:
And few smiled, but that was probably for the best.
The plastic version we think of today wasn't produced until 1964, which meant children had 12 long years to spend lying awake at night, wondering exactly how much their corn hated them, and knowing the answer was at least "more than anything."
Frosty the Devourer of Worlds here is crouched in terrible hunger and desire, perpetually waiting for a snowball to be cranked into his gaping and monstrous maw. It's hard to say what's more disturbing about this scene: that the snowman is likely some sort of cannibal, that his mouth is lined with sideways black teeth, or that the squatting combined with the arrangement of the bowl in front of him sort of implies that he's endlessly consuming his own snow-feces.
It's no use trying to destroy it. He'll be back again someday.
This German toy (what? The shit-devouring sideways-mouthed living profanity is German? Who could have foretold!) also has a drawer "for surprises." If your gullible child actually makes the terrible mistake of looking in the drawer, she is immediately soul-swapped with the snowman and takes his place on the Throne of Infinite Foulness. Surprise!
Jack-in-the-boxes have been teaching children about the horrors of the uncanny valley since the 16th century. Even at the base conceptual level, jack-in-the-boxes are some heavy shit to lay on an infant. "Here, child, there is a tiny man imprisoned in this box. Operate the crank until he springs out at your face." When you couple that terrible premise with execution like this ...
Jack the Ripper was Victorian Chucky. Mystery solved.
... it's no wonder we learned to fear the unseen. Those cruel Victorian parents who gifted the early boxes knew exactly what they were doing. The one below bears the inscription "What wonder, Miss/May be in this?/Make me free/and you'll see."
"And wonder why/My limbs spread wide? To muffle cries/When I stab eyes."
Jesus, that was printed on a children's toy? If you pitched that shit as the tagline for the next Hellraiser movie, the studio execs would either ask you to tone it way the hell down or skip to the inevitable and call security.
Ondine Swimming Dolls
Fuck you, a child is not playing with that thing. Just showing it to a kid has to be some sort of crime, at least on par with flashing. It looks like the Thing is practicing its breaststroke. We're pretty sure we saw these in the background of Vincent D'Onofrio's mind in The Cell.
Why do these exist? Did somebody read the Book of Creation backward on the winter solstice? Not quite: Toymaker Elie Martin was terrified of water as a child, so in 1878 he created these wind-up dolls to spread a little of that terror around. Well, OK, his official explanation was that he hoped watching the doll flail around in a vague mockery of human movement would somehow make children more comfortable with water. But honestly, nobody builds that alien-flesh-crab-that-just-stole-a-human-face motherfucker down there and thinks "Yes, the kids will love this."
Yeah, the Valve interpretation is the less scary version.
If by some miracle Martin hadn't accidentally glimpsed the void and gone mad before crafting the Ondine swimming dolls, he sure as hell did afterward. Do you want to summon the Old Gods? Because this is how you summon the Old Gods.
Little Miss No-Name
Haha, OK. Now we know that history is fucking with us.
You don't call a doll "little miss no-name" unless you want it to steal children's breath while they sleep. This 1965 Hasbro toy, designed in conjunction with Azezel, Who Rules Over Despair, came into being when someone realized that the most powerful marketing tool wasn't desire, but humanity's own overpowering desire to seek their own destruction.
Don't touch her hand. DON'T TOUCH HER HAND.
Dressed in burlap, with eyes that have seen through time, weeping for all the atrocities she must inflict upon you, Little Miss No-Name came complete with creepy little poem and presumably some very detailed goat-sacrifice instructions. For some reason, murderously staring dolls with no names used to be like Pokemon back in the day. Check out these little beauties from 1940:
"Just kidding. Our names are Death, Destroyer of Childhood."
Yes, buy them and name them. There's no way that your material desire and the spark of human creativity will bring them to life so they can steal your blood. That would be ridiculous.
Ridiculously fun, right, kids?!
Tracy dedicates this and all her articles in memory of her brother. He is missed.
For old toys that need rebooting, check out 35 Updates to Classic Childhood Toys (Too Awesome to Exist).
Related Reading: There's a secret conspiracy hiding behind every 90s toy commercial. Discover it here. Oh hey, and did you know rich kids get to play with the BB-version of a goddamn minigun. And if you love crazy foreign versions of American toys, you'll love Robertcop.